Busan is a city with many faces.
At first glance, Busan is a city where you go for a break. Especially if you’re coming from Seoul, Busan’s seaside city vibe is a welcome break from the unrelenting energy of the capital. You can smell the sea even kilometers away from the seashore, which of course, brings with it promises of a lazy, relaxing, and rejuvenating holiday.
But don’t confuse “lazy and relaxing” with boring. Busan’s beaches are anything but – they’re lined with the trendiest restaurants, bars, cafés, and boutique shops that will definitely keep even the fastest-paced tourists busy.
At the heart of Busan and away from the sea, the city shows yet another different side. Like its sister Seoul, Busan exemplifies the South Korean experience: efficient, dynamic, vibrant, and spoilt for choice. Unlike your typical beach destination, the city doesn’t sleep with the setting of the sun.
Laidback and exciting, rustic and cosmopolitan – depending on what you want to experience, there’s a Busan neighborhood that’s perfect for you. Check out this neighborhood guide and find out where to stay in Busan. Don’t forget to pin and bookmark or share to a friend who’s headed to Busan soon!
Guide to Neighborhoods and Best Accommodations in Busan
For the party-loving beach bum, check out Haeundae or Gwangan
If your idea of an amazing holiday is lying on a white sand beach and mingling with beautiful people, Haeundae is the perfect base for you.
Haundae beach is South Korea’s most famous beach, thanks to its fine white sand and affluent residents. If you choose one of the hotels in the area, the beach is literally right outside your doorstep. You can change from your pajamas into your bikini, lay out a mat, and start soaking up the sun.
There are also rows of restaurants, cafés, and bars at your disposal, including the famous Dalmaji road where you’ll never run out of coffee shops to try.
If you fancy a quick run to keep that bikini body in top shape, you have a long stretch of beachfront at your perusal.
Recommended accommodations in Haeundae:
- Highly-rated hotels in Haeundae include: Ibis Ambassador Busan Haeundae (double rooms start at USD 90) and MS Hotel (double rooms start at USD 120).
- For budget options, check out: Good Day Mate (double rooms start at USD 60), The Beach Hotel Haeundae (single rooms start at USD 33), and Melon Guesthouse (beds start at USD 14).
- These are all within walking distance from Haeundae station on Line 2.
Gwangan or Suyeong District
Gwangalli Beach in Gwangan is Haeundae’s low-key sister. While Gwangalli beach is just as beautiful as Haeundae beach, the crowd is more low-maintenance. While you can say Haeundae is a playground for South Korea’s rich and famous as well as the luxury travelers, Gwangalli is where the average mortals go. This is also where expats and long-term travelers stay, so if you want to meet friendly locals and travelers, it’s best to try your luck at Gwangalli.
You will also be treated to a view of the Gwangan bridge when it lights up at night. It’s more centrally-located than Haeundae so it’s easier to go around the city and visit the other attractions.
Recommended accommodations in Gwangan:
- Highly-rated hotels in Gwangan include: Kent Hotel Gwangalli (double rooms start at USD 120)
- For budget options, check out: Bexco Hostel (double rooms start at USD 50) and Jini Guesthouse (beds start at USD 20).
- These are all within walking distance from Gwangan station on Line 2.
If you’re looking for a university party vibe, consider Kyungsung
If you like to party but not really into beaches, check out Kyungsung instead. This university-centered neighborhood is a popular nighttime destination thanks to its bars and restaurants, kept vibrant and interesting by the fickle university and expat residents. There are also great shopping spots here, especially if you love vintage and charming boutique shops.
Recommended accommodations in Kyungsung:
- Highly-rated hotels in Kyungsung include: Idea Hotel (double rooms start at USD 70) and Hotel Muri (double rooms start at USD 70).
- For budget options, check out: Kim’s House (beds start at USD 10)
- These are all within walking distance from Kyungsung University – Pukyong National University station and Daeyeon station on Line 2.
If you’re in Busan to shop (‘til you drop), park your bags in Nampo-dong or PNU
If you’re a shopaholic, Nampo’s sparkly shopping streets will certainly drive you insane. The Nampo district is a shopping mecca with stores from high-end brands, to discount stores, with a wide variety in between. It will definitely take you more than a day to go through the shops in Nampo and I highly suggest that you make a shopping list before you hit the streets.
Nampo is also famous for its street food scene and, of course, seafood. The Jagalchi fish market is adjacent to Nampo, so hop over there in between shopping sprees for some Busan-style eats.
If you want to give your wallet a break and do some sight-seeing, Nampo is close to Taejongdae, a gorgeous seaside park. If you want something closer still, go up Busan tower for a quick view of the city.
Recommended accommodations in Nampo-dong:
- Highly-rated hotels in Nampo-dong include: Boutique Hotel YTT Nampo (double rooms start at USD 85), GnB Hotel (double rooms start at USD 120), and Hotel Noah (double rooms start at USD 86).
- For budget options, check out: Sky Island Guesthouse (beds start at USD 16) and Apple Guesthouse (beds start at USD 15).
- These are all within walking distance from Nampo station and Jagalchi station on Line 1.
Pusan National University (PNU) area
If you’re more into vintage shopping, staying around the PNU area is also a great option. With the young university crowd giving life to the area, you’ll also be treated to a good café and bar scene.
Recommended accommodations in Pusan National University (PNU) area:
- Highly-rated hotels in the PNU area include: Hotel Nongshim (double rooms start at USD 110) and Hotel OZ Oncheonjang (double rooms start at USD 45).
- For budget options, check out: Love in Busan Guesthouse (beds start at USD 17).
- These are all within walking distance from PNU station and Oncheonjang station on Line 1.
If you love to be in the center of it all, stay in Seomyeon
Seomyeon is perfect for those who just can’t stay away from the city for too long. It’s centrally located, so if you plan to see as much sights as possible in Busan, this is your base. But with all the restaurants, bars, and shopping areas crowding around Seomyeon, you probably won’t even need to stray too far.
Recommended accommodations in Seomyeon:
- Highly-rated hotels in Seomyeon include: Hound Hotel (double rooms start at USD 60), Ibis Ambassador Busan City Center (double rooms start at USD 80), Shin Shin Hotel (double rooms start at USD 70), and Uniqstay Hostel and Suite (double rooms start at USD 115).
- For budget options, check out: Travelight Hostel (beds start at USD 22)
- These are all within walking distance from Seomyeon station on Lines 1 and 2.
Additional tips for choosing your base and booking your accommodations in Busan
- Check that the hotel you are considering is near the subway. The recommendations above are all in convenient locations and within walking distance of a subway station.
- Unless you’re staying for more than a week, I don’t recommend moving around and hopping from one accommodation to another. Choose one base that best fits your preferences and explore the city from there. It’s pretty easy to go around in Busan using the public transportation. I don’t recommend driving around the city – I did that for a few days and spent more time in traffic and looking for parking than actual sightseeing.
- Book at least a few nights’ stay in advance – Busan can get pretty crowded and it’s not fun going from door to door looking for a place to stay. Prices also get high during peak season, so best to beat the holiday rush.
Busan map and subway guide
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Wherever you decide to stay in Busan, I’m sure you’ll have fun. So pack your bags and get ready to enjoy the sun, sea, and soul of the city.