P'yongyang Travel Guide

  • airport
    airport
    by rsudic
  • Stadium
    Stadium
    by rsudic
  • as busy as it gets!
    as busy as it gets!
    by smirnofforiginal

P'yongyang Highlights

  • Pro
    Carino profile photo

    Carino says…

     A city with a lot of sights 

  • Con
    rsudic profile photo

    rsudic says…

     unique, impressive, separate, breathtaking 

  • In a nutshell
    7ContinentsOrBust profile photo

    7ContinentsOrBust says…

     Give it a try. Make the world a more peaceful place. 

P'yongyang Things to Do

  • A certain maritime incident

    Moored on the north bank of the Taedong River, is the only US Navy currently being held captive. The DPRK are inordinately proud of the capture of this small vessel, caught spying in the DPRKs territorial waters on 23 January 1968. Two US sailors were killed during the capture of the vessel, but the remaining 82 were taken prisoner. The crew had...

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  • Revolutionary Martyrs' Cemetary

    The glorious fallen of the struggle against Japanese occupation, and of the Korean war are commemorated at the Revolutionary Martyrs' Cemetery, on Taesong Hill, just a short drive from downtown P'yongyang. Korean visitors enter through a large ceremonial gate, and proceed up a wide stairway. Our trusty tour bus takes us up a winding road to a...

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  • Source of all those Bronzes

    All around P'yongyang one sees the distinctive bronzes. And the Mansudae Art Centre is the place that artisans are trained in the style, and produce their work. There are also celedon workshops, painting studios (lots of heroic workers and beaming Leaders, great and dear). We were introduced to some painters, and watched girls making pottery for...

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P'yongyang Hotels

P'yongyang Restaurants

  • Food with a View

    Most of the restaurants that tourists will be able to eat at have the same basic menus and quality of food. The revolving restaurant on the top of the Yanggakdo Hotel offers a basic breakfast for guests, but also offers a room with a view while having either a dinner or a casual drink at the end of the day.The food is slightly above average, but...

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  • North Korea's famous Cold Noodle Soup

    I've had Korean Cold Noodle Soup many times, but only once in North Korea. All the other times were south of the border.But in all the Koreans I've spoken to, they all said North Korean's "Nang Myeung" (Cold Noodle) is the most famous food of North Korea, other than ginseng.The one I had was not anything special compared to those I had in South...

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  • Lunch on the River by Juche Tower

    Like most things in Pyongyang, your guides are in control of what you do and where you go. If this restaurant is not in your agenda, you may politely ask and they might make it happen. After all, it never hurts to ask... While the food is nothing different from the other meals you will have in Pyongyang, the lunch proceeds a ~30 minute trip on the...

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P'yongyang Nightlife

  • Not much in the way of nightlife!

    This is a shot I took of a view over Pyongyang at about 8pm from my hotel room on the 39th floor of the Yanggakdo Hotel. I think most people have seen a night satellite image of the whole of North Korea where there is hardly any lights to be seen. Well a few lights are on but the streets lights are not on. Things are pretty gloomy at night. You...

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  • City without Seoul

    The North Korean propaganda machine likes to depict South Korea as a cesspit of debauchery fuelled by the unhealthy desires of capitalism. And the photo shows how the Pyongyang Film Studio imagines Seoul. Okay, it is perhaps Seoul of a few decades ago, but it still looks livelier than Pyongyang. Nightlife is not really a concept that has caught on...

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  • NO nightlife

    When it comes to a nightlife, Pyongyang (and N.Korea) is not good choice.You can't go out on your own. There aren't places to go out by night.You can:1. go to sleep around 2200 because you're tired of whole day monuments-visiting2. go to hotel bar and drink3. go to hotel casino and spent some money4. go to hotel bowling area and relax5. go to hotel...

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P'yongyang Transportation

  • Tunneling Beneath the City

    The DPRK has excellent tunneling technology, and in P'yongyang it is visible to us when we make our guided visit to the local metro. The tour is between 2 stations only, Puhung, near the Mansudae Art Studios, and Yonggwang, close to the Pyongyang Railway Station. The stations are the most recently built, on the Cholima Line.Your guides will secure...

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  • Flight from Beijing

    Apart from Air China, the only other way in to North Korea by air is with their national carrier - Air Koryo - infamous for being the only airline to be rated 1 star currently by Skytrax. As part of my trip itinerary, I flew in from Beijing with Air Koryo on an old looking Russian plane called an Ilyushin II-62M that, I think, was built in the...

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  • Metro system to P'yongyang

    When your in Busan and you want to travel to P'yongyang you should take a train using the metro system. The Korea Railroad (KORAIL) operates three types of trains ― high-speed (KTX), express (Saemaeul), and local (Mugunhwa) ― along an extensive nationwide network. The KTX trains link Seoul with Busan, Mokpo, East Daegu, Gwangju and...

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P'yongyang Shopping

  • Can't buy one here

    In the dining car of the chinese train, en route back to Beijing There are quite a few things you can't buy in the DPRK. The prime example is of course, the Kim il Sung badge, proudly worn by all members of the Korean Worker's Party. Which is, practically everyone you see.However, fakes are on sale on the train back to China. I do not advise...

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  • Postcard and Philatelists' Dream

    Willettsworld already wrote about the stamp shop but I just wanted to add that it's THE place to buy postcards. They have a lot of run of the mill postcards but if you want to fill your friends' mailboxes with socialist propaganda, this is your place. Twenty of my friends' refrigerator doors now boast postcards of DPRK military prevailing, DPRK...

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  • Day to day goods

    The typical store in North Korea is very barren, with little choices or stocks of goods on the shelves. During your tours, if you watch the stores you pass, you will see that a large store may only sell a few random goods, with most of the shelves and wall space being empty.However, if you are in P'yongyang and need a few day-to-day goods that...

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P'yongyang Local Customs

  • Stalls/kiosks

    Dotted around the city are small stalls that sell fruit juices and, I think, cider etc. I went up to one that was on the corner of the foreign language bookshop we visited and tried to buy something with the North Korean Won that I obtained from my hotel only to get a horrified look on the face of the lady at the kiosk. Buying something with local...

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  • Traditional costume

    At a couple of attractions that we visited, we were met by a guide who wore the Korean national costume which, I think, is called the hanbok. Our tour guide wore one on the morning of our departure and also they were for sale in the souvenir shop at the Yanggakdo Hotel. Also young girls were wearing them at a school we visited. Basically, people...

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  • 60th Anniversary of DPRK rehearsals

    Whilst we were being driven around the city in our bus, wherever there was a large space, a square or such like, there would be children practicing routines which, we all thought, were for the Mass Games that happen in October. We were told that they were rehearsing for the 60th Anniversary of the DPRK as they'll be celebrating this before the Mass...

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P'yongyang Warnings and Dangers

  • Being asked to delete pictures you have...

    Your guide may ask you to delete certain photos you have taken at any time during your stay in the DPRK. This need not be a problem, so long as you are prepared.You will need.1) Spare memory cards2) Data retrieval software (e.g PC Inspector Smart Recovery)So go ahead and delete those offending photos, secure in the knowledge that all you have done...

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  • Bathrooms

    As in almost every asian country, North Korea has only this kind of toilets, unless you are in a touristic area. They usually stink very much and do not look as someone is in charge to clean them. This one is at the birthplace from Kim Il-Sung. Not even there, they are taking care of it.

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  • Taking pictures from the train

    When I caught the train from Beijing to Pyongyang there was also a British tour group on board. The guide warned his tour members that if the villagers see you take a photo they will confiscate it when you arrive in Pyongyang. I don't know if it is true but I didn't take the risk. Unfortunately that is why you are seeing a blank picture beside this...

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P'yongyang Tourist Traps

  • Mansudae Art Studio

    You just feel tricked. They take you to see ladies making Korean ceramics, embroideries, paintings but it's so fake in attitude that you just feel bad about those artificial situations.Also, each building represent other business and in front of those are beautiful paintings where Father and Son are showing to nation how to make good embroideries....

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  • Korea Film Studio

    Imagine country where in cinemas you can only watch domestic movies ?! Then imagine that some of those are made by kidnapped directors ?!? Also, imagine that they don't have access to western market of actors so they (I was told so - help from fellow traveler) use the only 2 white guys that live in country for bad guys ?!?You would think those...

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  • Souvenier shops

    Your guide will use every possibility to bring you into a souvenir shop. Every museum, every library,... then there is a bookshop, a shop from his travel agency and a stamp museum.... Find some odd stuff, like books about human rights in South Korea or why the american started the war and so on. You will laugh about the age of some stuff but at...

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P'yongyang What to Pack

  • ColmNugent's Profile Photo

    by ColmNugent Written Aug 25, 2002

    1.5 out of 5 starsHelpfulness

    Luggage and bags: Warm conservative dress, err on the formal side. T-shirts with slogans in English, even wholly inoffensive ones, not a good idea. No-one wears t-shirts, especially ones with 'Give Peace a Chance' on them. You can get a DPRK flag lapel pin at the hotel. I found wearing that endeared us to our 'hosts'. But no matter what you wear you're going to stick out like nudist at a Christian Scientist Convention in any event. The DPRK is not for those who like to blend in.

    Clothing/Shoes/Weather Gear: Good walking shoes, something to keep the rain off. You'll be visiting lots of memorials to the war dead etc. (you can even visit the embalmed body of KIS if you wish - we demurred) so dress in something you would deem appropiate if doing so in your own country

    Toiletries and Medical Supplies: There are no shops that sell anything you can use or would want. Pack accordingly. What can you buy there? You can buy ginseng in various forms, lots of collectors stamps and a few postcards, books about and by KIS and the DPRK. If you're very fortunate (and suck up to the guide), you can buy hand-painted socialist reaslist posters urging the workers to fight for socialism etc. Fantastic souveniers!

    Photo Equipment: No video cameras, no mobile telephones, no laptop computers, no telescopes or binoculars, nothing that looks like any of the above. They'll be confiscated and given back to you at the border.

    Camping/Beach/Outdoor Gear: Unless you have a metal detector that can pick up mines, I'd avoid the beach. The country side in the area youlll be in is not exactly pretty. The mountains are very spectacular but you'll be fortunate to get anywhere near them.

    Miscellaneous: Postcards, stamps - that sort of thing to dish out as little presents. Fruit and chocolate for the guides at the various manuments. Cigarettes for the guide and driver (they all smoke like particularly smokey chimneys). This is a picture of a music class in The Children's Sudy House, Pyongyang - it may be a bit staged, but it was simply delightful.

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P'yongyang Off The Beaten Path

  • 5th Floor Weirdness at the Yanggakdo

    VT member scilist from Paris piqued my interest in visiting the 5th floor of the Yanggakdo Hotel. He called it scary. What could be so scary in a hotel?My first night in Pyongyang, I asked my guides if they knew what was on the 5th floor but they said they didn't. Later that evening I took the elevator to the 6th floor and sneaked around to the...

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  • No off the beaten path

    The thing is: you must travel with agency, so whole trip is prearranged and well planed. Your guides/guards will be watching you all the time and "please" you wherever you'll go. BUT, you can't visit things/sights that are not in plan (almost never).The only thing we did is that we walk around city among locals with guides but without cameras. On...

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  • If there is one, you won't get...

    If there is one, you won't get within half a mile of it and it'll be crawling with soldiers anyway. You do get the distinct impression that there's a lot you don't get to see. Our minibus driver seemed to accelerate past anything we were not intended to see. Huge formations of goose-stepping soldiers, children practising for some massive display,...

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P'yongyang Sports & Outdoors

  • Mini-golf at the Yanggakdo Hotel

    This was another surreal moment whilst in Pyongyang - playing mini-golf at our hotel - the Yanggakdo. Even though I don't play golf, a few of my fellow tour members did and were itching to play a round on a lovely summer's evening. Don't ask me how much things were but they hired golf clubs, tees and a trolley and the price also including a caddie...

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  • Kim Il Sung Stadium

    This large stadium overlooks the Arch of Triumph and was built on the site of a Japanese baseball field during their occupation of Korea. It was then rebuilt in 1969 when it was renamed the Moranbong Stadium, but its name was changed, in 1982, to its current name in honour of Kim Il Sung. The stadium can accommodate up to 100,000 people and is...

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  • Golf at Yanggakdo Hotel

    With the exception of maybe extremely limited work-out facilities in a hotel, the only physical activity that you will have time or permission to do is golf at the 9-hole course at the Yanggakdo Hotel.Depending on how watchful your guides are, they may or may not accompany you to the course, but rest assured, they will know where you are.You may...

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P'yongyang Favorites

  • Quiet nights

    It is hard to imagine that in a city of its size, most life stops at sunset. Electricity is a premium that most locals cannot afford, so the skyline at night is void of many lights. The only lights you are guaranteed to see are those illuminating important monuments or more directly put, portraits of Kim il-Sung.At 8:30 at night, the streets are...

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  • Road repairs

    The roads in Pyongyang are generally good and smooth with very little in the way of bumps or potholes. I was quite surprised to see this scene of the roads being repaired whilst we were on our bus.

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  • Guides at attractions

    At a few places that we visited we were met by female tour guides who showed us around. We basically turned up at the doorstep in our bus at each attraction and were shown around by these guides. Some spoke English and some just Korean which was then translated into English for us by either one of our government appointed tour guides.

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