Hotel Ryugyong is the tallest building in Pyongyang, North Korea. The hotel has many interesting statistics;
Construction started in 1987
Tallest building in North Korea
Tallest uninhabited building in the world
330 meters tall / 105 storeys
Dwarfs all other buildings in Pyongyang
Exterior is complete but the interior is not
No opening date
I was staying in the Hotel Yanggakdo which is the 8th tallest building in Pyongyang.
Hotel Ryugyong History
In 1989, North Korea hosted the World Festival of Youth and Students. This was their chance to prove they were bigger than South Korea who hosted the Olympics in 1988. In 1987, a decision was made to make the largest hotel as well as the largest stadium in the world. The May Day stadium was completed in 1989 and today remains the largest stadium in the world.
However, the quest to construct the largest hotel in the world is still ongoing. The internal structure was built in 1992 but construction halted due to lack of funds. In 2011 after another 3 years work, the exterior was finally completed. As of 2018, an LED display has been added to the building, consequently you’ll see a Vegas style light show each evening. Despite all this, no guest has ever stayed in the hotel.
Hotel Ryugyong is located in the center of Pyongyang. As a result, you can see it and of course photograph it from limitless angles. You can reach the hotel through Metro station, Konsol. Then again, you must be with a guide at all times so instead will visit by tour bus. It’s surrounded by colorful apartment blocks as well as the Potong river.
As a result of the hotel being the tallest building in Pyongyang, you can see it from everywhere. Furthermore, because the exterior is lit up during the evening, night viewpoints are excellent too. As you must visit North Korea on a tour, a certainty is that you’ll be taken to the Victorious Fatherland Liberation War Museum. The museum has a good viewpoint of the Hotel Ryugyong. In addition, the hotel is surrounded by the Potong river, resulting in some good reflection photography options. Furthermore, the glass exterior of the building reflects the sky as well as sunset or sunrise.
Hotel Ryugyong Inside
I asked my personal tour guide ‘What’s inside Hotel Ryugyong?’ to which she replied ‘the interior is unfinished’. Due to the fact that it’s against the law in North Korea to walk around unaccompanied I was unable to get up close to the hotel and photograph the interior. However, it’s rumored that the interior resembles a concrete block.
Hotel Ryugyong by day
By day, the hotel is visible from almost everywhere in Pyongyang. For this reason it would make a good meeting point. As a photographer it means you can photograph the Hotel Ryugyong as the backdrop to almost anywhere in the city. My personal favorite was a backdrop to the colorful apartment buildings of Pyongyang. A reflection in the Patong river comes a close second.
Hotel Ryugyong by night
The Hotel Ryugyong is lit up beautifully at night. In fact, there is a light show which would also be impressive in a city like Las Vegas. Throughout the evening the hotel is constantly lit up with flashing lights. A prominent part of the hotel is the cone shape on top which lights up as a North Korean flag. Additionally, the color of the building is constantly changing and Korean words will flash. Could these Korean words be promoting the supreme leaders of North Korea? Could this be the ultimate purpose of this 105 storey building? A Vegas style light show?
Tall Buildings in Pyongyang
The tallest inhabited building in Pyongyang is the Ryomyong condominium. In fact there are 2 Ryomyong condominiums, as a result these are the 2nd and 3rd tallest buildings in Pyongyang. The 4th tallest building in the city is the Galaxy Tower (above). This is located on Scientists street alongside many other skyscrapers. It’s rumored that the Galaxy Tower is also an uninhabited building.
Enjoy your visit to Pyongyang and the Hotel Ryugyong
My final thoughts on the hotel is that the elevator down to the buffet breakfast in the morning would be a huge stress! Imagine 3000 to 7000 guest rooms of tourists heading to eat breakfast with the elevator the only option. I’m guessing the egg station would have quite a line too!