All but swallowed up by Seoul, SUWON (수원) is a city with an identity crisis. Despite a million-strong population, and an impressive history – best embodied by the UNESCO-listed fortress at its centre – it has had to resort to unconventional means to distance itself culturally from the capital, the best example being the dozens of individually commissioned public toilets that pepper the city. Suwon, in fact, came close to usurping Seoul as Korea’s seat of power following the construction of its fortress in the final years of the eighteenth century, but though the move was doomed to failure, Suwon grew in importance in a way that remains visible to this day – from the higher parts of the fortress wall, it’s evident that this once-little settlement burst through its stone confines, eventually creating the noisy hotchpotch of buildings that now forms one of Korea’s largest cities.
An hour away from central Seoul, Suwon is certainly an easy day-trip from the capital, though if you do choose to stay you’ll benefit from cheaper accommodation, and get the chance to enjoy some interesting nightlife. East of the centre lie Everland and the Korean Folk Village, two sites ideal for anyone travelling with children, though just as easily accessible from Seoul.