Besides the Hwaseong Fortress, which is the most prominent attraction that draws tourists to Suwon city, it is also worthwhile to spend some time to explore the city’s traditions & historical culture. In case you didn’t know, Suwon is the only remaining completely walled city in South Korea. Thanks to King Jeongjo who called for the construction of the fortified wall of Hwaseong Fortress, partially intended to guard his father’s tomb that was located in the city, as well as an ultimately unsuccessful intention to make Suwon the nation’s capital in 1796.
I recall from the Gyeonggi-do Travel Workshop which I attended at KTO earlier this year, that there are 2 notable traditional markets to visit in Suwon – the Paldalmun Market (팔달문시장) & the Jidong Market (지동시장). Both boast extensive areas with a wide variety of shops selling food, poultry, household goods, clothing etc. They are located around the neighbourhood of the south gate, or Paldalmun as the locals call it, together with Yeongdo Market (영도시장). Collectively, this area serves as the main business district of Suwon, where more than 300 stores & stalls are joined to make a large market place, with an interesting mix of traditional & modern shops.
I didn’t have much time to shop in this quaint neighbourhood, only less than 1.5 hours before the marketplace closes at 9 pm. In fact, the markets were pretty quiet when I arrived after 7.30 pm, although it was still quite “happening” on the road where I could find modern shops. So I think it’s better to explore these traditional markets in the day if possible! In fact, if you are the type who loves visiting markets everywhere, you’re spoilt for choice in Suwon. Because there are a total of 22 markets of large sizes in the city, waiting for you to explore. 🙂
The next day, after visiting the famous Hwaseong Haenggung (화성행궁), I walked along Haenggung-gil to explore the mini-Insadong of Suwon – the Gongbang Street (공방거리), which means “crafts shop street” in Korean. This street is lined with little crafts shops, galleries, cafes & restaurants.
Some of the crafts shops will conduct classes to teach you how to make ceramics & accessories such as bracelets on your own so that you can personalise your own gifts. Or just buy the ready-made handicrafts home, if you are time-strapped like me hehe. Scattered along this street are a number of beautiful murals of the Hwaseong Haenggung, the legendary dragon & traditional culture etc.
Since this street isn’t that long & crowded with tourists, I could take my own sweet time to recee before deciding which cafe to go to for a breather, which shops to patronise for exquisite souvenirs, & which mural paintings to take shots of. 😛 If you enjoy cultural shopping streets like Insadong in Seoul, then I think you will enjoy Gongbang Street in Suwon too, because it’s not so packed with visitors, & more importantly, not as commercialised yet. 😉 Check out some photos I took of Suwon’s mini-Insadong for your viewing pleasure. 🙂
Cafe Aboong (아붕) is a ice cream cafe from Seoul that combines the 3 favourite desserts of Koreans – Fish Bun, Yoghurt Ice Cream & Chocolate Fondue into the yummy ice cream fish-shaped bread known as Boongeo-bbang (붕어빵). Actually I didn’t know about this popular ice cream joint that has successfully set up many stores in Korea & other parts of Asia, & entered for a snack, only because I love fish buns & thought it’d a good idea to have this dessert to cool myself down from the walk under the sun. A piece of this refreshing dessert costs KRW3,000 (S$3.60), & it came with chocolate fondue with 3 slices of seasonal fruits on a skewer, premium yoghurt ice cream, & either red bean or custard filling in a fish-shaped waffle. I chose the custard filling & it was really good, loved the crispy waffle with the smooth & slightly tangy yoghurt ice cream!
I’d love to chill out longer in at least 1 more cafe or tea house here to soak in the arty atmosphere of this cultural street, but too bad, had to give up the idea due to time constraint. If you are the type who are into such arty & cultural stuff, I’m sure you’ll enjoy the place too! Maybe you can even try making some traditional Korean craft with your own hands in 1 of the crafts shops! Have fun! 🙂