Saturday, January 19, 2019

UNESCO World Heritage: Namhansanseong Fortress

South Korea currently has fourteen UNESCO World Heritage Sites, two of which are fortresses: Hwaseong Fortress and Namhansanseong Fortress. Both are located in the province of Gyeonggi, just south of Seoul.

I left Seoul around noon planning to have lunch at the Traditional Food Town in Namhansanseong and keeping the sandwich in my bag as an emergency snack for the hike around the fortress. That was mistake number one. Mistake number two was going there on an autumn Saturday. I honestly did not expect Namhansanseong to be so popular. I was stuck in a warm bus crammed with passengers, all the while standing and holding on to straphangers trying not to knock over everyone behind me as the bus moved along and stopped and moved along and stopped on an incline. I don't know how long we were stuck in traffic but it felt like a very long time. I thought I was going to pass out from hunger!!! There was no way I would have the energy to look for food nor go on a hike! Bottom line: Go to Namhansanseong Fortress on a weekday and as early as you can!

Namhansanseong Fortress is 12.4 kilometers in length and is in the mountains, whereas Hwaseong Fortress is only 5.7 kilometers in length and is in the middle of the city. Each fortress has its own beauty. And I can easily see why Namhansanseong is so popular with the locals in autumn—it is surrounded by trees awash in beautiful autumn colors.

There are five hiking courses of varying lengths in Namhansanseong. The shortest one would take only an hour; the longest one would take thrice as long. I was so hungry that I did not care to follow any of the hiking courses. I just went to the nearest section of the fortress that I could find: Nammun or the South Gate, the grandest of the four gates of the fortress.

Nammun or South Gate

Near the South Gate, I plopped down on the first bench I saw with only one thought: wolf down my sandwich! As soon as I was sure the sandwich has stopped my body from wanting to faint, I commenced my hike from the South Gate to the West Gate by following the path along the fortress wall.

Following the path along the wall

Ugh, uphill!

The uphills sections, though not steep, seemed daunting to me and my half-filled stomach. But, I had no choice (I brought this on myself!), and so trudged on. I was rewarded with autumn colors, mountainside views, and city views. Very pretty indeed.

Autumn is my favorite season


Following the path along the wall, I found a pavilion, a hidden gate, and Sueojangdae or the West Command Post. There used to be five military command posts around Namhansanseong and Sueojangdae is the only one that remains.

Sueojangdae or West Command Post

Much as I wanted to explore more of the fortress, I was pressed for time: it was almost 5PM. I took a path that would take me down to the roundabout where the bus stops are, passing by Namhansanseong Haenggung.

Sadly, Namhansanseong Haenggung was already closed. Namhansanseong Haeunggung served as a temporary palace in times of war. It is open Tuesdays to Sundays from 10AM to 5PM (closes at 6PM from April to October). Admission fee for the palace is 2000 won.

And because the queue for buses going back to Sangseong Station was too long and I did not want to miss the last bus (I had no idea what time the last bus would be)—I had to forgo, yet again, dinner at the Traditional Food Town.

Guess I will have to plan a visit to Namhansanseong Fortress again in the future!

Directions to Namhansanseong Fortress: Take the subway to Sanseong Station. Go to exit 2 and walk straight ahead for to the bus stop (about 100 meters). Take the bus #9 or #9-1 or #52 to Namhansanseong.

This article is now available as a mobile app. Go to GPSmyCity to download the app for GPS-assisted travel directions to the attractions featured in this article.

Sokcho+Seoul+Gwangju, Autumn 2018
Itinerary and Expenses: 10D/10N Seoul and Sokcho
Sokcho, Gangwon-do
Sokcho Accommodation: With U Hotel & Guesthouse
See Sokcho
Seoraksan National Park
Seoul Accommodation: Hostel Tommy
Finding Solace in the Midst of Seoul's Urban Jungle
Art Museums in Seoul
Food for the Seoul
Unhyeongung Palace, Cheong Wa Dae, Jogyesa Temple
Gwangju, Gyeonggi-do
UNESCO World Heritage: Namhansanseong Fortress (you're here!)

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