Tourist’s Guide to Haedong Yonggungsa Temple in Busan

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Haedong Yonggungsa Temple is one of Busan’s most popular tourist attractions. It’s a gorgeous temple located right along the seaside.

It has breathtaking views and is regarded as one of the most beautiful temples in all of South Korea.

This post is going to give you all the information you need as a tourist to plan your trip to Haedong Yonggungsa Temple. We’ll talk about how to get there, the best time to get there, what to do at Haedong Yonggungsa Temple, and how to decide if it’s the right tourist attraction for you to visit.

A lot of people only spend one or two days in Busan, so you really need to decide what attractions are the most important to you to see. And what ones you can skip.

Haedong Yonggungsa Temple may be one of the attractions you can skip depending on where else you’re visiting in Busan. It’s not like Gamcheon Culture Village, which I think is the number one must do activity in Busan.

But by the end of this article, you’ll have a much better idea whether Haedong Yonggungsa Temple should be added to your itinerary or if you can give it a skip.

top tip

Renting pocket wifi in Korea is cheaper than installing an esim.

Smiling Gold Buddha

History of Haedong Yonggungsa Temple

There is some debate around the history of Haedong Yonggungsa Temple and when it was built.

Most people say that it was built in 1376, but there is growing evidence to suggest that that isn’t true. Unfortunately, the people who claim that the temple wasn’t built in 1376 haven’t come out with a new suggested date of building just yet. So we don’t quite know it’s origin story for sure right now.

What we do know is that during Japan’s occupation of Korea from 1592-1598, the temple was destroyed.

The temple was left in ruins for hundreds of years until it was rebuilt in the 1930s.

The temple has remained relatively unchanged since the rebuilding in the early 1930s with only maintenance being performed.

So, when you visit Haedong Yonggungsa Temple, you’re not visiting a very old temple. You’re visiting a reconstruction of a very old temple. The temple you’re visiting is less than 100 years old.

Not that that matters. It’s a beautiful temple with an interesting history and perfect backdrop. But it’s something to keep in mind. You don’t realize you’re visiting a fairly new temple when you’re there. It feels like you’re visiting the original temple that was built hundreds of years ago.

Haedong Yonggungsa Temple

What to do at Haedong Yonggungsa Temple

Haedong Yonggungsa Temple is first and foremost a place of worship. A lot of the people you see at the temple are there to worship.

It’s important for you as a tourist try to stay out of the way as much as possible and respect the people who are there for religious reasons.

I’m not saying don’t explore the temple and have an amazing time. I’m just saying be respectful of the people around you.

Don’t walk in front of anybody worshipping, don’t take photos of people you don’t have permission to take photos of, and if there are spots that say no photos, respect that.

No that we have the basic respect ground rules out of the way, let’s talk about what you can expect to see and do at Haedong Yonggungsa Temple.

There are three different sections to Haedong Yonggungsa Temple

  • The main temple area
  • The Great Goddess Buddha (up a small set of stairs)
  • Golden Jijang Buddha

All three parts of the temple are worth visiting.

The most famous part of the temple is the Laughing Golden Buddha in the main temple area. It’s a huge golden Buddha with an amazing laughing facial feature. It’s not a super common facial feature to see on Buddha, which is why it’s so famous.

You shouldn’t miss visiting the Golden Jijang Buddha. It’s separated from the rest of the temple. It’s partway up back up the staircase to the exit (we’ll talk about the staircase in the accessibility portion of this article).

The section of the temple that holds the Golden Jijang Buddha gives you the best view of the main temple. You’re able to see how it looks right against the seaside.

It’s the viewpoint that gives you the breathtaking photos that come up when you search for Haedong Yonggungsa Temple.

When to Visit Haedong Yonggungsa Temple

Haedong Yonggungsa Temple is very busy. It’s busy all day every day.

There won’t be a time you visit Haedong Yonggungsa Temple that you’re not fighting the crowds. That’s the major downside of the temple.

That being said, the earlier you get there the less crowds you have to deal with.

I got there around 9am. It was already quite busy, but it was a lot quieter than it was when I left at around 11am.

When I left, there were lines of people at the entrance to the temple waiting to be allowed to go down the stairs to get to the main temple.

I suggest getting to Haedong Yonggungsa Temple between 8am and 9am to avoid as much of the crowds as possible.

You can go earlier, but it would require a very early start to your day unless you’re staying in the Haeundae Beach area.

Haedong Yonggungsa Temple

How Long Should I Spend at Haedong Yonggungsa Temple?

I suggest planning to spend between 60 and 90 minutes at Haedong Yonggungsa Temple.

This gives you time to see everything the temple has to offer without feeling rushed. Some people may get frustrated with the crowds and want to get in and out as quickly as possible, but most people will want to experience everything the temple has to offer.

How to Get to Haedong Yonggungsa Temple

It’s always a bit tough for my to give you directions on how to get somewhere specific because I don’t know where you’re staying.

For the purposes of this article, I’m going to assume you’re staying in either Seomyeon or near Haeundae Beach.

Those are two of the most popular areas to stay in Busan. Even if you’re not staying in one of those areas, just pop Haedong Yonggungsa Temple into your Google Maps, and you’ll find the best route.

Note: I know Naver Maps is the best option for people walking around Korea, but Google Maps works perfectly for public transportation. I don’t love Naver Maps and the interface, so I prefer to use Google Maps where I can in South Korea.

Travelling to Haedong Yonggungsa Temple from Seomyeon

There are two ways you can travel to Haedong Yonggungsa Temple from Seomyeon (my preferred area to stay in Busan).

  • Train
  • Taxi

Haedong Yonggungsa Temple is only 18km from Seomyeong, but that doesn’t mean it’s quick to get to.

It definitely isn’t. It took me close to two hours to get there because of how long the transfer from the first train to the second train took.

Haedong Yonggungsa Temple

Train

The first thing you’re going to do is jump on subway Line 1 at Seomyeong Station. Ride that all the way to Bujeon Station.

Get off the train at Bujeon Station and transfer to Donghae Line. Ride that all the way to OSIRIA Station.

When you get off the train, you’ll have to walk about 30 minutes to get to Haedong Yonggungsa Temple.

Follow the crowd of people because everybody is walking in the same direction.

You’ll walk past Lotte World Busan. Keep walking straight for quite a while. You’ll get to a point where you’ll be facing a bunch of stores/cafes.

Turn left there. Walk for quite a while. Then turn right when you see the sign for Haedong Yonggungsa Temple.

Follow the sidewalk you turn right onto, and you’ll walk directly to the entrance of Haedong Yonggungsa Temple.

Google Maps suggests it takes about 1.5 hours to travel from Seomyeong to Haedong Yonggungsa Temple, but that is only if you’re able to transfer immediately to your second train.

If you just miss it like I did, you’ll have to wait another 28 minutes for the next train to show up.

You can take bus 1001 from OSIRIA Station to just outside Haedong Yonggungsa Temple. If you do that, you’ll just have to walk down the last sidewalk path to the temple, which takes about 10 minutes.

Top Tip

Get a T-Money card at the start of your Korean trip to save time and money on public transportation.

Taxi

The quickest way to travel to Haedong Yonggungsa Temple is by taking a taxi. Taxis rides are very affordable in Korea, and it saves you a lot of time.

I honestly wish I took a taxi instead of the train. The train was not worth the hassle.

A taxi will take about 20 minutes and cost about $25 to $31 depending on the amount of traffic and lights you hit.

Trust me when I say it’s worth the convenience!

Travelling to Haedong Yonggungsa Temple from Haeundae Beach

Haeundae Beach is only 7km from Haedong Yonggungsa Temple, so it’s much easier to travel between the two.

You can either take a bus or a taxi.

Bus

The bus is the most affordable way to travel from Haeundae Beach to Haedong Yonggungsa Temple.

You need to get on bus 1003 at Songjeong Beach Station then ride it all the way to Haedong Yonggungsa Temple. No transfer required. You will to walk the last little way to the temple on foot, but it only takes about 10 minutes.

The downside to taking the bus is that it’s about a 30 minute walk to the bus station from wherever you’re staying in the Haeundae Beach area.

It’s a bit annoying, but at least it’s a beautiful walk!

Once you get tot he bus stop, it’s only a 10 minute bus ride to the temple. Buses tend to run every 15 minutes, so you shouldn’t have to wait long to catch a bus.

Taxi

Taking a taxi is going to be the quickest and most convenient way to travel to Haedong Yonggungsa Temple from Haeundae Beach.

It takes less than 10 minutes and will cost you about $15.

That’s very affordable. It’s worth the convenience of not having to take a long walk to and from the bus station in my opinion.

Haedong Yonggungsa Temple

What Else is Around Haedong Yonggungsa Temple

Haeundae Beach

The temple is only 7km from Haeundae Beach, which is arguably Busan’s most famous tourist attraction.

There are countless things to do at Haeundae Beach. The most popular ones are:

  • Haeundae Sky Capsule
  • Haeundae Beach Train
  • Tons and tons of delicious food
  • Beach and water activities

If you want to take the sky capsule, you have to make your reservation online in advance. It sells out super quickly.

You can purchase your ticket at the ticket booth on the same day you want to ride it. You have to get there early in the morning if you do that though. Otherwise it’ll be sold out if you show up in the afternoon.

Lotte World Busan

Lotte World Busan is within walking distance of Haedong Yonggungsa Temple. So, if you’re planning on visiting Lotte World while in Busan, you should lump the two together and do them on the same day.

Unlike Lotte World in Seoul, Lotte World Busan is outdoors instead of indoors.

There are more rides in Busan than there are in Seoul, and the rides tend to be more thrilling. There are still plenty of rides for children as well.

You save money by purchasing your ticket online in advance. You don’t have to book it very far in advance. The night before you plan to visit or even the morning of your visit is good enough.

Is Haedong Yonggungsa Temple Worth Visiting?

This is a bit tough for me to answer because I have conflicting feelings.

Haedong Yonggungsa Temple is beautiful. It’s one of the most beautiful temples I’ve every seen.

However, it’s also super busy.

Being shoulder to shoulder with countless people and having to shuffle along to find a spot to admire the temple takes a bit of the fun out of it.

I left Haedong Yonggungsa Temple with very conflicting feelings. I was glad I saw the temple, but I knew I’d never be back. Solely due to the crowds. You can’t get away from them no matter when you visit the temple.

My Honest Opinion

So, here are my honest thoughts on whether you should visit Haedong Yonggungsa Temple.

If you’re visiting Haeundae Beach or Lotte World Busan, it’s 100% worth the time to visit Haedong Yonggungsa Temple.

If you’re not visiting that part of Busan, I don’t think making the trek just to visit Haedong Yonggungsa Temple is worth it. Beomeosa Temple is easier to get to and less busy. It’s not quite as beautiful as Haedong Yonggungsa Temple, but I think it’s the best temple in Busan.

Now, just because I don’t think Haedong Yonggungsa Temple is worth the effort of going all the way there just to see it and nothing else in the region doesn’t mean you’ll feel the same way.

The tough part about telling you whether or not something is worth visiting is that it’s a completely personal choice.

Everybody has certain things they like doing and certain things they prioritize over everything else. Visiting Haedong Yonggungsa Temple may be the most important part of your trip to Busan even if you know there will be tons of people there.

The important thing is you know what to expect. Knowing that you’ll be surrounded by lots of people and not have a calm and relaxing experience helps you prepare.

It’s definitely something I wish I knew before visiting Haedong Yonggungsa Temple. I may have left my visit less stressed and with a more positive experience if I knew what I was getting into.

You’re already way ahead of me in that regard!

I knew there were going to be people at Haedong Yonggungsa Temple, but I had no idea it was going to be as crowded as it was.

Knowing what to expect helps a lot when it comes to enjoyment levels, so you may find you love Haedong Yonggungsa Temple more than I did simply because you knew what to expect out of your visit.

Haedong Yonggungsa Temple
Crowds at 9am walking down the 108 stairs to Haedong Yonggungsa Temple

Is Haedong Yonggungsa Temple Accessible?

No. Unfortunately, Haedong Yonggungsa Templee is not accessible.

You have to walk down 108 stairs from the entrance to the temple to get to the main temple. Then you have to walk back up those 108 stairs to leave the temple.

There is no way around walking up and down the stairs. There is no elevator and no ramp to make it more accessible.

It’s unfortunate that the temple isn’t accessible and not everybody can enjoy it.

There are plenty of older people with mobility issues who visit Haedong Yonggung Temple. They stay to the side of the stairs and take their time walk up and down them.

So, if you’re slower, you’re still able to visit the temple.

But if you have no ability to walk up and down 108 stairs, then you won’t be able to enjoy Haedong Yonggungsa Temple.

When is Haedong Yonggungsa Temple Open?

Haedong Yonggungsa Temple is open every day from 5am to 8pm.

Sometimes the hours change slightly on national or religious holidays, but the temple will still be open.

You can pretty much guarantee that if you show up between 5am and 8pm, you’ll be able to visit the temple. It’ll just be quite a bit busier on weekends and holidays.

Is there an Entrance Fee?

Nope! Haedong Yonggungsa Temple is completely free to visit.

There are places where you’re able to make a donation to the temple. It isn’t required, and nobody will pressure you to make a donation.

There are lots of souvenir stalls and food stalls at the entrance to the temple. Bring a little cash in case you want to grab a quick snack or drink after you visit the temple.

Haedong Yonggungsa Temple

Can I Take a Tour to Haedong Yonggungsa Temple?

Yes! There is a fabulous Busan day tour that includes a trip to Haedong Yonggungsa Temple.

It’s a very busy tour, so you’ll be tired at the end of the day. But it’s a great way for people who don’t have much time in Busan to experience the city’s highlights.

The tour takes you to:

  • Haedong Yonggungsa Temple
  • Haeundae Beach
  • Gamcheon Culture Village

You even get a ride in a sky capsule included in your tour!

As I said, it’s a very busy day, but it’s worth it if you only have one day to explore Busan. Plus the tour is super affordable and makes getting around Busan way more convenient. Because Haedong Yonggungsa Temple, Haeundae Beach, and Gamcheon Culture Village aren’t in the most convenient locations.

The Importance of Internet Safety

You rely on public wifi when you travel, and that puts you at a higher risk of having your personal online information stolen.

Even if you’re using a wifi egg or esim, you rely on public wifi at night at the hotel at a minimum. You’re leaving your online information at risk of being stolen, and this includes your banking information.

Trust me when I tell you that you don’t want the headache of cancelling bank cards while abroad because someone stole your banking information.

The only way to keep your online information safe when using public wifi is by installing a VPN on your devices.

A VPN essentially puts an invisible forcefield around your devices that makes it impossible for prying eyes to see your personal information. It makes using public wifi just as safe as using your home wifi where you’re the only person who knows the password.

I always say that if you can afford to travel, you can afford to protect your private online data with a VPN.

Haedong Yonggungsa Temple

My Favourite VPN

I’ve used a lot of different VPNs over my many years of travel. I hated most of them.

VPNs are notorious for slowing down your internet speed a lot. Most of the time I would get so frustrated with how slow my internet was and turn off my VPN. This put my at risk of having my information stolen, but I didn’t care because I wanted a decent internet speed.

That all changed when I started using NordVPN.

NordVPN is the fastest VPN on the market, and you can really feel the difference compared to other VPN providers.

I’ve been using NordVPN since 2018 and have never once felt a slowdown in the internet speed. And I put my internet through a lot of tests with blogging and video editing.

You can protect up to six devices with a single NordVPN subscription, so you can secure all your devices with one account.

The best part is how affordable NordVPN is. A two-year subscription costs less per month than a single Starbuck’s latte!

That’s a super small price to pay for the peace of mind you get knowing all your personal and private online information is safe and secure from prying eyes.

Conclusion

Holy moly. This article was way longer than I intended it to be. I guess there is a lot you need to know about visiting Haedong Yonggungsa Temple.

Hopefully I didn’t overwhelm you and you now have a better idea whether you want to visit Haedong Yonggungsa Temple. And if you do, how to best plan your visit.

Haedong Yonggungsa Temple is one of the most unique and beautiful temples in all of South Korea.

That’s why it’s so busy, which is also part of it’s downfall. If there weren’t shoulder to shoulder crowds all day every day, I’d have no problem wholeheartedly suggesting you visit Haedong Yonggungsa Temple.

It’s the crowds that make it harder to recommend that you must add Haedong Yonggungsa Temple to your Busan itinerary.

The crowds and how difficult and time consuming it is to get to the temple with public transportation.

I’m normally a really positive person, but I’m also honest.

Haedong Yonggungsa Temple wasn’t everything I wanted it to be. I don’t want you to trek all the way out there and be disappointed with your experience like I was.

However, now that you know to expect the crowds, you’re better able to prepare for your visit. You’ll have a realistic idea of what to expect, and you can go into your visit with your patience fully loaded and ready to use.

I think if I had been more prepared for the crowds, I would have enjoyed my time at Haedong Yonggungsa Temple way more than I did.

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