Looking for an area to live in Busan? Our new series looks at locals in Busan giving the inside scoop on what goes on in their neighborhood.
In our eleventh installment, we talked to Italian Daniella Park about the ins and outs of life in Gwangalli.
About the Area
One of the most popular places to visit in the city with its clean sand and stunning views of the Gwangan Bridge, Gwangalli is a place that doesn’t sleep.
Gwangalli’s beach size increased along its 1.4-km shore from the previous 23 meters to 50 meters, more than doubling in size by adding 45,000 cubic meters of sand in 2016 as part of the city’s beach restoration program.
The area has hosted many types of events to bring people back to the beach over the years, including introducing more watersports such as surfing and stand-up paddleboarding to the area, as well as hosting beach movies, closing the street to traffic at night in the summer, concerts, festivals, and children’s activities.
The area itself has recently had restrictions lifted on building size, meaning a new era of officetels and more housing coming to the area.
Gwangan’s back streets host a large variety of dining and drink options, while the main road is covered with cafes, terraces, and dining and drinking establishments all offering exquisite views.
On weekends in the summer, around 300,000 people can visit the beach area making it the second most popular beach attraction in Busan.
Name: Daniella Park
Occupation: Hotel Marketer
Where are you originally from? Rome, Italy
What area do you live in? Gwangalli, Suyeong-gu
How long have you lived there? Three years
Why did you choose there? The beach! I love to be close to the water and also have a bit of nightlife, and Gwangalli is the perfect place for a mix of both just steps from my door. I liked the area a little more than Haeundae because the beach sees more locals than Haeundae and I also find it to be much more accessible to just walk there quickly than Haeundae.
What kind of people would you say tend to live in your area? Along the whole of Gwangalli, there are a variety of styles of accommodation, from studios and one and two rooms to newly built apartment complexes, so it is everyone from students and young adults to families who enjoy great views of the water and bridge.
Do you know any of the neighbors or anyone in your building complex? I’ve only met one or two people as I am rarely home. Between work, exercise, taking my dog for a walk, or sitting in cafes, I prefer to spend my time outdoors as much as possible.
What are the best local spots in your area? Gwangalli Beach is the most obvious answer, but if you want to experience something other than the bridge view, there are some lovely places to walk either behind Samick Beach apartments which has a nice walking and exercise area. Also, the area along Suyeong River by Millak Waterfront Park and the boardwalk has great views of Haeundae and Centum City while also having some great little cafes and tea houses there.
What kind of stores are within a 5-minute walk to your front door? There are so many coffee shops, bars, and restaurants that you are kind of spoiled for choices in the area. The bakery street is also not that far away so it’s always great to go and check out what delicious treats they put out each day.
What’s the view like from your living room? I have a pretty good partial view of the beach and bridge, but I can get a much clearer view if I go onto the roof. One of the downfalls people may have from living at the beach is the constant buzz of noise during the day and night, but I’m good at drowning out noises so it doesn’t bother me too much.
Are there any restaurants, shops nearby in case you need a taste of home? There are a lot of western food places that serve up American and some European fare. I find the ones that are owned by the expats here to be much more authentic than the Korean versions that do western food.
I’m also partial to places that make their own food and beverage fresh, so I like bakeries that cook their bread in a proper French style like Maitre Artisan and craft beer places like Gorilla and Galmegi.
Any recommendations on local restaurants in your area? There are so many places to choose from it’s hard to choose just one. Phuket Thai restaurant has become a favorite because I love Thai food, but there are also so many great places to eat either Western food or have a quick bbq near the beach.
Slice of Life is also a great place to go with a cozy atmosphere and the best pizza in the city.
For Korean food, I would say Seorae for meat and of course the Millak Raw Fish Center for seafood.
Are there any grocery shopping places nearby? Not really, it’s mostly just smaller marts and convenience stores, but Costco and Emart Traders are just a 10-minute drive away as well as Mega Mart in Namcheon-dong also not being too far away.
Where could you pop out for a quick drink? There are plenty of choices to drink in Gwangalli whether you are looking for a pint, wine, makkeolli, soju, sake, or whatever.
One of my favorite places is the 12th floor of the H Avenue Hotel at the end of the road down from the fish center because the views are magnificent.
Is it a good area for kids to grow up in? I don’t have kids, but I don’t think Gwangalli would be the best place for a family unless you are away from the main strip road.
Gwangan comes alive both day and night and can be quite noisy with a lot of drunk people singing and shouting, so unless you were in one of the newer apartments near the old fish market or towards the subway station, I probably wouldn’t recommend it.
Any good hangout spots to recommend? The beach of course! There is always something interesting to see and do there and it is a great place to people watch.
On weekends, there are always people of all ages walking their dogs, cycling, people playing volleyball, doing watersports, tanning, or just doing whatever. It’s a fun place to always feel something is happening in the city.
It’s also fun just to grab a book and go sit at a cafe and read while enjoying the views of the bridge at day or night.
What are some of the stranger things you’ve seen in the area? It seems there are always strange things happening at the beach!
Probably the one I still remember most was the first time I saw the alpaca walking along the beach with its owner. It became a famous animal that would attract a lot of stares from people who had no idea what it was at first.
How expensive would you rate the area? I wouldn’t say it’s too expensive but it depends on what kind of accommodation you want. There are a lot of cheaper one rooms and lofts that are very affordable for singles who are looking for a small, furnished place.
Once you get into the bigger and new apartments though, you are starting to look at anything from 700 million won to about 1.3 billion won.
Would you recommend your area to live in? Yes, if you a person who enjoys nightlife and quick access to the beach. I think it kind of depends on your character. If you prefer a quieter lifestyle or are with a family, I probably would say Haeundae is a better choice for you.
If there was any other place I could live in Busan it would be: For now, I really enjoy living here, but if I do end up staying here longer, I imagine I would try living in Marine City or somewhere in Haeundae where I could still be close to the beach and nature.