Hwaseong Fortress Korea

Guide To Visit Hwaseong Fortress | Seoul Korea

Hwaseong Fortress, also known as Suwon Hwaseong, is an 18th century temporary palace in Suwon, Korea built by King Jeongjo, the 22nd monarch of the Joseon Dynasty. Located 18 miles south of Seoul, he built Hwaseong to honor the nearby tomb of his father, Crown Prince Sado, who died a grisly death when Jeongjo was just 9 years old (more on this later).

His plan was to make this the new capital, so this temporary place is grand, the grandest of all Joseon Dynasty temporary palaces, and built with an extensive fortress surrounding it for protection.

It’s a bit of an effort to get to Hwaseong from Seoul, yet this well-preserved, UNESCO listed site makes a fascinating day trip, visually and historically. This post covers how to get to Hwaseong Fortress in Suwon, Korea and how to best plan your time here.

About Hwaseong

Hwaseong consists of a palace, formally the Hwaseong Haenggung Palace, and the fortification walls surrounding it. The fortification walls are in excellent condition and include elaborate gates, bastions, towers, turrets, towers, and more. The fortress walls are almost 3.3 miles (5.3 km) long and surround the center of what is now Suwon, the provincial capital of Gyeonggi-do.

King Jeongjo visited Hwaseong annually from Seoul to pay honor to his father. Due to the distance, this was an elaborate procession taking many days, with other temporary palaces built along the way.

The most elaborate of these processions was to honor his father’s tomb on his mother’s 60th birthday. This royal procession, from Changdeokgung Palace to Hwaseong, consisted of an entourage of 1,779 people and 779 horses and lasted 8 days. To learn more about this and see an artistic representation of the procession see my post on Cheonggyecheon Stream Walkway.

Best Way To Visit Hwaseong Fortress

The best way to visit Hwaseong Fortress is to start at Hwaseong Haenggung Palace, which is in the center of town. From here, walk or take the tourist trolley to the north gate, which is Jangunmun Gate, and walk east along the fortress walls to the archery area near Yeonmudae, or to the east gate, Changnyongmun Gate.

The walk from the palace to will take about 10-minutes and the walk from Jangunmun to The archery area will take 15-20. It’s a lovely section and provides beautiful views and excellent examples of the quality of the walls and its features. Suwoncheon Stream also crosses here.

If you prefer to walk the entire 3.3 mile (5.3 km) loop of the fortress walls, it will take about 2 hours. The eastern section of the wall is relatively flat, while the western part is on Mount Paldal and has more elevation.

There is a tourist trolley from the Hwaseong Haenggung Palace to Janganmun Gate. There’s also a loop trolley that leaves from the road in front of Yeonmudae and goes around the outside of the of the walls in the northeastern section of the fortress. Both will be very appreciated on steamy hot days. See more details on tourist trolley. Tickets can be purchased near the departure areas.

After this, you can take a taxi back to Suwon Station at Yeonmudae or a bus from the bus station that heads south near Changnyongmun Gate. If your plan is to take the bus back, ask for details at the tourist center.

Ideally, plan your visit to around sunset for the best views. If you still want to start at the palace, make sure to get there around 5 PM as it closes at 6 PM, but the fortress walls are open all day, every day.

Tours of Hwaseong Fortress

If you prefer the convenience of a tour over arranging your own trip, I suggest these 4 hour tours that pick up in Seoul. The first one is during the day and the second is at night.

Hwaseong Haenggung Palace

Hwaseong Haenggung Palace is near the center of the fortress, in the middle of the town of Suwon. It consists of 22 buildings and structures, some set up to show what life was like here during visits by Jeongjo. Noteworthy areas to see include the following.

The main gate is Singpungnu Gate, which means “new hometown”, representing Jeongjo’s desire for this to eventually be the new capital.

Hwaseong Haenggung Palace In Suwon Fortress
Hwaseong Haenggun Main Gate

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Bongsudang, towards the back of the palace, is where King Jeongjo held the 60th birthday party for his mother, Crown Princess Hyegyeong.

The Noraedang, in the back corner, was built for King Jeongjo to live in his retirement.

Hwaryeongjeon, on the right side of the palace, is for the King’s portrait, for his descendants to pay homage to him.

The palace is open daily from 9 AM to 6 PM and the entrance cost is 1,500 . There is a ticket booth by the entrance. Expect to spend approximately 30-60 minutes exploring the palace.

On Sundays at 2 PM, there is a Royal Guard ceremony and Saturdays at 2 PM there are traditional performances (April to October).

Hwaseong Fortress

There are four gates in the fortress: the north gate, or Janganmun Gate, the south gate, Paldalmun Gate, the east gate, Changnyongmun Gate, and the west gate, Hwaseomun Gate, located in the four cardinal directions.

Jangunmun Gate

Janganmun Gate is the main gate and the grandest of the four. This gate is located on the northern side of the wall and topped with a colorful, two-story pavilion.

Janganmun Gate at Hwaseong Fortress
Janganmun Gate

As mentioned above, it’s best to visit the fortress walls after the palace. Janganmun Gate is the closest gate to the palace and being the largest gate, it’s a great place to start. There’s a small tourist office at the base of Janganmun Gate where you can get a map and more information.

To get to the fortress walls, walk up the steep steps up at Janganmun Gate. After stopping for the view, turn to your right and walk towards Changnyongmun Gate, the east gate.

Bukdongjeokdae, or the guard platform will be the first thing you will come across after passing through the pavilion at Janganmun Gate. This is where guards stood to protect the gate and fortress. Next, you’ll come across the Firearm Bastion, known as Bokdongporu.

Buksumun Floodgate

The Buksumun Floodgate, which is perched over the Suwoncheon River, protects against flooding. It is also known as Hwahongmun. Hwa means “Hwaseong”, hong means “rainbow”, and mun means “gate”. This implies that the water passing through the floodgate is visually pleasing.

The view from the pavilion is beautiful and some chose to sit along the edge of the gate and watch the water.

Buksumun Floodgate is a highlight at Hwaseong Fortress
Buksumun Floodgate

On each end of the bridge there is an octagonal stone pillar topped with a statue of a mythical, dragon-like creature, or imugi.

Dongbukporu

The Northeast Guard Pavilion, or Dongbukporu, is one of 5 lookout towers in Hwaseon. It’s the most important as it’s located on high ground with the best visibility.

The pavilion has interesting dragon head-shaped decorations on the roof and the brick platform between the wall and the pavilion.

Northeast Guard Pavilion at Hwaseong Fortress
Northeast Guard Pavilion

Yeonmudae Post, or Dongjangdae

At Yeonmudae, troops were trained in the art of shooting arrows, and fighting skills involving spears and swords.

You can try shooting your own arrows. The cost is 2,000 for 10 shots. With the ticket, you get a brief overview of how to stand and how to shoot.

There’s a cafe right in front of the archery area, so even if you don’t want to try the archery yourself, you can comfortably sit and watch.

Hours are 9 AM to 6 PM March to October and 9 AM to 5 PM November to February.

On the road in front of Yongmudae, you can catch the loop trolley to see the fortress wall and buildings from the road, or continue walking towards Changnyongmun Gate.

Archery Area

Changnyongmun Gate

Changnyongmun Gate, the east gate, has a single story pavilion above it. To get here from Yongmudae, you will pass the Dongbukgongsimdon Observation Tower and Dongbuknodae Crossbow Platform. The fortress here will cross over the busy road here.

Bell Of Hyowan

The Bell of Hyowan is giant 12.5 ton bell in a wooden structure, created to honor King Jeongji’s devotion to his father.

For 1,000 you can ring the bell three times. The first ring is in thanks for one’s parents, the second for happiness in one’s family, and the third for self improvement.

Hyowan Bell is located on the west side of the fortress between Hwaseomun Gate and Paldalum Gate. If you take the round trip tourist trolley, it is one of the sites you will pass on your journey.

Tethered Helium Balloon Ride

You can also get a birds-eye view of Hwaseong Fortress. There’s a tethered helium balloon near Changnyongmun Gate that flies to 492’ (150 m) in the sky. This is Flying Suwon. Unfortunately, the website is only in Korean, so you will need to translate it.

Flights run from 12:30 to 21:30 on weekdays and 11:00 to 22:00 on weekends. The cost is 14,000 . Suwon citizens get a discounted price, but must have ID proof of residency.

Other Things To See In Suwon

If you have time, there are a few other great things to see and do in Suwon. I only briefly walked through the Suwon Center for Traditional Culture between visiting the palace the Jagnanmun Gate and know the architecture there is very beautiful and worth a quick stop. If you want to see any of these additional places, make sure to leave enough time.

  • Visit Suwon Hwaseong Museum.
  • Watch the sunset at Suwon Cheil Church.
  • Stop at Suwon Center for Traditional Culture housed in traditional Hanok.
  • Visit Ji-dong Mural Village and Haenggung-dong Mural Villages.
  • Shop at the Suwon South Gate (Nammun) Market.

Where To Stay Near Hwaseong Fortress

If you want to stay near Hwaseong Fortress see the link of nearby accommodation. This sorts them by distance from the fortrace.

I did not stay here, but the highest rated location is Suwon Sunstar Hotel. It’s just a short walk to the palace and Junganmun Gate and is very reasonably priced.

The Tragic Story of Crown Prince Sado

So here are the grisly details of Crown Prince Sado and how he died when Jeongjo’s was only 9 years old. There are many stories that say Crown Prince Sado, who was in line to be the King after his father Yeongjo, was crazy. Some even saying that he was a murderer and a rapist. Others say all his issues were the political intrigue, or result of a controlling, abusive father, or possibly even both.

After several incidents there were concerns about the safety of the royal family. King Yeongjo was implored to take care of the situation with his son. According to laws and customs at the time, a royal body could not be defiled, and any communal punishment would have also required Sado’s wife and son (Jeongjo) to also face death or banishment.

To avoid this his father ordered him to commit suicide, but the Prince declined. In the end his father ordered him to step into a rice box, which he was then locked inside of. He died after 7 days inside the box. A pretty gruesome death, right? Especially as it was ordered by his father and Sado’s cries for help were ignored.

He posthumously given the title of Sado, which means “thinking of with great sorrow”.

Hwaseong Fortress Korea
Hwaseong Haenggung Fortress Palace Suwon Korea

How To Get To Hwaseong Fortress

Located 18 miles (30 km) south of Seoul, you can take line 1 (blue line) to Suwon Station. See the Seoul Korea subway map to create your own route to Hwaseong Fortress.

The blue line can be a bit confusing depending on where you’re taking it from as some junctures have multiple trains where the route is only announced in Korean. It’s best to ask a local, many of which are more than happy to help you board the right train.

When you arrive at Suwon Station, follow the signs inside to the tourist information center, which is upstairs and outside. They will provide you with a map and information on which bus to take. They told me to take bus 11 or 13 to the ‘Hwaseong Haenggung’ Bus Stop. It’s always a good idea to verify as routes can change. It’s also a good idea to have your destination pinned on GPS and watch for your stop as they are announced in Korean. A local on the bus can help you with this too.

The trip via subway is quite long, taking about an hour and a half or more, depending on your final route. The bus ride after arriving at Suwon Station is about 30 minutes. As always, remember that riding the subway during rush hour can get extremely crowded, so try to avoid these hours if possible.

Hwaseomun Gate and Seobukgongsimdon Watch Tower

Best Tome To Visit Hwaseong Fortress

The best time to visit Hwaseong Fortress is Spring, and Fall when the temperatures in Korea are a little cooler. Summer I can be very hot and gets the most rain. If you can, plan your trip when the cherry blossoms are in bloom, which is usually in early April. Hwaseong would be very beautiful then. This, however, is a very popular time for locals and tourists to visit, so will also be the busiest time of year.

As far as time of day, visiting close to sunset is ideal. The palace and archery area closes at 6 PM (5 PM in the winter), so if you want to visit them, make sure to arrive around 5:00 or 5:30 and visit the fortress walls as the sun sets. You can check the sunset times in Suwon in advance.

Thanks for reading my Guide To Visit Hwaseong Fortress In Seoul Korea. If you’ve visited and have any comments, please let me know.

Want To See More Of Seoul?

Seoul is a very cosmopolitan city with many things to see and do. Some of my favorites include the following.

Safe Travels!

Julie

Hwaseong Fortress Suwon Korea

Hello! I resigned from a corporate career in product development to explore the world. Although my goal was to travel for a year, 8 years later, I’ve been honored to have explored more than 60 gorgeous countries and met some unbelievably amazing people. Our world truly is a beautiful place! Follow me into the gorgeous unknown by subscribing below. You’ll receive details on fabulous destinations, comprehensive travel guides, travel tips and tidbits, and information on travel trends, like experiential, sustainable, and transformational travel. Where is your next gorgeous unknown? Julie

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