A guide to the North Korean capital
Pyongyang (평양 | 平壤) is the capital of North Korea and North Korea's largest city. Located in the heart of the Taedong River Valley, the city’s name literally means ‘flat’ or ‘peaceful’ land.
Pyongyang has a history stretching back thousands of years to the early foundations of Korean civilization. Ever industrious and fiercely independent, the city has had a distinct role in shaping Korean history.
American bombing almost totally destroyed the city during the during the Korean War (1950-3) and a new centrally planned city rose from the ashes. Pyongyang, along with Wonsan, is one of North Korea's two 'Hero Cities' for its prominent wartime role.
The city was largely rebuilt along socialist urban planning and architectural principles, though some influence of the pre-war city remains in street patterns and a handful of structures.
...Pyongyang is a city in a park.
Major construction drives developed specific sections of the city en masse each decade from the 1950's-1980's and once again in the 2010's. The city's newest editions are the space-age Future Scientist and Ryomyong streets.
Beyond the grand architecture and monuments, many museums and history sights, traffic ladies, cold noodles, and lotus ponds, Pyongyang has a wide range of sights and activities for visitors.
Due to the large amount of subject matter on Pyongyang, we plan to updates this page periodically.
History and Background
Names of Pyongyang
Throughout history Pyongyang has been known by a number of official names and nicknames:
*Sokyong: In contrast to the 'Northern Capital' and the 'Eastern Capital' (Tokyo), Pyongyang is the 'Western Capital' (서경 | 西京) due to its location in the western part of Korea, or 'west country' (서도 | 西道).
*Ryugyong, means 'Capital of Willows' (류경 | 柳京), and is perhaps best known for its association with the Ryugyong Hotel — Pyongyang's tallest building which remains incomplete to this day. Ryugyong is a poetic name given to the city for its large number of willow trees that line the Taedong and Potong rivers.
*Prior to 1945, Pyongyang was called 'Jerusalem of the East' due to its relatively large population of Christians. At one time the city had the largest population of Christians in East Asia outside of Manila.
*As the formost city in North Korea and seat of the DPRK government, Pyongyang is sometimes referred to 'Capital of the Revolution' ( 혁명의 수도 | 革命의 首都).
Pyongyang in Art, Film, Literature, and Music
*A Corpse in the Koryo (2006) and other Inspector O mystery novels by James Church are set in Pyongyang (and other locations around the world). James Church is the pseudonym for a former American diplomat with experience traveling to Pyongyang for US-DPRK negotiations.
*American-occupied Pyongyang in the autumn of 1950 is the setting for Richard Kim's novel The Martyred (1964).
Arch of Triumph | A triumphal arch, bigger than it's Parisian counterpart.
The Juche Tower | Stone obelisk dedicated to the Juche Ideology.
Kim Il Sung Square | Pyongyang's central square.
Monument to Party Foundation | Iconic hammer, sickle, and writing brush sculpture.
Stay tuned for more in-depth guides as the come online!
Other Pyongyang Attractions
The Grand People's Study House | The national library of North Korea.
Potong Gate | Pyongyang's old west gate.
Sunan International Airport (FNJ), located 25 km north of the city, serves as Pyongyang's civilian airport.
Pyongyang is accessible year round by flight from Beijing (3-5 days a week), Shenyang (twice a week), Vladivostok (twice a week), and Shanghai (twice a week; high-season only).
There is an international sleeper train four days a week (Sat, Mon, Weds, Thurs) to Beijing and local train to the Chinese border each day.
Download the current schedule of trains and flights to Pyongyang for 2019.
The city lies at the centre of the DPRK’s highway network connecting to most other regions. Travel between other regions often requires passing through Pyongyang.
At the time of writing it is only possible to reach Mt. Paekdu, the Northeast and Rason via special charter flights in summer.
How to visit Pyongyang?
All foreign travellers to Pyongyang need to visit as part of an arranged tour.
Contact us for more details!
Updated 4 January 2019.