Explore Busan & Gyeongju In 4D3N With This Muslim-Friendly Itinerary


Atiqah Mokhtar •  Jun 14, 2019

When I first found out that I would be going for a media trip on SilkAir’s brand new direct flight from Singapore to Busan, I was excited! I had never visited South Korea before, thus I didn’t know much about Busan apart from what K-Dramas and movies have shown me ?

But after visiting Busan and nearby Gyeongju, I’m completely smitten! From beautiful beaches to fresh seafood and fascinating history, Busan has so much to offer. And I’ve mapped out an amazing 4D3N itinerary so you can explore Busan for yourself ?

Credit: Giphy

Getting There

I flew on SilkAir’s inaugural flight to Busan, which is its first Korean destination! SilkAir now flies direct from Singapore to Busan four times weekly (on Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday), departing at 11.15pm from Changi Airport Terminal 2 and arriving at Gimhae International Airport in Busan at 7am the next day.

While I’m usually an early sleeper, once our flight departed, I was in the mood for some movies ? SilkAir offers in-flight entertainment through its SilkAir Studio app where you can stream over 450 movies, tv shows and music albums on your personal mobile devices. Make sure you download the app before boarding your flight. However for Android users who have forgotten, you can still download them on-board! There’s a handy guide on how to download and use the app in the SilkAir inflight magazine in your front seat pocket.

#HHWT Tip: If you don’t have your earphones, you can also request a pair from the flight attendants for free ?

I was genuinely impressed with the selection of movies they had - from new releases such as Aquaman and Crazy Rich Asians to all-time favourites such as the Lord of The Rings trilogy and Marvel movies. It was hard to put down my phone and get some sleep!

Breakfast was served about 2 - 3 hours before landing. SilkAir offers Muslim meals, which you can request for ahead of your flight. Use the manage booking function online to do this and remember to make the request at least 32 hours prior to your departure time ? For my meal I got fried rice with chicken and stewed veggies, which came with a bread roll and some fruits. The chicken was tender and made a good combination with the fried rice that was quite flavourful. I also appreciated the fresh fruit – it was a nice way to end the meal on a light but sweet note.

Our flight landed in Busan about half an hour ahead of schedule ? The airport in Busan isn’t very big, so getting through immigration and picking up our luggage was a fast and fuss-free experience. It was time to start my Busan adventure!

Day 1 (Gyeongju)

Arrive in Busan and make your way to Gyeongju (1.5 hours)

  • Gyeongju is about a 1 hour and 20-minute drive away from Busan. It’s a town rich in history that dates back to Korea’s ancient Silla dynasty.
  • You can take a direct bus from the airport terminal to Gyeongju town, which will cost about 11,000 won. The bus stop is located outside the international arrivals area on the first floor (you can also inquire at the tourist information centre located in the arrivals hall for directions if unsure). The bus runs every half an hour. You can also opt for a private taxi, costing upwards of 90,000 won.

See the traditional beauty of Gyochon Hanok Village (1.5 hours)

  • What better way to start off your trip than to immerse in Korean tradition? This hanok (traditional) village is the former residence of a well-respected family known as the Choi Clan that have lived there for twelve generations ? Admission to the village is free.

  • Rent a hanbok (Korean traditional wear) to wear while you explore the village! The hanbok rental store is located near to the main entrance - it’ll be easy to spot as you’ll see a lot of people in traditional wear standing around ? It costs 10,000 won to rent the hanbok for one hour, 15,000 won for two hours and 20,000 won for three hours. The hanbok rental store also has lockers for you to keep your belongings so you can walk around the village without your bags ruining your style ?

  • Explore the village and see beautiful traditional houses which have been carefully preserved. Some of them have also been converted into shops and restaurants.

  • Try your hand at making injeolmi! These traditional rice cakes made out of glutinous rice flour are steamed and pounded by hand using a large wooden mallet. The dough is then cut into small pieces and topped with dried bean powder. They tasted like warm peanut-flavoured mochi ?

Opening hours: Summer season (9am - 7pm), Winter season (9am - 6pm)

Address: 39-2, Gyochonan-gil, Gyeongju-si, Gyeongsangbuk-do

Admission fee: Free

Learn about the historic Cheomseongdae Observatory and its beautiful surrounds (1 hour)

  • Marvel at one of the oldest observatory towers in Asia, built during the 7th century. It was used to observe stars and forecast the weather.

  • Take a beautiful 10-minute walk from Gyochon Village to get to Cheomseongdae. You’ll walk along a paved road shaded by trees that’s part of Gyerim Forest, a small park that’s near the site of the former royal fortress during the Silla Dynasty.

  • Once you reach the end of the road, you’ll see the tower from a slight distance. If you visit during spring as I did, you’ll see the fields near the tower covered in wildflowers!
  • Entrance to the observatory is free. There’s also a small room next to the information counter called the Digital Cheomseongdae, where you can watch a documentary (with English subtitles) about the tower’s history.

  • It’ll be hard to miss the large mounds carpeted in grass located near the observatory. These are actually ancient tombs where members of royalty were buried around 1,000 years ago!

Opening Hours: 9am - 9pm

Admission fee: Free

Address: 140-25, Cheomseong-ro, Gyeongju-si, Gyeongsangbuk-do

Check-in to accommodation

  • Now’s a good time to check into your hotel and freshen up before moving on to your next stop!

  • We stayed at K-Hotel Gyeongju, a no-frills hotel near Bomun Lake where a lot of hotels are located.
  • The room was quite spacious (my room could easily fit 3 people) and there’s a convenience store located at the basement floor.  The furnishings are a bit dated, but there’s free Wi-Fi! ?

#HHWT Tip: Bring a travel adaptor, as South Korean electronics use plugs with two round pins (220V standard at 60Hz).

  • Once you’ve checked in, you can complete your prayers before heading out to the next stop.

Take in a bird’s-eye view of Gyeongju on SkyWorld Balloon Ride (0.5 hours)

  • Take in the beautiful sights of Gyeongju and Bomun Lake from high up on a tethered balloon ride.

  • The balloon ride features a carriage that’s connected to a pulley system anchored to the ground. The carriage can accommodate up to 30 people and lifts up to 150m off the ground (though please note how high it goes also depends on the weather and wind conditions for the day).

  • The operator brought us up and let us stay up there for about 10 - 15 minutes before bringing us back down. The views were so lovely! I could see the lake, the surrounding hills and the beautiful greenery below.

Opening Hours: Summer season (9am - 7pm), Winter season (9.30am - 5.30pm). Opening hours are also subject to weather conditions

Price: 15,000 won per person

Address: 181 Bodeok-dong, Gyeongju, Gyeongsangbuk-do

Explore the tranquil beauty of the historic Bulguksa Temple (1.5 hours)

  • Bulguksa Temple is a Buddhist temple complex that dates back to the 8th century. It houses several historical relics that are considered national treasures, and the temple is a UNESCO World Heritage Site (along with nearby Seokguram Grotto).

  • Admire the beautiful gardens and lakes as you walk from the entrance towards the main temple structure, which will take about 10 – 15 minutes.

  • The staircase to the grand entrance of the main hall is closed off to preserve the structure, so follow the pathway to the right (up a gentle slope) to enter the main hall area from the side entrance.

Dabotap Pagoda (on the left) and the pretty lantern decorations within the main hall area

  • See the Dabotap and Seokgatap pagodas - two surviving stone pagodas from the original temple structures. Fun fact: the Dabotap is also featured on the 10 won coin!
  • When we visited, the temple was festively decorated with colourful lanterns in honour of the upcoming celebrations for Buddha’s birthday.

  • As you walk around you will also pass by a courtyard filled with stacks of stones. The locals here stack stones as a form of prayer or to wish for blessings.

Opening Hours: 7am - 6pm

Admission fee: 5000 won (adult); 2,500 won (child)

Address: 385, Bulguk-ro, Gyeongju-si

Have a delicious dinner at vegetarian restaurant Sseukbujaengi (1 - 2 hours)

  • Have dinner at vegetarian restaurant Sseukbujaengi. This restaurant has been rated as Muslim-friendly by the Korea Tourism Organisation (you’ll notice the Muslim-Friendly sticker displayed at the door).

  • The restaurant serves vegetarian-based dishes only (with no alcohol or other animal-based products used to prepare the dishes). However, please note that alcoholic beverages are served here.

  • The restaurant serves temple-style food and specialises in set meals - when I was there, we were served a wonderful 12-course meal. My favourites were the jap chae (stir-fried glass noodles) and the mock steak, which tasted more like chicken to me, but it was delicious and I was amazed it wasn’t meat!

Halal status: Vegetarian-only restaurant. Please note that alcoholic beverages are served, we advise you to dine at your own discretion.

Opening Hours: 10am - 10pm

Price: Set meals start from 15,000 won

Address: 147-5, Bobul-ro, Gyeongju-si, Gyeongsangbuk-do

Marvel at the majestic views of Donggung Palace & Wolji Pond by night (1 hour)

  • End your night with a stroll at Donggung Palace & Wolji Pond.

  • See beautiful views of the historical site that used to be the west wing of the Grand Palace during the Silla dynasty. It has now become a popular place to see stunning night-time views in Gyeongju.

Opening Hours: 9am - 10pm

Admission fee: 2,000 won (adult); 1,200 won (teenagers); 600 won (children)

Address: 102, Wonhwa-ro, Gyeongju-si, Gyeongsangbuk-do

And that wraps up Day 1! Head back to your hotel and get a good night’s sleep so you’ll be fresh and ready to continue exploring Gyeongju tomorrow before heading back to Busan.

Day 2 (Gyeongju & Busan)

Have a ball of a time at Gyeongju World (2.5 hours)

  • Visit one of the biggest theme parks in the country!

  • If you’re an adrenaline junkie, the Draken rollercoaster is a must-try. It features an almost vertical drop that was so exhilarating! Other popular rides include the Phaeton rollercoaster and the Klake ride.

  • If you’re not into rides, you can still soak in the carnival atmosphere of the park, as they have separate passes to allow general admission (without rides).
  • There is also Wizard Garden (a kids zone with children’s rides), and seasonal attractions like the Summer Beach and Snow Sled Garden.

Opening Hours: Weekdays (9.50am - 6pm); Saturday (9.50am - 9pm); Sunday (9.50am - 7pm)

Admission fee: Admission only: 23,000 won (adults) /17,000 won (teenagers) / 15,000 won (children); Ride Pass (incl. admission fee): 44,000 won (adults) / 38,000 won (teenagers) / 31,000 won (children)

Address: 544, Bomun-ro, Gyeongju-si, Gyeongsangbuk-do

Say farewell to Gyeongju and head back to Busan (1.5 hours)

It’s time to head back to Busan! If you’re using public transport, you can take a taxi or bus (bus no. 10 or 11) from Gyeongju World to the Gyeongju bus terminal and take a direct bus back to Busan Central Bus Terminal. Tickets cost 4,800 won per person, with buses running every 50 minutes. Contrary to its the name, Busan Central Bus Terminal is located quite far from downtown Busan – you’ll have to take the metro from Nopo station nearby to the central area.

Alternatively, you can also take a taxi to Singyeonju Train Station and take the KTX back to Busan station, with tickets costing 10,700 won for a one-way trip.

Check into accommodation

  • You’ll be back in Busan in the afternoon, so now’s the perfect time to check-in to your hotel. During my trip, I stayed at Kolon Seacloud Hotel, which is located near Haeundae Beach.

  • The rooms were spacious and came equipped with a kitchenette (including induction cooktop, fridge and sink). Though please note that you’ll have to bring your own utensils and cookware as these are not provided.
  • There is a convenience store located at the ground floor, and the hotel is about a 10-minute walk to Gunam-ro, which is a street filled with shops and restaurants, including a couple of halal restaurants (which are listed further down below). You can also find other halal restaurants in Busan here.

Admire Haedong Yonggungsa Temple, the rare temple by the sea (1 hour)

  • Visit this historical Buddhist temple that’s located by the sea. This is a unique feature, as most Korean temples are located by mountains.

  • Go down the 108 steps to get to the temple – according to Buddhist teachings, each step represents earthly agonies experienced by mankind (P.S. you’ll have to climb back up the stairs on your way out, so be sure to wear comfortable shoes!).
  • Cross the bridge to get to the main temple area, where you’ll see the sea on one side and statues representing the disciples of Buddha on the other.

  • In the main temple area, you can further climb up to the higher hall to where the statue of the Goddess of Mercy is located. You’ll get a great view of the temple and the sea from here!

Opening Hours: 5am - sunset

Admission fee: Free

Address: 86, Yonggung-gil, Gijang-eup, Gijang-gun

Witness the beauty of Busan from high up its shores on Busan Air Cruise (1 hour)

  • See the stunning views of Busan’s coastline from a cable car ride.

  • The ride starts at Songdo Bay Station, where you can purchase tickets for a regular cable car or opt for a glass-bottomed one.

  • From there you head across the sea to Songdo Bay Park, where you can get off and walk around. The park has art installations, a nature walk, food stalls and fun activities to do such as dressing up in traditional wear.

  • Keep your ticket somewhere safe as you’ll need it again for your ride back down!

Opening Hours:

  • May - June; Sep - Oct: Mon -Thu, Sun & PH (9am - 10pm); Fri - Sat & eve of PH (9am - 11pm)
  • Nov - Apr:  Mon -Thu, Sun & PH (9am - 9.30pm); Fri - Sat & eve of PH (9am - 11pm)
  • Jul - Aug: Daily (9am - 11pm)

Admission fee: Adult from 15,000 won, Child from 11,000 won (for round-trip)

Address: 171 Songdohaebyeon-ro, Amnam-dong, Seo-gu

Walk along the beautiful Haeundae Beach and Dongbaek Island (1 hour)

  • You can’t miss one of the most popular beaches in Busan as well as all of South Korea – Haeundae Beach!

  • Walk along the white sandy beach that stretches for 1.5km right alongside the city. The beach is extremely popular especially in the summer months where visitors flock to the beach and many festivals are held.

  • Follow the walking path near The Westin Chosun hotel to enjoy the beautiful coastal view! This path runs along Dongbaek Island, which is a nature park located besides Haeundae beach. Fun fact: While Dongbaek originally started off as an island, it eventually became connected to the mainland due to sedimentation.

  • Spot the mermaid sitting on a rock! This bronze statue is based on an old South Korean legend about a princess who came across the sea to wed a king. The princess was terribly homesick and would gaze towards her homeland in the light of each full moon.

Opening Hours: 9am - 6pm (applies to swimming. The beach is accessible all throughout the day/night)

Admission fee: Free

Address: 264, Haeundaehaebyeon-ro, Haeundae-gu

Have a yummy grilled seafood dinner at Eobu (1 - 2 hours)

  • After walking along Haeundae Beach and Dongbaek Island, you’ll have worked up an appetite, so it’s time for dinner at Eobu, a restaurant specialising in seafood cooked over a charcoal fire.
  • This restaurant is rated Muslim-friendly by the Korea Tourism Organisation - it serves only seafood and no alcohol is used in preparing the dishes, though please note that as with many local restaurants, alcoholic beverages are served. We advise you to dine at your own discretion.

  • Busan is famous for its fresh seafood, and you’ll be able to enjoy authentic local seafood dishes here! Choose from the various seafood available and the staff will bring it to your table and cook it right in front of you. You can also have the seafood cooked hotpot-style. The dishes are made for sharing, so there’s plenty to go around ?

  • If you’re adventurous, you can also try the fresh raw octopus! This sashimi-style dish is prepared on the spot and served alongside a dipping sauce. Even though the octopus is no longer alive, the nerve activity within the tentacles still makes it move as it’s served to you! I found it to be quite delicious - just make sure to chew thoroughly once you pop it into your mouth if you don’t want to feel the tentacles squirming!

Halal status: Seafood-only restaurant. Please note that alcoholic beverages are served, we advise you to dine at your own discretion.

Opening Hours: 4pm - 2am

Price: Sharing meals start from 39,000 won

Address: 540-17, U-dong, Haeundae-gu

Stroll along The Bay 101 area and take in the night city scenes (45 minutes)

  • End your night with a stroll along The Bay 101, a marina-side development that has become a popular night-time hangout spot. There are restaurants and a walking path by the marina with pretty views of the lit-up buildings.

  • Don’t forget to drop by Gallery 101, a lifestyle store located on level 1 of The Bay 101 building. It’s filled with homeware, decor, and other knick-knacks that are fun to browse through!

Opening Hours:10am - 12am

Admission fee: Free

Address: 52 Dongbaek-ro, U-dong, Haeundae

After a full and fruitful day out, it’s time to call it a day and head back to the hotel. Rest and recharge ahead of your final day to explore Busan.

Day 3 (Busan)

Explore another side of Busan’s coast at Taejongdae Resort Park (1 - 2 hours)

  • See beautiful cliffside views of the ocean from Taejongdae Resort Park! This nature park is a popular spot, with multiple attractions you can visit such as the observatory deck, the lighthouse, temples, a pebble stone beach and more.

  • Admission to the park is free! You can take your time wandering around on foot visiting the different attractions at your leisure. However, many people choose to take the Danubi Circular Train, as the area is hilly and it can be quite tiring to walk around ?
  • The train starts at the main entrance and stops at three main sights in the park - the Taejongsa Temple, the Yeongdo Lighthouse and the observation deck. You can hop on and hop off at each stop to walk around.

#HHWT Tip: It’s best to go here early in the morning, as queues to ride the train can get super long later in the day.

Opening Hours: Mar - Oct (4am - 12am); Nov - Feb (5am - 12am)

Admission fee: Free

Danubi Train fare: 3,000 won (adult); 2000 won (youth); 1,500 (children) (the trains run from 9.20am - 5.30pm)

Address: 264, Haeundaehaebyeon-ro, Haeundae-gu

Getting here: From Busan Station (line 1, exit 9), take the bus (no.66, 88 and 101) to Taejongdae. Alternatively, from the Nampodong station (line 1, exit 6), take the bus (no. 8, 30, 66 and 88) to Taejongdae.

Get a 360-degree view of Busan city from Busan Tower & explore Yongdusan Park (1 hour)

  • After seeing the sea views of Taejongdae, it’s time to go back to downtown Busan and start exploring the area. First up is Busan Tower, one of the city’s major landmarks.

  • The tower is located within Yongdusan Park, an open space with rich historical significance - it was previously used as a shelter for refugees from the Korean War. Today, it is a popular area to sit and hangout, with attractions such as the statue of Yi Sun-Sin (a 16th-century naval hero), a traditional bell, a flower clock, love locks and more!

  • The tower itself is 120m tall and sits 69m above sea level, offering amazing views of the city.

#HHWT Tip: You can pick up souvenirs at the shop located at the observatory deck - I got myself some Busan magnets here!

Opening Hours:10am - 11am

Admission fee: For observatory only - 8,000 won (adult); 6,000 won (child)

Address: 37-55, Yongdusan-gil, Jung-gu, Busan

Shop at Gwangbok-ro Culture & Fashion Street (1 hour)

  • No trip to South Korea is complete without a spot of shopping and stocking up on Korean skincare! In Busan, you can do so at Gwangbok-ro Culture & Fashion Street. This popular street is Busan’s equivalent to Myeondong in Seoul and is filled with shops, eateries and other retail offerings.

  • There’s also a Lotte Department Store at one end of Gwangbok-ro Street, close to Nampo-dong station.

  • Stock-up on Korean skincare and cosmetics at popular brands such as Etude House and Innisfree, or drop by Olive Young (the South Korean equivalent to Watson’s). There’s even a Kakao Friends store that’s four-stories!

Getting to Gwangbok-ro Street: Take metro line 1 and get off at Nampo or Jagalchi station, depending on which places you are planning to visit. These two stations are only a few hundred meters apart from each other and are also connected by an underground tunnel filled with shops.

Have lunch at Bombay Brau (1 hour)

  • Refuel after shopping by having lunch at Bombay Brau Nampo-dong (it’s located on the first floor, so look out for the entrance that leads you up the staircase to the restaurant).

  • Bombay Brau serves Indian food, and has a number of outlets in Seoul, Daegu, Busan and more. The restaurant uses halal ingredients, though please note as with many local restaurants, alcohol is served hence we advise you to dine at your own discretion.

  • I got the butter chicken and palak paneer to share along with garlic naan, and it was delicious!

Halal status: Uses halal ingredients. Please note that alcoholic beverages are served. We advise you to dine at your own discretion.

Opening Hours: 11am - 10pm

Price: Dishes start from 15,000 won

Address: 75, Gwangbok-ro, Jung-Gu

Browse around Gukje Market, BIFF Plaza and Jagalchi Market (1.5 hours)

  • A short walk away from Gwangbok-ro Street is Gukje Market, a marketplace selling everything from food and clothes to toys, souvenirs and household products. This market was started by refugees from the Korean War and has grown to what it is today.

Opening Hours: 7am - 10pm

Address: Gukjesijang 1-gil, 2-gil, Jungu-gu

  • From Gukje Market, walk to nearby Busan International Film Festival (BIFF) Square.

  • Busan takes movies seriously. It’s home to South Korea’s first film production company, and it also hosts an international film festival annually! BIFF Square is Busan’s movie district which has been developed into a tourist attraction with many stalls selling food, souvenirs and other trinkets.

  • During the warmer months, some of the stalls will be selling strawberries! I bought a cup of strawberries for 3,000 won, and they were so sweet and yummy.

  • After seeing BIFF square, walk towards Jagalchi Market and see the largest seafood market in South Korea. Besides having indoor and outdoor markets selling an amazing array of seafood, there is also a section where you can choose your seafood and have it cooked for you on the spot (though please note that alcohol is served, hence do dine at your discretion).

Opening Hours:10am - 11am

Address: 52, Jagalchihaean-rol, Jung-gu, Busan

See the pastel-hued houses of Gamcheon Culture Village (2 hours)

  • See one of Busan’s most recognisable sights at Gamcheon Culture Village.

  • Known as the Machu Picchu or the Santorini of South Korea, the village features colourful pastel-hued houses built like steps into the foothills.

  • Take your time exploring the village and its many hidden treasures. See funky art installations, snap pictures at the many photo spots, and visit the quaint stores.
  • The village is a residential area, so do respect the residents by not infringing on their privacy.

Opening Hours: Mar - Nov (9am - 6pm); Dec - Feb (9am - 5pm)

Admission fee: Free

Address: 203, Gamnae 2-ro, Saha-gu, Busan

Take in the atmosphere on Gunamro Street (1 hour)

  • Gunam-ro is the road extending from Haeundae metro station to Haeundae Beach.  The street comes alive especially at night, with sculptures, street performances as well as flea markets.

  • There are several eateries and shops located here, great for a last-minute spot of shopping.
  • There are a couple of halal restaurants serving Indian food available along the street. There’s Bombay Brau outlet (located on top of Baskin Robbins), as well as Punjab Indian Restaurant, located across from Burger King.

And that wraps up your third and final day in Busan! Head back from Gunamro Street to your hotel – it’s time to pack up your bags as you’ll be leaving bright and early tomorrow.

Day 4

It’s time to head home!

  • I was sad to leave Busan; I wish I could have stayed longer to further explore! But I was also excited for my flight - SilkAir was kind enough to give me the opportunity to fly on Business Class for my flight home ?

  • Our flight departed at 8.30am, and I was super comfortable in my spacious seat! I was all set for entertainment too, as Business Class passengers are supplied with an iPad to access the SilkAir Studio app. It was nice to watch movies on a larger screen, and time felt like it flew by with all the movies I watched ?

  • Business Class passengers can book their meal ahead of time from the All-Time Favourites menu, which includes Muslim Meal options! I chose the Nasi Goreng with grilled satay which I thoroughly enjoyed (P.S. don’t forget to make your selection at least 24 hours before your flight!).

And there you have it, 4D3N in Busan for an amazing Korean adventure! Whether you’re a repeat traveller to South Korea or looking to explore this beautiful country for the first time, Busan needs to be on your travel bucket list.

And now that SilkAir flies direct from Singapore to Busan, there’s no reason not to visit this city! SilkAir flies from Singapore to Busan four times weekly (on Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday), departing at 11.15pm from Changi Airport Terminal 2 and arriving at Gimhae International Airport in Busan at 7am the next day. It’s time to call your travel buddies and book your SilkAir flights for an unforgettable trip to Busan!

This article is brought to you by SilkAir.