Busan is the second-largest city in Korea and a top vacation destination, picked by many international tourists and repeat visitors. The local charm paired with attractions and shops are what draws people back time and again. These days the travel trend has shifted from a jam-packed itinerary to a slow trip, setting a destination with no goals other than to explore the area, seeing what you see. Busan is the perfect location for this type of travel, filled with hidden attractions down side streets and places that are too good to be rushed through!
NAMPO STATION AREA - STREET FOOD HEAVEN
The neighborhood of Nampo-dong is bursting with so many things to see, eat, and take in that one day would not be enough! BIFF Square, the starting point and main venue of the Busan International Film Festival (BIFF), is lined with street food vendors! Take your pick among ssiat hotteok (sugar-filled seeded griddlecake), tteokbokki (spicy rice cakes), sundae (blood sausage), bibim dangmyeon (spicy glass noodles), Chungmu gimbap (Chungmu-style gimbap), napjakmandu (flat dumplings), and more! If you’re really hungry, try them all! For dessert, head to the pat bingsu (shaved ice with sweetened red beans) street in Gukje Market.
If you find BIFF Square offers too many choices or you just really want some good eomuk (fish cakes), head to Bupyeong Kkangtong Market’s Eomuk Street! Some of the shops here have been open for over 140 years since the opening of Busan Port in 1876. The amazing flavor of the eomuk comes from the fact that over 65% of the paste that is used to make the fish cakes comes from real fish. Try various-shaped eomuk from different shops to compare the unique flavoring of each shop.
GWANGBOK-RO FASHION STREET
Sometimes referred to as the “Myeong-dong of Busan,” Gwangbok-ro Fashion Street is Busan’s top shopping district. The street follows the path of a stream that, until the 1600s, flowed between Yongdusan and Bukbyeongsan Mountains toward Choryanghang Port. The stream was paved over after the opening of Busan Port when an influx of people led to a need for more housing. Since then, the road has continued to evolve into the current fashion district it is, featuring clothing, cosmetics, sportswear, and editorial shops of all kinds.
Directly across from Gwangbok-ro Fashion Street is the more traditional shopping area of Gukje Market. This market was started by the Japanese living in the area, who would unpack and sell items shipped from Japan. After the Korean War, people gathered here to sell used goods such as clothing and shoes. These days, you can find just about anything in the market if you’re willing to look!
While exploring Gwangbok-ro Fashion Street, you will likely come upon the path to Yongdusan Park and Busan Tower quite without knowing it. The nondescript escalator entrance hides a vibrant ride up to the park. The trip up will pass by in an instant as you feast your eyes on neon signs representing the major attractions of Busan. When you step out of the escalator tunnel, you’ll be greeted with an unobstructed view of Busan Tower. The tower observation deck offers views of the entire Busan Port area.
BOSU-DONG BOOK STREET
A simple yellow sign shaped like an opened book at the end of Gukje Market is all that marks Bosu-dong Book Street. This short alleyway is filled with used bookshops, selling literature of all genres and various languages. The alley started in 1950 with just four shops selling used magazines and textbooks. Since then, it has grown to include many more used bookshops and also cafés designed around the theme of books and reading that give off a retro vibe. Another nearby attraction worth checking out is the 40 Steps Stairway, offering a view over the city from a slightly raised elevation.
JAGALCHI STATION AREA
Jagalchi Market is a true representation of life in Busan, and one of the city’s top 10 attractions. There are various stories of the market’s name; some say it came from the name of a coastal field where the market now sits, others say the origin is simpler, coming from the name of a type of fish. Whatever the namesake, the market has become the largest fish market in the country, selling hundreds of varieties of live and dried fish and other seafood. The upper-stories of the market feature many restaurants where you can try hoe (sliced raw fish) or grilled fish to your heart’s content. The eighth floor of Jagalchi Hoe Center doubles as an observation deck, with views including Busandaegyo and Yeongdongdaegyo Bridges, and Bongnaesan Mountain.
Jeonpo Cafe Street
Seomyeon is an attraction in and of itself, home to various attractions, restaurants, cafés, and shops. However, to enjoy a slow vacation, be sure to stop off the beaten path of Seomyeon 1 Beonga, the main street, and explore the surrounding area, such as Jeonpo Café Street. This street used to be home to factories and shops selling business goods but changed to a trending place in 2010 with the addition of many privately-owned cafés. Take photos, drink coffee, and eat macarons until your photo roll or stomach fill up!
HAEUNDAE STATION AREA
Haeundae Beach, Busan's Trademark
Haeundae is the most famous area of Busan, popular among locals and tourists alike. The beach is one of the first places you have to visit! Top-class hotels such as The Westin Chosun Busan and Paradise Hotel Busan line the beach, each offering outstanding views of the sea. Various festivals take place here throughout the year, including the Haeundae Sand Festival, Busan International Film Festival (BIFF), and Haeundae Polar Festival. Outside of the festival periods, buskers and magicians also often perform here, so you can easily enjoy entertainment in addition to swimming! If you get hungry, stop by Haeundae Market for the freshest seafood around! Of course, there are also the standard marketplace shops, selling everything from tteokbokki to baked goods. At night, visit The Bay 101 to get a fantastic shot with the skyscrapers of Marine City in the background.
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