Nestled within Busan, Korea’s southern, oceanside city and the second largest in the country, is Gamcheon Culture Village.
While this port city is often thought of in relation to its beach vibes and housing the largest jimjilbang in the country, you’re missing out if you overlook the charming, brightly colored neighborhood sometimes referred to as Busan’s Santorini.
The bright, colorful homes are designed along a cliffside in a tiered layout so that they can all look over the harbor. You might also compare the idea to Rio de Janeiro’s favelas.
Whatever nickname you might give it, this little village is a stunning burst of colors.
And “stunning burst of colors” is not normally associated with many Korean places.
Why Does Gamcheon Culture Village Exist?
According to CNN, the village came to creation in the aftermath of the Korean War and was born out of a religion known as Taegeukdo. When Busan had 800 Taegeukdo families rebuild along the hillside, they built the village using the aforementioned tiered layout. This is due to their belief in allowing neighbors to prosper. By setting up the houses in tiers, no house blocks one another.
The pastel colors are also born out of the families’ own aesthetic preferences rather than as any sort of imitation.
It was originally considered more of an impoverished area, but in recent years there’s been much more interest in maintaining and allowing the village to grow.
Many of the abandoned homes have been turned into exhibition pieces, and the village now has a tourist course. You can buy an English map for about 2,000 won and just roam around, following the fish (pictured above) to different spots. There are even photo opp areas.
While a lot of Korea has become commercialized, it seems Gamcheon Culture Village is more of an off-the-beaten-path destination.
You won’t run into constant tour groups, and even the foreign faces are few and far between. If you go early enough (before noon), you might even find the village a bit less crowded.
Furthermore, because it is still very much a residential area, you won’t find it particularly noisy and the street vendors are kept to a minimum. Some of the houses have been turned into shops and cafes, with all the proceeds going towards the villagers, so feel free to grab a coffee or purchase some souvenirs, knowing you’re supporting local!
More on Gamcheon Culture Village
-How to Get There | To get to Gamcheon Culture Village, we took the subway from Busan Station (부산역) to Toseong (토성) along Line 1. Leave through Exit 6 and turn right when you’re facing the intersection. You’ll see a cancer center. The local bus stop is right in front of it. Take Bus 2 for about 1,000 won, and it will stop at the village after around 5-10 minutes. It’s quite a doozy of a bus ride, so if you don’t mind spending about 3-4,000 extra won, just take a taxi.
-It is possible to spend the night in the village as some Airbnb rentals have been popping up. Otherwise, I’d recommend staying near one of the beaches.