While Japan may be the first country that comes to your mind when we are talking about cherry blossoms in Asia, there are some splendid spots to see these flowers and celebrate spring in Korea. Korea is generally colder than Japan and the full bloom of cherry comes a bit later than Japan of places at the same latitude, and it doesn’t make them any less impressive.
The cherry blossom viewing experience is a little bit different by not only the traditions and activities but also how they were planted. In Japan, cherry trees are strategically designed and potted in many landmarks and venues (most of them become popular travel attractions). They are framing a view in a way to make sure visitors can have a breathtaking “uh-ha” moment, or they are offering a space for the locals to socialize. In Korea, they may not be mindfully scattered in the attractions, they are rather spontaneous for just being there: either on the side of a road or in a park that ends up commanding attention while they are in full bloom.
From Jeju to Seoul, there are numerous locations to view cherry blossoms in an overwhelming cluster, but for this article, I am focusing on cities and places that are close to the Busan area. They may be a dedicated spot, they may be a well-known location to the locals, plus the nearby highlights that you should not miss when you are in Busan.
Not everyone is familiar with Busan. In fact, it is the second-largest city in South Korea. The metropolitan city has a population of 3.4 million with rapidly growing economic and cultural influences across southeastern South Korea. You may have heard of Busan by the blockbuster Train to Busan (and the movie was so good… given that I am a zombie fan); More, the city also has a rich architectural and natural character, a vibrant art scene, delicious seafood, and exciting shopping experience in many markets and shopping districts.
How to get to Busan
Busan has an international airport with frequent flights connecting passengers to various cities in Korea, Japan, and the rest of Asia. Whether you take the airport limousine shuttle bus or the subway, you will get to the city center for about 30 to 40 minutes.
You may also consider reaching Busan by high-speed trains from Seoul or other parts of Korea. KTX connects Seoul and Busan with a direct rapid railway with only a few stops in between. The train ride takes about 2.5 to 3 hours, but it’s a good option if you want to cover both Seoul and Busan in one trip. Korail also offers a Rail Pass (the KR Pass) that is exclusive to foreigners with unlimited rides on KTX and specific sight-seeing trains. The pass would be useful and money-saving if you are planning to visit different places within a few days. For more information about this pass and to consider whether it is suitable for you, I suggest you check out their official website Let’s Korail for their prices and make a booking.
Namcheon Dong is a residential area in the Suyeong District that could be reached at the Namcheon Station on Busan Metro Line 2. It is an ordinary busy road all year round until in spring it is covered by cherry blossoms in pink. Get out of Geumnyeonsan Station and head to the Samik Beach Apartment complex. The tunnel is a hidden treasure that may not be widely known among foreigners, but you should put this place on your itinerary if you are in Busan between March and April.
Another road in the same district that is perfect for cherry blossom viewing is Jwasuyeong-ro, which is a top spot with bridges and streams that intertwine with the blooming pink flowers. Get off at Millak Station and it’s a short five minutes walk away from Centum City and Jwasuyeong Bridge.
Dalmaji Hill / Haeundae
As I mentioned earlier, this will only be an overview of where to look for cherry blossoms in the Busan metropolitan region. Having said that, I should have introduced this very location anyway because if there’s only one place you need to visit in Busan, it has to be Haeundae Beach. First of all, the location is also featured (and it was used as the title) in another apocalyptic blockbuster Haeundae; Secondly, it has been a famous holiday destination with pristine beaches with upscale high-rise apartment buildings as a backdrop. Shops, cafes, and restaurants filled the area, making it an exciting and relaxing place for tourists to explore.
The beach welcomes a lot of visitors from June to September annually. On top of that, the district has an artist market (opened in 2014), a cultural square (opened in 2019), for art buffs to seek unique products and original handicrafts.
With a beach so popular nearby, the Haeundae market is also getting the hype for tourists to look for delicious local cuisine and seafood. It is a medium-sized market with a lot of restaurants that serve dishes that may not be commonly seen: from grilled fish and raw fish sashimi, eels, and pufferfish, to noodles, Korean dessert, and local snacks. The wonderful thing is, the market is also very suitable for single travelers because many restaurants accept “Table for One”.
Moontan Road (Dalmaji Road)
Moontan, or Dalmaji, Road, is a short walk away from Haeundae Beach, and it’s a cherry blossom viewing spot that is well-known to the locals but may not be so to the foreigners. This mild walking trail (and the hill) got its name, “Moontan”, which literally means “moon viewing” because the locals came to view the moon in the past; The area has now become an upscale residential area with an open view.
To get there, walk along the waterfront after passing the Haeundae Cruise Terminal; it is a mild uphill slope with an impressive eight kilometers long line of cherry trees planted on the side of the road. The beautiful cherry blossoms are of course the main draw in spring, but let’s not forget to check out some viewpoints along the road and enjoy an unobstructed view of Haeundae Beach, the ocean, and beyond.
For a short visit in a day, take a walk up to the Haewoljeong Pavilion, it takes about an hour depending on your pace. Here, you will find a few intimate cafes and restaurants. Have a sip of coffee or a cup of patbingsu; afterward, head to the Art Free Market in the open space in front of the monument, but the market only opens on the weekends.
Moontan road is not wide and it could get really crowded during peak seasons, look out for the cars (and there may be a lot of them) during your photo-taking because it could be difficult to do so with so many people walking by.
If you really want a great picture of the cherry blossom without crowds, I suggest visiting there early in the morning or walking farther from the beach. The road is eight kilometers long after all, and most visitors usually walk up to Haewoljeong Pavilion and stop there. The road leads to Cheongsapo and in fact, it is a mural town on the other side that is generally quieter.
Explore Cheongsapo walkway by the ocean. It features a suspended walkway with a glass floor. There are many other points of interest in the area, like the lighthouses, Donghae Nambu rail, and more, they are up for your exploration at this point.
Haeundae Mipo Cruise
Returning to the city of Busan, take a cruise!
To me, it is a perfect way to view the Busan skyline from the ocean, and I think not a lot of foreigners know about this.
There are a number of cruise operators at Haeundae, some of them are sightseeing cruises that sail in a circle and return to the same spot, some of them take passengers to Mipo or other docks in Busan. It is easy to go online and check out their websites for more information and decide which route suits you the most.
Sightseeing cruises like Haeundae Cruise Boat, it has operated since 1979 and it offers a round trip from Haeundae’s Mipophang Port to Oryukdo Island. What do I recommend? Take the Cruise Ferry that runs between Mipo Ferry Dock and Haeundae Ferry Dock. The ferry offers the same view of Busan open waterfront, from the high-rise at the Haeundae Beach, passing through the green Dongbaekseom Island, the Gwangandaegyo Bridge, the coastal cliffs of Igidae and Taejongdae, and the dramatic Oryukdo Islets.
It was such an impressive sighting as the wave hit against the rock formations. The ferry has an open deck on top and it could be a little cold in March, so remember to dress warmly. The city’s skyline and neon lights may look best at night; but if you want a nice view of the islets, hop on the boat late in the afternoon or sunset to take advantage of the soothing sunlight. Don’t forget to buy some snacks at the dock before docking to feed the seagulls!
The ferry ticket is about 7000 wons. Enjoy a delicious seafood dinner at Mipo when you arrived. There are a number of diners in the area.
While I didn’t go on the island, Oryukdo is an iconic rock formation in Busan Bay. Oryukdo is a group of six islands that looks like five when two of the islands are connected in low tides – Or and Yuk means 5 and 6 in Korean. These islands were in my view as I was sailing to Mipo, and the rocks were stunning.
Oryukdo Skywalk stands for “walking on the sky”. The transparent, horseshoe-shaped walkway hangs on a cliff 35 meters above the ocean; the Skywalk is about 15 meters long, and you can see the waves hit the cliff through the glass. It is a sought-after photography location because of its openness and proximity to the ocean. It does create dramatic views and visual effects in different kinds of weather. Visitors may even see Japan on a clear day!
Dongdaesin-2-dong’s Mangyang Road is a long mountainside road from Seo-gu to Busanjin-gu through Jung-ju and Dong-gu of Busan. Manyang road is a circular path around the hill and it is slightly shorter than Namcheon Dong; the upside, it’s easier to get to from Dongdaesin Station and the road has less busy traffic. There is a park up on the hill at the end of the road, but it enjoys an impressive sighting of cherry blossoms, if you are not up for walking the full length, stop by the park and then return to the bus station for the next stop.
Dongdae is also close to Gamcheon Culture Village. Its maze-like alleys and winding paths form a dense cluster of houses that is getting more popular among tourists in the last few years. These houses are filled with fresco art paintings that deserve a visit, but more on that in my future post.
Yeongdo’s Haeyang Road
The reason why Yeongdo is not on your radar because this area is not connected by the metro. The upside is, the lack of mass transportation gives the trail along the stream a little peace and quiet that may benefit your cherry blossom viewing experience.
The viewing path, namely Dongsamhae stream and cherry blossom road, is located along a stream with wooden bridges and two lines of cherry trees on each side. It was supposed to be a residential walking area, but the beautiful scene did make this place gaining popularity among the locals. The path is located in Dongsam-dong, and tourists can go there by taking bus no 10 or 190 buses.
Nakdong River, Samnak Park
Finally, Samnak Park is yet another great place to enjoy cherry blossoms in Busan. Samnak Park is named an “Ecological Park” and listed as one of the hundred most beautiful in South Korea. The park has a long stretch of walking trail along Nakdong River, with 1,200 cherry trees planted on both sides and burst into bloom during March. The cherry blossom tunnel has drawn many exciting groups of locals to come here.
In April, the park hosts a cherry blossom festival and celebrates the season with food, joy, and music. Various stalls and live performances are set up on the side of the road and I am sure any types of visitors will find something of their interest as they walk down the road.
To go there, take a 15-minute walk toward the Nakdonggang River out of the Sasang Station; or, get off the Gwaebeop Renecite Light Rail Station.