With only about 1 million people calling it home, Ulsan is not the biggest city in South Korea. To many, it’s also not the most “happening” place. But, as I said previously in a similar post, there are still a number of things that make it a GREAT place to live!
- Expats UNITE! Like many major cities in the country, Ulsan has a large expat community. Between the hundreds of English teachers and an equally large contingency of Hyundai engineers, there are loads of friendly Western faces here. And resources like UlsanOnline and a variety of Facebook groups make it easy to find sports/hobby clubs, some of which are primarily waygooks while others offer a mix of Koreans and foreigners.
- Let’s go to the beach-each, let’s go get a wave. Coming from the midwest, I was super excited to be living closer to the ocean! However, unless you’re living in Dong-gu, the beach isn’t exactly within walking distance. Eighty-percent of the city is tucked a bit inland from the coast, so having some seaside fun in the sun requires a bit of a bus ride. But it’s very doable in a day and easy to navigate!
- Cold winters not a “must,” and less yellow dust. Since Ulsan is situated in the southeast corner of the country, its winters are considerably more mild than those of cities in the north. Temperatures over the holidays this year rarely dipped below 20-degrees Fahrenheit, and the average high was usually in the 30s-40s. Also, it snowed once here. And it melted a few hours later. In late winter come slightly warmer temperatures, but also a bit of yellow dust from China. Fortunately, though, Ulsan doesn’t get hit nearly as hard as places like Seoul.
- Beep-beep! Choo-choo! Ulsan is well-connected to other places in Korea via a reliable network of intercity buses, national train routes and a stop on the KTX line. It takes 2 hours to get to Seoul by high-speed train (tickets cost $50 one-way), and only 1 hour to get to Busan by bus (one-way tickets cost just $4.50!).
- Bustling Busan. Ulsan has a decent nightlife and a fair number of things to see and do, but if you ever find yourself looking for a bit more, or just something different, Busan is less than 50 km away! Home to one of the country’s nicest beaches, Haeundae Beach, and annual festivals for film, fireworks, and Christmas, Busan is a great place for a weekend getaway or even just a day trip. And it won’t cost you too much in time or money to take.
- Lots of fish, if you wish. No matter where you are in Korea, you’re sure to find something with gills on the menu. But in Ulsan especially, streets all over the city are lined with mom-and-pop seafood shops displaying the freshest catch of the day. So if the thought of seafood makes you drool, Ulsan is the city for you! But don’t worry, if you’re NOT into seafood (like me), there are still plenty of other options (Eonyang, a small outlying suburb that is west of the city and home to the Ulsan KTX station, is renowned for a beef-based dish called bulgogi).
- Follow your own path. Over 100 km of bicycle and walking paths stretch along the main rivers of the city in all directions. Many sidewalks within Ulsan also have designated bike lanes (one of the perks of living in a relatively newer/developing city: newer/better/bigger sidewalks). So, if biking or running is your thing, Ulsan will feel like paradise!
- The mountains are calling, and I must GO. Korea is 70% mountains–literally– so hiking trails abound everywhere you look, and Ulsan is no exception. After a 1.5 hour bus ride, you can find yourself at the base of the spectacular Yeongnam Alps, home to two of the notorious 12 scenic sights of the city: Gajisan and Sinbusan. Shorter and more accessible hikes are also possible within Ulsan, such as around Munsusan.
- Park it. In addition to all the little innercity local parks and public exercise areas along the rivers, Ulsan has two beautiful, larger parks: Taehwa Park and Ulsan Grand Park. In Taehwa Park you can stroll through a towering bamboo forest all year round and, in summer, you can frolic through fields of poppies and daisies. At Ulsan Grand Park you can enjoy easy-going hiking trails, a modest war museum/memorial, and a water reservoir made much more picturesque by the presence of a windmill. It’s also possible to rent bikes or rollerblades.
- Make new downtowns, but keep the old. There are two main parts to Ulsan: Old Downtown and New Downtown. Located on opposite sides of the Taehwa River, both of them offer similar outlets for dining and shopping. New Downtown is just a little bit bigger and, well, newer. This area of the city also offers more foreigner bars and bigger shopping centers.
So that’s it! If you live in Ulsan too, or know the city well, please let me know if I’ve left anything out by leaving a comment below!