Subdivided by mountains and islands, Busan can seem like not just one city but a dozen. What ties them all together is the energy that flows from the bustling markets, docks and factories. The vitality doesn’t subside with nightfall — that’s when meat starts to sizzle at barbecue restaurants, the first rounds of shots are poured at drinking tents and the monumental landmarks light up. In recent years, the port city has been transitioning from gritty to glitzy, with one milestone being Haeundae’s LCT Tower, unveiled in 2019 as the country’s second-tallest building. Currently, Busan’s historic north port is undergoing a massive transformation, being converted into parks, exhibition venues, business spaces and more. Particularly noteworthy is Busan Opera House, slated to open there in 2026. But despite the arrival of high culture, it’s certain the city will remain down-to-earth. No need to stand on ceremony — follow the locals and dive right in.
When to go
Busan is temperate for most of March to November but gets hot and muggy in July and August, with frequent downpours. The mercury hits freezing in December and January, but this makes escaping to one of Busan’s many delightful cafés even more enjoyable during these winter months.
How to get around
The city metro and bus systems are wide-ranging and efficient. Taxis are common and affordable; note that regular ones are typically silver color while deluxe ones are black. Rechargeable Tmoney and Cashbee cards — available at major convenience stores — work for all three modes of transportation. Cycling is best enjoyed in the beachfront Haeundae district and on riverside paths.