Take 5: Busan – sites and delights

Mathew Scott selects places for a post-conference tour or social itinerary around the South Korean port city

Gamcheon Culture Village

What’s the attraction? Refugees from the Korean War made squatter homes on this steep hillside. In 2009, the local government decided to breathe life into the ramshackle collection of little buildings. And so, local artists were drafted in to place their works either on the walls of the houses or along the alleyways, while bold and bright colours were chosen for all the building exteriors.

Atmosphere Generally visitors are split into two types: those who pick up a map from the Haneul Maru Tourist Information Centre and Observatory by the gates and follow its lead around the village, and those who make their own way around (which usually involves getting lost). It’s a charmingly relaxed – and living – community, with stunning views … and all that art.

For groups The cafes here are on the small side, but you can raid them for snacks and coffees. Tours can be arranged but half the fun is just wandering around independently to discover Gamcheon’s secrets.

Jagalchi Fish Market

What’s the attraction? Busan has for centuries reaped the rewards offered by the local waters, and the port’s vast fishing fleet returns each day to off-load its catch beside this massive, bustling market. Part of the fun is trying to work out exactly what species of fish have been caught that day, but there are regular hauls of tuna and queen fish – along with trays of shellfish and the impressive King Crabs.

Atmosphere Bustling. Stall holders love to engage in a little bartering and on weekends in particular the place becomes a hive of activity as the locals arrive to stock their fridges and freezers. Prices will vary according to the season.

For groups Private tours are available but the best thing planners can do here is to pre-arrange some tables at the food hall or in the smaller cafes that line the alleyways outside. Then spend time choosing the ingredients for your own private feast.


What’s the attraction? The hot spas in and around Busan have long been known for their recuperative properties – in fact, folks have been travelling here for a good soak for centuries. This one is the granddaddy of them all – able to cater for up to 3,000 in one sitting and with baths inside and out.

Atmosphere There are around 40 different bathing options from which to choose with individually tailored treatments to ease tired limbs (and worried minds). Staff are on hand to add the necessary herbs – and to provide a welcome cold drink as temperatures rise.

For groups The more the merrier.

Dalmaji Hill

What’s the attraction? Locals claim it’s their version of Paris’s Montmartre district, but the sea vistas and the tree-lined cliffs make this hideaway Busan’s own. There are coffee shops, bars and art galleries up and down the main stretch.

Atmosphere In summer the younger set will head here after a day in the sun; in winter it’s a place to fend off the cold with a meal, or for a walk around the galleries. When the full moon rises over the ocean each month it’s often packed with romantic couples.

For groups An abundance of cafes and restaurants cater for all sizes. Or better still, pack a picnic, let your group sit on the grass and gaze skyward.

Sam Ryan’s Sports Bar & Grill

What’s the attraction? OK, so we admit there’s not that much that’s distinctly “Korean” about this bar – except for the stunning views. Haeundae Beach is the country’s longest stretch of white sand at a kilometre long, and the official figures claim up to 100,000 people can take up occupation during the height of summer.

Atmosphere Avoid any crowds by sitting at the end of the beach where your group can watch the drama unfold – no matter what the season. At night, they can stare out to sea – and up at the stars.

For groups Ideal, as there’s plenty of space inside and out on the terrace by the beach. If your group is staying in Haeundae, Sam Ryan’s is the place to go for nightcaps – and to plan the following day’s itinerary.

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