South Korea’s second city
The great outdoors
Beaches are not often associated with South Korea, but Busan delivers with a beautiful coastline of sparkling ocean, dramatic rock formations and golden beaches, despite the ubiquitous high rise developments. Haeundae Beach in the east of the city is the most popular, with its attractive sweep of soft sand packed out in summer by enthusiastic locals and young international English teachers. Adding to the experience are the free plastic buckets and spades for making sandcastles, portable goals for beach soccer, nets for volleyball and even giant touch-screen internet terminals on the boardwalk. Aim to visit on a weekday to avoid the weekend crowds, when it becomes difficult to find a patch of sand to lay down your towel. There are six city beaches in total, with other worthwhile spots including Gwangalli and Songjeong, with their appealing cafes and nightlife scenes.
As well as being blessed by a scenic coastline, Busan also has the good fortune to be fringed by green forested hills, which are perfect for hiking. The trek up to Geumjeongsan, the ruined site of the former Geumjeong Fortress, is one of the most scenic walks in South Korea. Starting from the atmospheric Buddhist Beomeosa temple, the 8.8km trail takes you through tranquil woodland past several 17th-century crumbling stone fortresses and stunning forest outlooks. If you are not up for a full day’s walk, the site is reachable by cable car as well. From the South Gate of Geumjeongsan, you can extend your walk to take in Seokbulsa Temple, with its Buddhist statues built into the rock face and panoramic views over the city.