Busan, South Korea

Busan Metropolitan City is South Korea’s second largest with over 8 million people and the country’s most active port. The Nampo-dong in the Jun District is an exciting neighborhood to explore, shop, sample Korean cuisine, experience the country’s film industry, learn its history and enjoy its coastal views.

Share this
View MAP

1 Busan Harbor Bridge in Busan, South Korea

The Busan Harbor Bridge is the city’s newest. Busanhang Daegyo opened for three lanes of traffic in 2014. The suspension bridge’s 3.5 mile length spans the Sea of Japan and connects Youngdo Island with the Nam District. This visual highlight of Busan’s harbor is especially attractive at night when its thousands of LED lights put on a dramatic light show.

Busan Harbor Bridge, Gamman 1(il)-dong, Busan, South Korea
Enlarge/Slideshow See On Map Directions

2 Port of Busan History in Busan, South Korea

Busan’s harbor has been active for over 2,000 years. Archeologists uncovered artifacts dating back to the Three Kingdoms of Korea (57 BC to 668 AD) and subsequent settlements through the 8th century. Trade with Japan also flourished here despite the invasions in the late 16th century and Japan’s self-imposed isolationism during the Edo period (1603 – 1868). In 1876, Busan’s port named Busanpo opened for international trade. Since then, Busan has become South Korea’s largest port and the world’s sixth largest for handling container cargo. Passenger ships arrive at the International Cruise Terminal and are typically greeted by a dance ensemble.

Busan Port, Jungang-dong, Busan, South Korea
Enlarge/Slideshow See On Map Directions

3 Welcome Sign to Busan, South Korea

This mosaic welcomes you while disembarking from your cruise ship as you enter Busan, South Korea’s second largest city. It is officially called Busan Metropolitan City because it has been self-governing since 1963. Previously called Pusan, it is located in the southeast of the Korean Peninsula facing the Korean Strait shared with western Japan. Its two major business districts are Semyeon and Nampo-dong. Each are filled with exciting places to explore and things to do. However, it is challenging if not impossible to appreciate both in a single day. So, the focus of this travel guide is on central Nampo-dong. Surrounding it are several beaches and resorts, making Busan a popular vacation spot for Koreans and other Asians. Portrayed on the sign is Gwangan Bridge. Gwangandaegyo is the city’s longest at 4.6 miles.

206 Chungjang-daero, Choryang 3(sam)-dong, Dong-gu, Busan, South Korea
Enlarge/Slideshow See On Map Directions

4 Walking Tour Start in Busan, South Korea

Busan is a very large city with over 3.5 million people and a total of 8.2 million residents in the metro area. Despite its enormous size, most sights of interest to day trippers are concentrated in Nampo-dong, the center for shopping, food and attractions. This tourist zone is very walkable. Get dropped off at the intersection of Gwangbok-ro and Junggu-ro near Gukje Market. Then stroll east below the rows of retail signs toward an adventurous time.

Gwangbok-ro & Junggu-ro, Jung-gu, Busan, South Korea
Enlarge/Slideshow See On Map Directions

5 Gukje Market in Busan, South Korea

Originally named Soe-Jung (West Street), this area in central Busan began as a residential neighborhood for Japanese after international trade opened in 1876 and during the Japanese occupation until 1945. Things changed significantly after 1953. Post the Korean War, refugees fled North Korean Communists to Busan and converted the network of alleys into one of Korea’s largest markets. The word Gukje means international. It has continued to flourish into a covered maze of stalls, vendors and bargain-conscious shoppers. The ambiance is crowded but exciting to explore.

Gukje Market, Sinchang-dong 4-ga, Jung-gu, Busan, South Korea
Enlarge/Slideshow See On Map Directions

6 Korean Cuisine in Busan, South Korea

A consistent joy of traveling is sampling local cuisine. Your pallet will not be disappointed in South Korea. Strolling among food vendors at Eatery Alley adjacent to Gukje Market is the perfect way to see, smell and taste wonderful meals. You may not always know what you are eating. Some things you might not like. But the experience is well worth the modest cost. Common ingredients are pickled cabbage (kimchi), pork belly, beef, vegetables, tofu, seafood and poultry with hints of chili. Variations of these dishes include: mixed with rice or translucent cellophane noodles; tucked into steamed dumplings; served as a soup, porridge, stir fry or stew like this one swimming in a delicious gravy.

Changseondong Eatery Alley, Gwangbok-ro, Busan, South Korea
Enlarge/Slideshow See On Map Directions

7 BIFF Square in Busan, South Korea

These arches welcome you to BIFF Square, the heart of Korea’s movie district equivalent to Hollywood Boulevard in California. The 1,400 foot promenade consists of Star Street and Festival Street. For 15 years, it was the original venue for Asia’s premiere film festival. When this photo was taken, BIFF Square was alive with entertainment as part of the 22nd Busan International Film Festival held in October of 2017.

BIFF Square, 20, BIFF Gwangjang-ro, Jung-gu, Busan, South Korea
Enlarge/Slideshow See On Map Directions

8 Film Festival Handprints in Busan, South Korea

These immortalized handprints are from movie directors and celebrities honored at the 2nd Pusan International Film Festival. These are a few of the rows of copper commemorative plates stretching along sidewalks at BIFF Square. Now called the Busan International Film Festival, their mission since 1996 has been to feature new and emerging Asian movie directors in several categories plus screen recent works by established worldwide filmmakers. BIFF also provides funding for promising projects plus promotes networking among directors, producers and movie investors. Over 200,000 people attend the annual festival held for about a week in early October. In 2011, the event moved to the Busan Cinema Center, a $150 million facility in Centum City.

BIFF Square, 20, BIFF Gwangjang-ro, Jung-gu, Busan, South Korea
Enlarge/Slideshow See On Map Directions

9 Movie Cameraman Statue in Busan, South Korea

This statue of a cinematographer holding an antique camera must look as strange to young people as a telephone booth. Yet the artwork aptly named “Movie Cameraman” is a tribute to South Korean’s film industry. Since 1967, the country has imposed a quota limiting the number of days a year foreign films can be screened. As a result, domestic movies shown in almost 2,000 theaters represent about half of the country’s annual box office revenue.

BIFF Square, 20, BIFF Gwangjang-ro, Jung-gu, Busan, South Korea
Enlarge/Slideshow See On Map Directions

10 Jagalchi Fish Market in Busan, South Korea

No visit to Busan is complete without a visit to Jagalchi Fish Market, Korea’s largest. This seven-floor glass structure houses endless rows of seafood plus restaurants and buffets. The name comes from two Korean words: “jagal” meaning small rocks or gravel that formally covered the shoreline and “chi” meaning a coastal village.

52 Jagalchihaean-ro, Nampo-dong, Jung-gu, Busan, South Korea
Enlarge/Slideshow See On Map Directions

11 Inside of Jagalchi Fish Market in Busan, South Korea

Jagalchi Fish Market is surprising clean and well lighted. This section on the first floor features seafood that redefines the word fresh: it was typically caught within a day and hauled off a boat within hours. The marine life tends to be alive in colorful tubs of water or swimming in tanks. The eastern section specializes in dried fish sold on a wholesale basis.

52 Jagalchihaean-ro, Nampo-dong, Jung-gu, Busan, South Korea
Enlarge/Slideshow See On Map Directions

12 Mysterious Sea Creatures at Jagalchi Fish Market in Busan, South Korea

The fun of visiting Jagalchi Fish Market is staring at the mysterious sea creatures on display. Some cause recipes to dance in your head while others will recoil your stomach in disgust. Unless you are a marine biologist or a celebrated Asian seafood chief, you will not be able to identify a fraction of the swimming, squirming and soaking creatures you sea (pun intended).

52 Jagalchihaean-ro, Nampo-dong, Jung-gu, Busan, South Korea
Enlarge/Slideshow See On Map Directions

13 Ajumas at Jagalchi Fish Market in Busan, South Korea

As your mesmerization wanes from staring at Jagalchi Fish Market’s displays, you begin to realize a common denominator: all of the fishmongers are women. They are called Jagalchi Ajumas, meaning middle-aged married women. These multi-tasking females seem tireless, capable of gutting the fresh catch-of-the-day while bargaining with multiple customers and beckoning for new ones.

52 Jagalchihaean-ro, Nampo-dong, Jung-gu, Busan, South Korea
Enlarge/Slideshow See On Map Directions

14 Colorful Buildings on Yeong Island in Busan, South Korea

From the Nampo-dong neighborhood, this scene across Nampo Port displays the colorful buildings etched into the side of Mt. Bongnaesan on Yeong Island (Yeongdo District). If you like this view, then you will love nearby Gamcheon Culture Village. It is famous for the kaleidoscope of structures clinging to a central Busan foothill. The neighborhood features narrow alleys, steep roads and an array of fascinating murals and public artwork. Gamcheon began as a settlement (some would say slum) for Korean War refugees. It swelled into a vibrant and visually stunning community thanks to a transformation orchestrated by the Ministry of Tourism in 2009. They also gave it the moniker “Machu Picchu of Busan.” Walking maps are available. But within minutes, you are bound to get lost in this delightful maze.

117-7 Nampo-dong, Jung-gu, Busan, South Korea
Enlarge/Slideshow See On Map Directions

15 Abundant Food Vendors in Busan, South Korea

You are never far from a snack or quick meal in Busan. Street vendors are abundant and busy serving every imaginable food. For example, notice the skewers (kkochi in Korean) this woman is selling. They are common in South Korea and heavenly. The meat is typically chicken or pork. They are often raw until you order. Then they are seasoned with spices, black pepper and a brown sugar glaze while being flame cooked or deep fried while you wait. Delicious!

104-1 Nampo-dong, Jung-gu, Busan, South Korea
Enlarge/Slideshow See On Map Directions

16 Gwangbok-dong Fashion Street in Busan, South Korea

Gwangbok-dong is the major shopping street in Busan. The row of mostly local retailers begins in earnest at Gukje Market. When you reach “City Spot” shown in the background beneath the giant teletron, the ambiance beautifully transforms into Gwangbok-dong Cultural and Fashion Street. The tiled sidewalk resembles rolling waves as it weaves for blocks among blooming planters. The store windows feature clothing and accessories ranging from international brands to Asian specialties.

Sinchang-dong & Gwangbok-dong, Jung-gu, Busan, South Korea
Enlarge/Slideshow See On Map Directions

17 New Millennium Sculpture at City Spot in Busan, South Korea

At the intersection of Gwangbok-ro and Gwangbokjungang-ro is the “City Spot” marker. Above it is this handsome bronze sculpture by Kim Dae Wook of a young couple reaching to the future. The “New Millennium Commemorative Monument” was erected in 2000 to usher in the century with a vision toward a promising tomorrow led by today’s youth.

Gwangbok-ro and Gwangbokjungang-ro, Jung-gu, Busan, South Korea
Enlarge/Slideshow See On Map Directions

18 Shopping Alternatives in Busan, South Korea

Serious shoppers will be delighted to visit Busan because the alternatives are endless. This is the Gwangbok-dong Fashion Street. Also worth exploring is the Choryang Arcade for Foreigners. There are plenty of shopping malls including Migliore, SM Plaza and Judies Taehwa plus two giant department stores: Lotte Mall and Shinsegae Centum City. For a unique experience, visit the Nampo Underground Shopping Center. Some folks prefer bargaining with the locals in open-air complexes such as Gukje Market. You will also find shopkeepers in the endless alleys plus merchandise of every variety on makeshift kiosks, carts and card tables. You may not speak Korean, but the language between a credit card and vendor’s pocket is universal.

Sinchang-dong & Gwangbok-dong, Jung-gu, Busan, South Korea
Enlarge/Slideshow See On Map Directions

19 Escalator to Yongdusan Park in Busan, South Korea

This two-stage escalator in downtown Busan takes you to the top of Yongdusan Mountain where you will enjoy a 17 acre park. It was formally called Songhyeon Mountain because of its dense groves of pine trees. The Japanese built temples here during their occupation (1910 – 1945). The First Republic of Korea called it Unam Park during their period of rule (1948 – 1960). After they were overthrown during the April Revolution in 1960, this scenic treasure of Busan was renamed Yongdusan Park.

37-55, Yongdusan-gil, Jung-gu, Busan, South Korea
Enlarge/Slideshow See On Map Directions

20 Buddha Statue near Yongdusan Park in Busan, South Korea

This Buddha statue appears at the halfway mark of your journey up Yongdusan Mountain toward the park. The religious image marks the entrance to MitaSeonwon. The Mita Zen Center was established in 1678 by the Jogye Order, a sect with origins dating back to the 11th century. They have over 1,700 temples and nine million followers in the country. About 15% of the population is affiliated with Korean Buddhism, a distinct variation of the religion found elsewhere in Asia.

37-55, Yongdusan-gil, Jung-gu, Busan, South Korea
Enlarge/Slideshow See On Map Directions

21 Busan Tower at Yongdusan Park in Busan, South Korea

Since it was built in 1973, Busan Tower has been the centerpiece of Yongdusan Park and the city’s symbol. The sleek white column stands 394 feet. Its position at the 226 foot peak of Yongdusan Mountain provides a stunning view of Busan from the observation deck at 620 feet above sea level. The upper platform (baldachin) was patterned after the Dabotap Pagoda in Gyeongju, South Korea.

37-55, Yongdusan-gil, Jung-gu, Busan, South Korea
Enlarge/Slideshow See On Map Directions

22 Bell of the Citizens at Yongdusan Park in Busan, South Korea

Bell of the Citizens at Yongdusan Park is aptly named because it was funded with over 100,000 donations by Busan residents. The 25 ton, copper Korean bell (beomjong) was designed by Seung-rae Cho, a professor at Pussan National University, and manufactured by Hongjongsa in 1996. The etchings portray a dragon and nature scenes of the local area. Busan Citizens’ Bell is stuck ten times as a countdown during New Year’s Eve. It is also tolled on Independence Day (March 1) and Liberation Day (August 15).

37-55, Yongdusan-gil, Jung-gu, Busan, South Korea
Enlarge/Slideshow See On Map Directions

23 Pavilions at Yongdusan Park in Busan, South Korea

In addition to the Busan Citizens’ Bell Pavilion in the foreground, Yongdusan Park contains the Octagonal (Palgakjeong) and Exhibition Pavilions. Respectively, they house the Museum of World Folk Instruments and the Hall of World Model Boats. You will also encounter several monuments and a flower clock as you stroll around the scenic park.

37-55, Yongdusan-gil, Jung-gu, Busan, South Korea
Enlarge/Slideshow See On Map Directions

24 Dragon Statue at Yongdusan Park in Busan, South Korea

Although this 13 foot, bronze dragon sculpture appears fierce, Korean legend portrays the creature as benevolent. This is a yong, the protector of the sky. A yo lives in the ocean and the kyo lives in the mountains. It is apropos to find this sculpture at Yongdusan Park because people perceive the underlying hill is dragon-shaped. Yongdu means dragon’s head.

37-55, Yongdusan-gil, Jung-gu, Busan, South Korea
Enlarge/Slideshow See On Map Directions

25 Admiral Yi Sun-shin Statue at Yongdusan Park in Busan, South Korea

At the base of Busan Tower at Yongdusan Park is a statue honoring Yi Sun-shin. He was a revered naval commander for the Joseon dynasty during the late 16th century. The admiral led over 20 battles at sea against Japan’s invasions during the Imjin War. He never lost a campaign but did heroically lose his life while winning the Battle of Noryang in 1598. This event finally repulsed the Japanese from Korea and ended the war. His accomplishments are celebrated annually on October 5 during Busan Citizen’s Day.

37-55, Yongdusan-gil, Jung-gu, Busan, South Korea
Enlarge/Slideshow See On Map Directions

26 Joseon Tongsinsa Parade Statue in Busan, South Korea

Busan is a virtual neighbor of Japan. It is only 130 miles across the Korea Strait to Fukuoka. Closer still is the one-hour ferry ride to Tsushima Island. So the countries have a long history together. Some of those events – such as the Japanese Occupation from 1910 – 1945 – still harbor Korean resentment. Another notable time period was Japan’s two invasions of South Korea in the late 16th century. For nearly 200 years prior to 1592, and for another 200 years after the Imjin Wars, the countries participated in the Joseon Tongsinsa Parade over 1,800 times. The name means the goodwill mission of Korea’s Joseon dynasty. The parade is still enacted to symbolize cultural exchange between the two countries.

11-3 Donggwangdong 1(il)-ga, Jung-gu, Busan, South Korea
Enlarge/Slideshow See On Map Directions

27 Lotte Department Store in Busan, South Korea

Lotte Department Store opened its flagship in Seoul’s Myeong-dong fashion district in 1979. Since then, the chain has grown to 24 locations, making it South Korea’s largest retailer. Their seaside Gwangbok Branch in Busan has nine floors of merchandise in the Main Store and another eight levels in the Aqua Mall. Still not enough to satisfy your shopping cravings? Then go to Shinsegae Centum City in the Haeundae District. Its 14 floors plus two basement levels make it the world’s largest shopping mall according to the Guinness Book of World Records.

2, Jungang-daero, Jung-gu, Busan, South Korea
Enlarge/Slideshow See On Map Directions

28 Baeksan Memorial Hall in Busan, South Korea

The namesake for Baeksan Memorial Hall is Baeksan Ahn Hee-je. Before his death in 1943, he was a leader of the independence movement against occupying Japan. This is the spot where he formed the Baeksan Company in order to raise cash for the cause. Since this small, tent-shaped entry opened its doors in 1995, it has been a museum and education center about Korean independence plus a tribute to those who lost their lives during Korean struggles. A monument to the patriot can also be found at Yongdusan Park.

10-1, Donggwangdong 3(sam)-ga, Jung-gu, Busan, South Korea
Enlarge/Slideshow See On Map Directions

29 Busan Modern History Museum in Busan, South Korea

As the name suggests, the Busan Modern History Museum traces the city’s major events starting in 1876 when the international port opened. It explains in great detail the impacts by the Japanese, Korean War and Americans. The building also is an integral part of local history. After the Japan-Korea Treaty of 1905, Korea lost its sovereignty and the Japanese established the Oriental Development Company to colonize Korea. This structure was built as their local office in Basan. After World War II, the transitional government was managed by USAMGIK from 1945 until 1948. The United States used the building to house their Information Agency (USIS).

104 Daecheong-ro, Daecheongdong 2(i)-ga, Jung-gu, Busan, South Korea
Enlarge/Slideshow See On Map Directions
TOP