Ulaanbaatar, the capital and largest city of Mongolia, is a vibrant metropolis that seamlessly blends its rich history with modern development. For those pondering things to do in Ulaanbaatar, exploring the Gandantegchinlen Monastery, a center of Mongolian Buddhism, and visiting the National Museum of Mongolia, which showcases the country’s history from prehistoric times to the present, are top activities.
The city’s bustling Sukhbaatar Square, located in the heart of Ulaanbaatar, serves as a central gathering place and is surrounded by important government buildings and cultural landmarks. Nearby, the Zaisan Memorial offers panoramic views of the city and the surrounding mountains, providing a visual treat for visitors.
Beyond its historical and cultural attractions, Ulaanbaatar is also known for its lively atmosphere, with numerous restaurants, bars, and cafes catering to a diverse range of tastes. For those seeking the best places to visit in Mongolia, Ulaanbaatar’s blend of ancient traditions, modern amenities, and vibrant urban life makes it a captivating destination.
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Attractions & Things to Do in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia
1. Gandantegchinlen Monastery
The Gandantegchinlen Monastery stands as a center of Mongolian Tibetan Buddhism, its name translating to the “Great Place of Complete Joy.” This active monastery is home to a community of monks and a 26.5-meter-high statue of Avalokiteśvara.
Travel Tip: Respect the religious practices while visiting, and if you wish to take photos, always ask for permission.
2. Gorkhi-Terelj National Park
Just a short drive from Ulaanbaatar, Gorkhi-Terelj National Park is known for its stunning alpine scenery, unique granite rock formations, and the famous Turtle Rock. It’s a popular spot for hiking, horseback riding, and experiencing traditional Mongolian ger (yurt) camps.
Travel Tip: Spend a night in a ger camp to fully experience the nomadic lifestyle and stargazing opportunities.
3. National Museum of Mongolia
This museum provides a comprehensive overview of Mongolian history and culture, with artifacts that span the prehistoric era to the present day.
Travel Tip: Hire an English-speaking guide at the entrance to make the most of your visit as many exhibits do not have English descriptions.
4. Sukhbaatar Square
Sukhbaatar Square, now known as Chinggis Square, is the central square of Ulaanbaatar, named after the revolutionary hero Damdin Sükhbaatar. The square is surrounded by important buildings such as the Government Palace and the Mongolian National Modern Art Gallery.
Travel Tip: This is a perfect spot for a leisurely walk and people-watching, especially during events and festivals.
5. Zaisan Memorial
The Zaisan Memorial honors Soviet soldiers killed in World War II, located on a hill south of the city, offering panoramic views of Ulaanbaatar.
Travel Tip: Climb the monument in the early morning or late afternoon to avoid the midday sun and enjoy the view of the city.
6. Bogd Khan Palace Museum
This museum was once the winter palace of the Bogd Khan, the last Mongolian ruler, and contains a collection of his personal belongings, as well as gifts from international dignitaries.
Travel Tip: Take a guided tour to understand the significance of the artifacts and the history of Mongolian royalty.
7. Choijin Lama Temple Museum
A former Buddhist monastery, now a museum, Choijin Lama Temple showcases Mongolian Buddhist art, including statues and thangkas.
Travel Tip: Visit during a quieter time of day to meditate on the peaceful atmosphere.
8. Naran Tuul Market
Also known as the Black Market, Naran Tuul is the place to find anything from traditional clothing and crafts to horse saddles and everyday goods.
Travel Tip: Be mindful of your belongings as the market can get crowded, and it’s best to go with a local if possible.
9. Mongolia Natural History Museum
Although the museum has faced various challenges, including relocation, it still offers fascinating insights into Mongolia’s natural history, including dinosaur fossils found in the Gobi desert.
Travel Tip: Check ahead for the current status and location of the museum as it has been subject to change.
10. Winter Palace of the Bogd Khan
The Winter Palace is another residence of the Bogd Khan, with beautiful gardens and temples, showcasing the luxurious lifestyle of Mongolia’s head of state during the early 20th century.
Travel Tip: Take your time to explore the grounds and the six temples within the palace complex.
FAQ About Things to Do in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia
What are the must-visit places in Ulaanbaatar?
Key attractions in Ulaanbaatar include the Gandantegchinlen Monastery, the National Museum of Mongolia, Sukhbaatar Square, and the Zaisan Memorial Hill for panoramic city views.
Can I experience traditional Mongolian culture in Ulaanbaatar?
Absolutely! You can visit the Genghis Khan Equestrian Statue, attend a performance at the Tumen Ekh Ensemble to see traditional music and throat singing, or explore the Ger Districts to get a sense of traditional Mongolian living.
Is there a place to learn about Mongolia’s history in Ulaanbaatar?
Yes, the National Museum of Mongolia is the perfect place to learn about the country’s rich history, including its nomadic culture and the era of the Mongol Empire.
Are there any nature-related activities in or near Ulaanbaatar?
Nature lovers can visit the Bogd Khan Mountain, which offers hiking trails and historical sites, or take a short trip to Gorkhi-Terelj National Park to experience Mongolia’s stunning natural landscapes.
What shopping experiences are unique to Ulaanbaatar?
For a unique shopping experience, head to the Naran Tuul Market, also known as the Black Market, where you can find traditional Mongolian clothes, souvenirs, and a wide range of goods.
Where can I try traditional Mongolian food in Ulaanbaatar?
There are many restaurants in Ulaanbaatar that offer traditional Mongolian cuisine, including dishes like buuz (steamed dumplings), khuushuur (fried dumplings), and airag (fermented mare’s milk).
Can I visit a nomadic family near Ulaanbaatar?
Yes, there are tour companies that organize visits to nomadic families living in the countryside, where you can experience their way of life, stay in a ger (yurt), and learn about herding traditions.
What are some entertainment options in Ulaanbaatar?
Ulaanbaatar offers a variety of entertainment options, including theaters showcasing Mongolian and international films, opera and ballet performances at the Mongolian State Academic Theatre of Opera and Ballet, and vibrant nightlife with bars and clubs.