Set inside the Let’s Run Park Busan Gyeongnam, a horse-racing stadium and popular attraction in its own right, Illumia is a permanent light festival much loved by Busan‘s courting couples. It’s open from sunset until midnight every evening, and entry costs a mere 12,000 won (US$11.30) per person — worth it for the photo opportunities alone! Gigantic light sculptures cover the park’s area, and there are romantically lit nooks around every corner. There are even dedicated ‘proposal zones’; they might not be for everyone, but if your dream is to pop the question in front of a giant illuminated red heart, then here’s your chance.
Gwangalli is a hotspot for craft beer, so to elevate your bar-hopping, why not try some Busan-brewed beer? Start at hip hangout Gorilla, a little away from the beach (note that Gorilla has live music on Saturdays, so you may want to linger longer), then head towards the beach, taking in Galmegi, Owl and Pussycat, and Baobab. Finish your night at lively beachfront hotspots HQ or Eva’s Gwangan, both of which have a selection of locally brewed beers.
Cafés are big in Korea, so it’s no surprise that theme cafes are, too. They’re especially popular with Korean couples, who head to one of Busan’s many theme cafés for an afternoon (or evening) of fun. Some are more subtle — such as Dala 100% Chocolate, a café that celebrates all things chocolate — but animal cafés are the most popular. Cat cafés abound (to find one, just keep your eyes peeled for signs outside), a dog café allows visitors to cuddle pooches of all sizes, and there’s not one, but two raccoon cafés in the city, which let you get up close and personal with these mischievous animals. Like most Korean cafés, expect these establishments to stay open late.
Are you an adrenaline junkie on a budget? Head to one of Busan’s many virtual reality (VR) rooms to experience thrills and chills without having to go outside — which can be a blessing during cold Korean winters. Fly spacecraft, drive tanks, fight virtual reality zombies, or take a ride on a virtual rollercoaster. There’s a high concentration of VR rooms in Seomyeon — just look out for the VR sign, normally on upper floors — or you can head to the VR AR Convergence Centre located on the ground floor of BEXCO and team your visit with a trip round the exhibition centre or a shopping spree at Centum City.
Don’t let the name fool you; Busan Children’s Grand Park isn’t only for kids. A little way out of the centre, the large park contains lakeside walks, an interactive science museum, and a small (but fun) zoo. There are food stalls in the park that sell fairly standard street food, and vendors selling toys and balloons. If you’re feeling more adventurous, explore one of the many hiking trails that lead out the back of the park. Bring a picnic and enjoy a meal at one of the park’s numerous picnic tables.
Newly reopened, the cable cars at Songdo Beach provide a view right over the bay, Songdo Beach, and the city. There are two kinds of cars, regular and glass-bottomed. Both have beautiful views; if you manage to time your trip with sunset, you’re guaranteed a magical moment or two. To make a night of it, take the cable cars across the bay, and once across head down to the restaurants by the seafront. Housed in tents, these restaurants specialise in grilled clams and seafood and — although a little pricey — provide a very Korean experience.
For a day to remember, head down to the Trickeye Museum. A host of optical illusions await within, and you’re sure to leave with a bevy of weird and wonderful photos. Large-scale versions of various famous paintings allow visitors to insert themselves into the picture, and the museum contains over 80 pieces of illusion art. The museum is located in the busy downtown area of Nampo-dong, so there’s plenty of cafés, restaurants and bars around to continue your date after the museum.
Korean strawberries are famously sweet — just like your date! Head into the countryside to one of the numerous strawberry farms around Busan and Gimhae, where you can pick your own strawberries to take home. Most strawberry farms also have a café where you can sample some fruity fare. A good place to try is Cloudberry Farm, which is a seven-minute taxi ride away from Bonghwang metro station in Gimhae (around an hour by subway from Seomyeon station). Winter strawberry season runs from December until June.
Full of coffee shops and art galleries, Dalmaji Hill is a perfect place for an afternoon stroll — especially during cherry blossom season, when Dalmaji-gil Road bursts into life. On a clear day, it’s possible to see Japan’s nearest coast from Dalmaji Hill, and at night it’s a popular spot for moon-gazing. Come evening, you can head to nearby Haeundae Beach for a nightcap in one of its many bars.
Head to the busy downtown area of Seomyeon on a weekend, and you’ll find it awash with couples wearing matching ‘couple looks’. Where do they get these? From the trendy shops that throng the area’s streets, of course! Have fun finding yourselves your very own couple look, then head to Jeonpo Cafe Street for a post-shop coffee and cake.