Suwon, located about an hour south of Seoul on the subway, is most well known for it’s Hwaseong Fortress which surrounds the city center. Hwaseong isn’t exactly an ancient wall, as it was built in the late 1700’s during the Joseon dynasty. King Jeongjo ordered the fortress built in honor of his father, Sado, who was killed by his own father by locking him in a rice chest. (Sado was allegedly a serial rapist and murderer, who left his father no choice but to kill him. However, some believe he was actually innocent and his father murdered him for political reasons.) Jeongjo, on the other hand, is considered to be one of the better Joseon rulers, and his fortress is listed as a Unesco World Heritage site.
Hwaseong suffered plenty of damage over the years, but it has been renovated mostly to its former glory.
I visited Suwon twice, once pretty briefly during some days I had in Seoul right before I flew home for a visit in between contracts and another recently as a day trip. I’m sad to say my last visit was also kind of short, since it was a Sunday and I wanted to make it back to my house to get some work done before the week started.
I definitely don’t regret making the second visit, but I wish I had gotten the chance to walk around the whole wall. Even so, I loved the view at Paldalsan, the highest point in the fortress, though it does require climbing many stairs. But it’s totally worth it. The peak is closest to the Hwaseomun part of the gate, but many start at Paldalmun and hike to Hwaseomun from there.
There’s almost a 360 degree view of Suwon city from the top of the stairs.
Walking down from the peak, it’s easy to visit the temporary palace. It’s mostly a reconstruction, but nice to walk around.
From the palace it’s a fairly short walk to Paldalmun gate.
The area around Paldalmun has a wet market that is interesting to walk around, even without wanting to purchase anything.
The 10 floor gothic style Suwon First Church is nearby Paldalmun. I think it’s the biggest church I’ve ever seen in Korea.
There’s a dragon shaped trolley that goes around the fortress, I didn’t ride it but it’s cool to look at.
Martial arts performances take place at the palace at 11 am and 3 pm every day except Monday, according to the Gyeonggi-do tourism website. I didn’t catch this but it’s free so it would have been nice to see it. There’s also a section of the wall to try out Korean archery, 2,000 won for 10 arrows.
Getting there is pretty easy, Line 1 of the Seoul metro goes to Suwon station, and from there several buses go to Hwaseomun and Paldalmun gates. The bus stop near the station is huge and Suwon seems to have a very extensive bus system but all the stops are listed in English as well as Korean, which makes it easier for tourists.