Namhansanseong Fortress was established as a national park in 1954 and offers pleasant walking paths on the inside and outside of the wall. The paths not only follow the wall, but also lead to temples in the vicinity as well as other historical buildings in the area. Entering the fortress area in the winter and heading to the center rotary it seems as if one has just come upon a mountain ski town. Most people are walking along the quiet side walks through snow bundled up to hit the slopes… but there are no slopes here. There are numerous restaurants and small cafes around the rotary in the center of the fortress and they all cater to the visitor, the hiker, the walker, the family, the solo traveler and anyone else who has happened by in this slow quiet area.
The wall was originally built during the time of the three kingdoms and was a prime strategic location as it is surrounded by mountains on all sides. It was fought over for thousands of years, destroyed and rebuilt and rebuilt again. The fortress wall currently standing was built during the Joseon Dynasty between 1623 and 1626 during the reign of King Injo. At the time the Manchus were threatening the Ming Dynasty in China and by 1636 the Manchus had made their way to Korea. King Injo took refuge in the fortress and with 13,600 soldiers and 3,000 fighting monks residing in the temples in the walls held off the invasion of the Manchus for 45 days, it was then that King Injo surrendered due to lack of food and supplies.
For some time the fortress when unused except for some repair work done during the reign of King Sukjong and King Yeongjo in 1686 and 1778 respectively. There are four main gates, North Gate, South Gate, West Gate and East Gate, that allow walkers to go from the inside to the outside of the fortress. Within the walls are a few temples including Mangwolsa, Janggyeongsa, Hyeonjeolsa and Gaewonsa.
Sueojangdae is the only command post still standing within the walls. It was constructed in 1674 and was originally only one story. In 1751 a second story was added. There is a shrine to the side of the post dedicated to General Lee Hoi, the director of the construction, who was wrongfully accused of embezzling funds and was executed, according to the plaque nearby. Upon hearing the news of his execution, his wife and his concubine both committed suicide by hurling themselves in the Han River. General Lee Hoi had proclaimed his innocence until his death and predicted that a hawk would appear to prove it so. According the tale, a hawk did in fact appear and watched as he was executed.
The wall is worth a visit in any season and even in winter the paths are relatively easy to walk along as there aren’t too many steep inclines. The restaurants inside the fortress also make it a good day trip with friends or family; take a walk, see some historical sights and then enjoy some supper together before catching the subway home.
Get off at Sanseong Station (Seoul Subway Line 8), Exit No. 2. Take City Bus No. 9, and get off at Namhansanseong bus stop. (Travel Time : 20 Min., Interval of Buses: 20 Min.)
Take 13-2 bus at Dongseoul bus terminal Gangbeun station and transfer to 15-1 bus at the entrance of Namhansanseong, get off at the last stop