Experience Summer in the Global Hub City of Busan

by - 23 June

Located right on the coast, the metropolis of Busan is the second largest city of Korea after its capital Seoul and the country’s main seaport which is hailed among the busiest ports in the world. With the warm people, sumptuous cuisine, beautiful beaches, scenic attractions, rich culture and tradition, modern structures, and interesting history, it's no wonder that Busan is unarguably a vibrant city, and hence it's regarded as the country's ‘Global Hub City’ and the ‘Summer Capital of Korea.’

Busan is unarguably Korea's summer capital and the premier hub for international summits.

After it successfully hosted the 2019 ASEAN-ROK Commemorative Summit and the 1st Mekong-Republic of Korea Summit in celebration of the 30th Anniversary of the ASEAN-ROK Dialogue Relations, Busan is gaining a lot of attention today not just from the people of the Southeast Asian nations but also visitors and tourists alike across the globe.

It isn’t the first time that Busan has hosted such significant events as it was also the host city of the 2005 Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation, simply known as APEC, in which series of political meetings between the 21 member economies were held. As the premier venue in bridging connection between Korea and other nations, what else should Busan be proud of and can offer the world this summertime? Let us enjoy, experience, and take a look at some of the wonders of Busan that for sure you will be fascinated with this hot season.

When talking about Busan attractions, I bet the first thing that comes to your mind are the beaches of the city and Haeundae Beach tops the travel bucket list. The long stretch of the white sand beach combined with the clear blue waters and beautiful skyline continues to attract vacationers each year especially during the summertime and autumn season where various festivals such as the Haeundae Sand Festival, Busan Biennale, and Busan One-Asia Festival to name a few are being held. Besides the many festivities where you can enjoy the scenic view, smell the sea, feel the breeze, and hear the waves of Haeundae, there are also pubs, cafés, restaurants, and world-class hotels along the beach where the public can eat, relax and busk from morning until the night.

Scenic view overlooking Busan’s coastline from the APEC Nurimaru House.

At the southern end of the Haeundae Beach is where the Dongbaek Island is humbly situated in which a scenic park and several walking trails are hidden against the lush vegetation of pine trees and blooming red camellias during its peak season in spring. In addition to the lovely scenery, the Nurimaru APEC House is also situated in the island and which is an official venue of the 2019 ASEAN-Korea Commemorative Summit. Nurimaru, which means “the summit of the world,” was built primarily for the 2005 APEC Summit. After Korea hosted the inter-governmental forum, it has then become a popular venue for many conferences and events, and at the same time, a tourist attraction. When we visited the Nurimaru APEC House in autumn a few years ago, I immediately noticed its stunning architectural design that even though it's a modern structure, it still maintains the traditional architecture unique to Korea. From here, since it's on the island, you will also appreciate the view overlooking the waters of Busan particularly the popular Marine City which is regarded as ‘Asia's New York’ for its cluster of reigning skyscrapers which includes the yacht club of The Bay 101, and the Gwangandaegyo Bridge, known as the Diamond Bridge, which in particular attractive at night as it lights the surrounding area and the sea like glittering gems. 

The Busan Cinema Center, known as the city’s ‘Home of Cinema,’ is also worth a visit as it is the host venue of the annual prestigious Busan International Film Festival every October. It features the world's best 'big roof' in which it is transformed into a beautiful outdoor lighting spectacle during the night. Moreover, if you're into art, you can also visit the Busan Museum of Art which holds various curated art exhibitions that are sure to amaze everyone. The multi-purpose center of BEXCO, short for Busan Exhibition and Convention Center, is another popular attraction in the city with an exhibition hall that is 3 times the size of a football field. Located in the Centum City, this is where concert performances, major events, and international conventions are held including the successful hosting of the 2019 ASEAN-ROK Commemorative Summit, the largest official international conference held in Korea since the inauguration of President Moon Jae-in.

The old downtown of Nampo-dong has been revived to bring to life the main commercial business district of Busan in the 80s until 90s. Today, it's crowded with people, the young and movie goers in particular, as all sorts of activities and various shops, restaurants, and food stalls line up the streets, and not to mention, the many theaters in the famed Cine Street that provides a unique experience to visitors where the first festivity of BIFF was held. When winter comes, it's also great to welcome the holidays in the nearby Gwangbok-ro street as it hosts the annual Christmas Tree Festival in December wherein Busan sparkles with holiday ornaments and the tall shimmering Christmas tree as the city’s centerpiece.

While in downtown Busan, you can also visit the over 100-year old Yongdusan Park, the first park built in the city. Around the park which resembles a dragon’s head, a pavilion can be found where the annual ringing ceremony of the Citizen's Bell on the eve of New Year is held. Yongdusan Park also features the Flower Clock next to the Bell Pavilion, the proud statue of the great Korean general Admiral Yi Sun-shin, a dragon monument near the park entrance, a Buddhist temple, and the ever famous landmark of Busan Tower which is perched on top of the mountain-built park. I will never forget our short visit to the 120-meter high Busan Tower one afternoon as we got to see the panoramic view of Busan’s coastline, the neighborhood, and entire port city from its observatory. From afar, you will see the harbor highlighted by the busy yachts and boats sailing in every direction as well as the picturesque culture village of Gamcheon, and some of the most beautiful bridges in the city including the bascule bridge of Yeongdodaegyo that connects the mainland Busan and the island of Yeongdo where it is lifted several times every day to let ships to pass by the north and south ports.

Gamcheon Culture Village is an impressive historic village where the houses were built in a stair-like on a hillside without overlapping the other’s view towards the coast in Busan.

Still fresh in my mind, our visit to the Gamcheon Culture Village is a fun-filled and knowledge-rich experience as not only we enjoyed the walking tour here but at the same time we learned a lot about the history of the place. Gamcheon is a historic village that once used as a settlement of the poor refugees from the Korean War, and today, it stands as an impressive village built on the hillside overlooking the coast of Busan. Regarded as the 'Machu Picchu' in Korea, this village is one of the postcard worthy tourist spots in Busan as the village houses were built like stairs without overlapping each other’s view towards the sea. The culture village also features maze alleyways adorned with art pieces, captivating sculptures, and street murals made by the resident artists. One of the popular activities you can enjoy here is the stamp tour where you will be able to explore all the famous spots and where you can also have firsthand experience on how to make wood crafts and souvenirs in some workshops.

Busan’s eomuk fish cakes are particularly famous as they're said to be the most delicious of such in Korea.

Ssiat hotteok, a sweet fried dough filled with a variety of nuts, is a must-try street food considered as the people’s favorite in Busan.

Your Busan experience is never complete without visiting its traditional markets. As the city also takes pride of its fresh seafood, you can also drop by the Jagalchi Market, the largest fish market in Korea, when you get tired of your day tour for some seafood delights. This is where you can find the freshest catch of the day and not just fish but a wide variety of seafood such as abalone, sea cucumber, octopus, clams, and more which you can buy and then it’s prepared and cooked into a delicious meal right in front of you whether you like it raw, grilled, and or with soup. Furthermore, you can as well enjoy an array of Busan’s representative dishes at the historic Gukje Market, where American supplies were once distributed here after the liberation of Korea and which in turn influenced the local commerce. You can taste authentic Busan cuisine here like eomuk, the most delicious fish cakes in Korea, fresh raw fish hoe, pork soup dwaeji gukbap, cold wheat noodles milmyeon, haemul pajeon or seafood scallion pancake, and also seasonal food sold by warm, ever smiling Busan locals especially during autumn such as ssiat hotteok, a sweet fried dough filled with various nuts and sunflower seeds, which you can pair with a cup of sweet pumpkin juice, some sweetened fried rice cakes, and freshly steamed ginkgo nuts. As various shops are clustered in the market, in addition to the variety of food, you can as well buy vintage goods, household items, kitchen utensils, hanbok, other dry goods, and the rarest ingredients for your recipes. Moreover, it is also famous as a filming site for various dramas and hit movies as ‘Gukje Market,’ known globally as ‘Ode To My Father,’ which made the place even more popular for tourists to visit.

A good find in the book-filled alley of Bosudong in downtown Busan.

If you love books, you can also stroll in the book alley of Bosudong Book Street which is near the Jagalchi Market. Visiting this place is truly a remarkable experience for me as you can find all books you can imagine here as the alleys are filled with new, secondhand, and even rare books which you can bargain depending on their conditions. Name the book, for sure they have it here. 
Yeondo Island in Busan is also popular among the locals and tourists as it is where the natural park of Taejongdae is situated. Before reaching the place, you will first take a ride of the danubi train that loops around the park through the thriving forest of pine trees and then a walk of few meters away to get to the park and its observatory. It's quite a tiring journey but seeing Taejongdae located on the magnificent cliffs facing the open sea and in which during fine day you can have a glimpse of Japan’s Tsushima Island, the closest point from Korea, is definitely worth it. Also, the park features a number of sculptures including 'the arrow' which is famous as a photo ops spot for tourists and the towering Taejongdae Lighthouse. 

A captivating pavilion situated inside the temple complex of the Haedong Yonggungsa which is built near the coast in Busan.

Busan will never fail to amaze the public. Besides these attractions, some of Korea's most beautiful and unique temples can be found here as well. The Haedong Yonggungsa Temple is one of the few Buddhist temples in Korea built near the coast as most of the temples are found in the mountains. I still remember the day we went there. It was my first time to visit and pay my respect to a Buddhist temple so I will never forget my experience praying in the main hall in which as we pray, the Buddhists also chant their prayers in harmony. I am indeed lucky to experience a piece of the Buddhist culture of Korea as months later my wish was then granted. The entire temple complex is very solemn as it is tucked between the sea and the nearby forested mountain. Stone sculptures of the twelve Chinese zodiacs and the main arc adorned with two golden dragons guard the temple’s entrance. Besides, there are also sculptures of Buddha, stone pagodas, pavilions, and an underground cave where you can also offer your prayers as well as some souvenir shops and food stalls for devotees to enjoy. Moreover, Beomusa Temple is also a place where you can find peace and solemnity. It's one of the three major temples in the region of Yeongnam which was founded by Buddhist Uisang through the decree of King Munmu of Silla. Located on the slope of Mt. Geumjeongsan, the temple boasts picturesque scenery all year round most especially in autumn where the trees change their color from green into hues of copper, red, orange, and yellow.

Cityscape of Busan during the day as seen from the proud Busan Tower—―the centerpiece of the Yongdusan Park.

Songdo, the first designated swimming beach in Korea, which is in the western part of Busan also has great spots and attractions. In addition to its beach, the famous Skywalk is located here with a distance of 365-meters stretching from the mainland and around the turtle-shape island of Geobukseom. It's built above the sea where the pathway is made of glass-paneled floors. Everyone can enjoy the majestic waves and the cold breeze of the ocean here especially during the setting of the golden sun. Also, the popular ropeway of the Songdo Marine Cable Car is as well a famous attraction here which has crystal cabins with transparent floors that runs about 8-minutes per way from Songnim Park and to the west side of the beach where the Amnam Park is located. From its observatories, shops and restaurants are the source of enjoyment of many visitors and tourists.

Set of photos on display at the Busan Modern History Museum that highlights the daily life of the Korean people during the Japanese colonization.

Busan is such a history-rich city that is why if you visit the place you would feel the harmony of old and the new. One that I can say that is worth visiting to learn something about Korean history is the Busan Modern History Museum. Here you will learn not just a part of Busan’s interesting past but also of Korea during the Japanese colonial rule through various exhibitions of decades-old photos, letters, and newspapers. The museum was once occupied by a national enterprise established by the Empire of Japan to support the colonization of Korea and was later used by the United States Information Agency after the country’s liberation in 1945. A short visit here would make your visit to Busan meaningful and all the more special.

In pop culture, the blockbuster movie 'Train to Busan' also made the city even more popular as it chronicles Busan as a safe zone in which, in history, it’s also the safest place on the peninsula when the Korean War broke out in the 1950s.

Busan is accessible by train or bus from Seoul and vice versa. Through the KTX high-speed trains it will take about 2 1/2 hours travel time to reach the city.

Busan is accessible by train or bus from Seoul and vice versa. But for me, as Korea Train eXpress high-speed trains connect Seoul to Busan, taking the KTX is the fastest and comfortable way to travel to the city with approximate travel time of 2 1/2 hours. Most of the main attractions are also within reach by the extensive metro subway where you can get around Busan the quickest and cheapest way from downtown and as far as the nearby city of Gimhae.

Busan is indeed a dynamic city. Just like Seoul, there really are a lot of activities that you can enjoy and experience this summer season, from the hospitality of the people, deliciously good food, amazing spots, and beach attractions, to many opportunities to grow and learn Korean culture and history, for sure you will have a memorable stay in this part of Korea. With the successful hosting of the 2019 ASEAN-Republic of Korea Commemorative Summit, it has gained growing global interest and continued to influence the world to unite for the betterment of many. Through this, the city has maintained its spotlight as the center for international conventions and one of Korea's most inviting, beautiful and livable cities. Come, experience Busan this summertime!

"Experience Busan, Korea’s premier hub for international conventions," October 29, 2019 was first published on the Talk Talk Korea web portal. All photos used herein are property of Annyeong Korya which are protected under applicable copyrights.

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