So you’re planning a trip to South Korea, and you’re wondering where the best place to stay in Busan is? You’ve come to the right place!
In this article, I’m going to cover everything you need to know about where to stay in Busan, including the best areas to stay in Busan and what kind of travelers each one is best for.
I’m the kind of traveler who spends a huge amount of time researching hotels when I travel because I love discovering gems when it comes to accommodation.
For Busan, after doing tons of research, I was convinced that La Valse Hotel was the gem I’d been looking for. I’ll explain below why I loved it and strongly recommend it for budget travelers looking for a splurge, mid-range travelers, or even luxury travelers. If you want ALL the details on this hotel, I’ve written this extremely detailed, non-sponsored review of La Valse Hotel Busan with tons of photos. You can find also read reviews from other travelers here on Tripadvisor.
For a totally unique Busan accommodation experience, you may also want to consider doing a temple stay at Beomeosa, the most famous temple in Busan. I found this to be a eye-opening cultural experience and a great way to experience and learn more about Korean Buddhism. See here to read all about my Beomeosa temple stay experience!
Below I’m also going to include other Busan hotel recommendations for people with different budgets or travel interests than me, or who want to stay in different parts of Busan than I did. My recommendations are based on reading lots of guest reviews across various platforms, and places that stood out to me or I was tempted to book when researching the best hotels in Busan.
Which area to stay in Busan
Busan is South Korea’s second largest city. It is a massive and very spread out city made up of 15 gu, or districts, each containing various dong (neighborhoods), and with numerous mountains, rivers, ports, and bays dividing the various corners of the city.
Even by riding the city’s excellent subway, it can take a solid hour or more to get from one end of the city to the other. To make matters worse, many of the city’s most appealing sides are located at extreme, opposing ends of the city rather than in the city center.
A few examples are Beomeosa Temple and Geumjeongsanseong Fortress in the far north, Haeundae Beach and Haedong Yonggungsa temple far removed in the northeast, Oryukdo islands and skywalk in the extreme southeast, Jagalchi Fish Market and Gamcheon Culture Village in the south, and more islands and beaches to the southwest.
For this reason, I really spent a lot of time debating the logistics of my trip and everything I wanted to see before I could narrow it down to which area to stay in Busan.
If you’re planning to see all the main attractions of Busan (like I attempted to do), then you either have to change hotels once or twice during your stay (again, like I did), or just settle on one neighborhood & hotel, and accept that you’ll have a few days with somewhat long commutes.
To make things easier for you, I’ll mention not only the different vibes but also the famous attractions in each area to help you decide on the best neighborhood to stay in Busan for you! These are numbered in the order that I would personally choose, but your preferences may be different than mine.
Where to Stay in Busan Summarized
- #1: Yeongdo Island for the best views and quintessential Busan experience
- #2: Namp0-dong and Gwangbok-dong for the best food and highest concentration of sights
- #3: Temple Stay at Beomeosa for a unique cultural experience
- #4: Seomyeon for convenience
- #5: Gwangan-dong for a rural beach vibe
- #6: Haeundae-gu for the most famous beach in South Korea
- #7: Haedong Yonggungsa if you want to see the sunrise at this famous coastal temple in Busan
#1 Best Area to Stay in Busan: Yeongdo Island
After doing a silly amount of research on where to stay in Busan, I decided not to stay in one of the popular tourist districts, but on one of the Busan’s islands instead. Let me explain.
Yeongdo (literally “Yeong Island”) is one of the largest islands in Busan, and lies just south of the city center and Busan Port. Ships sail around either side of the island to enter the port. The hotels I’ll recommend below are all at the northern tip of the island, which is right across from, and directly facing Nampo-dong (#2 area below).
Because Busan is a port city, I felt like staying right on the port offered a quintessentially Busan experience. On the one hand, there were numerous boats docked in the harbor a mere few meters from the front door of my hotel. The neighborhood of my hotel was very local and there was even a nightly BBQ seafood market right beside my hotel on the harbor that no tourists ever go to.
On the other hand, all I had to do was walk across Yeongdo Bridge, which connects Yeongdo island to the mainland, to reach some of the city’s biggest attractions and street food markets in Nampo-dong and Gwangbok-dong, included Gukje Market, Jagalchi Fish Market, Nampo-dong Cultural and Fashion Street, BIFF Square, and more.
The reason I loved this was that I had super convenient access to major sights and transportation, but at night I could retreat across the bridge to my hotel in a very quiet and local neighborhood right on the port. I felt like I had the best of both worlds, and it only took me 7 minutes on foot to reach Nampo subway station!
And the best part of all? The views from Yeongdo looking back at Busan are phenomenal and one-of-a-kind. There is nowhere else in Busan where you can combine the famed sights of ginormous Jagalchi Fish Market, skyscraping Busan Tower, and the mountains of central and northern Busan, all in the same view.
#2 Best Area to Stay in Busan: Nampo-dong and Gwangbok-dong
If you want to stay smack in the middle of the highest concentration of top sights in Busan, then adjacent Nampo-dong and Gwangbok-dong are for you.
These two neighborhoods are also a food lover’s paradise. From noodles served by Korean grandmas sitting on the street on Gwangbokdong Food Street and famous Busan treats like ssiat hotteok in BIFF square to the market treats of Gukje Market and more seafood than you could eat in a lifetime at Jagalchi Fish Market, you will be wishing you had four stomachs like a cow in this area.
If you are only staying in Busan for a day or two, then chances are this area is going to be where you will spend much of your time. What’s more, enormously popular Gamcheon Culture Village and Songdo Beach, with its cable car and Sky Cloud Trails ocean walkway, and within very close reach.
Nampo-dong and Gwangbok-dong would be pretty much perfect, if it weren’t for the fact that a few other key Busan sights, notably Beomeosa Temple (see #3), Gwangalli Beach in Gwangan (see #5), Haeundae Beach (see #6), and Haedong Yonggungsa Temple (see #7) are at the complete opposite end of the city.
It’s not a huge deal though; the subway from Nampo takes 35 minutes to Gwangan, 45 minutes to Haeundae, or 50 minutes to Beomeosa.
#3 Best Place to Stay in Busan: Beomeosa Temple Stay
When I planned my most recent trip to Busan, the thing I was most excited about was doing a temple stay at Beomeosa Temple, the most famous temple in the city, and in the end, it was the top highlight of my trip. You can see here for my detailed review of my temple stay at Beomeosa Temple.
South Korea is blessed with an amazing, nation-wide temple stay program. There are over 100 temples in the country offering temple stays, about 30 of which offer English programs.
Doing a temple stay is not so much a “relaxing” experience like a medtation or yoga retreat. It’s more of an educational experience, in which you will learn a lot about Korean Buddhist culture, interact and speak for hours with monks, and gain a first-hand experience of what it would be like to be a monk in Korea.
Activities during my Beomeosa Temple stay included a temple tour, meditation, prostrations, vegan meals in silence, tea and lots of chatting with monks (one of whom was Korean-American and spoke fluent English). Oh, and we had to wake up at 5:00 a.m!
#4 Best Area to Stay in Busan: Seomyeon
Seomyeon is the central commercial district of Busan, the equivalent to Gangnam in Seoul. It is upscale, energetic, and happening.
In all honesty, I was not a big fan of Seomyeon. To be fair, I didn’t spend much time there, but I’m not a fan of shopping and wasn’t in town for clubbing. I did visit the area one night to take pictures of all the neon signs.
In the daytime, I found it like any other city center, with huge roads that were often difficult to cross without going down into the maze of underground malls.
So why put it in on the list? Well, Seomyeon is perhaps the most convenient place to stay in Busan. It is right in the center of Busan and at the intersection of the two most important subway lines, so in terms of getting around, you’d be about equally distant from all the major sights at the different edges of the city.
Moreover, Seomyeon would be the closest neighborhood to the airport and the shortest ride by public transportation. Personally, I thought it was worth the extra minutes on the subway to stay in a more interesting neighborhood, but others may disagree.
#5 Best Area to Stay in Busan: Gwangan-dong
Of the seven main beaches in Busan, Gwangalli Beach in Gwangan-dong is probably the second most popular after Haeundae (see #6). It has more of a low-key city-by-the-sea vibe, while Haeundae feels decidedly resorty.
Gwangalli is very much an urban beach, with dozens of very inviting restaurants and pubs lining the seaside avenue, tall apartments and hotels facing the coast, and even a small, aging amusement park at one end.
Probably the best and most distinctive aspect of Gwangalli is the jaw-dropping view of Gwangan Bridge (also known as Diamond Bridge).
At 7.4 kilometers, Gwangan Bridge is the second longest bridge in Korea and longest bi-level bridge over the ocean. The bridge runs parallel to the beach, and is quite an incredible sight anytime of day, but especially when it is lit up with LED lights at night.
Gwangalli is also famous for a fireworks festival in autumn, but people like to set off fireworks from the beach year-round, and you can buy them from the convenience stores along the beach.
During my visit, I noticed more non-locals than elsewhere in Busan. I think I saw half a dozen different western people walking dogs in the span of an hour. I got the impression that if you want to move to Busan, Gwangalli beach would be a pretty sweet corner of the city to set up camp.
If you want to stay near the beach in Busan, but still have closer (compared to Haeundae) access to the main attractions and other parts of the city, then Gwangan may be the top choice for you.
Note that besides the slightly long subway ride from other parts of Busan, it’s a bit of a walk from the subway to the beach. Geumnyeongsan station is a shorter walk (5-10 minutes) and closer to the southern end of the beach, while from Gwangan station, a 10-15 minute walk will bring you to the northern end of the beach.
Haeundae is far removed from most of the other famous sights in Busan, but as South Korea’s most famous beach, this sight alone may be the reason you came to Busan.
Haeundae is popular year-round, but in especially in summer, when beach umbrellas seems to fill the entire beach. Unsurprisingly, Haeundae features the city’s highest concentration of upscale luxury hotels, many of which feature amazing hot spring spas with unbeatable ocean views. However, there are many excellent budget choices too.
More than just a beach, Haeundae features enough things to do that you may not even have to leave the area. Personally, I made the journey to Haeundae on my recent trip to photograph the impressive city skyline from the Bay 101, an upscale yacht club.
Besides the countless bars, cafés, restaurants, museums, art galleries, and other attractions in the neighborhood, you can also access nature by walking around Dongbaek Park, which was once an island, or going to see cherry blossoms on nearby Damaji road, in season of course.
If all of this sounds like a dream to you, then Haeundae is your top choice, but for me, it would be too far away from other sights to base myself for my whole Busan visit.
#7: Near Haedong Yonggungsa Temple
The incredible coastal temple Haedong Yonggungsa is quickly becoming one of the most popular sights in Busan. However, it’s quite out of the way, as you have to go even further than Haeundae on the subway to the terminal station, Jangsan, then take a bus or taxi from there. See here for my complete guide to Busan’s famous temple by the sea.
The temple is sometimes known as the “Sunrise Temple” because people flock here on New Year’s Day to welcome the first sunrise of the year. It’s also a great experience to see the magical sunrise here on any day of the year.
When I was planning my trip, I wondered how on earth I would get all the way out there from the city center early enough to catch the sunrise (5:10 a.m. when I visited in June), without spending a fortune on a cab. The only way that made sense was to stay overnight nearby. Therefore, I only recommend staying in this area if you want to catch the sunrise at Haedong Yonggungsa like I did. Otherwise, it wouldn’t make any sense to stay way out there while touring Busan.
There is actually a beach just south of Haedong Yonggunsa called Songjeong Beach, and there are some accommodation choices there, but even that wasn’t quite close enough to Haedong Yonggunsa for me (it would have taken about an hour to walk).
In the end I found this great guesthouse on AirBnB. It’s in a little modern seaside community about 20 minute’s walk from Haedong Yonggunsa, and was pretty much the closest accommodation I could find to the temple.
If you stay there, I would recommend walking over to Haedong Yonggunsa the day before in the daylight so that you’ll be able to find it in the dark before sunrise. It’s easy to find, but there are a few different ways to get there.
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