Essential Culture-filled Busan City Guide (What to do, Where to go, & Instagram-perfect)

Busan is the second most populous city in South Korea, but I made it my first stop when traveling to South Korea because of all of the great things I heard about it. After doing a ton of research before my trip, I ended up with a jam-packed, cultural and Instagram-worthy trip of the best things to do that I wished someone had put together for me. Here, I’ve done all of the hard work for you so that you can make the best of your trip to beautiful Busan.

Busan mountain top view city line skyline

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Why Busan?

For one, Busan Metropolitan City is the economic, cultural, and educational centre of South Korea. Having the fifth largest port in the world, it's a huge hub for international imports and exports of goods and culture.

Busan is also the city of films and annual festivals including the Busan International Film Festival (BIFF), the Busan International Rock Festival, the Busan Port Festival the Busan Fireworks Festival, the One Asia Festival (a global K-Pop music festival), and more.

busan bridge korea ocean

It's safe to say, Busan is a lively city in South Korea that you don't want to skip over if you're looking for excitement and culture.

For myself, it was a for deeper connection as well. I wanted to visit my mother's city of birth and where she spent her younger years before moving to Seoul.

Best Time to Visit

South Korea goes through the four seasons of the year at the same times as that of Northeast America, where winter months are from December to February, spring is from March to May, summer is from June to August, and autumn is from September to November.

This also means the summer months in Busan can become very hot and humid much like a humid subtropical climate, reaching temperatures as high as 99°F (37°C).

On the other hand, the winters can drop to a frigid 29.3°F (-1.5°C). Ideally, you’ll want to travel in the more comfortable seasons.

gyeongbokgung palace seoul korea

Keep in mind that South Korea has a monsoon season, much like some other southeast Asian countries. The monsoon season brings torrential downpours of rain that cause serious, life threatening flooding in the country. It tends to occur in early July and last through late September.

I made sure to avoid the monsoon season.

With all of this in mind, the best time to travel to Busan is during the months of April, May, June, October, and November. Flights and hotels may be cheaper. While the tourist areas may be less congested.

If you don’t mind cooler temperatures, you may want to visit in March to watch the gorgeous cherry blossoms.

The month of May is probably the most lively time to visit Busan with the many annual festivals including the Sand Festival at Haeundae Beach, the Busan International Performing Arts Festival, and the Busan Lotus Lantern Festival.

Where To Stay

The itinerary I’ll be laying out for your amazing trip through Busan will mainly be in Jung-gu and Yeongdo-gu. There are numerous hotels to consider between these areas. So, how do you determine which hotel to choose?

I used websites such as TripAdvisor and Expedia to find the best prices, the best ratings, read reviews of others’ experiences, and find the best locations. Where did I end up staying?

Personally, I chose to stay in Jung-gu at the Crown Harbor Hotel since I planned to spend most of my time sightseeing in Jung-gu and Yeongdo-gu, which are close by. So that at least one day I didn’t have to travel too far to get to my destination.

hotel aerial view harbor busan

The Crown Harbor Hotel had an excellent harbor view I opted for. You can choose between the city view or the ocean view so I chose the ocean view. I was so happy I did because from window, you have an unobscured view of the Busan Harbor Bridge.

The Crown Harbor Hotel was very accommodating as well. You could ask the concierge about the best route to get to certain sites. We arrived at the hotel in the morning and despite the check-in time of 3 o’clock in the afternoon, they allowed us to check in when we arrived. We were so grateful for not having to drag our luggage bags around Busan for another four hours.

Jung-gu is also next to the the town where the KTX Train station is located in Dong-gu. Since I always plan to have a full day, I wanted to make sure I took an early train from Seoul to Busan so that I could have a full day in Busan the moment I arrived.

It takes far too long to arrive at the KTX train station, then hike 30+ minutes to some fancy hotel inland, drop off your luggage, then travel back to the coast another 30+ minutes just to start your excursion.

The day I was leaving Busan, I also didn’t want to do that extra travel in reverse just to get from my hotel to the Busan KTX Station. So, my advice is for you to try to find a hotel near the KTX station if that's your means of transportation in and out of Busan.

How to Get to Busan from Seoul

KTX from Seoul

The Korean Train eXpress (popularly known as the KTX) is a high-speed rail that travels between all of the major cities of South Korea, traveling at a top speed of 305 km/hr (190 mph) although it was built to go even faster.

KTX Korean Train Express Seoul Busan

This amazing technology allows people to go from Seoul to Busan on day trips or even for daily work in approximately 2h and 30 minutes of travel time. And to top it, it’s very comfortable and scenic.

Make sure you bring something to occupy your time. Many passengers brought their breakfast on board and took naps on their 2.5 hour journey. The seats are organised much like an airplane, so I popped open my iPad and watched a movie while eating a breakfast sandwich I picked up at the train station.

Each adult economy seat ticket is priced at 59,800 won (approximately $50 USD or £39) when you book using the Korail website or when you go to the ticket booth at the train station. But there is a way to save some money here.

Money Saving Tip

One of my saving graces during my travel around South Korea was Klook. It has amazing features and deals that you can use in South Korea and in other neighbouring Asian countries.