48 Hours In Busan, South Korea
1:00pm—Check into Park Hyatt Busan
The sleek and shiny Park Hyatt is the place to rest your head when you’re visiting Busan, with slick ocean views (make sure to book a room on a high floor) and all the luxury fittings you might expect from the fanciest sister in the Hyatt family.
Dining-wise, it offers the Living Room (mod French), Dining Room (grill and sushi) and Living Room Bar (a piano bar)—and what the hotel lacks in creative naming, it makes up for in quality. The in-house Patisserie serves up delightful sweet treats, and there’s a spa that’s open till 10 pm where you can leave your stresses behind.
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2:00pm—Visit Art Busan
Busan may be a beach town, but it’s got serious art chutzpah—the galleries are top notch, and, in 2012, the city hosted the first Art Busan fair, which has come a long way since it was founded seven years ago.
Many of the outfits that show there also lay claim to real estate at staple art fairs like Art Basel and Frieze, while visitors also have access to a total of 218 prime homegrown gallery efforts.
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4:20pm—Take a ride on the Art Bus, Art Busan’s bus tour
Book a spot on the complimentary Art Bus hosted by Art Busan, which will take you on a guided tour of the city’s top galleries, starting at Kukje Gallery and ending with Johyun Gallery, traversing Gallerymei, Lee & Bae and Gallery Serene Space in between, before returning after two hours to Bexco exhibition hall.
7:00pm—Dinner at Boksoondoga F1963
Fine-dine establishment Boksoondoga F1963 comes from the team behind Boksoondoga, the well-known makers of the milky sparkling rice wine known as makgeolli, and is situated in the wire-factory turned multi-use complex F1963.
The cuisine is new-wave Korean—reserve the day before in order to pre-order the course menu, or select from dishes on the main menu like Hanwoo beef tartare or cold raw fish soup.
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10:00am—Gamcheon Cultural Village
Up until 10 years ago, Gamcheon Village was a rundown neighbourhood filled with refugees, until the local Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism had the brilliant idea to unleash artists upon the area, transforming the walls and streets and infusing the village with a creative disposition.
Your Instagram account will thank you for making the visit—Gamcheon is now compared to Santorini and Macchu Pichu for its rows of pretty pastel houses, and you can’t swing a corner without coming upon another graffiti wall. There’s plenty to do here, too—if you get hungry, grab an icy bingsu from a dessert shop to hold you over till lunch.
1:00pm—Lunch and an ogle at Jagalchi Market
It sure ain’t fancy, but would you trust a seafood market if it was? Jagalchi Market is a Busan rite of passage, a multi-storey behemoth of market teeming with fresh catch.
If you’re adventurous, you can purchase your own underwater creatures on the first floor before heading to the second for them to cook your catch to your liking—otherwise, take the requisite tourist photos and then head straight up to order what catches your fancy from a menu.
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2:30pm—See the city from Busan Tower
It’s near Jagalchi Market, so it would be a waste to skip this viewing deck, which affords the best views possible of Busan. Stroll through the park below before heading 120 metres up to the top.
4:00pm—Stroll through Bosu-dong Book Alley
This alley filled with old, used book vendors may not yield you much in the way of literature to take home, but the experience of strolling through is quaint, as most of the shops have been there since the 1940s, and retain a bygone charm that can’t be replicated today.
Most of the volumes will be in Korean, but to make up for the decline in the book business, and to capitalise on the street’s fame across the country as a sightseeing stop, many of the shops now double as coffee shops, so visitors can play literati as they sip dark brews and discuss the issues of the day.
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6:00pm—Drinks at the Lounge at Park Hyatt Busan
Put your feet up in your room for a while and then head to the Lounge in the hotel—not your typical executive-club lounge, silly, but an open-to-public in-house bar featuring floor-to-ceiling glass windows from which to enjoy the sunset.
The wine list is nothing to sniff at, and there’s a respectable whiskey selection, too.
8:00 pm—Dinner at Ilpum Hanwoo
This upscale Korean barbecue joint is a favourite for its broad selection of classic meats and seafood and convivial atmosphere, and photos on the wall testify to the number of celebrities and world leaders that have walked through these doors.
Order as much as you possibly can and watch as your table is filled to the edge with small plates of food, which you can and should wash down with copious amounts of soju.
9:00am—Scrub-a-dub at Shinsegae Centum City Spa Land
The department store that holds the Guinness World Record for being the largest in the world naturally has its own jimjilbang, where you can enjoy steam and sauna, and bathe in plunge pools of various temperatures.
Don’t skip the scrub, an aggressive skin-sloughing treatment that will leave your skin baby soft like you wouldn’t believe.
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1:00pm—Lunch at Merciel
Named for the sea (la mer) and sky (le ciel), Merciel is all French fabulousness, thanks to its chef, who worked at Michelin-starred restaurants in Paris for over a decade before returning to conquer his home market.
At the second-floor restaurant—downstairs is a salon de thé—you can enjoy dishes like octopus confit with olive oil or prime-rated Korean tenderloin steak, while devouring breathtaking ocean views. It’s the perfect mental postcard by which to remember your short sojourn in this Korean city.
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