One of Busan’s most popular tourist hangouts, Haeundae is famous for its beach, its nightlife, and its lively atmosphere. Whether you’re happiest ensconced in a cosy café soaking up some local culture, or partying the night away, there’s no shortage of things to do. Here’s our guide to some of the best things to see and do around Busan’s most famous beach.
Just round the corner from Haeundae Beach, you’ll find The Bay 101 Yacht Club, Haeundae’s sailing club. Boating from here, or hiring a paddle boat from the beachside, is popular in the summer months. Other popular sea sports include kiteboarding, surfing (although the waves are better at neighbouring Songjeong Beach) and swimming. After you’re done being active, lie in the shade of a beach umbrella and cool down with a cold beer.
Just off Haeundae’s main tourist drag (head left just before you get to the beach), Haeundae Market is a great place to acquaint yourself with Korean street food. Try spicy tteokbokki, crispy tempura, or the Busan specialties fish cake (eomuk in Korean — don’t forget to have a cup of eomuk-guk, the warm broth which the fish cakes are cooked in) and ssiat hotteok, a fried pancake stuffed with brown sugar syrup and chopped nuts and seeds.
Located right on Haeundae beachfront, the Sealife Busan Aquarium has three underground levels containing over 250 different species of marine animals. It’s one of Korea’s most popular aquariums. Attractions include a transparent tunnel walkway designed to give a sense of walking on the ocean floor, regular feeding time for creatures including sharks, otters, and penguins, and a touch pool where kids (or adults) can get up close and personal with various resilient marine creatures. Check their website before going, as discount coupons are often offered for download.
Where would Haeundae be without its nightlife? Although there aren’t so many clubs in the area any more (clubbers are better off heading to Seomyeon, or the lively nightlife district around Pusan National University), Haeundae is thronged with bars and pubs. Some backpacker hostels in the area cater solely to the mostly nocturnal, and have nightly parties that last well into the early hours. There are great bars all along the main tourist thoroughfare, but one of the best is Thursday Party, frequented by locals and visitors from all over the world. The bar closes late, has relatively cheap drinks and beer pong tables, and you’re guaranteed to make new friends there.
Head out of Haeundae’s centre and up Dalmaji Hill. This is the ‘artier’ side of Haeundae, where cosy coffee shops rub shoulders with art galleries, and couples stroll along cherry tree-lined roads (in spring, Dalmaji-gil Road is one of the city’s top spots to see cherry blossoms). Spend some time exploring, or head straight for an independent café — we recommend mermer, which has lots of plants and a relaxed, jazzy vibe. Look out for the wooden sign that says 메르메르 Cafe.
Home to the annual Busan International Film Festival (BIFF), Busan is Korea’s movie capital. You can see Busanites’ pride in this reflected in many places around the city, such as BIFF Square in Nampo-dong and Busan Cinema Centre in the Centum City area. Cinema Street is a seafront walkway by Marine City in Haeundae, where you can take in the sea breeze at the same time as viewing Cinema Street’s plethora of film-related sculptures and images. Take photos with the trick-eye images painted on the ground, see film posters from vintage Korean movies and look out over the horizon with free viewing telescopes set along the seawall. Don’t miss Santorini Square, where famous Korean actors and filmmakers have left their mark with Las Vegas-style handprints.
Just a short cab ride from Haeundae Station, Haedong Yeonggusa Temple is one of the most beautiful in Busan. It’s perched on the edge of dramatic cliffs, which descend into the ocean below. The temple is unusual in Korea as it was built on the shore line — most Korean temples are located in the mountains. Although much of the temple was restored in 1970, the original temple buildings date back to 1376. Highlights include a sanctuary built into a natural cave, a pagoda with four lions that represent joy, anger, sadness and happiness, and a set of 108 steps that lead up to the main temple. Stone lanterns are set into the rocky landscape. Haedong Yeonggusa is still a working temple, so you will see Buddhist monks going about their devotions as you explore.