It’s all too easy to touch town in Busan and head straight for the beach, and while the ocean and natural scenery are both worthwhile draws to this city by the sea, Busan has a fascinating cultural heritage as well. Visitors who set aside time to explore the history of Busan will be rewarded with deep insight into Korea’s second city.
Some of the best places to start exploring Busan’s heritage are its temples. Unlike a majority of Korean temples, Haedong Yonggungsa Temple sits on the rocky coast instead of in the mountains and is dedicated to a female deity said to live alone in the sea and ride on the back of a dragon. Beomeosa Temple, founded in 678, is considered one of the most culturally significant in the region, and travelers who want to learn more about Korean Buddhism can sign up for a temple stay within this complex.
History buffs can explore Busan’s storied timeline at the Busan Museum with its collection of some 4,500 specimens relating to the art, culture and history of the city. The collection at the Hankwang Museum covers 50 years of Japanese, Chinese and Korea calligraphy and paintings.
Some of Busan’s best cultural experiences require leaving the confines of the city for day trips into the countryside. Just a few hours outside of Busan in Andong sits the UNESCO-listed Hahoe Folk Village, a collection of traditional houses that have served as homes to descendants of the Ryu clan of Pungsan for hundreds of years. Even closer to Busan (less than two hours away) is the historic capital of the Silla Dynasty, Gyeongju. The UNESCO-listed collection of shrines and temples in this outdoor history museum rank among the finest in Asia.