About time I wrote a guide on all the fun things to do in Yeosu! Since I lived in Suncheon for a year and many of my friends lived 30 minutes away in this seaside city, I’ve visited more times than I can count.
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My first visit to Yeosu came when I properly hung out with the Hedgers way back in 2016! Since then I’ve gotten to know them and their home city quite well. From monthly book club meetings and random photography fun, I can safely say Yeosu is one of the most beautiful places in Korea.
I don’t think it’s particularly underrated anymore since it’s gotten quite popular with Koreans, but it’s still largely passed over by foreign visitors for other port cities like Busan or Tongyeong. Don’t fret, though, I’ve got like a ton of advice to help you get around and enjoy this city!
Why Visit Yeosu
Where is Yeosu?
Located on the coast in Jeollanamdo, Yeosu is one of the southernmost cities in Korea, and it actually is its own peninsula. It’s bordered by the sea, Suncheon, Suncheon Bay, and Namhae. It also includes 317 islands, though only 49 are inhabited.
Yeosu is actually deceptively large, covering about 195 square miles (~500 square km)! Back in 1897, it merged with Dolsangun and then in 1998 it merged even more with Yeochon city and county. There’s even still Yeochon Station before Yeosu Expo Station on the train line!
What is Yeosu known for?
From my experience, Yeosu is known for two big things: Yi Sun Shin and hosting the 2012 World Expo.
Yi Sun Shin (이서신)
Admiral Yi Sun Shin is one of the two most famous figures in Korean history – right up there with King Sejong, the guy who brought about hangul, the Korean alphabet. If you go to Gwanghwamun in Seoul, you’ll see both their statues.
Yi was a naval commander during the Imjin War, and rose to fame for his underdog victories against the Japanese from 1592 to 1598. Before these battles, he moved to Yeosu, which is where he made massive upgrades to the navy, including the now famous turtle ship.
I don’t know all the details of his history, but he’s like George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, and every famous US military leader wrapped up in one for most Koreans. Like if you’re a teacher and you give a prompt, “Who inspires you,” half of your students are going to write about him. (The other half are writing about King Sejong.)
The most recent movie about him, The Admiral: Roaring Currents (명량) came out in 2014 and is still #1 for the highest grossing films in SK, even beating out Avengers: Endgame.
World Expo 2012
You’re going to see signs about this everywhere! It’s even on some apartment buildings. The actual Expo ran from May through August, 2012, and the theme was “the Living Ocean and Coast.” It was meant to address climate change and ocean protection and featured 80 exhibition halls all along the coast.
You can still visit where the main part of the expo was held, and the main train station for Yeosu is even called Yeosu Expo Station.
12 Fun Things to Do in Yeosu
There are so, so many things to do in Yeosu, you could live here and not do them all! However, here are some fun ideas to get you started.
1. Walk around the Expo
I’m personally not that big of a fan of the Expo, especially compared to everything else in Yeosu, but it is a fun area right outside the train station if you want to visit. I’m not 100% sure of all the attractions, but I know the big one is the Big-O show at night. Just be prepared to get wet.
2. Walk over to Odongdo
While Yeosu is home to many islands, Odongdo (오동도) is by far the most accessible as you can walk right over from the port. The best thing to do is simply walk around the island and check out all the random, hidden spots. I’ve been a handful of times on my different trips, and it’s always a pretty mini hike. Don’t miss the lighthouse, which has a nice little exhibit inside.
3. Visit a Life Size Replica of the Turtle Ships
Down in the main harbor, about 1-1.5km from the train station is the big Yi Sun Shin Park. There you can see one of the famous turtle ships or geokbukseon (거복선) and even get on and poke around. These ships, invented by Admiral Yi, were used by the navy all the way through the 1800s. They’re pretty recognizable with their dragon heads, spikes, and turtle-shape.
You’ll also see a giant Yi Sun Shin statue in the middle of the roundabout in front of the park.
4. Check out Yeosu’s beaches
There are quite a few beaches to choose from, but the main ones are:
Jangdeung is pretttty secluded and far out of the main part of the city. I’ve only been here once for a beach BBQ, and I just remember Stacey and her brother driving for ages until we arrived. You can swim a little, but it was May when we went, so still a bit too cold to fully dive in.
Manseongri is known for its black sand. I’ve never actually been here, but it looks nice! I think it’s more for some sightseeing and photography rather than swimming. Be careful of that black sand in the summer, I almost burned my poor feet off in Udo.
Of all the beaches, I’d say this is the most swimming and sunbathing-friendly! Stacey and I came to Mosageum one afternoon when we wanted was a nice beach day, and all the Yeosu expats recommended it in our main FB group.
Apparently this manmade beach didn’t even exist until the Expo in 2012! Now it’s one of the most popular areas in Yeosu with a ton of restaurants and, of course, the beach itself. Ungcheon is a pretty small beach and gets crowded in the hot weather, so it’s not where I’d go for some sunbathing.
Of course, there are also the beaches on the different islands if you really want to get away.
5. Go Paragliding
I haven’t been, but when we were BBQing in Jangdeung, we saw a bunch of paragliders land near us. My friend, Habon, went, so here’s how she did it:
Basically, you can book online or pay in cash at the actual office. You may want to ask someone who knows Korean to help. The office is here, and it’s called 여수 국가대표패러글라이딩 if you need to show a taxi. They’ll then drive you up a mountain, and the guy will do some fun tricks and what not while you’re in the air for about 20 minutes.
6. Visit Hyangiram
Now we’re moving over to Dolsan! Hyangiram is alllllll the way to one end on Dolsan Island, so from the MVL Hotel, it was about an hour by bus for me.
This seaside temple is absolutely gorgeous and worth all the initial incline and all the steps to get there. As far as seaside temples go, I’d actually say this is nicer than the one in Busan even if it’s a lot more leg work.
7. Take the Cable Car to Dolsan Park
For a fun way to get over to Dolsan, take the cable car! It’s a fun way to go across the water and see the city from afar.
Pro Tip: Skip the glass bottom cable cars! They’re all scratched up anyway, and you wind up waiting longer during the busier season because they put you in a separate line. Lesson learned the hard way.
8. See the Bridge Light Show from Dolsan Park
If you take the cable car over around sunset, hang around until it gets dark so you can see Dolsan Bridge light up at night. It really is quite a special scene, and a fun way to end any day you’ve spent exploring. I’ll always remember this as the place Ryan taught me how to start taking long exposure photos at night!
Just, uh, be careful not to wait too late. The cable car stops running at like 9:30 pm!
9. Go for some more island hopping!
Like I said above, there are SO many islands off of Yeosu’s coast. I really haven’t been to any of them because they do require a good day to enjoy. The Hedgers, have been to plenty of them, so you can check their island hopping guide here.
10. Explore the murals of Angel Alley
Angel Alley (천사벽화마을) is a super charming area of Yeosu. If you’re looking at a map, head towards this observatory area. In Korean, it’s 여수기상대. I’ve only driven over and parked, but you can taxi or look up buses that go near by.
Once you’re here, you can simply walk around and enjoy all the murals! It reminds me a lot of Gamcheon or Ihwa but less crowded. You also don’t want to miss all the fun, trendy cafes that have popped up with views out to the sea.
11. Enjoy Yeongchuisan
I haven’t hiked Yeongchuisan, but apparently it’s quite a pretty area for the azalea flowers in spring. I’ve only been the to valley, which is the nicest place to cool off in the summer! There’s also a pajeon hut there that’s my favorite. If you’re driving, go towards the Heungguksa Bridge (흥국사 홍교), but park near the Hengguksa bus stop.
12. Check out Suncheon Bay from a Lesser Known Spot
Okay, so technically this is in Suncheon, but I went while in Yeosu! It’s definitely one for a car because public transportation will be a bit of a hassle. Just go to this parking lot, and you should be able to walk from there. I went while we were doing a photoshoot in the fall, and the reeds are absolutely stunning!
What to Eat in Yeosu
Your best bet for where to eat in Yeosu is to check out the Yeosu Good Eats Facebook group. Keep in mind that it’s mostly foreigners and expats in the group, so the recommendations aren’t just unique Yeosu dishes but all sorts of restaurants. However, everyone in the group usually lives in the city, so someone will know somewhere to try any sort of dish you want.
If you’re Korean is decent enough, there’s also the 여수 맛집 Facebook page which is probably even more active!
Regional Dishes to Try
If you’re feeling brave, try the raw crab preserved in soy sauce, otherwise known as Gejang! It’s definitely not for everyone (Koreans included), but I personally like the dish! I’m not sure the exact restaurant, but I had it near Odongdo during one of my random weekday excursions to Yeosu.
Dolsan Gat Kimchi (돌산갓김치)
If you’re a kimchi fanatic, then you’ll want to try Yeosu’s version of kimchi. I am, admittedly, not much of a kimchi connoisseur, so I couldn’t tell you what makes this style unique. I’ve probably had it a bunch of times between all the restaurants I’ve been to, but I couldn’t tell you when or where!
Seafood in General
In general, you’ll want to try all the seafood in Yeosu if you’re really hoping to get a taste of the regional dishes. If you pick up a brochure when you arrive, they have all sorts of specific seafood dishes. I’m not the biggest fan of Korean seafood though, so I haven’t eaten many of them!
Restaurants in Yeosu
Again, check out that group above for specific restaurant recommendations. However, here are some spots I’ve gone with the Hedgers and enjoyed!
Ibadom is a chain of gamjatang restaurants, so I’ve actually had it in Naju and Itaewon (also with the Hedgers haha). While the one in Itaewon is okay, the ones in Yeosu and Naju are delicious! There are two locations, in Yeosujeom and Yeocheonjeom.
SO good! It’s one of those places that’ll make you realize just how big Yeosu is because it’s in a random spot along the coast in Soho-dong. When we went, I believe we got a jeon and a kimchi mandu stew (김치만두전골) where the mandu is actually wrapped in kimchi! Also, there’s kettle makgeolli if you want to experience that and haven’t yet. Check out their Kakao page to see the menu and photos.
Nangman Cafe (낭만카페)
Cafe Duu (듀)
Another cafe in Angel Alley! I went here with the Hedgers when I was photographing them around Yeosu. It’s unique spot is the roof with all the greenery. Location here
Day Trips from Yeosu
Suncheon & Gwangyang
My hometown for a year! I have so many posts on how to enjoy this area, which is only an hour by bus or 30 minutes by train, but start with my guide on what to do in Suncheon.
Gurye is another train stop past Suncheon. I’ve barely visited Gurye, but it’s such a nice, countryside area. One of my favorite memories is celebrating my first Christmas in Korea at a hanok pension with everyone else in Namwon.
Gurye is especially pretty in the fall, but if you’re there in early spring, don’t miss the sansuyu festival!
Gokseong is another stop up from Gurye, and it’s most well known for its pretty rose festival in May.
I’ve written all about my love for Namwon in my guide, so check that out if you want to visit. It’s about an hour away by train, and there’s a lot to do from learning more about Chunhyang to hiking trails in Jirisan.
I’ve only been to Namhae once on a school trip, but it’s most famous for its seaside views from Boriamsa and the German village! There’s a lot more to explore, but it’s also a fun place if you want to try out some camping in Korea.
If you visit in April, then do not miss driving over to Hadong for the Hwagae Cherry Blossom Festival, which is 4km of pure pink blooms in the countryside! It’s about an hour by car, maybe a little bit more.
Yeosu Quick Guide
Tours to Yeosu
There aren’t a lot of tours that I know of that’ll give you quality time in Yeosu. This one from Busan is the best but still misses a lot, so it really is a city you probably want to DIY a weekend away to.
Where to Stay in Yeosu
I’ve always stayed with friends in the Yeosu part of town. I would look around the entrance to Dolsan and near Odongdo if you want to be the closest to the big attractions.
The most famous hotel in Yeosu is the MVL Hotel, which is pretty luxurious for being less than 200,000 KRW a night. It got a big update in 2012 for the Expo, and a lot of big names around the world stayed there (as seen by their giant wall with photos in the lobby). Check here for details & availability
Other places you could stay are:
There are also some Airbnb options around Yeosu, like this huge apartment with beautiful views or this apartment near Yi Sun Shin Square. If it’s your first time using Airbnb, click here to get a discount.
How to Get to Yeosu
Seoul to Yeosu
Take the train. The bus is so, so, so long from Seoul. I mean, it felt like forever going from Suncheon, I can’t imagine how much longer it feels from Yeosu. Even the Mugunghwa train isn’t too bad if you come prepared with things to do. The KTX is about 3 hours.
You could also fly since Yeosu has an airport, but it’s probably a bit more eco-friendly to take the train or bus. Plus, I’m sure a flight costs about the same and between getting to the and from the airports plus the waiting, it’ll work out to 3 hours anyway.
Busan to Yeosu
Your best bet is just taking a bus to Busan. I’m not even 100% sure there’s a train that would take you.
Getting Around Yeosu
I’ve been pretty spoiled as both the Hedgers and Stacey had cars for us to get around! However, there is a bus system in Yeosu you can use; it’s just not my favorite as it goes on forever in some of the busier areas.
If you’re confident in your driving skills, I’d look into renting a car! Otherwise, a combination of taxis, busing, and walking is your best bet.
And there you have it! The best things to do in Yeosu plus all my best tips for visiting!
General Korea Travel Tips
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Have you been? What your favorite things to do in Yeosu?