If you’ve done a bit of research and read up on Korea guide books, all of them will point you to this village in Busan. You may wonder, what exactly is so special about this place that everyone who visits Busan will drop by? According to KTO,
Gamcheon Culture Village is formed by houses built in staircase-fashion on the foothills of a coastal mountain, earning this village the nickname of “Machu Picchu of Busan.” The many alleys cutting through this community are vibrantly decorated with murals and sculptures created by the residents.
CNN goes more in-depth on how this village started becoming a tourist attraction:
Gamcheon’s art-themed makeover began in 2009, when it hosted a public art project and invited art students and artists to “decorate” the village.
While the villagers had for decades painted their own homes in pastel hues, artists added dozens of colorful touches throughout town, attaching nicknames such as “Korea’s Machu Picchu” (bizarre choice) and “Korea’s Santorini” (closer).
While the view is best from a high vantage point called “Sky Garden,” where the village information center is located (only Korean brochures and guides are available), the real delight lies in getting lost in the village’s maze of alleyways.
As far as my knowledge goes, building your houses on a steep mountain-side slope is usually done by the poor who cannot afford better apartments in the city area. Ironically, this has become one of the most popular tourist attractions that people willingly come to climb the steep slopes for.
You are prone to getting lost in all the alleys, but that’s the beauty of it! Don’t be afraid or worried if you keep walking into alley after alley ~
You’ll find that residents still live here, although it’s said that almost 300 houses have been vacated because the residents didn’t like the hordes of tourists, so it’s recommended that you keep your noise level to the minimum. On the days I visited, the tourist numbers were quite decent, nothing like a rowdy crowd, but I guess you do get irritated after a while if all these weirdos keep turning up outside your door.
You’ll also find that some other ‘houses’ have been converted into cafes, art houses, shops, and restaurants.
We didn’t stay here for super long, I think the maximum was probably 2 hours, so we didn’t stop at the cafes or restaurants and I can’t advise on F&B options here. I did, however, love a quaint tea shop at the foothill/entrance that sold flower tea. The ahjumma running it is very friendly, and her tea smells super fragrant as well!
After two trips here, I figured what’s truly unique about this place that keeps people coming is maybe not so much the historical value, and also not so much for the gram. Sure, you have the history and the picturesque view, but you can probably find that anywhere else in any other part of Korea as well.
I think, there’s something very special and touching about the effort put by these Korean war refugees into making life a little brighter after the hardships of the war. I also salute the effort put into revitalizing what would have been another symbol of poverty in Korea. You could call it airbrushing by all means, but I still admire the willpower to fight a bad hand dealt by fate.
Hence I say, go to Gamcheon Culture Village to pick up a little bit of this hope left behind, and maybe it will help improve your outlook on life after you go back. Who knows?
Address: 203, Gamnae 2-ro, Saha-gu, Busan
Goejeong Station (Busan Subway Line 1), Exit 6.
– Take local bus Sakha 1 or Sakha 1-1 to Gamcheon Elementary School Bus Stop.
Toseong Station (Busan Subway Line 1), Exit 6.
– Take local bus Saha 1-1, Seogu 2 or Seogu 2-2 to Gamcheon Elementary School Bus Stop.
Based on personal experience, taking the bus from the subway station is convenient enough, but be careful when the bus starts going up the slope and remember to keep your balance!