What to do in Yeosu – Korea’s Beautiful Southern Port City
Yeosu is one of those cities in South Korea that have a very unique vibe that you can’t really get anywhere else. This southern port city is the perfect summer getaway destination because there is a lot to do there. From pretty nice beaches and a stunning cable car to historic sites and delicious seafood joints, Yeosu has something for everyone.
Why visit Yeosu?
Most Koreans associate Yeosu with the historic Imjin war against Japan that lasted for 7 years. The war ends with national hero Yi Sun-Shin winning with only 13 Korean battleships over a fleet of 333 Japanese ships. During the time of the war, Admiral Yi’s headquarters were located in Yeosu.
While the admiral’s footsteps are very well worth following in Yeosu, there’s a lot more to this port city than meets the eye. In fact, dare I say it’s actually got quite a romantic charm.
Due to its beautiful location on the southern coast, Yeosu is boasting more and more luxurious resorts and pool villas, perfect for a “tropical” getaway and city-break.
At the same time, the natural scenery of the area is especially beautiful and allows for many hikes along the coast or into the plentiful mountains all around.
How to get to Yeosu?
There are direct KTX trains from both Seoul Station and Yongsan Station to Yeosu’s Yeocheon Station. This ride takes approx. 3.5 hours and costs 46,600 KRW one way.
Yeosu does have an airport and many Seoulites might find it cheaper to fly to Yeosu than take the KTX train. Many tickets go for 30,000 KRW or less one-way between Seoul and Yeosu. Popular airlines flying this route include Jinair, Jeju Air, and Asiana.
Depending on where you’re traveling from, taking an express bus might also be a great option. Look for “Yeocheon Bus Stop” (여천시외버스(고속버스)터미널(정류장) in Yeosu when booking your ticket. From Seoul’s Central City Bus Terminal, this journey takes 4 hours and 15 minutes.
Driving to and in Yeosu is also very easy and straightforward. Coming from the northwest, you simply take the Suncheon–Wanju Expressway, and coming from the northeast, you take Namhae Expressway to Yeosu.
Jinnamgwan Pavilion (진남관)
I recommend starting your tour of Yeosu at Jinnamgwan pavilion, the largest single-story pavilion in Korea. This place played an important role in the naval history of South Korea, thanks to national hero Admiral Yi Sun-Shin, who protected Korea from invasion against the Japanese.
Parking is available on the main street right next to the pavilion. What’s better, this attraction is located in the heart of Yeosu and is completely free to enter!
Just downhill from Jinnamgwan pavilion lies the harbor of Yeosu facing an impressive statue of national hero Admiral Yi Sun-Shin. Here, you can find dozens of local seafood restaurants, motels, and cafes.
If you need help getting around, there’s also a small tourist information located right at the harbor. Be sure to snatch a free Yeosu city map with coupons and information on interesting places nearby!
When you’re at the harbor, don’t miss one of Yeosu’s most famous attractions: the turtle ship! The headquarters of South Jeolla Province Navy Base was located in Yeosu, where the Great Admiral Yi Sun-Shin improved upon the Geobukseon (turtle ship) to save the country while serving as the Navy Commander.
You can enter the turtle ship replica free of charge. Inside the ship, the naval history of Yeosu and the importance of the turtle ship back in the day are explained.
Note: The turtle ship is currently under construction and said to reopen in 2022.
Yeosu Cable Car (여수해상케이블카)
When visiting Yeosu, be sure not to miss the famous cable car! It is one of the major tourist attractions, connecting Dolsan Island and Jasan Island over 1.5 km. When you take the cable car, you have a beautiful view of the sea and different islands around Yeosu.
I highly recommend booking the cable car with a glass floor – it’s just such a fun experience! This cable car option also allows you to connect your phone to a Bluetooth speaker and you can play your own music while on the ride!
Odongdo Island (오등도)
Odongdo was originally an island, but now it is connected to Yeosu Port through bulwarks. This means visitors can simply walk along the breakwater to reach the island. You can also take a quick visitor’s train for a small fee to transport you directly to the entrance of the island.
The island features cafes and restaurants but most importantly, a beautiful view of Yeosu and a famous sunrise spot! Locals visit the island for fishing or hiking. In the evenings, people can enjoy a water fountain show free of charge. There is also a lighthouse located on the island.
Aqua Planet Yeosu
If you love aquariums, Aqua Planet Yeosu should definitely be on your itinerary. Here, you can admire sea life of the five oceans of the world in one place.
What’s more, Aqua Planet Yeosu has Beluga Whales, a shark tunnel, and a state-of-the-art Amazon rain forest exhibition with solar-powered natural lighting!
Book your tickets conveniently online here.
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About a 45-minute drive from Yeosu lies the wonderful Hyangiram Hermitage. This temple complex overlooks the coast and should not be missed when visiting the Yeosu area. The symbol of the hermitage is the turtle, after the distinctive natural hexagonal pattern on the rocks resembling a turtle’s shell.
Make sure you wear hiking shoes since the walk up to the temple complex is pretty steep and tiring! We were sweating like animals but when arriving at the top, we were stunned by the breathtaking view! The climb up is definitely worth it!
If you don’t travel by car, there is also a bus line which goes all the way to the temple. Bus line 111 takes you from the harbor area to this wonderful temple in 2 hours. Be sure to get up early!
Tip: Boriam Hermitage in Namhae is also a popular temple to visit in this region.
Nangman Pocha Street
This is the place to be in Yeosu in the evening. Here, 18 different small stall restaurants offer different types of local food. If you don’t want to eat at a stall restaurant, you can walk to the right side, where there are many other great restaurants. We ate at 돌문어상회, a popular seafood restaurant. Be sure to order 삼합, a stew with three main ingredients: samgyeobsal, small octopus, and abalone. This stew is filled with a lot more seafood and you can also add rice to the stew when you are almost done eating as a fried rice dish.
Best Cafés in Yeosu
There are a ton of really great cafés in and around Yeosu. Below are my favorite three cafés I visited while in Yeosu.
We went to this café after taking the Yeosu cable car because it’s only a 10-minute walk away from the station. It’s a beautiful café with a large rooftop and views of the Turtle Ship bridge (거북선다리).
Address: 전남 여수시 여수시민로 6 3층-5층
We stumbled upon this café by pure chance. It’s located on Nangman Pocha Street and one of the only places with a rooftop. The view from here is amazing, and the drinks are pretty decent too!
Address: 전남 여수시 하멜로 84
When I did my research about cool cafés in Yeosu, this place came up the most. And it’s really no wonder – the whole aesthetic of this place is total #goals.
The café consists of various buildings that are all connected via a patio or flight of stairs. The elevator also takes you directly to a boardwalk. You can spend hours here wandering around the premises – it can get quite confusing!
Note that you need to order your beverages separately from the desserts and baked goods. I have no clue why.
Either way, Lapikkeu should definitely be on your list when in Yeosu. It’s a stunning place to sit down and have some coffee with a gorgeous view of the Yeosu coast.
Address: 전남 여수시 돌산읍 무술목길 142-1
Where to stay in Yeosu
Great Hotels in Yeosu
If you are planning to stay overnight in Yeosu, there are a couple of great options to choose from.
Yeosu is the perfect destination for a summer getaway with lots of romantic cafes, beautiful hikes, and picturesque temples. It’s a nice little port city to enjoy nature and learn something about the history of Admiral Yi Sun-Shin’s heroic battles.
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