12 Fun Things to Do in Yeosu, Korea + A Travel Guide
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.
My first visit to Yeosu came when I properly hung out with friends way back in 2016. Since then I’ve gotten to know this city quite well. From monthly book club meetings and random photography fun, I’ve visited more times than I can count, and 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!
Quick Yeosu Travel Tips
- Getting in: The best and easiest way to get into Yeosu is to take the train. From Seoul, it’s only 3 hours on the KTX, and the train station is nicely located to get to the rest of the city.
- Stay in Touch: If you’re visiting Korea, don’t forget to buy an e-SIM! Get it ahead of time so you can have connection from the minute you land.
- Getting Around: Yeosu is going to be a city you’ll want to bite the bullet and spend a little more on taxis. The bus system is kind of old and takes forever while driving can be stressful if you’re not used to Korean driving.
- Where to Stay: Stay somewhere near the entrance to Dolsan Island. I really like the popular MVL Hotel! It’s very cleanly decorated and is in a good location for getting around. Some other options include: Grim Garden, L House, or Yeosu Inn
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 (이순신)
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)
In Angel Alley, this is a super cute cafe with views to the bridge. I went here with the Hedgers one spring day and it was such a fun spot. Check out their IG here and the location is here
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.
And there you have it! The best things to do in Yeosu plus all my best tips for visiting!
General Korea Travel Tips
First time visiting? Start with my big list of Korea travel tips and my trip planner guide.
You’re also going to want to download these apps! If you’re planning to get a SIM card, reserve one ahead as it’s cheaper and you can make sure you get one.
For some travel inspiration, check out my seasonal guides to guide for spring, summer, autumn, and winter.
If you need help figuring out your itinerary, check out my guides on four ways to spend two weeks in Korea as well as the ultimate one month itinerary and a super efficient one week guide.
Have you been? What your favorite things to do in Yeosu?
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Hi was wondering if it’s difficult for a beginner driver to drive in yeosu? Am used to right hand driving so abit concern about driving. Is it difficult to travel around yeosu with public transport? Thanks!
Hi! I wouldn’t recommend driving in Yeosu as a beginner driver. Public transport is easy; it can just take a long time to get places.
Hi, I’m actually interested to visit Yeosu when I stumbled upon your blog, very informative! But I am wondering about the public transport since I cannot drive. Is it great like other big cities (Busan, Seoul) or is it more like Jeju where you have to wait a long time to get in one? Thank you~
Hi Dinda! I’d say it’s between Jeju and Seoul/Busan. There’s no subway system, just public buses which are easy to use. However because Yeosu is so spread out, it can take quite a while to get certain places (like Hyangiram took me over an hour to get to riding the bus from downtown).
I hope it’s okay that I come to you with another question.
This area has so much to offer if you dig a little deeper that by now I am a little overwhelmed.
For our travels in June the plan is now to spend 3 nights in the Suncheon/ Yeosu are (so 2.5 to 3 days)
Since we’ll have a car and tons of things are easy to reach what would be your suggestion where to stay? I would prefer a more quiet/rural at least not big city if possible.
And then what to do? Boseong rice fields? Suncheon bay? Hadong rice fields and hiking? Island trip to Hahwado Island or another island, this beautiful seaside temple..?
What would be your absolute favorite things to do 2-3 days in the area with a car in summer preferably to get away from the city/crowds a little?
Oh gosh, if you only have 3 days is not a lot of time, so don’t stress about fitting in too much! Honestly, if you want a relaxed time, skip Yeosu altogether for this trip. It’s annoying to drive in and there’s enough to fill 3 days there on its own. It’s also very much a city and will be crowded with summer tourists.
Stay around Suncheon and set aside a day to do Suncheon things. I’d say the Bay is a must! I’d then combine it with going to one of the temples (Seonamsa also has a cute little tea thing for like 3,000 KRW) and then Naganeupseong Folk Village, which is about 45 to an hour from Suncheon. I remember the bay hike being surprisingly cool for mid-summer in Korea, and I’ve been up it in July and August.
Then your other two days do Boseong Tea Fields one day (it’s a full day thing and includes some hiking). If you want a little beach, you can drive to Yulpo Beach for the sunset. Summerwise it’ll get pretty hot, but you should be okay. Then do Damyang another day. This is where the Bamboo Forest is as well as a bunch of other cool things, Metasequoia paths, Meta Provence, etc. The forest is actually slightly cooling from memory and I’ve been there in July.
Hope that helps!!
Thanks for helpful information! Visiting Yeosu tomorrow and I am so excited! By the way, Yi Sun Shin is 이순신 and pronunciates like “Soon”. Thank you!
Whoops! Misspelled the Hangul, thanks for pointing that out. Enjoy Yeosu!!
Thanks for such a detailed post! I’m travelling to Yeosu later this month, and thanks to You, now I know where to go :)
Aw thank you! I hope you love Yeosu, it’s such an awesome city!
Unbelievable beauty.. Yeosu.
I love it. The cable car is definitely worth trying. Unless you are afraid of heights.
Thanks a lot.