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Busan is a city located in the south-eastern province of South Gyeongsang, South Korea.
With over 3.6 million people, Busan is South Korea's second largest city and largest seaport. Busan is known for its beaches, hot springs, nature reserves and events such as the city's renowned international film festival held each fall. Busan is a good destination for those seeking a more laid back atmosphere than Seoul. Located at the southern tip of the Korean peninsula, Busan's important port gives the city an international flair, with sailors from around the world trooping through and a growing number of tourists.
Busan has a sub-tropical climate with a hot humid summer and autumn along with a mild winter. Busan seldom experiences snow. However, winter minimums vary historically from -11°C (inland) to typically about -8°C during a Siberian outflow.
Busan sits roughly 450km (280 miles) southeast of Seoul and about 150km (93 miles) northwest of Japan's main islands.
Nampodong to the south is Busan's shopping and entertainment downtown, while central Seomyeon at the intersection of subway lines 1 and 2 is the main office building area. Between them are Busan's train station and its international ferry terminals. The beaches of Gwangalli, Haeundae and Songjeong lie to the east, the ruins of mountain fortress Geumjeong guard the north. To the west is Gimhae town where the Busan Airport is located.
The eastern district of Haeundae is the most accessible area for foreigners, and many of Busan's attractions can be found here making it a good base to start exploring the city.
Busan's International Gimhae Airport (PUS) is situated in Gangseo-gu, Busan and is the third busiest airport in Korea with many scheduled flights across East Asia. There are separate Domestic and International terminals next to each other, each with basic facilities and food outlets.
Domestic flights are from Seoul Gimpo (GMP) and Jeju Island (CJU). Most flights from Seoul come from Gimpo Airport, however if you are making an international connection then there are a select few scheduled flights that fly directly from Incheon Airport to Gimhae with Korean Air . They are slightly more expensive but much more convenient. (Note that these flights are only for international connections, which means customs and immigrations clearances are done at Busan Gimhae Airport. If your international connection at Incheon is not on the airline which you purchased the Busan <--> Gimhae ticket for, you must check if that airline is willing to transfer luggage at Incheon since you are not allowed to leave the secure area at Incheon to any checked bags.)
International flights are from major cities in Japan (Tokyo, Osaka, Fukuoka, Nagoya), China (Beijing, Shanghai, Qingdao, Weihai, Guangzhou, Shenyang, Xi'an), the Philippines (Manila, Cebu, Kalibo) and Vietnam (Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh). In addition there are flights to Russia (Vladivostok), Thailand (Bangkok), Malaysia (Kuala Lumpur), Taiwan (Taipei), Saipan, Macau and Hong Kong.
There are also a number of budget airlines operating from Gimhae including Korean LCCs Air Busan, Jeju Air and Jin Air and foreign low cost carriers such as Cebu Pacific (Cebu, Manila), Hong Kong Express Airways (Hong Kong), Peach (Osaka Kansai) and Air Asia (Kuala Lumpur).
Busan is very well connected on the Korean rail network and a main hub for the high speed KTX trains.
KTX trains connect Seoul to Busan via Daegu and Daejeon. Journey times vary between 120 to 150 min. Tickets can be purchased at the counter but automated English-language machines are available to make purchases with too. Tickets can also be purchased on the Internet Korail site with an international credit card and picked up at the station. (This is very useful when planning to travel at peak times, when all tickets can quickly sell out)
KTX passengers are expected to be quiet but this is not always the case. First-class provides a more comfortable seat and the upgrade can be purchased en route. Snacks can be purchased on the trains using the vending machines or from an attendant. There is free Wi-Fi, but it's slow and is limited to 30MB of data.
Driving and parking in Busan can be difficult, so if you just want to look around the city then public transportation will be easier. However if you are coming to explore the area around Busan (such as going down to Geoje) then the flexibility of driving yourself will help you enjoy it more.
Note that you can use the Hanero Card to pay toll gates in the city.
Busan is connected by three main highways:
Gyeongbu Highway connects Busan with Seoul via Daejeon and Daegu.
Daegu-Busan Highway is an alternative highway to Daegu.
Namhae Highway connects Gwangju via Jinju and Sacheon.
Almost all cities and counties in South Korea have an express bus to Busan. There are two major bus stations:
Dongbu Intercity Bus Terminal, Nopodong Station. For points north and east (eg. Daegu, Gyeongju, Seoul, Ulsan).
Seobu Intercity Bus Terminal, Sasang Station. For points west (e.g., Jinju, Masan, Geoje Island). There are also regular buses to Seoul from here, although they are slightly more expensive than the buses from Nopo.
Busan Airport Long distances buses operate from directly outside the terminals of Gimhae (Busan) Airport to the cities of Changwon, Masan, Jangyu, Geoje, Tongyeong, Gyeongju, Pohang, Daegu, Gumi and Ulsan.
Busan has regular international ferry services to Japan. Go to the International Ferry Terminal (Subway Jungang-dong) where you can book tickets to Japan (And even purchase Japan Rail tickets).
The Busan Hanaro Card is a very useful travel card system that can be used on:
Light rail (e.g. to the airport)
Local road toll ways (Such as Gwangallli Bridge)
Some convienience stores also allow you to recharge a card.
You can also buy "cell phone jewelry" which has the exact same RFID as the Hanaro card, and can be used the same way. Prices for these vary, and they come in innumerable designs.
When leaving a bus you can 'scan out' in order to have a discounted fare when you board another bus if within 20 minutes.
What to see
Beomeosa Temple (Line 1, Beomeosa station). One of Korea's great temples, this large complex is located up in the mountains and feels further away from the city than the few kilometers it really is. The buildings have been destroyed and rebuilt many times since they were founded in 678, yet they are still atmospheric. The temple does get packed with worshippers, hikers and tourists on weekends. Take exit 5 from the station and make a U-turn, turn left up the one-way street and take bus 90 from the station a few hundred meters up. Or you can take a taxi for 5-10 minutes from subway station and get off at Beomosa temple. Beomeosa offers temple stay for men and women if you fancy monks' diet. It's well worth going up the signposted valley to the left of the top of the temple to the fortifications, a lovely walk though as so often in Korea of a strong uphill tendency. Persevere! take water; allow time. When you reach the old fortifications (about 45 minutes), there is a complete circuit available, or you can head right and uphill and reach (20 minutes plus) a viewing point with an absolutely spectacular view over the city. Worth the effort.
Yonggungsa Temple. The name means Dragon Palace Temple. This fine and extremely popular Buddhist temple complex spreads along the shoreline, decidedly unusual in Korea where most temples are at the top of a darn steep hill. It’s also famous because its beauty of Buddhist statues and sculptures such as Hakeupul Buddha statue who is known for his blessing for success. The sound of the ocean and beautiful architecture create a magical effect. Go down the temple you will find a subterranean medicinal spring. Try to visit Yonggungsa Temple in April when they are celebrating the Birth of Buddha with festival and when the cherry blossom are in full bloom. It will be the best time to visit Yonggungsa. It is free to enter.It is hugely popular with the locals who come to pray and has multiple car parks and restaurants and a complete tourist market selling valuable souvenirs, edibles and outright tat. To get there take bus 181 from outside Centum City or Haeundae subway stations. At Haeundae station the bus to Yonggungsa Temple is on the opposite side of the road to the station, it is 19 stops from the station and takes approximately 20 minutes. You will pass a large stone sign for the Temple right before the stop to get off at.
40 Steps (40 Gyedan). A few streets of this grubby district have been 'restored' to their condition in the post-Korean War 1960s, with wooden lamppost and bronze figures illustrating scenes of hardscrabble street life. It’s also quite near to Yongdusan Park. Get out through Jungang station exit 11, a cafe lined street is on your right leading to the 40 Steps.
Yongdusan Park - Busan Tower, (Line 1, Nampo station). This pleasant little park is home to Busan's one true tourist attraction, the 118 meter tall Busan Tower. This is the fourth tallest tower in South Korea, although it is over 100 m shorter than the Namsan Tower in Seoul. There are some decent views even without going up the tower, and you can buy some corn to feed the resident population of ravenous pigeons. The fences surrounding Busan Tower are adorned with love padlocks, which can be purchased in the souvenir shop. If you go up the Busan Tower you will get to see an awesome panorama of the entire city. You can walk ot take the hillside escalator up to the tower.
Gamcheon Cultural Village. Gamcheon Cultural Village is called the “Santorini of the East” or the “Lego village. During the Korean war Gamcheon used to be a place for refugees and has long been home for the city’s poorest residents. But now it has received cultural excellence award from Korea’s Ministry of Culture, Sports, and Tourism. Explore the colorful and historic alleyways of Gamcheon, bring your camera and take pictures from every corners because you will find a different view every time you take pictures. There is no entrance fee, but if you want to participate in stamp scavenger hunt you can buy the Gamcheon Map for 2000KRW. Bring your children to enjoy this cultural village but it’s better for not taking the elders here, the stairs are too much. It is open from 9am-5pm. To get there, take line 1 to Toseong station, exit 8. Walk straight to bus shelter in front of PNU Cancer Center and take mini-bus 2 or 2-2 to Gamcheon Elementary School.
Dalmaji Hill, Haeundae (From Haeundae station (Line 2) it is probably easiest to take a short taxi ride. Otherwise you can walk to the eastern end of Haeundae Beach (Mipo) and climb the small hill to arrive at the start of Dalmaji). This is regarded as Busan's 'romantic road', and climbs a hill overlooking the sea. At the top there are many viewing areas, as well as an amphitheater, pleasant cafes and spa facilities nearby. Along the way there are many galleries. This is a great place for them who came to relax and enjoy their free time. Come on days with clear skies and you can see Japan’s Daema island from the observatory. one more thing tip. Dalmaji Hill is a ramp. When you climb the hill, put on the heels low shoes. Hill so the slope, hard to climb high heels. So, recommend comfortable shoes.
As Korea's second largest city, there are a large number of events. The online Busan Haps magazine has a listing of new events in English.
The Busan International Film Festival. Typically runs the first 10 days every year in October.It will be held on from 1st October to 10th October this year(2015). It takes place all across Busan showcasing many international films and often some significant premieres of new Korean films. Most of the events are held on Haeundae beach where there are many tents promoting the industry as well as public interviews with stars. The Busan Cinema Center opened in 2011 to support this event. Tickets sell out quickly, and very long queues can be seen outside cinemas in the early morning for people wanting to catch the most anticipated films. (In previous years, this has been called the Pusan International Film Festival)
Polar Bear Swim, Haeundae Beach. 20,000 won per person for registration. Participants will be received on a first-come first-serve basis by 5,000 people. A famous beach swim in the first week of January when the temperature is around 0°C. Hundreds of participants brave the cold to compete in the sea. This event has run annually at the Choseon Beach Hotel since 1988.
Busan International Rock Festival, Samrak Park. Busan has been holding an annual Rock festival for 14 years now in August. Mostly Korean and Asian rock bands, but some Western bands do appear.
Busan International Fireworks Festival, Gwangan beach. The "Busan International Fireworks Festival" takes place every October along Gwangalli Beach. The festival’s diverse programs of cultural events, high-tech laser light shows, and myriad of unique and colorful fireworks make this one of the area’s most popular festivals, drawing crowds of over 1 million visitors each year. Though most people flock to the beach for a closer view of the festivities, nearby Hwangnyeongsan Mountain also offers a great view of the fireworks.
The mountains around Busan have some good hiking trails. It should be noted that hiking trails are not really well marked in Korea, even if you can read Korean script. Definitely do your research before you hike.
Hiking clothes are a must have fashion item in Korea these days, even if they only get used in the local mall. Prices are extremely high, so you should purchase what you need before coming to Korea.
Geumjeong Fortress.（Busan city gold mountain）free. (kumjungsansung.com.) A popular route is to take the subway to Oncheongjang, and then a short taxi ride to the cable car station. At the top of the mountain head towards the South Gate (Nammun) of Geumjeong Fortress and then through the North Gate (Bukmun) and down to Beomeosa Temple. This has a distance of 9 km (Taking between 3 to 4 hours).
Seokbulsa temple.(416-3, Sirang-ri, Gijangeup, Gijang-gun, Busan). free. It is another impressive temple about 90 minutes hike from the cable car station. It is often overlooked, but has magnificant statues carved into the mountain itself. Great views over Busan and very peaceful. From the South Gate, the path indicated by the Mandeokchon sign leads to a collection of restaurants and volleyball courts in Namman Village. At one point, the path stops at a court; walk right and pick up the trail on the other side. About 500m down the trail look for a sign that reads in Korean. You will come to a steep mountain road. Turn right and walk the road 600m uphill to the temple.Ps:(Through 108 steps, it is said that through can forget remained on the 108 kinds of troubles, let oneself live longer.)
Jangsan Mountain. (near the Haeundae). If you are near Haeundae, then Jangsan mountain can provide a good day's hiking. There are military bases at the summit complete with minefields (Clearly marked and fenced off), and great views over Busan and on a clear day to Japan. A good starting point is Daecheon Park in Jangsan. A hike to the summit and back should take 3-4 hours.The height of 634 meters. Once known as the fragrant hills.