Our favourite hotels, restaurants, activities, bars and more of the DPRK
Not many people realise that tourists actually have a fair amount of choice in North Korea. There are plenty of restaurants, bars, hotels and other services that are open to foreigners and locals. Depending on which tour you're on, you'll likely visit one of these spots. After more than two decades of travel in the DPRK, we reckon these are the ones to look out for.
BEST HOTEL: Janamsan Hotel
Located near the picturesque Janam Hill in Kaesong, the ancient town that plays host to the DMZ with South Korea, the Janamsan Hotel is our favourite in North Korea. The staff are incredibly friendly, and since Kim Jong Un visited in 2018 for the meetings with South Korea at the DMZ, the facilities have had an upgrade, although the hotel still has a 1970's Soviet-style design.
This is also the place for excellent local snacks, namely yakgua, 'medicine snacks', which are a kind of dry cookie and umaegi, which are honey covered rice cakes.
BEST RESTAURANT: Wonsan Fish Restaurant
The Wonsan fish restaurant makes the most of its coastal location by serving up fresh catches from the sea, which is only 50 metres away. We celebrated Michale Palin’s 65th birthday in one of the private rooms here, dining on delicious sashimi and to traditional Korean fish dishes.
BEST ACTIVITY: the Pyongyang Marathon
We may be biased, because we're the exclusive partners for bringing foreigners to the event, but we're convinced that the annual Pyongyang Marathon is the most incredible happening in the North Korean calendar! Running alongside thousands of locals through the streets of Pyongyang, this is one of the most interactive and unguarded experiences you can get as a foreigner in North Korea. And you're not obliged to run a full marathon – 5km, 10km and 21km options are also available, or you can join thousands of North Korean spectators in Kim Il Sung stadium to cheer on the runners!
BEST BAR: Jangsusan Hotel Bar
This unassuming hotel bar is far from the most glamorous choice – try the revolving bar at the Yanggakdo Hotel for something more eye-catching – but it is home to the DPRK's best bartender. Trained in Pyongyang, the Jangsusan bartender has won mixology and culinary arts competitions. He has now fashioned his own speakeasy style bar in Pyongsong, a satellite town of the capital, where he whips up potent, creative cocktails at reasonable prices.
BEST AIRLINE: Air Koryo
Flying on Air Koryo is an experience in itself. Undeservedly known as "the worst airline in the world" (there are worse airlines), Air Koryo is certainly one of the world's most unique carriers. In-fight service includes limited copies of the Pyongyang Times, North Korean pop music concerts, and the famous Air Koryo burger. Don't be deceived by the prim and proper, meticulously dressed flight attendants; they will put you in your place if you step out of line. It's for your own safety!
The airline also its own wall calendar showing the exciting world that is Air Koryo.