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South Korea, a country known for its spicy cuisine, cutting edge technology, and pop-cultural output is enjoying a moment of fame.
Busan has emerged as a destination worthy of its own. While Seoul is the most popular city in the country, it's not the only one.
The vibrant metropolis of 3.5 million people is a magnet for visitors, both from Korea and abroad, who are drawn to its sand beaches, street markets, seafood, museums, quirky hillside neighborhoods and numerous special events.
The secret of this hip, historical and delicious town is out. Travelers are now flocking here to enjoy its splendors.
Here are some of the things you should not miss when visiting Korea's most popular seaside city.
You can start your day at the city's most famous stretch of sand. Enjoy a stroll by the sea, a cup of coffee or some local fishcakes at the legendaryGeoraesaEomuk before heading toBUSAN X The SKY.
The observatory is located on the highest floors of the LCT Landmark Tower, the tallest structure in the city. From here you can enjoy the panoramic views of the East Sea and the surrounding urban landscape. You may even be able see Japan's Tsushima island in the distance if the weather is nice.
It's a short stroll to Blueline Park, the start of the Haeundae sky capsule. The Dalmaji Hill is a rocky hill with pine trees that you can cruise on in this elevated rail car.
The tour ends in the old fishing village of Cheongsapo where you can enjoy a delicious lunch of fresh seafood, including scallops and shrimps, at one of the small restaurants located near the harbor.
Busan, a high-tech city, is also home to a wealth of historical sites, including HaedongYonggunsa.
This serene and scenic Buddhist site is just a short taxi ride away from Cheongsapo. It sits on a rise, above the surging ocean. It's a rare sight in a land where most temples can be found on mountains.
Relax, take in the sea air and stroll the tranquil grounds while listening to the soothing sounds of squawking gulls and the crashing waves on the rocks.
Centum City, a cluster of highrises that gleams with glimmering lights, is a great place to get a feel for the new Busan.
You can visit the Shinsegae Department Store, the largest department store in the world, according to the Guinness Book Of World Records, before visiting the Busan Cinema Center. This is the headquarters of the Busan International Film Festival.
If you are in the area, stop by Museum 1, which is a multi-color digital art installation.
Lose yourself in the mesmerizing, psychedelic wonders of the gallery before ambling back to Shinsegae for the quintessential Koreanjimjilbangexperience atSpaland, one of the city's premier saunas.
Centum City, located just two subway stops from Gwangalli Beach in Busan, is a lively strip of sand with cafes, restaurants, and bars that look out over the water towards the iconic Gwangan Diamond Bridge.
Gwangalli Beach hosts the Busan International Fireworks Festival in early November every year.
Crazy Surfers will provide everything you need to make this an unforgettable experience. This includes English instruction.
Gwangalli also has some of the best nightlife and food in the city. You can satisfy your craving for Korean barbecue atSeorae or grab a pizza atSOL Taphouse. Or, you can dive into the sashimi atMillak Raw Fisher Center where you are able to look through the tanks, point at your food, and it will be sliced on the spot.
Stop by the always busyHQ Barwith their super-friendly staff, and enjoy a million-dollar view from the bridge. Or, grab a cold beer atGalmaegi, the original craft brewery in the city. Joseph is a chic, intimate spot that offers well-crafted drinks in a cozy setting.
Busan is known as a port city, and to truly understand it, head to Nampo-dong, the old harbor district. Jagalchi Market is the open-air fish market that will not only enchant your senses, but also be the beating heart of the city.
You can stroll along the concourse and take in all the tentacles, fins, and scaly bounty of the ocean, as well as the gruff sellers who sell it.
Jagalchi, also known as the "best place to eat in Busan", is a market that offers a wide variety of seafood dishes, including grilled fish.
The sprawling complex of Gukje Market is located across from Jagalchi. It was the location for the 2014 movie, "Ode to My Father." The market is famous for its food court, where you can enjoy noodles, pajeon (green onions pancakes), orChungmu Kimbap (seaweed roll with spicy radish, squid, and seaweed).
You can also visit the many used book sellers onBosu Book Street. In the evening, you can enjoy a rich, savory bowl of Busan’s signature pork soup atBukwang dwaeji gukbap or take a seat at one of Nampo’s pojangmacha – the street carts with beer, soju, and delicious side dishes prepared by older, tough women.
The little tents are an excellent way to bring people together and encourage interaction. They also serve as a nice throwback to Busan’s rougher and tumbler past.
The first city beach in Busan is Songdo, with its famouscable car that whizzes over the water and into Amnam Park. It offers unmatched views of the traditional city core, as well as the stony mountain ranges and deep turquoise water.
It's a short cab ride from Songdo to Yeongdo, where you'll find some of Busan’s oldest neighborhoods including the Huinnyeoul Cultural Village. This cluster of white, aquamarine and blue houses nestled on a bluff with a view of the water is the most romantic place in Busan, as well an Instagrammer's paradise.
Stop by Momo's Coffee in Yeongdo. It's a large cafe and roastery whose owner, Jooyeon Jeon won the 2019 World Barista Championship. Momo's is not only known for its beautifully crafted espresso drinks but also for its elegant and smart design.
Taejongdae is the culmination of Yeongdo's rugged beauty. This park is located on the southern tip of the island and features thick pine forests, sheer rock cliffs, and huge rocky outcrops that crumble and stretch into the foamy waves.
You can take a walk and clear your mind while the sun's light glimmers on the water. You may not even realize that you are in the middle a bustling, modern city, which is also one of East Asia’s most underrated jewels.
Busan is easily accessible via several different routes. Busan is connected to Seoul via the KTX, a high-speed rail that takes about two and a quarter hours.
Incheon and Gimpo airports in Seoul are only an hour away from Busan's Gimhae International Airport.
Incheon International Airport is the only airport that can handle long-haul international flights, even though some Asian countries offer direct flights to Incheon.