When it comes to day trips, Seoul has plenty to offer a visitor. Whether it’s beautiful foliage on Nami Island, breathtaking views on a big hike in Bukhansan National Park, visiting themed villages in Paju, or having jjajangmyeon in Incheon’s beautiful Chinatown, South Korea is well-connected via the country’s transportation system.
One of my favourite day trips though, is one that is connected to Seoul’s subway system.
Meet the historic city of Suwon.
As the capital city of the Gyeonggi-do Province, Suwon remains the sole city in South Korea that is still walled.
This has attracted many visitors to this otherwise unassuming city 30 kilometres south of Seoul.
A Brief History
Suwon was supposed to be the capital city during the Joseon Dynasty, and the city walls measuring almost 6km long were built in anticipation of moving the royal court down south. However, those plans never quite came to fruition and Suwon was left with a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
What to See & Do in Suwon
Suwon Hwaseong Fortress (수원 화성)
There are many ways to get to the fortress.
Many buses leave from Suwon station and stop right outside the many gates and entrances of the fortress, bearing in mind that the fortress is truly a huge structure that circles the entire of the old city.
Think of it less like an actual building and more like a city wall.
I started from Hwaseomun Gate and scaled the walls to eventually reach Seojangdae (서장대) and Seonodae (서노대) which are the highest points of the wall.
On a clear day, you’ll be able to see the vastness of the city walls and the way they circle the old city.
Unfortunately, the grey of the overcast skies refused to budge during my day trip to Suwon, and finally unleashed a massive downpour later that evening, but I still managed to get some cool pictures from here.
From Seojongdae, you can continue on the path to continue hiking the wall, but I decided to head back down and see some other sights in the city.
Haeunggung-dong Mural Village (행궁동 벽화마을)
Many mural villages can be found in South Korea, and there’s a small one here in Suwon, predominantly located in a quiet residential district which also houses a few galleries, museums, coffee shops and ice-cream stands.
It’s not big by any measure, nor does it feature any show-stopping murals, but you can quickly breeze through in 15 to 20 minutes while you work your way towards Hwaseong Haenggung Palace.
Hwaseong Haenggung Palace (화성 행궁)
Haenggung Palaces are (or were) temporary palaces used by the king and royal family to retreat to in times of war, and Hwaseong Haenggung Palace is the biggest of them all.
An admission ticket will set you back 1, 500KRW, and a guard ceremony features at the front gate on Sundays during the months between April and October.
You can also head up to Daeseungwon (대승원) once you’re done at the palace to visit the towering gold Buddha statue.
Hwahongmun Gate (화홍문)
After which, head closer to the banks of the Suwon River and find yourself at Hwahongmun Gate, one of the many pavilions that provide a wonderful respite from the heat and where you can kick off your shoes (you have to, literally), and join the many local families, couples and friends having a chat or doing a spot of people-watching.
It’s truly a wonderful place to spend a bit of time, especially if you’ve been walking the entire day.
Suwon Rodeo Street
End your day at the Hongdae of Suwon by the name of Rodeo Street just behind the main train station.
Here, you’ll find a crowded street of many shops selling apparel and accessories, arcades, karaoke joints, endless food options from fast food favourites to upscale restaurants to street food carts.
Bustling and atmospheric, it represents what I love most about Korean cities.
Suwon in a Day
Suwon was my favourite day trip from Seoul, if only because the Hwaseong Fortress is really quite something in the flesh.
The scale of the walls is incredible to be standing on, especially at one of the many pavilions and lookout points.
Suwon provides a nice escape from the non-stop city life of Seoul, whilst still being incredibly accessible on the subway and therefore an inexpensive and easy day out.