Busan is a popular travel destination in South Korea that every traveler wants to visit at least once in their lives nowadays. The city has a rich history and culture that goes back centuries, making it the main reason why many people decide to visit.
There are plenty of things to do here, from bus tours to museums and shopping centers. We are confident there’s something for everyone!
Whether you’re looking for a beach getaway or just want to explore the sights, Busan can satisfy your needs.
South Korea’s popularity has grown dramatically over the last five years thanks to the international spotlight following K-pop and k-dramas, especially for the boy band BTS that continues to be a big addition to culture in the country.
However, Busan has been quite popular even before the country’s culture started to explode, and visitors paid more attention besides the usual places.
Attractions are a top reason, and we understand why. After all, some places like Haeundae Beach, Gwangalli Beach, several mountains, and centers and parks are more than worth your visit.
But, do you have what it takes to write it down in your traveling list? And yes, we are referring to the money but also cultural aspects. Thus, just stay for a bit longer and read everything we have to share about this stunning city.
History & Location: A Deep Look into Busan
As much as we like to focus on attractions and stunning places, it is important to learn about some history and details before you decide to visit a city or country. So, what about getting to know a bit more about Busan from a different perspective and not only as a visitor?
For starters, it is possible to trace the Paleolithic Age as the first evidence of human presence on the Korean Peninsula, which is strongly related to our history and details about Busan, which you will understand later.
However, it is important to know that the majority of the ruins and remains found in Busan are from the Neolithic Age.
Shell mounds are the most well-known remnants of the Neolithic Age at Busan and a symbol that has come to determine this time for the city. They are always located close to rivers or the ocean.
Therefore, it seems that fishing and water access were the mainstays of the ancestors’ lives.
The Neolithic Culture, especially from the south coast region, settled in the vicinity of modern-day Busan. It had a significant influence on the Neolithic Culture in Japan’s Kitakyushu.
With this inception, we need to clear that Busan is located in the southeast corner of the Korean Peninsula. This may explain why the Bronze Age arrived there so late.
The evidence for this fact recorded in history is due to the remains discovered in places such as Nopo-dong, Geumsa-dong, and other five.
The ruins discovered are larger and more significant than those of the Neolithic Age. Particularly noteworthy is the location of the ruins in the inland hillsides some distance from the ocean.
The development of the Japanese Yayoi Culture was greatly influenced by the Bronze Age, which would change how the country and city worked in this aspect.
Moving on, the majority of ruins and remains from the Iron Age (throughout Gaya, the Three Hans period, and the beginning of the Three Kingdoms) are shell mounds or old tombs.
You will find shell mounds and ancient tombs all over Jodo, Yeongseon-dong, and Dadae-dong.
Over the years, further excavations revealed that Busan was the main area of iron production in the region, having been discovered as the site for refining iron in Dongnae.
The Suyeonggang River also revealed that refined iron was exported from this area to Japan, Naglang, Dabang, and other areas. Long-distance trading was documented in the “Wui History” chapter of the “History of the Three Kingdoms of China.”
This period saw historic improvements in the region around the Suyeonggang River and Oncheoncheon stream.
But without being stagnated in this period, the Silla Kingdom annexed Gaya in the middle of the 6th Century. In this way, the Busan region’s name was changed from Geochilsangun, but it was again changed from Geochilsangun to Dongnaehyeon during the reign of King Gyeongdeock (757 CE).
The Busan region used the administration system of Silla during the Goryeo Dynasty, which ran from 918 to 1392 when King Injong was king and he saw the Dongnae Jeong family rise to power in central politics.
Moving into Modern Busan: Military & Where It Stands
Although Busan was growing in power and the influence in territories as well as in affairs was going over the moon, it wasn’t that simple to declare it an effective reign.
There was a family feud, and there was a feeling of entrapment among the nobility as well as the Jeong family. Jeongseo, a prominent government official, was accused of disloyalty and exiled back to his hometown.
After this event, the prominent government official fled to Dongnae and set up beautiful pavilions. He also wrote the poem Jeong-gwajeong–gok, which stressed the virtues of faithfulness and integrity.
Jeong-gwajeong–gok is one of the essential poems in Goryeo literature and is widely recognized as the source of Busan literature, which is why we would recommend having a look at it if given a chance.
During this time and following this official exile, Busan’s military power only grew in the face of external threats despite the turmoil in internal affairs.
To defend against Japan’s growing power, a fortress was constructed in Busan.
During the Joseon Period (1392-1897), during the reigns of King Taejo (1392-1398), the administrative boundary (jin) around Dongnae was established. The “Daeil Gyoyeokjang,” a trading center, was established later under King Taejong (1418-1418).
As a result, trade between Japan and the Kingdom of Joseon was flourishing by 1470. Moreover, Dongnae’s contribution to diplomacy and defense was growing in importance for the kingdom.
The Imjin War (1592-1598) made it a priority policy goal to forge new and better relations between Korea and Japan after the Imjin War efforts were made to improve relations between the two antagonist neighbors.
A trading system was established, and delegations were exchanged between Japan and Korea. This led to improvements in the relations.
However, it is important to remember that the anti-Imperial Japanese struggle, and the quest for national redemption, was not only bravely displayed by soldiers and citizens but have also been passed down to Koreans and subliminally permeated their collective consciousness of their rights as citizens.
Busan’s fight against the Japanese imperialist in the 19th Century was more successful than any other region. Many students, workers, patriots, and entertainers kisaeng joined the resistance to Japanese encroachment.
The end of World War II saw the restoration of independence on August 15, 1945.
Busan was the capital of the Provisional Capital and became a huge refugee city after the Korean War. In 1963, Busan was made a Jikhalsi (city under the direct control of government) and became a metropolis in January 1995.
The city was a key base for economic rehabilitation and the promotion of democracy in Korea from the 1950s through the 1980s.
The Asian Financial Crisis and increased foreign competition in the 1990s forced Busanites into a tough stance in economic times.
However, Busan has emerged stronger and more powerful than ever with hard work, making it one of the wealthiest and popular cities in South Korea today.
Just to make sure, you must remember Busan was under Japanese control when Japan invaded Korea in 1592. Of course, we have omitted the facts about the two Koreas today and how they ended up like this.
We want you to focus on how the city has grown and remember how important it was and continues to be as a trading port with Asian countries and other nations.
As of today, officially known as Busan Metropolitan City, it is South Korea’s second-most populous city after its capital and continues to grow in economy and structure.
South Korea’s government has done an amazing job in expanding its culture and caring about how each city, especially the second most important in its country, develops.
Why Should You Visit Busan? – More Underrated than You Think
Although it is quite popular today, many people used to underestimate how good of a destination this city is. Even today, millions continue to think the same way.
It is normal to be blinded by the capital’s beauty and how Seoul shines bright in the country. However, we promise you won’t feel disappointed when choosing Busan instead.
But if it is the second-most populous city, there must be a reason, right?
As of our experience (very short, but it counts), as well as other people’s comments and travels, Busan is much more than just a place to visit malls and go shopping.
It has stunning beaches and, in fact, the largest and most popular one, Haeundae, is located in the area.
It is decorated with many parasols and with enough space to allow people to spend their day without any issues.
Additionally, you will find attractions that compete quite fairly with others in the country, including Seoul.
Taejongdae Park has stunning cliffs and a great ocean view you cannot miss. Its lighthouse is also a big attraction and worth spending at least a few hours enjoying your time.
However, if we have to summarize all the reasons people love visiting, Busan holds a lot of history and culture. Yes, South Korea is known for being very attached to these two factors, but the city kind of shows you every detail.
You can find places like Gamcheon Culture Village and attractions with pieces you will see once in your life.
Along with this, festivals, food, and every single part of the city are lovable, and although you won’t brag about being in Seoul (which you can visit without much hassle, though), you can mention how amazing it was with the photos you take.
But, Where Should You Go? – Places & Attractions
When you’re organizing your trip, you will obviously miss a couple of places even if you spend weeks. Thus, it is natural to plan everything as much as you can but also get the top attractions right to include them on your list.
In the case of Busan, this will be a tough task. You see, you will need to choose the perfect season and decide where you want to go based on your interests and preferences.
After all, you can find anything as long as you know where to look and are confident about what you want.
Now, if we have to add some options, we would recommend starting with the Busan Tower and getting a beautiful look of the city from above.
With a café available and a breathtaking view of the port, you will have a good start during your first day or by the end of it.
Art galleries are very popular, including Kim Jae Sun Gallery that holds contemporary Korean artists’ canvases and amazing pieces to appreciate. Additionally, it is known as the most important gallery in the city.
Remember our early mention of Gamcheon Culture Village? This is a must! Along with Jagalchi Fish Market and Gwangbokdong Food Street, you can have one or two amazing days, depending on how much time you spend in each one. Maybe even three.
Finally, we would close our visit by spending some time at the beach but also in spas, amazing restaurants, and hiking in Taejongdae.
Some deeper research about where you can go will help you determine the main places you want to visit and which ones would be more optional based on the time you have.
However, you shouldn’t miss AnGa, the best Korean barbecue restaurant in the area.
More Famous than Seoul? – Films Shot in Busan
There are many movies filmed in Seoul as it is the capital of South Korea, but recently, Busan has kind of surpassed it in popularity when it comes to both South Korean and international films.
The most popular among them, which we are confident you should have heard about at least once, is “Train to Busan.”
This horror and action film reached every cinema and was followed by many good critics and reviews, skyrocketing some popular actors in South Korea to the international press.
Among them, Gong Yoo, Don Lee, and Yeon Sang-ho have gotten amazing roles like in the most recent Netflix series, “Squid Game.”
Other films like “After My Death” from 2017 and “Our Body” (2018) are quite popular as well. However, if there’s something that predominates when it comes to those shot in the city is horror movies.
After all, it isn’t a secret that South Koreans are in love with the genre, and we kind of understand why.
When it comes to international films, most of them have the city as their second place for principal photography and shooting or as an additional place.
“Black Panther” and “The Chaser” are among the most popular ones; few know the city as part of the main scenarios.
5 Facts You Cannot Miss About Busan, South Korea
- Busan is the busiest port in the country as of 2021, and it ranks fifth in the worldwide chart.
- Festivals are very common, most of them being for films, but you can enjoy your time in some like Busan Port Festival and Busan Sea Festival at Haeundae Beach, which hottest stunning attractions, tasty food, and more activities than ever.
- A festival held every year called Joseon Tongsinsa Festival represents the cultural exchange between Japan and Korea back during the Joseon Dynasty.
- Gamcheon Cultural Village is often called “Machu Picchu of Busan” due to the colorful houses on the foothills.
- Just like Los Angeles, Rio de Janeiro, Barcelona, and a few more, Busan also holds the title of “sister city.”
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