Before telling you about the 7 sights to see and activities to do in Busan, I will explain how we traveled from Iwakuni, Japan to Busan, South Korea. At the end of December 2019, we decided to make a trip to South Korea. We thought Busan would be a great place to explore and get to know the culture and people of South Korea. We looked into flights, but decided to try a different experience of taking the speed ferry boat. From Iwakuni, we drove to the Hakata Port in Fukuoka and boarded the Beetle Jet Ferry.
Now, you might be thinking…jet ferry? Yes, it is a ferry that takes passengers from Hakata to Busan with a stop at Tsushima, Japan which is actually closer to South Korea than Japan. The ride is about 3.5 hours one way. The Beetle is a hydrofoil ship that lifts the hull of the ship above the surface of the water when sailing the sea. The jet ferry was made by the aircraft manufacturer Boeing and is known as the flying sea beetle, hence its name. It can reach a speed of 80 kph or roughly 22 mph.
While the purpose of rising above the water is to avoid the waves, it certainly does not make sea sickness occur any less. Shortly after we set sail, our oldest daughter looked at me and told me she was going to be sick. We walked toward the bathroom, but before I knew it she had vomited! The attendants were very helpful with helping us clean up and getting us a barf bag for Carsyn. In fact, at this point the attendants were walking the aisles handing out barf bags to other passengers who had sea sickness. If sea sickness is an issue for you, I do not recommend taking the Beetle to Busan.
Eventually Carsyn felt much better and we were able to relax in our seats the rest of the way to Busan. The attendants were also available for you to purchase snacks from the menu. Once we made it to Busan, we hopped in a taxi and made our way to our hotel in the Haeundae area. We checked into our room and walked to find a restaurant. After which, we went back to the hotel to get a good nights sleep before setting out to explore Busan the next day!
The next day we started exploring Busan. We spent 2 full days exploring Busan. The places we visited are listed below in no particular order. However, there are sights that we enjoyed…some more than others.
- Haedong Yonggungsa Temple
Haedong Yonggungsa Temple is located along the ocean in the north-eastern part of Busan. This is unique as most temples in South Korea are situated in the mountains. Haedong Yonggungsa Temple is a Buddhist Temple that was first built in 1376. Part of the original temple complex was destroyed by fire during the Japanese invasion of Korea from 1592 to 1598. Some of the temple complex was rebuilt in the 1930s and a lot of what stands here today was added within the last few decades. The main sanctuary was reconstructed in 1970.
The name of the temple means Korean Dragon Palace Temple. This was the name given to this temple in 1974 by the head monk at the time. The name comes from a vision experienced by the head monk during meditation. His vision was of the Goddess of Mercy riding a dragon. When the temple was originally built during the Goryeo Dynasty by the Buddhist teacher Naong Hyegeun it was named Bomun Temple.
2. Oryukdo Skywalk
The Oryukdo Skywalk was finished being constructed in 2012 and is in the shape of a horseshoe. It is in the Seungdumai area of Busan which is the dividing point between the South Sea and the East Sea. The skywalk has a clear bottom in order for one to feel as though they are walking over the sky. The skywalk sits 35 meters high over a coastal cliff. Before you can walk onto the skywalk you must put on shoe coverings which are provided to you. This is so you do not scratch the glass or get it dirty. Also, you may only walk one way on the skywalk. Not only is it a neat experience to look down through the floor to see the waves crashing against the cliffs, but it offers great views of part of the city, the coast, and the sea.
3. Busan Air Cruise
The Busan Air Cruise was formerly known as the Songdo Cable Car and is located at Songdo Beach. Songdo Beach was Busan’s first public beach and after 29 years the cable cars were restored in order to revive the area. Some of the cable cars have transparent floors if you wish to feel like you are gliding over the ocean. The cable car ends at the top at 86 meters above the sea. The Songdo Sky Park and Amnam Park are located at the top. There are also some places to purchase refreshments. At the bottom, you can walk the Songdo Beach Skywalk over the sea. It sits about 5.5 to 6 meters above the sea and is 104 meters long.
4. Busan Tower
Busan Tower is located at Yongdusan Park and it is thought of as a symbol of Busan. The tower is 120 meters tall and the top of the tower is designed to resemble the baldaquin of Dabotap Pagoda in Bulguska Temple, Gyeongju. (More about the Bulguska Temple in the next South Korea post as we were able to spend a day in Gyeongju.) From the top of the tower, you have a 360 degree view of the area. You can see many bridges, ships, the ocean, and get a good glimpse into the structures of the city. I enjoyed looking at the various housing, parks, and street layouts. While we visited during the day, I imagine the view is phenomenal at night when the city is lighted.
5. Gamcheon Cultural Village
Busan’s Gamcheon Cultural Village was one of my favorite places we visited while in South Korea. It is called the Machu Picchu of Busan or Lego City as the houses are built in a staircase-fasion. The village was built in the 1950s by Korean War refugees. Originally It was a small town, but the village people continued to build additional houses. As you walk around, you will notice that many of the houses are run down. This area was formerly considers the slums, and it was revamped in 2009 by the government in order to become a main tourist attraction and bring life to the town. While you walk through the city, you will notice many vibrant colors, murals, sculptures, and mosaics. The colorful streets are lined with local owned shops, restaurants, cafes, houses, and art galleries. Many of the shops sell handicrafts made by local artisans. While getting lost in the town, make sure you stop at a cafe with a great view overlooking the colorful city or hike the stairs to get a view from the top.
6. Jagalchi Market
The Jagalchi Market in Busan in the biggest fish market in South Korea. Both live and dried seafood are sold at the fish market. We walked around for a while checking out the various stalls indoors and watching one lady with an octopus. She had a very hard time removing the octopus from the side of the tank due to how powerful the suctions were. These suckers were incredibly strong.
I do not like seafood, but my mom eventually found some shrimp. After you make your selection on the main floor, you head upstairs to the second floor where they prepare it for you to eat right there. Preparation and cooking the food is an additional cost. If you do not have time to wait for your food to be prepared or would prefer a larger selection, there is a seafood buffet located on the 5th floor of the building.
7. Sea Life Busan Aquarium
When traveling with our children, we try to visit at least one very kid friendly place. While all the sights we visited were kid friendly, it’s always a great idea to find something that is really made for them. One of the afternoons was very rainy and cold, so this was the perfect opportunity to visit the Sea Life Busan Aquarium.
At Sea Life Busan Aquarium there are over 250 marine species and over 10,000 aquatic animals to view. We enjoyed walking through the ocean tunnel and the girls really liked the interactive displays at the rock pool. Additionally, we watched a live underwater performance about a prince and a mermaid. This was the girls’ favorite part of the aquarium.
Overall, we enjoyed our time in Busan and 2 full days was enough for us to see everything we wanted to see. We hired a driver during our time there as it was easier to move from place to place with 3 young children. Once we had seen all we wanted to see in Busan, we decided to spend our last full day in Gyeongju which was about an hour drive from Busan depending on traffic. Be on the lookout for the next post about Gyeongju, South Korea!