Last week I was in Busan shooting a story for The South China Morning Post. I lived most of the past 13 years in Busan. Now that I’ve moved to Nagoya, Japan, going back to shoot a travel story let me see the city through a traveler’s eyes, and it brought back memories from when I first landed in the country in 2002. This assignment reminded me of all Busan has to offer. The story, written by Mathew Scott, has some great tips on where to go and what to do if you’re visiting for the Busan International Film Festival next month. Busan, though, is a great place to visit any time of the year. Click on the first image for a photographic tour of some of my favorite places in Busan.
Geumgang Park is located in Dongnae part way up Geumjeong Mountain. A cable car offers a quick ride to the top of the mountain, as well as some stunning views of the city below. Once at the top, you have a few options. Hike north to Beomeosa Temple, or to walk about 30 minutes to the South Gate of Geumjeong Fortress. If you’re hungry you can stop and have lunch at South Gate Village.
The cable car from Geumgang Park takes about 5 minutes and offers beautiful views of the city.
The South Gate of Geumjeong Mountain Fortress.
The walk from the cable car to South Gate is easy and offers a peaceful respite from the city below.
From South Gate Village, hike down the other side of the mountain to Seokbulsa, a beautiful Buddhist temple built largely of stone. This is one of the more interesting, isolated, and underrated temples in Busan. The maps and signs on the mountain can be a bit confusing. Just ask one of the residents in South Gate Village and they’ll point you in the right direction.
Buddha statues at Seokbulsa
Stone carvings at Seokbulsa Temple
There are few things more enjoyable after a hike than relaxing in a hot bath. Oncheonjang, located right at the base of Geumjeong Mountain, is named for its natural hot springs. There are several options, including Hurschimcheong at Nongshim Hotel, billed as one of the largest spas in Asia. Alternatively, you can soak your tired feet in one of the free outdoor hot springs nearby, like Spatopia, pictured.
Before you leave the area, make sure to take a stroll through Oncheonjang Market next to Nongshim Hotel. There’s plenty to see here, and plenty to eat!
A woman prepares produce for sale at Oncheonjang Market.
Men share snacks and soju at Oncheonjang Market.
As Matt’s story mentions, this is one of the most popular spots in Busan, and is a huge draw for tourists. In fact, it’s so crowded in the summer that I prefer to visit in the off season.
People watch the waves at Haeundae Beach.
Busan grew quickly during the Korean War, fed by an influx of refugees. Neighborhoods developed with little to no central planning. Choryang-dong’s Ibagu-gil and Gamcheon Cultural Village, with their steep, narrow streets and alleys, have become tourist attractions in recent years, with street art, shops, and cafes. Pictured: Street art along Ibagu-gil in Choryang-dong.
A panoramic view of Busan from one of the many observation decks along Ibagu-gil
Patbingsu, a flavorful and icy Korean treat, served at a cafe in Gamcheon Cultural village
The night view from a rooftop in Gamcheon Cultural Village
If you didn’t get your fill of markets during the day, head back for dinner at one of the food carts that line the streets at Gukje or Bupyeong Market at night (the two markets are adjacent to each other and are a quick bus ride from Gamcheon Cultural Village). Pictured: A vendor prepares bacon at a food cart at the Bupyeong night market.
Check out another gallery of my images from Busan’s many traditional markets, featured on BBC News.