From Busan Tower I walked down to the area nearby the Jagalchi metro station to catch one of the green minibuses that run from there up to the Gamcheon Cultural Village. The buses thankfully have both Korean and English signs on the outside, so it’s clear which one you need to get on. Reaching the village requires the bus to navigate steep, narrow roads running up a hillside and as you go up you’ll understand why regular-sized buses don’t operate in this part of Busan.
The minibus dropped me off near the main entrance to the Gamcheon Culture Village. Right as you walk through the entryway and start down into the village you can see why this place is so popular with visitors. Hundreds of pastel-colored buildings run down a tiered U-shaped slope, forming a colorful mosaic of homes and small businesses. It’s almost like this place was created specifically for Instagram.
Gamcheon’s actual history, however, isn’t so rosy. Originally this part of Busan was a slum that was built in the 1920s and the city government relocated much of Busan’s poor population here. Gamcheon grew significantly during and after the Korean War with a massive influx of refugees and although it remained a very poor part of Busan it would continue to expand in population and landmass through the end of the 1900s. In 2009 the Ministry of Culture, Sports, and Tourism began a multi-year project to revilatilize Gamcheon. Local infrastructure was renovated and Korean artists flooded the community with murals, sculptures, and other art projects. Gamcheon was thus transformed into the city’s most colorful and artistic community and has experienced a surge of tourism within the last decade.
The main street of Gamcheon runs around the upper region of the village and it is here that you’ll find most of big attractions, as well as most of the tourists. Photo opportunities are everywhere and there are plenty of side streets to explore and get lost in. A personal favorite spot of mine is the staircase that’s been painted to look like you’re climbing up a stack of oversized books. While it is true that there’s an undeniably touristy feel to Gamcheon I’d still recommend it to anyone visiting Busan for the first time.
If you keep following the main road you’ll eventually start descending into the lower regions of Gamcheon. It seems that most visitors to the village stay in the upper regions but if you’re willing to hike down to the bottom there is even more street art to admire down there. The lower regions of Gamcheon also have a much more residential feel to them. Whereas the upper part of Gamcheon has a lot of businesses, the buildings in the lower area seem to be mostly houses.
Of course, the downside to visiting the lower part of Gamcheon is that you then have to hike all the way back up to return to the upper region. You can do this either by following the road or taking one of the staircases that run up the slope of the village. I got some more photos on my way up and once I was back in the upper area I got a pancake that was stuffed with ice cream from one of the shops. Then I returned to the main entrance to catch the next bus heading down to Jagalchi and start the long ride back to my apartment. This was the last major bit of tourism that I did in Busan and not a bad way to wrap up my sightseeing in the city.