October 25th - November 1st (Sat - Sat)
Flight in - Flight back
NOTE: This tour is limited to 19 places
The architecture of Pyongyang is one of the DPRK’s highlights. In any socialist regime, architecture plays a key part in the process of building up a new social and political environment following revolutionary events. The total destruction of Pyongyang during the Korean War gave Korean architects and construction workers a clean slate from which to build a perfect socialist capital anew, and they seized upon that opportunity with relish. We will have access to many buildings not usually open to tourist groups, and will listen to lectures from Korean architects and interior designers at many of the locations we visit, learning a tremendous amount about both the functions and the history of Pyongyang’s remarkable buildings. As well as this, this tour will be the first opportunity for foreign tourists to visit the interior of a Pyongyang apartment, not only in order to appreciate the interior design of North Korean living space, but to meet the family living there and speak to them about their home. This will be a truly ground-breaking moment in engagement with the residents of Pyongyang, one which will allow our tourists the first ever glimpse inside Pyongyang’s mass socialist housing. This will be both an architectural and a historical journey through North Korea’s socialist development like no other and to experience all the celebratory activities held to mark the 102nd birthday of President Kim Il Sung.
The first ever visit to the interior of a Pyongyang apartment for foreign tourists.
Saturday October 25th: Arrival and Orientation
After arriving at the airport, we move immediately to Pyongyang’s most impressive public space, as we begin to trace the early redevelopments ofcentral Pyongyang following the destruction of the Korean War. We will walk around the grand central space of Kim Il Sung Square (1954-5), and examine the features of the central government buildings around it. We will then go on walk along both Sungri Street (formerly Stalin Street), and Chollima Street (1953), the two earliest main post-Korean War streets in Pyongyang, ending up on the top of Mansu Hill at the Chollima Monument (unveiled in 1961). Following these visits, it will be off to the iconic twin-towered Koryo Hotel, Pyongyang’s first real international hotel, built in the late socialist style in 1985 for visiting foreign dignitaries and tourists. We will check in here for the night, and have dinner in its restaurant.
Sunday October 26th: Political Spaces and Monuments
After breakfast, we will begin our first full day with a look at many of the grand construction projects of the 1970s and 80s, when much of the Pyongyang’s current monumental centre took shape. We will first spend some time at the Kumsusan Memorial Palace of the Sun built in 1977 as Kim Il Sung’s seat of government and now his mausoleum, as well as that of his son. This is one of Pyongyang’s grandest buildings, one which exemplifies the growing importance of the political leadership, and its representation, in Pyongyang architecture during the 1970s. Staying with imposing monuments to the leadership, we will go on to view the Grand Monuments to Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il on Mansu Hill, originally built to mark the 60th birthday of Kim Il Sung in 1972, and recently expanded to include a statue of Kim Jong Il in 2012. We will then move on to visit the Tower of the Juche Idea, unveiled in 1982 as the ultimate architectural celebration of Juche ideology, and erected to mark Kim Il Sung’s 70th birthday. After a stop at the celebratory Arch of Triumph (1982), we will visit one of Pyongyang’s most important political buildings, the Grand People’s Assembly Hall, built in late-socialist neoclassical style in 1984. We will take a full tour of this building, seeing not only its imposing exterior facades but also its lavish, elegant interior spaces, perfectly designed to communicatethe importance of the discussions held within its spacious halls and corridors. The purpose-built, gargantuan Kwangbok and Thongil Residential Areas will be next on our tour; these were constructed in 1989 and 1993 respectively.After lunch ina local restaurant, we will move to Pyongyang’s more contemporary revolutionary spaces, such as the striking Victorious Fatherland Liberation War Monument, with its superb socialist-realist sculptures of Korean soldiers charging into battle, unveiled in 1993, as well as the equally impressive Party Foundation Monument, completed in 1995as the ultimate sign of the Korean Workers’ Party’s power and prestige. We will follow this with a pioneering visit to the interior of a Pyongyang apartment, and have the opportunity to examine the design and layout of a typical example of Pyongyang mass housing for the first time, as well as to talk to its residents about their home. We will also visit the Arch of Reunification(2001), and the shining new tower blocks and multi-storey houses of the comfortable Mansudae Street (2009). Following this, we will go for a well-earned dinner at a local restaurant, before spending another night at the Koryo Hotel.
Monday October 27th: Major Cultural Establishments
We will start our tour today at the end of the Second World War and the DPRK’s liberation from Japan, viewing the ornate neoclassical exterior and beautifully proportioned interior of the Moranbong Theatre (opened 1946), situated on a hill in lush parkland at the entrance to Moran Park. We then move on to the period of ‘socialist design with Korean characteristics’, visiting the Pyongyang Grand Theatre (opened 1960), a huge statement of socialist cultural superiority situated in the very centre of Pyongyang. We continue our journey examining the Korean people’s introduction to high socialist culture with a visit to the vast People’s Palace of Culture, built on Chollima Street in 1974.
After lunch in a Pyongyang restaurant, we will look at the growing number of grand political and cultural centres built and opened around Pyongyang in the 1970s and 80s. The two best examples of these are the April 25 House of Culture (built 1975) and the Mansudae Art Theatre (completed 1976), both of which we will visit, taking not only walks around the exterior facades, but also detailed tours of the buildings’ interiors. Staying with grandiose political architectural statements, we will then see the Central Youth Hall (completed 1989), one of Pyongyang’s main centres for youth activity and education, and hopefully see the 100-seat modernist theatre where amateur productions are performed. In a similar vein, we will visit and hopefully see a performance at either the People’s Army Circus, opened in 1964 and constructed in a distinctive circular shape with a domed roof, or the ultra-postmodernist Pyongyang Circus, built in 1989 and unveiled for May Day of that year, and consisting of five halls each with a striking hexagonal roof. These buildings host the country’s finest acrobats, and, along with the equally modernist, glass-covered East Pyongyang Grand Theatre (built 1989), which we will also see, present two of the most dynamic designs in the city. Our architectural tour will not stop once the formal sightseeing is over. We will go first to the Chongnyon Hotel, built in 1989 for the World Festival of Youth and Students, and a real Pyongyang institution. It is notable for its striking design, combining a brutalist high-rise building with cylindrically-shaped low-rise sections at the front and rear. The hotel also contains classic 1980s interiors, and we will have a drink in its rooftop restaurant. We will then have dinner in one of Pyongyang’s landmark eateries, the Okryu Restaurant, opened in 1961 as Pyongyang’s first ‘prestige’ mass eatery, tickets to dine at which were available by application to any resident of Pyongyang. After a sumptuous, traditional Korean dinner in one of its huge mass eating halls, all of which have beautiful views of the river, we return to our 1980s hotel in the form of the Koryo to enjoy its Korean socialist luxury and hospitality in its many public bars and recreational facilities.
Tuesday October 28th: Education and Culture
Today we will look at some of the key buildings designed in Pyongyang since independence which aimed to tackle the widespread illiteracy and political ignorance which the Japanese left in their wake. We will first visit Mangyongdae Revolutionary School, built in a stately neoclassical style in 1946 for orphans of heroes who had perished in the anti-Japanese struggle, and featuring a bronze monument depicting Kim Il Sung caring for Korean orphans atop its wide staircase. We will then move on to Pyongyang’s highest seat of learning, Kim Il Sung University. The campus and buildings of the university provide an excellent example of the progression of Pyongyang’s architecture, running the full gauntlet from post-war Stalinist neoclassicism through to 1980s high rise brutalism, and finally to a light, two-storey glass-ceilinged swimming pool completed in 2009. This will be followed by a visit to the elegant neoclassical Taedongmun Cinema in central Pyongyang. This striking building was completed in 1955, and was one of the first socialist cinemas in Korea, its lavish colonnaded entrance area and ornate sculpture work revealing the influence of Soviet post-war design upon 1950s Pyongyang construction projects. Constructed in a mixture of styles which combine simpler socialist neo-classicism with a striking 1960s modernism, the enormous Pyongyang Schoolchildren’s Palace boasts a grand driveway leading up to its entrance and a welcoming statue of Kim Il Sung with keen young Korean children, as well as full length murals depicting Korean youth in the 1960s socialist style. We will have a tour of this building, one of the landmark 1960s buildings in central Pyongyang, and may have a chance to see a performance in the theatre there by the pioneers and members of the Korean Communist Youth for whom the palace was built.
After breaking for lunch on this important national holiday, will take a walk in Moranbong Park, otherwise known as Peony Hill. Located in the centre of Pyongyang this is a favourite place for locals and during the holiday periods it is not unusual to come across a group of Koreans dancing. Make sure to learn basic Korean - the guides can help - to meet and greet people and you might even get the opportunity to join in. During the week Koreans come here to study, enjoy nature and of course go on a romantic walk. During the rest of the afternoon we will continue to examine examples of Pyongyang's unique architecture. We will go on to view the Korean Workers’ Party’s continued attempts to inculcate socialist values into its young population in the 1980s with a visit to the Grand People’s Study House (1982).
We will take a full tour of this huge 10-storey building, seeing its grand central atrium, as well as many of its lecture halls and unique architectural features. We will also have a chance to see the roof (which consists of 34 separate pieces) from the huge balcony. From this vantage point we will be able to get a sense of the wonderfully symmetrical design of Kim Il Sung Square, and to take in the heavy neoclassicism of the government buildings which surround it, as well as the axis across the Taedong river stretching to the iconic Juche Tower on the opposite bank. Following our visit to this great place of learning, we will have a chance to compare the Pyongyang Schoolchildren’s Palace, with its 1960s design, with its counterpart further out of town in the form of the Mangyongdae Schoolchildren’s Palace, opened in 1989 and featuring another striking post-modern piece of design. Situatedon the edge of the Kwangbok residential district constructed for the WorldYouth Festival of 1989, this building dominates the area and consists of a huge semi-circular front, representing the enveloping arms of a loving, nurturing mother. We will take a detailed tour of this building’s exterior, complete with fountains and landscaped garden, and of its impressive interior spaces and imposing entrance hall with marble columns, circular terraces and long, modernist ceiling lights. Following visits to the fascinating Mansudae Art Studio and the Pyongyang Architecture Institute, where we can learn much about the construction of DPRK art and sculpture, as well as of Pyongyang itself, we will round off the day with a visit to the Pyongyang International House of Cinema on Yanggak island, also built in 1989 in a striking circular style and housing three film theatres. This complex plays host to the Pyongyang International Film Festival. Following drinks in the revolving restaurant of the nearby Yanggakdo Hotel (1995), which offers magnificent views of Pyongyang’s skyline and the river Taedong, we will have dinner in a local restaurant and return to the Koryo Hotel for the night.
Wednesday October 29th: Sports and Health
Today we concentrate on the other important aspect of becoming socialist – physical wellbeing and discipline. We will once again trace the development of this aspect of socialist life though architecture from the earlier days of the North Korean state to the present day. We begin our tour with a visit to the Indoor Stadium, completed in 1973 in a striking mixture of neo-classical and modernist styles, with colonnaded front façade and huge slanting roof. We will then drop in at Pyongyang’s flagship health facility, the Pyongyang Maternity Hospital, opened in 1980 and featuring a striking late socialist brutalist design and grand entranceway. From here we go on to visit one of Pyongyang’s most distinctive buildings in the form of its unique Ice Rink, completed in 1981 and consisting of a conical modernist structure designed to resemble a skater’s cap. We will have the opportunity to do some skating in this unique building.
Following lunch, we will move on to one of Pyongyang’s most important sports facilities, the Kim Il Sung Stadium, opened in 1969 as the Moranbong Stadium and substantially renovated and renamed in 1982, and which plays host to many of Pyongyang’s most important sporting events. Staying with stadia, we will then drop in at one of the city’s largest structures, the magnificent May Day Stadium. This was completed in 1989 and consists of 16 arched glass roofs, allowing the building to resemble a flower blooming or a parachute which has just landed. This is where the spectacular Mass Games performances are held each year between July and October. The stadium seats an incredible 150,000 spectators, and its stage can easily accommodate 100,000 performers.
Our next stop of the day is the impressive sports complex (the ‘city of sports’) on Chongchun Street, built between 1988 and 1996, initially for the World Youth Festival of 1989. This consists of numerous gymnasia, a football stadium, and separate halls for numerous sports such as volleyball, badminton, weightlifting and taekwondo. As well as visiting these sporting facilities, we will drop in at the Changgwang Health and Recreation Complex (built 1981-86). Here we will have a chance to get a haircut in the hair salon, which preserves its complete original furniture and equipment from 1981. Following this, we will have dinner at Pyongyang’s other long established mass access restaurant, the Chongnyu, built in 1981 in a modernist maritime style. We will dine on speciality cuisine in this restaurant, which contains sumptuous interior design over its four storeys and benefits from a beautiful riverside location. We will then return to the Koryo Hotel for the night.
Thursday October 30th: Museums and Transport
On this final full day in Pyongyang we look at the transmission of the revolutionary message to the Korean people, as well as to foreign visitors, in the form of museums and galleries. First on our tour is one of Pyongyang’s oldest galleries, the Pyongyang Art Gallery, opened in 1960 and housed in a neo-classical building in a prestigious location on Kim Il Sung Square. Next is a visit to Pyongyang’s premier historical museum, the Victorious Fatherland Liberation War Museum, opened in 1974 and preserving its austere, grandiose exterior and huge exposition halls. We will then go on to visit one of the tour's highlights in the form of Pyongyang’s underground ‘museums’, where interior layout and displays of revolutionary history in the socialist-realist style combine with daily practicality and socialist efficiency in the form of the mass transportation system, the Pyongyang Metro. We will be among the first foreign tourists to view the entirety of both lines on the system, taking in their previously unseen monumental interiors and stunning socialist-realist artwork.
Following lunch at a local restaurant, we will continue our exploration of the merging of transport and museum imagery with an extended visit to the brutalist Pyongyang Metro Museum, established shortly after the opening of the Pyongyang metro system in 1974. We will finish this day’s visits with a stop at one of Pyongyang’s largest and newest museum complexes, the Three Revolutions Exhibition, opened in 1992, and featuring highly futuristic monuments and designs, including a planet-shaped silver sphere, with Saturn-like rings surrounding it, and a remarkable interactive exhibit dedicated to the DPRK’s satellite programme.
We will then drive south to the city of Kaesong for an exploration of the DPRK’s pre-Korean War architecture, a journey of 2.5 hours down the (almost) dead-straight Reunification Highway. We will stay overnight at the delightful Minsok Folk Hotel, housed in a traditional Korean set of houses arranged around courtyards, and dating from the Li dynasty. The atmosphere here will transport you back to pre-socialist Korea, an era well before the gargantuan monuments and high-rise blocks of Pyongyang were conceived. ALTERNATIVE OPTION: If you would rather sleep in a proper bedthen there is the option of choosing the 1970s socialist style JANAMSAN HOTEL, interestingly decorated and with amuch betterchance of hot water! Please confirm upon booking which of these hotels you would prefer – there is no difference in cost.
Friday October 31st: Korean Architecture before 1945
DPRK HOLIDAY: Party Foundation Day. Following a traditional breakfast in the Minsok’s charming traditional restaurant, our first visit is to Panmunjom and the DMZ, where North and South Korea continue their decades- old face-off. It is possible to go right up to the huts that straddle the demarcation line, and to ascend to a balcony for a panoramic view of the border area and over into the South. We then drive back into the city of Kaesong and visit the Kaesong Koryo Museum, which is housed in a beautiful old Confucian University, to learn about the long, rich history of the building and surrounding area. We will then have lunch in a local restaurant in the centre of Kaesong’s old town, before taking a guided walk around the city’s charming old streets and courtyards.
After lunch we will ascend Janam Hill, situated in the heart of the city, at the top of which stands the city’s statue of President Kim Il Sung. There is also the traditional Kwangbok pavilion here, and the hill’s rocky edge affords great views over the old part of the city, as well as of the huge edifice of the city’s more modern Schoolchildren’s Palace, opened in 1961. We then take a 20-minute drive to the beautiful Tomb of King Kongmin, the twin-domed tomb of the 31st King of the Koryo Dynasty (918 - 1392 AD) and his wife which remained largely undamaged during the Korean War. Following this, we return to Pyongyang for drinks in the deluxe Potonggang Hotel. This Pyongyang institution dates from 1973, is located on a pretty stretch of the Potong River, and has been thoroughly renovated inside to the highest standard currently available in Pyongyang. As today is a national holiday we expect to see a mass dance taking place. University students dress in their finest and gather together in various public spots around Pyongyang to dance together (a great time for young couples to meet for the first time) - an impressive spectacle indeed. After finishing drinks by the river, we proceed to the excellent Duck BBQ restaurant for dinner, before transferring to the Koryo Hotel for our final night.
Saturday November 1st: Departure
This morning we will transfer to Pyongyang airport for our morning Air Koryo flight to Beijing, where our tour will end.
Please note that after the tour, we will send out a list of all the tour participants' email addresses so you can keep in touch, swap photos, etc. If you do not wish to be on this list then please let us know.
TOUR COST: EUR 1980
VISA FEE: EUR 50
PRE-TOUR MEETING: October 24th (Friday), 4PM, at our office in Beijing
Room upgrades available – please ask for more information.
TOUR FEE INCLUDES THE FOLLOWING:
NOT INCLUDED IN THE TOUR FEE: