1. Choryang 1941 and Choryang 845
Located high atop Busan’s densely populated hills overlooking the sea, these eateries have quickly become two of the city’s hottest destinations with their sophisticated designs and breathtaking views of the city. Choryang 1941 is a café occupying a renovated colonial-era villa. Though the café is known for its enticing selection of flavoured milks – which includes coffee milk, ginger milk and, in spring, cherry blossom milk – the real draw is the architecture. Much effort was put into preserving the charm of the historical villa, including its beautiful Japanese-style wooden interior with circular windows. A visit will make you feel as though you’ve been transported to another time.
Situated just in front of Choryang 1941, Choryang 845 is a former factory that has been transformed into a restaurant and coffee shop. The kitchen serves up Korean cuisine prepared from seasonal ingredients procured daily at Busan’s major outdoor markets, while the coffee menu offers some interesting espresso variations, including an iced latte with ice cream topped with one of Busan’s famous crispy peanut pancakes known as ssiat hotteok. The view of the city through the plate glass windows is so spectacular, however, that you might not even notice what you’re eating.
Nestled in a residential district near Busanjin Station, this tea house was originally built in 1943, as the home of colonial Japanese railroad administrators. The two-storey wooden building is considered one of the city’s best-preserved pieces of architecture from the period. With its wooden aisles, tatami-covered floors and recessed alcoves, it is characteristic of shoin-zukuri, a style of Japanese residential architecture derived from the homes of warriors and Buddhist monks. The property also boasts some lovely Japanese-style gardens, and is maintained by preservationist group National Trust for Cultural Heritage.
Inside, one can enjoy a selection of traditional Korean teas, including favourites such as nokcha (green tea), daechucha (jujube tea) and maesilcha (plum tea). The tea house also serves some pretty flower teas, prepared from dried flowers steeped in water.
Social corporation Kitchen Five transformed an old factory warehouse on the gritty industrial waterfront of Yeongdo island into a “social economy lounge” that’s part-cafeteria, part-co-working space, part-makers’ workshop and entirely cool. A food truck permanently parked at one end of the cavernous complex prepares coffee, cookies and baguette sandwiches. You can purchase postcards, notebooks and other design products as well. Be sure to catch views of the crowded harbour through the second-floor window – few places in the city make better use of their surroundings.
Mumyeong Ilgi also hosts plenty of Busan’s cultural events including flea markets, concerts, poetry readings, art exhibitions and drawing classes. Not far from here are other places of interest, including the historical Yeongdo Bridge, Korea’s first drawbridge, and Kangkangee Culture Village, an old shipbuilding district the authorities have beautified with wall murals, installation pieces and other works of art.
Steel wire manufacturer Kiswire opened a factory in Busan’s Suyeong district in 1963. The company shut down operations at the plant in 2008, but in 2016 converted the factory into an exhibition hall to take part in the Busan Biennale art festival. It’s been a welcome addition to the city’s cultural scene ever since.
The cultural complex aims to bring people, art and nature together through its diverse programming and eco-friendly initiatives, such as repurposing salvaged material into new communal structures. In addition to exhibition spaces, the complex houses a concert hall, café, bookstore, beer hall, makgeolli (rice wine) pub and outdoor gardens. The café, a branch of Korean specialty coffee brand Terarosa, is an especially unique space filled with reminders of the complex’s industrial past, decorated with empty wire spools and disused machinery, and the magnificent coffee bar is made from the old factory’s steel plates. As a further reminder, the café also features a wire installation piece by artist Son Mongjoo.
An Instagram favourite, this picturesque coffeeshop is a short walk from Busan Station, in the cosmopolitan shopping and entertainment district known as Texas Street. The handsome red brick building, built in 1922, has enjoyed a colourful past. Originally the site of Baekje Hospital, the city’s first modern medical centre, it has over the decades served as a Chinese restaurant, military barracks, police station and even as a consulate for the Republic of China.
In 2015, furniture manufacturer Brown Hands opened a “design café” in the historic building while keeping the original brick and tile interior relatively untouched. When sunlight pours in through the massive windows and softly illuminates the details, the café looks like a truly magical place where past and present intersect.
In the same gritty industrial district as Mumyeong Ilgi is this popular café in a disused swimming complex. As you can imagine, it’s a big place – almost cathedral-like, thanks to the high ceiling and natural light that enters through the skylights. The seating options are numerous – grab a table inside the empty pool itself, or enjoy the unique atmosphere from one of the lounge chairs placed poolside. Even the old locker rooms have been converted into dining areas. Signs warning against running and diving pay tribute to the space’s history while objets d’art placed throughout add to the quirky ambience.
The menu features classic espresso variations like Americanos and lattes, as well as some intriguing signature beverages such as the mango yoghurt smoothie and the strawberry cherry latte. There’s an excellent assortment of desserts, too, including cakes, scones and injeolmi (rice cake) buns with fillings such as cream, red bean jam and butter.