July 20, 2024
















From traditional to trendy, guided tour of Busan’s diverse culinary scene

A merchant sells seafood at Jagalchi Market in Busan's Jung District in this file photo taken on March 31. Korea Times photo by Shim Hyun-chul
A merchant sells seafood at Jagalchi Market in Busan’s Jung District in this file photo taken on March 31. Korea Times photo by Shim Hyun-chul


Visit Busan Pass offers shortcut to local delicacies, tourist attractions for foreign independent travelers

By Lee Hae-rin

BUSAN ― Home to maritime delicacies and a rising star in specialty coffee, the southeastern coastal city of Busan is one of the country’s five tourism hubs designated by the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism and promoted by the Korea Tourism Organization for 2020 to 2025.

Three hours from Seoul by KTX bullet train, the city has many charms to entice foreign travelers and their taste buds, according to Lee Do-yeon, a Busan-based travel guide with 10 years of experience.

“Busan is the best city to understand the quintessence of Korean sentiment … Why we Koreans are so quick-tempered, saying ‘ppali-ppali’ all the time and why we eat what we eat and love it so much ― you can understand that by understanding Busan and its wartime history,” Lee said.

Busan remained the only city North Korea never captured throughout the 1950-53 Korean War, and it became a haven for war refugees from across the country while serving as the provisional capital. The port city became Korea’s cultural melting pot after seeing further explosive population growth during industrialization from the 1960s to the 1980s.

People settled on the slopes of mountains that take up 70 percent of the city’s geography. With limited resources, they grew quick-tempered but learned how to live together and developed a rich and diverse culinary heritage, Lee explained.

“If you’re in Busan, there’s no way you leave the city without having some good seafood,” Lee said, leading the way through Busan’s famous Jagalchi fish market. The market was formed after the country’s independence from the Japanese colonial occupation in 1945 and its name represents the gravel field the market was built upon at the time.

Agujjim, or spicy braised monkfish / Courtesy of Busan Metropolitan City
Agujjim, or spicy braised monkfish / Courtesy of Busan Metropolitan City


With a natural marine environment and healthy supply of fresh ingredients through its port, the city’s seafood dishes based on regional specialties renowned for their freshness. “Agu,” or monkfish, for example, is normally cooked and served with frozen fish in all other parts of Korea, but in Busan, the fish has always been cooked fresh, offering a chewy and moist texture.

“Next to the famous Jagalchi Market is Yeongdo Bridge, the country’s first and only drawbridge initially designed to open electrically to enable ships to move around the port. It had a tram rail that carried Japanese colonial settlers in 1934,” Lee said. “Today, the bridge connects the mainland to one of Busan’s trendiest neighborhoods on Yeong Island, renowned for its thriving local coffee scene.”

A barista makes coffee at Momos Coffee in Busan in this undated provided photo. Courtesy of Busan Metropolitan City
A barista makes coffee at Momos Coffee in Busan in this undated provided photo. Courtesy of Busan Metropolitan City


The district formed in the early 2000s along the shipbuilding repair street where bereaved widows of dead seamen were hired to remove barnacles from the hulls of the ships in the past, Lee said.

Centered on the 2019 World Barista Champion Jeon Joo-yeon’s Momos Coffee, the street now features several independent roasters and high-quality coffee shops. Due to its unique location, visitors may enjoy the representative Busan scenery, featuring a beautiful blue ocean with ports, ships and mountainous villages in the background while sipping a good cup of coffee.

Cafes are lined along the shipbuilding repair street on Yeong Island / Courtesy of Busan Metropolitan City
Cafes are lined along the shipbuilding repair street on Yeong Island / Courtesy of Busan Metropolitan City


The center of Busan’s latest lifestyle and tourism trend has moved from Haeundae to Gwangalli beach area, Lee said, explaining that the drone light shows held year-round every Saturday could have spurred the commercial growth of the district. Millac the Market, a culture complex that opened in July 2022, features casual dining, a premium craft beer pub, pop art exhibitions and flagship stores of trendy brands.

Inside Millac the Market, a culture complex in Busan / Courtesy of Busan Metropolitan City
Inside Millac the Market, a culture complex in Busan / Courtesy of Busan Metropolitan City


Several restaurants and shops in the culture complex offer discounts to Visit Busan Pass holders.

To offer independent foreign travelers an optimal itinerary to the lesser-known and must-visit restaurants and attractions across the city, Busan Metropolitan City and the Busan Tourism Organization launched a test operation of the Visit Busan Pass in February.

Visit Busan Pass is a limited-offer tour pass available for 24 or 48 hours. Courtesy of Busan Metropolitan City
Visit Busan Pass is a limited-offer tour pass available for 24 or 48 hours. Courtesy of Busan Metropolitan City


The pass is available only to foreign visitors for either 24 or 48 hours after purchase, costing 49,000 won ($38.70) or 69,000 won respectively, and offers free rides on city tour buses and coastal trains, and free entrance to over 30 tourist attractions and facilities including the Songdo Marine Cable Car and Lotte World Adventure Busan.

The pass also offers discounts at 77 foreigner-friendly facilities, including restaurants and souvenir shops that the city officials listed based on a two-year study of foreign independent travelers’ preferred itineraries in Busan, the city’s tourism promotion division director Son Tae-wook told The Korea Times in a recent phone interview.

The test run was more popular than expected, selling over 26,000 passes to foreign travelers as of July, Son said. The sale of the city pass is now temporarily suspended, but the city plans to officially relaunch it in August and continue to regularly assess the quality of services in affiliated facilities and update its list with the help of the city’s foreign resident advisory group.

According to the city government, Busan saw over 482,000 foreign travelers last year, which is a 216 percent jump from 2021’s 152,000. The figure is yet lower than pre-pandemic levels which once surpassed 2.7 million, but the city expects its tourism industry to make a full recovery in the near future at the current pace.

Last month Michelin announced its plan to publish its guide dealing exclusively with the city’s restaurants ― the second of its kind among Korean cities after Seoul. Michelin Guide Seoul and Busan 2024 will be released as a single volume in February and Michelin’s anonymous inspectors from 20 countries are on the ground working in Busan.

“Although Michelin Guide centers around fine dining and high-quality restaurants, Busan offers a wide range of exceptional restaurants where foreign travelers can enjoy authentic local food at reasonable prices, which we hope could be listed on Bib Gourmand,” Son said.




























































































































































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