Is Busan Worth Visiting? (My Surprising Answer)

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Busan is the second largest city in South Korea, but does that mean Busan is worth visiting?

This is a hard question to answer. You may think that Busan is like Seoul because it’s the second largest city in the country.

It’s not. Busan has a very distinct feel to it, and it feels very different from Seoul.

Some of that has to do with the landscape. Busan is built between the mountains and the sea. It has a very small amount of space it can take up, and it’s basically one long city. It can take a couple hours on public transportation to travel from one end of Busan to another.

It’s hard to describe it, but Busan also has a different vibe to it. You can really only know what I’m trying to say if you’ve been to both Seoul and Busan.

Even though it’s the capital city, Seoul has a more laid-back, chill vibe to it. Busan definitely has a more big city vibe with lots of hustle and bustle and people trying to get where they need to go in a hurry.

But that comparison between Seoul and Busan doesn’t really help you decide the answer to the question is Busan worth visiting.

I think visiting Busan is worth it if you have a few weeks to tour around Korea. I wouldn’t suggest you visit Busan instead of Seoul, and if you only have time to visit Seoul and one other city, I’d probably recommend you choose a different city over Busan.

In this article, I’m going to help you answer that question. I’ll give you all the pros and cons of visiting Busan. You’ll have all the information you need to know to decide whether visiting Busan needs to be added to your Korean itinerary or whether you can skip it and visit a different city.

Reasons Busan is Worth Visiting

We’ll start with the good stuff. There is a lot to like about Busan. Don’t let my introduction to this article make you think that Busan isn’t a good city.

There are lots of positives about Busan that may make the answer to the question is Busan worth visiting a yes.

You have learn about them and decide for yourself!

Gamcheon Culture Village
top tip

It’s cheaper to rent pocket wifi at the airport than it is to install an esim on your phone in Korea.

Busan is Home to Some of Korea’s Best Attractions

Busan has some amazing tourist attractions. I think it has two of the best tourist attractions in all of South Korea.

Gamcheon Culture Village is one of my favourite places in South Korea. It’s a small community built into a hill. You walk around the neighbourhood. It’s bright, colourful, fun, and one of the most unique places in Korea. No trip to Busan is complete without visiting Gamcheon Culture Village.

I also think Busan is home to one of the best museums in South Korea. It’s called the Busan Museum. It covers the history of the region and the city’s modernization. The layout is superb, and you learn a lot about Busan. I visit the Busan museum every time I visit Busan. That’s how good of a museum it is.

The last outstanding attraction Busan has in my opinion is Beomeosa Temple. It’s located on the base of a mountain and is the most beautiful temple in Busan (in my opinion). It’s often an overlooked tourist attraction, but you should add it to your Busan itinerary.

Wait! What About  Haedong Yonggungsa Temple and Haeundae Beach?!

You may have read my list of the top attractions in Busan and been shocked that I didn’t include Haedong Yonggungsa Temple or Haeundae Beach.

Those are two of the most commonly known tourist attractions in Busan, but they’re not my favourite.

In fact, I think both of them are overrated.

Excuse me while I hide and avoid have tomatoes thrown at me after saying that.

I have an entire article about visiting Haedong Yonggungsa Temple as a tourist and whether or not it is worth visiting. To spoil it, Haedong Yonggungsa Temple is gorgeous, but it’s so crowded that a lot of the charm of the temple is lost.

Haeundae Beach is without a doubt the most well known tourist attraction in Busan. Anybody who has watched TikTok or Googled Busan has seen the famous sky capsules.

They definitely make you want to visit Haeundae Beach.

The issue is that they’re so hard to book, and they’re very overpriced. I cannot believe how much they charge to ride the sky capsule and the fact that it sells out quickly every day.

I just don’t get the hype.

The beach itself if beautiful and worth visiting the area, but if you’re going just to experience what you see online, it won’t be exactly what you’re hoping for.

Busan is Very Different from Seoul

One of the things that makes Busan worth visiting is how different it is from Seoul. I was honestly surprised how different the two cities are. I expected them both to be similar because they’re the two largest cities in the country, but they aren’t.

You get to experience a different side of South Korea in Busan while still enjoying the perks of a big city like reliable public transportation, nightlife, and the convenience of having everything you want within walking distance.

Busan has more of a big city, always on the go vibe than Seoul does.

Seoul is home to Korea’s royal history. It’s filled with palaces and traditional, old architecture. It’s also a much more spread out city. It has more room to grow, and that’s given different areas of Seoul the ability to grow their own distinctive personality.

Busan, on the other hand, is basically the exact opposite. Yes Busan played a major role in South Korea’s history. Especially during times of occupation and war. It’s a port city and was the most important city in the country for a long time. It was even the temporary capital at one point. Learn more about that at the Busan Museum!

But, it doesn’t have the long, historical, and royal history like Seoul.

It’s also more crowded. There is only so much room Busan has to grow. Even as it grows out, the major hub areas of Busan are already defined, and people continue to flock to them. It’s harder for new areas to define themselves.

This means that there are a lot of people are going to the same areas in Busan.

This gives the city a busier feel. It’s more crowded, the metros are fuller, and you rarely find yourself walking on an empty sidewalk like you do in Seoul.

So, even though Busan is South Korea’s second largest city, it feels very different from Seoul. And that’s a good thing! Especially for tourists who want to experience different sides of the country.

Haedong Yonggungsa Temple

It’s Right on the Water

Korea is an island, and a lot of people want to experience the water when they visit. That’s not the easiest thing to do in Seoul, but it’s super easy to do in Busan.

That’s definitely one of the reasons Busan is worth visiting for a lot of people.

I’m not a water girlie, so Busan being on the water isn’t the reason I chose to visit the city for the first time. But it is a reason a lot of my friends add Busan to their South Korea itinerary.

Gangneung is another great city to check out if you want to visit the beach but get away from the big city.

Reasons Busan Isn’t Worth Visiting

Now that you’ve read all the positives about Busan, you may be thinking the answer to the question is Busan worth visiting is obviously yes.

Don’t start booking your trip just yet. We also need to talk about why you may not want to visit Busan.

Busan Doesn’t Have Much of a Personality

I know I’ve talked about how Busan is different from Seoul and that it has a different vibe. What I haven’t mentioned is that the vibe Busan has is just that of another big city.

It lacks the lustre and star power in my opinion.

I think other than the few amazing attractions Busan has (mentioned in the pros section of this post), Busan doesn’t really have much going for it.

It doesn’t have anything that wows you. Seoul, on the other hand, has so much personality that Busan feels flat after visiting Seoul.

This may not make you not want to visit Busan, but it’s something to consider. I took my parents on a three-week tour through Korea in 2023, and they felt the same way. They loved everywhere we went, but they felt Busan was just meh. It didn’t have the same charm as the rest of the country.

Busan is More Crowded and Harder to Get Around

As I mentioned earlier, there isn’t a lot of space in Busan. This means everybody is going to the same few areas.

This makes everything feel way more crowded and overwhelming. Even though Busan has a significantly smaller population than Seoul, it feels more crowded and congested.

No matter where you go in Busan, there are crowds. It’s hard to find space for yourself.

In terms of getting around, it’s also more difficult. Busan has an excellent metro system, but it isn’t as robust as the one in Seoul. There are only 4 lines on Busan’s metro compared to 22 in Seoul.

This means the trains are always crowded. I got on the train at 8am on a Saturday thinking it would be quiet, but it was absolutely packed. There was barely enough room for me to stand.

Only having 4 metro lines also means you have to rely on the bus more often. You can’t get to all of Busan’s top tourist attractions just with the metro. You’ll be taking the bus at some point. That’s not so bad, but the bus is also very busy, so you’ll probably have to stand on the bus as well.

Busan, South Korea

Busan’s Tourist Attractions

I bet you’re wondering how can Busan’s tourist attractions be both a positive and negative? That doesn’t help answer the question is Busan worth visiting!

I already talked about the best things to do in Busan and the things that are overhyped in Busan. What I want to talk about now is the overall choice of things to do in Busan.

Overall, even though Busan has some of the best things to do in all of Korea, I think it lacks the history, architecture, and charm most people are looking for when they visit Korea.

You don’t have the palaces like Seoul. There isn’t the historical significance like Gyeongju. And Busan doesn’t have the natural beauty of Jeju Island.

What Busan has to offer is really good, but is it enough to make Busan a priority on your trip to Korea? I can’t answer that question for you. Only you can.

What I will say is that you shouldn’t add Busan to your Korean itinerary just because it’s the second largest city in Korea. Do your research and decide if what Busan has to offer is what you’re looking for out of your trip to Korea.

You also need to consider how long you want to stay in Busan. It isn’t like Seoul where you can spend 7 to 10 days in the city and never run out of things to do. I suggest you plan to spend 2 to 3 days in Busan. That’ll give you time to experience the city without getting bored.

Smiling Gold Buddha

Is Busan Worth Visiting? My Final Opinion

I’ve given you quite a bit of information in this article, but I haven’t given you my honest opinion about whether Busan is worth visiting.

I wanted you to know the pros and cons of visiting Busan, so you could decide if you wanted to visit Busan on your own before I weighed in.

But here we go. Here is my honest (and slightly controversial) answer to the question is Busan worth visiting.

I think Busan shouldn’t be your top priority when planning your trip to South Korea. Korea has so many amazing cities that offer more history and culture than Busan. If you only have time to visit Seoul and one other city, you should prioritize a different city to experience a different side of the country. If you have two or three weeks to tour Korea, then Busan should definitely be on your itinerary. It all comes down to how long you have in the country in my opinion. For short trips, I would skip Busan. For longer trips, you should definitely visit Busan.

Is Busan Worth Visiting? (My Surprising Answer)Is Busan Worth Visiting? (My Surprising Answer)Is Busan Worth Visiting? (My Surprising Answer)
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