Monday, October 22, 2018

Living in Busan

Living in Busan has been one of the best decisions we have ever made for our family. This city feels like home and we love everything about it! You are never too far from both the mountains and beaches. We strongly believe that we have only scratched the surface of this city in just over a year. We will add to this blog post as we find more gems.

Fast Five Favourites:

  • Gamcheon Cultural Village - Our favorite place to take visitors. The colorful houses, winding alleys, cafes, shops, artwork, and beautiful views make for a nice day out.
  • Temples - We’ve been to Haedong Yongunggsa many times as it’s near Haeundae where we live. It’s unique as it’s located on the ocean which means you can enjoy the temple along with the ocean views. Beomeosa is great for autumn colors, and Swamgangsa is the best place to see all of the lanterns leading up to Buddha’s birthday. 
  • Hikes and walks - We like to venture up to Hwangeongsan mountain often. From the carpark, it’s about a 10 minute walk which makes it very accessible. The 360-degree views over Busan and to the ocean are amazing. On a Sunday morning, it is not very busy. It has the most stunning night time views too! Jangsan peak and Igidae coastal walk are two other famous hikes in Busan that we would recommend. 
  • Nature - This has a lot to do with the time of year. The cherry blossoms in Spring (late March/early April) are incredible and so are the autumn colors (late October/early November). A highlight of our year has been the pink muhly grass.
  • Beaches - Haeundae is the main beach. This means it can get busy, particularly in summer. But it is also where most of the action and events are. Grab something to eat at one of the beachfront cafes and enjoy the ocean views. Songjoeng is not far from Haeundae, where you can also enjoy a beachside walk and coffee. We like this beach as it is less crowded. For a quieter city beach and vibe, head to Gwangalli. 


  • Make sure to follow the stream up to Jangsan peak. This is the most scenic way up with the lowest incline. There are other tracks that are a little steeper and off the beaten path if you like that. This hike is about 3 hours return on average. 
  • The temperatures are nice in June and the sun is usually out (late June to late July is typically when the most rain hits). July-August is typically when the humidity and heat is the highest and it can be unpleasant at times. From December to March, winter has set in and it can get quite chilly. 
  • Depending on what you would like to do, about 5 nights would be a good amount of time to spend in Busan. It’s a big city and you could easily stay a week or two. 
  • Some of our favorite places to eat: Bake House (at the top of Dalmaji Hill), Smokehouse and Lable (located in Pale De Cz on Haeundae beach), Dal Thai (not far from the Bake House), Hurgsiru traditional duck restaurant in Gijang (about 25 minutes from Haeundae). Make sure to book a day before to order duck. This is a unique experience where you eat in traditional yellowstone caves. Gimbap and Korean BBQ are our favorite local foods. We get Gimbap at the shop above Jundong station, and there are many BBQ places around (Anga near Jundong station is where we often go as it’s close by). OPS is our favorite chain bakery if you need something quick to eat on the go.
  • Dalmaji road all the way to Songjeong beach, Hwangeongsan mountain, Samik apartments in Gwangalli, and Oncheonchon stream are our favorite places to see cherry blossoms. You can find pink muhly grass near the airport at Daejeon Ecological park. View our cherry blossom blog post here.
  • Start at the end of the Igidae coast where Oryukdo Islands are for more of a downward hike, and make sure to follow the coast all the way along. It’s about 3-4 hours. 
  • Markets - Jalgachi market is the largest seafood market in Korea. There’s all sorts of fresh seafood and be prepared for a cultural shock! Haeundae markets are small, but located by the beach and have a nice local feel. Nampo-dong is where you can find the main markets in Busan (and a lot of modern brands and shops). During the festive season in December, the streets are lit with beautiful lights everywhere.
  • Shopping - We often head to Shinsegae (where most of Busan shops). The shopping is great and so is the food court. Lotte outlet mall (near Haedong Yongungssa temple) is also a great place to shop. 
  • Feel like a workout? You can find many outdoor gyms at parks and public spaces. They are free to use and a fun experience.
  • Feeling brave? Head to one of the Jimjilbang for a unique experience at the spa. There are many baths and many naked bodies. It is a cultural awakening for sure. 
  • Buses and trains are an easy and affordable way to get around. It’s the cleanest subway we’ve used in the world. Taxies are also very reasonable. If you need an English speaking taxi driver, send us a DM!
  • The UN memorial is one of the only and the biggest UN cemetery in the world. It’s the most important site in the city where you can appreciate the history of the Korean War. 
  • Favorite websites for local happenings: Dynamic BusanHaps KoreaExpats in Busan FB page.

Baby/Toddler on Board:

  • Busan caters to children extremely well! The kid's cafes here are on another level! You can relax and enjoy food and drinks while your little babes play. Our regulars are Kid's President (across from Emart), Chouchoubonbon (near Marine City), Tayo Kids Cafe, Lilliput, Jumping On, and the kid's playroom in the Science Museum (located in Gijang). There are also many outdoor playgrounds around the city. Most of the larger apartment blocks will have a playground and we use these often with no problem.
  • Lilah calls all of the temples tree houses so she loves to play there. 
  • The beaches are very child-friendly and easy to swim in with small waves. They close the beach to swimmers in September (officially) which seems very early considering how warm it still is. People still swim but you may be told to get out of the water, something to be prepared for.
  • We have been able to find everything that we need for Lilah in Busan. Costco and Emart are our regular one-stop shops. 

Five things the photos do not show:

  • Busan has been recently voted the best destination in Asia by Lonely Planet.
  • English is not a common language in Busan. It can be frustrating at times but our advice would be to embrace it and enjoy the ride. We live in Haeundae where there are quite a lot of foreigners but we will often go to dinner and need to communicate with nods and smiles.
  • We have had many friends and family members come to stay with us in Busan. It is very special to show them around our new home.
  • We are fortunate to work for a wonderful school who helped us a lot with settling into Korean life. Lilah is learning Korean faster than us!
  • We escape Winter for three weeks each Christmas to go home to New Zealand. After living in Saudi Arabia, for three years we really felt the cold last Winter! We definitely prefer Spring, Summer, and Autumn.

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