Some links in this post are affiliate links. This means if you purchase something through my links I may make a small commission at no extra charge to you. See my disclaimer.
Known by many names including the “Macchu Picchu of Busan”, the Gamcheon Culture village is a surprising tourist destination. It’s a brightly coloured neighbourhood with a long history that over time, has become a popular hashtag on Instagram.
But it’s more than just a neighbourhood. I want to share with you the history of the area and show you some of the highlights that make this place such a hit with tourists.
I’ll be honest, even my wardrobe is full of bright colours (unlike my friends who normally wear various shades of black), so, of course, I had to check out this brightly coloured “Santorini of Korea” for myself. It’s even been called the Lego City and I think that is my favourite name yet!
I’m not making this up, the local museum that showcases the history of the village gives it these two nicknames!
|South Korea (Republic of Korea)
|South Korean Won / KRW
|Do you need a visa to visit as tourists?
Don’t forget to get travel insurance to cover you if something bad happens. One company I have personal experience with is Safety Wing. Not everyone needs the same coverage, so make sure you get a personalised quote that suits you and your trip plans.
When you need to transfer money or check exchange rates during your overseas trip, consider using Wise. They have competitive rates and make exchanging foreign funds easy. I’ve been using them since 2015.
What is the Busan Gamcheon Culture village?
The Gamcheon Culture Village in Busan is a residential area built into the mountain. The village was built in such a way that more houses could be placed in the area which makes it more populated than many other parts of Busan.
Due to the village being located on the coast and built in a tiered, multi-levelled fashion, it seems chaotic and full of life. But it wasn’t always a tourist attraction. It was once a safe haven.
These days, the village is regularly included in popular tourist itineraries and is posted all across Instagram.
Although most people who visit the village just roam free throughout the neighbourhood, there are 3 official routes that are recommended for people to take to really see everything available. You can easily follow these routes using the maps from the tourist information centre.
The village itself is easy to reach independently, but if you would prefer to go with a group in a tour, there are a few options available.
How to get there?
The village itself is easy to reach by car. If you are just visiting Busan and need a vehicle for your visit, you can get a rental car. Just make sure to have your international driving licence with you in order to drive in Korea. Here’s what you need to know when renting a car as a foreigner in Korea.
Be aware: It is not the most convenient place to find parking – consider this your warning.
Make sure you have a working phone with data access to navigate easily. You can order an eSIM straight to your device.
By Public Transport from Outside Busan
Busan is one of the 2 largest cities in the country so it is very well connected. If you need to reach Busan from elsewhere, one of the best ways to travel is by KTX. Even if you’re not travelling from Seoul to Busan specifically, the KTX is one of the most efficient travel options available.
Check out this pass that allows you a discount on the KTX with unlimited travel!
By Public Transport in Busan
If you choose to get a taxi, you can order one using a popular app in Korea for visitors named Kakao T. This app is like Uber, but for use inside of Korea.
If you would prefer a cheaper alternative, it is relatively straightforward to get public transport to the village instead. The closest subway is “Toseong Station” which is on Line 1 (Orange line). Make sure to follow the signs for “Gamcheon Culture Village” to exit 6. Once you are outside of the station you can head to the bus stop and get either of these two buses:
- Green Minibus 1-1
- Green Minibus 2-2
Both buses should have a sign on the side stating where they are headed.
If you go by public transport, don’t forget to top up your T Money card!
Photo opportunities at the Gamcheon Culture Village
One of the main features of this colourful village is how picture-perfect it is. Over time, this once-simple residential area became much more popular with tourists. Not without a little help from local artists of course.
Now it is one of the most photographed regions of Busan.
I blame Instagram honestly.
With an influx of visitors posting photos of their visits online, the locals came up with more ways to attract even more people. They decided to include more art and photo opportunities. One downside to this is there are a lot more visitors than before, which can lead to problems of its own. but it also means more people are likely to spend money here which puts money back into the local economy.
Here are a few photo opportunities that have been put in place for visitors to take advantage of:
- Fish Swimming through the alley
- Face of Gamcheon-King Jongsun
- The Message of Hope
- Gamcheon Sound
- Little Prince & the Fox
- The colourful “Harry Potter stairs”
- The Cat Garden
And what’s more, you can follow one of three routes to see all the art installations without missing anything. It helps turn the whole experience into a bit of a game.
Plus: You can collect stamps along the way too, Can you find all of the different stamp locations in the village?
The great news is that there are no official opening or closing times. Since this is a residential neighbourhood in a bustling city, there are no gates or fences surrounding the village that could allow you to purchase a ticket.
However, please be mindful that this is a place where people actually live so you should always be respectful and not make too much noise while wandering around
Due to simply being a real village where people live, there is no price tag on visiting. You are generally free to roam around on the street for free, however, it is often appreciated when visitors purchase goods from the small shops along the way.
You’ll easily find some adorable things to purchase throughout the village you’ll probably want to treat yourself to, although these are not mandatory to buy.
Information Centre & Museum
If you’d like to learn a little bit more about the village while you’re there, I’d recommend heading over to the Tourist information centre which doubles as a museum. Here, you’ll get to see a photo timeline of the city’s changing structure over the years and understand the individual art pieces that were installed.
Plus, if you tend to get lost easily, you can purchase a map of the village for just 2,000 won (roughly £1.30) which will show you the various routes and points of interest along the way.
Please note: It would take you roughly 3 hours to complete all available routes.
Tips for visiting the Culture Village
I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again. Actual people live in these homes and they likely don’t want hooligans running around disrupting the peace of their homes. Be polite, keep noise to a minimum and treat this neighbourhood how you would your own (if not, then better) so as to not upset the people that live here.
Wear comfortable shoes
There are A LOT of hills and staircases in the Gamcheon Culture Village. If you happen to wear uncomfortable shoes you will likely regret your decision. Due to how many steep staircases weave in between the homes, you’ll be walking most of the day and heels are just not a good idea in all honesty. Please leave them at home and look after your feet.
Many of the local food stalls and souvenir shops are the main source of income for the people that live here. That means, by purchasing an item or something to eat from the locals, you’re making sure money stays within their community. Plus, you’ll love your new souvenirs!
Mind your head
I’ll be honest, I know I’m taller than the majority of residents in Korea. However, many of these old buildings have tiny doorways which means you have to be careful. I wasn’t paying full attention when I tried to walk to a window to take a look at the view from inside and nearly concussed myself when I hit my head on the ceiling. Be careful!
Apart from the fact that people live here, it was reimagined for touristic purposes, so you’re allowed to enjoy yourself! Take photos, act silly but most of all admire the village’s beauty.
The History of Gamcheon Culture Village
The history of the Gamcheon Culture Village is almost as colourful as the current buildings standing there. Built during the 1920s and 1930s, this village was home to many refugees of the Korean War.
With so many people displaced during the war, the Busan government decided they needed to move many lower-class people to a new location. They didn’t want many of the poor communities near the main transportation port, but they did want them close enough that they could work in the area.
This prompted these slums to be built on the mountain which got increasingly bigger as the years went on. These small makeshift homes started to be replaced by houses made from bricks and more stable materials which left a more permanent mark in the region.
Fast forward to 2009, Busan decision-makers wanted to reinvent this once-dull shanty town and reached out to many artists to help them inject some life into the village. They started brightening up the exteriors of each house and added many unique art installations along the way.
Since then, many people have started to flock to this colourful sea of buildings in South Korea and it has become one of the most visited tourist attractions in Busan.
Fun things to do here
Take advantage of the photo ops
You won’t be able to miss the many opportunities to snap your camera. Pretty much every building has something to offer visitors with regard to being Instagram-worthy. Look at everything. Check out the view from different angles. Trust me, you’ll be happy you did.
Find the Gamcheon sign
As with most popular tourist sights, Gamcheon has a large sign of its name that is perfect for a photo opportunity. It’s wedged in between two small buildings and sits opposite a dessert stall where you can buy some unusual coloured ice cream..
Check out the small stores
What I love about small boutiques and stores compared to large chains, is how much of the merchandise is limited to only a few of each. This allows you more chance of having something a little different to every other tourist. Plus, if it’s homemade and not manufactured on a large scale, there is definitely more love put into the item.
Visit the BTS mural
Of course, there is a mural of Jungkook & Jimin here! This wall is the perfect photo spot for big fans of the famous BTS K-Pop band. Be warned, if it’s a busy day, you’ll likely need to queue up to get a photo with this painting of these Korean idols.
Learn about the town’s history in the museum
The museum is near one of the entrances off of the main street. Not only can you learn about the origins of the village here, but you can also see a large map showing you the various routes visitors can take too. Don’t forget you can also purchase a small handheld map here too!
Enjoy the view from a cafe rooftop
Most cafes and shops have a rooftop that is accessible to the public. This means you can take a look over the entire village while relaxing. With so many viewpoints to choose from you’ll be able to enjoy the city in more ways than one. Plus, if the weather is nice, you’ll get to enjoy the sunshine too.
Try some of the local food
Buckets of meat, or sweet treats. There are multiple places to choose from while wandering through the village. Below we had both “black pink” ice cream and some sweet Korean chicken. Both great. Would eat again.
Get a reading from the Chinese New Year boxes
If you know your Chinese horoscope and the animal of your year of birth then you’re in luck. Head over to the twelve boxes and choose the animal that represents yourself. Input 1,000 won and get a fortune ball out of the machine. It’s a fun way to receive a fortune relating to your birth year and who knows, you might receive good wishes!
Visit Honey-Jar the golden retriever
Ok, so this is more of a bonus activity, but located near the 1-1 bus drop-off zone, just down the hill there is a free photo area. The owner of the photo-op garden has the most adorable golden retriever named Honey-Jar who just loves attention. Go and visit them, get some fun photos of the village and check out their store while you’re at it!
Try and Find KDrama Locations
Many KDramas and movies have used the stunning Gamcheon Village as a setting and backdrop. Some examples include “Luca: The Beginning” and “A Little Princess”. Just by walking around the village, you’ll be able to see various alleyways and recognisable filming locations seen in popular shows and movies.
Final Thoughts on Gamcheon Culture Village
Spending a few hours here is a great way to immerse yourself in the local community and get some fun images for your photo albums. The stores here help the local residents earn an income and get to showcase their picturesque mountainside homes, something they didn’t think possible when the place was first constructed all those years ago.
Have you been to the village yet? What did you think?