Travel Destinations

Korea – Hanging Around Busan Taejongdae

Written by Carl Hedinger

See this ancient riverbed.
See where all the follies led.
Down by the water
and down by the old main drag. – The Decemberists

Hanging Around Busan Taejongdae

After a night in Nampo Dong and with full bellies from some awesome street food, we hop on a bus and head along a coastal and hilly road. The ride is mostly obscured looks back to the skyscrapers and tall buildings along Busan’s busy port. Today’s destination is one that I’d previously overlooked and honestly, I’m almost embarrassed to say so. Every time I speak with a Korean about an upcoming visit to Busan, that ubiquitous will you go to Taejongdae always sneaks its way into the conversation. Known for its gorgeous and dramatic cliffs, Taejongdae is rightly known as one of the city’s main attractions.

People walking around Sinseondae, Taejongdae's famous rock (신선대)

A few minutes after getting off the bus, we board a tram that makes an easier journey around for visitors. I flip through the tourist brochure and read about the Silla-era King named Taejong and how he liked to shoot arrows here so many years ago. Korean history aside, we get off at the first stop and walk the rest of the way to Taejongdae’s famed lighthouse and Sinseon Rock on this not-too-muggy morning. The trees and shade occasionally taper off and open up wonderful views of that ocean blue and occasional boats which are likely headed towards the Busan Port.

Sign pointing to Taejongdae's Lighthouse, Busan (태종대)

Visitors who are lucky enough to visit on clear days can apparently get a look at Japan’s Tsushima but we’re not that fortunate today. A group of Chinese students are having some fun around a Photo Zone that we pass by, and we stop for a drink of water and a look. After a few swigs and obligatory shots of this wonderful scene and we continue towards the main attraction. We haven’t seen any signs for a while and start to wonder that the tram might’ve been a better option. I’m more concerned with shooting lampposts the time spent focusing on them helps the time pass before we reach the lighthouse’s stairway entrance.

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The atmosphere picks up a bit as the crowds are here for the lighthouse and that rock, with both becoming clearly visible. The path transforms from shady and green to breezy and blue all around. Our first thoughts are to get as many photos in as many angles as possible, as I notice different varieties of boats pass by. The wooden walkway platform is the familiar dark brown that’s all over the national parks here. Sunshine is sparse for now and the cool wind is making me wonder if its summer after all. Everyone around us is taking photos and trying to find the perfect angle of either the landscape or a selfie.

Boats headed to and from Busan Port, seen from Taejongdae (태종대)

We next move past the crowd and closer to the lighthouse, where a sign points to a small coffee shop inside. A short walk creates an interesting new scene as the cool breezes soon turn into howling winds. For the moment, we’re inside and thankful that it’s quiet and the view is pretty nice through the foggy glass. I don’t care that it’s not completely clear and am just happy to have a look at the water. The noisy and powerful wind is flowing through the walkway that leads to this coffee shop but we’re seemingly far away from that, sitting with a cup and some conversation. I still want to go down by the water as soon as possible because it looks like something’s happening down there.

Staring out at the sea from Busan's Taejongdae (태종대)

Our walk to the sea requires a short descent down a normal-enough looking set of stairs. As soon as we exit the lighthouse, that powerful wind seems to have kicked things up a notch and at this point, the intensity is almost too scary. I force some courage and start walking down while ignoring the ever-increasing gale. The stairs are there along with my fear of heights but thankfully I’ve been traveling to overcome that. Sometimes I steal a look down at the beach to our left and the water that’s crashing against the rocks there. I want to stand and watch those beautiful waves forever as they move back and forth against the shore.

Fishing on the rocks near Busan's Taejongdae (태종대)

Then another cold gust hits me and forces us to keep moving down. We walk around and check out the scene down by the water, noticing that it’s pretty busy for a cloudy day. The people who are brave enough to sit so close to the rough sea impress me. None of this bothers them and their concerns lie with the fact that they’re here at Taejongdae, eating some fresh seafood and having a drink or two. Occasionally the waves join forces with a bigger boat passing and push water almost through the people and their tables. I walk around and try for some shots down here on the surface as the sun occasionally peaks out to shine down on the crashing waves.

Waves Crashing into Rocks, seen from Busan's Taejongdae (태종대)

The wind doesn’t let up and we decide to head back up the stairs towards the tram and a bus that’ll take us into the city. The walk up is much less dramatic than before but still intense, thanks to that relentless wind. Every now and then I steal a glance back down at the beautiful scenes below and to that rock beach, imagining that we’re sitting there eating and drinking with the waves crashing all around. The tram is a welcome and quicker way to the entrance and we drive through the rest of Taejongdae. A banner mentions an upcoming Hydrangea Festival and we partially sigh for having missed but are almost relieved for the crowds that might’ve been here.

Brave Souls having a meal by the water at Busan's Taejongdae (태종대)

Our exit from Taejongdae is as anticlimactic as the way in but I’m still happy that we made a visit to such this wonderful spot. We hop on the first bus that’ll take us back to the metro and I start thinking ahead to our upcoming night in Busan. As for Taejongdae, we don’t always visit the places that get the most mention because they’re high up on the “list” but this one seemed like an unavoidable stop for our last visit to Korea’s second city. For starters, the spectacular views of the cliffs and a dramatic scene down by the water were enough to impress but add in some history and folklore, and I’ll always be thankful after visiting attractions like Taejongdae. I’m just sad that it took so long to visit.

Have you ever been to Taejongdae? What did you think?

Prepping the freshest catch of the day at Taejongdae, Busan (태종대)

Getting to Taejongdae

Courtesy of Korea Tourism

Take a bus (88 or 101) from Busan Station and get off at Taejongdae (태종대). It’s the last stop and you’ll hear Taejongdae announced as it approaches. There are other buses bound for Taejongdae if you’re not leaving from Busan Station. Look for buses 8, 13, 30, 88, or 101 and ask the driver if he/she’s headed for Taejongdae. If not, you’ll have to cross the street and look for the same bus headed in the opposite direction.

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Visit Korea and See Taejongdae in Busan

About the author

Carl Hedinger

I'm a writer and recovering American expat who shares my family's travels through life. Follow our adventures here and on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.