As you know, I absolutely love stamps and stamp trails. One of my favourite things to do on holiday is to go on a scenic hike and collect as many stamps as possible. In a previous article, I introduced you to the Seoul Jungang Stamp Trail or the engraving activity of my own stamp in Korean, and this time I’m taking you to Busan, South Korea’s largest port city and second biggest city after Seoul. It’s a destination not to be missed, but today I’m going to focus on the Gamcheon Culture Village.
Last update: August 2023
What is the Gamcheon Culture Village?
With the cute nickname of “Santorini of Korea”, “Korean Macchu Picchu” or “Lego City”, Gamcheon Culture Village is a district that you must visit if you’re passing by Busan! Built on the side of a mountain in the 1920s and 1930s as a solution to house the city’s poor population near the port, it has become a neighbourhood with a slight favela feel. Over the years, the area has grown, the houses have slowly been transformed into two-storey wooden houses and, despite the increase in the number of inhabitants, this district has long remained one of the poorest in Korea, home to many refugees from the Korean War.
In 2009, the Korean government launched a public art renovation project and, in just two years, transformed the district’s dilapidated streets into an incredible open-air art gallery. With the help of art students, artists and local residents, the Miro Miro Project has revitalised a run-down neighbourhood and given Busan one of the city’s main tourist attractions. There are Murakami-inspired installations, scenes from Le Little Prince, murals, sculptures and galleries, shops and restaurants dotted around the district.
The Gamcheon Culture Village stamp trail
Admission is free, but one of the best ways to discover the Gamcheon Culture Village is undoubtedly through the stamp trail offered by the local tourist office. Here is how to: when you arrive at the entrance to the village, which is close to the bus stop, you can head for the Haneul Maru Tourist Information Centre and Observatory, where you can obtain a map of the village for 2,000 won (around €1.50). The map is a little larger than an A5 format and gives you a detailed overview of the village with the exact location of each work of art, as well as a space where you can collect 12 stamps and receive two postcards as a souvenir.
Using your map, you can explore the narrow streets of the village as you please and find all the stamps. Sometimes you’ll have to enter public buildings to collect your stamps, sometimes you’ll have to retrace your steps to find the place where the stamp is hidden. Keep your eyes open! Twice we asked the locals we passed on the road for help in finding the stamp we were missing, and we were always greeted with a smile. Of course, you’ll have to be careful not to disturb the locals, as you’re in a residential area which is actually populated. You’ll have to be careful not to make too much noise, and taking photos is sometimes forbidden to protect the privacy of the locals.
Three roads are proposed:
- Route A (Main Street Round-trip Course) takes you around the main street and lasts 40 minutes with 10 stops.
- Route B (Basic Course) takes you through the main attractions of the village and lasts 1 hour 20 minutes with 20 stops.
- Route C (Stamp Course) is the stamp trail, lasting 2 hours with 22 stops. We chose the Stamp Course and sometimes branched off to explore the surrounding area, completing our walk in 3 hours. It was very hot that day, so pack snacks and drinks if you want to take your time.
When you start your journey, you’ll be on the main road to Gamcheon Culture Village, where you’ll find most of the tourist shops, cafés and restaurants. There’s also the famous Little Prince statue and the Asteroid B612 souvenir shop, which offers a breathtaking view of the city. Which means there are a lot of people. Be prepared for a LONG queue to get your photo taken next to the Little Prince (personally, we’ve given up on the idea). But don’t panic, as soon as you continue your walk, the tourists become fewer and fewer, so we were alone for the rest of the way. You’ll find other places where you can get a panoramic view, I assure you!
The works were all colourful and very well preserved and, with the help of your map, you can discover the history behind each fresco or the past of the building you have just passed, for example.
Take a few twists and turns, climb some stairs and be curious (while respecting the surroundings and the locals), and you’ll discover the village’s peacefulness, which makes it a truly special, colourful place. We saw cats basking in the sun, ahjummas (Korean grandmothers renowned for their ferocity) returning from shopping, local market stalls and children playing in the streets. It’s a pleasant, stress-free walk, and definitely a must-see in Busan!
Must-see at the Gamcheon Culture Village :
- Little Museum: This museum, full of objects donated by local residents, is a fascinating insight into the past of Gamcheon Culture Village. You’ll want to pop in if you decide to collect stamps, as this is one of the places to stamp on your map.
- Stairs to see stars: This steep 148-step staircase is notorious for making you see stars if you take it because of its difficulty. Fortunately, we took part of it downhill!
- Visit one of the coffee shops: Coffee in Korea is sacred. The little cafés are all so cute and that’s also the case here. Visit the Avant-Garde Cafe, the Coffee it House, or the Gamnae Cafe (part of the revenue generated by this cafe is used to renovate the neighbourhood) for a break.
- Sky Ridge Observatory: Near the Gamnae Cafe, you’ll find the Haneul Maru, where you’ll find one of the stamps on your card, as well as a slow mailbox where you can post a letter to be sent a year later. Letters can be sent internationally, and stamps can be purchased locally.
How to visit the Gamcheon Culture Village ?
I strongly recommend that you take public transport to get to the top of the mountain, as it’s quite hectic. It’ll make life easier and save your strength for the visit to the village! Don’t forget to wear comfortable shoes.
By metro/bus :
– Take metro line 1 to Goejeong station, exit at exit 6, and take the Sakha 1 or Sakha 1-1 bus to Gamcheon Elementary School Bus Stop.
– Take metro line 1 to Toseong station, exit at junction 6, and take the local bus Saha 1-1 or Seogu 2 or Seogu 2-2 to Gamcheon Elementary School Bus Stop.
I hope this article inspired you to discover the Gamcheon Culture Village in Busan. Have you already heard about it?