We had wanted to visit Busan for years. When the opportunity suddenly arose for a few days away, we decided to go for it. We then found ourselves in Busan, with kids, in the rain. Having packed for a beach trip, we had snorkels, buckets and spades, inflatable beach toys but only one light cardigan each. Oops. We were now on the hunt for indoor activities to keep us busy.
Haeundae might be the most popular beach in Busan, but we chose to stay at Gwangalli Beach, and we sure are glad we did. Gwangalli Beach is a long, curved stretch of sand lined with tiki umbrellas and stunning views of Gwangan Bridge that lights up at night. Thankfully when we arrived on the first afternoon, the rain hadn’t started yet. It was a bit too cool to swim, but we enjoyed a walk along the sand and a little play at the water’s edge.
We stayed at the Hotel Aqua Palace, which is right on the beachfront and an excellent choice for families with young children. There’s a large jjimjilbang (sauna) and a small water park on the 7th floor. It has a couple of swimming pools, kids’ water slides, a wave pool, all with beautiful sea views. You have to pay an additional fee to use these facilities. Something around 12,000 won per person. It’s a little run-down, but the kids had a ball, and it really saved our trip since we couldn’t play much on the beach. There’s also a brand new infinity pool on the rooftop that we didn’t use due to the rain.
For us, it was the most convenient location with the beach at our doorstep and the whole street lined with great food options. There’s even a very decent restaurant on the ground floor of the hotel. No need to even bring an umbrella! We enjoyed a beautiful Spanish meal with a romantic feel and views of the lit-up bridge at Clam.
Haedong Yonggungsa Temple
After the beaches, this was next on my list of things to see in Busan. My top tip for travelling with young kids is to schedule just one main sightseeing activity per day. Early morning is best. We’re always up early anyway, we beat the crowds, and the kids can cope with less ‘exciting’ activities while they’re still well-rested. That way you can see where the afternoon takes you depending on mood and energy levels. So we set off bright and early, stopping along the way for toasted sandwiches and coffee at Songjeong Beach. This sandy strip is lined with surf rental shops, casual cafes and food trucks. It has an overall laid back feel and would certainly be worth staying here if you’re into surfing. Although, as with all of Korea, don’t expect much swell. It’s not the ocean, after all.
Haedong Yonggunsa Temple opens at 5 am and is a popular sunrise spot. We don’t wake up quite that early though. Still, the crowds had not arrived yet. Perhaps due to the time or the forecasted rain. We didn’t mind the slight drizzle. The dark clouds actually made a dramatic backdrop to this impressive temple nestled into the rugged coastline. There was plenty to keep the kids interested. A line of Zodiac animal statues greeted us at the entrance, and we had fun talking about which animal signs our family members are. The kids find it hilarious that Appa is a chicken. We talked about the various statues and what people pray to them for. One for road traffic safety, one for academic achievement, a big belly to rub to wish for a ‘good son’. All make for interesting conversation, even with little ones.
Museum DAH Digital Art Museum
That afternoon the rain really started pouring down. So we decided to head to the very impressive Museum DAH. The floor to ceiling installations are constantly changing and moving. It’s quite otherworldly, and adults and children of all ages will be impressed. The entrance fee is rather expensive (18,000won for adults), and the space is smaller than I expected, but you could spend an hour or two taking your time in each room to watch the ever-changing displays.
Gamcheon Cultural Village
The following day we awoke to more rain, but the forecast suggested it might clear up a bit in the afternoon—the perfect chance to take advantage of the hotel’s facilities. We spent the whole morning catching kids at the bottom of waterslides. They were pretty worn out by the end, but we were all keen to try and make it to the ‘colourful village’.
You could spend at least half a day exploring the winding alleyways and steep steps of this mural-covered village. There are little art galleries and quaint cafes sprinkled throughout, and the views are quite impressive. Photographers or selfie enthusiasts will particularly appreciate this area. For little legs that had worn themselves out on the waterslides, we kept our visit short and sweet.
On that final morning, after checking out of our hotel, we thought we better make a stop at Haeundae Beach. Just to say we’ve been there. In early June there are sand sculptures on the beach but the rain must have damaged them and there was a huge bulldozer spreading out the sand – a hit with kids, but kind of ruined the view. For a city beach, it’s pretty beautiful, but we struggled to find somewhere appealing to eat nearby and ended up at Starbucks. Not an ideal end to our Busan visit. Still, despite the unfortunate weather, we are keen to return and explore more of the city and surroundings.