Suwon City Guide
Despite being in a different county to the capital and a full hour’s train ride away, Suwon is essentially a suburb of Seoul. Most of the residents disappear early in the morning, off to the big smoke through the connecting subway line, leaving a quiet town with some great historical spots to explore.
Hwaseong Fortress is the indisputable highlight, reminiscent of the Great Wall of China in places, and stretching around the heart of the city for several kilometres. The old protective wall makes for a great stroll, and features plenty in the way of beautiful pagoda buildings and even an oversized brass bell that you can ring by swinging a huge log into it for luck. The two hour walk around the UNESCO World Heritage site is punctuated by gazes across the nearby forests and over Suwon’s impressive World Cup Stadium. It’s a stunning, intricately beautiful spot and a must see even for those dropping in to Seoul.
Equally, if you’re a sports lover, Suwon’s a great place to be. Suwon Bluewing’s football team –named in part due to the city’s close affiliation with multinational company Samsung – is usually amongst the best in the K-League, which means regular Asian Champions League matches and visits by clubs from Auckland and Tokyo as well as the rest of South Korea. The stadium is imaginatively named ‘Big Bird’. Following the match, you’d do well to indulge in some ‘Galbi’, the local speciality BBQ that seems to taste better here than anywhere else. Expect a long night of indulgence cooking and eating your own beef.
As for the town itself, it’s a chilled out suburban place with good restaurants, a small centre and lots of the little quirks that make South Korean towns appear so alien to westerners. The hustle of the city seems to focus around the train station – a sign of the local leaning towards the capital – though the back streets are often still influenced by old stone relics and operate at a enjoyably relaxed pace compared the other end of the train line.
Aside from Hwaseong, Suwon is not the most interesting spot in Korea, but its pure accessibility and the beauty of the fortress make it well worth the effort anyway. Mark the town down as a day trip or a long weekend and you won’t regret it.