Tucked into the hills of southwest Busan’s sprawling cityscape is one of the most iconic neighborhoods in all of South Korea. Known for vivid colors and stacked housing, Gamcheon Village is a small picturesque part of a beautiful harbor city that offers something few other areas can: unique character. When visiting major cities of the world you often find trends in architecture and design. Gamcheon village is a myriad of colors in an atypical neighborhood that stands in the face of conformity while being both charming and welcoming. Hopefully this story can incite fond memories in anyone who’s been to Gamcheon before, and give anyone putting it off the push they need.
We have visited Busan a few times before, but this was our first time to the Gamcheon Village. On our first tour of the city, we set out to explore this area, only to have our taxi driver drop us off in a random village in the eastern suburbs of Busan. It was right before we got our cell phones and we had no clue where we were. We wandered around confused and eventually figured out we were in the wrong area of town completely. This time, for my birthday weekend, we set out to find Gamcheon in our own car with a map for directions.
Colorful and Alive
Gamcheon is a tightly packed and the energy of this village is almost tangible; and interesting mixture of relaxation and wonderment as you stroll through the colorful alleyways and tight corridors. Being such a beautiful place there is also an abundance of people with the same ideas about seeing if Gamcheon lives up to its hype. While we regularly talk about avoiding crowds, the ones found in Gamcheon are far less obtrusive than we regularly experience. The winding alleys and endless nooks and crannies break up groups into a more leisurely crowd instead of an aggressive horde. We never felt crowded by other people during our visit and were able to focus on our surroundings. This place is beautiful and fascinating to explore.
More Than Painted Walls
While the bright colors are easily seen from above (check out the section below for recommended views), a closer inspection quickly reveals a much more impressive landscape. Murals, cartoons, and artistic expressions dot almost every inch of these walls and provide the impetus for additional exploration. While we visited, Stephanie’s knee was bothering her (a chronic issue) and we were taking it easy. While I was perfectly happy to end our trip early with the small number of photos I’d taken for her knee’s sake, her excitement overcame my concern and she couldn’t help but push on. At every turn she was begged on by new pathways holding the promise of unseen art installations. We spent hours gingerly hobbling up and down the hills of Gamcheon and we were glad for every minute Stephanie’s knee held up.
Above the Alleys
Not free, but buying a Tourist Map from the Information Desk is a great idea not only for navigating the alleys of Gamcheon but also for finding the most iconic photo spots and scenic overlooks. While many of the scenic overlooks were beautifully selected and framed the colorful neighborhood nicely, we found the majority of the streets to hold landscape opportunities of their own. One of the nicest spots we viewed the hillside’s spectrum was from a great cafe just left of the Information Center. A newcomer to the area, Cafe Avant Garde is a spacious cafe that is best known for its expansive balcony overlooking the myriad of colorful houses below. One of the best views of the area and offering a nice selection of drinks and snacks, Cafe Avant Garde is a must-visit spot for anyone in the area for “tourist reasons.” There are many more places to view the area from above, however, and many of them are to be found with a keen eye between the destinations your map points you toward.
I do a bad job of focusing when there are photos to be taken, but Gamcheon has a plethora of visitor-specific accommodations. From a “Little Prince” photo-opt to a smorgasbord of restaurants and street-food stalls, there are plenty of things to see and do. Face-in-hole boards, 3D wall art, and shopping for arts and crafts can be done all over the main entrance street off of the Information Center with a few options later on. The most popular of these attractions, beside the photo-opt-spots was absolutely the area where you can take an iconic picture with the Little Prince and his fox. We did not take a picture with the Prince as the queue is always really long, as you can clearly tell from the above photo!
We loved visiting Gamcheon Village and will undoubtedly find ourselves there again if possible. The colors and character of that area are uncommon and wildly fun to explore. An afternoon spent wandering in this area is one well spent and we recommend anyone able to set aside some time while in Busan to see the unabashed creativity of Gamcheon. Scroll down to see the rest of our photos from the trip!