3 days in Busan – what to see and do in South Korea’s vibrant seaside city

Can’t decide whether you want a vacation where you can just kick back and relax on the beach with a fruit shake or do some shopping, sight-seeing, and food tripping? I’ve got the perfect destination for you: Busan.

If you haven’t heard of Busan, this is South Korea’s second city, sitting on the southeastern edge of the country’s main island. It’s the perfect mix of Seoul’s dynamic and vibrant city vibe and Jeju’s relaxing atmosphere and gorgeous subtropical landscapes. Coupled with South Korea’s staples of high-speed internet, efficient public transportation, delicious seafood cuisine, and terrific shopping options, Busan is the perfect destination for anyone who wants everything.

Here’s how to spend 3 days in Busan.

3 days in Busan, South Korea: If you’re looking for the perfect balance of sun, sea, and the city, Busan is the ideal destination for you. Its seaside cosmopolitan vibe will surely draw you in. Check out this itinerary for top recommendations!

How to spend 3 days in Busan, South Korea

Here’s a quick overview of what you could do in Busan for 3 days. You’ll find detailed guides on how to visit these landmarks below, and you can also get a PDF guide here.

  • Day 1: Go to Taejongdae for stunning views of the sea and a picturesque hiking trail. Enjoy a seafood meal by the beach before you go, then drop by Nampo district for some shopping and sightseeing.
  • Day 2: For an artsy morning, head over to the Gamcheon Cultural Village. Have your fill of street art, museums, and markets, and enjoy the view in one of the overlooking cafés. In the afternoon, head to Gwangalli Beach and watch as the sun sets and the Gwangandaegyo bridge lights up.
  • Day 3: Spend a whole day chilling in South Korea’s most beautiful beach – Haeundae Beach. For lunch, walk to Dalmaji Road for picturesque views and great food.

If you have more days to spend in Busan or you like to move fast, here are the top 10 things to do in Busan.

Top 10 things to do in Busan: For a laidback seaside city, Busan certainly has a lot to offer. Foodie, shopaholic, nature lover, or culture buff, Busan’s got you covered. Check out the top things to do in Busan and click through for a detailed guide.

Best things to see and do in Busan, South Korea – a travel guide and itinerary

  1. What to see and do in Busan
  2. Day trips in and around the city
  3. Trip-planning guide – map, getting there and around, where to stay, top tips
  4. Beyond Busan – continuing your adventures in South Korea
  5. Download the PDF guide

Going around Busan is simple and straightforward. The public transportation is fast and efficient, and as long as you know your stops, you won’t have difficulty finding your way around.

For groups who prefer to go around in private rental cars, you can also find information on how to set your GPS to go to the following locations. For more information on driving, you can check out these resources: How to get a rental car in South Korea and how to use the Korean GPS (even with zero Korean language skills!).

What to see and do in Busan

Taejongdae Recreation Area

Visit Taejongdae, one of Busan’s prime seaside destinations. You’ll be treated to endless views of the deep blue sea, stunning rocky cliffs, and fresh seafood. Click through for a detailed guide on how to visit Busan in 3 days.
Endless views of the deep blue sea, stunning rocky cliffs, and fresh seafood… This is what a trip to Taejongdae has to offer.

Taejongdae is a bit off-center and may take up to an hour’s ride to get to, but the fantastic vistas and walking trails are a welcome contrast to Busan’s busy commercial center. Myth has it that even gods and goddesses come here to relax, specifically on Sinseon Rock just under the lighthouse of the resort complex. Taejongdae is also famous for rain-making rituals – but hope for good, sunny weather when you go to best appreciate the views!

You can go around Taejongdae using the train, but if you’re up for some moderate walking, you can also walk along the trail. Make your way to the lighthouse and on to the cliffs (be careful when taking your selfies!), then visit the temple on your way down.

Be sure to walk down the alley to the left as soon as you exit the park. It leads to a pebble beach with a row of beachside shacks, where you are in for one of the most amazing seafood meals you’ll have on this trip.

All the shacks pretty much serve the same things at the same price. For a platter of seafood which includes the freshest abalones ever, the smallest size on the menu costs KRW 30,000 (about USD 25) and will feed about 2-3 persons. If you’re traveling alone, the shack owners may offer you a smaller portion for KRW 20,000 (about USD 18).

Coupled with a bottle of soju, a gentle salty breeze, and views of the sea, you’re pretty much in for a perfect summer day.

Visit Taejongdae Recreation Area

Getting there: There are buses to the Taejongdae Cliff Bus Stop coming from Nampo Subway Station and Busan Station – look for bus numbers 8, 30, 88, or 101.

From Busan station, take exit number 7, walk straight to the third bus stop, and take Bus 101. Travel time is about 45 minutes.

You can get back to Busan or Nampo station via the same buses (8, 30, 88, 101).

If you’re driving, set your GPS to go to this phone number: (51) 405-2004. Make sure Busan’s area code 51 is set, and remember to verify your destination by comparing with other maps (such as Maps.me) before setting off. Drive to the nearest parking lot.

Nampo-dong and Jagalchi Market

Now it’s time for downtown Busan. Wear comfy shoes and bring your credit cards – it’s time to go shopping!

Nampo-dong is Busan’s central commercial and shopping district. You’ll find long streets of shops and stalls selling pretty much everything: electronics, skin care products and cosmetics, clothes and fashion items, and lots of street food.

My top tip if you want to dip into Nampo’s shopping district is to prepare a list of things you want to buy beforehand. It’s easy to get overwhelmed with all the choices – plus the shopkeepers are really great at selling you almost anything, even when you two don’t speak the same language. Discounts left and right will also lure you to splurge, so unless you’re determined to just “look around,” have a pretty good idea of what you’re looking for.

That said, if you’re a fan of Korean products (food, skin care, and electronics), this is a great place to pick up your goods.

If you’re up for more of Nampo’s downtown energy, hop over to the nearby Jagalchi Fish Market for street food and seafood.

Visit Nampo-dong and Jagalchi Fish Market

Getting there: Make your way to the Nampo station along Subway Line 1.

If you’re driving, you can set your GPS to go to this phone number: (51) 253-8253. That’s the number of Busan Tourism Information Center. Once near the area, you can look for one of many paid parking lots around Nampo district.

You can also park at the Lotte Department Store (Gwangbok Branch), which is just a short walk to Nampo. Enter (51) 678-2500 into your GPS.

Gamcheon Cultural Village

Visit Gamcheon Cultural Village, Busan’s artsy district filled with colorful houses, art shops, and cafés with fantastic views. It’s every artsy traveler’s dream come true! Click through for a detailed guide on how to visit Busan in 3 days.
This next spot is the kind you’d want to get lost in, especially for art and culture lovers.

The Gamcheon Culture Village is built on a hill and filled with maze-like alleys and views of the sea and the city below. The residents decorated their neighborhood with colorful murals and sculptures. Coupled with colorful houses, art shops at every turn, and cafés with fantastic views, it’s every artsy traveler’s dream come true.

Take half a day to explore Gamcheon leisurely. You’ll find modern art installations at every turn with plenty of photo opportunities. If you don’t mind walking, walk back down to the subway station as the road to the village is charming and photogenic as well. You’ll be able to pass through the lower villages where you can find wet markets and get a glimpse of how the village looked like before the art explosion.

If you love collecting printed art works or sending artsy postcards, Gamcheon is the best place in Busan to pick these up.

Getting there: From Toseong Station along Busan Subway Line 1, take Exit 6, then take the local bus Saha 1-1, Seogu 2, or Seogu 2-2 to Gamcheon Elementary School Bus Stop.

Alternatively, you can go to Goejeong Station also on Busan Subway Line 1, take Exit 6, and local bus Sakha 1 or Sakha 1-1 to Gamcheon Elementary School Bus Stop.

If you’re driving, enter (51) 291-1444 into your GPS and look for the nearest parking lot.

Gwangalli Beach

Gwangalli Beach is the perfect place to spend the afternoon. It’s a long stretch of fine sand lined with lots of restaurants and cafés, as well as fashion stores.

If you’re up for a walk along the coast, head to the right (facing the sea) and follow the trail for as long as your legs can take you. If you have several more hours of sunlight and lots of leg-power, you can walk all the way to Oryukdo Skywalk for more views of the sea (about 8 KM of walking).

Otherwise, spend an afternoon at sea and wait for the Gwangandaegyo Bridge to light up. Then head to one of the many restaurants and bars along the beach to end the night.

Visit Gwangalli Beach, one of Busan’s beautiful beaches. Spend an afternoon beach-bumming, wait for the Gwangandaegyo Bridge to light up, then choose one of the beachfront restaurants for a delicious Korean BBQ to end the night! Click through for a detailed guide on how to visit Busan in 3 days.
The Gwangandaegyo Bridge lights up at night, making Gwangalli Beach one of the best places for a nightcap.

Visit Gwangalli Beach

Getting there: The beach is a short 5-minute walk from the Gwangan Station along Busan Subway Line 2.

If you’re driving, enter (51) 622-4251 into your GPS and look for the nearest parking lot.

Haeundae Beach

Hauendae Beach is one of South Korea’s best beaches and the perfect setting for maximum beach-bumming. You’ll have a long stretch of fine white sand that’s really clean and well-maintained, despite it being quite a popular public beach. It’s a great spot for people-watching and bumming – there’s not much else you’d like to do but just kick back and relax.

If you prefer active relaxation, though, there are plenty of water sports and activities you can do.

Visit Haeundae Beach, one of Busan’s beautiful beaches. Spend an afternoon beach-bumming and people-watching and enjoy Haeundae’s fine white sand. Click through for a detailed guide on how to visit Busan in 3 days.
The most chill spot in Busan!

If you want to go for a walk, head to Dalmaji-gil Road, one of Busan’s eight scenic sites. You’ll find stunning views of the ocean and beautiful flower patches and parks. It’s exceptionally gorgeous during cherry blossom season. You’ll find lots of restaurants and cafés here as well.

If you want to make the most of Haeundae beach’s luxurious ambiance, go on a private night yacht tour that will take you to some of the city’s fanciest sightseeing spots.

Visit Haeundae Beach

Getting there: It’s a short walk (about 500 m) to the beach from the Haeundae Station along Busan Subway Line 2.

If you’re driving, enter (51) 749-5700 into your GPS and look for the nearest parking lot.

Day trips in and around Busan

It’s a lot of fun and super easy to go around and discover the city on your own, but if you have limited time and want to hand over the navigation duties to someone else – plus get a unique insight from a local’s perspective – here are amazing tours in and around Busan that you should check out.

Top tip: Try to book the tours for your first full days in Busan. This would give you an excellent overview of the city, so you’ll know where to go when you continue your adventures on your own. Sometimes, logistical glitches can also happen, and tour operators may request to move the tour a day or two later. While they will always offer a full refund if this happens, it’s better to have a couple of extra days to move a tour date down to.

This full day tour excellently covers Busan’s top tourist landmarks in one action-packed day. From Gamcheon’s colorful murals to Jagalchi’s fascinating markets and Taejongdae’s dramatic terrains, you’ll spend the day exploring and understanding Busan’s charms. This is perfect if you’re traveling with kids or anyone who doesn’t want to do too much walking in between sights – you’ll be shuttled around the city by a knowledgeable guide and driver.

Unlike most seaside destinations, Busan’s attractions do not end with the sunset. In fact, Busan comes alive at night when the city lights up! This night tour brings you to Busan’s best illumination spots. It’s a great way to cap off a day of exploring.

Set aside a day to go out and enjoy nature. One of the best side trips from Busan is this day tour of Geojedo island where you’ll get to enjoy a lovely stroll on acupressure pebbles by the beach (yes, really!), a visit to a marine botanical garden, a frolic in beautiful fields of flowers, and a magnificent sunset to end the day.

Want to take a step back in time and have a break from South Korea’s fast-paced cities? Take a day to explore Gyeongju, the country’s ancient capital. It’s home to remnants of the ancient Kingdom of Silla and some of the best Buddhist art in the Far East. This day trip is perfect for you if you love to learn about culture and history. I also have a DIY guide to Gyeongju for you here, if you’d rather venture on your own!

Planning your trip to Busan – here’s everything you need to know

Ready to plan your little holiday to Busan? I prepared a comprehensive city guide which you’ll find below and in this PDF. It has everything you need to know to plan your adventure.

Map

Use this Google map to get around and plan your trip. Take note that Google maps won’t give you driving routes – you’ll have to use an alternative map like Naver.

Getting there

By plane

Busan has its own international airport, the Gimhae International Airport – you can check for international flights to Busan here.

From the airport, you have several options for getting to the city:

Public transportation – From the airport, look for signs and walk towards the Light Rail Transit (LRT). As soon as you enter the station, you’ll find a vending machine where you can either buy a new transportation card and load it up, or load a transportation card (like a T-money card) if you already have one. You can choose to get English instructions, so just follow the instructions on the interface, and you’ll be good to go. Depending on where you’re going, you can switch to the subway either in Daejeo or Sasang. Here’s an interactive route planner to help you get around Busan using the subway.

Taxi – You can find taxis outside the Domestic Terminal. As most drivers won’t speak much English, it’s good to have a printout of your hotel’s address in Korean, as well as a phone number they can call for directions. It’s a bit tricky to predict the cost for this, as city traffic can really bring up your taxi meter.

Private transfer – This is ideal if you’re traveling with a large group (some services can accommodate up to 7 persons) or just want to have an easy transit to and from the airport. Air travel can undoubtedly be one of the most stressful parts of a holiday, and having this little extra service is worth making your arrival and departure a lot more comfortable. You can book a private transfer online in advance here.

Rental car – You can also choose to get your own rental car for easily exploring Busan and nearby destinations – here’s a complete guide to driving in South Korea. You’ll need to book your rental car online in advance (here’s my recommended booking platform), and then on arrival, proceed to the airport’s Domestic Terminal, 1st floor, where you’ll find the desk for car rentals. Make sure to read the guide for a smooth-sailing road trip adventure in South Korea!

By train

If you’re coming from elsewhere in South Korea, you can take the train to and from Busan. The Korea Train Express (or KTX) is South Korea’s high-speed rail system and can bring you from Seoul to Busan in just 2.5 hours! It’s a really comfortable and convenient way to tour around the country. If you plan to city-hop and move around every 1-2 days, you’d want to get a Korea Rail Pass for unlimited rides and massive savings.

Getting around Busan

Local transportation – Busan’s subway system is really efficient and a great way to go around the city. I’d recommend getting a transportation card (like T-money, Hanaro, or Cashbee) from a convenience store, and loading it up. Then you just need to tap in and out, then reload the card if it runs out. Here’s the route planner to help you plan your trip.

Car charter – If you’re traveling with a group, though, and want to do some serious sightseeing, you’d want to get a chauffeured car for a day or two to bring you to Busan’s best landmarks. It’s a comfortable and convenient way to go around the city, without having to worry about finding your way around. Here’s one you can book online in advance.

Renting a car – Too adventurous and independent to be chauffeured around? I hear you! This is personally my favorite way to go around South Korea, especially when I’m traveling with friends and family. Having and driving your own car gives you a lot of flexibility and the power to start and end your day whenever you feel like. It does have caveats – like having to deal with traffic and the search for a parking space in downtown Busan – but beyond that, it’s pretty much a comfortable and enjoyable experience. You can book your car online here and learn more about driving in South Korea here.

Best areas to stay in Busan

If you want to be in the heart of Busan, stay in Seomyeon. You’ll find lots of restaurants and shops in the area, and thanks to its central location, it’s a great starting point for adventures around the city. The Hound Hotel at the center of Seomyeon area is the best choice if you want comfort and convenience, whether you’re a business or leisure traveler. You’ll be within a short walk to the Seomyeon subway station, and a stone’s throw away from shops, restaurants, and all sorts of fun city entertainment.

If you’re visiting Busan to enjoy the beach, look at accommodations in Haeundae and Gwangan districts. Park Hyatt is a gorgeous hotel in Haeundae where you can enjoy fantastic rooms with amazing views of the Busan Marina, a selection of Western and Korean dishes in their in-house restaurant, and an indoor pool and spa facilities – it’s hands down the most luxurious stay you can have in Busan.

For more beach and nightlife action, stay in Kent Hotel. It’s right across the lively Gwangalli beach with plenty of restaurants and bars around.

Looking for something else – perhaps something with a bit more hip and artsy vibe? Or maybe somewhere that will allow you to get the most food-tripping and shopping done? Here’s a comprehensive guide to Busan’s neighborhoods and best hotels.

Top tips for travel to Busan

By now, you’ll already have a good idea of how your holiday in Busan will go. Here are a few quick tips and good-to-know facts to make your trip to Busan a lot more fun!

Languages spoken: Korean, a bit of English in the cities

Useful phrases:

  • Hello – annyeonghaseyo / 안녕하세요
  • Thank you – gomabseubnida / 고맙습니다
  • Cheers! – geonbae! / 건배!

Money: Korean won (KRW 10,000 ~ USD 10 ~ EUR 8)

Typical costs:

  • Accommodations – A night’s stay for two in a luxurious beachfront hotel (like Park Hyatt) can cost up to KRW 270,000 (~USD 240) per night. A nice, mid-range hotel in a central location (like Hound Hotel) can cost around KRW 80,000 (~USD 70) per night. You can also find budget hostels (like TraveLight Hostel), which will only set you back around KRW 33,000 (~USD 30) for a bed per night.
  • Food – You can spend around KRW 200,000 (~USD 200) for a fancy meal for two in a posh Korean restaurant like Mugunghwa, or around KRW 30,000 (~USD 30) for a mouth-watering barbecue feast in a restaurant like Anga. On the other hand, you can fill up on street food at the Jagalchi market, and you’ll be bursting by the time you spend KRW 22,000 (~USD 20).

Tipping: Tipping is not expected in South Korea. This applies to cab drivers, local restaurants, as well as hotels.

Time zone: GMT +9

Weather and when to go:

Busan’s temperature can go from 0-10 C during the winter months (December to February).

By March, it starts to get warmer, and by April temperatures rise to 10-18 C. The end of March to the beginning of April is a great time to go to Busan to see the cherry blossoms and other early spring flowers in full bloom.

From April to June, you can experience mild spring and early summer weather, perfect for walking and sightseeing. By July, it’s warm enough on some days to swim in Busan’s white sand beaches (22-27 C) though you can expect plenty of rainy days as well.

August and September are peak months to swim in Busan, so make sure to reserve your hotels in advance if you plan to visit during these months.

October and November are fall months with mild weather and beautiful fall foliage towards the end of October.

Must-haves:

Before you go, download a map like Naver on your phone to help you get around Busan and the rest of South Korea. The Google Map above is a good starting point for planning your trip, but Google’s navigation function doesn’t work in South Korea so you’ll need another map, like Naver, that does.

If you don’t speak Korean, have an app like Google Translate on your phone. It can be convenient especially when asking for directions or buying tickets. You can also use the camera function to translate things like menus or road signs.

You’ll also want to get a mobile Wi-Fi while in South Korea, especially if you want to plan on the go. This will help you stay connected with your travel buddies and let you easily navigate Busan’s public transportation system. Plus, they have the fastest internet connection in the world, so that’s fun to experience, too.

Converting to Korean won can rack up an extreme amount of bank fees, whether you’re exchanging your money at the bank, withdrawing from international ATMs, or paying with your credit card.  To save yourself from that, you can get the TransferWise Borderless Mastercard, an international debit card that lets you enjoy your holiday without the bank fees. You can use it to pay anywhere Mastercard is accepted (not just in South Korea, but worldwide – they currently support 40+ currency balances) and withdraw from ATMs that cater to Mastercard, with the lowest conversion fees ever. You don’t even have to be a financial techie to get a card – opening an account is simple, and you can have your card in 3-5 days.

Beyond Busan – continuing your adventures in South Korea

An hour’s drive north of Busan will bring you to Gyeongju, South Korea’s ancient capital. Here’s where you’ll find an extensive collection of ancient Buddhist art, historic temples and palaces from the Silla dynasty, and a traditional village. It’s a lovely day trip if you want to learn more about Korean history and culture.

If you’re thinking if you should add a couple of days in Jeju to your South Korean itinerary, check out this quick travel guide to Udo Island. This is a small island off the coast of Jeju where you’ll be able to experience the subtropical island’s various landscapes in just one full day.

If you’re planning to visit the other major cities, be sure to check out my city guides for Seoul, Busan, and Jeju! I highlight all the coolest neighborhoods in each city and give quick recommendations depending on what you’d like to experience most.

* * *

I hope this guide helps you plan your trip to Busan. Fantastic sea views, delicious food, and artsy villages await!

If you need more information, get in touch and I’ll do my best to help you out – we can set up a call, or send me a message.

First published – May 15, 2017

Last updated – December 3, 2018 – updated and added travel-planning information

9 Replies to “3 days in Busan – what to see and do in South Korea’s vibrant seaside city”

  1. Hi! From Busan, could you do a day trip into jeju island? we have 2 kids and wondering if it’s worth doing the day trip. we are thinking of renting a car in Busan for a few days before heading up to Seoul. also, do you recommend driving from Busan back to Seoul? or take the train?

    1. Hi Lily, I wouldn’t recommend doing a day trip to Jeju Island from Busan – one day is too short, and there’s really a lot to see in Jeju. At least stay overnight, but even then, you’ll be pressed for time. About Busan to Seoul, that’s a nice road trip and you can pass by many beautiful countryside towns along the way. Enjoy!

  2. Im going to Korea for Seoul and Busan…do you have any recommendation for how many day should i stay in seoul and busan

  3. Hi! Where can I find those colorful stairs with things write in? I’m going to Busan with my friends and I think they would love a couple of pictures there!

  4. Thanks for this very helpful article. I will be in Busan for about 3 days. I would like to also go to Namhae Island. Do you recommend heading there from Busan or Seoul? I am ending my trip in Seoul.

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