A trip to Kaesong, DPRK (North Korea).
North Korea’s southernmost (and second most visited) city of Kaesong is mostly used as a convenient stopping point along the road to the infamous DMZ, but it should not be dismissed as a mere staging point for one of the world’s most militarised borders.
Kaesong lacks the grandiose monuments and rich food scene of the country’s capital, Pyongyang, but that doesn’t mean that there isn’t plenty to do here. We count down the five best things to do in Kaesong.
5. Koryo Museum
You’ll visit a lot of museums in North Korea, but you won’t visit many that examine the country’s pre-DPRK history. The Koryo Museum is an exception to this, and it will take you down the rabbit hole all the way to the days of the eponymous Koryo Dynasty. A diverse array of ancient Korean art, Buddhist relics, tombs and replica houses will give you a glimpse into the Korea of yore. Kaesong was the capital of this united Koryo Dynasty.
4. Koryo Museum stamp shop
OK, so it might seem like kinda cheating to make this its own entry, but the stamp shop attached to the aforementioned museum definitely deserves it.
Propaganda posters and stamps make for excellent souvenirs of your time in the DPRK, and the Koryo Museum stamp shop boasts the cheapest and best examples of both anywhere in the country.
As a bonus, you can write out your postcards in-shop and have the shop assistant post it back to your home country for you – complete with an authentic North Korean stamp!
3. Thongil Restaurant
An extremely popular lunchtime spot with visitors to the nearby DMZ, the Thongil restaurant provides an opportunity to eat a Korean classic – the multi-dish Pansangi.
Pansangi is reminiscent of Spanish tapas: a multitude of bite-sized dishes that give you a taster of a variety of Korean dishes, some of which don’t even have kimchi or ginseng!
One that definitely does, however, is the signature ginseng chicken (roast chicken stuffed with the aforementioned root) and, for the adventurous, spicy dog meat soup.
2. Kaesong Folk Hotel
Most tourists don’t usually stay in Kaesong. They merely stop by as part of a larger DMZ day trip. For those who want extra bragging rights it’s well worth doing so. The Kaesong Folk Hotel offers a nice alternative to the more conventional hotel experiences offered elsewhere in the DPRK. Here you’ll sleep on a futon-style padded mat and eat sitting on the floor.
The grounds of the hotel conjure a delightfully rustic atmosphere you won’t find in any other hotel, with running water at the front and mountains at the back. A very different North Korean experience well worth checking out!
What’s more is the hotel is located in Kaesong old town which makes it over 100 years old. After the Korean war much of the country was completely flattened. Kaesong city actually changed sides as the border was moved during the war so it was spared the bombing. This is why it has the best preserved old town in all of North Korea.6
1. The DMZ
Not technically in Kaesong but a stone’s throw away (and, let’s face it, the real tourist draw of the city). The DMZ is like no other border on earth. Rich with its own tense history of defections, standoffs and historic meetings (think Trump and Kim meeting in 2019). The Joint Security Area is a must-see when in North Korea. Here it’s much less tense than a visiting from the South! Tourists can take pictures in both directions and even pose for selfies with military officers. Ask your guide to get you here early to avoid the increasing throngs of Chinese visitors.
And there we have it! Seeing Kaesong for yourself is only a click away – sign up for one of our many tours there today!