Karakorum, in the Orkhon Valley, was the ancient capital of the Mongol Empire. After the breakdown of the Mongol Empire, in the 17th century, in honor of Zanabazar, famous Mongolian religious leader, painter, sculptor and politician, the new nomadic settlement was named Urga. This migrant city, a large caravan of gers, moving from place to place, finally settled in 1778 in its present location. It changed name several times and in 1924 was renamed Ulaanbaatar, literally the “Red Hero” in honor of Sukhbaatar, the hero of the 1921 Revolution.
The capital city is the hub of international and domestic flights, train service and long distance buses. As the cultural and academic center of the nation, Ulaanbaatar is the seat of major art and culture establishments, museums, and educational institutions.
This is the main square in the heart of Ulaanbaatar . A large statue of Sukhbaatar, the famous patriot, characterizes the square, and the square is named after this historic figure. The Parliament House, Stock Exchange, the Opera and Ballet Theater, and Cultural Palace are located surrounding the square. A little tradition is for some married couples or graduation celebrating students visit the square.
This tall landmark in front of the city offers the best views of Ulaanbaatar and the surrounding nature. Zaisan Memorial is dedicated to the Victory Day of WW II.
Originally situated in the center of Ulaanbaatar, Gandan Monastery was moved to its present location by the 5th Bogd Jebzundamba in 1838. Over the next century the Monastery grew to include nine dastans or institutes, a library and housed a community of around 5000 monks. Gandan became an important center for learning and practicing Buddha’s teachings, not only in Mongolia but for the entire Mahayana Buddhist community.
In 1938, the communists suppressed religious communities in Mongolia. They destroyed around 900 monasteries, though a handful was turned into museums. The monks were killed, jailed, or forced to join the army or laity. Five temples of Gandan Monastery were destroyed. The remaining temples were used to accommodate Russian officials or used as barns to keep their horses.
In 1944, after a petition from several monks, Gandan Monastery was reopened but its functions were carried out under the strict supervision of the socialist government. In 1990, after the Democratic Revolution and with Buddhism flourishing once again, Gandan Monastery embarked on an ambitions restoration program around the country. Today it is largest active Buddhist temple in Ulaanbaatar, and has more than 800 monks and students, and conduct daily worshipping and services for Buddhists. It also contains 40 meter high Buddha, which was sculpted with donations from Mongolian people in the mid 90s.
Natural History Museum
The Museum of Natural History is worth a visit if you’re heading into the countryside. There are exhibits about Mongolia’s geography, flora and fauna and some displays about recent Mongolian history. More impressive are the 2 complete dinosaur skeletons which were found in the Gobi – the giant flesh eating Tarbosaurus and its first cousin, the little duckbilled plant-eating Saurolophus. The museum also has samples of various minerals that are found in the country.
Museum of National History
The museum offers the richest collection on the history of Mongolia, from the Stone Age to modern times. It allows retrospects of the unique culture of the horse riding steppe nomads and their lifestyle. The exhibition contains many artifacts and arts, military equipment and arms of Genghis Khan warriors. Outside the museum, the large modern sculpture is a memorial for the victims of the 1930s political repression. Also collections include traditional Mongolian customs and jewelry.
Bogd Khan Palace Museum
Most of the temples and monasteries, along with their belongings, were destroyed during the Stalinist purges of the late 1930s. The Winter Palace of Bogd Khan (or Bogd Khan Palace Museum now) was spared in good condition. Built between 1893 and 1903, it’s where Mongolia’s 8th Bogd Khan (Living Buddha) and last king, lived for 20 years. Six temples on the grounds of the Winter Palace contain collections of gifts given the Bogd Khan, including an extraordinary array of stuffed animals.
Choijin Lama Monastery
The Choijin Lama Temple, built in 1904-1908, is a classic example of the traditional Buddhist architecture. This was the home of Luvsan Haidav Choijin Lama, brother of Bogd Khaan and a prominent lama. The museum is famous for its collection of Buddhist art works, original silk icons and tsam dancing masks.
The Zanabazar Fine Arts Museum
The Zanabazar Fine Arts Museum is a full collection of art works by artists, sculptors and painters of all Mongolian generations from the ancient era to the modern time. The museum houses a number of rock inscriptions, graphic arts, Buddhist tankas, embroideries, unique Tsam dancing costumes. The most valuable and beautiful exhibits include works of Zanabazar, the great sculptor and artist of the 17th century, who was also the first theocratic ruler of Mongolia.