Gwangalli Beach by Day
Boasting a 1.4km long sandy beach, with the iconic Gwangandaegyo (Diamond) Bridge in the background, Gwangalli beach is indeed very picturesque. Supposedly less trendy than its neighbouring Haeundae Beach, there is definitely nothing lacking at Gwangalli Beach. There are a host of water sport activities available in the summer, we even saw a few people surfing some very shallow waves! The promenade and marine walkway are great for walking, running or cycling.
There are even free bicycle rental stations where you can rent a bicycle for 2 hours so long as you have a form of identification with you We enjoyed cycling along the promenade and further south along the marina walkway.
The area has supposedly undergone a water cleaning program, however, we have to be honest and say that the water was not that enticing as there was plenty of seaweed along the shore. This was in May, so perhaps it is better in the peak of summer.
The beachfront road is lined with fashionable and trendy restaurants and cafes giving the area a very modern vibe.
Gwangalli Beach by Night
Gwangalli Beach is best known for its spectacular night views of the Gwangandaegyo (Diamond) Bridge which is beautifully lit up at night stretches across the sea for the entire length of the beach.
The bridge is in fact equipped with the world’s largest LED lighting and sound facilities for bridges! Be sure to enjoy the hourly light show from Gwangalli Beach every evening from sunset to midnight throughout the summer. (You can check the website for more detailed info of events).
This is one beach that really comes to life after dark! With fireworks freely available for purchase, you can enjoy small displays almost all night long. Or if you have timed your visit well, the annual Busan Fireworks Festival is held here. Over the peak summer months, the beachfront road is closed to vehicular traffic in the evenings and turns into a street market and performance zone. Even in the months leading up to summer, there are live music performances on the beach and beachfront promenade.
In addition to the beach itself, the promenade is lined with many fashionable and fancy restaurants, bars and nightclubs, giving it a very modern and ‘happening’ night-time vibe.
Gwangandaegyo (Diamond) Bridge
The Gwangandaegyo Bridge (also known as Diamond Bridge) is a 7.4km long suspension bridge located in Busan, South Korea. Construction began in 1994 and concluded in December 2002, making it the second-longest bridge in the country after the Incheon Bridge. The bridge is an iconic view of the Gwangalli Beach area and is equipped with the world’s largest LED lighting and sound facilities for bridges! Be sure to enjoy the hourly light show from Gwangalli Beach every evening from sunset to midnight throughout the summer. (You can check the website for more detailed info of events)
Busan Citizens Park
Busan Citizens Park was a former Imperial Japanese Army base and United States Army camp, which was redeveloped and opened on 1 May 2014 as the Busan Citizens Park. The park occupies 540 000 m2 of prime real estate and is a wonderful example of a pristine maintained public space. We really enjoyed walking around the park and watching the locals enjoying this space and the many facilities provided, such as the water play park for children and the sandy ‘beach’ area. There are many picnic areas, play park areas and even a musical fountain. Well worth a visit if you enjoy experiencing something off the tourist trail.
Samgwangsa Temple is open 24 hours a day for praying and is well known for its lantern festival which is held every year for about a month around Buddha’s birthday. We were lucky to be in Busan for the week leading up to Buddha’s birthday and visited the Temple the night before Buddha’s birthday. I don’t think anything could have prepared us for the extent and scale of the lantern displays.
Both the unbelievable number of lanterns as well as the elaborate lantern decorations impressed us. Although getting there was a bit of a nightmare due to the popularity of the festival, actually being there amongst the locals as they took part in the celebrations and witnessing the atmosphere, was a truly special experience. There are also many food stalls lining the road on the way to the temple should you wish to grab a snack on your way there or back.
HIKING TRAILS: Geumnyeonsan Mountain
There are so many amazing and well-established hiking trails in and around Busan that we can’t even begin to list them. If you are staying in the Gwangalli Beach area, the hike up Geumnyeonsan Mountain gives great panoramic views out over Busan and Gwangalli. The hike is mostly through the forest and the viewpoints can be hard to find amongst the numerous trails. We almost gave up of actually finding a lookout, but were suitably impressed when we did find the view! The lookouts are actually located along the road which also leads up to the top of the mountain.
Gamcheon Culture Village
Gamcheon was formed during the 1950s as a refugee village after the Korean War and the Cultural Village later became famous for the series of murals that adorn the buildings with the maze-like walkways.
Guidebooks will tell you that the sight of the terraced buildings clinging to the mountainside is dubbed as the “Machu Picchu of Korea” – our opinion is that the village is a little touristy, although the area definitely has a quaintness to it and if you walk all the way to the top of the village, you will get a great view of the entire area.
Igidae Coastal Trail
The Igidae Cliff is a coastal rock formation at the foot of Yangsanbong Peak. The well-established 4.7km long Igidae Coastal Trail is incredibly scenic and highly recommended, just bear in mind that although the trail is not that long, it is fairly strenuous with changes in elevation both up and down as the path and stairs hug the coast.
We would highly recommend starting the trail at the Oryukdo Skywalk, walking towards Gwangalli Beach, as this gives you the best views over the bay, Gwangalli Beach and the beautiful Gwangandaegyo (Diamond) Bridge. There are a few well-signposted points of interest along the route, so keep your eyes open for those or try to get a map of the route to take along.
The Oryukdo Skywalk is yet another free tourist attraction in Busan. The Skywalk itself is small and not exactly exhilarating, but it is a fun free activity and also a great way to start the Igidae Coastal Trail, which we highly recommend! There is also a lovely park area around the Skywalk which allows you to relax and enjoy the beautiful views of the Oryukdo Islets. The Oryukdo Islets name is derived from its unique quality or appearing as a single islet during low tide, but as two islets during high tide.
Songdo Beach & Waterfall
In 1913 (during the Japanese Occupation) the Japanese settlers established Songdo Resort Co. Ltd and developed Songdo Beach, making it South Korea’s first man-made beach.
Today, it is a lovely sandy beach with shallow waters as well as a fun diving platform deeper into the sea. The beach comes to life as the area is a popular holiday destination in the summer months. Towards the centre of the beach, you will see the artificially created Songdo Waterfall where you can try to throw a coin into the turtle for good luck!
Songdo Cloud Walk
This 365m walkway above the sea is a fun free activity to enjoy at Songdo Beach. Sections of the walkway are see-through steel grid and glass and there are free ‘observatory binoculars’ at the end of the walkway. The walkway itself is not spectacular, but it is fun and also gives a great view looking back towards Songdo beach.
Songdo Marine Cable Car / Busan Air Cruise
The Songdo Marine Cable Car was originally constructed in 1964 and was reopened in 2017 as the Busan Air Cruise. You can choose between an ordinary cabin or a slightly more expensive glass bottom ‘crystal cabin’. We can’t say that the crystal cabin was necessarily worth the extra money, but it was a very nice experience! You also have the choice between a return journey or a one-way ticket. We took the one-way ticket from Songdo Beach up to Amnan Park, and then walked back along the Songdo Seaside Walkway and can recommend that.
Amnan Park (Songdo)
You can reach Amnan Park either by bus, via the Songdo Seaside Walkway or via the Songdo Marine Cable Car from Songdo Beach. We used the Cable Car to get to the park and then walked back via the Seaside Walkway. Originally a protected area, the park was opened to the public in 1996. There are a few food stalls around the main entrance, as well as a very loud moving dinosaur exhibition. The park itself has many various trail options, some leading through the forest, others along the coast and a lovely wooden walkway to a great view spot almost at the top of the hill.
Songdo Seaside Walkway
There is a lovely 1.3km coastal walkway all the way from Songdo Beach to Amnan Park. The red steel walkway includes a few short suspension bridges, one even has a glass floor section to make crossing a little more exciting! All along the path, there are access points to the rocks so that you can stop and enjoy the beautiful seaside views. Although the route does include plenty of stairs both up and down, it is one of the shorter and easier coastal walks and well worth taking the time to do!
Yeongdodaegyo Bridge connects Jung-gu and Yeongdo-gu districts in Busan and was the first mainland-island connecting bridge in Busan. The bridge lifts up to allow ships to pass between the south and north ports, rising once a day (14:00-14:15). After the bridge was constructed, many people would gather to watch the spectacle of a bridge rising up, and even now, it has become a famous landmark of Busan. If you walk through the Jagalchi Fish Market to the harbour, you can see the bridge rising from there.
Jagalchi Fish Market
Jagalchi Fish Market is right at the harbour, housed in a 7-storey building and is the biggest fish market in Korea. Their slogan of “Come, See and Buy” refers to the fact that all the fresh marine produce is on display for your selection. You can browse through the market watching the mischievous octopus trying to escape from their tanks, or you can make your selection of fresh seafood to either be sliced on the spot for you to eat raw or if you prefer to take your chosen fish upstairs to a restaurant, they will prepare it for you to enjoy there!
There are many restaurants on the upper levels should you prefer to go straight there for your meal. Having seen many other fish markets throughout Asia, this is well organised and fairly clean fish market for tourists to experience – but do look out for the splashing water or your shoes may end up soaked in smelly fish water!
This is an enormous market in Nampo-dong, which seems to expand endlessly beyond the actual market area. The market is supposedly divided into several subsections such as Food Street, Youth Street, Vintage Street and Everything Street! However, due to its disorderly and bustling nature, it is also known as “Dottegi Market”. You will find plenty of food stalls with a large variety of different local snacks available. This is a good place to try a free sample of the local fish cakes if you are curious bout the taste but don’t want to purchase a whole fish cake. We were actually pleasantly surprised with the mild and slightly sweet flavour of the plain fish cake. The ones with colourful specks contain lots of chillies, so look out for those!
Busan International Film Festival (BIFF) Square is a hip and happening part of the town. There are many fashionable shops and modern restaurants. The walking streets are lined with food stalls, tarot card readers and stalls selling odds and ends. The streets really come alive at dusk, with live music performances at the top end of the plaza filling the night with the atmosphere of Busan. You will also find Star Street, Busan’s version of the Hollywood Walk of Fame, where hand-prints of famous filmmakers are cast in bronze in the walkway. We found BIFF Square to be a great place to try many of the local foods. Be sure to try Busan’s delicious Ssiat Hotteok as a sweet warm snack from one of the many stalls while you are here!
Busan Tower in Yeongdusan Park
Even if you don’t plan on going up the Busan Tower, it is still well worth taking a walk to Yeongdusan Park from BIFF Square. It’s best to take the escalator tunnel all the way up to the park from Gwangbok-ro Street. This in itself is a fun experience with the elaborate lighting display in the tunnel. Once at the top, you can enjoy the view over Busan, see the Flower Clock and if you like, go to the observatory deck of the 120m high Busan Tower. The Busan Citizens Bell is located in the park and the Watch-Night Bell Ceremony is held on New Year’s Day January 1st, Independence Movement day March 1st and National Liberation Day August 15th. There are also many free cultural performances in the park, particularly in the summer months.
Once a natural stream, this has now been covered to form a modern pedestrian shopping zone, with many brand name stores lining the street. It’s a great place to take a stroll and enjoy the young and vibrant atmosphere of Busan. From here, be sure to take the escalator up to Yeongdusan Park for a good view over Busan and if you like, a visit to the Busan Tower for even better views!
Located at the southernmost point of Yeongdo Beach, Taejongdae Park has the reputation for offering the best view over the sea in Busan and a glimpse of the Tshushima Island of Japan on the horizon. Just note that the chances of actually being able to see Japan either with the naked eye or the observation binoculars are extremely small as there are on average only 60 days a year when this is in fact possible!
Millak-Dong Raw Fish Market
Situated at the northern end of Gwangalli beach, Millak-dong is one of the largest raw fish markets in Busan. There is also no shortage of seafood restaurants in and around the vicinity should browsing the raw fish market makes you feel like a seafood snack.
Seomyeon Underground Shopping Centre
You haven’t experienced Korea if you haven’t been to an underground shopping centre! You will find many of these in Busan in the vicinity of the metro stations. Seomyeon Underground Shopping Center consists of about 330 stores and attracts approximately two hundred thousand visitors passing by on weekdays, so don’t expect a tranquil shopping environment! The stores are closed on the first Tuesday of each month, so just keep this in mind.
Seomyoen Regional Cuisine Street / Eatery Alley
This alley has plenty of small eateries and food carts where you can try dishes such as Topokki (stir-fried rice cake), Eomuk (fish cake), Sundae (Korean sausage) and Dwaeji-gukbap (pork rice soup). This alley generally comes to life in the evening, so don’t come too early as you may be disappointed.
Haeundae & Haeyndae Beach
Known as the most popular beach in Korea, Haeundae beach is packed over the summer months. We were there during middle May and the weather was perfectly pleasant with sunny blue skies and a cool sea breeze. The Haeundae area is packed with both somewhat tacky motels as well as glitzy, glamorous hotels with no shortage of restaurants, coffee shops and eateries. We really enjoyed the fact that there is a local food market street (Haeundae Traditional Market) just one block from the beach which has a variety of stalls (mostly selling fresh fish) that are open almost all day long. The pedestrian zone of Haeundae Plaza, runs perpendicular to the beach and is lined with small restaurants. This area really comes to life at night, with local music performances as well as a regular musical fountain show at the Gounbadagil Fountain within the pedestrian area.
Many festivals and events take place along Haeundae beach, particularly leading up to the official opening of the beach for summer each year. We happened to be there for the Haeundae Sand Festival when many large dunes of sand are carved into sand art along an entire section of the beach together with a large stage set up with screens and lighting for evening entertainment.
There is also a small alley of food and entertainment stalls towards the south end of the beach, known as the Haeundae Street Food Stalls District. This appears to however only be operational at night and during the peak summer months.
This green park area is in fact connected to the mainland. There is a very scenic coastal walkway from Haeundae Beach all the way to the Nurimaru APEC House, and there are plenty of great lookout decks along the way as well as a little suspension bridge with an alternative bypass if you prefer to skip the bridge! The park area is lovely and green with a short exercise track all around the island (less than 1 km all the way around) and a few options of trails to the top of the hill where you see the Choi Chi-won Statue as well as panoramic views over the sea.
Sea Life Busan Aquarium
Situated towards the centre of Haeundae beach, the aquarium boasts one story above ground and three underground levels. We did not visit the aquarium, but with over 250 marine species and some 10 000 aquatic animals, we have heard only good things about it.
Also known as “Cherry Blossom Road”, Dalmaji-gil Road winds its way through the hills along the cliff and is awash in the light pink of cherry flowers come blossom season. This is also a popular spot for a late-night stroll and to watch the moonrise from the adjacent Haewoljeong Pavilion.
Ancient Railway of Donghea Nambu Line
Trains no longer use this section of the railway line and tourists can now walk along the tracks and scenic new boardwalks all the way from Haeundae Beach to Cheongsapo harbour. This is lovely fun and an easy walk with stunning coastal views along the way.
Shinsegae Department Store & Centum City Mall
The name “Shinsegae” literally means “new world” and this building in Busan currently claims the title as the world’s largest department store. It is adjacent to and linked to the Centum City Mall. While worth visiting for its grandeur and scale, don’t expect to find any bargains here!
Busan Cinema Centre
This is the main movie theatre complex for the Busan International Film Festival. The roof of the outdoor movie theatre is made of 120 000 LED lights which make for quite a night time sight.