Explore the Naraan Tuul Market, also known as the Black Market (open everyday except Tuesday). Not quite as illicit as the name suggests, this huge bazaar sells just about everything, from camping gear to riding saddles, handicrafts to antiques. It’s a good place to purchase gifts and traditional Mongolian clothing to take home as a souvenir.
Explore the Gandan Monastery with an expert in Buddhism and learn about the religion’s tumultuous history in Mongolia. Have tea with one of Gandan’s head monks in his private chambers, and chat with him about his life and Buddhism in Mongolia today.
Dine at Ger Restaurant, housed within a large, decorated ger, or Mongolian tent. Your meal will be followed by a performance of traditional Mongolian folk music, including throat singing, a traditional style of music found across central Asia. In this unique art, performers manipulate the size of their mouths and throats in order to produce rich, deep sounds of various pitches; Mongolia alone is home to several genres of throat singing.
Visit the Museum of Natural History, whose star attraction is a complete dinosaur skeleton - the giant, 50- foot long carnivorous Tarbosaurus. This is an actual skeleton unearthed in the Gobi Desert - not a replica like at so many other museums. The museum also has a small Velociraptor skeleton and a striking painting of a 26-foot tall duck-billed herbivore, Saurolophus.
Every July the spectacular Naadam festival takes place in Ulaanbaatar, with competitions featuring The Three Manly Sports of archery, wrestling, and horseback riding. Naadam originated from military parades and folk celebrations. However, it now commemorates the 1921 revolution in which Mongolia declared itself a free country. Note that smaller Naadams are held in other towns throughout Mongolia around the same time as the large Naadam in UB, and we recommend attending both types if possible.
Stroll through Sukhbaatar Square, named after Damdiny Sukhbaatar, Mongolia’s national hero, who laid the groundwork for the Mongol revolution and subsequent allegiance with Russia. Today, it is an economic hub of Ulaanbaatar and a perfect example of the clash between Mongolia’s newfound wealth and its history; stark, Soviet-era architecture sits alongside Central Tower, a modern shopping complex replete with a Louis Vuitton boutique and a VIP room designed to resemble a traditional Mongolian yurt.
Explore the Winter Palace of the Bogd Khan, the only remaining residence of the last emperor of Mongolia, who died in 1924. The complex includes six temples and displays many possessions of the Bogd Khan, including a large ceremonial ger, his throne, and a pair of boots given to him by Tsar Nicholas II of Russia.
Have a privately guided tour of the Zanabazar Museum of Fine Arts, led by an expert in Mongolian history. Part of UNESCO’s Programme for the Preservation of Endangered Movable Cultural Properties and Museum Development, the Zanabazar displays art and artifacts from ancient Mongolia through the 20th century, with a special focus on the sculptures of Gombodorjiin Zanabazar (1635-1723), considered Mongolia’s greatest artist.