Suwon’s biggest attraction is Hwaseong Fortress, which formed the walls that surrounded the old city. Hwaseong’s walls were finished in 1796 and they remain a prominent landmark to this day. In the first half of the 1900s the walls were damaged by the Japanese occupation and the Korean War but they were largely restored in the second half of the 1900s thanks to a document from 1801 that detailed Hwaseong’s construction in incredible detail.
To walk along the walls only costs 1,000 won and there are several points around Hwaseong Fortress were you could start your walk. I began near Paldalmun Gate, which seems to be the most popular starting point. From the gate you can either go left or right and walk a minute to reach a ticket booth at the base of the walls. The western part of Hwaseong Fortress was built on the slope of a mountain, so depending if you go left from Paldalmun Gate you’ll do some hard climbing at the start of the walk but then be going steadily downhill afterward, while if you go right you’ll be slowly climbing uphill most of the time before coming down a long stretch of stairs at the end. I chose to go left. It wasn’t overly hot that day but it was warm and humid, so when I finally reached the top of the stairs I was really sweaty. On the plus side I had gotten the hardest part of the walk done right at the start and could look forward to a much easier walk for the rest of my time at Hwaseong.
Near the top of the stairs there’s short detour you can take onto a small section of the walls that extends out from the main part of the fortress and ends at a rest area. In the past there were probably good views of Suwon from this part of Hwaseong but the trees have now grown too tall to see much from it.
As I continued along the walls there were some areas where I was going uphill but the slopes were gentle and there would not be any hard climbing for the rest of the day. Individual sentry posts are scattered along the length of the walls and according to one of the signs I saw these small buildings would double as both places where soldiers would stand around and as storage spaces for weapons and ammunition.
Further along the western part of Hwaseong I came across a large bell. Normally these types of bells are roped-off from the public but at Hwaseong you’re allowed to ring the bell three times in exchange for 1,000 won. I wasn’t sure how loud the bell would be, so my first ring was fairly gentle, then I added some more force with the second ring, and for my third ring I slammed the bell hard, like I was part of a SWAT team breaking down a door. Needless to say, that final ring was loud.
Right by this bell there was entry point in the walls and on the other side was a convenience store. I was still feeling really warm from my initial climb up the mountain so I got some ice cream and a cold drink to cool myself off. That little break did me a lot of good and after using the public restroom I was feeling much better for the rest of my time on the walls.
With some more walking I reached an area called Hwaseong Jangdae that has panoramic views of the city below. It was really cloudy and hazy that day, so I couldn’t see too far, but I could at least appreciate how Suwon has grown far beyond the bounds of its old walls. Suwon is home to almost 1.25 million people, as can be seen by all the big apartment buildings in the distance. I stopped here for a few minutes to look around before continuing my circuit around Hwaseong. Technically I had walked only about 1/3 of the walls but this point felt like a halfway mark in retrospect because for most of the rest of my walk I’d be going downhill and covering ground a lot faster. Tomorrow’s post will cover the rest of the walk that eventually led me all the way back to Paldalmun Gate.