12 Best Things to Do in Ulaanbaatar: Must-See Attractions

by Jen
Best Things to Do in Ulaanbaatar
This post may have affiliate links, where I may receive a commission if you purchase through them. Here's our Disclosure and Privacy Policy for more info.

Are you looking to visit Mongolia anytime soon? Here are some of the most fun and unique things to do in Ulaanbaatar. These dynamic sights, activities, and attractions are sure to make for a memorable vacation experience.

Nestled in the heart of Mongolia, Ulaanbaatar beckons as an unmissable pivot of culture, adventure, and stark natural beauty. Imagine a city where the robust rhythms of urban life harmoniously entwine with the serene beauty of the vast, rolling steppes that lie just beyond its bustling core. Ulaanbaatar is not merely the country’s capital but a vibrant emblem of Mongolia’s rich history, juxtaposed appealingly against modernity.

The city surprises visitors with a dynamic palette: from fascinating museums, splendid monasteries, and unexpected packets of green spaces to avante-garde art scenes and an invigorating nightlife. But it doesn’t stop at the urban edges. A short drive from the downtown chaos reveals the calm, expansive landscapes Mongolia is universally revered for, granting the traveler a swift escape into nature’s untainted embrace. Your journey through Ulaanbaatar promises a blend of enlightening experiences, bridging the gap between the ancient and the contemporary, offering both tranquility and exhilaration.

Intrigued? Dive into the tapestry of adventures that await in this distinctive destination, as we explore the most amazing things to do in Ulaanbaatar, where every corner promises a new discovery and every moment crafts a lasting memory. Here’s everything you need to know about these fun things to do in Ulaanbaatar.

The top places to visit in Ulaanbaatar right now
This article on the Best Things To Do in Ulaanbaatar contains affiliate links where I may earn a small commission at no cost to you.

Best Places to Visit in Ulaanbaatar

Ready to jump into all the coolest things to do in Ulaanbaatar? As noted above, there’s something for everyone at this fascinating vacation spot in Mongolia. So keep reading to discover all these unique Ulaanbaatar places to visit.

Are you looking to explore rich cultural heritage in museums and monasteries, and savor traditional Mongolian cuisine? Or would you prefer to go hiking and horseback riding? Whatever you’re planning, these must-sees in Ulaanbaatar can accommodate your needs. Here’s all the best attractions in Ulaanbaatar that you should know about.

1. Gandantegchinlen Monastery

Gandantegchinlen, or Gandan Monastery, is a significant, active Buddhist site in Mongolia and among the best things to do in Ulaanbaatar. Located in the heart of Ulaanbaatar, it’s a key religious center and a place offering valuable insight into Mongolian Buddhism. They initially constructed the monastery in the 19th century, and it has since been a vital center for Buddhist learning and worship.

Gandan Monastery educates and trains hundreds of monks, nurturing future spiritual leaders in the Buddhist community. Visitors often find the chanting and musical instruments during prayer times to be a profound and moving experience. The monastery complex features several temples, each dedicated to different Buddhist deities, offering varied spiritual and architectural experiences. The monastery’s peaceful ambiance provides a serene escape, contrasting starkly with Ulaanbaatar’s bustling city just outside its walls.

Visitors can observe the monks’ daily rituals at Gandan Monastery, providing a glimpse into their spiritual practices. The Migjid Janraisig Sum, a key temple in the monastery, houses a 26-meter-high statue of Avalokiteśvara, a compassionate bodhisattva. This statue is often a focal point for visitors and worshippers alike due to its size and symbolic importance.

Besides its religious significance, the monastery features architecture and artifacts reflecting Mongolian Buddhism’s rich history and culture. Guided tours are available, offering deeper insights into the history, architecture, and religious practices associated with the monastery. Gandan Monastery offers a multifaceted experience for visitors interested in religion, history, or architecture, making it a must-visit in Ulaanbaatar.

Gandantegchinlen, or Gandan Monastery, is a key Buddhist site in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia.
Gandantegchinlen, or Gandan Monastery, is a key Buddhist site in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia.

2. Sükhbaatar Square

Sükhbaatar Square, in Ulaanbaatar’s heart, is the city’s central square and a vital historical and social site. It’s named after Damdin Sükhbaatar, the revolutionary hero of 1921 who declared independence from China. A statue of Sükhbaatar on horseback stands prominently in the square, a popular photo spot for locals and tourists. The square is surrounded by notable buildings, including the Government Palace, showcasing statues of Genghis Khan and other leaders. It’s a place where history, governance, and social life intersect, making it one of the coolest activities in Ulaanbaatar.

Visitors can witness various public gatherings, celebrations, and national festivals that take place in the square throughout the year. It’s a hub where locals meet, children play, and events unfold. The vast, open space hosts concerts, parades, and public events, offering entertainment and cultural insights to visitors. The square is not only a place to learn about Mongolia’s past but also to experience its present. Sükhbaatar Square, with its historical monuments and vibrant social activities, is undeniably one of the best places to go in Ulaanbaatar.

Visitors can explore shops, restaurants, and museums near the square, a convenient start for further city exploration. Sükhbaatar Square offers a multifaceted experience, whether strolling, attending an event, or people-watching.

Sükhbaatar Square in Ulaanbaatar is a historic hub with a prominent statue of Damdin Sükhbaatar.
Sükhbaatar Square in Ulaanbaatar is a historic hub with a prominent statue of Damdin Sükhbaatar.

3. Winter Palace of the Bogd Khan

The Winter Palace of the Bogd Khan, situated in Ulaanbaatar, is one of Mongolia’s most notable historical sites. It was the residence of the eighth Jebtsundamba Khutughtu, who was later proclaimed Bogd Khan, or ruler of Mongolia.

The palace complex consists of six temples and the main residence, all of which are now part of the museum. Visitors can explore various buildings, each showcasing a blend of traditional Mongolian and Tibetan architectural styles. The museum houses a rich collection of artifacts, including the personal belongings of the Bogd Khan and his wife.

Exploring the Winter Palace provides insight into Mongolia’s history, culture, and the pivotal period of its rulers. The artifacts, which include clothing, musical instruments, and religious items, offer a glimpse into the past. The Bogd Khan’s collection of gifts received from domestic and international dignitaries is also on display. This includes a variety of items, from art to weaponry, each with its own historical significance. The palace’s grounds, populated by peacocks and adorned with Zuu sculptures, offer a peaceful city retreat.

Including the Winter Palace in your itinerary lets you engage with Mongolia’s history, among the unique things to do in Ulaanbaatar. It’s a journey through Mongolia’s past and an opportunity to explore the architectural and cultural nuances shaping it. Visitors, whether history enthusiasts or casual travelers, will find the Winter Palace to be a rewarding and informative experience.

The Winter Palace of the Bogd Khan in Ulaanbaatar is a notable historical site.
The Winter Palace of the Bogd Khan in Ulaanbaatar is a notable historical site.

4. Choijin Lama Temple Museum

The Choijin Lama Temple Museum, located in the heart of Ulaanbaatar, is a remarkable representation of Mongolian Buddhism and architecture. This complex was built between 1904 and 1908 and was once the home of Luvsan Haidav Choijin Lama. He was the state oracle and brother of the Bogd Khan. It was converted into a museum in 1942, showcasing a wide array of Buddhist artworks, sculptures, and religious masks. Visitors can explore five temples within the complex, each housing unique and valuable artifacts.

When wondering where to go in Ulaanbaatar, the Choijin Lama Temple Museum emerges as a fascinating option. The museum provides insights into the religious and cultural aspects of Mongolia during the early 20th century. Detailed carvings, paintings, and religious artifacts adorn the temples. These reflect the rich history and spiritual beliefs of the time. Visitors can observe various statues of Buddhist deities, thangka paintings, and masks used in tsam dances. Each piece tells a story of devotion and artistry.

The museum not only preserves the religious artifacts but also serves as a venue for cultural events and exhibitions. It plays a crucial role in keeping the traditions and history of Mongolian Buddhism alive for future generations. The Choijin Lama Temple Museum, with its historical significance and cultural richness, offers a glimpse into Mongolia’s spiritual past. It’s a must-visit destination in the city, presenting artistic heritage to both locals and tourists.

The Choijin Lama Temple Museum showcases Mongolian Buddhism and art, with five temples housing valuable artifacts.
The Choijin Lama Temple Museum showcases Mongolian Buddhism and art, with five temples housing valuable artifacts.

5. Sky Resort

Sky Resort, located just a short drive from the center of Ulaanbaatar, is Mongolia’s first and most well-known ski resort. It’s a popular destination for both locals and tourists, providing a variety of winter sports activities. The resort offers several ski slopes catering to different skill levels, from beginners to experienced skiers and snowboarders. Additionally, there are facilities and instructors available for those looking to learn or refine their skiing skills.

Engaging in winter sports at Sky Resort is undoubtedly among the coolest things to do in Ulaanbaatar. The resort provides all necessary equipment for rent. This ensures visitors can enjoy the slopes even if unprepared. Besides skiing and snowboarding, the resort also offers other activities like snow tubing. It’s a fun destination for families and groups of friends. A day at Sky Resort allows visitors to enjoy the thrill of winter sports against the backdrop of Mongolia’s stunning landscapes.

During the warmer months, Sky Resort transforms into a hub for various outdoor activities. Visitors can engage in golfing, hiking, and exploring the picturesque surroundings. The resort also features restaurants and cafes, providing a range of dining options to visitors. With its array of activities and amenities, Sky Resort stands out as a versatile destination. It offers a blend of adventure and relaxation throughout the year, making it a notable spot on Ulaanbaatar’s tourist map.

Sky Resort is one of the best things to do in Ulaanbaatar.
Sky Resort, near Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia’s first ski resort, offers slopes for all levels and instructors.

6. National Museum of Mongolia

The National Museum of Mongolia showcases Mongolia’s rich history and heritage from prehistoric times to the present. It is considered a significant thing to do in Ulaanbaatar for any traveler interested in gaining insights into the nation’s past and its diverse cultures.The museum houses a vast array of artifacts, including traditional costumes, tools, and artworks. These provide a comprehensive overview of Mongolia’s history and its people.

Spanning three floors, the museum is organized into various sections, each dedicated to a particular era or theme in Mongolian history. Visitors can explore exhibits related to the Hunnu Empire, the Mongol Empire, Mongolia during the Qing Dynasty, and more. The museum also features a detailed display of traditional Mongolian nomadic culture, including ger setups and daily life artifacts.

The ethnographic collection showcases the diverse ethnic groups of Mongolia, providing insights into their traditions, clothing, and lifestyles. For those interested in Mongolia’s communist period, the museum offers relevant exhibits. These delve into this era, providing a contrast to its ancient history.

The National Museum of Mongolia serves as a repository of historical artifacts. As an educational institution, the museum facilitates understanding of Mongolia’s past and cultural evolution. Visitors, from history enthusiasts to casual tourists, will find the museum enlightening and a worthwhile visit during their stay in Ulaanbaatar.

The National Museum of Mongolia offers a comprehensive overview of the nation's history and heritage through its artifacts.
The National Museum of Mongolia offers a comprehensive overview of the nation’s history and heritage through its artifacts.

7. Gorkhi-Terelj National Park

Just outside the bustling city of Ulaanbaatar, Gorkhi-Terelj National Park is a popular destination offering a variety of outdoor activities and scenic landscapes. The park is known for its rock formations, lush meadows, and serene waters providing a refreshing escape from Ulaanbaatar’s urban environment. Visitors can explore the park’s vast terrain, which offers opportunities for hiking, horseback riding, and bird watching. Additionally, the park is home to various wildlife, including brown bears. It also hosts over 250 bird species, making it a nature enthusiast’s haven.

One of the unique places in Ulaanbaatar, Gorkhi-Terelj National Park, also allows visitors to experience traditional Mongolian lifestyle. Tourists can stay in a ger, which is a traditional Mongolian tent, and explore the nomadic way of life. The park’s accessibility makes it a convenient spot for trips. Being a short drive from the city, it’s suitable for day trips and longer stays.

In winter, Gorkhi-Terelj transforms into a snowy wonderland, offering activities like skiing and snowshoeing. The park’s accessibility, being just a short drive from the city, makes it a convenient spot for both short day trips and longer stays. Various camps within the park provide accommodation and organized tours. This ensures visitors can explore the park’s beauty and activities comfortably and safely.

For those compiling a list of Ulaanbaatar things to do, a visit to Gorkhi-Terelj National Park is a must. It not only provides a refreshing natural escape but also offers insight into Mongolia’s unique landscapes and cultural practices. Whether an adventure seeker or wildlife enthusiast, Gorkhi-Terelj has something for every traveler. It allows immersion in Mongolian culture and exploration of diverse offerings.

Gorkhi-Terelj National Park offers outdoor activities, scenic landscapes, and diverse wildlife for nature enthusiasts.
Gorkhi-Terelj National Park offers outdoor activities, scenic landscapes, and diverse wildlife for nature enthusiasts.

8. Zaisan Memorial

The Zaisan Memorial is a historical monument located in the southern area of the city, on Zaisan Hill. It was erected to honor the Soviet and Mongolian soldiers who died in World War II. The memorial features a large mural that depicts scenes of friendship between the people of the USSR and Mongolia. Visitors to the memorial can observe various scenes, including Soviet support during Mongolia’s independence revolution and their victory over Japan.

Among the cool destinations in Ulaanbaatar, the Zaisan Memorial is notable. It stands out for its historical significance and panoramic views. The hill where the memorial is located provides sweeping views of Ulaanbaatar. It is often visited during the early morning hours to catch a glimpse of the sunrise over the city. The site provides insight into Mongolia’s history and its relations with Soviet Russia. This encompasses the period during and after World War II.

When considering Ulaanbaatar places to visit, Zaisan Memorial is frequently recommended due to its dual appeal of historical and scenic attraction. The journey to the top involves climbing a series of steps making it a spot for casual exercise for visitors. Once at the top, visitors are greeted with a sight that encompasses the city. The view includes the Tuul River and the surrounding landscape, offering photo opportunities.

The Zaisan Memorial pays tribute to Soviet and Mongolian soldiers who died in World War II.
The Zaisan Memorial pays tribute to Soviet and Mongolian soldiers who died in World War II.

9. Bogd Khan Uul National Park

Bogd Khan Uul National Park is one of the best things to do in Ulaanbaatar due to its accessibility and natural beauty. Established in 1778, it has the distinction of being one of the world’s oldest protected areas. The park is home to a variety of wildlife, including red deer, wild boar, and over 150 species of birds. Visitors often explore its extensive network of trails, which are suitable for hiking and horseback riding. The park’s lush landscapes, comprising dense forests, meadows, and rocky outcrops, offer a refreshing escape from the urban environment.

The park is also significant for its cultural and historical aspects. The Manzushir Monastery is a popular destination for both its historical ruins and the scenic views it offers. The monastery was originally built in the 18th century and was once a thriving center for Buddhist learning and practice. Today, its ruins and the onsite museum provide insight into Mongolia’s religious and cultural history.

Wondering where to visit in Ulaanbaatar for a blend of nature and history? Bogd Khan Uul National Park is a compelling option. The park also features the Bogd Khan Mountain, a sacred site that has been a place of worship for centuries. Visitors can hike to the peak, which provides panoramic views of Ulaanbaatar and the surrounding countryside. Bogd Khan Uul National Park offers natural beauty, wildlife, and historical sites. It provides a multifaceted experience for Ulaanbaatar visitors.

Bogd Khan Uul National Park offers accessible natural beauty, wildlife, and hiking trails in Ulaanbaatar.
Bogd Khan Uul National Park offers accessible natural beauty, wildlife, and hiking trails in Ulaanbaatar.

10. Naran Tuul Market

Naran Tuul Market in Ulaanbaatar is one of the largest and most vibrant markets in Mongolia. Often referred to as the ‘Black Market,’ it’s a place to find a wide array of items. You can find traditional Mongolian clothing and gear to modern electronics and souvenirs. The market is a bustling hub of activity, where locals and tourists come to shop for goods and experience the atmosphere. Besides being a shopping destination, this market is also a window into the daily lives of Ulaanbaatar’s residents.

When considering what to do in Ulaanbaatar, a visit to Naran Tuul Market should be on your list. The market offers a unique shopping experience with traditional Mongolian attire. You can find deels and boots alongside modern fashion items. It’s also a great place to find souvenirs, such as cashmere products and leather goods. Traditional crafts are often sold directly by the artisans. Bargaining is a common practice here, so be prepared to negotiate prices with the vendors.

Among various Ulaanbaatar attractions, Naran Tuul Market stands out for those interested in experiencing the local culture. The market also sells practical items, such as camping gear and riding equipment. These may be useful for those planning to explore Mongolia’s vast countryside. From food vendors selling local delicacies to stalls offering a glimpse into the nomadic lifestyle, Naran Tuul Market offers a rich and authentic experience for every visitor.

Naran Tuul Market, known as the 'Black Market,' is Ulaanbaatar's largest marketplace.
Naran Tuul Market, known as the ‘Black Market,’ is Ulaanbaatar’s largest marketplace.

11. Genghis Khan Statue Complex

The Genghis Khan Statue Complex is a monumental structure located 54 kilometers east of Ulaanbaatar, in the Tsonjin Boldog area. The statue, made of stainless steel, stands 40 meters tall and is currently the largest equestrian statue in the world. It is situated on the bank of the Tuul River, in the place where, according to legend, Genghis Khan found a golden whip. The beautiful Mongolian steppe surrounds the complex. This offers visitors stunning panoramic views.

Visitors to the complex can ascend to the head of the horse through its chest and neck. From this vantage point, they can enjoy a breathtaking view of the surrounding landscape. The complex also houses the Museum of Mongolian History and the Museum of the Bronze Age. Both museums showcase artifacts from Mongolia’s rich history, spanning from the Bronze Age to the era of Genghis Khan.

The Genghis Khan Statue Complex is a must-see in Ulaanbaatar. It pays tribute to the founder and Great Khan of the Mongol Empire and provides insight into the nation’s storied past. The statue faces east towards his birthplace, symbolizing the leader’s forward-looking spirit and vision. Visitors can don traditional Mongolian costumes and explore the area on horseback, further immersing themselves in the country’s history and culture.

In addition to the museums and statue, the complex features a restaurant, souvenir shop, and conference hall. Various cultural events and activities are also organized at the complex, providing entertainment and learning experiences for visitors of all ages. The Genghis Khan Statue Complex, with its monumental statue and informative museums, offers a comprehensive and engaging exploration of Mongolia’s heritage.

The Genghis Khan Statue Complex is one of the best things to do in Ulaanbaatar.
The Genghis Khan Statue Complex, 54 kilometers east of Ulaanbaatar, houses the world’s largest equestrian statue.

12. International Intellectual Museum

Unlock the world of puzzles, brainteasers, and traditional Mongolian games at the International Intellectual Museum. Established in 1990, the museum showcases over 11,000 exhibits from 130+ countries, offering a thorough look at global intellectual games and puzzles. The museum displays items ranging from ancient Mongolian puzzles to modern brain teasers, highlighting intellectual entertainment’s evolution.

Exploring the museum’s various, interactive exhibits is among the unique things to do in Ulaanbaatar. Visitors are encouraged to engage with the displays, trying their hand at solving various puzzles and games. The museum is home to the world’s largest puzzle, a distinction recognized by the Guinness World Records. Featured items include chess sets, logic puzzles, and traditional Mongolian games. This ensures a fun, challenging experience for all ages.

When considering the best places in Ulaanbaatar for a stimulating and engaging visit, the International Intellectual Museum certainly ranks high. It provides a fascinating insight into Mongolian culture, particularly the nation’s love for intellectual games and challenges. The museum also conducts puzzle-making classes and has a shop where visitors can purchase unique puzzles and games to take home. With its interactive exhibits and wide range of displays, the museum offers an entertaining and mentally stimulating experience for visitors.

The International Intellectual Museum displays a diverse collection of puzzles and games from 130+ countries.
The International Intellectual Museum displays a diverse collection of puzzles and games from 130+ countries.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about the Best Things to Do in Ulaanbaatar

Looking for more content on the top things to do in Ulaanbaatar? Here are some popular questions (and answers) I get that will help you plan your trip to Ulaanbaatar:

What is the best time to visit Ulaanbaatar?

Optimal visiting months are between June and August. During this period, Ulaanbaatar experiences its warmest weather and hosts the celebrated Naadam Festival, offering a vibrant and culturally rich experience for travelers. The city comes alive with various events, making it the perfect time to explore.

Is Ulaanbaatar suitable for family travel?

Yes, Ulaanbaatar is a fantastic destination for families. The city boasts a plethora of attractions and activities that cater to all age groups, ensuring that every member of the family has something exciting to explore. From historical sites to fun parks, the city promises a memorable family adventure.

How safe is it to travel around Ulaanbaatar?

Ulaanbaatar is considered quite safe for tourists. However, maintaining vigilance, especially in crowded areas, and adhering to standard travel safety practices is advised. Petty thefts can occur, so keep your belongings secure and always stay aware of your surroundings to ensure a trouble-free visit to the city.

National Amusement Park, Olympic Street, Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia
National Amusement Park, Olympic Street, Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia

Can I explore Ulaanbaatar’s attractions without a guide?

While it’s entirely possible to explore Ulaanbaatar independently, hiring a guide can enhance the experience by providing valuable insights into the city’s rich history and culture. Guides can navigate language barriers, recommend hidden gems, and facilitate a deeper understanding of the attractions encountered throughout your journey.

What are the local delicacies to try in Ulaanbaatar?

Don’t miss trying buuz, a type of steamed dumpling, and khuushuur, a fried variation. Borts, dried meat, is also a staple in the local diet. Mongolian cuisine is hearty and meat-centric, providing ample sustenance for the often harsh climate. Exploring local eateries will introduce you to authentic Mongolian flavors.

What is Ulaanbaatar best known for?

Ulaanbaatar is best known for its intriguing blend of historical and modern attractions, such as the Gandan Monastery and Sukhbaatar Square. It’s a gateway to explore Mongolia’s stunning landscapes and nomadic culture. The vibrant Naadam Festival is hosted in the city as well. This showcases traditional Mongolian sports and arts.

Is Ulaanbaatar worth visiting?

Absolutely, Ulaanbaatar is worth visiting for its rich cultural heritage, vibrant local life, and unique attractions. The city offers a fascinating glimpse into Mongolia’s history and traditions while also providing a starting point for adventures into the country’s breathtaking natural landscapes. It’s a destination that surprises and captivates visitors.

Final Thoughts on Exploring Ulaanbaatar

Ulaanbaatar presents a combination of ancient traditions and modern life, offering travelers a variety of experiences. The Gandan Monastery and the Intellectual Museum represent the city’s diverse attractions, each providing a unique adventure and story. Visitors can explore historical narratives or engage with the city’s contemporary culture, as Ulaanbaatar offers a range of experiences and discoveries. Traveling through the city reveals various attractions, each with its own distinct appeal and secrets to explore.

The top things to do in Ulaanbaatar for all types of travelers
Enjoyed reading about the top things to do in Ulaanbaatar? Pin it!

You may also like

Leave a Comment