Last Updated on April 19, 2020 by

At first glance, Ulaan Baatar seems nothing more than a dusty concrete city with smoky industrial plants lining the fringe of the city. It’s dusty, gritty and enormous, resembling one of those developing cities in China. The air is polluted, new buildings are being erected next to old buildings, while Russian military vans rattle on the pot-holed boulevards. Needless to say, it’s nothing like the Mongolia that most people imagine it to be.

But dig a little deeper and the capital city of Mongolia can surprise you. Behind the dusty construction work lie interesting Soviet architecture and ancient structures that reveal Mongolia’s Buddhist roots. Devout Buddhist monks gather in peaceful monastery courtyards for their daily morning ritual. In contrast, young Mongols take to the high streets wearing the latest fashion from Korea.

As Mongolia capital city (and the only big city to boot), Ulaan Baatar will naturally be your base when traveling Mongolia. Don’t let your time here go to waste though — make the most out of the city’s restaurants and museums before you head out into the countryside and you might be in for a surprise.

Ulaan Baatar: A Glimpse into Mongolia Capital City

Subkhbaatar Square is where the heart of the Mongolia capital city lies and flowers are used to add a colorful touch to the otherwise grey and regal square.

Mongolian shield

The shield of Mongolia lies etched on the floor of Sukhbaatar Square.

Chinggis Khan monument

The Government Palace is found on the north side of the square and it’s fronted by a large colonnade monument to Genghis Khan, Ogedei Khan and Kublai Khan.

Streets of Ulaanbaatar

The chaotic streets of Ulaanbaatar are packed with electric Chinese cars and Russian military vans.

Courtyard at temple

A daily prayer takes place at the Gandan Khiid in Ulaanbaatar. A few dozens of Buddhist monks congregate here every morning for this ritual.

Winter Palace of Bogd Khan

 One of the gates at the Winter Palace of Bogd Khan, the emperor of Mongolia. The palace is the only one left of his four residences. Many buildings in Mongolia were sadly destroyed during the Soviet purge.

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Zaisan Hill monument

The Zaisan Memorial is perched high up on a hill on the southern side of Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia capital city. It was erected to honor Soviet soldiers killed in World War II

Soviet paintings on Zaisan Hill

The Soviet art on the Zaisan Hill monument reminds me of those we saw in Pyongyang, North Korea. These carvings depict the friendship between the people of the USSR and Mongolia.

An ovoo

Found an ovoo at Zaisan Hill. An ovoo is a type of shamanistic cairn usually made from rocks.

A view of the city from above

You can get a bird’s eye view of Ulaanbaatar and its surrounding ger suburbs from Zaisan Hill.