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Travel Korea| What to do and see in Busan in 48 hours

Busan 48 hours grrrltraveler, what to do and see in busan, busan attractions

Visiting Busan’s top attractions: What to do and see in Busan in 48 hours

It was 11:00 PM Friday evening. I didn’t know if I wanted to visit Busan for the weekend.

Afterall, what did I know about Busan, other than it’s a port city in Korea. I decided to sleep on it and see how I feel in the morning.  

9:30 AM Saturday, I woke up and decided–  Ding! Yes, I wanted to go to Busan!

My travel choices can feel impulsive and random, at times. I like to plan things in advance… but I’m also not very good at it. My sightseeing itinerary however, was a giant question mark.  What could I do and see in Busan in 48 hours?

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Mapping Busan in 48 hours

Busan is the second largest city in Korea. Approximately 1 hour outside of Daegu city , Busan is dubbed Korea’s San Francisco, for the fact, it’s got the largest port. Thus, it’s home to raw fish markets, bridges, beaches and occasional adorned with hilly and clustered neighborhoods resembling San Francisco city.

Busan is not an intuitive or easy city to travel if you’re short on time. It’s a large, sprawled out city and subway lines don’t always offer door-to-door service to popular tourist attractions.

busan tourism, travel busan, busan bridge

Travel Korea: What to do in Busan in 48 hours

busan station, busan tourism, travel busan,

Arrival into Busan Train Station

Excursions to well-known temples will cost you a bus trip that could take a little guesswork, if you haven’t directions prepared in advance. I spent half a day attempting to find places via metro and bus lines. I  gave up on it, frustrated.  Noteworthy attractions as the Gwangali Live Fish market and Rodeo Art Street literally felt like a mile hike away from the subway… and I still didn’t reach them!  Haeundae Beach is easy to get to, by bus, if you know the number. Otherwise, it’s a 10-15 walk from the metro station.

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What to do and see in Busan in 48 hours

For the short time I was there, I  explored a lot. Here are the memorable highlights of my weekend  and places I would definitely return to.

1. Busan City Bus Tour

While Busan doesn’t shout “hard” to a tourist, it also doesn’t  inspire ease. So I have one recommendation.. Located right outside the Busan train station is the Busan City Bus Tour. Take it.  It’s a quick, easy, cheap and wonderful way to get an overview of the city highlights as well as, door-to-door access to some of the obvious attractions. The tour offers 2 courses:  a Haeundae Beach route and a Taejongdae route . You can transfer from one course to another. Admission gains you entry aboard a double-decker bus and discount on admission to participating museums, memorials, etc…  Admission: 10,000W Adults;  8,000W for KTX ticket holding passengers

Where to catch it: The tour starts at the Busan KTX station. Step outside, you’ll see a bus stop far off to the left on one of the side streets. This is where you can pick it up. Pay when you board the bus. If you can’t find it, ask at the Tourist Information Desk in the station.

2. Jalgachi Fish Market

If there’s a photogenic grit or raw edge to Busan, the wharf area of Jalgachi Fish Market hits a memorable note. Key word- rubber rain boots! (You’ll see a lot of them here)   Ajummas and ajosshis are the working population here and you’ll see fish in a way you’ve never seen them before.  Whether dried and hanging, toothpick splayed, skinned or live, I’m convinced there’s an art and pride to the fishes on display. You can check out the daily catch and then have the seller cook it up for you inside.   Just make sure you don’t get splattered on.

Getting There: Get off at Jalgachi Station and walk towards the wharf.

Jalgachi Fish market korea grrrltraveler, big fish market busan, best markets in korea
What to do and see in Busan in 48 hours: Visit Jalgachi Market

jalgachi market, octopus seller, busan tourism, travel busan, busan bridge
jalgachi market, clam seller, busan tourism, travel busan, busan bridge
Busan_jalgachi-shop

jalgachi fish restaurant, busan tourism, travel busan,

Jalgachi-market-strip

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3. Sushi at Jalgachi restaurant

If you want to try some of the culinary pleasures here, but the grit of the outdoor tented fish stalls are not your thing,  head down to the end of the street to Jalgachi restaurant. It’s a big building, housing two levels of eating and viewing spectacle. The ground floor houses is a warehouse of vendor stalls, with tanks and live fish, clams, crustaceans, where you can choose the food you want cooked for your plate. The 2nd floor is a large open restaurant, populated with drunken groups of Koreans dining on tables and in booths.

Note: Busan prides itself on the “freshness” of its catch. Just make sure the contents or decor on your plate aren’t wiggling before you bite into them.

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jalgachi fish restaurant, busan tourism, travel busan,

jalgachi fish restaurant, busan tourism, travel busan,
Busan_seafood-sellerJPG

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4. Shopping at PIFF Square (Gujke Market)

Did you know that Busan houses the annual Asian Cannes? Each October the PIFF area, is a flood with fans wanting to see their favorite Asian stars, as the red carpets roll out for the Pusan International Film Festival (website and event schedule). According to Wikipedia, it’s  been running since 1996 in the Busan Cinema Center.  Off-season, the area is still crowded with shoppers and tourist.

Tip: During PIFF week, the KTO runs free shuttles from Shinsegae Centum City Department (the largest department store in Busan and where Spaland is located).

A giant maze-like shopping and restaurant area reminiscent of Seoul’s Myeongdong shopping area or Daegu’s Banwaldong, making PIFF Square a fun spot, day or night. Local food and product vendors sprinkle throughout the alleys and streets to add to the flavor. But if you go deeper into the maze, you’ll find clothing shops and restaurants.

Tip: Still a bit squeamish about trying Korean food? Across the street from PIFF Square you’ll see a giant Lotte Mall. In the basement, there’s a food court.  It runs a little pricy, but if you’re starved for something a bit more western or modern Korean, this is a sure shot.

Getting there: Take the metro to Nampo-dong station (Line 1, Orange line).

piff area

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5. Youngdusan Park Tower for the best view

One of the best spots to view the city is Youngdusan Park Tower. An integral resident of the PIFF area, you can stroll to the top of the tower to get a view of the surrounding city.

piff, busan tourism, travel busan,

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6. Visiting Taejong-Dae

This area has a bit more than what meets the eye. Taking a hike up to this cliff side lookout is a nice way to absorb nature, breathe in the salt air and take in some temples. But when you get to the lighthouse, a stroll down to the rocky and watery edges below will find you among many fresh seafood tents. Ajummas with large visors and long-sleeved shirts will hail to you to visit their restaurant area. Each vendor has their own area selling oysters and fish they’ve caught by seaside and they’ll prepare a sashimi meal for you as you gaze languidly out to sea. Read more from Wikipedia here.

taejon-dae cliffs busan, hike taejondaeTaejongdae, Busan

taejongdae busan, hike taejongdae busan

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 7. Spa Land

How would you love to visit a luxury Korean spa and jjimjilbang? If there’s something I love, it’s Korean bath houses and spas. Unfortunately, I found out about this place a little late. But I’ve only heard rave reviews of this place so I’ll have to believe what I’ve heard. So far, everyone I know who’s visited Spa Land comes with tales of all the sauna choices and impressive facilities. But you can read the Spa Land review here.

Getting There: Located outside  Centum City station (Line 2, Green Line). .

 

8. Haeundae Beach

On a nice day, Haeundae Beach strikes a nice balance of casual beach chillaxing and people-watching. Young couples stroll the boardwalk fashioning trendy outfits from the Korean version of couples’ Vogue – heels, man-purses and sports coats- which make you think Boys Before Flowers (a popular K-drama) but ala beach. All around, you see family beach picnics, frisbee playing and beach volleyball. Nearby is the Busan Aquarium for added recreation and a tourist information office for help. The few chic hotels which line the main boardwalk turn into the nightlife hotspots of the area. It’s not a very big area but it adds a small glitz to an otherwise dark and quiet town.

Getting There: Take the metro to Haeundae Beach station (Line 2, Green Line). The walk to the beach will take you about 10 minutes.

Where to stay in Haeundae:  Toyoko Inn in walking distance from Haeundae Beach (reasonable price with breakfast included). Map of places to stay in the area.  For a jjimjilbang stay, Haeundae Spa.

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visiting haeundae beach busan, what to do in busanHaeundae Beach can also draw a strange crowd
Busan Haeundae Beach sexy

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9. Clubbing at Haeundae

Due to the fact there’s upscale beachside hotels and a great boardwalk to stroll at night, Haeundae has become a chill spot for nightclubbing. There’s a handful of chic bars and hip hop clubs in the hotel area. While clubbing isn’t my thing, it wasn’t hard to notice that at night, the clientele in this area glams up.

For a list of nightly events, check out Busan Haps nightlife calendar for Haeundae.

haeundae beach, busan tourism, travel busan,

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10.  Sleeping and bathing at a Jjimjilbang

Finally, wondering where to bathe, sleep in and spend part of your weekend? Why not take in one of Busan’s jjimjilbangs. Unwind in the herbal and mineral pools, get your sweat on in the sauna and then scrub yourself down for bed time. If you want to be a stone’s throw from the beach, check out Haeundae Spa.

Read Spending a night at a Korean Jjimjilbang

sleeping at a korean jjimjilbang, haeundae beach spa busan, best jjimjilbangs in busan

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Getting around in Busan

I recommend either getting the Busan All-day unlimited metro pass (about 5,000 won), if you plan visiting several places. It’s more economical and it will allow you to get lost. There is usually a nearby attendant to assist you with directions or to show you how to use the metro machines.

The second way I like getting around is the Busan City Bus Tour (mentioned above). The cost of 10,000W is unbeatable for an overall tour of the city’s highlights. Taxis are always available as is the local bus (info here), however with the city being as large as it is, transportation is either,  costly or you’ll take your gamble getting lost. Read more about Busan’s Transportation

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Where to stay in Busan

Busan is such a large city, you won’t find yourself at a loss of options for places to stay within your price range. The main question to ask is where? From hostels, to  love motels, budget hotels and luxury hotels, Busan has it all.  Under $50/night moderate hotel is Toyoko Inn (near Busan Station); while I haven’t stayed there, they’ve been recommended to me as a decent chain of budget hotels throughout Korea.

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How to Get to Busan

As Busan is Korea’s second largest city, it’s got a KTX station and Gimhae International Airport.

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How to Get to Gimhae International Airport

Gimhae International Airport has airport shuttle buses leaving and arriving from various cities. However, call the tourist information hotline #1330 for the exact schedule (the online schedule at KoBus isn’t always accurate). Keep in mind, airport bus services don’t start until 8am.

Outside of Busan:   Gimhae International Airport is now accessible via metro line and light rail. For an early morning flight  and if you’re coming into Busan from outside, take the KTX to Gupo station (yellow line/light rail). Light rail service doesn’t start  until 5am and runs every 11 minutes.  The airport is the second stop from that transfer at the Gangeseo-gu Office.  LR Fare: 1,300-1,500 won.  If you’re concerned you still won’t have enough time, book a hotel in Gupo and take a taxi.

From Busan:  Take the metro to Deokchan station and transfer to the Light Rail (yellow line).  Get off two stops later at Gangeseo-gu Office. 

Click here for a Busan metro map

Busan Metro Map, Busan LR map

Click to download Busan Metro Map

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14 Comments

  1. Maia says:

    Hi there! we will be going to s.korea this year with only a limited time of 4 days and we want to spend only 1 day in busan. 9pm is our est arrival in Incheon airport and we plan to take the late night trip to busan. On the next whole day we will go to some tourist attraction and at night maybe we will try to experience jimjilbang. My question is that on the ff. early morning, what time is the first trip of a regular train (not ktx) to seoul?

  2. javier Lim says:

    May I ask is it better to plan busan trip from seoul starting Sat to Mon or Mon to Wed? I am worried traffic in busan will be bad over weekend. Any recommendation? Will you be able to share your experience if any? Thanks.

  3. Alia says:

    How much does it cost now?

  4. Arya says:

    I am interested with Jinhae. Could you please tell me how do i go there from Busan?

  5. DK says:

    I think you really made the most of Busan. I spent a day there and went on the city sights tour as well just to easily see what was there. For me, Busan has nothing of any real historical or cultural interest – I’ve seen seafood before, (the fish market) as well as many shops and beaches…that’s about it for Busan. Still good to use as a base and go to Japan by ferry. I wouldn’t go there for the sake of it though.

  6. Arya says:

    May i have your full itineries please?

  7. KIM JENNY says:

    Arex Express train is the best way to access from the airport to Seoul station. It is fast(it takes only 43 mins to Seoul station) and clean. Plus, the price is also reasonable. It cost 8,000won and if you take one of these airline;Asiana,KAL,Jeju airline, you get some discount(6,900won). Arex Express train info desk is located between gate no.9 and no.8, desk no.45 on 1st floor in the airport.
    T-money card is a prepaid public transportation card which means
    you have to load some money on your T-money card before you use it
    on subway,taxi or bus. And you can purchase a T-money card ata low price
    if you head to Seoul station from Incheon airport. Find the Arex info.desk
    on 1st floor at the airport. It located between gate #9 and #8, desk no.45.
    They have a special promotion for foreigners; Express train ticket to Seoul station
    + T-money card it costs only 8,900 won. The regular price of
    the express train ticket is 8,000 won and T-money card is 3,000 won.
    So the promotion is a good deal.

  8. Candace says:

    Wow, thanks a bunch for such an informative post! You’re a great writer and very easy to read 🙂

    I’m a solo female on a Friday night, also pondering whether I want to go to Busan this weekend (much like you were haha), so I thought I’d search online for what I could do in Busan in 2 days. Lo and behold, I found your posting ^^.

    I really like the tour bus idea as want to see as much as I can- did the tour bus take you to a lot of places all over the city or just a few notable ones located more centrally?

    I want to visit any notable places the bus tour doesn’t cover on my own (probably via subway), but I’m not sure which places the bus covers…

  9. daniel says:

    can you hop off an on with the city tour bus or is it just a plein tour to see everything out of the bus?

  10. shenaz says:

    Hi-You forgot to mention that Busan has the largest department store in the world which I quite enjoyed. I also really, really loved Nampodong market. I would visit Busan again just to spend a whole day at this market.

  11. Laura Cancun says:

    Such a cool experience!!! I love your weekend trips 🙂

  12. anna says:

    Wow…. what an experience and to do it solo, I’m so proud of you! You will have these memories forever. Keep writing, it’s your thing. Let’s skype next week and let me know how the family visit is.

    • @Anna: Thanks for the “fighting” spirit. Let’s definitely skype. My fam is here for 10 days! Am excited and am trying to get them out to see some of these Busan sights too while i’m at work.
      @Laura: Thanks, lady! The weekend trips are well-needed. 😉

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