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Everything You Need to Know About Ulsan

Gwangali Beach – Busan Nights (part 1)

By Cat Warrener

Gwangali Beach

Gwangali beach is the closest you will find to a beach resort in Korea. The beach is generally quieter than Haeundae beach and is referred to locally as the foreigner’s beach. It’s a sandy beach and offers a variety of water sports including surfing, kayaking and jet skis. Gwangali Bridge, or the ‘Diamond Bridge’ provides a scenic backdrop, particularly after dark when it’s stunningly lit up. In the summer months the beach road closes between 9pm-1am to play host to music events, taekwondo and dance shows, among other things.

Gwangali Bridge at night - from visitkorea.or.kr

To get there you can take a subway to either of Geomyeosan or Gwangan stations (the beach is between the two) or a cab from Haeundae is about 5-7,000.

The strip along the front is filled with dozens of bars and restaurants, and, like many places in Korea, there seem to be new ones appearing weekly. I am only able to cover a selection in this article so I’ve gone with the most popular amongst the foreign community in Busan.

 

Beached

Owned and managed by a Kiwi, this bar is relaxed, friendly, and the place to head to watch any cricket or rugby. It’s about halfway down the strip, on the second floor, and easily identified by the large whale sign out front. Currently they aren’t doing food, although there are plans to re-introduce the menu in the near future. In the past, menu favourites were fish and chips, and pies, so look out for these. A large selection of bottled beers and ciders are on offer, particularly from South Africa and New Zealand. Friday and Saturday nights often see live music if there is no major sporting event on, and once a month a book swap is held on a Sunday afternoon. It has to be said the best part of this bar is the panoramic views of the beach and tables by the windows are highly sought after.

Sharky’s

Another firm favourite in Busan is this American owned bar offering a large selection of beers on tap and a menu that wouldn’t be out of place in a bar back home (wherever home may be). Located at the end of the beach (with the beach on your left) and located above a galbi restaurant on the second floor it’s sometimes easy to miss. The easiest way to get here is to leave Geomyeonsan station and walk down the road to the beach, Sharky’s is at the bottom of that road on your right.

Most people head here for the food and it’s seriously worth the trip. The menu is expansive and includes burgers, steaks, Philly cheese steaks, fajitas, salads, salmon and a variety of starters. I’m a regular visitor of this bar and I’ve never been disappointed with my food. I personally recommend the burgers, which are the best I’ve had in Korea, and probably anywhere for that matter. The five layer dip is delicious and plenty big enough to share between 3 or 4, and now comes as a seven layer version if you want some extra kick. Prices for mains are around 12-17,000 and starters are around 10-15,000.There is also a large selection of beers on tap combined with a number of bottled beers and cocktail list. Cocktail bags are available for take out, and priced per number of shots.

Sharky's burger

Sharky’s also boasts stunning views of the beach and bridge, and offers bar-style seating looking out from the floor-to-ceiling windows. Live music and other events often take place on weekends and the TVs show primarily American sports.

This bar is also unusual in that it sticks to a fixed closing time so don’t head here after 2am on a weekend. It is also the only place in Busan where you can play shuffle board.

Galmegi

Galmegi is the new kid on the block and has quickly become a favourite. Owned by a group of Western guys, this bar offers home brewed beer and a carefully selected variety of imported bottles and cans, including my personal favourite chocolate stout – which really does taste like chocolate! Depending on availability there are around four home brews on tap, including Pilsner, IPA, Wheat and Amber Ale which are reasonably priced at around 6,000. If you don’t like beer, the menu is currently limited to Vodka cranberry, gin and whiskey, although I have been assured this will be expanded soon. Homemade pizzas are served until late and offer a tasty snack after a long day at the beach.

Located just around the corner from Sharkey’s, this bar is just off the main strip on the third floor, but still manages to offer views of the bridge from a side window. If you are walking down from Geomyeosan station it will be on your right, about five buildings up from the beach. If you like the beer ask the boys if you can see their growlers, which, before you get excited, are take-out bags for the beach or home, and keep beer fresh for a couple of days.

Thursday Party

You get two for the price of one with Thursday Party as they are two bars literally next door to each other. Both bars are equally popular with Koreans and foreigners and have a party atmosphere. The crowds often spill out onto the road and beach in the summer months and drinks can be served in plastic glasses just for this purpose. Most people head here for cocktails and shots, which are priced at 7,000 or less, with Long Island Ice Teas being a popular choice at 5,000. Located halfway down the strip, these bars are pretty hard to miss.

Fuzzy Navel

Gwangali also boasts two Fuzzy Navels. The first is at the far end of the strip, close to the Aqua Palace hotel in the Gwangan subway direction. This one offers beer, cocktails and Mexican food. The food isn’t too bad, but wouldn’t be the best Mexican you have ever had.

The second is the little sister in the Fuzzy Navel family (others are located in Seomyeon, Haeundae and Millak) and is a small cocktail bar on the front, located quite close to the Thursday Parties. It has a cosy atmosphere, although it is more popular for takeouts than drinking in. The outside seats are always full during the summer months and people tend to cluster in front of the bar.

Burger and Pasta

Part of the Thursday Party group, this is located at the end of the strip towards the Gwangan subway  end. It basically does what it says on the tin, and offers a menu of burgers and pasta at reasonable prices. Although the food isn’t as good as Sharky’s, it does offer outdoor seating with beach views.

Brunsweek

Located next to Burger and Pasta this has a more upmarket menu with offerings such as salmon egg Benedict, breakfasts, quiches and “posh” burgers. It again offers outdoor seating overlooking the beach and is a good option for brunch, or a mid-afternoon sangria and snack. Prices are a little more expensive than it’s neighbour, but this is reflected in the quality.

Patio bars

There are several bars with outdoor patios located along the strip, although it’s potluck whether you will be required to order a side dish or not. Two big ones with stunning views that often have beachfront tables are Beach Bikini and Monk.

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