Must see attractions in North Korea

  • Top ChoiceSights in Pyongyang

    Tower of the Juche Idea

    This tower honours the North Korean philosophy of Juche and was unveiled to mark President Kim Il-sung's 70th birthday in 1982. Indeed, the tower is made up of 25,550 granite blocks – one for every day of Kim’s life until his 70th birthday. The tower stands at 170m and a trip to the top by lift (€5) is well worth it, providing a great view over the capital on a clear day.

  • Sights in Pyongyang

    Monument to the Foundation of the Workers' Party

    This startlingly bombastic monument has starred on the cover of more books about North Korea than almost any other. The three hands portrayed represent the worker (holding a hammer), the peasant (holding a scythe) and the intellectual (holding a writing brush). It's an enjoyable visit, not least because you're in the middle of the city and curious locals often pass by.

  • Sights in Pyongyang

    Mansudae Grand Monument

    Every itinerary includes an homage to these vast bronze statues of the smiling Great Leader and Dear Leader, the latter in his trademark parka. The first statue was unveiled in 1972 to celebrate Kim Il-sung's 60th birthday, while the second one was added in 2012. The original statue was initially covered in gold leaf, but this was removed at the objection of the Chinese, who were effectively funding the North Korean economy, and today's scrubbed bronze prevailed.

  • Sights in Pyongyang

    Kim Il-sung Square

    Pyongyang’s central square is where North Korea’s massive military parades normally take place. The plaza is ringed by austere-looking buildings: most impressive of these is the Grand People’s Study House, the country’s largest library. Other buildings on the square include the Korean National Art Gallery and the Korean Central History Museum. There’s a great view from the riverbank across the Taedong to the Tower of the Juche Idea.

  • Sights in Pyongyang

    Pyongyang Metro

    Visiting the impressive Pyongyang metro is definitely a highlight of the capital. The network, which is made up of two lines, has a simultaneous function as a nuclear bunker in the event of a long-anticipated American invasion. Stations are deep below ground and you can even see blast doors that will close if Pyongyang ever comes under nuclear bombardment.

  • Sights in Pyongyang

    Victorious Fatherland Liberation War Museum

    Perhaps the most interesting museum in Pyongyang, this mouthful of an institution opened its current home in 2013 to mark the 60th anniversary of the end of the Korean War. Outside you'll see war-damaged tanks, weapons and aircraft used by both sides in the conflict, while inside there are dozens of exhibits and a 360-degree diorama of the Battle of Daejon. In the foyer look out for the statue of a young Kim Il-sung, where he looks exactly like his grandson.

  • Sights in Pyongyang

    Triumphal Arch

    Your guides will tell you proudly that the Triumphal Arch is 6m higher than its cousin in Paris, making it the largest of its kind in the world. The arch marks the site where Kim Il-sung first addressed the liberated Koreans after the end of Japanese occupation in 1945. The translation you hear will omit the fact that the Soviets liberated Pyongyang, not the partisans, who themselves gave full credit to the Soviets at the time.

  • Sights in Rajin-Sonbong

    Rajin Market

    Tours here usually take in this fascinating, modern market, the only one in the country tourists are allowed to visit and shop at. Sadly, however, photography is not allowed here at all, and this rule is strictly enforced. It's a shame, as the market is well stocked and interesting to walk around.

  • Sights in Pyongyang

    Chollima Statue

    This impressive statue portrays Chollima, the Korean Pegasus. It’s an interesting example of how the North Korean state has incorporated traditional Korean myths into its cult. According to legend, Chollima could cover hundreds of kilometres a day and was untameable. Kim Il-sung appropriated the myth in the period of reconstruction following the Korean War – so that the zeal of the North Korean workers to rebuild their shattered nation and construct monuments to the leadership became known as ‘Chollima Speed’.

  • Sights in Pyongyang

    USS Pueblo

    The USS Pueblo is a US surveillance vessel that was seized by the North Koreans off the east coast of Korea in January 1968, during a heightening of tensions between the North and South. Its 82 crew members were kept as prisoners for 11 months before being released following US President Johnson's full letter of apology. The Pueblo has been preserved since then and is moored in central Pyongyang, where it is visited with great pride by groups of North Koreans.

  • Sights in Pyongyang

    Monument to the Victorious Fatherland Liberation War 1950–53

    This impressive monument, which was unveiled in 1993 to mark the 40th anniversary of the end of the Korean War, now forms part of the display of the Victorious Fatherland Liberation War Museum, with captured American artillery, planes and tanks proudly on display in what is designed to look like a military trench. The sculptures reflect the different battles of the war; the Victory Sculpture is the centrepiece.

  • Sights in Pyongyang

    Kim Il-sung Mural

    This massive mural depicts the hypothetical scene of the joyful masses celebrating Kim Il-sung's arrival in Pyongyang, even though the event wasn't quite like this – it was actually the Soviet forces that liberated Pyongyang from the Japanese in 1945.

  • Sights in Pyongyang

    Tower of Immortality

    The writing on this tower, through the base of which traffic drives, pledges that the 'Great Leader Kim Il-sung and the Dear Leader Kim Jong-il will always be with us'.

  • Sights in Kaesong

    The DMZ

    The sad sight of a divided nation remains one of the most poignant aspects of any trip to North Korea. Even if you're just in North Korea for a couple of days, almost every tour includes a trip to the DMZ. Seeing the situation from the North – facing off against US and South Korean troops to the south – is a unique chance to witness things from an alternative perspective.

  • Sights in North Korea

    Paekdusan

    Paekdu, one of the most stunning sights on the Korean peninsula, straddles the Chinese–Korean border in the very far northeastern tip of DPRK. Apart from being the country's highest mountain at 2744m (9000ft), and an amazing geological phenomenon (an extinct volcano with a vast crater lake at its centre), it's also of huge mythical importance to Koreans.

  • Top ChoiceSights in Myohyangsan

    International Friendship Exhibition

    This exhibition hosts a massive display of gifts given to Kim Il-sung, Kim Jong-il and Kim Jong-un. Housed in a mountainside vault that is vaguely reminiscent of a Bond villain's hideout, on display is everything from Kim family transportation to glassware and wax figurines.

  • Sights in Pyongyang

    Moran Hill

    This is Pyongyang’s top recreation ground: couples wander, families picnic and there are people playing guitars and sometimes even dancing in an incongruously relaxed area of the capital. It’s particularly busy on a Sunday and a lovely place to stroll and absorb something of daily life away from politics and propaganda.

  • Sights in Pyongyang

    Tomb of Tan'gun

    History continues to evolve in North Korea, with new revolutionary discoveries being made every year. While the government announced in 1993 that its archaeologists had discovered the tomb of Tan'gun, the founder of the first Korean kingdom, it wasn't until recently that North Korean historians made the incredible 'discovery' that Tan'gun was in fact a member of the Kim clan.

  • Sights in Pyongyang

    Kumsusan Memorial Palace of the Sun

    Kim Il-sung’s residence during his lifetime, the Kumsusan Palace remained so after his death. North Koreans come here en masse to pay their respects to Kim Il-sung and Kim Jong-il, both of whom now lie embalmed in glass boxes. The palace is eerie, with bricked-in windows and a vast and empty plaza before it, and the entire experience is easily one of the weirdest you'll have in North Korea (which is quite an accolade).

  • Sights in Pyongyang

    Pyongyang Film Studios

    Several films a year are churned out by the country’s main film studios in the suburbs of Pyongyang. The two main focuses are predictably the anti-Japanese struggle and the anti-American war. The main complex is a huge, propaganda-filled suite of office buildings where post-production apparently goes on, even though it feels eerily empty. A short uphill drive takes you to the large sets, which are far more fun.