North Korea is most probably not on the top of your bucket list regarding countries you plan to visit any time soon. That being said, its capital city Pyongyang is still home to some remarkable structures.
The capital of North Korea is situated on the banks of the Taedong River, one of the major rivers in the country which releases into the Yellow Sea about 109 kilometers (68 miles) downstream.
Because everything in North Korea is secretive, it’s hard to estimate how many people live in the capital. According to a 2008 census report, it has a total population of 3,255,288. A 2016 report indicated a serious decrease with a population of just 2,870,000.
In this post, we’ll take a closer look at some of the most famous landmarks in Pyongyang, fascinating structures in what is definitely the most secretive, yet ntriguing country in the world!
1. Rungrado 1st of May Stadium
The Rungrado 1st of May Stadium is the biggest stadium in the world with an estimated seating capacity of 114,000. It’s located on Rungra Island which is located in the Taedong River in the center of the city. This makes this enormous stadium one of the most incredible landmarks in Pyongyang.
The stadium covers a huge area of about 20.7 hectares (51 acres) and is used for a wide variety of purposes, including soccer matches, athletics, and most spectacularly, mass games. There’s also word around the campfire that the stadium is being used for public executions of people who the regime doesn’t like.
2. Juche Tower
The Juche Tower is a fascinating tower that was built in honor of the ideology of the country’s regime which is called “Juche.” This ideology resembles the ideas of Communism even though it incorporates some typically Korean elements.
It was devised by the first leader of the country called Kim Il-sung (1912-1994), the man all North Koreans shed incredible tears for whenever there’s a mass parade in his honor. The tower was completed in 1982 to commemorate Kim Il-sung’s 70th birthday.
3. Arch of Triumph
The Arch of Triumph is an incredible triumphal arch that was built to commemorate the Korean resistance to Japan between 1925 and 1945. It’s the second tallest of its kind in the world at a height of 60 meters (197 feet), with only the Monumento a la Revolución in Mexico City being taller.
The arch is located on the “Triumph Return Square” at the foot of Moranbong or “Moran Hill,” a hill with a height of 95 meters (312 feet) above sea level in the center of the city. It was completed at the same time as the Juche Tower in 1982 and for the same reason as well.
4. Kim Il Sung Square
Kim Il Sung Square is the most famous square in the capital of North Korea and was completed during the rebuilding of the city in 1954 following the Korean War. It’s situated right across from the Juche Tower on the opposite bank of the Taedong River.
It’s also one of the most iconic locations in Pyongyang because whenever we see footage of military parades as the regime flaunts their massive bombs, this is where that happens. And of course, the square was named after the first leader of the regime as well.
5. Mansudae Grand Monument
The Mansudae Grand Monument is a collection of monumental statues that commemorate the revolutionary struggle of the Korean people, and glorifies the leaders. Therefore, the centerpieces of this complex are 2 monumental statues of deceased leaders Kim Il-sung and Kim Jong-il.
The bronze statue of Kim Il-sung stands 20 meters (66 feet) tall and were constructed in 1972 to commemorate his 60th birthday. The additional statue was added in 2011. The entire complex features a total of 229 figures.
6. Kumsusan Palace Of The Sun
The Kumsusan Palace of the Sun was originally referred to as the “Kumsusan Memorial Palace” because it served as the Mausoleum of Kim-Il-sung. This enormous structure was completed in 1976 and is situated on the northeastern edge of the city center.
This wasn’t the original purpose of the building, though, because Kim Il-sung only died in the year 1994. It was constructed to serve as his official residence, and it was designated as his final eternal resting place as well, together with his son Kim Jong-Il.
7. Ryugyong Hotel
The Ryugyong Hotel is without question the most remarkable skyscraper in Pyongyang. The building has 105 stories and stands 330 meters (1,080 feet) tall. It’s a pyramid-shaped building that dominates the skyline of the city.
What’s intriguing about this landmark in Pyongyang is that it remains unfinished until today. This has resulted in the building being listed by the Guinness World Records as the “tallest unoccupied building in the world.”
8. Revolutionary Martyrs’ Cemetery
The Revolutionary Martyrs’ Cemetery is a huge cemetery and memorial dedicated to the Koreans that fought against Japanese rule. The complex is situated near the top of Mount Taesong in the outskirts of Pyongyang.
The cemetery features hundreds of tombs and was originally completed in the year 1975. It covers a total area of 30 hectares (74 acres) and also houses the tombs of some of the most prominent people of the regime, including the mother of Kim Il-sung called Kang Pan-sŏk, and his first wife called Kim Jong-suk, among multiple military leaders.
9. Mansudae Assembly Hall
The Mansudae Assembly Hall is the official seat of the Supreme People’s Assembly of North Korea. It’s located just to the west of the southern tip of Rungra Island near the Taedong River and is the most important government building in the country.
The enormous meeting hall inside the building covers an area of 4,300 square meters (46,000 square feet) and has a seating capacity of 2,000. This hall is mostly filled with people who always agree with whatever the great leader tells them.
10. Workers’ Party Foundation Monument
The Monument to Party Founding is a monument in the center of the city that represents the core ideals of the country’s single political party. It depicts a hammer, sickle and calligraphy brush, which represent farmers, workers, and intellectuals.
The granite structure is much larger than it initially appears to be as it stands 50 meters (160 feet) tall. It was built in 1995 and its height is a symbolic reference to the 50th anniversary of the Workers’ Party of Korea, an event that was celebrated that year.
11. Arch of Reunification
The Arch of Reunification is officially known as the “Monument to the Three-Point Charter for National Reunification” and is a large sculptural arch located on the southern outskirts of the city. It crosses the so-called “Reunification Highway” which leads from Pyongyang to the DMZ, the Korean Demilitarized Zone.
This enormous arch has a total width of 61.5 meters (202 feet) and a maximum height of 30 meters (98 feet). It was completed in the year 2001 and was built to commemorate the proposals put forward by Kim Il-sung called the “Korean reunification proposals” a year earlier.
12. Pyongyang Metro
The Pyongyang Metro is the subway system in the capital of North Korea. It has two lines which pretty much run from north to south and from west to east, and which intersect each other in the center of the city.
The original version of the metro was constructed between 1965 and 1973, which was the year that Kim Il-sung officially opened the first stations. Today, it’s the cheapest metro to ride in the world with tickets starting at just 5 North Korean won, the equivalent of just half a cent in US dollars.
Taedongmun Gate is also referred to as the “Taedong Gate” as it was constructed on the banks of the Taedong River. The original structure served as the eastern gate of the defensive all of the castle of Pyongyang and was built in the 6th century.
The current structure was built in the year 1635 and is considered to be one of the National Treasures of North Korea, more specifically, National Treasure Number 4. It has a granite base and is topped with a pavilion referred to as the “Euphoru Pavilion,” a structure that provides great views of the nearby river.
14. Tomb of King Tongmyŏng
The Tomb of King Tongmyŏng is an ancient mausoleum that consists of multiple tombs. One of these is considered to be the tomb of King Tongmyŏng (58-19 B.C.), the founder of the Goguryeo kingdom that was located in the northern and central parts of the Korean Peninsula.
The entire complex covers an area of 233 hectares (580 acres) and has been listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in the year 2004. It also features a Buddhist monastery which is located about 120 meters (390 feet) from the most famous tomb on the mausoleum grounds.
15. Yanggakdo International Hotel
If you ever do plan to visit North Korea, then the Yanggakdo International Hotel is most probably the place that you will end up staying. It’s the largest operating hotel in the country and is located on Yanggak Island in the river Taedong.
The hotel is situated about 2 kilometers (1.2 miles) to the southeast of the center of the city and stands 170 meters (560 feet) tall, which makes it one of the tallest buildings in the city as well. It also features a revolving restaurant on the 47th floor.