Ulaanbaatar is an interesting place to visit. We know very few travelers that have been to Mongolia and that’s a pity if you ask us. It has so much history, culture and amazing landscapes to offer. Mongolia is a country that hasn’t been discovered by mass tourism. So while it’s still possible to experience this hidden gem we’ll give you an insight of the top 5 best things to do in Ulaanbaatar.
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Brief history of Ulaanbaatar
Ulaanbaatar became the capital of Mongolia in 1911, when Mongolia proclaimed its independence from China. In that time, the city was called Ikh Khuree (Great Camp). In 1924, the city was renamed to its current name, which means ‘Red Hero’. This clearly refers to the communist period of the country. The city is still expanding, and at this moment, 45% of the Mongolian population lives in the city. Ulaanbaatar is the largest city and offers a unique blend of modern and traditional buildings where old meets new. Ulaanbaatar is still in full expansion and it is not expensive to travel to Monglia.
Ulaanbaatar is an interesting place
When you read about Ulaanbaatar, the city is often described as a large, gray and dangerous city. Many say that it has not much to offer. We however disagree. The city felt absolutely as our home in Mongolia! After a trip to the countryside, we were always happy to spend a couple of days in the city. We used Ulaanbaatar as our basecamp to explore most of the country. Ulaanbaatar lays in the center of Mongolia which makes it very convenient to use it as your homebase. The capital feels very modern and offers plenty of options to arrange guided tours and day trips.
Additionally, there is a National Park only 50 kms outside Ulaanbaatar. The Terelj National Park is easily accessible with a tour, making it a convenient getaway for those looking to experience Mongolia’s stunning natural beauty. Many tour companies combine the National Park with a visit to the enormous Genghis Khan Statue. A must see when visiting Mongolia if you ask us.
Map of the top things to do in Ulaanbaatar
5 top things to do in Ulaanbaatar
- Sükhbaatar square: In front of the Parliament house stands 3 statues. In the middle Chinggis Khaan (pronounced Djingis Haa), at his right side Ögedei and on his left Kublai. What was meant to be a symbol of unity became quite ironically the place where the first protests were held against communism in Mongolia. Today the square functions as a host for ceremonies, taking wedding pictures and even rock concerts.
- National Museum of Mongolian History (entrance fee: 8000 MNT ~ 3 euro): The ideal way to get acquainted with the Mongolian history. From the stone age to modern times. From traditional to communistic clothing.
- Black Market (Narantuul Market): The largest black market of Asia and a must-do. Think about something, and you can definitely buy it at the black market (even a ger). Be aware to leave your expensive belongings at home, because the market is also well-known for pickpockets.
- Gandan Khiid (entrance fee: 4000 MNT ~ 1.75 euro): The largest monastery in Mongolia. It mainly consists out of different colleges, but the main building habits an impressive large Buddha statue (26m high, hollow and containing 27 tons of medicinal herbs, 300 sutras, 2 million bundles of mantras and a complete ger with furniture!). Certainly worth a visit.
- Zaisan Memorial: Build by the Russians as a tribute to the soldiers fighting for communism. This memorial is on top of a hill in the south of Ulaanbaatar, which offers perfect views over the city. The memorial consists out of different pictures made out of mosaic, representing the honor of fighting for ‘freedom’/communism.
Where to stay in Ulaanbaatar
Probably an important reason why we felt so welcome in the city is due to the hospitality of Mongolian people. Ulaanbaatar has some excellent accomodations and guesthouses to stay at and prepare for your next adventure in Mongolia. In total we traveled 4 weeks in Mongolia below you can find our top 3 hotels we stayed in during our time in Ulaanbaatar.
Our favourite: Top Tour & Guesthouse Mongolia
Top Tour & Guesthouse Mongolia was where we spent our first days in Ulaanbaatar. The guesthouse is located in the centre of Ulaanbaatar and offers warm and comfortable rooms with free Wi-Fi access. It features a 24-hour front desk and a tour desk which is ideal to start your journey in Mongolia.
The guesthouse is 200 metres from Ulaanbaatar Opera House, 600 metres from National Museum of Mongolian History and 700 metres from Chinggis Khan Statue on the central square. Chinggis Khaan International Airport is 14 km away and they provide a pick-up service. What more could you ask for?
- The food in Mongolia has a bad reputation, but with the shared kitchen we could easily cook meals ourselves
- Great continental breakfast
- Excellent and reasonably priced tours
Check availability on BOOKING.COM
Luxury hotel: Kempinski Hotel Khan Palace
Kempinski Hotel Khan Palace if sleeping in a 5 star hotel is more your cup of tea, Ulaanbaatar offers amazing value for your money. We met some travellers who stayed in the Kempinski Hotel and highly recommended the place.
Kempinski Hotel Khan Palace is a 2.2 km from the Chinggis Khan Square in the city centre. This 5-star luxurious hotel features a well-equipped fitness centre, a Spa and free WiFi in all areas.
The spacious rooms are fitted with modern furnishings, pleasant neutral shades and soft carpeted flooring. They also offer an air purifier, a large working desk with ergonomic chair, an individually adjustable climate controller and a pillow menu.
- 3 restaurants
- Delicious breakfast
- Spa and fitness centre
- Excellent value for money
Check availability on BOOKING.COM
Budget option: Mongolian Vision Tours
Mongolian Vision Tours offers basic accommodation and apartement rooms.
The guesthouse is also very well situated in the city center. Every major sight like the National museum, the Ulaabaatar square and Dzjengis Khan statue is within walking distance.
Bedrooms are clean, friendly and helpfull staff, breakfast is nice with free coffee and tea.
Check availability on BOOKING.COM
How to get to Ulaanbaatar?
Ulaanbaatar is located in the center of Mongolia. Most travellers enter Mongolia via the Chinggis Khaan International Airport which is situated 50 kms from Ulaanbaatar. It is a modern airport, with good services and free wifi. Getting from the airport to Ulaanbaatar is easy and convenient. You can take a shuttle airport bus, taxi or private airport transfer. Many hotels and guesthouses offer airport pick-up services.
For more information you can check out this website.
Are you planning to travel to Mongolia in the nearby future? We love to hear your experiences and will answer all your questions in the section below.
Need more information about how to travel in Mongolia? Check out these blogposts below:
- Travel costs: how expensive is Mongolia?
- Travel guide for independent hiking at Khovsgol
- A must do in Mongolia: the Gobi desert
Matthias & Mieke
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