Shri Hanuman Mandir Jakhoo - Travel
Asia,  South Korea

How to go to Busan from Seoul: Taking a Seoul to Busan day trip

One of the things I hate about only having short windows to travel is that I don’t get to explore a country as thoroughly as I would like. All the same, I try to make sure I escape the confines of the city I’m visiting, and see some of the rest of the country during my stay.

I spent a week in South Korea, and it was nowhere near enough. Based in Seoul, I spent many happy days exploring the city with its skyscrapers, palaces, neon lights and temples, as well as venturing up to the North Korean border and the DMZ (or demilitarised zone) that separates the two halves of the peninsula. But there was still the lure of the rest of South Korea. Fortunately, it is an easy day trip from the capital to visit Busan, the second city of the country located on its far southern coastline. If you want to know how to go to Busan from Seoul, it’s really very easy.

The rail system in South Korea is pretty great, and regular high-speed services make it easy to travel the whole way across the country in just 3 hours. I actually love to do these long train trips, where I can sit with a book and watch the world go by. So, ticket in hand (booked online with Korail before I left home and collected at the station the day before), I turned up at Seoul’s central station early on a Wednesday morning.

Seoul’s main station is a shiny chrome monster, and I was swallowed into its belly as I descended the many escalators to the underground track. I wasn’t overly surprised that Korea’s trains are clean and comfortable, and easy to navigate. I settled into my window seat and hooked up to the wifi, and soon we were on our way south.

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Taejongdae Park – looking over the Sea of Japan

The Seoul to Busan train line cuts straight across South Korea on a diagonal, past towns and villages and lush green landscapes dotted with mountains. One of the reasons I love these journeys is the chance to watch the country roll by outside my window, which is exactly what I did as I sat with coffee and a book in my window seat. Watching the world go by, the journey gave me at least a partial insight into the geography of this lush and hilly country.

And then we were in Busan. To be honest, I had only a rough idea of what to do in Busan, and very few concrete plans for the day other than to take the hop-on, hop-off sightseeing bus and see where it took me. Picking it up outside the station, I followed the bus’s two routes around the city, which took me past all the top Busan attractions. My first stop-off was Taejongdae, where I took a walk along the clifftop with views out across the sea, watching the tankers as they approached the country’s biggest port. I then followed the route around the coast to the Jagalchi fish market.

One of the most popular places to visit in Busan, the Jagalchi market is a huge, 3-storey affair, and offers everything that you could possibly want from a Far East fish market. Huge tiled halls are filled with stalls selling every possible variety of seafood, both alive and not-so-much, presided over by armies of older Korean ladies who made for fantastic photo opportunities at every turn. There were stalls selling dried fish products and, on the top floor, a large restaurant area. Travelling alone and without a word of Korean (apart from hello and thank you), my first reaction was to take one look at the food court, with its floor cushions, round metal chopsticks and Korean-language menus, and run screaming for the nearest McDonalds. But throwing caution to the wind, I sat down at a friendly looking table and, through a variety of hand signals and much pointing at the pictures in the menu, ended up with a fabulous plateful of spicy Korean fish, chillies and kimchi, the traditional fermented cabbage so popular in the country. I’m still not totally sure what half of it was, but it was delicious – even the kimchi.

Resuming my bus tour, I headed next for Haeundae Beach, one of the many popular spots in Busan for catching a few rays and enjoying the water. In true east Asian style, the emphasis was on innocent fun; on an August afternoon the Busan beach was packed, and so was the ocean. Pausing to take photos at the beach-side selfie machine (instantly emailed to my phone for social media sharing!), I wandered the sands and watched local life. A group of middle-aged ladies out in the sea caught my attention – fully clothed and soaking wet, they were playing in an inflatable ring and having the time of their lives. Surely the way to enjoy a day out with your friends, whatever your age.

The final stop on my Busan tour was the UN Memorial Cemetery. One of the goals of my time in Korea was to learn more about both its present and its past, and this little slice of the country is the resting place of hundreds of foreign servicemen who lost their lives in the Korean War of the 1950s. As the North Korean army swept down the peninsula before being finally beaten back to the 38th Parallel, for a time only this corner remained under Allied control, and the cemetery has sections for American, Canadian, British, Australian and many other different troops. It was a sobering place to wander and consider my countrymen, who gave so much for the peninsula and for standing up for what is right. The cemetery is clean, peaceful and respectful, and is well worth a visit.

Heading back to the station, I boarded the train back from Busan to Seoul reflecting on the many aspects of my day out. I didn’t see all of Busan by a large margin; it boasts magnificent temples, shopping and more beaches than you can shake a stick at, as well as several major museums including the Busan Museum of Art and the National Maritime Museum of Korea. If you have time, it is well worth staying for a night or two. But if you are on a tight schedule, a day trip to Busan from Seoul is absolutely possible – and absolutely worth the effort.

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Trying out the selfie machine, Haeundae Beach

One of the delights of a visit to Korea is to experience the incredible food. If you’re a foodie, check out this great post from Viola at The Blessing Bucket to whet your appetite!
10 Delicious Foods to Eat in Seoul Korea

Want to take your own Seoul to Busan day trip? Pin this post to remind yourself later where to go in Busan!

I'm Jill, and I'm a British blogger who has been travelling for two decades, visiting more than 70 countries on 6 continents. I love to travel both solo and with groups, and to discover the cultures and peoples of the countries I visit. And I love to share a good story or two along the way!


  • RJ

    I wish I had read this post 2 months ago!! I swear you would have inspired me to jump on that train to Busan from Seoul. I also spent 1 week in Seoul but just didn’t get the time or inspiration to go South. Great to virtually travel to Busan via this post 🙂

  • Kelly

    First of all, thabk you so much for bringing back good memories. I lived in Korea for a year and remember Busan well. I alsi love Jeju but a week is so not enough. But thank god for the awesome train network there!

    • Jill Bowdery

      Oh I know a week is just too short – I never made it to Jeju, but I was still running around like a mad thing! I’m still amazed by how few Europeans/Americans seem to think of Korea for a travel destination – it’s a fascinating country. I’d love to go back and explore more!

  • kate

    Such an amazing day it must have been! I haven’t been to Korea and somehow, seeing your photos has given me the inspiration to visit sooner than I imagined. I love how there’s so much to see just from a day trip and even if a day wasn’t enough, it is still pleasantly beautiful with everything accounted for. Will definitely bookmark this for me to come back to!

  • Alina

    This brought back so many lovely memories! We must have been there around the same time, as I also visited August of this year! I still remember the smell of the city, seeing the beach and so many people enjoying their time there! My favorite probably was the Gamcheon Village there, as it really was a wow moment to see those buildings (I visited Amalfi this year too – and I see the resemblance!)

  • Liz

    Thanks for sharing this. I think most people only visit Seoul and don’t know about other cities in South Korea. I definitely want to go see Busan!

  • Caroline

    Ooh that food looks good. I love kimchi! SK looks so good – I have been to Japan a few times and there are some similar aspects bit it looks different enough to warrant a visit.

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