Suwon Travel Guide, South Korea. Where "temporary" equates 200 years of history and walls encircle the city. Retro vibes, handicrafts, and shockingly fabulous French meals.
- What to See and Do
- Typical Costs & Budget
- Where to Stay
- Where to Eat
- How to Get There
- General Tips for Korea
- Other Places to Visit in Korea
Suwon is a lovely city just south of Seoul you should absolutely make the time to visit! Check out the details in the Suwon Travel Guide.
Top 5 Things to Do
1. The Fortress & Walls (Free!)
The Hwaseong Fortress (화성) and it's accompanying walls are the absolute highlight of Suwon. Perfect for a morning or evening stroll, you will immediately realize how different the skyline of Suwon is compared to any other Korean city. Inside the walls the buildings are kept to only around 4 stories, but just outside skyscrapers begin to tower. The perfect view can only be had from the walls! The fortress itself is also full of fascinating architectural details.
2. "Downtown" (Free!)
There are two areas I would consider a "downtown." They are separated by the main square. To the left of the Temporary Palace and you can find the handicraft-focused downtown. This shop makes wood items - and has an adorable dog 😛 To the right of the Temporary Palace you will encounter a vintage-focused downtown. Little neon signs, a leather-goods shop, and flower-child inspired clothing shops. One of the best downtowns I've been to in Korea!
3. Temporary Palace (3,000krw)
You've probably already seen at least one of the palaces in Seoul, but this Suwon travel guide highly recommend you visit this one anyways. While the palaces in Seoul are beautiful, the actual purpose of the various buildings isn't made very clear. The Temporary Palace (also known as Haenngung Palace 행궁) has displays of what the food, rooms, and people would have looked like. Finally, the palaces come alive!
4. Toilet Museum (Free!)
This attraction probably sounds...strange. And it is! But it's still worth a visit. Even if you don't go inside, you can wander around the displays outside which are....rather graphic! But I can definitely say I expanded my knowledge on the history and function of toilets. The museum is dedicated to an old mayor of Suwon apparently as a joke. Supposedly he was born in a toilet? Well, that certainly is in keeping with the museum!
5. The Main Square (Free!)
The main square is just in front of the Temporary Palace and it's one of the best places in Suwon. Not only is it a great place to fly a kite and watch the sunset, it's also a giant piece of art. The tiles all display historical scenes of battles and villages. Give yourself some time to wander around with you eyes glued to the ground. And maybe buy a kite 😛
Other Things to See and Do
- Hwahongmun Gate this is probably the best gate to see in Suwon, located in the north of city. This gate spans the Suwon river and the views are simply lovely.
- Paldalmun Gate this is the easiest gate to visit. It's the southern gate but it's in the middle of the city in a roundabout. It features a semi-circular wall enclosure so it's not really just a gate. A pavillion rests on the second story of the structure.
- Hot Air Balloon Views with Flying Suwon. This hot air balloon only hovers over the city at about 150 meters. So if you're worried about hot air balloons, this ones pretty safe (it also uses helium as opposed to hydrogen which is more dangerous). It's a short ride, with around 15 minutes at the top height. The price is also only 18,000krw!! That's just about the cheapest I've ever seen a balloon ride.
- Yungnung Royal Tombs This is a UNESCO World Heritage site but it is a little out of the way, around 40 minutes by bus. If you have the time, it's absolutely worth a trip. You will see the tombs of a King and Queen from the early 1800s. But if you're only in town for a weekend it might be a tough squeeze. If you're already planning to go to other places in Korea you can see a King's tomb in Jeonju and very old tombs (circa 600AD) in Gyeongju.
Suwon Basic Costs
- Local Bus: 1,450 (most common)
- 10 Minute Taxi Ride: Around 5,500
- Entrance Fees: 3,000
- Coffee: 5,000
- Meal: 6,500 and up
- Hostel Room: 19,000
Estimates are for a weekend in Suwon, the most common type of trip to this city. The Korean exchange rate is currently around 1,150krw to 1usd.
- Hostel: 19,000 a night
- 4 Local Bus Rides: 6,000
- Train from Seoul: 4,000
- Food: 15,000
- Activities: 3,000
- Guesthouse: 41,000 a night
- 2 Local Bus Rides: 3,000
- 2 Taxis: 10,000
- Train from Seoul: 4,000
- Food: 40,000
- Activities: 3,000
- Hotel: 90,000
- 4 Taxi Rides: 20,000
- Train from Seoul: 4,000
- Food: 55,000
- Activities: 3,000
Where to Stay
Most Koreans use Booking.com for booking their stays so all of the links are through that site. If you sign up for an account, you can earn Level 2 Genius status after only a few bookings and receive discounts. It's saved me over $100 so far!
- Hwaseong Guesthouse (19,000)
This is where I stayed. It is the only hostel in Suwon and it's well located next to the handicraft streets and the main square. It's a little pricey for what you get, there were extra fees for running the air conditioning if you like. There is only one older shared bathroom. But it was a good night and the owner is very nice, and again, it's the only hostel in town 🙂
Everyone loves this guesthouse. The self-serve breakfast is included, the location is fantastic, and the rooms are clean. They also have their own coffee shop so caffination is never more that a few minutes away!
If you're looking for a private room this is another great option. It's closer to the train station than the main historical areas but it's very clean and is located next to a variety of shopping and food options.
This hotel is well liked but a little further from the walls in the city proper. But it's still the best rated hotel in Suwon and is rated for being clean with great views!
If you are wanting to stay outside the walls, or go to Everland or the Folk Village that are a bit further away, this is the place to stay.
Where to Eat
Live Laugh (리불럽)
Make sure you go to this French restaurant if you're in Suwon. It's soooooooo goood. Sure, it's not Korean. Sure, there are also great Korean options and you should go there too! But this is probably one of the best meals I've had in Korea. I ate a tomato and those who know me will be shocked, but it was just so darned good! Dishes are expensive, with the bacon wrapped meatballs coming in at 23,000 and the most expensive - yikes! But still worth it. They also serve other great French food like quiche and French onion soup.
Chicken Street (수원 통닭거리)
If you're going to Suwon you have to come to this street. The chicken is served similarly to every other Chi-mek (chicken and beer) place in Korea, but the tradition is different. Chicken is generally roasted instead of fried, and in an iron pot. Walk down this street and make a choice!
Suwon is famous for it's galbi which are marinated ribs. Kabojung Kalbi is a general favorite but any galbi in Suwon is sure to have you salivating. They also have a wine list, which is surprising.
How to Get There
Most people will be coming from Busan or Seoul so I'll give prices and times for those. Sadly there are no train options so you will be limited to intercity buses. RometoRio is a good option for estimating routes and costs, but they are not always accurate so expect a bus ticket to cost a few thousand won more.
Use the letskorail website to book your tickets up to one month in advance. There will be three options for trains.
- KTX: the fastest and most expensive. A ticket from Seoul to Suwon will be around 8,000w and take around 20 minutes. A ticket from Busan to Suwon will be 40,000w and take 2.5 hours.
- KTX-Saemaul: The middle range. A ticket from Seoul to Suwon will be around 38,000 and take around four hours.
- Mugunghwa: The cheapest. A ticket from Seoul to Suwon will be around 26,000 and take 5 hours.
Head to your nearest intercity bus station. You can try to check the bus times on the T-Money Bus website but I would generally avoid booking tickets through it. There is literally no point in taking a bus from Seoul, just take the train, it's so cheap!
- From Busan: It will take you around 4.5 hours and will cost you around 33,000krw
General Korea Tips
There are two main apps for getting around Korea; Naver and Kakao. Google Maps does not work. I recommend Kakao as the romanization spellings are more consistent and the features are generally better in my opinion.
You may need to type in Korean to find some destinations so make sure you download a Korean keyboard.
When you go to catch a bus, it will tell you when the bus is arriving and how many stops you have. If you hit the bell icon in the upper right hand corner it will highlight which bus stop you're currently at, and it will alert you when you need to get off. It's amazing.
What to Pack
Depending on the season, Korea is either hot and humid or chilly and humid. In general, just take out the winter clothes for summer and add some leggings and a coat for winter.
- 2 pair shorts or skirts
- 1 pair jeans or comfortable trousers
- 1 pair leggings
- 4 shirts (crop tops are not a common sight in Korea, I would avoid outside of Seoul)
- 1 dress or nice shirt for going out
- 1 swimsuit (bikinis are basically unheard of but foreigners wear them frequently - just accept the stares :P)
- 6 pair socks (fresh socks are the best)
- 1 pair sneakers
- 1 pair flip flops/slides for showers and out and about
- 5 pair underwear
- 1 travel towel
- Deodorant (it can be difficult to find and expensive)
- Small lock for lockers
- Universal plug adapter
- Period products - if you prefer an option besides pads they can be difficult to find
- Tissue packs - surprisingly difficult to find
- General pain killers/common over the counter medicines - also can be a little hard to find depending on what you're looking for. Not all pharmacists speak English and it can be very trying to attempt to communicate about medicine when you're in pain.
Just about everything else is very easy to find, there is no need to buy shampoo, toothpaste, etc. It's all right there in a Daiso or supermarket for reasonable prices. Of course, if you have a preference, that's something you should bring as well.
Korea is an incredibly safe country. Women often walk alone late at night and theft is almost unheard of. You should always be cautious, but in general Korea is one of the safest countries in the world.
Basic Korean Guide
Hello: an-yawss-ay-yo (안녕하세요)
Where is: awdi-ay _______ (어디에)
Thanks: kam-sam-nida (감사합니다)
Goodbye: an-yeong-i-kay-sayo (안녕히 계세요)
Korean is a very easy language to read. It is almost entirely phonetic so each symbol equals one sound. It's good to learn because many things are English words just written in Korean. Like 커 is a very easy language to read. It is almost entirely phonetic so each symbol equals one sound. It's good to learn because many things are English words just written in Korean. Like 커피 "kawpi" is coffee.
- ㅏ "ah" cat
- ㅓ "aw" sought
- ㅣ "ee" me
- ㅡ good
- ㅗ "oh" boat
- ㅜ "oo" you
- ㅔ "ay" May
- ㅐ "eh" yes
- ㄱ "g" get
- ㅋ "k" cat
- ㄴ "n" none
- ㅅ "s" snake
- ㅈ "j" juice
- ㅊ "ch" chase
- ㅂ "b" bus
- ㅍ "p" pet
- ㄷ "d" dog
- ㅌ "t" test
- ㅎ "h" hat
- ㅁ "m" mat
- ㅇ "ng" or silent*
- ㄲ Hard "k"**
- ㅆ tense "s"
- ㅉ "tch" tsunami
- ㅃ tense "b"
- ㅛ "yoh"
- ㅠ "yoo"
- ㅖ "yay"
- ㅒ "yeh"
*Korean is written in syllable blocks. When you start a syllable with a vowel, like 안 you put the ㅇ symbol as a silent placeholder.
** Double vowels aren't really important right now, people will know what you're trying to say.
Other Korean Cities to Visit
If you enjoyed this Suwon Travel Guide, you should check out my other guides to cities in Korea!