Busan Fireworks Festival – Round 2

Busan Fireworks Festival 2014I’ve probably mentioned this a dozen and a half times, but I’m obsessed with the beach. And drinking. And fireworks. And so when you combine all three of these things into an amazing festival, it’s like Christmas-fricken-morning. I raved about the Busan Fireworks Festival last year with good reason – it was abso-effin’-lutely AMAZING. Mind-blowing. Life changing. Okay, maybe not. But maybe a little bit.

2013 Busan Fireworks Festival

(Last year’s fireworks…have I ever mentioned I love making gifs?)

Last year, we lolly-gagged prior to the fireworks show, thinking we could just show up when the show started. We had no idea that any viewing point on the beach would be blocked off by the police at least an hour before the show started. So after a bit of delinquent buffoonery, we stealthily evaded security and somehow made it dead center of the beach (albeit, the very back) to view the remainder of the show.

This year, I wanted to make sure we had excellent seats. The group of us debated climbing Jangsan Mountain, reserving spots at a beach front bar or even finding an apartment rooftop to commandeer. In the end, we preferred the beach, insufferable crowds and all.

Pre Busan Fireworks Festival

About 3 hours before the show started!

We arrived at Gwangalli around 1230pm where there was already a decent crowd camping out. There weren’t any front row spots left (security had taped off sections where people were allowed to sit), but we found a spot dead center a few beach mats back from the front. The next 7.5 hours were spent napping, reading and lounging under the surprisingly warm sun (70-some degrees in October? Yes please!) until it was socially acceptable to start drinking (which, in Korea, is pretty much anytime).

We played card games and drank beer while watching crazy ajummas (older Korean ladies) trying to swoop into the teeny-tiniest spots between groups of people who had been waiting there for 7+ hours. And not just squeeze into the few inches of sand between blankets, but legitimately setting their mats down on top of other peoples’ mats and moving strangers’ belongings over to make space. Usually Koreans are all about respect to their elders, but people were NOT down. Words were exchanged, shouting erupted, elbows were thrown, shoes were tossed. Security was even called (and at least 10 of them arrived), who attempted to sort things out (but mostly stood there, dumbfounded) and eventually let the crajummas stay (that’s crazy ajummas, if you didn’t know). It was some hilarious entertainment, to say the least.

The real entertainment began at 8pm, and it didn’t disappoint. It was the 10th Anniversary so we were promised the most spectacular show yet. The theme was [something-about]-love and so familiar love songs reverberated throughout the city in sync to thousands of sparkling bursts of light. Structures were built in the water to project colorful lasers while the bridge launched even more fireworks and beams of light. Like last year, more than a dozen kite-like birds glided through the air with a stream of fireworks trailing behind them. After the 45 straight minutes of vibrant explosions, our ears were buzzing and necks were sore from craning them in every direction. Shit was EPIC, to sum it up.

But see for yourself:

Busan Fireworks Festival 2014

View from Nate's drone

View from Nate’s drone

Busan Fireworks Festival 2014

Busan Fireworks Festival

Busan Fireworks Festival 2014

Tips For Attending the Busan Fireworks Festival:

• If you want to watch from the beach (which I highly recommend), go EARLY. Like I mentioned, we went around noon and there weren’t any front row spots left in the middle (the ones far off on the side – which still have great views – were filling up around this time). Have somebody go early and bring a beach mat (and booze) to stake out your spot.

• For beach camping, bring a mat/blanket, warm clothes, beer, playing cards, wine, food, soju, a book and did I mention alcohol?

• For other viewing spots, check out Busan Hap’s “Great Places To Watch This Year’s Fireworks”. There are dozens of beach-front bars in Gwangalli that you can reserve but get booked MONTHS in advance. Same goes with the hotels that have a view. Hostels/Hotels also get booked out super fast all around Busan.

• The streets/shops/restaurants/metro/EVERYTHING is crazy-crowded in Gwangalli so try to do your booze/food purchasing well before. They also stop letting people back into the taped off areas unless you get a stamp an hour or 2 before the show starts.

And because I still preferred last year’s fireworks:


  1. Great pics and video! I’m sad that we didn’t see either of the Fireworks festivals this year. Gives me something to look forward to next year!

    Sometimes the crowds are annoying but in order to see these special things and capture them like you did, it helps to just join in on the madness. I’m happy that you are one of those “join the crowds” kind of people. So many foreigners get turned off by that stuff and I think that’s unfortunate.

    Great post as always!


  2. Aww…Looking at all of your awesome pictures makes me even more sad that I missed this event! I am a huge fan of fireworks, and it looks like the city of Busan spared no expense putting this show on. We live two hours away and when I heard about how insane the crowds were last year, we decided that a last minute attempt to drive into the city with no set plan would probably be a bad idea. I think that this might just be worth a trek next year…will keep your helpful tips in mind..I am thinking a hotel room with a view would be worth booking in advance!


  3. This looks incredible! I wish I lived closer to Busan so that I could go…maybe next year… Thanks for sharing these great pictures!


  4. Oh my gosh, I’m definitely going to have to put this on my list of things to do for next year.


  5. Meaghan Wray · · Reply

    I was supposed to have gone to this festival but unfortunately had to miss it due to tonsillitis! But I have to thank you for this awesome post… I love the videos and the gifs, so I actually have the opportunity to see the fireworks. I’ll definitely try to make it next year if I’m still around Korea!


  6. Wow! This looks incredible! Your photos are breathtaking! I can’t–and can–believe the crowds. I don’t think I could handle being surrounded by that many people so props to you. Especially with all the crajummas out there! 😉


  7. I need to learn how to make gifs! My husband says it’s not too hard. I can’t believe you guys were right there! We were on a friend’s rooftop nearby.We joke that we’re too old and grumpy to be in crowds like that, and it’s kind of true. haha thanks for the amazing pics though!!


    1. Thanks Rachel! And gifs are super fun and easy to make (and addicting haha) If you have a Macbook, then check out this youtube video for easy instructions (don’t mind the obnoxious 12 year old narrator, though!) – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J1FB3aTkzVc


  8. I love Busan, the beach and fireworks but I have never managed to get there for two years running! This year and last I went to a zombie walk held over the same dates. Next year fingers crossed I will go! Pohang where I stay also had crazy beautiful fireworks this year but I went too late and also didn’t get a seat 😦


    1. Aw that’s a bummer but the zombie walk sounds awesome! I’ve heard of those but have never been! Do a lot of people go? How does it work exactly?


  9. Hahaa we had the same thing happen at Yeouido Park in Seoul for the fireworks festival last month. They straight up just sat on us and we had been there for 6 hours. Not cool. But what I don’t understand is why the US can’t have fireworks this spectacular?!? What’s up with that???


  10. Absolutely stunning! I wish I lived close to Busan, it’s gotta be my favorite city in Korea.


  11. Frickin amazing! I had the experience with Pohang’s Fireworks Festival in 2012 and boy oh boy, like nothing I’d ever seen! Busan seems to have topped Pohang’s 2012 from the video I’m looking at~


  12. Very cool! Love the last picture with the silhouettes. I heard about the busan fireworks festival, but I live to far away! If I sat on the beach drinking for 7.5 hours, you can bet I would be passed out or incoherent by the time the fireworks started, and miss the show!


  13. Aww it looks amazing. I have the best memories of fireworks in Busan. Not for a festival though- it was one new year’s eve (’07 turning to ’08). We went down to Busan for a few days. on NYE we were drinking soju ina random bar and ran down to the beach at midnight to set off our own fireworks and (we had no idea it was going to happen) there was a huge fireworks display. Seriously still one of my favourite NYEs ever!


    1. Ah sounds amazing! Hopefully they do a big fireworks display again for new years this year! Was this at Gwangalli beach also? Or Haeundae?


      1. I think it must have been Haeundae but really can’t remember for sure! oh dear..! 🙂


  14. We debated whether or not to go to the festival this year and decided not to. We just have too many places left on our to do list and not enough time! You got some great photos though! I love the gifs too. How do you make them? Do you do them manually or is there an app you use?


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