We recently ran a competition – called Two to Korea – offering up the chance for two lucky participants to win a 12-night adventure across Korea, plus flights from the UK, on us.
Our winners, UK-based Liam and Lena Young, returned from their trip absolutely enthralled with Korea as a country and all it has to offer – from the beaches of Busan to the streets of Seoul – and we’ve loved hearing all about their experiences.
Liam and Lena’s itinerary saw them transported across the country – with four nights to explore the country’s capital, Seoul; one night in traditional Andong; one night in the ancient East Asian seat of power, Gyeongju; two nights to experience bustling Busan, one night in the Jeollanam-do region; and one night in culinary heaven, Jeonju.
We whisked them around on the super sleek KTX train, took them on a full tour of the DMZ with a private guide, and made sure they tasted the absolute best of South Korea’s street food scene.
When we caught up with them to find out what they enjoyed the most, the answer came back loud and clear: they loved Busan. Here’s why the beach-side city was the best part of their cultural adventure.
A city on the coast
“South Korea’s second-largest city, Busan, absolutely captivated us with its rich history, diverse culture, and breathtaking scenery,” Lena said.
“Reaching the top of Busan Tower is a moment of triumph – the cityscape unfolds before your eyes. The panoramic views from the observation deck are nothing short of spectacular. The sprawling metropolis, the busy port, and the vast expanse of the sea create a breathtaking tapestry that captures the essence of Busan.
“To summarise it in a sentence: Busan is a bustling urban landscape, harmonised with serene coastal beauty.”
A feast for the senses
A true-to-form port city, Busan isn’t short of sights, sounds, and smells – and some of the best of those come from the city’s noisy markets, jostling restaurants, and packed street stalls.
“The colourful alleyways of Jagalchi Fish Market offer an absolute sensory feast. An energetic atmosphere with stalls brimming with the day’s catch left a lasting impression on us,” Lena said.
It’s the largest fish market in Korea, and the beating heart of Busan – with plenty of restaurants upstairs to sample spicy maeun-tang fish soup or, for the more adventurous, nakji octopus tentacles.
“We couldn’t help ourselves,” said Lena, “and indulged in a truly delicious Korean-style sashimi lunch.”
Enchanting cultural moments
Because of the city’s location, it’s not hard to escape the urban hustle – and one of the best ways to do that is to visit Beomeosa Temple.
“Expect serenity and sea views,” Lena advises, “with breathtaking natural surroundings set against the cliffs. It was one of our favourite temples of the trip – and the cherry on top was the stunning laughing golden Buddha.”
When you’re ready to move from the serene and spiritual to the quirky and quaint, old-school Gamcheon’s cultural village, with its jumble of steep alleyways crammed with trendy shops and cafes, is sure to put a smile on your face, says Lena.
“This hillside community is adorned with colourful houses, murals, and art installations at every turn. You could get lost for hours just exploring the winding alleys, art galleries, quaint cafes, and little bars.”
Beautiful beach vibes
Of course, when the weather permits, a visit to Busan isn’t complete without spending time at the beach – and that’s something Lena and Liam definitely made the most of.
“We stayed in Haeundae Beach,” says Lena, which is the country’s most popular. Surrounded by a modern backdrop of skyscrapers, it’s a great place for a swim, some drinks, or some water activities. It’s also where Busan’s huge film festival takes place each year, drawing celebrities from all over Asia.
“The atmosphere was really vibrant, with a huge range of beach-side bars and a real variety of restaurants. We even managed to catch a street K-Pop performance!”