The second biggest city, an important port, beautiful shore, movie festival, fireworks festival @Busan

Beomeosa
Beomeosa

After an incredible journey around Jeju-do we landed to Busan.
Over the centuries, this city was build around few mountains and that’s why, Busan is kind of spread and to go from one place (say temple, fortress or even mountain for hiking, trekking or some other touristic attractions) to another you might need to spend 30 minutes (if not more) on the way.

We thought that we have planned and reserved very well our time and trip, but as soon as we got there, it was clear that our time was very limited and we needed to improve our schedule, routes and even to give up some of the places we planned to visit.  Our strategy to gain time and travel stress free was to stop in Busan for more nights, leave all our backpacks at our hostel and travel light with only few things that we need during the day.  So, basically we went to explore Busan and surroundings with only a bottle of water and our cameras 🙂

I have used this method many times and it’s proved to be the best one from many points of view: comfier to travel, cheaper (you don’t change hostels, hotels every other day) and less stressful.

Before our departure for South Korea, we knew that we’ll travel quite a lot by train on the mainland, and because I used one in Japan as well (and was familiar with this kind of travel system) we bought in advance a railway pass, so that we could save money on our trips and even get the seats we wanted (it’s worth mentioning here that during high seasons and national holidays, it’s better to secure a seat…otherwise you might be left without a ticket or if you’ll be allowed to take a train, not always you’ll have a seat unless you travel in Business class).

Me at Haeundae Beach
Me at Haeundae Beach

If you want to try some of the Busan’s nice restaurants and cafes, I would recommend to go a bit out of the city center and not near the beach, as those tend to be more expensive. Nearby our hostel in Busan we have found a reaaaaally good restaurant – Wanna. We found this restaurant accidentally and we were very surprised by their service and prices. And yes, if you go often there you’ll have a great chance to get some food or drinks for free 😉 Our picture should be somewhere there on the board with frequent visitors 🙂
Also, around that area are plenty of small shops and restaurants that sell good food at convenient prices, don’t limit yourself to eat instant noodles or worse KFC and McDonald’s….try local foods!

Where to sleep and what to do in Busan?

We booked Mr Egg hostel, which has a spectacular view from their living room – towards the ocean!!!! But unfortunately, for us, it was fully booked and we were transferred to Miss Egg Hostel. This place is managed by 2 young men who traveled a lot and still travel whenever they have some time. On your check-in or check-out you might meet them there. At the time we were there, they seemed not very familiar with Busan (both grew up somewhere else and later moved to Busan for business), therefore don’t rely on tips from them too much! Ask instead other travelers you meet in the living room or in the small kitchen, they will ALWAYS have something to say about one or another place they have been or experienced 😉 One big big plus of this place are the showers and toilets which are kept VERY CLEAN!

Local market
Local market

Another advantage is that Miss Egg Hostel is very well located. Not far is a local market where you can have your breakfast (it’ll be of a great help if you have some knowledge of Korean) if not for breakfast then walk and observe people, what they do but don’t forget to keep a low profile and do not try to catch someone’s eyes on you. It’s not that you’re invisible, you cannot be invisible in Asia (especially if you’re from a different race or your clothing, hair styles are different than those worn by locals). Not far from a train station, too bad I forgot the name of it, but you can ask the staff where it is and how to get there.

The downside of this place is that there’s no elevators and if you’re traveling with a carry on/trolley luggage then you’ll have to be strong enough to pull it to the 3rd floor and the stair case is not that wide, therefore my suggestion to you will be to travel with a backpack and if possible (where possible) avoid the classic luggage.

At 15-20minutes walk is one of the most popular beach among locals and foreigners – Haeundae Beach.  Besides walking on a fine white sand or sun bathing, on Jung 1(il)-dong, Haeundae-gu, you can visit Korea’s largest aquarium. Whether you’re a solo traveler or you’re traveling with kids, this place can be one of the attractions to put on your must see list. Here you can swim with the sharks, for an extra pay, if you don’t want to swim then you can try to catch the time slot with the shark feeding show.

Tip : Ask hotels for vouchers to this attraction. Sometimes you can get 30% discount off the ticket price. And for those who want to swim with sharks, I’ll recommend to book this activity in advance (especially if you’re traveling to Busan on national holidays, high seasons or weekends).

Hiking hiking
Hiking hiking

If you want to go to less crowded shores, then you should go to Gwangalli Beach. Nearby this beach you will find cafes, bars, and restaurants and the Grand Gwangan Bridge. This bridge becomes the top destination during Busan Fireworks Festival (you can watch my short video here).

Another surprise we have found in the former China Town. What we have found was interesting and somehow surprising, a very wide use of Russian language. If you want to have some Russian food or Chinese food go there, otherwise it’s a place that can be skipped because it’s nothing special there. Nowadays this area is known as the “Foreigners’ Shopping Street” or “Texas Street”. You will see it right after walking out from the Busan Train Station.

Temple of the Nirvana Fishan
Temple of the Nirvana Fishan

My friend, Mr. Park recommended us Geumjeongsan. On slopes of this mountain you can see Beomeosa or Temple of the Nirvana Fishan – ancient temple, considered to be one of the most important and beautiful temples in the city and country. There’s an interesting story about this place. Locals believe that the mountain where Beomeosa is found has a huge rock at the summit and there is a golden well which never, ever dries up. The water of this well is believed to have very special magical properties as one day a golden fish came from heaven and has lived there ever since.

Yongdusan Park is home to the Busan Tower and Yongdusan Art Gallery. The view over the city and port from this tower are something not to be missed!

Busan Tower
Busan Tower

Another attraction pointed by Mr. Park was the Jwasuyeong Fortress, located in Suyeong-dong. This fortress is a bit out of the way and to get there isn’t that easy. There are busses that will take you to the temple and from there back to a small square (where you can see locals selling vegetables, kimchi, dry mushrooms and other herbs as well as several local restaurants with good prices and good cheap food!!!). From this square is just walking distance to one of the subway lines. We had a very long walk to the temple and took a bus on the way back. We were kind of guessing where to step out and were looking for familiar places 🙂 I guess that I’ll have to repeat myself and say it again: if you don’t have appropriate shoes for long walks or/and hiking better leave this place for the next time.

There are many other places to visit in Busan, but we had not enough time to visit them….we do hope that one day we’ll go back to Busan and visit more of this place.

Do you have time for shopping? 

If you do, then you’ll be amazed of the many options you have: shopping streets, malls and local small shops. Busan is the home to the world’s largest department store, the Shinsegae Centum City and the good news do not stop here. Walking around the city you’ll discover some of the commercial areas near busy intersections and adjacent to university campuses. If Seoul has the worldwide famous Gangnam business and shopping district, Busan has Seomyeon, Gwangbok-dong/Nampo-dong, Busan Dae Hakap in Jangjeon-dong, and Centum City in Haeundae-gu.

Somewhere far from downtown
Somewhere far from downtown

In Seomyeon, famous for shopping and entertainment, you’ll find “Seomyeon Medical Street“. On this street you’ll find about 160 cosmetic and other medical clinics, including those specializing in cosmetic surgery, dermatology, ophthalmology and dentistry.

If cosmetic procedures aren’t for you and if you’re around here, then you shouldn’t miss the Bujeon Market – the largest traditional market in the city. The other 2 important market streets are: Jagalchi Market – a large seafood market, and the Gukje Market.

What is the best time to visit Busan?

May to July are usually cooler than inland regions because of the ocean effect. August and September, are generally hot and humid and the city may experience typhoons at that time and be generally rainy. October and November are generally the most comfortable, with clear skies and pleasant temperatures. Winters are cold and comparatively dry with high winds.

Jwasuyeong Fortress
Jwasuyeong Fortress

Do you want to know more about this eclectic city? Below are some of the links that will help you find out more about Busan and plan your trip and budget:

  • For a better understanding which line to take and how to get from one place to another you most likely will use the subway, and here is the link.
  • A perfect time to go to Busan is October and those who want to see (if you get lucky) some of your favorite actors 2-11th of October is a date to be booked from now, because during those days in Busan will be held the Busan International Film Festival!
  • And finally, to read more about Busan – places to stop, restaurants to eat or maybe other useful information that you cannot find on this post, go here 🙂

Besides Busan, we managed to visit: Gohyeon, Geoje and Gyeongsangbuk-do and about these places I’ll write a new post…this one is already very long 😀

Travel safe and wise!

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