South Korea has honestly never been on my list of countries to visit, but when the opportunity presented itself when my Dad said we were going to Busan for Holy Week, I was ecstatic. Just as how I feel about any other trip – no matter how near or far from Manila – I was incredibly excited to explore a new city. This time, however, since the trip was rather short-notice, we didn’t have an itinerary like we usually do.
When we arrived though, it wasn’t hard to find things to do and see. In the four days that we were there, I felt like we’d gotten the most out of this coastal city; and so, to be somewhat of help to those who are planning a trip to this part of South Korea, let me list down the must-sees and must-dos while in Busan.
1) Haeundae Beach
One of the country’s most popular beaches is located in Busan, which was luckily right in front of the hotel we stayed in. Though it isn’t exactly a white sand beach, the sand is fine and the shoreline is beautiful; it did remind me of Nice, but in a more pristine way. Since we were there in spring, the weather was great for walking or lounging by the beach with barely any people around (which I loved) but not exactly for swimming. Summer is a different story though, it gets packed with visitors wanting to enjoy the sand, sea and sun! Year-round, however, they have activities and performances along the boardwalk, all the more making Haeundae Beach a must-see while in Busan.
There’s also a nice park right by the beach where you can lounge around and enjoy the scenery.
2) Dongbaekseom Island
Located at the end of Haeundae Beach is this picturesque island quite popular for fishing. A clear-cut walking path was built around the island, giving visitors the opportunity to easily explore on foot, offering fantastic views.
3) Nurimaru APEC House
Situated on Dongbaeksom Island is the Nurimaru APEC House, which hosted the 2005 APEC Summit Meeting. Its gorgeous architecture mustn’t be missed, both from the inside and the outside – even better, the entrance is free!
The Nurimaru APEC House was designed in such a way that would make people inside feel like they were inside a ship.
4) Sunset by Gwangandaegyo Bridge
There’s always something about bridges that captivate me, and Gwangandaegyo Bridge was no different. An architectural marvel with the sunset as its backdrop was the best view we could have asked for as we ended the day admiring the landscape.
Sunset in the city is fantastic from every spot in the city – either from the streets of Busan or right by Haeundae Beach, you’ll surely enjoy Golden Hour.
5) Sea Life Busan Aquarium
Right by Haeundae Beach is the Sea Life Aquarium, housing thousands of marine animals, which is well-worth the ₩29,000 entrance fee (approximately $25-30 / Php1,500). Unlike other aquariums that are located above ground, this one was built below, which is why from the entrance of Sea Life, you’d think it’s rather small; but beneath the surface is a 36,000sqm attraction that’ll definitely be one of the highlights of your trip.
6) Haeundae Market
Haeundae Market is comprised of several streets with small food and retail shops, scattered all around; the main street being the star, as it is lined up with restaurants offering a wide array of fresh seafood. You can pick your seafood of choice and they’ll cook it right then and there for you! At the end of this street, you’ll also find other smaller shops and small cafes and bakeries to choose from. There’s one bakery, whose name I can barely remember given that it was in Korean, which had really good and extremely reasonably-priced goods!
7) Busan Metro
As I always say, the best way to explore a city is by foot, but the next best way is to use public transportation. It gives you a glimpse of how the locals go about their everyday lives. Also, the Busan Metro Lines can easily bring you to different attractions in the city in the most cost-efficient manner.
8) Shop in the World’s Largest Department Store – Shinsegae
For me, a trip is never complete without a visit to the mall. I’ve always loved commercial areas – be it for the restaurants or the retail shops. Also, the architecture and the uniqueness local malls present never fail to amuse me. So when I heard that the World’s Largest Department Store is in Busan, I knew we had to go. True enough, you can easily spend a day shopping in Shinsegae, while exploring the other in-house attractions it has to offer. Fun fact: it surpasses Macy’s flagship store in Herald Square, New York in size!
The supermarket also has a small dining area with fresh / live seafood that they can cook for customers.
9) Indulge in the Local Cuisine
And of course, my favorite thing to do in any foreign city: get a taste of the local food. One place I highly recommend is the Shinsegae Food Court, which has a multitude of options to choose from. Everything we tried therein was delicious and again, really good for your budget!
While you’re in South Korea, you might as well give Mcdonald’s a visit for their cheap yet really good Bulgogi Burgers. There’s one a few minutes away from Haeundae Beach!
Best thing about dining in South Korean, in my opinion, is the unlimited Ban Chan, which you can get in any traditional Korean sit-down restaurant. BONUS: If you’re reading this cause you’re actually in the process of planning your trip to Busan, check out Paradise Hotel as an option for your accommodation. Its gorgeous beachfront location is its main pro, but the amenities and dining are great as well. Make sure you don’t miss out on their hotel bakery, which has the most delectable of treats!
In conclusion, I’m glad that I got the chance to visit South Korea at least once, and Busan was a great first taste, in my opinion. Though I don’t see myself going back to the country soon, who knows, maybe I’ll eventually get another chance to explore a different part of South Korea; I do have to make the most out of my three-year visa after all!