Spend 72 Hours In Busan
National Geographic Traveller (UK)|November 2021
With long beaches and mountain temples, Busan has emerged from Seoul’s shadow to become a thrilling destination in its own right

Situated on the southeastern tip of the Korean Peninsula, Busan is where Koreans come to let their hair down. The country’s second-largest metropolis is most famous for its long, sandy beaches, and its seaside culture seeps into all aspects of daily life, from a noticeably carefree, festive air to the seafood-rich cuisine. This energetic burg is home to some of the most exciting attractions in the country, and to top it all off, it offers up nature in spades, with pine-covered mountains, countless miles of hiking trails and marine parks dotted with cliffs. Here’s how to plan your next getaway to Korea’s city on the sea.

DAY 1

Hiking is Korea’s national pastime, so start the day by joining the locals at Geumgang Park. Here, a precipitous ropeway takes visitors to the summit of Geumjeongsan Mountain — the fortress-topped massif that defines the skyline of the city — gliding over a blanket of pine trees and offering views of the densely packed urban world below. From the top, you can hike along the ridge for a few miles before dropping down and soaking up the serenity at Beomeosa, one of the great temples of the Jogye Order of Korean Buddhism founded in 678. Sit down at Sansugapsan, located just a short stroll from the temple’s main gate, for a meal of marinated duck washed down with a bottle or two of makgeolli, a milky rice wine served up on mountains throughout the country.

After lunch, it’s time to head to the coast — and in Busan, that’s never far away. Just a 45-minute subway ride from Beomeosa, Haeundae is the city’s most famous seaside playground and an ideal place in which to grab a coffee and kick back with an azure stretch East Sea as the backdrop. (In the summer months, revellers gather here from far and wide, making this white-sand beach a prime people-watching spot, too.) If ready to resume rambling, head down to Mipo Port at the far end of the beach and board a cruise boat to the Oryukdo Islets, where you can take in the sleek high-rises of the city from a different point of view. Alternatively, saunter along the coastal path that snakes around Dongbaekseom Island, a rocky outcrop of pine trees on the west side of the beach.

While you’re in Haeundae, make sure to explore Bay 101, a sprawling culture and arts complex that also includes a yacht club, restaurant, cafe, pub and store. Feel the day slip into night over a dinner of grilled beef before jumping into a taxi and cruising over Gwangan Diamond Bridge and shooting up to the observatory at the top of Hwangnyeongsan Mountain, where the city lights splay out like a thousand stars.

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