My husband and I had been wanting to check out the Jinhae Cherry Blossom Festival (진해군항제) for a few years now. It’s one of the most popular cherry blossom festivals in Korea, but it’s also a bit of a journey to get there, especially if you live in Seoul. This year, we finally decided to take the plunge and make the 7hr round trip to Jinhae.
Jinhae is located fairly close to Busan, so we found the easiest way to get there was by taking the train. Unfortunately, there is no direct train to Jinhae, so we ended up taking a 3 hr train ride to Masan Station. If you’re a foreigner, I recommend purchasing the Korail Pass online, which allows you to ride the train all day at a discounted price. It definitely saved us a good amount of money! You can also take a bus for cheaper, but since we were traveling with our doggo we felt it would be more comfortable and less stressful to travel via train.
To travel with your doggo by train you need 2 things: a pet carrier (preferably airline approved) and a pet book or pet card (with up-to-date vaccinations). It’s pretty simple and there’s no additional fee to have your pet travel with you. If you choose to take your pet on a bus, do so with caution. If your pet gets fussy or other passengers complain, then the driver can ask you to put him down below with the luggage… which is insane and incredibly dangerous! We didn’t want to risk that, so… train!
Once we arrived at Masan Station, we decided to rent a car and drive the last 30 min to Jinhae. If you have a Korean or International driver’s license, there are a few apps you can use to rent cars locally. You just look for cars available in the area, reserve it, use your phone to unlock the door and just return it when you’re done. It’s so cool! Again, you can take a bus, but we didn’t want to risk it. So off we went!
A Civic Center Coffee (어씨빅센터커피)
On our way to the festival, we made a pit stop at a cafe I had seen on Instagram, A Civic Center Coffee. The entire cafe is surrounded by cherry blossom trees and has huge windows along the walls so you can enjoy the view. There’s also a nice patio in the back for outdoor seating if you’d prefer some fresh air with your coffee.
The cafe itself is beautifully decorated, spacious and highly Instagramable. What’s even better is that it’s pet friendly, so Uyu could sit inside with us and enjoy the ambiance. It was the perfect way to start off the day’s activities, with a cherry blossom preview and a little bit of caffeine… and cheesecake.
Yeojwacheon Stream (여좌천-벚꽃명소)
While the entire city is literally covered in cherry blossoms, there are two main areas that actually hold the festivities. The first spot is Yeojwacheon Stream. Like many tourist attractions in Korea, this particular spot was made famous by a k-drama. In this case, it was MBC’s 2002 TV series “Romance.” The two main characters met on a bridge along this river and well, the rest is history.
Drama or no drama, the Yeojwacheon Stream is absolutely gorgeous! There are cherry blossom trees lining either side of the river, creating a canopy of blossoms at the center. Every time the wind blew, it created a soft “rainfall” of pink flower petals. It was so romantic.
Aside from the cherry blossom trees, the streets were lined with snack vendors and booths selling handmade crafts. Like last year, cherry blossom hair pins and crowns were incredibly popular. Unfortunately, we didn’t find too many cherry blossom themed snacks this time. We did happen to come across a cherry blossom mojito, which tasted like…well, a mojito, but it was a very lovely shade of pink.
Gyeonghwa Station (경화역)
After strolling up and down the stream for a bit, we decided to move on to the second location, Gyeonghwa Station. The railway services in and out of Gyeonghwa Station have been discontinued since 2006, but every year during the Jinhae Gunhang Festival, there is a “cherry blossom festival shuttle train,” where you can ride through a tunnel of blossoms on a slow speed train. Unfortunately, it wasn’t running the day we went, but it’s definitely something to look into for next year.
This particular spot is notoriously known for overcrowding with tourists and locals alike. While all the photos online depict a beautiful serene scene of a stopped train under a canopy of cherry blossoms, don’t expect to actually experience this. We visited on a Monday, and while it wasn’t overly crowded, it was still crowded. Trying to get a picture without people in it is just not a realistic expectation.
That being said, we tried not to let it ruin our cherry blossom experience. We looked for other beautiful photo ops. FYI, there’s less of a crowd behind the train and way more cherry blossom trees. There are also lots of food stalls to enjoy. Unlike Yeojwacheon Stream, the food stalls here had more cherry blossom themed snacks. I opted for a cherry blossom waffle and a cherry blossom pudding (rain drop cake), but there were also cherry blossom drinks, cotton candy and meringues. It was cherry blossom heaven!
Yeojwacheon Stream (여좌천-벚꽃명소)
After snacking at Gyeonghwa Station, we went back to Yeojwacheon Stream to see it at night. At night, the river is lined with all sorts of cute light up characters and there are strings of lights suspended over it. It’s a really cool way to view the cherry blossoms, since typically they’re mostly viewed during the day time. It was a really great way to end such a beautiful day. I’m not going to lie, it was a very long distance to travel just to view some cherry blossoms and we were totally exhausted the next day. So was it worth it? Absolutely!