Marking the capital of the once great Mongolian empire, Ulaanbaatar beckons with a captivating blend of tradition and modernity. In stark contrast to the immense natural landscape that surrounds it, the city proudly represents its ancient nomadic heritage alongside a vibrant urban life.
Majestic monasteries stand next to serene parks and bustling markets. Intriguing museums filled with centuries of history and natural landscapes that have remained unchanged since the dawn of time!
There are few places in the world like this! So in that case, here are the 20 best highlights to see in the city of Ulaanbataar!
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Table of Contents
Standing at the heart of the capital, Sukhbaatar Square acts as a symbol of the nation’s rich history and enduring spirit. Most importantly of all, it’s a place which exudes a great sense of national pride.
This expansive plaza, named after the national revolutionary hero Damdin Sukhbaatar, also offers visitors a glimpse into Mongolia’s past and present. With a dominating figure of Genghis Khan on horseback at its front, the square is surrounded on all sides by impressive government buildings, making it the political and cultural epicentre of the capital.
As well as that, the square also regularly plays host to raucous events, festivals, and even the occasional protests, making it a dynamic and ever-changing space.
With its striking white facade adorned with blue and yellow accents, the imposing figure of the Parliament House, also known as the State Great Khural, symbolises the nation’s relatively newfound democracy.
At its centre stands a figure of none other than Chinggis Khaan himself, with other figures of Ogodei Khaan and Khubilai Khaan sitting nearby too. It ensures the Parliament House will always represent the rich past and ever-evolving present of Ulaanbataar.
Gandantegchinlen Monastery is a sacred sanctuary which acts as a beacon of Buddhism in a land where ancient traditions are woven seamlessly into the fabric of modern life. Constructed in 1809, this incredible sight has withstood political uprisings and significant shifts. Today, it remains Mongolia’s most significant religious site!
The striking complex is made with a harmonious blend of architecture and art, boasting a stunning collection of religious artefacts and intricate murals throughout. All the while, the melodic chants of monks fill the air, and the fragrance of burning incense pervades every corner. Visitors are even welcome to take part in many of the spiritual rituals that take place there daily.
Perched atop a gentle hill, the Zaisan Memorial is a striking symbol of Mongolian-Soviet friendship. Constructed in 1971 as a testament to the sacrifices made during World War II, this majestic monument, is a must-visit for every traveller.
The monument’s walls are adorned with vivid, detailed images that depict the shared history of the two nations. If visitors are left in any doubt to whom it is commemorated, the towering statue of a Soviet soldier standing right beside it!
As you ascend the 300 steps leading to the memorial, the sweeping panoramic views of the city, unfold before your eyes. The clear blue sky and the vast Mongolian landscape contrasting against the modern cityscape is striking in itself.
Genghis Khan Statue Complex
It would be pretty hard to miss this next site! Nestled within the vast Mongolian steppe, the Genghis Khan Statue Complex stands as a magnificent tribute to one of history’s most legendary figures and the founder of the Mongol Empire.
The 40-meter-high figure of Genghis Khan on horseback features some incredible attention to detail. Inside the statue, you’ll find a museum that showcases a diverse collection of artefacts, paintings, and historical relics that illuminate Genghis Khan’s life and the rich heritage of the Mongolian people.
Undergoing a next-level adventure into the spectacular barren wilderness and experiencing nomadic life.
Let’s see what Mongolia has to offer outside of Ulaanbataar.
Choijin Lama Temple Museum
Hidden just beyond the city’s bustling centre stands a humble little temple with an undeniable charm. The Choijin Lama Temple is a serene time portal taking visitors through the rich spiritual heritage of Mongolia.
Originally constructed in 1904 and untouched ever since, this historic temple offers a fascinating glimpse into the country’s Buddhist traditions! Inside you’ll find a treasure trove of ancient artefacts and religious relics including religious artwork and intricate wood carvings. There are few better places to get an insight into the deep-rooted faith that has shaped Mongolian culture.
Bogd Khaan Palace Museum
Set within the confines of the Bogd Khan Mountain National Park, the Bogd Khaan Palace stands as yet another testament to the country’s rich heritage. This particular architectural marvel is actually the only surviving royal residence in the country!
The palace, which once served as the winter retreat for Mongolia’s last monarch, Bogd Khaan, showcases examples of immense regal opulence. Traditional Mongolian and Tibetan architectural styles combine to create stunning rooms and halls, each brimming with historical artefacts and ancient religious relics.
National Museum of Mongolia
The National Museum of Mongolia houses a comprehensive number of exhibits detailing the complex timeline that is Mongolia’s history. The museum aims to highlight the nation’s nomadic traditions, the emergence of the Great Mongol Empire, and its modern-day cultural influence.
Some of its collections span millennia of heritage, ranging from ancient stone tools and exquisite nomadic jewellery to the revered artefacts of Chinggis Khaan himself. Yet nothing can compare to the awe-inspiring dinosaur fossils that were discovered in the Gobi Desert.
Gorkhi-Terelj National Park
Mongolia is blessed with some of the most jaw-dropping national parks on Earth, many of which are within a stone’s throw away from the city centre. Gorkhi-Terelj National Park is one of the very finest, showcasing a vast natural wonderland.
The mesmerizing fusion of rolling hills, dense forests, and majestic rock formations creates a gorgeous display. The region is also home to a number of nomadic tribes that continue to live a way of life which has defined Mongolia for centuries.
Visitors are free to explore the landscape on foot or even on horseback. If you’re feeling adventurous, you can even spend the night with one of the many welcoming nomadic tribes.
Naran Tuul Market
Often referred to as the “Black Market” due to its sordid history of unofficial and secondhand goods during Mongolia’s socialist era, Naran Tuul Market is a captivating bazaar that many see as the centre of commerce in Ulaanbataar!
Visitors will undoubtedly discover a sensory extravaganza as they wander through the labyrinth of lanes of products. Whether it be intricately crafted traditional Mongolian clothing or antique trinkets, the market has it all!
Mongolian National Modern Art Gallery
The Mongolian National Modern Art Gallery is a cultural gem that not only showcases the rich artistic heritage but also the creative spirit of the Mongolian people. The gallery’s collection spans a wide range of art, such as paintings, sculptures and multimedia installations.
The gallery’s exhibits are not only beautiful but also thought-provoking. Oftentimes artists explore themes of nomadic heritage, Mongolia’s landscape, and the ever-changing social and cultural dynamics of the country.
Traditional Folklore Concert
Mongolian culture has also been brought to the world stage through another artistic format – music! From the use of unique instruments and hypnotic deep basslines of traditional throat singing, there’s no other tune like it!
Tumen Ekh Theatre and National Dance and Musical Grand Theatre provide the best opportunity to see it in Ulaanbataar! In this one-stop-shop of Mongolian cultural expression, you’ll get to experience traditional folk music and witness local dance as part of a vibrant performance.
The Fine Arts Zanabazar Museum
As you may be able to tell, Mongolia has its finger on the artistic pulse! At the Fine Arts Zanabazar Museum, art aficionados and curious travellers alike will be fascinated by the wide spectrum of art pieces on display.
Named after the revered 17th-century Mongolian artist and religious leader, this museum pays homage to his legacy through exquisite collections of paintings. Besides that, the museum has plenty of temporary exhibitions, cultural events, and educational programs to see which represent the best of Mongolian and Ulaanbataar cultures alike.
Bogd Khan Uul National Park
Located just south of the capital, Bogd Khan Uul National Park is a captivating natural sanctuary that offers a unique blend of wilderness and cultural heritage. Covering a vast area of pristine wilderness, the rolling hills, dense forests, and meandering rivers create the ultimate paradise for any keen hiker or wildlife lover.
The national park also encompasses the sacred Bogd Khan Mountain – the place where Mongolia’s last emperor, Bogd Khan, sought solitude and enlightenment.
National Circus of Mongolia
You might have seen a circus before, but nothing quite like this! Through the use of acrobats, contortionists, and equestrian acts, the circus provides a mesmerizing glimpse into Mongolia’s fascinating culture in a whole new way!
Along with a variety of colourful costumes, lively music, and a talented troupe, there are certainly a few more entertaining ways of discovering Mongolia’s rich artistic heritage!
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