Art/Style/Travel Diaries

BTS pilgrimage tour guide to Busan, Seoul (even for non-ARMY)

See, eat, walk—even have your hair cut


BTS filmed their Dear Class of 2020 speeches and performances at the National Museum of Korea. Photos by Nikko Dizon


Unable to get a table at Otsu Seiromushi, Jin’s brother’s Japanese restaurant, the author’s mom and sister settle for a picture. (Photo by Nikko Dizon)

ARMY is a faithful and committed fandom so that we celebrate Bangtan Sonyeondan even while they could be  carrying out their enlistment duties in 2023 onwards. It’s also our way of letting RM (Kim Namjoon), Jin (Kim Seokjin), Suga (Min Yoongi), j-hope (Jung Hoseok), Jimin (Park Jimin), V (Kim Taehyung), and Jungkook (Jeon Jungkook) know that we are always thinking of them and ARMY will be ready for them when they regroup in 2025.

My last BTS pilgrimage was in October 2022, in Busan and Seoul, right after Bangtan’s epic Yet to Come concert in Busan.

I made a whole Busan-Seoul itinerary for my sister, mom, and me, but we managed to cover only half of it. Lesson learned: Be realistic with your schedule. There’s a ton of BTS- related places to go to, and as Namjoon has shown us, let’s appreciate and soak in the beauty that we see wherever we go. Try to have some Namjooning time while you’re in Korea.

Since my last trips to Busan and Seoul were pre-pandemic, I had to feel my way again in these cities, such that we either got lost or I ended up making wrong calls that messed up our agenda. But overall, I think we did a pretty good job of making the most out of our trip, which was the first time, too, that the three of us traveled together, making it extra memorable.

In Busan:

We wanted to go to the neighborhoods of Geumjeong and Mandeok, where Jimin and Jungkook, respectively, grew up. But because of time constraints, we decided to go to Mandeok, Magnate, the café owned by Jimin’s dad, and the Busan Citizens Park, which Taehyung visited when BTS had their 5th Muster in June 2019.

I asked the driver (drivers appreciate it if you address them as “kisa-nim”) to drop us off at the Mandeok Duck Folk Village. I thought we could have lunch there because blogs described it as a “famous food alley”. It turned out, the alley was a winding hill, and given our ages, we couldn’t walk up without having to catch our breath and risking a leg cramp. We decided not to explore the village and hailed another taxi, driven by a kind lady. We wanted to go to the Baekyang Elementary School which Jungkook attended. Luckily, she knew where it was because her son went there, too!

Baekyang Elementary School which BTS’ golden maknae, Jungkook, attended (Photos by Nikko Dizon)

Baekyang Elementary School

12 Sangni-ro 18beon-gil Buk-gu Busan, Busan, 46611

It could make you feel a bit nostalgic that JK, BTS’ youngest member, spent his early years in this school. The lady told us that much has changed around the neighborhood, but the school’s façade has almost remained the same.

Baekyang Middle School which Jungkook attended before moving to Seoul and becoming one of the world’s biggest stars. (Photo by Nikko Dizon)

Baekyang Middle School

70 Sangni-ro, Mandeok-dong, Buk-gu, Busan

It’s a 30-minute walk from the elementary school to Baekyang Middle School, where JK studied until he moved to Seoul to be a Big Hit trainee and enrolled in a school in Gangnam.

While we were taking photos in front of the school, two Japanese ladies arrived. “ARMY!” we told each other, laughing. May lukso ng dugo.

Right across the school is the little Baekyang park. It’s a nice spot to sit and maybe listen to JK’s Euphoria and My You, his song for ARMY during Festa week last June.

The Mandeok Lego village is not connected to JK at all, but it’s still nice to see these rows of houses with bright colored roofs. The area is just a five-minute walk from the school. We couldn’t find our way to the recommended elevated spot, where we could have had a bird’s eye view of the roofs that form what seems like colorful Lego blocks, but we were able to walk along the streets of the quiet neighborhood.

Busan Citizens’ Park

103 Simingongwon-ron, Busanjin-gu

Taehyung went to this park when BTS had their 5th Muster in Busan in 2019. He took a photo along a path, which instantly became such a favorite among ARMY that the park had to install a marker on the spot where he stood.

It’s quite a long walk from the subway to the park; you can take a taxi to save time. Make sure to ask the driver to drop you off at the park’s entrance along 103 Simingongwon-ron, where you will find an information booth and the park’s map.

Walk towards the gazebo on the right side of the park entrance and it will lead you exactly to where Taehyung took his photo.

The park is beautiful. It’s nice to schedule a trip where you can walk around leisurely and enjoy the peace and quiet.

At the Magnate cafe, owned by Jimin’s dad, in Busan. First photo taken at 11am, with a snaking line of ARMY waiting to go in. Second photo taken later that day at 6pm, the line was relatively shorter but the night was chilly. (Photos by Nikko Dizon)

Magnate Café

135 Jinnam-ro, Nam-gu, Busan

Magnate deserves a separate story. Jimin’s dad, a warm and jovial man, is a hands-on owner. Mr. Park mans the cashier, takes orders, and even makes the coffee himself. By the time we got there, the café had run out of pastries. Good thing, coffee was still available and their selection was truly worth the long wait in line.

Haeundae Beach

Haeundae Beach is known to be one of South Korea’s most famous beaches. It’s a popular site for K-dramas. For the Yet to Come concert, it was one of the two live play venues and where Taehyung took a beautiful night photo after the show. It’s nice to take a stroll by the beach, with its breathtaking coastline. There are giant sculptures that appear to float in the water, making the view doubly interesting.

Drop by the Haeundae strip where there are several rows of restaurants and enjoy the music of buskers at night. Right by the strip is the Street Food Market where restaurants offer traditional Korean cuisine. ARMY still wonder what’s tasty in Busan—Jungkook had only whispered the answer to his Hobi-hyung during one fan meet years ago. For now, I will say it’s the savory food like the sumptuous yachaejeon (vegetable pancake), bibimbap, fried fish, and hotteok we had for lunch and dinner.

There are restaurants in Busan where BTS had a meal or two, but which we weren’t able to visit anymore. They are the Gopchang Salon, said to be a favorite of Jungkook and his family, and Dongre Milmyeon where Joon had a meal after BTS’ 5th Muster fan meeting in 2019. They’re enough reasons to return to Busan for a BTS pilgrimage.

In Seoul

HYBE Building

42 Hangang-daero

Yongsan-gu, Seoul

This is the home that BTS’ success built, a 19-story skyscraper in Yeongsan, Seoul. Opened in March 2021, BTS have given us a glimpse of their new office through their livestreams and dance practices. The place looks both massive yet homey, and based on videos we’ve seen, seems like the food at the cafeteria can give Michelin star restaurants a run for their money.

I really wish ARMYs are allowed to drop by the café where we can get some Bang egg tarts, which comes with Jungkook’s now iconic caricature of the BTS founder.

Located in the building is HYBE Insight, the museum that showcases BTS memorabilia from their decade-long journey to becoming one of the world’s biggest and most talented musical acts.

On our trip, HYBE Insight gave way to the Proof exhibit (there was also one in Busan) which ran until late November last year.  It was a nostalgic trip down memory lane with mostly their collection of BTS’ photos (some taken by the boys themselves) and messages written on the walls that reminded us it wasn’t an easy path to success for the septet.

The exhibit was a Chronicle of Proof, written on the wall. It “recalls and reminisces days of old, a demonstration of how BTS and ARMY overcame the limitations of the world to forge their own path.” Another message pointedly said that BTS “stood up to prejudice and oppression… through their music.”

It was impactful to read these frank and honest messages. I hope ARMY who saw these take them to heart.

On display, too, were the clothes BTS wore in some of their videos and concerts—which gave ARMY an idea of how tall and fit the boys are.

In these photos it was touching to see how they’ve grown—many of the photos were taken by the boys themselves. I learned from other ARMY that many cried while at the Proof exhibit in HYBE the day after it was announced that BTS were enlisting in the military.

Former Big Hit Entertainment office

208-14 Nonhyeon 2(i)-dong, Gangnam-gu

Subway: Hakdong Station, Exit 7

Big Hit Entertainment’s former office building is another popular pilgrimage site for ARMY. Don’t confuse it with BTS’ old dorm, which was featured (the façade at least) in one of their latest Run BTS episodes. We got to the old office building at around 8 p.m., after having dinner at Yoojung Sikdang, a favorite restaurant of the boys. I noticed that much of ARMY’s messages that filled the walls and stairs, and which I saw in 2019, had already been scrubbed off. But new ones were being made. We saw a handful of ARMY writing messages for the boys.

We didn’t get to go to BTS’ old dorm anymore, which has been converted into a café because—we forgot about it! I blame it on the call to have bingsu at the nearby Garosu-gil. This dorm was very special and important to the boys so that it’s even mentioned in their song, Run BTS. It was also where they said they had some ghostly encounters. The address is 16 Nonhyeon-ro 119-gil Gangnam-gu.

Yoojung Sikdang

14 Dosan-daero 28-gil, Gangnam-gu

Subway: Hakdong Station, Exit 7

Yoojung Sikdang is BTS’ favorite restaurant when they were Big Hit trainees and even after they had debuted. When we went there days after the Busan concert, the restaurant was still filled with ARMY. It’s a short walk from the old Big Hit office building.

There was a short queue in the restaurant and my mom, Ate Michelle, our friend, Kaethy, who has made Seoul her home for the past five years, and I waited only for a few minutes before we got in. Kaethy and I had been there, but it was the first time for my mom and sister—and they were lucky that we got to sit at the boys’ favorite table! The owners had placed stickers on the table which indicated where each member sat.

Yoojung Sikdang is covered with BTS’ posters and other memorabilia from floor to ceiling. The boys had said they loved the restaurant because it served food that reminded them of home. At Yoojung Sikdang, you can enjoy Korea’s best dishes and they are delicious. We had grilled black pork belly and the black pork stone bibimbap, known to be Bangtan’s favorites in the restaurant.

The Gyeongbokgyung Palace and the Gyeonghoeru Pavilion (right) where BTS filmed ‘Idol’ and ‘Mikrokosmos’, respectively, for their performances for The Tonight Show starring Jimmy Fallon in 2020. (Photos by Nikko Dizon)

Gyeongbokgyung Palace

61 Sajik-ro, Jongno-gu, Seoul

This stunning main royal palace of the Joseon dynasty is a jewel in the middle of the city. It’s a must-see for anyone visiting Seoul. For ARMY, the added highlight is that this was where BTS filmed their Idol and Mikrokosmos performances for The Tonight Show starring Jimmy Fallon in 2020. It was a beautiful showcase of traditional Korean culture blended with contemporary music.

BTS filmed Idol right at the façade of the main palace. Behind it is the Gyeonghoeru Pavilion where the boys performed Mikrokosmos and famously cheered with a crying Bang Si-hyuk on the phone after they received the news that their song Dynamite debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100, making them the first Korean act to win that distinction in the popular US chart.

National Museum of Contemporary History

198 Sejong-daero, Jongno-gu, Seoul

The time capsule that BTS presented to then-South Korean president Moon Jae-in in September 2021 marking the country’s Youth Day is on display at the permanent exhibition hall of the National Museum of Contemporary History. The purple box, placed in a glass case, is on the 5th floor of the museum, which is a five-minute walk from Gyeongbokgyung Palace and the US Embassy.

In the purple box are messages from the BTS members and items that represent their musical journey and achievements, as well as those which they believe represent the youth. The box will be opened in 2039, the 20th year of Youth Day.

What took my breath away was seeing BTS’ own wax seal on the box. It was the symbol that binds these seven young men with the millions of fans who are touched by their music, their artistry, and their simply being good humans.

National Museum of Korea

137 Seobinggo-ro, Yongsan-gu

Take Line 4 or the Jungang Line (Munsan-Yongmun) to Ichon Station. Take the exit that connects to the museum.

The National Museum of Korea is quite near the HYBE building. It was here where the septet filmed their part for the Dear Class of 2020, an online commencement exercise for graduates who didn’t get to have their ceremonies because of the pandemic.

BTS were invited by the Obama Foundation to join former President Barack Obama, former First Lady Michelle Obama, and other A-listers to take part in this landmark initiative.

They performed Boy with Luv, Spring Day, and Mikrokosmos, filmed in the museum’s beautiful foyer. Their commencement speeches were shot in the main hallway. There are markers on the floor, you won’t miss the exact spot where BTS stood.

We will always remember those speeches, each very personal and inspiring, a gentle and warm rally to the young people who felt dejected in the pandemic. Yoongi gave this advice: “Take your hands off what you can’t control, and get your hands on what you can change. As you and I continue on in life, we will find ourselves in so many situations out of our grasp. The only thing we can control is ourselves. Get your hands on the changes you can make because your possibilities are limitless. After all, I also had no idea I would become BTS either.”

Like Namjoon, spend time going around the museum, which houses a vast collection of historic artifacts from different periods and ages.

Jamsil Olympic Stadium

25 Olympic-ro, Jamsil 2(i)-dong, Songpa-gu

Subway: Sports Complex Station

On their Run BTS! 2022 special episode Telepathy, the boys were given keywords by the staff that symbolized specific places in their band’s history. For the final round, the keyword was “ARMY”, and six of the seven immediately thought of the Olympic Stadium. “That’s the only place,” Suga said. (V, however, went to where they had their first showcase, which was understandable because of how significant it was to them.)

It was at the Olympic Stadium where BTS and ARMY communed to have a magical music experience. It was where I watched my first BTS concert in 2019 and saw for myself how breathtaking a BTS concert could be. Beside the stadium is the Music Star Zone, which features the handprints of artists who have performed there, including, of course, BTS.

Otsu Seiromushi

30 Baekjegobun-ro 45-gil

Songpa 1 (il)-dong, Songpa-gu

+82 2-419-2222

Not to be missed, this Japanese restaurant is owned by Jin and his older brother. But on this trip, we missed it, not once but twice because of wrong decisions I made. We  weren’t able to eat there first because of a confusion about the opening hours. When we went back the next day, there was already a long line of ARMY. We didn’t make it to the cut-off.  I was disappointed in myself as a BTS pilgrimage guide for my mother and eonnie, Michelle.

While Otsu Seiromushi is popular among ARMY because of Jin, this restaurant actually serves sumptuous meals. Seiromushi is a Japanese method of steam cooking using bamboo boxes on your table. I had dinner at Otsu Seoromushi in October 2019, the week after I watched the Love Yourself, Speak Yourself: The Finale concert. I can still remember the tender strips of beef and pork and the sweet vegetables. The restaurant’s minimalist design, with low lighting, allows you to enjoy your warm food over a nice conversation. If you want to drop by Otsu Seiromushi, best to call first and inquire about the hours. They’re closed on Wednesdays.

Jin’s brother and sister-in-law had announced on their Instagram that they had recently opened a second branch of Otsu Seiromushi at the International Finance Center in Yeongdeungpo-gu, Seoul.


21 Yeonhui-ro 15-gil

Seodaemun-gu, Seoul

+82 8-732-0054

Mokran is the Korean-Chinese restaurant owned by BTS’ friend, the famous chef Lee Yeon Bok. Through the years, Jin has become close to Chef Lee. In his BTS Vlog a few months ago, the two made menbosha, a deep fried shrimp toast. Jin highly recommends it. On our way to the restaurant, Kaethy found out that you have to reserve for the menbosha three days before your visit. When we got there, however, the wait staff asked Kaethy if we wanted to order menbosha (perhaps someone cancelled their order?). Of course, we do!

Along with menbosha, we had jajjangmyeon, tangsuyuk, and fried rice—all delicious! Do visit Mokran for a wonderful meal.

Sejong Village Food Street that RM and Jin endorsed as Seoul ambassadors. Photo by Nikko Dizon

Sejong Village Food Street

Subway: Gyeongbokgung Station (line 3, exit 2, 15 mins from Myeongdong)

We arrived in Seoul from Busan late Tuesday afternoon. After checking in in our hotel, we took the cab to the Sejong Village Food Street, endorsed by Jin and Namjoon as Seoul City ambassadors. We tried to look for a restaurant that resembled the interior of where they filmed the ad, only to find out a week later from Seoul City’s official behind-the-scenes video that NamJin filmed it in a studio.

Nonetheless, we found a nice restaurant where we had a delicious samgyeopsal dinner. The “imo” (aunt) in the restaurant was kind enough to cook the meat for us. The street is a charming short strip of restaurants.

Faire by Mujin

18 Dosan-daero, Gangnam-du

My sister hadn’t been to a salon since the pandemic began two years ago. My brother-in-law has been cutting her hair. As Choi Mujin, one of BTS’ stylists, gave her a makeover, I told him: “She came here to Korea for Bangtan Sonyeondan and you.” He gave a shy laugh and said “Thank you.” His voice is deep, a bit like Yoongi’s.

Mujin caught ARMYs’ eye because of his good looks, but beyond that, he’s truly a gifted stylist. My hair was way beyond my shoulders and he suggested cutting it short. I told him my worry with short hair is it might emphasize my chubby cheeks. He assured me it wouldn’t, and it didn’t. I really love my wash-and-wear haircut. Mujin also picked a nice deep brown to cover my sister’s gray hair and gave her a really nice cut, too. We both noticed how light his hands felt as he worked on our hair.

Go to his Instagram account, hairbymujin, and you’ll see a catalogue of beautiful cuts and colors—and photos of BTS.

It’s easy to book an appointment with Mujin. His salon is responsive to inquiries on Kakao Talk. The prices aren’t bad either, considering that he’s known to be a celebrity stylist. The next trip I make to Korea would most likely include another appointment with Mujin.

ARMY will never run out of places to check out in South Korea for a BTS pilgrimage.

Here’s a list of what you should include in your itinerary:

  • BTS bear along the K-Star Road in Gangnam

  • Sungnye Gate, regarded as South Korea’s No. 1 national treasure. This was where BTS filmed their Permission to Dance and Butter performances for the Global Citizen Live in 2021 that featured artists from around the world.

  • Daeo Bookstore, the oldest bookstore in Seoul, which Namjoon visited twice.

  • Geumdwaeji (or Golden Pig) Sikdang, a Michelin-rated restaurant where JK and Jimin had a meal.

  • Geujib, the restaurant where the boys filmed their fifth Festa.

  • The Min’s, a café owned by 2PM’s Lee Chang Min, this is a favorite hangout place of the Tannies.  The address is 330 Apgujeong-ro, Gangnam-gu, Seoul

  • I Seoul U in Ttseuksom Hangang Park, where BTS filmed I Seoul U ad

  • Bangtan bus stop at Hyangho Beach. This is in Gangeing, Gangwon, about where they shot the album cover for You’ll Never Walk Alone

  • Abandoned Iryeong train station. This is in Yangju City, Gyeonggi Province, where Taehyung shot the opening scene for Spring Day music video

  • Shinchon iZone Pop, S&G Tower in Seodaemun-gun. The arcade was a BTS shooting location.

An important note: Before going on a BTS pilgrimage, it’s important to check not just online, but also with your fellow ARMY, if some places are still open, or if there have been changes in the sites during the pandemic.

I brought my mom and sister to the I’m Fine/Kore, a Jin-focused café (as my mom is Jin-biased), only to find out that it had already closed. Before leaving for Korea, I checked online and the page said it was still open.

Other BTS-related places that had closed in the pandemic were the &Gather café, where the boys tried their hands at being baristas for a day for a Run BTS episode; Laundry Pizza, the shooting location for Love Yourself: Her; and the Myeongdong branch of Line Friends, that had BT21 merchandise (I’m hoping it has reopened!)

I want to do another BTS pilgrimage with my mom and sister this year. And when planning our itinerary, I’ll be sure to check ARMY’s latest pilgrimage posts on Twitter, which remains for me, the most reliable place of online convergence for ARMY.

About author


Nikko Dizon worked as journalist specializing in security and political issues for nearly two decades. She is doing consultancy work during her time-off from journalism and remains immersed in the Korean Wave, in particular with BTS, actor Ji Chang Wook, and K-drama.

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