Top 10 Things to do in Pyongyang, North Korea

October 24, 2017 Hector Krause

Pyongyang or P'yŏngyang (UK: /ˌpjɒŋˈjæŋ/, US: /ˌpjʌŋˈjɑːŋ/; Korean pronunciation: [pʰjʌŋ.jaŋ]) is the capital and largest city of North Korea.
Restaurants in Pyongyang

1. Pyongyang Metro

Pyongyang, North Korea
Excellent
64%
Good
30%
Satisfactory
5%
Poor
1%
Terrible
0%
Overall Ratings

4.5 based on 135 reviews

Pyongyang Metro

Reviewed By Ana L - Boliden, Sweden

The metro consists of only 2 lines, but almost all the stations are remarkable, with big murals and statues of the leaders. Good opportunity for pictures.

2. Tower of the Juche Idea

Downtown Pyongyang, Pyongyang, North Korea
Excellent
46%
Good
41%
Satisfactory
12%
Poor
1%
Terrible
0%
Overall Ratings

4.5 based on 258 reviews

Tower of the Juche Idea

Reviewed By midway42 - Minnesota

Coincidentally (that’s humorous sarcasm) located across the river from the Grand People’s Study House and Kim Il Sung Square, the Juche Tower is one of the seemingly endless symbolic monuments found in Pyongyang. In this case it embodies the concept of self-reliance, the official state ideology introduced by President Kim Il Sung. I visited at a mid-point in my tour. After purchasing our ticket, we met our local guide at the base and quickly ascended to the top. Along the way I was given innumerable facts about the structure: it’s height (170m, again, “coincidentally” one meter higher than the George Washington monument in D.C.), the number of bricks used (25,550… one for each day of Kim Il Sung’s life), and the over one-hundred friendship plaques from foreign supporters at the base. The elevator reaches the top in less than a minute and we were rewarded with sweeping views of the entire city and surrounding countryside. A small gift shop at the base carried the requisite trinkets and government controlled publications. A brief explanation of the figures at the base finished the 30-minute experience.
Yes, this building was yet another in the long line of DPRK inspired symbolism. Yes, it is largely a propaganda instrument for the government to show the common people how powerful and wide-spread the country’s ideology truly is. And, yes, at this point the routine of hearing how supremely great the country’s current and deceased leaders were/are was getting stale. The views, however, are the best you will see in the country and it’s a great way to link previous travels in the city. A quick, inexpensive, and “fun” (for Pyongyang) diversion. Thumbs up.

3. Victorious Fatherland Liberation War Museum

Pyongyang, North Korea
Excellent
61%
Good
25%
Satisfactory
9%
Poor
3%
Terrible
2%
Overall Ratings

4.5 based on 145 reviews

Victorious Fatherland Liberation War Museum

Reviewed By midway42 - Minnesota

Anyone who spends more than two days in North Korea will undoubtedly pass through this museum; I was led here by my guides the morning of my second full day in the country. Docent-led tours are mandatory, although only a single other tourist joined my group. The complex is vast, with a large courtyard lined with bronze reliefs and sheltered war booty on either side leading to the main building. Our local guide brought us on a very scripted, brief tour of the facilities over the course of ninety minutes. We started to the right of the entrance and toured the US military relics that had either been shot down (during the Korean War) or captured (after the war). A brief tour of the USS Pueblo followed (see separate review) and we were then led into the museum proper.
Most of our time was spent inside the main building as our guide brought us to the select portions of the second and third floors that covered the Korean War. Dioramas, pictures, paintings, artifacts, and detailed maps are all found here in abundance. There is essentially no English signage but trust me, the guides have more than enough running commentary during the tour to keep one interested. The Amphitheater of the Panorama of the operations for liberating Taejon provided a welcome respite about two-thirds of the way through. We ended hearing about the alleged biological warfare perpetrated by the Allies, followed by several difficult-to-view dioramas about US troops being defeated in battle.
In summary, the entire experience was equal parts spectacular and disturbing. I couldn’t help but compare this to the Yasukuni shrine/Yushukan museum in Tokyo and the Museum for Resistance in Mleeta, Lebanon. Taken strictly as a museum, the Fatherland Liberation complex has a wealth of material here spread out in a logical order, and a good mix of static and interactive displays. The 360-degree Panorama of the Battle for Taejon was absolutely stunning, and the setting of the entire complex was majestic enough to insure that its message will be imprinted on the average DPRK citizen. Even if you didn’t know the topic of presentation it would be worth a visit just based on aesthetics. The message? Well, all I can say is that I respectfully can agree to disagree with the presenters. That aside, one of the main reasons I travel is to see alternative viewpoints and trust me, you’ll get a wealth of them here.
A must visit, especially for those with a military history inclination.

4. Geumsusan Memorial Palace

Miam-dong, Pyongyang 999093, North Korea
Excellent
70%
Good
20%
Satisfactory
9%
Poor
0%
Terrible
1%
Overall Ratings

4.5 based on 75 reviews

Geumsusan Memorial Palace

Reviewed By midway42 - Minnesota

Originally the official residence of Kim Il Sung and named the Kumsusan Assembly Hall, this building and the surrounding grounds were converted into their current state after his death in 1994 by the President’s son, Kim Jong Il. Foreign tourists are allowed to only visit on Thursdays and Sundays, of which we chose the latter. The process for admission is quite elaborate, as groups are dropped off adjacent to a tram stop across the road and allowed to wait until the appropriate time for their entry. All personal belongings (and I mean everything) are checked in a cloak room before you approach the mausoleum on a series of long horizontal travelators and vertical escalators that I would estimate cover a quarter mile. Pictures of the leaders adorn the surrounding walls as you move along, obviously giving one time to “reflect” on the task at hand. Once you enter the main building, you pass through a machine that blows dust from your body and enter a dimly lit room with the remains of Kim Il Sung. Visitors are made to bow three times: at the feet, left side, and right side of the crystal sarcophagi. A tour of the adjoining room follows, with gifts and awards from around the world on display, along with a rail car that the President used for his “on the spot guidance” tours of the countryside and cities. The process (dust machine, crystal tomb, award room) is again repeated for General Kim Jong Il. The entire process took about two hours and needless to say there was no photography, videotaping, or lax behavior allowed anywhere on the grounds. We were allowed outside to take pictures at the front of the palace before departure.
This was the most bizarre, surreal event I’ve had not only during all of my time in North Korea but probably in all of my twelve years of international travel. The entire process epitomizes the state control so pervasive in the country where the goal is to control the minds of the population and stifle all emotions, creativity, and individuality. The closest I can compare the experience to is the Holy Shrine of Ayatollah Khomeini and even then that is just based on structural size; the thoroughness of the check-in process here is probably on par with that of the White House. There’s no need to remind readers to be on their best behavior because by the time you enter the actual mausoleum you can’t think otherwise.
A definite must if you have the opportunity.

5. Mansudae Grand Monument

Pyongyang, North Korea
Excellent
58%
Good
26%
Satisfactory
15%
Poor
0%
Terrible
1%
Overall Ratings

4.5 based on 72 reviews

Mansudae Grand Monument

Reviewed By midway42 - Minnesota

The Mansu Hill Grand monument will be on every tourists itinerary even if they spend just a few days in the city. Located on the west bank of the Taedong river and just east of the Korean War museum, finding it is irrelevant as anyone visiting the country is brought here by their appointed guides. We stopped by on the morning of my first full day of nine in the country, purchasing the requisite flowers at a small shop at the base of the hill for five Euros before walking up to see the statues.
The central parts of the monument are two 22-meter tall, bronze statues of DPRK leaders President Kim Il-sung and General Kim Jong-il. A mosaic of the ubiquitous Mount Paektu serves as a backdrop and two long monuments of human figures flank either side: the anti-Japanese Revolutionary Struggle on the left and the Socialist Revolution on the right. Approaching the statues is a bit intimidating: a broad marble plaza gradually leads upwards over several dozen shallow stairs. Needless to say appropriate behavior is must, and we slowly but quietly approached a line of people who methodically laid flowers at the base of the figures, bowed deeply, and gracefully departed. My guides explained the monuments on either side as well, and I stayed for another ten minutes or so to watch from a distance as individuals and groups paid their respects.
In summary, this was a memorable visit to probably the most iconic site in the city if not the country. It is probably the most easily accessible example of the continued “cult of personality” that permeates the regime and was a valuable introduction into the culture. I found the statues to be a little underwhelming as works of art but the reliefs on either side were impressive regardless of your political slant. Silently watching others come-and-go for a few minutes is a must. It’s tough to “recommend” a visit here as it is virtually mandatory, but it will be a moment not soon forgotten.

6. Kim Il-sung Square

Pyongyang, North Korea
Excellent
47%
Good
32%
Satisfactory
18%
Poor
0%
Terrible
3%
Overall Ratings

4 based on 134 reviews

Kim Il-sung Square

Reviewed By midway42 - Minnesota

Appropriately sandwiched between the Grand Study Hall and Juche Tower and flanked by party buildings, this public square features prominently in media coverage concerning the DPRK. Rallies, dances, and the world famous (not sure if that’s the right term) military parades all pass through here at some point, although certainly less frequently than most people probably think. I formally visited here once with my guides and passed through several times while visiting the adjacent buildings. The non-populated square is fairly mundane, with pictures of President Kim Il-sung and Kim Jong-il featured in the usual central location and a few party banners on either side when I was there. It doesn’t take much imagination to picture the splendor of the large rallies even if the area was virtually vacant when I saw it. Overall this is another obligatory visit and if anything will give a new perspective on media coverage when we you see the parades covered in the future.

7. Triumphal Arch

Pyongyang, North Korea
Excellent
24%
Good
38%
Satisfactory
35%
Poor
2%
Terrible
1%
Overall Ratings

4 based on 122 reviews

Triumphal Arch

Reviewed By RodGarnett - Sydney, Australia

If the tittle is a claim to fame, than it's famous.
Built to be bigger the French Equivalent it isn't anywhere near as pleasing to the eye and is just a big cold monument.
If only they had a Victory so they could march through the Arch it would make more sense.

8. Monument to the Korean Workers Party

Pyongyang, North Korea
Excellent
26%
Good
41%
Satisfactory
28%
Poor
5%
Terrible
0%
Overall Ratings

4 based on 80 reviews

Monument to the Korean Workers Party

Reviewed By midway42 - Minnesota

Located directly across the Taedong River from the Mansu Hill Grand Monument, allegory takes center stage here as yet another Communist-inspired structure dots the landscape of Pyongyang. The symbolism was well known: a hammer for the industrial workers, a sickle for the farmers, and a calligraphy brush for the artists. We visited here later in the morning on a day roughly in the middle of my nine in the country. A local guide met us at the entrance and took us on a 30-minute tour of the monument proper and the surrounding grounds. There’s a bit more here than meets the eye as bronze reliefs on the interior belt and red residential buildings in the background on either side add to the layers of the Worker’s Party message. The reliefs in particular were fairly well done, and a larger plaza in front of the monument adds to the emphasis of the importance of the construction.
I had seen enough pictures of the monument at this point that I felt a bit of deja vu by the time I actually did the tour if that makes sense, and to be honest at this point in the process I already had a bit of “DPRK imagery fatigue” and was a bit underwhelmed. A quick visit for most will be enough.

9. Arch of Reunification

Pyongyang, North Korea
Excellent
25%
Good
37%
Satisfactory
32%
Poor
5%
Terrible
1%
Overall Ratings

4 based on 100 reviews

Arch of Reunification

Reviewed By midway42 - Minnesota

Fittingly visited on our way back from the DMZ, the Arch of Reunification appropriately straddles the Reunification Highway that connects Pyongyang to Panmunjom. The arch consists of two women in traditional Korean dress holding a sphere of a reunified nation. The sphere, of course, is symbolic in itself as it portrays the Three Principles of National Reunification as outlined by Kim Il Suing. Bronze reliefs on either side of the base depict the requisite soldiers and laborers, as per usual with this type of structure in the DPRK. There is layered geographical symbolism here, as most people stop after visiting the singularly most dividing element (DMZ) on the peninsula. I spent about fifteen minutes in the area, took the requisite photos, and departed soon thereafter. Worth a quick stop but at this point in the trip I was admittedly suffering from “monument fatigue” and probably would have passed on this if my guides hadn’t have stopped. That aside, it was a fitting way to end the didactic portion of my time in the country.

10. Grand People's Study House

Pyongyang, North Korea
Excellent
27%
Good
52%
Satisfactory
20%
Poor
0%
Terrible
1%
Overall Ratings

4 based on 58 reviews

Grand People's Study House

Reviewed By paullegate - Luton, United Kingdom

The Grand People's Study House is an impressive building constructed in traditional Korean style and is situated in the National Governmental District.of the city. It was not possible to visit the Study House but the immediate surrounding area is very attractive and a fair amount of time was spent in Mansudae Fountain Park where there were some very good photo opportunities of the Fountain Park and Grand People's Study House.

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