A brilliantly bustling port city

The busiest port in South Korea and the country’s second largest city, this important trading hub not only offers frenetic street life, vast indoor and outdoor markets, huge multiplex cinemas and giant shopping malls for a full-on urban fix, but also an easy escape to peaceful hiking trails and scenic views within unspoilt coastal and inland nature parks.

Beach-lovers are also well catered for, as are gastronomes looking for top notch local produce, which ranges from fresh seafood to flavourful craft beers. Peak month of the hectic social calendar is October when the city hosts its annual International Film Festival as well as a spectacular fireworks extravaganza.

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Top things to do in Busan

At the top of the sightseeing list should be the vast Jagalchi Market near the port in Jung-gu. This is the country’s largest fish market and stalls are piled high with mounds of silvery flesh where you can immerse yourself in an overload of slimy tentacles, bulbous eyes, gaping mouths and spiky shells.

In the live section, with its tank of slithering eels, clambering lobsters and side-stepping crabs, you can pause in one of the many food outlets for a taste of raw or freshly grilled seafood snacks washed down with a shot of soju.

When you’ve had your fill of fish, jump on the metro and head to Beomeosa, a spectacularly-located Buddhist temple to the north of the city centre. The buildings you see today mostly date from the 17th-century and are set against a dramatic mountainous backdrop. The prime time to visit is late spring when the wisteria growing around the monument is at its best, but it makes for an imposing sight all year round.
From here there are hiking trails around Mt Geumjeongsan and up to its summit at 802 m, but if you’d rather enjoy the views the easy way, opt for a ride on the Geumgang Park cable car. Pack a picnic to eat in a scenic spot or eat lunch in one of the restaurants specialising in succulent grilled goat meat.

Nature lovers can also take in Taejongdae park on the southernmost tip of Yeongdo-gu island with its iconic lighthouse, long sea views and dramatic cliff-scape or take a stroll along the boardwalks of lesser-known Igidae park which offer breathtaking views of the Gwangandaegyo suspension bridge.

For sea and sand, head to Haeundae Beach in eastern Busan, the city’s most popular stretch of coast – and don’t miss the Gamcheon Culture Village, a once down-at-heel suburb of central Busan made up of twisting lanes and small, hillside houses. Now transformed into a colourful artistic hub, it’s the perfect place for an hour or so of relaxed exploration – and don’t forget to take a camera.

No visit would be complete without a dip into the city’s burgeoning craft beer scene. Some breweries, including the Galmegi Brewery Co located near Gwangalli Beach, will take guests on a behind-the-scenes tour followed by a tasting of fruity brews, ranging from light and refreshing to sour and salty. Expect to have your beer accompanied by a Korean favourite ‘chi-maek’, the ubiquitous – and delicious – spicy, fried chicken.

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