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If you’re looking for the perfect setting for ultra cute and vibrantly colorful Instagram shots, Gamcheon Culture Village is ideal, with its polychromatic (that’s fancy talk for rainbow-colored) background juxtaposed with deep blue sky and ocean in the background.
Whether you Instagram or not, Gamcheon Culture Village is a must for anyone who is interested in the arts, photography, or simply visiting quirky, one-of-a-kind attractions that will literally make your jaw drop.
Chances are that if you are planning a trip to Busan, Gamcheon Culture Village is already very high on your list, if not the number one reason you are visiting the city. To see how to fit Gamcheon Culture Village into your travel plan, consult my recommended Busan itinerary and my list of the 50 best things to do in Busan!
In recent years, Gamcheon Culture Village, also referred to as “Taeguekdo Village,” has become one of the most popular sights in Busan, understandably so. There are already several other good guides to Gamcheon Culture Village out there—I’ll let you Google yourself to uncover the others.
Still, I wanted to put something together to share my experience, photos, and tips after my recent visit. I don’t know if any of these photos will ever make it onto my spiritual travel-focused Instagram page, which you may find boringly lacking in selfies and staring-into-the-scene shots, so I’ve got to do something with the photos, right?
A Short History of Gamcheon Culture Village
Gamcheon is a neighborhood of Saha-gu (gu = district), one of the 15 districts that make up Busan, the second largest city in South Korea.
The district faces the sea is at the southern end of the city, a short drive west of popular Nampo and Gwangbok neighborhoods in Jung-gu. See here for my complete guide to best neighborhoods and hotels to stay in Busan for more information about these areas.
Since the village sits between and occupies the sides of two hills surprisingly close to the sea, the narrow lanes and staircases cutting through town are extremely vertical in most places, which is why the village has been predictably dubbed such things as the “Machu Picchu of Busan” and “Santorini of South Korea.”
Gamcheon Culture Village was originally a shanty town that was settled by refuges of the Korean War and followers of the Taeguekdo religion. Beginning in 2009, Saha district received funding for the government to renovate the village into a super colorful arts district, and the project was mostly completed by the end of 2010.
The plan, officially called the “Gamcheon Village Art Project” really worked, and Gamcheon Culture Village has been transformed into one of the most popular and iconic attractions in Busan and all of South Korea. The project also provides a variety of free services to villagers, including shuttle buses, laundry facilities, public baths, house repair services, and more.
Changes are ongoing, and locals and artistic groups are currently working on making use of empty residences and adding more rooftop gardens to the village.
Gamcheon Culture Village is far from an undiscovered gem, if it ever was one, with nearly 2 million visitors per year. Masses of selfie-snapping locals and tourist descend on the village every day, so I would advise you to arrive early and on a weekday (see more on that in the ‘When to Visit Gamcheon Culture Village’ section below).
During my visit, I noticed several signs around town reminding visitors to be quiet during their visit, as many of the residents still live here and just want to go about their daily lives.
However, unfortunately, I found that many visitors were NOT QUIET at all, especially school-aged, (I’m sorry to say) local visitors, many of whom were running around and screaming to their friends during my visit.
If you do visit, then please be respectful and don’t be one of those people!
How to Get to Gamcheon Culture Village
Getting to Gamcheon Culture Village is a quick hop over from popular Nampo-dong area, where you’ll find some of Busan’s most famous attractions, like Gukje Market, BIFF Square, and Jagalchi Fish Market.
Jump on subway line 1 heading west, in the direction of Dadaepo Beach, and get off at Toseong Station. It’s only 1 or 2 stops from Nampo or Jagalchi station, respectively.
At Toseong, take exit 6, hang a right, and walk to the bus station in front of Pusan National University Hospital. Hop on bus 1-1, 2 or 2-2 and swipe your IC card when you get on. Get off at Gamcheon Cultural Village/ Gamcheon Elementary School. The ride takes less than 10 minutes.
Another option would be to grab a taxi from Nampo area, which only costs around ₩4000.
When you arrive, you’ll be dropped at the entrance to the village, which is at the (almost) highest point of the village, on the southeast side.
When to Visit Gamcheong Culture Village
If at all possible, I would suggest visiting Gamcheon Culture Village on a weekday, not the weekend, as it is extremely popular among local visitors as well.
Ideally, arrive in the early morning, even on weekdays. I would suggest arriving right at 9 am, when the tourist information center opens its doors. I got there even a little earlier, and I felt like I was the first visitor in the village. However, within an hour, there were many more arriving.
To experience Gamcheon Culture Village when it takes on a totally different personality, check it out on this Busan night tour!
How to Visit Gamcheon Culture Village: Get the Gamcheon Culture Village Map!
Right at the entrance you’ll find the Gamcheon Village Tourist Information Center, which opens daily at 9 a.m. (it was actually open at 8:45 when I arrived at the village early).
I would strongly suggest stopping in there to get an excellent map (₩2000, so worth it!) The map has extremely detailed information about what to see at Gamcheon Culture Village, and is pretty too (what do you expect from a whole village devoted to art?)
More importantly, the map indicates pretty much every single point of interest in the village, including museums, art galleries, restaurants, cafés, houses built by famous architects, over 100 public artworks, cool staircases, and more.
The map also outlines three possible routes, which take 40 minutes, one hour and 20 minutes, or two hours. The first one comes back to the same spot and includes almost no downhill, while the other two will take you to the bottom of the village, from where you can catch the same buses back to the top and back to Toseong station.
I walked the longest route and the timing was about right, considering I went off the route a few times to explore some side alleys (which I would recommend doing!)
You could do it faster, but you could also spend more time if you stop somewhere to eat or have coffee, or go completely buckwild taking selfies at every awesome viewpoint.
To make it even more fun, the map has spaces for 12 stamps, which you can from various stops along the route. Collect all 12 stamps and you can get two free postcards from any of the stamp spots.
Things to See at Gamcheon Culture Village
From the entrance, the lane going into the village (Gamnae 2-ro) heads north along the upper rim of the village. You’ll pass several shops, Little Museum, a few cafés, and a gorgeous art piece called Fish Swimming Through the Alley.
I couldn’t wait to get down some stairs, so I detoured from this lane downhill, which is how I accidentally discovered the second, lesser known entrance to Gamcheon Culture Village, from where the best morning-time views of the entire village can be found.
Back on the main lane, at the point where it suddenly turns west, there’s a restaurant called Gamnae Matjip, which serves really, really yummy eomuk (fish cakes). I couldn’t resist ordering a few. A few doors down, there is a famous donut shop, but sadly it was closed when I was there.
Next, Gamnae 2-ro continues straight along the entire northwest border of the village for quite some time. You’ll pass multiple shops, the bizarre Grand Budapest Doll Hotel, and the equally intriguingly named Tower of Solo Pleasure.
Next, you’ll reach Little Prince and Fennec Fox, the most famous selfie/instagram spot in Gamcheon Culture Village. I could have sworn I was the only tourist in the village until I reached that point, when suddenly a large group of young Korean women ran past me and literally swarmed the famous statues, which look down on the village.
So instead of getting a selfies of myself, you know, to prove I was there, I just took a few pictures of the girls taking selfies and moved along…
Next up, there are some famous Harry Potter stairs leading to a well. A while after, the route suddenly goes down a little then veers back in the opposite direction.
The following section is less about the village views and more about the super atmospheric alleyway that passes right in front of people’s homes. This is where you should especially make a point of being quiet and respectful.
Soon you’ll reach the top of the 148 Stairs to See Stars, which are so steep that are said to make you see stars when you walk up them. Whether you go down them from this point or not, you’ll have another chance to spot the entire staircase later on the route, which is where I shot the below photo from.
Sticking to the tiny alley and passing the top of the staircase, you’ll go through some more especially narrow paths running in front of people’s homes and eventually connect to a main road (you may get a little lost somewhere in the middle, like I did), and that road runs downhill toward the bottom of the village.
Next, you’ll pass Gamcheon Sound, another famous artwork in the form of a tall guitar with the sea visible in the background. Shortly after, you’ll reach the viewpoint where you can see the 148 Stairs to See Stars almost in their entirety, or walk over to the bottom of them if you want.
After that, you’ll reach a point where you can decide whether you want to do the longer route, which veers off to the right through a local neighborhood that feels less touristy, or continue downhill on the shorter route to the end.
I did the longer one, and to be honest this was a less interesting part of the overall route. I’d say do it if you have the energy at this point, but don’t feel like you missed something big if you decide to skip it.
Nearly reaching the end, you’ll find yourself on what feels more like a normal Korean street with lots of shops. Don’t forget to turn around at this point for cool views looking back up at the village.
Just before the end, the route veers to the right to bring you through Gamcheon 2-dong Traditional Market, a covered market where herbs, produce, and other items are sold.
If you’re just in time for lunch like I was, the map recommends Ajimae restaurant, famous for its grilled mackerel and mackerel soup, but I opted for another restaurant just before the entrance to the market where I had some really delicious chilled milmyeon (wheat noodles).
Finally, you’ll reach the end, at the southern entrance to Gamcheon Culture Village. Don’t miss the beautiful Message of Hope artwork covering the wall of a building at the entrance.
To get back to Toseong station, simply hop on any of the same buses (1-1, 2, or 2-2). The bus will drive back past the upper entrance to Gamcheon Village along the way.
Where to Stay at Gamcheon Culture Village
There is even a guesthouse right in the middle of Gamcheon Culture Village, called Banga Banga Guesthouse. You can find some info here, but you’ll probably need to call to make a booking.
For staying anywhere else in Busan, feel free to consult my detailed guide to where to stay in Busan, and my review of La Valse, my favorite hotel in Busan (or see its listing on Booking or reviews of TripAdvisor!)
I never travel without a guidebook! I recommend these (for Amazon Singapore users, click here!)