UNESCO World Heritage Site #29: Hwaseong Fortress

When Jeff’s parents were in town, we took the opportunity to go to some of the places we have wanted to, but have put off for some reason. Suwon is one of them. Yes, we’d been there already for a wedding, but we hadn’t made it to Hwaseong Fortress.

Paldalmun

When you get off the metro at Suwon, you need to take a bus to Hwaseong Fortress. I looked at a bus schedule and noticed a lot of the buses go by Paldalmun. I knew that Paldalmun meant “south gate” and figured it would be a good place to start. We found that the gate itself is under renovation. There is a lively market area near it which is interesting to walk around, but all the nearby walls are being renovated and you can’t go on them. So we kept walking, sort of north.

Eventually we came across a museum. We went in to check it out and found an English-speaking volunteer, who recommended the palace and the dragon train along the fortress wall. She pointed us in the right direction, and we left because we didn’t want to pay for the museum.

Haenggung

The palace is just down the street from the museum. Outside of it there was some sort of fair going on, with lots of tents, some of which had free samples of food.

When we got to the palace, which is called Haenggung, there was a martial arts demonstration taking place. There were men with guns and men with bows and arrows. I enjoyed watching the archery.

Going inside, there were a few games that you could play, including a ring toss and a seesaw. Immediately I thought this was the most fun palace I had been to.

For the most part, Korean palaces look very similar. The major differences at Haenggung were that it looked new and it had reconstructions of the interiors of rooms. It was almost entirely destroyed during the Japanese colonial period and only fully rebuilt in 2003, so it makes sense that it looks new.

The other notable feature of the palace was how geared to tourists it was. The games should have been a hint. There were various things you could pay to do, like put on armor or pose on a throne. There was also a “wooden rice chest experience.” The father of King Jeongjo (the king who built the palace) was locked in a rice chest because he had a ‘mental disease.’ He died of starvation. The plaque next to the rice chests said “you can go into the chest and feel how painful it is and King Jeongjo’s sorrow.” Jeff’s mom mentioned it to us in a bit of horror, and so Jeff posed in one.

Hwaseong Fortress Walls

After finishing at the palace, we went up the hill to find the dragon train that would take us around the wall. It became clear at the ticket booth that the next available train was in almost two hours. We didn’t want to wait that long, so we took some steep stairs up to at least look at the fortress walls.

We climbed up at the West Crossbow Tower, pictured above. I climbed the crossbow tower and imagined shooting arrows through it.

This is the highest point of the Hwaseong Fortress walls. It looks really cool. I wanted to walk around them more, but you have to pay about 1000 Won (for some reason we were being really cheap).

A view of the city of Suwon and the Hwaseong Fortress Wall.

So instead, we just looked out at the great view of Suwon and the rest of the fortress walls. Sadly, we didn’t make it to the place where you can shoot arrows (that’s near the Eastern Crossbow Tower). But we still enjoyed our time at Hwaseong Fortress.

Details:

  • Location: Hwaseong Fortress is near Suwon Station on line 1. There are quite a few buses that will take you there. The Korean tourism website suggests you take Bus 2, 7, 7-2, 8, or 13 and get off at Jongno 4-geori (intersection), and walk 5 minutes to the fortress.
  • Hours: 9 AM to 6 PM (summer) or 5 PM (winter).
  • Price: The fortress walls cost 1000 Won. The palace is 1500 Won.

Have you ever been to Hwaseong Fortress?

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