BIFF (Busan Interational Film Festival) square and its nearby attractions, Bupyeong/Gukje market are great for families and are popular with locals and tourists. It is a wonderful getaway for exploring the old and new, art and entertainment and lots of food options
If you love mingling with locals and breathe in their culture with sights and sounds of the local's day to day activity, you will love these places. They are just next to each other and I would recommend you give yourself 2 half days to explore them.
While most of the shop owners at the local markets do not speak English, they are used to tourists. As long as you have paper and pen (for writing/drawing eg: costs), Google translate to communicate simple words, you can enjoy shopping and eating among the locals.
(Above: Christmas light-up at BIFF suare, 2016)
Here are some background of these areas. These information can help you understand what to look out for and what experiences they offer to visitors.
A. Bupyeong Market (부평시장) / Bupyeong Jokbal Alley
Bupyeong Market is also known as Kkangtong (tin can) Market."Kkangtong" is a name which reflects a historical period when the market is famous for selling a variety of imported canned goods from the United States for the US forces stationed in Korea during the Korean War.
As most of the foreign products sold across the nation at that time were supplied from this market, it was also referred to as ‘Gukje (International) Market’. Nowadays, the market has reduced in size as many foreign products are freely imported, but the reputation and potential still remain. Some imported goods including liquor, clothes, ornaments, accessories, fashion items and electronic goods are still sold here. Along the 110 m-long street market you will find kiosks selling Korean food, international food such as Japanese and Filipino foods clothes and accessories. There is a total of 7 Arcades (streets), which covers parts of Gukje market as well.
Information from: KTO, http://english.visitkorea.or.kr/enu/SHP/SH_EN_7_2.jsp?cid=1884501; http://www.bupyeong-market.com/bs/en/5Arcade.do?searchCategory=#
B. BIFF Square (BIFF 광장)
In September∼October every year, the whole area of Busan becomes an ocean of cinema with the enthusiasm generated by the Busan International Film Festival (BIFF). The first BIFF opened in 1996 as a non competitive festival. In spite of its short history, BIFF was recognized by the international film industry for its organization. BIFF has matured and is developing into the most influential cinema festival in Asia. Junggu District Office named the street from Busan Megabox Theater to the Chungmudong overpass the BIFF Square and holds a BIFF eve ceremony every year to enhance its global attractiveness as a symbolic place of BIFF.
Having been remade into a cultural tourist attraction promoting the advancement of Korea’s film industry, BIFF Square has contributed to Busan’s newfound status as an international cultural tourist city. The 428 meter-long street stretching from the Buyeong Theater in Nampo-dong to the overpass in Chungmu-dong was divided into “Star Street” and “Festival Street,” and on the eve of the festival each year the “BIFF Square Ground Opening” is held on the street. During the ceremony, events such as the hand printing of famous movie celebrities and Nunggot Jeomdeung (snow-flower lighting) take place.
Information from: http://etour.bsjunggu.go.kr/02/index.php?code=020202
Pictures from my trip: Hand prints from the 15th and 16th Busan International Film Festival
C. Gukje Market (남포동 국제시장)/Art Street/Crafts/Local produce (Dry goods/items)
Gukje market once was the nation’s largest market in terms of business volume. With national liberation achieved in 1945, Gukje Market began to take shape around Sinchang-dong. When the nation regained its independence, Japanese people began to make money by selling things under license before returning to their country. A variety of goods poured into the Bupyeongdong Public Market, the nation’s biggest market at that time, turning the site of the present Gukje Market, which was a wide empty space in those days, into a marketplace.
When American soldiers began to stay in Korea, all kinds of goods were imported illegally along with military supplies through Busan Port. Now an estimated 1,489 stores belonging to about 580 companies have set up their business in the area.
Information from: http://etour.bsjunggu.go.kr/etc/index.php?cate01=tour&idx=7400039&step=1&bcode=view
1. Getting There
Take Busan subway Line 1 to Jalgachi Market, exit 3, 8, 7. If you want to explore BIFF Square first, take exit 7. If you want to explore the local eating areas in the market, take exit 3. then follow the directions shown in the map in section 2.
2. Area Information
Jalgachi station --> BIFF square are separated by a street while Gukje Market is just besides BIFF square.
3. Moving around
A. Bupyeong Market (부평시장)
Bupyeong Market is a place I keep revisiting for cheap local meals. If you are planning for dinner, do note that the stalls selling hot food closes quite early. Popular ones ran out of food if you come by past 7 pm. The restaurants outside the market is opened at night, serving the crowds who likes a drink with their dinner.
Picture on left: Entrance to Bupyeong Market
Picture on right picture : BBQ restaurants serving such as this are popular with locals. "양곱창" (yang-gobchang) on the signboard means that the restaurants sell "guts" such as intestines for BBQ.
Picture below: Inside sheltered alleys at Bupyeong Market. During weekends and festive periods, you may see festive lights at its tall ceilings
As a city by the sea, restaurants selling seafood can be found in every corner. Just oustide Bupyeng market, We saw quite a few restaurants selling steamed snow crab (picture below, on right side).
There is a breadshop breadbro selling traditional bread and modern cheesecake, with a banner, which you may find along the more modern streets in Busan (picture above, on left side).
Shops such as breadbro (picture above , left), will proudly display signs that they have been featured by the broadcasting stations in Korea ("SBS" logo, near red dot in picture). The 3 main broadcasting stations are SBS, KBS, MBC, and we found that there are smaller broadcasting stations YTN, which have also been actively featuring locations with good food.
I do rely alot on these signs when I am need to choose. As a general guide, I found that those featured by SBS, KBS, MBC are good references for foreign visitors, and those by YTN may feature food for the more local tastebud, but they are still good in terms of quality and value for money.
I also look out for shops which are popular with the locals. My favourite stall in the market sells food which can be eaten as a snack or a meal and most importantly, has a constant stream of customers, even during off peak hours. The stall is located at a junction not far from the entrance. It is at the junction of Arcade 2 and 5. (Number 2-9)
Map information from: http://www.bupyeong-market.com/bs/en/5Arcade.do?searchCategory=#; There are many shops along the arcade.; only restaurants are shown in the map below.
On weekdays, the food runs out before 7 pm, so catching a bite for dinner might be tricky here.
The name of the shop is 소문난분식, number 2-9 , tel: 245-2708. Most shops have similar looking banner. The neon lighting which actually shows their shop details is a better way to identify the shop.
I would order their Bibim DangMyeong (빔빔당면) or dry noodles served with vegetables is served with just the right amount of sesame and bean paste. Not too spicy, just fresh ingredients with good quality sesame seeds and sesame oil.
The fish cake soup, (Eomuk-guk, 어묵국 or Odeng-guk, 오뎅국) is also quite popular, and some customers ordered it with udon (우동). (Picture below, left)
For me, gimbap is like my basic comfort food which you can enjoy even if you are on a budget), so I usually like to order gimbap if the ingredients looks fresh and good, If you are a vegetable lover, you will love its gimbap which is served with a generous portion of fresh vegetables. (Picture below, right).
Busan is famous for its fish cakes, and you will find many shops selling them in bulk quantities for families to store up as grocery. I would not recommend that you buy your fish cakes here, as the minimum quantity is still rather large. If you are keen to try the really good (and a tat expensive) ones, you should get yours at Samjin at Busan station.
Picture credit: http://www.bupyeong-market.com/bs/en/viewStoreInfo.do?storeNum=2066
Another common dishes picked up the locals are Korean side dishes and Jokbal (Pig's trotter). There is a recommended shop (link below). For me, Jokbal with cold noodles is not my type of dish, so I ca only share what I have read. Click on the link to access the KTO site for more information: Hannyang Jokbal (한양족발).
Picture below from my trip: one of the shops selling almost any side dishes you can imagine: Assortment of Kimchi, Jokbal, jeon (Pancakes) etc. The shop has been featured in shows and they proudly hang the banner outside their shop.
B. BIFF Square (BIFF 광장)
I love to drop by BIFF square during Christmas season. You will find your usual Korean product boutiques, such as Tony Molly, Skin Food, Nature Republic, and modern, international restaurants selling local and international cuisines, as well as other modern shopping facilities.
What sets this place apart is the atmosphere-- the festive lights and street Caricature, buskers, photo- locations for visitors, food street wagons and traditional food tents selling traditional street food. The fusion of old and new creates a vibrant and inclusive atmosphere enjoyed by the young and old, local and tourists.
Busan Trick Eye Musem (부산 트릭아이미술관)
Busan Trick Eye Museum is tucked in the ninth floor of one of the building. It is really easy to miss it. Being located at one of the most vibrant part of Busan, it has to fight against every other attractions at BIFF. You can only see the Trick eye Museum logo/poster when you go into the building to check out the banners and directory at the lift.
I did not have much expectation as I traveled up the lift. The recommended time by KTO is an hour at this museum, but I ended up spending 2 hours and feeling inspired how they have utilized the space well, so that there are really good angles for phototaking.
Official Website: http://trickeye.com/busan/en
C. Gukje Market (남포동 국제시장)
The part of Gukje which makes me go back is the area marked out as the "Art street".
Where my luggage status permits, I like to pick up a drawing or two at a really good prices. Make sure you check out the quaint arts and crafts shop, which is mostly found towards the end of Art Street.
4. Meal Options
If you are at Bupyeong market, check out my recommendations above. If you are at BIFF, you can get your street food craving anywhere at BIFF square. My recommended restaurant is a dumpling soup restaurant found at one of the basement. Look out for the "18" in the restaurant name.
No. 18 Wandang (18번 완당집)
The place sits possibly about 30-40 people, and it can get really crowded during lunch. The specialty is the dumpling soup, where customers can take as a light meal in between lunch and dinner. You can also order the set meal, which can fill you up at affordable prices, considering the air-conditioned comfort.
The soup is good not the best I have tried. It is clear and refreshing but I do not crave for more: I thought the one I had at Tongyeong was the better- the taste was unforgettable and it left me craving for more. Nevertheless the dumpling skin here was really soft and smooth and the dish should go really well with kids and ladies. The gimbap and side dishes were quite good as well. A set is between 9000won to 13000 won.
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