Exploring Korea: Hwaseong Fortress, UNESCO World Heritage site in Suwon

Hwahong-mun gate; photos by ChiHon Kim
Hwahong-mun gate; photos by ChiHon Kim

Exploring Korea: Hwaseong Fortress, UNESCO World Heritage site in Suwon

by ChiHon Kim
Stripes Korea

Though Suwon in the Central Gyeonggi-do area may conjure up different memories for the people who have visited or live there (for me, it’s the “Suwon Blue Wings,” which used to be one of the best pro football clubs in South Korea), many will point to Hwaseong Fortress as one of the most memorable points in the city.

Suwon’s landmark and UNESCO World Heritage site, Hwaseong Fortress, is a prime example of Joseon Dynasty-era (1391-1897) architecture and the centerpiece of the city’s history.

Suwon Hwaseong Fortress

Destroyed during Japanese colonial rule and during the Korean War, the fortress was restored to its original condition in the 1970s thanks to royal books dating back to 1796 showing the original construction methods.

Unlike many other ancient fortresses, Hwaseong Fortress has numerous structures and double walls which once allowed guards to stop attacks from the outer wall. Experts say the fortress construction is still standing due to the advances in architecture during the Joseon Dynasty.

A trek along the fortress walls is the best way to experience its beauty, but at 5.7 kilometers in length, this takes around 3 hours to complete. If you’re short on time, I recommend the popular one and a half-hour trail, which starts from the Paldal-mun leading to Seo jangdea (west command post) and Hwaseo-mun gate. This trail will take you up a slightly steep area to reach the highest point at the fortress, Seo jangdae, which served as the king’s command post. This is a great spot to look down at Suwon City and take a rest at the pavilion.

An alternative, if you don’t want to walk a lot, is the Hwaseong Haenggung Palace, which served as the King’s temporary palace. You can enjoy a variety of performances here, including one by 24 Martial Arts Trial group, a ceremony by the king’s guard and others every Saturday. The 24 Martial Arts show, conducted every Tuesday to Sunday at 11 a.m., is one you shouldn’t miss.

Seo Jangdae

On Sundays, Hwaseong Haenggung Palace hosts military ceremonies, performed by the King’s Guard, traditional games, tightrope walking, plate spinning and an appearance by “King Jeonjo” on his visit to his temporary palace. An actor playing the role of King Jeonjo may extend his hand for a handshake, so be ready to get a photo.

The Banghwa Suryu-jeong (North-East Pavilion) with its serene pond, is another great stop to relax for a moment during your stroll. No matter where you go in the sprawling grounds of this fortress, each area has its own unique charm and things to do and see. Access to the fortress is easy from the Maesan Market bus stops.

The truth is Suwon has something for everyone, from amazing architecture to food and culture. And, the great part is that it doesn’t require a lot of money to enjoy them all.

Traditonal performances
Photos courtesy of Suwon Cultural Foundation


- Address: Suwon Cultural Foundation, 11 Haenggung-ro(14 Namchang-dong), Paldal-gu, Suwon City
- By car: Camp Humphreys, Osan air Base → Suwon Hwaseong Fortress (1 hour)
- Departing from Suwon Station: Take a City Bus (Bus No 11, 13 or 13-4) at the Bus Stop near Suwon Station No.4 Exit (the North Square) → Get off at ‘Hwaseong Haenggung, Suwon Seongji’ Bus Stop
- Homepage

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