A 48 Hour Guide to Busan for Food Lovers

Grilled shellfish in Busan | © Mr.Kototo / Flickr
Grilled shellfish in Busan | © Mr.Kototo / Flickr
Photo of Mimsie Ladner
16 March 2017

Busan is for lovers – food lovers, that is. With plenty of regional specialties, a slew of traditional food markets, a growing craft beer scene and some of the best seafood in the country, the city is a haven for gastronomes with a taste for the exotic. Treat your palate to a two day taste tour in Korea’s most popular beach destination by following this city guide for foodies.

Day 1

10:00 am – Gukje Market

Originating during the Korean War in 1950 as a space for refugees to exchange goods, Gukje Market is currently both Busan’s biggest traditional market as well as one of its most visited tourist spots. Located within the market, Restaurant Street offers delicious Korean food such as kimbap (steamed white rice wrapped in dried seaweed), sundae (blood sausage) and a variety of noodle dishes. Diners gather at shared plastic tables for a cheap, quick bite and to soak up the lively atmosphere.

Restaurant Street in Gukje Market | © Mimsie Ladner

11:30 pm – BIFF Square

Established during the first Busan International Film Festival in 1996, BIFF Square is home to the city’s major movie theaters, movie-related sculptures and the embossed hand prints of the South Korean film industry’s most prominent figures. It’s also one of the best places to try ssiat hotteok, a sweet Korean-style pancake stuffed with seeds, brown sugar, honey and peanuts. Unlike traditional hotteok, Busan’s version has a distinctive chewy texture and crunchy filling. Purchase one (or five) at one of the area’s street vendors and prepare to be addicted!

1:00 pm – Jagalchi Market

Savor Busan’s best seafood delicacies at the famed Jagalchi Fish Market, just a short walk from BIFF Square. Meander through the stalls of this gigantic warehouse and be fascinated by marine creatures of all shapes and sizes. Choose and purchase what you would like to eat on the first floor, then bring it upstairs to one of the market’s many restaurants and have them prepare it for you.

A seafood vendor at Jagalchi Market | © Ryan Bodenstein / Flickr

3:30 pm – Gamcheon Culture Village

Take the subway to Toseong Station and take the local mini bus to Gamcheon Culture Village. Established in 1918 when followers of the Taegukdo religion sought refuge in the area, this colorful hillside town is today one of Busan’s most popular attractions. Consisting of brightly colored “lego” houses and vibrant street art, the neighborhood has transformed in recent years into a cultural space. It’s also a great spot to try patbingsu, a Korean shaved ice dessert topped with sweet treats such as fruit, condensed milk and red beans. Just about every café in the village has their own version, so be adventurous and try a few!

Traditional patbingu, Korean-style shaved ice | © Nuski / Flickr

6:00 pm – Nampo-dong

Make your way back to Nampo-dong and experience Busan’s growing craft beer scene at Galmaegi Brewing Company. With a wide selection of their own brews, including their Espresso Vanilla Stout, Lighthouse Blonde ale and Campfire Amber, there’s a beer for just about everyone. There’s also a nice selection of pub grub, making it the perfect spot for hors d’oeuvres and a pre-dinner drink.

7:30 pm – Taejongdae

If you can, catch the sunset at Taejongdae, where the harmony of a verdant forest, rocky cliffs and the vast sea make for a magical view. Here, clam tents line the sea wall and make it a great place to savor the city’s weird but wonderful seafood delicacies. Pretty much all the tents serve up the same fare – soju and fresh shellfish. So fresh, in fact, that you can watch divers plucking clams and scallops out the ocean just 50 meters away. The tables are covered with colorful umbrellas that are illuminated as the sun goes down. It is a beautiful scene to enjoy while you grill your own dinner.

Korean-style grilled shellfish | © Mr.Kototo / Flickr

Day 2

9:30 am – Dwaeji Gukbap Alley

Situated in the downtown alleys of Seomyeon is a cluster of curbside restaurants serving a singular Korean culinary staple to lines of hungry diners. Dwaeji gukbap, or pork rice soup, is one of Busan’s most beloved dishes, and for good reason. Packed with earthy flavors and pungent condiments, the hot, dense soup will certainly start your day off right.

11:00 am – Gwangalli Beach

While Gwangalli may be known for its sandy shores and iconic bridge, it’s also a great place for coffee. The area is packed with both independent and chain cafes that serve up coffee, tea and other beverages. Take in the views and load up on caffeine, because it’s going to be another long day of eating.

Dwaeji gukbap | © Leefect

1:30 pm – Food Court at Centum City

Shinsegae Centum City, registered in the Guinness Book of World Records as the largest department store in the world, is not just a great place to shop, but to grab lunch, too. If you’re feeling peckish, head to the Food Hall. But don’t expect any old food court here. This smorgasbord of gustatory delights offers everything from fresh sushi to brick oven pizza. There’s even a Water Bar, just in case you’re picky about your H2O.

3:30 pm – Spa Land

Located in Centum City, Spa Land is Busan’s biggest and most visited spa. With over 20 spas fed by natural spring water, it’s a wonderful spot to unwind and soak up South Korea’s jjimjilbang culture. In between sauna sessions, do as the Koreans do and take a snack break. The classic spa treat is a pairing of sikhye, an icy, sweet rice beverage, and baked eggs which are slow-cooked in the hottest sauna.

Sikhye, a traditional sweet Korean rice beverage, often enjoyed at Korean saunas | © ayustety

7:00 pm – Haeundae Beach

For most, Haeundae Beach is what first comes to mind when they think of Busan. During summer, the sandy shores become packed with beachgoers during the day and party animals in the evening. One of the most popular Haeundae hot-spots is The Bay 101, a yacht club equipped with gourmet restaurants that offer excellent dining with a view. For Western-style seafood, head to Fingers & Chat. Grab a spot on the terrace and enjoy the sea breeze while dining on sea bass, halibut, calamari, prawns or the restaurant’s specialty, fish and chips.

9:00 pm – Cocktails at Papa’s Standard

Stroll over to Papa’s Standard, a whisky-centric bar that is popular with the city’s foodies who know a thing or two about top-notch, hand-crafted cocktails. The bartenders are knowledgeable and the drink presentation is something to be seen. Try the old-fashioned, which the bartenders make by swirling in a decanter filled with hickory smoke before pouring it over hand-carved ice balls.

11:30 pm – Haeundae BBQ

Every country has its own dish that, for one reason or another, is particularly tasty in the late hours of the evening. For Korea, this dish is none other than samgyeopsal – thick, fatty slices of pork belly meat. While there are plenty of samgyeopsal restaurants to choose from in the Haeundae area, Anga is perhaps one of the best. Grill your own meat, and enjoy it wrapped up in leafy pockets of sangchu lettuce with pungent gochujang (red pepper paste). Open til 2am, it makes for a great ending to a fun (and delicious) food tour.

Samgyeopsal, tasty barbecued pork belly | © wizardbearr / Flickr

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