Itinerary: Quick Overnight Trip to Busan, South Korea
I wasn’t sure about traveling to Busan in the middle of January. I had last been to South Korea’s second largest city in August when the weather was warm enough to enjoy its beaches and giant seaport. But an overnight getaway with girlfriends sounded fun and temptingly cheap during the off-season. Turns out my instincts were correct.
Most of Busan’s famous sites are still visitor-friendly during the cold winter months as long as you dress warmly (and it doesn’t rain). Between the smaller crowds, bargain hotel rates, and cheap cab rides split four-ways, I dare say my second trip was more enjoyable than the first.
Gamcheon Cultural Village
The following itinerary outlines our jam-packed adventure. We squeezed a lot of activities into 28 hours, but these recommendations can be used as a guide as you plan your journey:
Day 1: Markets, Art Village, and Beaches
- Take the two-and-a-half-hour KTX train ride from Seoul to Busan.
- Arrive at Busan Station in the late morning. Stop at the Information Desk to acquire tourist maps and ask questions. Leave luggage in a locker at the train station and take subway Line 1 to Nampo.
- Wander the busy shopping streets of Nampo around Exit 7, stopping at one of the neighborhood’s many restaurants for lunch.
- Take a detour up the escalators that lead to Yongdusan Park. This small mountain offers some nice views of the city. Busan Tower, a pagoda pavilion, and a number of small artist studio shops are also located here.
- Descend the hill from the west end of the park and explore the alleys of vendors and stalls Gukje Market. This is a good place to grab street food.
- Come out at Junggo-ro street and hail a cab to Gamcheon Culture Village. This hillside site used to be a poor shanty area but was revived with government funding into an artistic community that fosters tourism.
- A good 90 minutes can be spent touring Gamcheon’s whimsical shops, studios, and cafés perched upon the mountain ridge. Loop around and grab another taxi back to Busan Station to retrieve bags from locker.
- Hop on the subway and transfer at Seomeyeon on to Line 2 east to the beach. If there isn’t enough time to check into the hotel before dusk, leave your bags in a subway locker at Gwangan Station and head to Gwangalli Beach to watch the sun set by the city’s iconic bridge. Grab a drink or snack at one of the many windowed coffee shops that line the boulevard to watch as the bridge is illuminated.
- Proceed with luggage to Haeundae Beach and checkin to hotel (we recommend Sunset Business Hotel). For traditional Korean meals, seafood, or street food, head to Haeundae Market alley. Or try one of the many surrounding Indian food restaurants for a tasty veg-friendly meal. End the evening with a handcrafted beer at Gamegi Brewing Co. followed by a honey chip, organic soft-serve ice cream from Softree.
Sunset on Gwangalli Beach
Haeundae Beach – empty in the winter
Haedong Yonggungsa Temple
Four Days in Jeju Island
Day 2: Temples & Coastal Sites
- Start the day with a complimentary hotel breakfast. Check out and leave your luggage with the front desk by 9:00 am. Greet the day hello with a quick visit to Haeundae Beach.
- Take a cab west to Haedong Yonggungsa Temple. This Buddhist temple, built in 1376, is one of the few in Korea situated by the sea.
- Return to hotel for bags and take Line 2 on the subway to Kyungsung University station and use the lockers to store baggage. Grab a cab or take bus 22/24/27/20/131 to Igidae Park entrance.
- Allow a minimum of two hours to walk Igidae. The trail wraps the coast, offering spectacular views of the Busan skyline. It eventually leaves the cityscape and leads to dramatic scenery of seaside cliffs and mighty crashing waves.
- The trail ends at Oryukdo Skywalk, a glass bridge that hangs over the peninsula’s coastal cliff. Entry is free and visitors are required to wear cloth booties over shoes to protect the glass.
- There’s a bus stop near the skywalk that returns to Kyungsung University Station and there are usually taxis available near there.
- Retrieve your bags from the lockers and head to Busan Station via the subway or taxi for the train ride back to Seoul.
Igidae Coastal Trail
Questions about Busan? Leave your comments and recommendations below.
Lara was instilled with the travel bug at an early age and has visited over 25 countries. Her mother’s job as a flight attendant enabled a childhood of discovering the world. She recently relocated to Seoul, South Korea, where she hopes to explore some of Asia for the next few years. In addition to being the founding editor of En Route Traveler, Lara also works as a freelance graphic designer. In her spare time, she contributes as a Local Expert to AFAR, is an ambassador for FIG Clothing, enjoys vegetarian cuisine, instructs Zumba, practices yoga, dabbles in photography and, of course, travels as much as possible.