The Gamcheon Culture Village (감천문화마을) in the southern port city of Busan has a number of nicknames: Santorini of the East, Busan’s Macchu Picchu, the Favelas of Korea, and the Lego Village. It’s easy to see why. Sprawling the central-west hills of Saha-gu district, this collection of steep streets and narrow alleys, colourful buildings, and unique community vibe is not your typical Korean village.
Also known as Taegukdo Village, Gamcheon was a poor shantytown until 2009 when the government, residents, and some enterprising students decided to revitalize the area as a creative art hub and tourist hotspot. The buildings were restored and painted bright pastel colours, with murals and art installations scattered throughout the village. A number of cafes and galleries have also sprung up in this relatively new Busan attraction.
Judging by the number of visitors, the transformation has been a success. An afternoon spent here getting lost in the quiet alleyways (with the official guide map encouraging a scavenger hunt) is a unique experience. Tourists are requested to respect the privacy of the residents – after all, these are peoples’ homes – though many of the houses seem unoccupied. Gamcheon-dong is a must-visit if you’re in Busan.