Gamcheon Culture Village: Parents Tour #2
Gamcheon Culture Village (감천문화마을) is an area unlike any other in Busan, distinguished by its brightly coloured houses that are built staircase-like into the hill, deliberately placed so no one house would obstruct the other’s view. Historically a poor area, Gamcheon-dong transformed into Gamcheon Culture Village as part of the South Korean government’s 2009 plan to rehabilitate selected working-class and neglected neighborhoods across the country.
During the Korean War the community swelled in size as more than 4,000 refugees from other parts of Korea settled in Busan. After the armistice was signed, Busan’s population had increased by 40% and the city was faced with overcrowding and poverty. The local government reshuffled the population and offered relocation to the Gamcheon area for the Taegeukdo community, a religion that believes the taegeuk represents the true meaning of life and the universe. The taegeuk can be seen at the centre of the South Korean flag, and is the source for its name, taegeukgi (태극기–gi meaning flag).
Above you can see the elementary school up on the hill
Gamcheon Culture Village is often described as the Machu Picchu of Busan, and while I didn’t catch the resemblance, it’s a lovely place to spend an afternoon. Wandering through the alleyways past people’s houses and occasionally coming across residents felt strange at first, but they don’t seem to mind. I guess the tourism has brought a source of income to the area that they previously lacked, so they must consider it worth the intrusion. However while they tolerate the tourists, you still need to be careful not to be too intrusive.
Just one example of the many sculptures located all over the village
There are lots of places to visit, with originally 10 artworks (some of them encompassing entire houses) installed along with numerous murals and artworks scattered through the village. In 2010 the follow-up Miro Miro project added 12 more artwork installations, along with alleyway paintings and fish-shaped path markers to guide visitors through the previously more hidden areas. Miro (미로), which means maze in Korean, was an apt name for the project, as it made a series of maze-like alleyways much more accessible. We visited most of the art installations, and the small museum, which had a fascinating video detailing the entire history of the village with photos and video. We also visited the art shop, and while they had many expensive items, they also had some very reasonably priced Gamcheon artwork postcards which my parents purchased as souvenirs. Easy to carry home and easy to display on the wall as miniature works of art!
Lots of beautiful alleyways to see
There were so many cafes, especially on the main drag. However off into the side streets there were a few hidden gems, so if you want a peaceful experience, try straying off the main path and seeing what you find in the alleys. They’re also cheaper and less busy than the big ones in the centre. We found a very cute one that was located next to a “lucky” rainbow wall which is hard to miss.
Cute cafe in the red door to the left!
Mum and I making our way through the Miromiro course
We visited on Children’s Day (as I had the day off), but I wouldn’t recommend going on a public holiday if you can help it. It was packed! There were long lines for all the photo zones, so we didn’t get a photo with the Little Prince sadly. It was surprisingly easy to get away from the crowds though, as we chose to mainly stick to the Miromiro alley tour course, which unsurprisingly involved navigating a lot of twisty alleyways. This was a lot of fun, and I recommend doing this course. There’s two courses plotted on the map (which I suggest you purchase for 2000 won) but you can just wander about freely if you wish. I found the map gave us some direction, and assured us we didn’t miss any interesting areas. I also tried collecting the stamps for the scavenger hunt, but sadly the stamp zones on the English map were not identical to the Korean version, and many of the places I visited no longer had a stamp for me. If you are keen to get all the stamps, I suggest getting the Korean version of the map too.
Most of the attractions are open from 9am-6pm, but the village itself is accessible at all times as it’s a residential area. For more information, head to the village’s Haneul Maru Tourist Information Center and Observatory. Here you can buy the illustrated souvenir tourist map I mentioned above and you’ll also get a beautiful view of the city.
We found some cute feline residents hanging out in the alley
Dad and I chilling with an artwork made out of the fish alley markers
People, people, people! Everyone was out for the Children’s Day holiday
Directions to Gamcheon Culture Village:
- Take subway Line 1 to Toseong Station (토성역) and come out Exit 6.
- Turn right at the corner, walk past the hospital and the bus stop is directly outside.
- Get village bus 사하1-1, 서구2, or 서구2-2. They all have Gamcheon Culture Village written on the side in English, so you won’t get confused! They are all green village buses (마을버스), because the city buses don’t fit in the narrow streets.
- Get off at Gamcheon Culture Village, or 감천문화마을. You won’t miss it as most people will be getting off there and it stops right next the local elementary school.
One of the buses is larger and more angular than the others and if there’s a lot of people at the bus stop I recommend this one, as you have a better chance of getting a seat. I think it’s the 2-2, but just look out for the biggest green bus and take this one.
Going to Gamcheon Culture Village by taxi:
- Write down and show this to your taxi driver : 감천문화마을 (the actual name) or 감천2동 (the address). Write down both to be on the safe side.
- Alternatively you can say: 감천문화마을에 가주세요* (gamcheon munhwa maeul eh gajuseyo) or 감천2동에 가주세요* (gamcheon ee dong eh gajuseyo).
*~에 가주세요 = please take me to
Have you ever been to a “culture village”? Was it similar to Gamcheon Culture Village in Busan? Let me know in the comments, either here or on Facebook! ^^