Top Travel Days of 2023, A Whirlwind Tour of Busan

Thanks to an impressive subway system which whisks you away to all parts of the city, you can see most of the major sites of Busan within a day. That’s exactly what Lisa and I did with our son Jake last May as part of our small group Intrepid tour around South Korea. First stop was atop a hillside at the Gamcheon Cultural Village, once the poorest part of the city after the Korean War ended. The neighborhood has now reinvented itself as a hub for artists and artisans. Colorful murals cover many of the walls and small shops sell everything from bracelets to tapestries.

Then it was off to Jagalchi Market, the largest seafood market in South Korea. Located at the Namp Port section of the city, you can spot the fishing boats and their nets drying just outside the maze of stalls that seem to go on forever. Every type of fish and mollusk imaginable, both live and dried, can be found here including octopus, squid, eel, large crabs, even flying fish.

We worked off our meal of fresh seafood by strolling along Haeundae Beach, arguably the most exquisite stretch of beach in the country. Busan is already excited about hosting the World Expo in 2030 and at the beach, we found sand sculptures celebrating the upcoming event. We walked onto adjacent Dongbaekseom Island, home to a lighthouse and the celebrated Carving Rock, where a 14th-century scholar inspired by the beauty inscribed words still found on the rock. The most famous site on the island is the circular Apec House built into the hillside overlooking the ocean. It was constructed for the 2005 Asian-Pacific economic summit, where 21 heads of state were in attendance, including former US President George W. Bush.

We finished our time in Busan aboard a catamaran on a sunset cruise that departed from the docks not far from Dongbaekseom Island. The cityscape, including tall condo buildings and hotels like the Park Hyatt rising from the shoreline, is best seen from the water. But the highlight is sailing under Busan’s version of the Golden Gate Bridge, Gwangan Bridge, lit up at night. Neighboring boats were setting off fireworks and with glasses of soju in hand, South Korea’s signature drink, we toasted to another magical day.