Pocket guide to Busan: 11 best eats and sights
The stars are here, the queues are long and the fans are screaming. It's official: the Busan International Film Festival (BIFF) is in full swing. And although there's no shortage of cinematic entertainment for the masses in this beach town, you might be wondering what's the best way to spend the time in between films.
For the bests eats and sights for Korea's second largest city, here are 11 recommendations to check out while staying close to the scene in Haeundae Beach and Centum City.
1. Shinsegae Centum City
Yes, the Food Hall at Shinsegae Department Store is basically a mall food court, but that's such a misnomer for this smorgasbord of gustatory delights. Fresh sushi? They've got it. Sizzling Mongolian grill? Check. Both sweet and savory crepes? Got you covered.
Now that the home of BIFF has moved to the Busan Cinema Center (BCC) at Centum City, this outstanding food court is even more convenient for festivalgoers. Three out of four of the festival's screening venues -- CGV, Lotte Cinema and the BCC -- are at Centum City.
Don't be surprised if you bump into a director or two enjoying a meal between films.
Shinsegae Department Store, B1, 1495 U-dong, Haeundae-gu, Busan (부산 해운대구 우동 1495 B1층); +82 1588 1234; department.shinsegae.com
2. Gukbap Alley, Haeundae Market
Is there a simpler pleasure than a hot bowl of gukbap to warm the insides on an early fall night? When in Haeundae, cap off a long day of movies -- or chasing after stars -- with a comforting bowl of rice doused in spicy broth in the back-alley market.
Haeundae Market enjoys the distinction of having a whole row of delicious gukbap joints, most of them wonderfully ramshackle.
Kim Hee-dae Halmae Wonjo Gamasot Gukbap (Granny Kim Hee-dae's Original Cauldron Gukbap), under a yellow sign at the end of the row, wins for most rough-around-the-edges interior with its scribble-scrawled walls. But 48-nyeon Jeontong Haeundae Wonjo Halmae Gukbap (The Original 48-year-old Traditional Haeundae Granny Gukbap), just next door under the red sign, tends to have nicer grannies at the stove and, some would argue, better fare.
But really, they're all good, cheap (₩3,500/bowl) and claim to be the "original." So just take your pick.
Kim Hee-dae Halmae Wonjo Gamasot Gukbap (Granny Kim Hee-dae's Original Cauldron Gukbap): 612-2 U-1-dong, Haeundae-gu, Busan (부산 해운대구 우1동 612-12); +82 51 743 3888
48-nyeon Jeontong Haeundae Wonjo Halmae Gukbap (The Original 48-year-old Traditional Haeundae Granny Gukbap): 612-2 U-1-dong, Haeundae-gu, Busan (부산 해운대구 우1동 612-12); +82 51 746 0387
3. An Ga
The very handy expat magazine Busan Haps doesn't recommend much Korean food, but one of the local restaurants it does list is An Ga Korean barbecue.
Don't be thrown off by the name -- An Ga in this instance means "comfortable home," not "don't want to go." And really, aside from the vegans in town, no one would say they don't want to eat here. Serving what's trumpeted as the best meat in town, this Korean barbecue restaurant is decorated handsomely, resembling an izakaya.
1276-1 Jung-dong, Haeundae-gu, Busan (부산 해운대구 중동 1276-1; +82 51 742 7852
It's always a good morning when you start with a stop at OPS bakery. At just ₩5,000, the morning set, complete with toast, a fry-up, salad and coffee, is a steal, and a great way to rev up for a day of cinematic revelry.
The quality of the baked goods at this adorable, sunny space is hard to beat. One Belgian resident of Busan said OPS's pain au chocolat is even better than what he can get in Brussels.
1429-6 Jwa-dong, Haeundae-gu, Busan (부산 해운대구 좌동 1429-6); +82 51 704 1088
Juliette Binoche isn't here at BIFF 2011 (she graced us with her presence last year), but she'd no doubt smile at the Mexican-spiced cocoa at this café and chocolatier.
Enjoy hot cocoa that's so rich, it tastes like pure melted chocolate, and a totally chilled-out, almost-tourist-free vibe just a 15-minute walk from the madness of beachfront BIFF Village.
Suite 104, 1768-4 Jung-dong, Haeundae-gu, Busan (부산 해운대구 중동 1768-4 104호); +82 51 742 2427; www.bellaluna.kr
7. Red Door
Red Door advertises itself as a Chinese restaurant, but it's Taiwanese through and through. Fill up on divine, gleaming tangsuyuk pork free of the heavy syrupy glop of most sweet-and-sour sauce and gogeup yachae bokkeum, braised vegetables that pack a surprising punch.
One of Red Door's best deals is its four-course lunch set, available for a comparable song at ₩13,000. Befriend the Taiwanese-Korean chef Wang Ji-yoon aka "Doong," and he'll whip up some off-the-menu delicacies like crispy fried frogs' legs coated in zesty sauce. They really do taste like chicken.
8. Millak Hoe Town Market
Like Tsukiji in Tokyo, Busan's Jagalchi Fish Market has become a downright cliché stop for tourists. Not to knock Jagalchi's awesome atmosphere, but cinephiles in town hardly have the time to make the cross-town trip.
Luckily, there's the much closer option of the Millak Hoe Town Market to get your raw fish fix. You'll encounter far fewer tourists, and it's just a 10-minute cab ride from Centum City.
Chat up the friendly ajumma fishmongers on the first floor, pick out your catch for the day (or, rather, get a recommendation) and appreciate a gorgeous seaside view from one of the restaurants upstairs. Another option: choose your hoe, get it expertly butchered, grab some chojang for dipping and head outdoors to the adjacent coastal park.
Gwangan is the closest subway station, and the walk to the hoe market takes you along peaceful Gwangalli Beach. It's a welcome opportunity to stretch your legs after film screenings.
181-206 Millak-dong, Suyeong-gu, Busan (부산 수영구 민락동 181-206); +82 51 757 3015
9. Haedong Yonggungsa Temple
A mere 30-minute cab ride from Haeundae Station, Haedong Yonggungsa Temple is easily the most spectacular temple in all of Korea.
Built into cliffs on the East Sea (Sea of Japan), the temple gets an added dose of majesty when the winds are high with huge, crashing waves that could spatter you if you’re not careful. The effect is so dramatic, you could call it downright scary -- in an awesome way.
The stunning sea view that sets off the traditional colors of the temple exterior really does help you get in touch with nature, just as the Buddha would prescribe.
416-3 Sarang-ri, Gijang-eup, Gijang-gun, Busan (부산 기장군 기장읍 사랑리 416-3); +82 51 722 7744; www.yongkungsa.or.kr/en/
Getting there: If you’d prefer to take public transport, grab bus 181 from exit 7 of Haeundae Station. Get off at the Yonggungsa Temple stop.
10. Igidae Park
As a city by the sea, Busan has many impressive rocky vistas, the most idyllic of which is Taejongdae. The problem for BIFF bums? That’s over an hour away.
Much closer, and arguably more beautiful, is Igidae Park. These cliffs get their name from two 16th-century gisaeng (Korean geishas) who, protesting Japan’s claim to Korean land, seized a Japanese military commander during a feast and dragged him to his stony, watery grave.
From Igidae, you can get a panoramic view of Busan’s Gwangan Bridge, Haeundae and Centum City from across the bay. Make the lookout a little bit nicer with a fizzy guzzle of makgeolli from the convenient snack bar, alongside trek-happy ajummas and ajeosshis.
29 Yongho-3-dong, Nam-gu, Busan (부산 남구 용호3동 29번지); +82 51 607 6361; tour.bsnamgu.go.kr
Getting there: Take the subway to Kyungsung University/Pukyong National University station. From exit 5, make a 180-degree turn and follow the sidewalk around the right-hand corner. Pass the T-World store and a Paris Baguette until you reach the bus stop. Take any of the following buses -- 20, 22, 24, 27, 39, 131 -- to the Igidae Ipgu stop.
From there, cross the street toward the Davich optical. Follow the sign to Igidae Park along the main asphalt road, veering left at the fork. Get your quads pumping and break a sweat by walking uphill, past the Igidae Cathedral. Keep following the main road until you hit the information booth. The path just to the left of the booth provides the easiest access to the view.
11. Spa Land
Worn out by those marathon Midnight Passion screenings and stalking celebs? Relax in a major way at Spa Land, hands-down the best jjimjilbang bathhouse in Korea.
With no kids allowed and a luxurious atmosphere befitting its home in the Centum City Shinsegae Department Store, Spa Land is the place to get totally blissed out.
The pristine relaxation room, with its cushy recliners and personal screens, seriously feels like the spaceship in “Wall-E.”
Shinesegae Department Store, 1/F, 1495 U-dong, Haeundae-gu, Busan (부산 해운대구 우동 1495 1층); +82 1588 1234; www.shinsegae.com