Earlier this month, the Wee Gypsy Boyfriend and I took a trip up North for a change of scenery from Southern life. After spending Saturday in Gapyeong, we spent Sunday playing tourists in Suwon, a charming historical city on the outskirts of Seoul.
I must admit that we weren’t too sure what to expect of the city. Our main motivations for visiting were based on the fact that the fortress wall is listed in Lonely Planet’s top 5 things to see in Korea (you’ve got to trust the oracle…) and the fact that there is a toilet museum! However, when we arrived to Suwon, we realised that there is so much more to the city than we had originally thought.
Unfortunately, we never got to visit that toilet museum, but we did manage to squeeze a lot of sights into that day. There’s so much to see in Suwon that I would actually recommend spending 2 days in the city. However, for those of you more pressed on time, here’s the perfect itinerary for a day in Suwon.
While this isn’t the most impressive sight you’ll see in Suwon, it’s a good place to start the day. From here you’re within easy walking distance of the South Gate of the Fortress Wall- which is probably the reason you came to Suwon in the first place!
To get to Padalman Gate you can take a short taxi from the Bus Terminal or subway station. We came from the bus terminal and our journey was less than 5,000 KRW. The subway station is slightly closer so the fare would probably be less from there.
Suwon also has a fast and efficient public bus system which you should definitely take advantage of while you’re there!
Hwaseong Fortress Wall
Just a short walk away from Padalmun Gate you’ll reach the Hwaseong Fortress. You need to pay a 1,000 won entrance fee to access the wall. There are a few artefacts to look at along the way, but the highlight for me was the view of Suwon from the top. It’s not often that Korean cities have impressive skylines, but Suwon’s definitely stood out from other cities.
To learn more about the history of the fortress wall, you should visit the Hwaseong Fortress Museum. We didn’t have time but I’ve heard good things about it! The entry fee is included in the admission to the fortress wall.
The fortress floodgates is a great jump off point from the fortress. We decided to only walk this far (mixture of laziness, heat and time constraints) to check out a few attractions nearby. The floodgate itself is a really picturesque spot with a cute river and lots of wildflowers and birds. We even saw a crane there!
Padalmun Gate to the Fortress floodgates should take around 1 to 2 hours to hike, depending on your fitness level.
Suwon Art Village
Just a short walk down from the floodgate, you’ll stumble upon this charming art village. I love finding places like this in Korea but unfortunately they tend to be full of people. This one was really quiet so we could appreciate the murals around us without selfie sticks in our faces. I’m going to write a whole blog post about this place soon as I was really impressed by it! There are a few art galleries and independent coffee shops in the area which would be great to check out if you had a bit of extra time.
The most famous dish of Suwon is beef galbi ribs. However, in this area you’ll be able to sample Suwon’s other famous dish- fried chicken. We didn’t realise that Suwon was famous for chicken, but when we noticed that there is a fried chicken street located between the art village and our next stop, we had to go!
I must say that the fried chicken was a bit disappointing. I’m not a huge fan of fried chicken at the best of times and this was an actual full chicken. I imagine a lot of people would love it but it wasn’t for me. The fried chicken street was a bit underwhelming compared to the Dalk Galbi street we had visited in Chuncheon the night before but it was still definitely a novelty!
Choose your lunch wisely! Next time I might just get kimbab….
Play your cards right and try to get here in time to see the changing of the guards. This performance was actually much better than the one we saw at Gyongbukgong in Seoul- they even had archery battles and shot some blanks! At the end of the performance you can get your photo taken with the king and queen which is a good cheesy souvenir to have.
Take the Dragon Train to Yeonmudae Post for Archery!
Just up the hill from the palace, you’ll find the dragon train which transports passengers along the wall. The train costs 1,500 KRW and leaves every 15 minutes. While the train is super crowded, it saves you walking all the way along the wall, which is perfect if you’re pressed for time. Plus, it will take you to Yeonmudae Post where you can test out your Robin Hood skills! For just 2,000 won you’ll get 12 arrows to shoot. This was a really fun end to our day in Suwon. We particularly liked the interactive aspect of it- always good for someone like me with a super low attention span… From here, there are plenty of buses to take you back to the bus terminal or subway station. Bye bye Suwon!
I hope this post has inspired you to spend a day in Suwon. You’ll notice that most of the attractions that I mentioned have really low admission prices, or are completely free! I think that Suwon is the perfect weekend trip for budget travellers in Korea, especially those who live in Seoul and can use the subway to get there. We had an amazing time and are seriously considering a second trip!
Let me know, have you ever been to Suwon?
If you’re looking for more weekend inspiration, don’t miss these posts:
- How to Spend a Day in Gapyeong
- Saryangdo: Korea’s Secret Island of Adventures
- How to Travel in Korea and Still Save Money
- 10 Free Things to do in Busan this Summer