Busan, sometimes referred to as the “Miami of South Korea” is, without a doubt, the most popular Summer destination in Korea. And for good reason, too. There aren’t many cities in the world were you can climb a mountain, meditate in a buddhist temple, laze on the beach, get lost in supersized departments stores and enjoy fresh seafood all in the same day!
Luckily for budget travellers in Korea, Busan isn’t just a playground for the rich. (Although, if you do have cash to burn, Busan is a pretty good place to loosen your purse strings!) The city is chock-a-block with things to do for absolutely free. There are more than enough free things to do in Busan to keep you occupied for a whole weekend. There’s probably even enough to keep you occupied for at least a couple of weeks!
Shamelessly, I have only taken advantage of about half of these things. So, to help me out with this post, I called along some of my favourite bloggers & vloggers based in Korea. If you are looking for more tips and posts about travel and expat life then check out their profiles!
Haedong Yonggunsa Temple
One of the most beautiful temples in Korea is Haedong Yonggungsa in Busan. At the entrance of the temple, you will be met with numerous tents. You can buy everything from food to drinks to souvenirs- make sure you try the hot pancakes from one of the tents! Before the gate, you will greeted by many zodiac animal statues. Once inside, you will see many people on the bridge tossing coins into a wishing statue. Take the stairs to the viewpoint and you’ll get a panoramic view of the whole temple and the sea.
If you want to learn more about Haedong Younggunsa Temple, check out John from Roam with John‘s youtube video here. He has a ton of super informative videos about Korea- perfect for a bit of weekend inspiration! Make sure you suscribe to his channel, and follow him on facebook and instagram.
Gamcheon Culture Village
Wander through streets of candy coloured houses at this charming mountainside art village. Not only aesthetically pleasing, the village also has a vibrant history. Back in the 1950s, in the midst of the Korean war, the village was created as a safe haven for refugees in this once-poor area. The village was named Taegeuk-Do after the religion that the residents followed. People still live there to this day, but it’s extremely different now!
The houses were painted in their unique pastel hues in 2009 as part of a project by the Ministry of Culture, Sports, and Tourism. These days, Gamcheon is huge tourist attraction, and you will see hundreds of art lovers there on any given day. This area is also a great place to pick up arts, handmade crafts and souvenirs from local, independent artists. I thoroughly recommend spending a day there getting lost among the murals!
Read more about Gamcheon Culture village here.
Going to Seokbulsa requires a hike of an hour, but only the view of Busan you’ll encounter is already worth that. However, the view isn’t the most spectacular thing you will see if you do decide to climb all the way up.
If you visited a few Buddhist temples in Korea before, you’ve probably noticed they all kind of look the same. It’s always the same wooden buildings with the same green paint job. However, Seokbulsa is totally different. The name itself already reveals what you are about to see: Seokbulsa means Stone Buddha Temple.
Upon arrival you’ll see a temple building that’s already a bit out of the ordinary; it’s not wooden, but stone and looks totally different from other temple buildings in Korea. However, the real attraction of this place is behind the temple building. There you’ll be greeted with some monumental Buddhas carved in the side of the mountain and two small caves with a shrine. It really is a magnificent scene and because it’s not overcrowded with tourists (as some other temples are) the atmosphere of the place makes it one of the most spiritual places in Korea you can find.
Located on the outskirts of the city, Dadaepo Beach is a peaceful alternative to the main city beaches of Busan. The journey to get there is admitedly a bit of a trek. But you definitely won’t regret it!
For a beach that’s only an hour away from the city centre, you’ll be amazed at how close you feel to nature.The beach is both long and wide meaning that there are plenty of spots to sunbathe. If that’s not your thing, there are even waterside hiking trails by the ocean. Come here to escape the crowds and enjoy the sea in a uniquely peaceful environment.
There is also a lightshow at the fountain by the beach every evening, which is perfect for anyone who decides to camp, too! Just a 5 minute walk from the beach, there are an array of restaurants selling both Korean and Western cuisine, as well as a multitude of convenience stores.
For a relaxing, scenic walk along the coastline away from the crowds in Haeundae, visit Igidae Park. Along the coastal walk you have views of Haeundae Beach across the water, Gwangali Bridge, and the city’s skyscrapers. You only need about and hour or more to enjoy walking along the casual coastline. There are small bridges that take you from boulder to boulder and even resting places to stop and enjoy the view and take photos. If you’re in the mood, pack a bottle of makgeolli and enjoy the beauty like a local.
Free Kayaking at Gwangalli Beach and Suyeong River
Not a lot of foreigners seem to know about this, but from May until October you can enjoy kayaking for absolutely FREE at Gwangalli Beach and the Suyeong River!
Gwangalli Beach is famous throughout Korea for it’s diamond bridge that illuminates at night. Now you can see it from a totally new angle by kayaking around the bay. For a more urban kayaking experience, head to Suyeong River were you can kayak between some of Busan’s most iconic buildings, in the Centum City area.
To book your free kayak experience, visit this website. The information is all in Korean, so you may need to ask a Korean friend to help you. You can also call them on (051) 743-5589. The centre is open from 9am to 5pm from Wednesday to Sunday.
Dongnae Eupsong Fortress and Ancient Burial Mounds
Tucked away in the middle of the Dongnae district of Busan are two of the best kept secrets the city has to offer: Dongnae Eupseong Fortress and Ancient Burial Mounds. Battles with foreign invaders destroyed the wall over time, but the wall has been rebuilt and is now the site of a beautiful park. One of my favorite things to do is climb up the stairs along the fortress and sit on the edge of the wall, overlooking the bright green burial mounds below.
The Bokcheon Museum lies within the complex and offers free admission. Inside the museum you can see interesting finds from the excavation of the tombs. Be sure to walk around the tombs, sit in the lush grass and take in the impressive views of the city.
Get Lost Among Umbrellas at Haeundae Beach
The most famous of all Korea’s beaches, Haeundae can attract up to 1 million visitors on its busiest summer days! While I wouldn’t recommend it as a place to relax and get lost in book, it’s definitely a unique cultural experience. With amateur photoshoots taking place at every corner, couples in matching clothing strolling along the waterside and fully clothed Koreans going for a dip in the ocean, it will probably be one of the most memorable beach trips of your life. The things I see at Haeundae never fail to take me by surprise!
For the perfect beach day grab yourself an umbrella, get some fried chicken and beer delivered to your sun lounger, and do some of the best people watching you’ll ever do in your life! (Edit- while wandering around the beach is free, obviously renting an umbrella and getting fried chicken isn’t!)
Dalmaji hill is a beautiful little hike from Haeundae Beach filled with quaint coffee shops and restaurants. At the very top of the hill, you find yourself in the midst of a traditional market selling everything from trinkets to Korean clothing and toys. On your way up the hill, there are various lookout points for photo opportunities where you can catch a breathtaking view of Haeundae Beach and the surrounding mountains. Although Spring is the best time to enjoy Dalmaji Hill’s cherry blossoms, it still has it’s charm through all seasons.
Chelsea is an expat who lives and teaches in Busan- so you can be sure that she is an expat! For lots more inspiration for things to do around the city, check out her blog, Chelssology! She’s also on Instagram where she shares lots of beautiful snaps of Korea.
Unidentifiable seafood, as well as sweet treats and Korean street food classics await you at Haeundae market. While this market often plays second fiddle to it’s famous big sister, Jagalchi Market, it’s definitely worth a visit.
This is one of the best places in the country to sample the famous live octopus- if you’re brave enough! People travel from all over the country to taste Busan’s famously fresh seafood, so you should definitely take advantage while you’re here. For those on a budget, or who aren’t such a fan of unknown ocean creatures, grab yourself some tteokboki and marvel at the chaos that surrounds you.
To read more about all the things you can see at Haeundae Market, check out this post here.
So, as you can see, there is absolutely plenty for budget travellers to do in Busan. I’m sure that there are so many more things than we’ve already mentioned here. If you know something amazing and FREE to do in Busan, leave me a comment and let me know all about it!
Want to find some accommodation in Busan for under 10,000 won per night? Check out these properties!
(Prices may vary from season to season.)
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