Before moving to Korea, I had to decide where I wanted to apply for/live. I decided on Busan because it’s a little bit smaller than Seoul but still a big city with many things to do. I also wanted to live in Busan because it has a lot of beautiful beaches. After living in Busan for almost a year and a half I’m happy with the decision I made! Busan is a great city and I’m really glad I live here. In spring and fall, there are lots of mountains to hike around Busan, in the summer there’s always a new beach to explore and in winter there are lots of spas, shopping, and nightlife options.
(below - the view of Busan from Busan Tower in Nampo-dong)
I’ve visited Seoul several times since moving to Korea, and I loved it! It’s a great place to try different foods, go shopping, and experience Korean culture. My favorite place in Seoul was Bukchon Hanok Village, a small neighborhood of houses in the traditional Korean style. I also loved Myeong-dong shopping district. Seoul is a great place to visit if you miss Western food - I highly recommend Gusto Taco, the best Mexican food I’ve found in Korea! I would definitely recommend visiting Seoul to anyone who comes to Korea!
(below - Gyeonbokgung Palace in Seoul)
Other than Busan and Seoul - the two largest cities in Korea - I’ve visited several other places that I’ve really enjoyed. My favorites are Jeju Island, Geoje Island, and Gyeongju. All of them are very different than the big cities in Korea and all have different things to offer. Travelling inside Korea is very easy because of the KTX railway. For example a high speed train from Busan to Seoul takes about 3 hours and is around $50 each way. It’s easy to take advantage of public transit and visit many different places in Korea!
Jeju Island is at the top of my list for beaches in Korea. It’s a popular travel destination for Koreans and I understand why! It has tons of beautiful blue beaches with clear water and white sand. It’s an affordable beach destination and is easy to visit either by ferry or a short flight from mainland Korea. Jeju also has Hallasan Mountain - a popular hiking spot. I didn’t hike it because I preferred to spend my vacation laying on the beach, but I heard the view from the top is great! There is a lot of great seafood to eat in Jeju, and it is famous for its delicious green tea and orange juice!
(Below - one of the gorgeous beaches I visited)
Geoje Island is easier to access than Jeju - it’s connected to the mainland by a bridge, you can get there by taking a bus. It isn’t famous for beaches, but it is a beautiful island paradise as well. Geoje also has many hiking options and famous botanical gardens. When I visited Geoje I took a scenic bus ride around the island, went to Windy Hill, and went to Hakdong Mongdol Beach. My favorite was the black pebble beach, it sounded almost like a waterfall with the waves continuously trickling around the pebbles. Geoje Island is a great weekend getaway, a cheap vacation destination, and much less crowded than the other tourist destinations in Korea. If you want to spend time away from the crowds in the cities I’d recommend it!
If you want to experience more Korean culture and sleep in a hanok (traditional Korean house) I’d recommend visiting Gyeongju! Gyeongju is a much smaller town, also easy to get to using KTX. It is covered in beautiful old Korean houses and has a much more “small town” feel. Donggung Palace was beautiful and I’d recommend going there at sunset to see how the palace reflects on the water. Gyeongju was also a great place to find yummy food and traditional tea houses. I’ve heard Gyeongju is very popular to visit during the cherry blossom season, when the whole town is covered in flowers. When I visited, I stayed in a traditional hanok and slept on floor mats. It was a fun weekend getaway and a cool cultural experience!
(above - Donggung Palace
below - the hanok where I stayed in Gyeongju)
Living in Korea has been amazing, it’s so nice that there are so many different places to visit and they are all so interesting and unique. Travelling outside of Korea is always fun, but it’s nice to hop on a train and explore a new city!
Monica Russo graduated from Texas A&M University with a Bachelors in Psychology and is from St. Louis, Missouri. After spending a couple years in social work she decided to move abroad to learn more about other cultures and to challenge herself to live outside her comfort zone. Moving abroad hasn’t always been easy, but it has always been worth it and Monica loves living in Busan, South Korea. She loves new experiences, hiking, exploring other cities and helping others any way that she can. Her philosophy with her students is work hard, play hard!