Gay Busan is one of the world’s most underestimated travel destinations, overlooked continuously for its big brother Seoul to the north or any of Asia’s more famous beach settings. Better know for Samsung and political tensions with North Korea, in Busan is golden-sand beaches, delicious food, affordable design hotels and a quaint queer scene hidden right in plain sight – you just need to know where to look!
South Korea as a whole has a far less accepting view of its LGBTQ community than most of the rest of Asia – and while the strength of conservatives and the Christian fundamentalists wanes slowly, things are still not where they need to be.
LGBT acceptance as however rapidly grown in the past decade, especially in the younger generations, thanks to international influences, more queer events, and a louder presence of the local LGBT community including –rather famously – celebrity Hong Seok-cheon, coming out in public.
Many in Korea believe they have never met a gay person, and it is a topic not often talked about, with political parties avoiding discussion of LGBT rights and many people burying their heads in the sand. As a visitor you are extremely unlikely to experience any outright discrimination but be aware, many queer locals lead double lives and succumb to the overwhelming societal pressure to keep their sexuality private.
South Korea is undoubtedly one of the more conservative countries in Asia, but even here it technically illegal to be discriminated against on the basis of sexual orientation. Still many members of the LGBT community still face difficulties at home and work, meaning Gay Korea has a long way to go still to catch up with its more progressive neighbors – Japan, Taiwan, Thailand and increasingly Vietnam.
The gay scene in Busan, however, is growing every year and offers a hidden-in-plain-sight gay scene with small bars and karaoke joints – along with some very friendly locals. There are no gay sauna or cruising spaces here, or gay clubs, but if you want to dance the night away there are plenty of clubs filled with foreign holidaymakers to let loose in.
While we can’t recommend visiting Gay Busan for its queer nightlife alone – there is a lot of other drawcards here that combine to make this a city worth exploring further. Food, design, culture, history, and beaches – this seaside metropolis has it all, and then some!
Gay Busan Guide: The Essential Guide To LGBT Travel In Busan South Korea
In this article we will cover...
Attractions in Busan
Naturally being gay does not define which attractions most of us will want to see in each city and most queer travelers will simply want to check out the top things to see in Busan during the day!
There is so much to do here – but we found our favorite memories were wandering through getting lost in the seemingly endless array of food streets, relaxing on the beach or meeting new friends in any of Busan’s uber-stylish cafes. Still – it helps to have some idea what is going on, so here are the best things to do in Busan, according to us!
One of the best tips we can give you for exploring Gay Busan is to pre-order a travel SIM card for easy airport pickup and activation the moment you arrive so you will not pay a fortune in international roaming charges. Get restaurants recommendation and reservations on the fly, public transport instructions up to the minute, bar opening hours and if it is your thing – access to gay hook up apps to find out more about the local scene.
Mobile data is fast, cheap and available almost everywhere in Asia so it is no wonder most travelers chose to stay connected and to get off the beaten track (without ever worrying about getting lost). So why wait? Pre-order the best local SIM card now to have it waiting for you in Busan when you arrive.
Things To Do in Busan
- Haeundae Beach – One of Korea’s most famous and beautiful beaches. Haeundae Beach is the place to go in Busan: by day for dining and relaxing in the sand, and in the night for bars and clubs. Most of the top hotels in Busan are located here for a reason, so take our advice and plan to stay nearby too.
- Gwangalli Beach – A quieter alternative to Haeundae with stunning views, beach umbrellas and plenty of coffee shops to sit at and enjoy the view. Gwangalli Beach is also closer to the urban core of Busan but not particularly recommended to stay at as it can be a little dull.
- Jagalchi Market – The largest seafood market in Korea, famous for its fresh fish offerings. Wander its lower levels to delight in all the offers of the ocean depths and then head upstairs to eat at the informal stalls.
- Busan SEA LIFE Aquarium – Walk with the fish on the ocean floor in the amazing 180-degree ocean floor glass tunnel and learn more about 250 marine species in this educational and engaging experience. Perfect for a rainy day!
- Gamcheon Culture Village – A unique village with colorful homes & art named the Mykonos of South Korea. Personally, we don’t see it – but think you should head here for the wonderful views and a weird variety of shops and cafes that make this area worth exploring for at least a few hours.
- Terarosa Suyeong – One of our favorite cafes in the world, so take a book – or your laptop -, select a delicious pastry or coffee and settle in. An industrial shed previously used to create steel wires recently turned into a stylish, fresh and utterly unique coffee shop. There is also a bookstore and art gallery to explore, and plenty of Insta-worthy photo opportunities!
- Jeonggeo Wall Painting Village – Spend the day exploring this colorful and unique mural village on Gadeokdo, the Busan’s largest island. Take your time to explore the delights hidden down every alley and embrace the atmospheric vibes of this quiet fishing village.
- Gyeongju – Take a day trip to the most historic city in South Korea renown for its remarkable concentration of outstanding examples of Korean Buddhist art, in the form of sculptures, reliefs, pagodas, and the remains of temples and palaces dating back to the 7th century.
- Korea Rail Pass – Use Busan as a base to explore more of South Korea using their extensive rail network with access to both local and high-speed routes. Take unlimited rides on most Korail trains for 3 or 5 consecutive days or any flexible 2 and 4 days, and discover South Korea by jumping off at any of the over 600+ stations covered.
- SPA 1899 – Rejuvenate your body with a ritual and therapy spa harnessing the benefits of red ginseng. Choose the most appropriate treatments for your needs, from single care to multi-care and full care packages and feel the skilled touch of a therapist, as he or she massages the potent power of red ginseng into your body.
- Busan Queer Fest – There is an annual LGBT pride in Busan, first taking place in 2017 and continuing in 2018. This is a country that desperately needs visibility for their LGBT community, so if you can attend in October we highly recommend it. For an idea of what to expect, this is a wonderful write-up but if are visiting Gay Busan in October and unsure of details feel free to message the team on social media. Now get out there and show the world (and South Korea) love is love!
Gay-friendly and Gay Hotels in Busan
As Busan is one of the more progressive and gay-friendly countries in Asia, pretty much every hotel in Busan can be considered gay-friendly, and none of our readers will experience any issues here. After all, being gay-friendly is not all about upscale luxury, but about providing friendly service and welcoming everyone with open arms!
Busan, like most cities in South Korea, has a severe shortage of space, so room sizes are smaller than almost everywhere else in the world – but as plenty of gay men know, it’s not all about size, but how you use it! We are talking about design, functionality and views darling!
Having said that, everyone likes to be surrounded by people with common interests, and as such there are a few well-known gay-friendly hotels in Busan that are hot spots for gay travelers to stay – either because of their location near the Busan gay village – the best place to stay in Busan if you are looking for gay nightlife – or their design and inclusive vibes.
The following hotels in Gay Busan have all have glowing recommendations from gay travelers in the past, but of course, there are hundreds of other hotels in Busan if these are not quite what you are looking for. Whether you want a fun and social hostel, a cheap place to crash after a night of partying or an ultra-chic designer option to sip cocktails and surround yourself with fabulous people – Gay Busan has something for everyone!
Gay-friendly Hotels In Busan
- Hilton Busan ☆☆☆☆☆ – A luxurious and unique urban hotel settled on a secluded coastline. The ultimate business and leisure destination in Busan, Hilton Busan is a contemporary, 10-story hotel offering indoor and outdoor dining venues, swimming pools, a health club, meeting and event space and more. Explore Busan’s famous beaches and soak up the local culture at nearby shops, temples, museums, and attractions then return to your contemporary deluxe room or suite to recharge before a long night exploring Gay Busan. Even better? One of the cities ‘it’ spots, the McQueens rooftop bar is always just upstairs when you don’t feel like adventuring far.
- Park Hyatt Busan ☆☆☆☆☆ – The top-rated luxury hotel in Busan, this landmark location of chain welcomes all guests, LGBT or otherwise, to discover the traditional values of courtesy, care, and comfort and the discreet, residential, and sophisticated style of Park Hyatt. Inside there are 269 guestrooms and 69 suites, decorated with beige-toned wood and with ocean views through floor-to-ceiling windows and spacious bathrooms feature rain showers and bathtubs with custom Le Labo products. There is also a 20-meter indoor granite swimming pool, world-class. fitness center, and fine dining options aplenty – all step from happening Haeundae beach.
- Paradise Hotel Busan ☆☆☆☆☆ – Located along sandy Haeundae this modern hotel offers surprisingly affordable luxury with contemporary and oh-so-spacious rooms. Most also have fabulous views and include sea-view balconies. Not enough to convince you? There is a ridiculous amount of dining options available including Japanese, Chinese and European-style restaurants, and even a British-style pub with frequent live entertainment if you are missing London or Manchester. There is also a casino, infinity pool overlooking the sea, sauna and a fitness room.
- Hound Hotel Busan Seomyeon ☆☆☆☆ – Slightly away from the beach but close to the gay bars this trendy hotel boasts fashionable rooms, some with balconies, a swimming pool, and a contemporary restaurant. The subway is only 4 minutes away – and booked in advance it is extremely good value.
- Hotel Laon ☆☆☆☆ – A modern ocean-front hotel offering design focussed rooms with breathtaking views of the area’s surroundings right from the comfort of your bed. All rooms feature a flat-screen TV with cable channels and a private bathroom, most with large bathtubs. Providing real value for money with affordable restaurants, coffee shops, the subway, and convenient stores nearby.
- Tinto Hotel ☆☆☆ – A newly-opened budget hotel near Beomil Station, just steps from Busan gay scene. Offering soundproof guest rooms, extreme value and no-fuss design, this is one of our most popular hotels with gay adventurers who want to explore the nearby beach by day but being walking distance to the best bars at night.
- TraveLight Hostel ☆☆ – Busan’s top-rated hostel offering a central location, interesting design, and dorms + private rooms at low prices. If you are a solo traveler looking to make new friends, or just really watching your bank account, this is the only hostel in Busan we would recommend to you. There are others of course, but quality and vibes vary a lot and none we visited were anywhere near the level of TraveLight Hostel.
Gay Nightlife in Busan
The Busan gay scene is based around the Beomil metro station and can be a little hard to discover – by design, apparently. Even ‘locals in the know’ struggle and as a foreigner it can be exhausting walking back and forward trying to find anywhere with homos and alcohol. But trust us, they are here – even if they are all hidden away. The area is very safe however, and you’ll see spot plenty of gay men wandering around, so if you get lost you can always ask them.
We couldn’t possibly list every single venue here – some of which are little more than broom closets – and have focussed on those that are foreign friendly with a point of a difference. We do have to admit however the gay nightlife scene of Seoul is far, far superior to Busan and here you are more likely to find a quiet conversation and new friends than the wild clubbing experiences of Homo Hill in Seoul.
Because of the size of bars here, customers usually sit at a bar and spend the night chatting away with other patrons and the normally charismatic bartenders. Karaoke is also very in vogue and is a sure-fire way to get the shy South Koreans to open-up. You could also try plying them with alcohol.
To get to the main gay area of Busan, take Exit 1 at Beomil Station then continue toward the highway on your left for a half block and make a right at the first (very narrow) street. After around 50 meters you reach the intersection of an alley and in another 20 meter forward, you’ll see Soju. If you take a right at this intersection, you will find G-Men and if you go left at the intersection, you’ll find Blue. This should be enough to get you started and to know you are in the right area, from here you can ask a friendly bartender. Or, find a local guide for the night on the gay hook up apps for travel.
Gay Bars & Clubs In Beomil Busan
- NIX – One of the go-to gay spots now the infamous Banana gay bar has closed, located just around the corner. Small with friendly staff, affordable price and K-Pop videos on repeat. There is both booth and bar seating, a range of domestic and international drinks and casual conversation. A great place to go if you are new in town and want to meet new friends. Bartenders speak English and are happy to recommend cocktails for you – and trust us, they are strong!
- G-men – A small and rather intimate bar with counter seating, perfect for getting to know everyone. This is very much a neighborhood haunt with a 7- year old owner who speaks English and loves to entertain. Cheaper prices than many of the surrounding bars and attracting an older, more bearish, clientele
- G’ROUND – Modern upscale gay bar in Beomil with English speaking staff, snacks and nice cocktails. The owner really goes out of his way to make sure foreign guests feel welcome here and to help everyone get to know each other. A fun atmosphere, but by no means busy, perfect for starting your night out…
- Maru Soju Bar – Recently opened and offering a more local gay experience with soju, beer, and light Korean dishes being the main focus. Foreign guests are encouraged – and are likely to appreciate the more upbeat atmosphere and the younger crowd here. By the same owners of G’ROUND bar around the corner.
- Tool – The latest offering from the original owner of Banana Bar, with funky décor, young patrons and English (along with Japanese) spoken. Cocktails are popular here, and even if you arrive before 10-11 pm when it gets busier, you can enjoy conversation with the drop-dead gorgeous bartender and get more ideas of what to explore later at night. You don’t need to be in a group to enjoy, as solo travelers are welcomed and you are sure to you meet a few of the locals in no time.
- Blue – A gay karaoke bar in Busan popular with locals, and better to explore if you speak a little Korean – though the crowd doesn’t seem to mind and are generally filled with enough soju to try to start a conversation. This is the sort of gay bar you are more likely to find in Osaka or Kyoto – cozy, cheap, packed with regulars and only welcoming to gay men. Sorry ladies, lesbian or otherwise, you will not be allowed entrance here.
Gay-Friendly Nightlife Spots In Busan
- The Back Room – Named one of the world’s best bar, TBR is inspired by the Prohibition-era speakeasies of Chicago and NYC. To find it, however, you will need to go through a hidden passage of a bookcase in Tap and Tapas in Haeundae. Inside you will be with old-world opulence offset by cocktails straight from the 21st century. The Matador transported us straight back to summers in Madrid and Valencia, but for those with more lavish tastes, the gold-rimmed classic Champagne cocktail beckons.
- SKÖLL Gastropub – A huge two-level microbrewery in Seomyeon that is well worth exploring. Offering Nordic style we fell in love with in Copenhagen and Oslo, SKÖLL has an extensive food menu and around 30 beers on tap with a fun rotating selection of delicious local craft beers. Perfect for a first date or fun night out with friends away from the Busan gay scene. SKÖLL Gastropub also hosts a Craft Beer Festival featuring unlimited beer from breweries around Korea.
- Club Babau @ Haeundae Paradise Hotel – A huge nightclub with one of the best sound systems in Korea conveniently located in Haeundae. Focussing on EDM and drawing in the all-night-party crowd, this is a fun option when you want something a little more crazy than the gay bars in Busan are offering.
- Club Kudeta – Also located in Haeundae, this upscale club focussed more on hip-hop and house and is popular with both foreigners and locals. Perfect for when you want to let loose and dance all night.
- McQueen’s Bar @ The Hilton – Located on top of this luxury hotel and open most evenings, this rooftop bar is one of Busan’s ‘it’ destinations. With bohemian design, fun cocktails and an Asian inspired menu McQueens Bar is a chic social hangout with a soul perfect for sunset or a refined evening…with phenomenal views of course.
Gay Cruising in Busan
There is no gay sauna in Busan so if hook up apps are not your thing we suggest heading up to the gay cruise spaces in Seoul – although even here they are not quite as high-quality as Taipei, Ho Chi Minh City or Bangkok.
Since most cruise venues and gay sauna in Seoul are open 24 hours, it is not uncommon for men to spend the night sleeping in their private cabin afterward, so as the night goes on moaning changes to snoring! If you are nervous about visiting, read our gay sauna etiquette guide. This makes catching the high-speed KTX train up in the evening to Seoul and returning early in the morning a viable option…
While the gay sauna of Seoul generally accepts foreigners, the gay cruise clubs almost only service locals and most deny entrance to anyone else – a discriminating policy we think needs to end. Older, hairy or chubbier guys also complain of being ignored in some saunas, and some foreign guys talk about getting attitude from some locals. You can also be an object of curiosity and desire, so it does work both ways.
Just to be clear, however, even if you visit Gay Seoul, the cruise spaces here not nearly as popular or BDSM-kinky as, say, those found in Berlin, Madrid, and Prague but can still be a lot of fun, especially when they are hosting an event and the crowds flock in.