[Korea] Any recommendations for Seoul/Busan?

1st time visitor to S. Korea this August.

Any general or specific ideas for exploring Seoul and Busan? We’ll likely have 3 or 4 nights each.

thank you.

1 Like

Our visit was in October 2018 - not sure how Covid has affected (or whether even still open) but at least a starting point.
In Seoul
Surprisingly, our best meal was at Pierre Gagnaire - and FAR exceeded our experience at the ‘original’ version (It made the list of my top 10 meals anywhere in 2018). Clearly based on french cuisine but using local ingredients wherever possible…
Not that far behind was Jung Sik (same ownership as NYC version). Much more korean but very upscale.
A bit more reasonably priced and still good was Toc Toc - still ‘European Influenced’ but less exotic ingredients.
Our ‘place to avoid’ was Mingles - seemed obsessed with gels. Ingredients seemed good, but most preparations actually detracted from the original ingredients.

Outside that, several markets to try the local experience. Interesting, but IMO no better than the local places at home (we have multiple choices in Toronto).

In Busan

One fantastic choice Ant (in English) aka Gae Mi (in anglicised Korean) in the Haeundae area of Busan. 7-course tasting menu for $50 (when we were there). Look for the sign - it’s a blue Ant climbing up the wall.


My general recommendation for Busan: One of the best things I had in Korea is marinated duck at a place that no longer exists. I like it better than the duck which is not marinated. Which brings up an interesting question: Where can you find it? (오리 = duck)

The answer is that Koreans associate duck, goat, and a Korean breed of black pig more with country food than city food. You will pretty much find those only at places that specialize in it. In Seoul, it mostly doesn’t exist.

But in Busan it does. So you can find it in the city. Or… there is a cluster of duck places in the ‘countryside’ in Jukjeon Village. For a tourist, this is in the Busan neighborhood of Geumjeongsanseong Fortress East Gate. So you could go on a hike starting from here.

The other thing I will mention is that country cooking in Korea is different than city cooking, and you can find different preparations that are apart from what you’d normally find in the US.

I have not been to the following, so not a personal rec.

This place is a ‘country’ place near the fortress gate. There are at least six duck restaurants in this village: (you can see pictures of any of these restaurants in Google Maps).

45-5 Ttanggok-gil, Geumjeong-gu, Busan, South Korea

Two places in the city:

부산 이기대맛집 착한생오리
86-23 Yongho-dong, Nam-gu, Busan, South Korea

68 Choeupcheon-ro 108beon-gil, Choeup-dong, Busanjin-gu, Busan, South Korea


Here is a different Busan experience that I loved. No menu, they just started bringing us food:

In the Jagalchi fish market we ate in the third floor ‘restaurant,’ but not by design. When we reached the top of the escalator on the second floor, we were shooed away by a woman. This was our only significant language barrier of the trip. She walked us up to the third level, and then had us wait, but nothing happened. Instead of eating in the spacious second floor dining area, set up for tourists, we found a tiny place where the workers eat. No menu, they just started bringing us food including a soon dubu with some little fishies and a pot of fish (not sure what kind, maybe scabbard) in a red pepper sauce. Here they included a freshly cooked omelet with fish cakes as part of the banchan, one of my favorites of the trip. The fish pot was very good, and such a cheap meal. I’m still not sure what the confusion was, because later we could access the second floor dining area from a staircase in the middle of the market.