After a few weekends of sightseeing around Seoul, I began to run out of important historic sites to visit. I had already visited the palaces and royal shrines and even a few interesting museums. As Seoul stretches out into the distance, engulfing towns that were once not part of the metropolis, there are other destinations of interest.
That’s when I found Hwaseong Fortress, a UNESCO World Heritage Site in Suwon, which is almost an hour outside central Seoul. Construction of the fortress began in 1794 under the Joseon Dynasty by King Jeongjo to honor his father, Prince Sado, who was murdered by his own father, King Yeongjo. It was supposedly constructed in two years, which is impressive considering its size. Parts of the fortress have been restored as they suffered significant damage during the Korean War.
The walls of Hwaseong stretch about six kilometers and can take about two or more hours to walk around, depending on how often one stops for photos.
The bus from Suwon station dropped me off in front of Paldamun Gate in the center of a busy roundabout. From there I walked in the wrong direction through the town and found a market that offered some food to tide me over until after my adventure around the fortress.
I had a beautiful clear day for walking around in late June. I did not, of course, arrive in Suwon early in the morning as I should have to avoid the summer heat. The heat wasn’t as oppressive as it can be in other parts of the world in the summer, but the lack of shade made the walk around the fortress a little more difficult. There were, however, some wooded areas to hide from the sun, but those were mostly at the start of my walk.
I stopped at the Suwon Hwaseong Museum for a respite from the heat–air conditioning is worth the price of admission in some cases. The museum wasn’t impressive and only took twenty minutes or so to walk through, but I took my time and enjoyed the cool air. Sometimes you need a break from all that walking and sightseeing.
I wanted to stay longer in the air conditioning, but I had one more stop before catching a bus back to the subway station. Within the walls of Hwaseong Fortress is Hwaseong Haenggung, the palace built by King Jeongjo when he supposedly planned to move the capital from Seoul. It’s a small palace and not nearly as impressive as the ones in Seoul, like Gyeongbokgung.
There was a corner of the palace that allowed visitors to dress up in traditional costumes, imitation weapons included for those who want to dress as warriors instead of royalty. I arrived too late to have my turn as they were closing up shop for the day. Sorry folks, no embarrassing photos of this traveler today.