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Gamcheon Culture Village, located in the Korean coastal city of Busan, is the epitome of beauty and chaos, all rolled into one. Nestled into the side of a mountain, the former slum is a mishmash of pastel-colored, Lego-like houses, painted in 2009 to lure visitors up steep slopes and through its tiny alleys. Make a point of ticking off the following to-do activities while visiting this vibrant neighborhood.
Head to the Haneul Maru Tourist Information Center and Observatory, located just a few meters from the bus stop at the entrance of the village. Here, you can pick up a map for ₩2,000 won ($1.75USD) that will give you recommended routes to see the highlights of Gamcheon. At eight designated attractions, including galleries, a café and art shop, you can collect stamps on the map. Once you’ve received all the stamps, you can receive a prize back at the information center.
While the map will certainly help you find the neighborhood’s most popular attractions, one of the best things to do in Gamcheon is simply get lost in its labyrinth of alleys. Because it is still very much a residential area, it’s easy to get a feel for what local life is like. While residents are very friendly, it’s important to be mindful of their privacy. Refrain from taking intrusive photos and keep your noise level down, especially in the evenings.
Gamcheon Village, once a dilapidated neighborhood that housed refugees following the Korean War, was transformed in 2009, when the government’s Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism launched an initiative to turn the area into a creative community. Under the theme, “Dreaming of Busan Machu Picchu,” painters and sculptors added their artistic touch to the streets, homes and businesses of Gamcheon. Nowadays, tourists flock here to marvel at some of the most beautiful street art in the country.
No visit to Busan would be complete without sampling the city’s famous ssiathotteok, a delectable fried pastry stuffed with sugar, honey, nuts and sunflower seeds. There are a number of stalls and cafes selling this sweet treat, so don’t miss your chance to try it! You most likely won’t be able to eat just one!
Explore the rich history of Gamcheon at the Little Museum, a small attraction that exhibits more than 70 old-fashioned household items donated by local residents, illustrating the vibrant past of the neighborhood. Visitors can also see replicas of old shanties, and learn more about the artistic transformation of Gamcheon through the co-operation of residents, artists and local authorities.
To access the village via public transportation, take the subway to Toseong Station (Line 1). From exit six, walk straight and turn right. You’ll see a small bus station board in front of the Pusan National University Hospital building (Block C, Cancer Centre, aka the PNU Cancer Centre). Hop on the market village bus en route to Gamcheon Culture Village. An English announcement will let you know when you have arrived.