Despite being Korea’s second most populous city, Busan isn’t content to settle for just being Korea’s second city. With a rich history and a growing international cultural presence, Busan offers plenty to see and do throughout the city that can cater to its expat community.
Arts and cultural attractions in Busan
Gamcheon Culture Village
For a memorable mix of art and the outdoors, expats can travel to Gamcheon Culture Village. This neighbourhood was originally formed by houses built into a mountainside which have been restored and repainted to become one of Busan’s most picturesque views. While exploring the steep streets and twisting alleys, visitors can find brightly painted murals, sculptures, and cafés in this artists’ haven.
Busan is home to art galleries and museums throughout the city. The largest is the Busan Museum of Art near Centum City which hosts art from both Korean and international artists, and there are featured exhibitions throughout the year. On the other side of the city in Hadan is the Busan Museum of Contemporary Art, opened in 2018, which is Korea’s first public museum to focus on contemporary art.
In 2019, Busan opened the Dream Theater, its first theatre to host touring musical productions. In addition to theatrical productions in Korean, the Dream Theater has already hosted international English productions.
The spotlight shines on Busan in October during the Busan International Film Festival, the largest film festival in Asia. Centred at the Busan Cinema Center in Centum City, the festival shows films from over 80 countries and has often featured award-winning films before their widespread release in the West.
Historical attractions Busan
Much of Busan’s historical sites can be found in its mountains, with the most prominent sites scattered around Geumjeong Mountain. Visitors can either hike or take a cable car up to the mountain trails. There they’ll see the gates, walls, and watchtowers of Geumjeong Fortress. On the eastern end of the mountain is Beomeosa, the largest Buddhist temple in Busan.
While there are other prominent temples scattered in the mountains ranges that cut through the middle of the city, one of the most unique temples is Haedong Youngungsa, known as the temple by the sea. Just a bit east of Haeundae and Songjeong Beaches, the temple is one of the few in Korea that’s on the coast, making it popular with sightseers.
United Nations Memorial Cemetery
Busan is also home to the United Nations Memorial Cemetery in South Korea. The park honours UN soldiers from 21 countries who were killed in the Korean War. There are monuments throughout the park dedicated to many of the nations and their citizens who fought in the conflict. From there, it’s just a short walk to the Busan Museum featuring historical pieces from Busan and the surrounding province.
Outdoor activities in Busan
Busan is well-known for its seven public beaches along its coastline. Haeundae and Gwangalli Beaches are easiest to get to through public transportation. These two are most popular with expats and tourists. Those wishing for smaller crowds and who are willing to make a slightly longer trip can enjoy Dadaepo and Songdo Beaches on the western coasts of the city and Songjeong, Ilgwang, and Imnang Beaches northeast of Haeundae.
Residents can also enjoy running, cycling, and fishing along two of Busan’s major rivers. The Suyeong River on the east part of the city flows past the bustling Centum City and Marine City neighbourhoods leading to some colourful night views. The Nakdong River along the west side of Busan is home to the Nakdong Bird Sanctuary where 150 species of migratory birds visit between October and March.
Busan Citizen Park
At around 500,000 square meters, Busan Citizens Park is the largest in Busan. Formerly an American military base, the prime real estate near the downtown area of Seomyeon was given back to the Busan city government in 2006. The city converted the land into a spacious park with five themes and 29 attractions scattered around its many walking paths.
Taejongdae Resort Park
Busan’s most notable coastal park is Taejongdae Resort Park. On the southern tip of Yeongdo Island, the park features views of evergreen trees, seaside cliffs, and rocky beaches. The lighthouse observatory offers some of the best views of the coastline. On a clear day, observers can even see Japan’s Tsushima Island.
Are you an expat living in Busan?
Expat Arrivals is looking for locals to contribute to this guide, and answer forum questions from others planning their move to Busan. Please contact us if you'd like to contribute.
Expat Health Insurance
With 86 million customer relationships in over 200 countries, Cigna Global has unrivalled experience in dealing with varied and unique medical situations and delivering high standards of service wherever you live in the world.
GeoBlue is one of the best international health insurance plans for US expats abroad or internationals residing in the USA. The GeoBlue Xplorer plan includes worldwide coverage and great customer service with access to a premium international network of hospitals and doctors including the Blue Cross Blue Shield network in the USA.
Sirelo has a network of more than 500 international removal companies that can move your furniture and possessions to your new home. By filling in a form, you’ll get up to 5 quotes from recommended movers. This service is free of charge and will help you select an international moving company that suits your needs and budget.