What to see in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia
Like many capital cities in the world, Ulaanbaatar offers variety of sightseeing options ranging from historical sites to monasteries, museums, monument, parks and night clubs. Most of the historical sites, monasteries and museums are within a walking distance from the central square Chinggis Khan. Note that most tourist sites have a separate camera/video fee (typically ₮10000-25000) in addition to the entrance fee.
The city features many landmarks representing different periods of its history. From Soviet style relics to modern high rises, UB now has many attractions for different tastes and interests.
Sükhbaatar Square is the Istanbul/Constantinople of Ulanbataar. Originally called Sükhbaatar Square it was renamed to Chinggis Khan Square in 2013 and then rerenamed Sukhbaatar Square in 2016. It is one of the largest squares in Asia. It has an equestrian statue of the 1921 revolution hero Sükhbaatar, and seated statue of Chinggis Khaan and his sons and 2 military generals (Urlugs). During the summer time, especially around mid-July, variety of rock and folklore concerts, as well as parades and other cultural events take place regularly.
In the southern side, you can see a small hill with a monument on its top, called, Zaisan Memorial. A huge communist-era monument is located on a hill in the south of the city. It represents the Russian and Mongolian heroes who fought together during WWI and WWII. Nowadays it is a popular viewpoint where you can see over the whole city. There’s also a huge Buddhist statue at the bottom.
Moving to the central west part of the city is the State Department Store, locally known as Ikh Delguur, literally translated as “mega shop”. It was the largest shopping mall in Mongolia during the communist period and still is one of the largest outlets for imported goods, grocery store and souvenir shop. Across the State Department Store is Mongolia’s circus, which was a popular family place in the communist period.
Gandan Khiid Monastery
Gandan Monastery (Gandantegchinlen Khiid), Gandan Monastery District, Ulaanbaatar 16040. Moving to the north west side of the city, one will see a large Tibetan known as Gandan Monastery or Gandantegchenlen Khiid. Daily sessions start at 0900 am and continues to about midday. Approximately 150 monks do services here but the most important icon of the monastery ground is its 26.5 meter tall statue of Megjid Janraisag (Sanskrit: Avalokiteśvara). After being sacked and destroyed during the 1930s political purge in Mongolia, the statue was re-built in 1996 as a result of 4 years of national effort for fundraising and renovation works. Today, it is often seen as the symbol of Mongolia’s democracy and independence. Gandan Tegchenling Monastery was officially re-approved by the First Buddhist Congress of Mongolia held in 1992 as the main centre of Mongolian Buddhists. (“Introduction”, Gandan Tegchenling Monastery, 2010) Taking photographs in the main temple requires the payment of ₮5000 but no photos are allowed in the temples with monk performing ceremonies.
Museums and galleries
UB has several compact but outstanding museums showcasing its natural and cultural heritage. They are informative and help to understand and learn about Mongolia’s history and culture.
The Mongolia Museum of Art, Ulaanbaatar, Bayanzurkh district, Ikh toiruu-93 Barilga Mega Store (B1 floor). 12:00-19:00. The museum has Mongolian modern masterpieces, bronze age artifacts, ethnographic and Buddhist rare exhibits.
The National Museum of Mongolia, Ulaanbaatar, Juulchin Street -1 (on the west of the Government House). 09:30-17:00. formerly the Museum of the Revolution, the National Museum of Mongolia, was built in 1971 and is one of the best-displayed museums in the city. Featuring 10 halls, it showcases Mongolia’s past history, archeology and culture at large through some of the rarest and interesting art crafts, monument pieces and models. It is believed that over 30% of Mongolia’s total museum displays are kept at this museum.
Akshobhya by Zanabazar
The Zanabazar Museum of Fine Arts, Ulaanbaatar, Chingeltei district, Barilgachdiin Square (Two blocks west of the Government House). 10:00-17:00. The collection includes items from the Stone Age to the 20th century. Particularly interesting is the collection of Buddhist art beginning in the 17th Century. The collection includes items from the Stone Age to the 20th century. The present museum building, located in central Ulaanbaatar, was constructed in 1905 by a Russian merchant. Among the most significant holdings are sculptures, paintings, and related materials by Zanabazar (1635-1723), the First Bogd Gegen and Mongolia’s greatest artist, and members of his school. In addition, Zanabazar produced a series of sculptures classified today as belonging to the style of the “Zanabazar School”, characterized as hollow yet seamless brass castings expressing the ideals of philosophy, beauty and mercy. Examples of such works exhibited here are the “Dhyani Buddha’s”, “White Tara”, and “Bodhi Stupa”. The museum has more than 10,000 objects in its permanent collection, of which approximately 500 are on display in its second-floor galleries. Organized thematically, the galleries are devoted to pre-historic art, work by Zanabazar, painted thangkas, silk appliques, the Buddhist tsam dance, nomadic traditions, and paintings by the early twentieth-century master B. Sharav.
Bogd Khaan Palace Museum, Khan-Uul District, Chinggis Avenue, Bogd Khaan Winter Palace Museum, Ulaanbaatar. 09:00-17:00. This palace known as the Green Palace was built between 1893 and 1903 by Mongolian masters and dedicated to the VIII Bogd Gegeen, the head of lamaist religion & last khaan of Mongolia. In 1911 there was formed the Bogd Khaan state and the VIII Bogd Gegeen assumed political authority over Mongolia as the Bogd Khaan or “Holy King” and continued to govern as a constitutional monarch from the time of the Mongolian People’s Revolution in 1921 until his death of illness in 1924. After Bogd Khaan’s death, his winter palace was turned into a museum. Bogd Khaan Palace was founded as the first national historical museum of Mongolia. In 1954, the State Central Museum was founded, and the Bogd Khaan Palace Museum became a branch museum. Since 2000 the museum is activiting as Bogdo khan palace museum.Now the Bogd khan palace museum consists of seven Summer Prayer temples and the winter palace. The collections of the museum include unique and valuable objects related to Mongolia’s political, religious, and artistic history from the 17 to early 20-th centuries: bronze castings, silk paintings, mineral paintings, and paper icons made by well-known artists and artisans of the period, among others the first Bogdo Javzundamba Zanabazar and his school; as well as objects owned and used by the YIII Bogdo Javzundamba and his wife queen Dondogdulam, including royal clothing and equipment, gifts from domestic and foreign guests or representatives, and items purchased by the king for his own diversion. The collection of the museum is consists of a great number of original objects and works of art from the Bogdo khan palace and is divided into 12 parts: sculpture, scrolls paintings/thangka/, applique, wood carving, religious objects, clothes, furniture, decorative arts, collection of stuffed animal, special collection, support collection and architecture.. Also all exhibits is divided into: high level category, valuable category and original category. Nowadays we have 68 exhibits of high level category and 23 exhibits of valuable category. The number of these categories will be increasing. Exhibits of high level category includes gilded bronze sculptures made by the famous master Zanabazar and school of Zanabazar, thangka paintings from the XIX-XX centuries, the painting shown the capital city of Mongolia 1912 made by Jugder, original paintings made by founder of Mongolian modern painting B.Sharav and expensive clothes of khan and queen.
Choijin Lama Monastery, Ulaanbaatar, Chingeltei district, west of Central Library. 10.00am-17.00pm. Choijin Lama Temple Museum is a unique showcase of religious art and the history of Buddhism in Mongolia. This museum is a gem of the historical and cultural heritage of the previous century. The monastery was active until 1938. According to the decree of the Peoples Khural, November 1941, the monastery was included in the list of historical and cultural monuments and was taken charge by the Committee of Sciences in 1942. It was then turned into a museum. The museum is an ensemble of Buddhist architecture and consists of 5 temples and 5 arched gates. In the main temple there is the sculpture of Choijin Lama and the embalmed mummy of his teacher. It also contains the great coral mask of Begtse, created under the direction of protectors using over 6000 pieces of coral. Yadam temple and Amgalan temple contain rare artifacts made by the famous Mongolian artist and sculptor, Zanabazar. In total the museum has over 5000 items out of which 12 are unique and 200 are particularly valuable.
Military Museum of Mongolia, Ulaanbaatar, Bayanzurkh district, south of the East Center. Every day except Tuesday 09:00:-14:30. This often overlooked museum’s collection consists of two permanent exhibition halls, showcasing the war history of the country from the pre-historic times to the modern era. In the first hall, one can see various tools and weapons from Paleolithic age to the times of Manchu empire. The exhibition hall of the modern history showcases the history of the Mongolian military starting with the Bogd Khan period up to Mongolia’s most recent military involvement in peace keeping operations.
Victims of Political Persecution Memorial Museum, Ulaanbaatar, Olympic Street, on the west side across the Ministry of Health and Sports. Monday-Friday 10:00:-17:00. The museum building is unfortunately in a fragile condition but tells about one of the most tragic history of Mongolia’s 20th century. It is dedicated to those fallen under the political purge that took away lives of over 32,000 statesmen, herders, scholars, politicians and lamas.
The Ulaanbaatar City Museum, Ulaanbaatar, Peace Avenue, on the east side of the Indoor Wrestling Palace. Monday-Friday 08:00:-17:00. Museum offers a brief but insightful view of Ulaanbaatar’s history through old maps and photos. The most interesting item is a huge painting of the capital as it looked in 1912, in which you can clearly make out major landmarks such as Gandan Khiid and the Winter Palace of the Bogd Khan. A portion of the museum is dedicated to special photo exhibits that change frequently.
Mongolian Railway History Museum, Ulaanbaatar, Narny Zam, under the Peace Bridge. Monday-Friday 08:00:-17:00. In the exposition of open-air loco museum there are 6 models of locomotive, which were used during 65 years period of Mongolian Railways history.
International Intellectual Museum, Ulaanbaatar, Bayanzurkh district, south of the East Center. Monday-Saturday 10:00-6:0. The museum’s collection includes many Mongolian puzzle toys and world-famous, rare and precious exhibits. The museum is a manufacturer of Mongolian puzzle toys, logic games, handcrafted products and souvenirs; and it exports most of its products abroad. The museum has exhibited at over 80 international exhibitions and fairs in 50 countries.
Arts and Culture
Ulaanbaatar features excellent mix of traditional and western style theatres, offering world class performances. Many of the traditional folklore bands play regularly around the world including in New York, London and Tokyo. In the summer season, you may com across world’s top ballet dancers from Boston Balet theatre, performing at at Opera House. Turn into local art information sites such as Art Council and you may enrich your travel experience of Mongolia.
Mongolian State Academic Theatre of Opera and Ballet, Ulaanbaatar. Changes Khan Square. The theatre offers year around opera and ballet performances, some of them are in collaboration with world ballet houses such as Boston Theatre. The repertoire of State Academic Theater of Opera and Ballet has more than 100 national and world classical works including 56 ballets, 54 operas.
Dance opera “Bogd Khan”
The Mongolian State Grand National Orchestra, Ulaanbaatar. Seoul street. The Grand National orchestra, established during Kublai Khan, went through a long and distinguished history in becoming the foundation for the “Mongolian State Grand National Orchestra”. It has the largest orchestra of traditional instruments in the country with a repertoire going beyond national music, encompassing dozens of international musical pieces. From June 1 – October 15, it performs daily traditional folklore concert at 1800.
The Moon Stone Folk, Song & Dance Ensemble, Ulaanbaatar. Seoul street. consists of the creative professional artists of song and dance representing the Mongolian national art. Over 90 young artists perform under the umbrella of this dynamic ensemble comprising folk music orchestra, dance group, classical music band, throat singers, contortionists and nationally renowned choreographers. Show for traveler, and foreigner most of the time only during summertime.
Tumen Ekh Ensemble (Children’s). Comprises artists who perform all types of Mongolian song, music and dance. They play traditional instruments including the morin khuur (horse head fiddle) and perform Mongolian long song, epic and eulogy songs, a ritualistic shaman ritual dance, an ancient palace dance and a Tsam mask dance. Their performances are highly professional but retain the authenticity and traditions of nomadic culture. It performs daily evening shows at its theatre located on the west side of the “Children’s Park”.
Morin Khuur Ensemble of Mongolia, Ulaanbaatar. Changes Khan Square. is part of the Mongolian State Philharmonic located at the Chinggis Khan Square. It is a popular ensemble featuring the national string instrument Morin Khuur and performs various domestic and international works.
The Art Council of Mongolia, Ulaanbaatar. Juulchin street. The Art Council of Mongolia, established in 2002, is often a good source of information for the town’s cultural events and calendar. It was founded in 2002 with a goal of supporting sustainable development of Mongolian arts and cultural organizations and artists through supporting their innovative and creative projects, building their capacity and expanding their international collaboration and exchanges. Well-connected organization with the international artists. Good information source for the art and culture calendar of the month .
Science and technology
Hurel Togoot observatory, Ulaanbaatar. Boyd Khan Mountain (20 km from city downtown at the altitude of 1,600 km). It is the country’s only public facility available for space observation and has a Soviet period built motel. It can be a great summer evening activity. It also has a budget type accommodation where one can do hiking in the surrounding mountains.
The National Park is a popular hangout place for families
National Culture and Recreation Center (Children’s Park), Ulaanbaatar. Chinggis Avenue. The “Children’s Park” is an amusement located in the downtown section, south of Shangri-La Hotel. It is also a popular place for youngsters to hang out. This small amusement park features rides, games and paddleboats. For the rides you buy individual tickets. It’s open year round; in winter there’s ice skating.
Gorkhi Terelj National Park
The National Park of Mongolia, Ulaanbaatar. Changes Avenue. The National Park of Mongolia opened its doors in the southeastern outskirts of the city in 2009, becoming a popular summer park for the UB goers. It has a total area of 55 hectares with over 100K trees planted. The park is geared towards becoming educational center for healthy responsible living as well as environmental education. It has pedestrian and bike trails, ideal for jogging and biking anytime of the year.
Gorkhi Terelj National Park, (East of Ulaanbaatar). Located at 50 km, the park is a gorgeous area for nature walk, hiking, sleeping, biking and horseback riding. Almost every travelers get to visit the park. It offers dozens of sleeping options, from inexpensive guest gers to tourism class ger camps with 3 daily meals and the 5 star Terelj Hotel. It is advisable to hire a car and guide to enjoy the place fully.