Busan's Best-Kept Secrets: Exploring South Korea

figurines scattered around the rocks of Haedong Yonggungsa Temple in Busan, South Korea. The figurines are meant to encourage academic achievement
figurines scattered around the rocks of Haedong Yonggungsa Temple in Busan, South Korea. The figurines are meant to encourage academic achievement | © Vincent St. Thomas/Shutterstock
Naintara Gurung

Busan, a dynamic city home to a flourishing art scene and picturesque beaches, offers much more than what you expect. Being the second largest city in South Korea, this unique destination reveals an astounding heritage of infamous landmarks, awe-inspiring ruins and bizarre street delicacies. Nestled behind mysterious alleys and within the cable-knit streets of Busan are a few hidden jewels. The Culture Trip lists the most unusual activities to enjoy in Busan.

Korean Cuisine, soup and meat

Sample a Staple of Korean Cuisine: Dwaeji Gukbap

In Busan’s downtown alleys of Seomyeon, you’ll come across a vivid stream of curbside restaurants serving a Korean culinary staple to hundreds of visitors: a bowl of hot, dense pork rice soup. The soup is a delicacy that is consumed in the form of a midday meal. What was once a casual roadside snack is now a sumptuous treat for travelers who take great pleasure in slurping up bowls of Dwaeji Gukbap, packed with earthy flavors and tender condiments.

1. Enjoy A Nice Coastal Walk

Park

Enjoy A Nice Coastal Walk

Forget about crowded beaches and obsolete trains, instead take a short walk to the historical Taejongdae, nestled in the southernmost tip of Yeongdo-gu. Surround yourself with pine trees and fresh foliage as you step off the main road to climb the rocky cliffs to this ancient viewpoint. From a dusty old lighthouse to dinosaur tracks, go for a walk along the coast or grab a light seafood snack while you’re visiting Taejongdae Park.

29-1 San Dongsam 2-dong Yeongdo-gu, Busan, South Korea, +51-405-2004

Taejongdae, Busan| © intacto/WikiCommons

The velvet contrast of silk-spun robes, an intoxicating layer of fruity scents and the dazzling light of miniature lamps that align the streets of Busan make for a great experience of local traditions. Embrace the tradition of the Lotus Lantern Festival that is held every year to honor the birth of Lord Buddha. This festival is a unique ritual that consists of an impressive parade of cultural activities such as the lighting of Jangeumdang, a massive lantern honoring Buddhism and representing the nationwide celebration of lighting lotus shaped lanterns.

Lotus Lantern Festival

Visiting Busan’s Archaic Bookstores

One of the best hidden attractions in Busan is the Bosu-dong Used Bookstore Alley, formed after the independence of Korea. The bookstores here offer a number of age-old book collections and once were a literary haven for refugees. The bookstore alley near Bosudong Hill holds a book trade once a year drawing in a large number of students. The discovery of literary valuables such as rare manuscripts has made the alley quite popular with collectors, exhibiting Busan’s unique culture to foreign bookworms.

Old books, stories and more

Appreciate Art at Gamcheon Cultural Village

A brightly colored village that overlooks Busan with its Lego-shaped homes, wide-angled gullies and picturesque views, Gamcheon Cultural Village provides a stark contrast to the metropolitan feel of the city’s large skyscrapers. Founded back in 1918, the village is now a quirky neighborhood that promotes cultural and artistic exhibitions. The village has been transformed into a cultural space, hosting a ‘stamp treasure hunt’ that allows visitors to explore the winding stairways, hunt down souvenir stamps and much more.

Gamcheon-dong, Saha-gu, Busan, South Korea, 91-7042195556

Gamcheon Cultural Village

2. Discover the Healing Powers of Korean Hot Springs

Discover the Healing Powers of Korean Hot Springs

There are over 70 hot water springs spread across Korea. One of the most healing corners in Busan is the Dongnae hot spring that dates back to the 16th century Chosun Dynasty. The Heosimcheong Spa located in the Dongnae district is a large spa that offers a pleasing retreat for tourists who would like to indulge in a herbal bath to treat body ailments such as back and joint pain, stomach pain and more.

23 Geumganggongwon-ro 20beon-gil, Dongnae-gu, Busan, South Korea, +51-550-2200

3. Visit the Fish Market at Jagalchi

Market, Farmers' Market, Seafood

Old Woman at Jagalchi Fish Market
© Ryan Bodenstein/Flickr
Another wonder located at the edge of the Nampo Port is the Jagalchi Fish Market in Busan, the largest seafood bazaar in South Korea. Whether you’re pocketing the freshest catch or savoring a seafood delicacy at one of the restaurants, this market is a fascinating attraction. Selling anything from crabs to fresh fish, dive deep inside the alleys where you can sample smoked salmon sticks or a plateful of tender snow crabs.

4. Enjoy an Unusual Museum Experience

Market, Market, Museum

Enjoy an Unusual Museum Experience

A fun attraction in Busan that often goes unnoticed is the Trick Eye Museum, which is unlike any historical museum you’ve come across. The museum features paintings that give you the illusion of a 3D setup. The unusual spot is visited by people who want to enjoy a good picture and a hearty laugh. Located in the Gukjae Market, the museum is housed on a 9th floor. You’ll find people of all age groups snapping pictures inside its massive halls. This is a great attraction for the whole family.

Nampo Plaza, 9F 85, Nampo-dong-6-ga, Jung-gu, Busan, South Korea, +51-557-1577

Trick Eye Museum| © Jirka Matousek/Flickr

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