weekend away - Suwon, South Korea
Written by Nell McShane Wulfhart
With an 18th-century fortress, a rich history, and some of Korea’s most famous barbecue fare, Suwon is a little-known but worthwhile destination just 30 kilometres south of Seoul.
Visitors to Korea rarely leave Seoul. While the capital is a world-class city of bright lights and non-stop activity, a day trip to Suwon offers a peaceful and educational interlude.
Suwon’s biggest draw is the Hwaseong Fortress. Built in 1796 by King Jeongjo, legend has it that the fortress was intended to house the remains of the king’s father, Prince Sado. Sado was murdered by his own father, who locked him inside a rice chest as punishment for having disobeyed his order to commit suicide.
This UNESCO World Heritage Site once encircled the entire city. Today, Suwon has expanded outside the walls, but visitors can walk the boundaries in two or three hours. Beautifully restored, the fortress comprises crossbow towers, four cardinal gates, artillery stations, and huge military compounds, along with beacon towers, floodgates, and unexpectedly peaceful nature spots. Visitors can try some historically accurate activities, including traditional archery and bell ringing.
Inside the fortress is Haenggung Palace, a monument of curved, pagoda-style roofs and impeccably cared-for grounds. Formerly a temporary residence of King Jeongjo, today the palace hosts free shows and historic ceremonies that offer tourists a glimpse into the past.
For active types, a hike up Mount Gwanggyo (Suwon’s ’guardian mountain’, according to Confucian beliefs) guarantees gorgeous views of the city. Trails vary in difficulty, and equipment isn’t necessary, so even beginner hikers can enjoy themselves.
When it comes to food, Suwon is famous for galbi – beef ribs marinated in a blend of soy sauce, sesame oil, and garlic, then grilled over charcoal at the table. Kabojong (958-1 Inkae-dong) is famous for its galbi and can host hundreds in rooms with traditional floor seating.
From Seoul, numerous buses and trains go to and from Suwon daily, as does Line 1 of Seoul’s subway system.
Seoul, South Korea
For the Kids
A short bus ride from the city centre is Korea’s biggest and most elaborate theme park. Everland is home to a water park, the world’s steepest roller coaster, and a safari bus ride, as well the usual amusement park fare such as roller coasters, shops, restaurants, and everything else a family needs for a fun day out.
310 Jeondae-ri, Pogok-eup
Mr. Toilet House is a two-storey museum dedicated to (and shaped like) the toilet. Once the home of Suwon’s lavatory-obsessed mayor, the architecturally stunning (really!) building now educates visitors on the history of the bathroom.