Busan, South Korea

Busan City – the gateway to Japan

After acclimatization to South Korea in Seoul, time to move south. Busan is the Koreas second-largest city. At the center a commercial and fishing harbor. It’s also the place where you can take the ferry to Fukuoka, Japan.

Arriving by train

The train from Seoul to Busan takes about 2 hours and 45 minutes. Busan has a very modern railway station, with easy access to the ferry terminal. Train travel still is one of my favorite ways to discover new countries. And a ticket of 56,000 Korean Won (about 50 USD) for a high-speed journey between the two largest cities of the country is a bargain.

We, however, decided to stay here a couple of days before traveling to Japan, and we started to look for food first. Research showed that the fish cakes in the station were amongst the best we would find in South Korea.

The Republic of Korea has a reputation to uphold when it comes to fish, and we were in for a good meal after the expectations set in our earlier culinary experiences in South Korea.

Fish cakes are being served in a store in the station of Busan, South-Korea

Fish Cakes

Busan is very much known for the fish. The shops for fish cakes do have tons of options. Spicy or not, on a stick or not, with rice, and so on. So we bought a few of them and left the station in search of a bench where we could taste them.

Finding a seating spot outside of the station wasn’t that complicated, but the fishcakes weren’t what I expected. Pretty bland, cold, and very chewy. It’s probably an acquired taste, so stay tuned for new adventures with these later.

Haeundae-gu, oceanside of Busan

We decided to locate in the Fairfield in Haeundae for the days we’d stay in Busan. Haeundae-gu is a modern-looking tourist area on the beach. We hadn’t seen that many western faces when we were earlier in Seoul or in Busan city. Must be that a lot of the 60,000 US military stationed in South Korea likes this area when on leave.

There’s an easy bus ride (Bus 1003) that goes from Busan station to various stops in Haeundae-gu. It even offers Wi-Fi on board. A cool option, since the bus can be taking some time in rush hour to get out of the city center.

The subway has a Haeundae station, but we prefer to stay above ground and have a better view of the surroundings.

Bus 1003 goes from Busan station to Haeundae-gu.
Even this local bus between Haeundae-gu and Busan Station offered free wifi.

Beach life in Busan

Haeundae-beach is one of the more famous beaches in the south of the country. Ideal location, we felt, to stay a few days before we’d cross the Sea of Japan to Fukuoka.

The beach in Haeundae (Busan) on a clouded day.
The Marriott hotel near Haeundaa-beach

Busan Tower

Busan Tower

On a hill in the center is an observation tower that you can climb to have a great view of the city. Allegedly, since our visit here was on a day the rain wouldn’t stop. We enjoyed a coffee in the adjacent pagoda, rather than to go op and see the fog over the city.

Busan Fish Market

A woman cleaning fish in the Busan Fish Market

At the harbor of Busan, there is a large fish market hall: Jagalchi. On the lower floor, fishermen (or rather, their families) are selling the catch of the day.

The higher floor of the market has a few small restaurants where fish is prepared and local dishes are sold.

But if you like fresh fish prepared in front of you at prices that aren’t outrageous, you better walk out of the market. Alongside the docks, there are several very small fish sales booths with a few chairs and a table in the back. Ocean to table!

Small fish restaurant outside the fish market in Busan

Bosu Book Street

If books are your thing, this street should make your list. During the Korean War, refugees from the North arrived here and set up shop. Not surprising books aren’t only in Korean, but you’ll find most languages spoken by the UN troops that served in the Korean war. American books, French, Turkish, you name it.

For many shops, the books aren’t just the product, they also make the store. The walls are literally (yep) being kept up by the books in the shelves.

Bosu Book Street - statue of the original bookstore keeper

Haedong Yonggungsa Temple

40 minutes by bus from Haeundae, there is one of the most famous temples in the region. The Haedong Yonggungsa temple is located in the cliffs on the ocean. The views are spectacular.

View over the temple complex in Busan