Every weekend, trains to Busan fill up with Koreans looking for a couple of days’ vacation from their home cities. And every weekend, some of those visitors decide that they’d like to make the next trip a little more permanent. This is Korea’s most livable city – like a smaller version of Seoul, with beaches to boot.
Just like its big brother up north, the key to Busan’s enjoyment lies in discovering the diversity of its various neighborhoods. The best place to start is arguably old-school Gamcheon, with its jumble of steep, Insta-worthy alleyways crammed with trendy shops and cafés. On the more modern side of the coin is Haeundae, where a wall of skyscrapers surrounds the country’s most popular beach – an ideal place for a swim, a banana boat ride, some beer with friends new or old, a tanning session, or all of the above. Come October, it’s also the main hub of Busan’s huge film festival, which draws stars from all over Asia; indeed, the city itself now counts as something of a prima donna, having cropped up as a location in more and more Korean films.
Foodies should stop in at Jagalchi Fish Market, the largest in Korea, for an insight into the lifeblood of this port city – not to mention some delicious nakji octopus tentacles and spicy maeun-tang fish soup, served in the market’s upstairs restaurants. Come for the seafood, stay for the sea – the shoreside temple of Haedong Yonggungsa is a joy to pad around, while a confetti of nearby islands, many accessible by ferry, beckon across the waters.