In focus: Pyongyang
Have you ever felt intrigued by North Korea? A visit to its fascinating capital, Pyongyang, will reveal some of its secrets.
North Korea is not a destination that immediately springs to mind when planning a trip to the Far East. This ever elusive country has been shrouded in mystery for decades – something that historical restrictions on visitor numbers has only served to enhance. However, contrary to what you might expect, North Korea is a destination you can explore, and indeed, the chance to discover a place so little known by Western visitors is an appealing one.
Of course, not welcoming visitors in high numbers, North Korea does not command a strong tourism infrastructure. Despite this, there is a clear centre point for visits to the country, and that is its capital, Pyongyang. Teeming with grand monuments and fascinating museums, this metropolis is the perfect place to learn about a country and a culture that few manage to catch an authentic glimpse of.
What to expect
North Korea may be mysterious to the rest of the world, but it certainly knows itself, and this is reflected in the strict code of conduct that citizens follow – and they take this code very seriously. So, one of the first things to be aware of when travelling to Pyongyang is that you will need to be prepared to adhere to this; don’t worry, we will furnish you with all the information you need. Showing due respect to statues of the Great Leader – which includes presenting flowers at their feet and bowing – is one example.
What makes the city all the more fascinating is that there are areas where you can see a more relaxed side to North Korea – residents enjoying their leisure time and going about their daily lives. Take the time to observe local life whenever you can, as this combination of citizens at leisure and sightseeing at monuments and museums will help you build a more well-rounded picture of the nation.
What to see in Pyongyang
Kim II-sung Square
Also known as the Great Leader and the Eternal President, Kim II-Sung ran North Korea from its establishment in the late 1940s until his death in 1994. He created the country’s Juche ideology, which it is still governed by today, and he is a truly revered figure.
It will come as no surprise to hear, then, that Kim II-sung Square is the city’s central square, home to some of its grandest and most important buildings, as well as being a regular host of vast military parades. Whether you simply come to stare in awe or to take a look inside buildings such as the Grand People’s Study House, a trip here is an absolute must.
Mansudae Grand Monument
This vast statue of the Great Leader is a site of real reverence; when you come here, remember to appreciate the seriousness with which North Koreans take this monument, and act with a suitable degree of respect. Erected to celebrate the Eternal President’s 60th birthday, it receives visitors in droves, who come as a mark of respect and often to lay flowers at its feet.
Victorious Fatherland Liberation War Museum
Ranking among the finest museums in Pyongyang, this establishment hosts an array of fascinating exhibits pertaining to the Korean War. Intriguing, the museum was quite literally built around some of these – namely the tanks, torpedo boats and other huge machines of war that you will find here.
Tower of the Juche Idea
This tower stands as a grand monument to the nation’s Juche philosophy, which holds that the masses are the driving force behind revolution and construction, and champions self-reliance.
Standing at 170 m tall, the edifice is impressive – as are the views from the top. There is a lift to its summit, which is well worth boarding if you have a head for heights, to admire the vistas across the city.
If you are eager to see a different side to North Korea and Pyongyang, Moran Hill is a good place to visit. This recreation ground is where local people come to relax, and you are likely to see everything from family days out to couples enjoying quiet walks together.
Just outside the centre of the city is Mangyongdae, which is said to be Kim II-sung’s birthplace. Whether this belief is true is of small consequence in terms of enjoying your visit, as it is a truly beautiful, tranquil place. What’s more, its selection of attractions means it is also a great place to learn about the Eternal President, and see yet another side to North Korea.
Cox & Kings can help you arrange a private tour to North Korea. See more >