A Detailed Guide to the Best Place to Stay in Busan
Are you in search of the best place to stay in Busan? I’m glad you are venturing beyond Seoul and visiting one of my favorite cities in Korea.
Determining where to stay in Busan was the most challenging part of my 5-week travel to Korea. Here’s why. The City of Busan is the second-largest metropolis in South Korea, consisting of 15 Gu (districts) and 1 Gun (county). And Busan attractions sprawl all over the city from west to east.
Although its public transport system is excellent, moving from point A to B would take at least an hour, or 40 minutes if lucky. Inevitably, you will have to either hop hotels in different areas or hunker down in one place and travel a bit of distance each day.
In our recent visit to Busan, we chose to hop hotels every day because our plan covered pretty much the entire city across from Ananti Cove in the northeastern end to my brother’s home in the far southwestern end. Honestly, it was quite a journey and a tiring one. Both the Big O and I agreed we would never do this again. (Take that into consideration for your planning.)
In this article, I will introduce the best areas to stay in Busan, top things to do in each neighborhood, and the best hotels in Busan. These local insights come from my key learnings through multiple trips to Busan and from my brother, a long-time resident of Busan.
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Before visiting Korea, read my other articles about Busan:
Where to Stay in Busan Summary
- Stay in Haeundae if it is your first time in Busan, and you want to enjoy the most famous beach in South Korea. Here, you will find plenty of hotel options with a stunning ocean view. The Haeundae area is dotted with entertaining options such as restaurants, cafes, and bars.
- Stay in Seomyeon if you want to explore all areas of Busan in one trip. It is the most central location with easy access to the rest of the sprawling city. This is also a hip neighborhood with plenty of shopping options, restaurants, and bars for young travelers.
- Stay in Nampo & Gwangbok if you want the best local food experience and affordable shopping. At the most iconic traditional markets such as Jagalchi and Gukje Markets in the area, you can find everything you need from cheap eats to clothes to home goods.
- Stay in Ananti Cove if you are looking for a private luxury resort experience. The isolated upscale resort town along the northeastern coast offers the most exclusive, uninterrupted vacation of your dream in state-of-the-art amenities with the killer view.
- Stay near Busan Station if you are visiting Busan only for a day or two. Being in the transportation hub saves so much trouble and time, and you can make the most out of your short stay.
- Stay in Gwangan if you want to chill at a Busan beach with the laidback vibe. Gwangalli Beach is one of the top 3 beaches in Busan. While lesser known than Haeundae, the beach is just as beautiful and best known for the stunning sunset and sparkly night views.
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Busan Travel Essentials
- Get the Visit Busan Pass, exclusively available for international travelers, and save money! It has free access to 40+ attractions, tour buses/trams, and discounts for tours & restaurants.
- Pick up a 4G SIM card with unlimited data (KT) or 4G SIM (SK Telecom) at Seoul or Busan airport. I always reserve a SIM card in advance. But if you prefer to connect multiple devices, rent a 4G Pocket WiFi.
- Buy a discounted KTX pass for unlimited rides. A high-speed rail takes you from Seoul to Busan in less than 2.5 hours.
- Book your airport pickup. Gimhae Airport is far from the city center. (No Uber in Korea.)
- Speaking of stress-free travel, why not use a super-efficient luggage delivery service? I highly recommend it as this type of service is super fast and reliable in Asia.
#1. Best Area to Stay in Busan: Haeundae
Best for the first-time visitors and for beach bums
If it’s your first time in Busan, my first pick for the best area to stay is Haeundae. I also stayed here on my first visit to Busan as an adult. (My childhood memory of Busan is rather fuzzy.)
Haeundae truly is ‘the it place’ in Busan. Haeundae Beach is the most well-known one in the entire country. But whether you travel during the swim season or not, it is the must-visit place that represents Busan. Many festivals and events also take place here throughout the year.
As the single most popular site in Busan, there are plenty of hotel or hostel options from luxury to budget. You will enjoy the convenience for easy access to the most famous beach in Korea, amazing coastal views and entertainment options in the neighborhood.
Don’t dismiss Haeundae just because you think it is only for tourists. It is the area where the wealthiest Busanites reside. As you explore the neighborhood, you will feel the vibe with opulent high rises and high-end car dealerships. This area has one of the best ocean views in Busan. Why would locals not want that if they could afford it, right?
Many Haeundae hotels offer beachfront rooms. Due to high demand, there is a little premium to pay. If your budget allows, you can have that view from your hotel balcony, too.
Note that this area can get crowded. During the peak season, you can possibly see more people in the water than the water itself. Regardless of the season, the traffic to/from Haeundae is notoriously heavy on weekends. (I got stuck in traffic on my way to this hotel while taxi meters kept moving up!) Some restaurants and cafes in the area are also over-priced.
Top Things to Do in Haeundae
Haeundae Beach: The most famous beach in Korea
The Bay 101 Yacht Club: An excellent area for night entertainment
Busan Night Tour to enjoy Haeundae Beach, Gwangandaegyo Bridge, and other lighted landmarks
SEALIFE Busan Aquarium: A state-of-the-art aquarium on Haeundae Beach
Haeundae Pojangmacha-chon: A row of tent bars with fresh seafood on the street right off the Haeundae beach
Haeundae Hagfish Street: A food street famous for grilled hagfish
Haeundae cafes with the ocean view
Dalmaji-gil Road: A cherry blossom-lined hill, filled with restaurants and cafes with ocean view
Moontan Road: A stunning coastal hike stretching from Gwangalli to Cheongsapo
Cheongsapo Daritdol Observatory
Cheongsapo Seafood Town to eat shellfish BBQ
Shinsegye Centum City: The largest department store in the world
Spa Land Centum City: One of the most luxury jimjilbangs in Korea
Best Place to Stay in Busan in Haeundae
Signiel Busan (6*): Ultra Luxury
The luxury 6-star Signiel Hotel [compare rates to book: Booking, Agoda] finally opened its Busan location in 2020. The hotel is located between the 3rd and 19th floors of LCT Tower, overlooking the Haeundae beach and Gwangandaegyo Bridge. It offers a top-notch view, a rooftop outdoor pool, Diptyque amenities and an excellent breakfast.
The Westin Chosun Busan (5*): Luxury
I was lucky to stay in Westin Chosun Busan [compare rates to book: Booking, Agoda] about 8 years ago. I was severely jet-lagged and forgot to take photos of the room. I still cannot forgive myself for it. But the spectacular ocean view carved into my head so deeply that the memory has not yet faded!
Stay at Westin Chosun to enjoy the fantastic beachfront and inhale all the ocean breeze you can. Book a room with an ocean view. It’s worth the little extra.
Paradise Hotel Busan (5*): Luxury
Another luxury beachfront hotel is Paradise Hotel Busan [compare rates to book: Booking, Agoda]. The highlight of your stay here is Cimer Spa, which is considered one of the best luxury hot springs in Busan. Only the hotel guests have access to its open-air beachfront hot spring, infinity pool, and jade Jjimjilbang.
Park Hyatt Busan (5*): Luxury
Shilla Stay Haeundae (4*): High-End
Plea De Blanc Hotel & Residence (4*): Mid-Range
Ibis Budget Ambassador Busan Haeundae (3*): Mid-Range
Canvas Hostel: Budget
Canvas Hostel [compare rates to book: Booking, Agoda] is a hip youth hostel perfect for backpackers. While it doesn’t feature any room with the ocean view, it is only a 5-minute walk from the Haeundae beach. And for this convenient location and chill vibes, the price is unbeatable. I recommend it for budget travelers who want to stay in the heart of Haeundae.
We stayed in a triple room for one night in transit. Both the bedroom and bathroom are spacious and clean. According to the Big O, he had the most comfortable bed ever. Be aware that wifi only works in the lobby. Breakfast is available for purchase, but you can also stock up your food inside the communal refrigerator.
#2. Best Area to Stay in Busan: Seomyeon
Best for the overall convenience of location and for night parties
I put Seomyeon as my second choice for a good reason. Seomyeon in Busan Jin-gu is the most convenient location if you want to cover all areas of Busan on your trip.
Seomyeon is in the smack middle of the city. What’s more, two subway lines of Busan also meet at Seomyeon Station, which makes it easy to move around the city in either direction.
For my recent trip, I stayed at both Haeundae and Seomyeon. If I go back in time and plan again, I would have skipped Haeundae and chose to base myself at Seomyeon since I have already been to Haeundae many times.
Also, Seomyeon is a happening place. From shopping to chic cafes to hip restaurants and bars, it is the place to spend weekends for locals. Although not on the seashore, you have access to everything you want to experience in the city side of Busan here.
That said, if you want to stay clear of the partying crowd, consider staying somewhere else. The streets here on weekends are flooded with the young crowd seeking to party the night away. The traffic gets really heavy as well. It took us 30 minutes on a bus to pass merely two stops. (To be fair, it was Saturday and the day after the college entrance exam when all high school seniors joined the party, too.)
Top Things to Do in Seomyeon
Seomyeon Eatery Alley: Food alley catered to the young crowd
Jeonpo Cafe Street: Unique and stylish cafes
Norimaru: Youth culture center with a book cafe and gallery that host many cultural events and art performances
Seomyeon Underground Shopping Center: Find fast-fashion and Korean beauty products at shopping arcade connected to Seomyeon Subway Station
Lotte Department Store & Duty Free
NC Department Store
Bar-hopping in Seomyeon with Pub Crawl
Best Place to Stay in Busan in Seomyeon
Lotte Hotel Busan (5*): Luxury
Lotte Hotel Busan [compare rates to book: Booking, Agoda] is an upscale hotel in a prime location. Its glass high-rise building is connected to Seomyeon Subway station via the underground passage and Lotte Department Store and Duty Free. The hotel features stylish rooms, indoor and outdoor pools, and a Muslim-friendly restaurant.
Arban Hotel (3*): Mid-Range
Hound Hotel Seomyeon-Beomcheon (3*): Mid-Range
Brown Dot Seomyeon (2*): Budget
Brown Dot Hotel is an excellent boutique hotel chain, located all across Busan. We stayed at Brown Dot Seomyeon [compare rates to book: Booking, Agoda], which exceeded our expectations for its convenient location and cute interior designs. Don’t let two-star ratings discourage you from booking this gem.
Insider tip: A complimentary breakfast was a letdown. Instead, go to the nearby 24-hour Songjeong Samdae Gukbap for breakfast.
#3. Best Area to Stay in Busan: Nampo & Gwangbok
Best for foodies and down-to-earth Busan experience
Nampo-dong and Gwangbok-dong are two adjunct neighborhoods in Busan Jung-gu. Famous for their iconic local markets, it is an excellent area to experience down-to-earth Busan.
You cannot leave Busan without visiting traditional markets stretched across Gwangbok-dong and Nampo-dong. Namely, the largest fish market in the Southeast region, Jagalchi Market, is a place you should not miss. You can buy fresh daily catches to cook at home or eat raw/cooked at the restaurants in the market.
Across the street from Jagalchi Market is a cluster of dry markets; Gukje Market – Bupyeong Kkangtong Night Market – BIFF Square – Arirang Street are all next to each other. These markets offer street food and regional specialty eateries, as well as inexpensive shopping.
It is also an excellent place to base during your stay in Busan. Nampo is connected with Yeongdo via the Yeongdodaegyo bridge, which opens 75 degrees up once a day. The area is also close to other major attractions in Busan such as Seomyeon, Gamcheon Culture Village, and Choryang Ibagu-gil. Both Oryukdo Skywalk, Gwangalli, and Haeundae Beaches are also within an hour’s reach via public transportation.
Top Things to Do in Nampo-dong & Gwangbok-dong
Jagalchi Market: Join Food Tour of the largest fish market in the Southeast region
Bupyeong Night Market
Gukje Market: If you can’t find what you are looking for here, you won’t find it anywhere else in Busan.
Yongdusan Park & Busan Tower: A vista point to see the Busan skyline
Lotte Department Store Gwangbok: A large shopping and entertainment complex with shops, cinema, and supermarket. Free vista point at the Sky Deck.
Busan Lotte Tower: A 107-story skyscaper with retail stores, offices, a luxury hotel, and observation deck
Yeongdodaegyo Bridge: Witness a daily opening of the bascule bridge with Busan seagull graffiti
Best Place to Stay in Busan in Nampo & Gwangbok
Crown Harbor Hotel Busan (4*): Mid-Range
Crown Harbor Hotel Busan [compare rates to book: Booking, Agoda] is a polished hotel near Jagalchi Fish Market. Guest rooms overlooking harbor or city feature minimalist interior designs. Upgraded suites have a kitchenette and dining room, which makes it an excellent choice for long-term or family travelers.
Nampo Hound Hotel Premier (3*): Mid-Range
Aventree Busan (3*): Mid-Range
K-Guest House Nampo: Budget
#4. Best Area to Stay in Busan: Ananti Cove in Gijang
Best for a luxury private resort vacation
If you long for an uninterrupted holiday surrounded in pristine nature, nothing makes more sense than staying at Ananti Cove.
Ananti Cove is a luxury resort town in Gijang-gun along the Northeast coast of Busan. The private resort is surrounded by 600 acres of forest and facing the Osiria coast. This seafront is where you can catch the earliest sunrise in Busan.
Let’s say you do not want to deal with the crowds in Haeundae. You would not mind paying extra for privacy and luxury amenities while enjoying a peaceful vacation with the breathtaking seaside view. Then, Ananti Cove is Busan’s answer to your dream vacation.
Note that the resort is in a remote location away from other Busan attractions – except Haedong Yonggungsa Temple and Lotte Premium Outlet Mall, and is hard to reach via public transport. I can see that as a drawback, but it’s also a big plus if you want to avoid the crowd.
At this all-in-one resort town, you will most likely use restaurants, cafes, and other high-end amenities. If you decide Ananti Cove as your destination, account these in your budget in addition to the hotel lodging.
I moved it down the list because of its remote location and overall cost, but not for the experience.
Top Things to Do near Ananti Cove
Haedong Yonggungsa Temple: Temple by the Sea, the most popular place to see the sunrise on the New Year’s Day
Ananti Town: Multi-purpose complex on the beachfront with fancy restaurants, cafes, swimming pools, and hot springs
Lotte Premium Outlet Mall: The largest outlet mall in Korea
Jukseong Dream Church: A fake church built for the Korean drama
Take this Busan East Tour to visit Haedong Yonggungsa, Jukseong Dream Church, and Gijang traditional market.
Best Place to Stay in Busan: Ananti Cove
Hilton Busan (5*): Luxury
#5. Best Area to Stay in Busan: Busan Station
Best for visitors who stay in Busan for a day or two
If you travel to Busan via KTX, which is my recommendation unless you directly fly to Busan from overseas or from Jeju, you will be right at the transport hub in Busan. Busan Station can be an excellent home base for travelers who plan to stay for only a day or two in the city. For your short visit, why waste your time on the road moving away from the central location?
Being in the city’s transport hub, you can save time and effort with a well-organized subway, city bus lines, and abundance of the taxi from the area.
Although Busan has an excellent subway system, I had to take buses to the places beyond the reach of the subway. On a few occasions, that meant transfers and some travel on foot to a transfer station. As you can easily reach most of the places in the city from Busan Station, it eliminates the hassle of transferring and saves time.
Top Things to Do near Busan Station
Choryang Ibagu-gil: Historic hilltop alleyways
Dr. Jang Gi-ryeo Museum: Memorial Museum for the ‘Schweitzer of Korea’
Brown Hands Cafe: A cafe in a renovated historic building
Best Place to Stay in Busan near Busan Station
Asti Hotel Busan (4*): Mid-Range
Le Idea Busan Station (2*): Budget
Brown-Dot Hotel Business Hotel Busan Station: Budget
#6. Best Area to Stay in Busan: Gwangan
Best for the low-key beach experience
If you want to stay near the water but prefer a laidback beach experience than posh, crowded Haeundae, Gwangan would be an excellent choice for you.
With the spectacular view of the illuminated Gwangandaegyo Bridge (also known as Diamond Bridge) on Gwangalli Beach, Gwangan is an attractive place to spend a night.
The bridge features the world’s largest LED lights that change its colors. It is one of the most sought-after sites at night in Busan. Busan Fireworks Festival also takes place here in October, which draws more than one million spectators.
If you choose to stay on the Gwangalli beachfront, note that you will be 10-15 minutes away on foot to the nearest subway stop. Bus stops may be closer.
Top Things to Do in Gwangan
Gwangalli Beach: One of the top 3 beaches in Busan
Diamond Bridge (Gwangandaegyo Bridge): Colorfully illuminated bridge
Hotel Aqua Palace Water Park and Jjimjilbang
Millak Raw Fish (Hoe) Town: Live fish market and restaurant
Busan Night Tour takes you to the city’s illuminated landmarks including the Diamond Bridge and the Bay 101
Best Place to Stay in Busan in Gwangan
Hotel Aqua Palace (4*): High-End
Hotel Aqua Palace [compare rates to book: Booking, Agoda] is a posh hotel with Gwangalli Bay views. The on-site jjimjilbang (Korean sauna and spa) is a comfortable scenic spot to see the famous sunset on the beach and illuminated Gwangandaegyo Bridge. The beachfront hotel is best for a family with children as its sizable indoor water park makes it a perfect holiday destination for all seasons.