The mountains and hills of Busan are easily its best feature, both helping to confine the city's sprawl and offering parks and natural refuges for residents to escape the stress of everyday life. Among Busan's wide range of nature walks, the one spanning Igidae Park is among the most popular. We hiked along its 5.2 kilometer coastal trail on a sunny afternoon.
The Busan National Gugak Center opened in 2008 with the mission of bringing Korea's culture to the masses. We went to an incredible Tuesday night performance which introduced us to some of the peninsula's traditional music, dance and drumming.
Crescent-shaped Gwangalli Beach is one of the most popular hangouts in Busan, offering fine sand, good swimming, and an exorbitant number of cafés, restaurants and bars. We were lucky enough to call it home for three months and spent a lot of time on the its entertaining promenade.
Set atop Daecheong Mountain, one of Busan's most central peaks, Jungang Park offers visitors an unparalleled view over the city and its port. Inaugurated almost twenty years ago, the park and its crowning Chunghon Tower are dedicated to the memories of the service personnel who gave their lives in the Korean War.
Not far from Eatery Alley, we discovered Bookstore Alley: a tiny road jam-packed with an insane number of used bookshops, cafes and shoppers. With a history going back 50 years, this is one of the coolest corners we found in Busan, and a great place to spend a spare hour... even if you don't read Korean.
Turns out that Busan is the kind of city which can have a giant mountain right in its center, topped by an ancient fortress, accessible by cable car... and it's not a big deal. We were shocked when we learned of the cable car up Mt. Geumjeongsanseong, and Busan was all "Oh yeah, that. I forgot about that." It doesn't even appear in the various "must-do" lists we've read for Busan, while in most other cities it would be the top highlight!
Manga is a Japanese phenomenon, but comics and animated TV shows are also big business in Korea, where they're known as manhwa. During our first weekend in Busan, a manhwa festival called Comic World was being held at the BEXCO convention hall. Wild Korean youth dressed in freaky cosplay? No way we were missing that.
It took us about 91 minutes walking around Busan to come to a definite conclusion. No way would 91 days be enough to thoroughly explore this city! The beaches, temples, disparate neighborhoods, mountains, street markets, parks... let alone the food. Koreans are known for their work ethic, and I think we're going to have to follow suit to have any chance of seeing even a fraction of the things Busan offers.
We hadn't even discussed it with each other, it was just understood. An unspoken contract between me and Jürgen, sealed the very moment we learned of its existence: the first place we would visit in Busan, before any temples or museums or beaches, was going to be Shinsegae Centum City -- the world's largest department store. That title is Guinness-certified and uncontested. Shinsegae is three times the size of Macy's, which was the previous record-holder.
Busan, South Korea's second city, doesn't approach Seoul in terms of size or global influence, but is home to a metropolitan population of 3.6 million, and one of the busiest ports in the world. Busan is found on the south-eastern end of the peninsula, closer to Japan than the capital. An important business center full of suits, concrete and convention halls, Busan also boasts popular beaches, nature reserves and an urban landscape shaped by green mountains that pop up almost randomly amid the skyscrapers.