South Korea - Getting to know Suwon
Situated just 30 kilometres south of Seoul, and all but engulfed by the capital’s urban sprawl, Suwon is yet a world away from the bright neon lights and skyscrapers and is rich in historical and cultural sites.
Suwon may struggle to maintain its distinct identity from the capital but it has an impressive history and, at one time, came very close to taking the seat of power from Seoul. Today it is one of South Korea’s largest cities, with a population of over a million people, but its main attraction for visitors lies in its past and its ancient UNESCO-listed fortress still dominates its centre.
With its close proximity to Seoul, Suwon can be visited as a day trip, but there’s enough to see to justify an overnight stay.
What to do in Suwon
- Stroll along the historic walls of the Hwaseong Fortress that surround the heart of Suwon. Completed in 1796 the complex was built for King Jeongjo to house the remains of his murdered father, Prince Sado, and formed part of Jeongjo’s attempts to shift power from Seoul. Standing at 10 metres high for the majority of their course, and punctuated by sentry posts, artillery towers and ornate entrance gates, they snake along for nearly six kilometres. Despite damage caused to some parts of the Fortress during the Korean War, much of it remains intact.
- Visit the Hwaseong Haenggung Palace. Built in the late 18th century, it was used by King Jeongjo as a place of shelter during war; as well as a retreat for the times he visited to worship at his father's tomb. If you are visiting Suwon between April and October you are likely to encounter the changing of the guard ceremony (which takes place every Sunday) or a martial arts display which regularly take place in the plaza in front of the palace.
Poor old Prince Sado never became king, because he was murdered by his own father.
Spend a penny...
Suwon is home to one of South Korea’s most unusual ‘attractions’: the Toilet Museum (yes - really!). Built in the shape of a toilet bowl, it shows the history of Korean toilets alongside a smaller section devoted to international toilets.
Getting off the trail in Suwon
- Just north of Suwon lies Gwanggyosan Mountain. More of a large hill than a mountain, it takes an hour to reach the peak from where you can enjoy views over the surrounding countryside. It’s particularly picturesque during the autumn months when the trees are covered in reds and golds.
- Step into South Korea’s past with a visit to the Korean Folk Village. Whilst it may not be wholly authentic, this recreation of a traditional Korean village offers an insight into traditional life. Its riverbank setting, thatch-roofed houses and performances of horse-riding, tightrope walking, traditional wedding ceremonies and dancing are always popular with visitors.
- Families, and the young at heart, looking for a break from historical sightseeing, may wish to visit the colossal theme park that is Everland, just east of Suwon. Packed with rollercoasters and featuring a speedway track, golf course and zoo, Everland is designed around the wet and wild fun of Caribbean Bay, where pools, lazy rivers, slides, artificial beaches and a water bobsleigh can be found.
select another destination