The best time to visit the South Korean port city of Busan depends on what you plan to do there. Beachgoers will want to hit the sand during the hot and sultry summer months, while those more interested in hiking or sightseeing may prefer a visit during the cooler periods of spring (March to May) or fall (September and October). Although winter is milder in the southern city than more northern cities such as Seoul, stepping out in January or February requires warm winter apparel.
No matter when you choose to visit, use this guide to help you delve into rollicking fish markets, seaside temples, and dynamic festivals, all set between emerald green mountains and the sprawling white sand beaches along the East Sea.
Each of the four seasons is distinct in Busan, as they are throughout the entire country. Winter can be bitterly cold, with icy blasts sweeping down from Siberia, though it rarely snows in Busan. Spring temperatures range from 56 to 71 degrees F, perfect for frolicking amid the pink blossoms of the cherry trees. Summer is hot (76 to 85 degrees F) and extremely humid, driving many Koreans into the city to visit the famed white sand beaches. Keep in mind that June through September is also typhoon season, with elevated rainfall and a chance of heavy storms. Fall brings a return to mild weather ranging from 61 to 79 degrees F, and makes for a good time to explore the many hiking trails, fish markets, and shopping districts.
Because of the city’s many beaches, summer is the most crowded time to visit Busan. This southern metropolis becomes extremely congested during this time of year, but since it’s got some of the most beautiful and accessible beaches in the country, it’s well worth a visit if you’re in dire need of cooling off. Although spring and fall feature the most agreeable weather, these times are not any more crowded than usual, with the exception of a few Korean holidays, and the Busan International Film Festival in October. But Busan has a lot more than just beaches. You’ll find a plethora of restaurants, coffee shops, shopping areas, museums, and various tourist attractions throughout the city, making a visit to Busan enjoyable during any season.
Tourist Attraction Availability
The Busan metropolitan area has a population of nearly 3.5 million, the second most populous area in Korea. With that number of people calling the city home, it ensures there’s no real “off” season. While outdoor landmarks such as beaches or temples are open year round, they may occasionally close due to inclement winter weather or summer typhoons.
Though winter can be a little cheaper and summer can be slightly more expensive, prices in Busan remain steady during most of the year with the exception of two main spikes—the national holidays, Seoullal and Chuseok (the dates of which fluctuate annually but generally occur during February and September). During these times, the entire country mobilizes, making train tickets, flights, and hotels more expensive.
With the average temperature hovering around 38 degrees F, you’d think the crowds would be minimal in January in a town that’s mainly known for beaches. But this month marks the winter school holidays in South Korea, which adds a handful of domestic tourists to the city’s already buzzing population. Busan can get crowded and expensive when Seollal falls at the end of January, which it does every few years.
It’s chilly and dry in February, but the streets are often busy with shoppers and visitors in anticipation of the Lunar New Year, which generally falls this month.
Events to check out: Colorful displays in shop windows and performances in city squares make February a fun time to visit Busan.
Although spring technically begins this month, temperatures in March linger in the 40s and 50s F. In recent years however, warm temperatures have surprised everyone, including the trees, making an early cherry blossom season a possibility.
April is officially cherry blossom season, and one of the most beautiful months in Busan. With temperatures mainly in the 50s and 60s, and generally no rain, April is the ideal time to visit (if it’s not the beach you’re after).
Events to check out:
- Samnak Ecological Park is the location of the annual Cherry Blossom Festival in Busan. Each April, more than 1,200 cherry trees release their fragrant blooms, creating dreamline pink tunnels along the Nakdonggang River.
- Held in honor of Buddha’s birthday is the Samgwangsa Temple Lantern Festival, where 40,000 colorful paper lanterns are displayed in celebration on the ornate temple grounds. (Buddha’s birthday is observed on different dates each year, meaning this festival sometimes takes place in May.)
May is the calm before the summer storm (literally and figuratively) in Busan. Daytime temperatures can reach into the 70s, kids are still in school, and the rainy and tourist seasons have not quite begun.
Events to check out: Beach lovers will want to attend the Haeundae Sand Festival that takes place in late May. During the event hundreds of sand castles are created by renowned sand sculptors, and there are also a variety of street parades and art markets, plus a water gun fight, and the Busan Fringe Festival (an international performing arts festival).
June weather can be tempestuous, with temperatures ranging anywhere from the 60s to 80s F. It’s also the beginning of typhoon season, meaning rain becomes a daily possibility. Most of the city’s beaches, including the famous Haeundae, are open for swimming with lifeguards on duty beginning June 1 (a few beaches don’t staff lifeguards until July 1).
When the calendar flips to July, Busan’s hottest and most humid months are about to begin. Summer is high season in Busan because the city has some of the country’s best beaches, and it’s easily accessible from the capital city of Seoul in only three and a half hours. Finding a hostel or hotel at the last minute on summer weekends can be challenging.
Event to check out: The Busan International Rock Festival is an outdoor music festival that takes place over two days in Samnak Riverside Park.
Korean children have school holidays in August, and you’ll likely find them all on Busan’s beaches if it’s not raining. In addition to soaring temperatures, August is also one of the rainiest months in the country.
Event to check out: First held in 1996, the Busan Sea Festival is now a major event highlighting the city’s charms. Taking place at various beaches across the city, the festival features a variety of cultural performances, activities, and live music.
Chuseok generally occurs in September, making it a bustling month in Busan. Although the beaches officially close on August 31st (meaning no life guards are on duty), temperatures remain hot and crowds still flock to the coast.
While October may still be warm, it’s past the summer beach season making it a slightly less chaotic month to visit. That said, it is the time of year for the famed Busan International Film Festival, an event that thousands of people flock to for 10 days each year.
Event to check out: The Busan International Film Festival has been taking place each October since 1996, and is known as one of Asia’s top film festivals.
Temperatures start to drop in November (think between 40 to 60 degrees F) and this month brings with it fewer visitors, with the exception of the ultra-crowded few days during Busan’s beloved fireworks festival.
Event to check out: Millions of people both domestic and international flock to see the Busan Fireworks Festival light up the sky above the Diamond Bridge off the coast of Gwangalli Beach each November.
In December, temperatures in Busan drop into the 30s and 40s F. Christmas is widely observed in South Korea, and shops and department stores deck their halls accordingly. Combined with the country’s tax-free shopping program, December is a great time of year to visit.
Events to check out:
- For a dash of the holiday spirit, pop over to the Busan Christmas Tree Festival. During the months of December and January, this popular shopping area gets transformed into a winter wonderland full of twinkling Christmas lights. A variety of street performances and food vendors add to the draw.
- While Haeundae is famed for its Hawaiian-style beach, another can’t-miss reason to visit is the Haeundae Light Festival. Filled with sparkly holiday lights, carol singing, and myriad Santas, this popular event occurs annually in December and January.