Busan is a beautiful city, one whose splendors continue to reveal themselves to me after ten years of living among its streets. My time here may have infused me with a certain amount of bias, but the tapestry of the traditional and modern—all set among spectacular mountains and gleaming sea—make this town a true feast for the eyes. And one thing is for certain: There is simply no better way to experience Korea’s Second City than on foot.
The best way to do this is via the Galmaetgil, which translates to “Seagull Path.” The Galmaetgil is a series of 21 trails that wind along the city’s coastline and snake through its streets. The courses have been developed over the past several years and have proven popular for both locals and visitors alike. Walking the Galmaetgil puts hikers in touch with Busan’s natural beauty, along with giving them an appreciation for the city’s fascinating urban history and modern design. Courses Two and Three are my favorites.
Course Two is the shortest and most popular, end to end. It begins on Dalmaji Hill (just north of Haeundae Beach) and leads to Gwangali Beach, via Dongbaek Island. From Gwangali the journey gets a bit more strenuous, as the path climbs along the rocky seashore of Igidae Park, offering unrivaled views of parts of the city as well as the ocean, before ending in Orykdo.
Course Three begins in Orykdo and leads to Daeyon-dong’s UN Memorial Park and Cemetery, which commemorates foreign soldiers who gave their lives in the Korean War. It passes through Sinseondae, offering views of the naval base and harbor, before winding through hidden, old parts of Busan, including Busanjin Market and Busan Station. From there it shoots up Eomgwansan mountain, where hikers can take in views of the whole city while breathing in the fresh mountain air.