26 Free Things to Do in Ulaanbaatar (From a Local)

Planning a trip to Ulaanbaatar and wondering what free things there are to do? These are the 26 best places and things to do, recommended by a local.

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If you’re looking for free things to do in Ulaanbaatar, these are the 26 best places, parks, and best things to do in Mongolia’s urban capital. The places on this list aren’t your typical tourist attractions, these are the less discovered, cool, weird, and off-beat things to do and see in Ulaanbaatar. Many of them are things I personally love doing, and many of the places are the reason I fell in love with the city.

For years Ulaanbaatar has has a negative reputation as an ugly, harsh, and hard to visit city. But that couldn’t be further from the truth. There is always some truth to a rumor, but I found Ulaanbaatar to be an easy to navigate city from my first day here.

I’ll never forget going for an early morning run the first morning after I arrived and seeing Mongolians dressed in deels walking through the streets. I almost couldn’t believe my jetlagged eyes.

The city and Mongolian culture is rapidly changing and developing faster than ever, which only means you shouldn’t wait any longer to visit Mongolia. A place that I still believe is one of the world’s most beautiful and unique destinations.

Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia's Undiscovered Capital

I’ve lived in Ulaanbaatar since 2018, ever since I first fell in love with the country on a visit to the Tsaatan tribe. Like many other first time visitors to Mongolia, I landed in Mongolia having no idea what to expect from this strange and unfamiliar capital city.

I knew I would struggle with the language barrier, like many people do, but what about the etiquette and traditions? Mongolians deeply respect their traditional and ancient culture, they are an extremely proud people, and their Buddhist beliefs guide their everyday lives. After stumbling my way through their traditions and rituals, I quickly realized they were also patient and kind people who appreciated my efforts, not my execution.

The drastic temperature swings and sudden summer storms also took me some time to get used to. Not to mention the fact that Ulaanbaatar is most famous for being the coldest capital in the world. Despite this, my respect for the locals grew even more after I realized this didn’t stop them from living their lives. They simply carried on with what they normally do, just in a lot more layers and clothing!

To this day the architecture in the capital doesn’t do much for me. It’s an incongruent mix of Soviet blocks and modern high rise buildings that perfectly reflect the country’s struggle to hold onto their past while rushing into the future. I wouldn’t compare Ulaanbaatar to cities like Seoul or Hong Kong, but I would go so far as to compare it to a smaller, less populated Kathmandu.

You’ll see the city’s named spelled several different ways, such as Ulan Bator. Ulaanbaatar is Mongolia’s largest city and it’s where the majority of the population lives. The Trans-Mongolian train stops here and many people travel here to for the first time seeking an unforgettable adventure in the least densely populated country in the world.

Ulaanbaatar is not an expensive city to travel to or live in, but like anywhere, traveling in Mongolia can get expensive quickly. Read this article for more advice on what to budget for a trip to Mongolia.

26 Free Things to Do in Ulaanbaatar

Browse records at Mongolia’s underground record stores, shop for vintage clothing, or go listen to the monk’s mornings chants. From the cultural greatest hits to the undiscovered things you won’t want to miss, everything on this list is near the city center and is easy to reach by foot, taxi, or bus.

For more tips on how to get around the city and what to expect when you visit, my Ultimate Ulaanbaatar Travel Guide will help.

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Browse the City’s Record Shops

Mongolians have insanely good taste when it comes to music. Maybe it’s the centuries of throat singing they’ve perfected, their undeniable elegance when playing the horse head fiddle, or the insane ability to sing they all seem to posses. I can’t say for sure, but I can say that these record shops are full of records from local Mongolian artists and artists from around the world.

  • Dundgol Records
  • Welcome Records UB
  • Chinzo’s Records Room & Retro Records Mongolia
  • ICE MOB Recordz
  • Pyanz Tolgoit (Пянз Толгойт)
  • The Bookstore in Blue Sky Hotel
Free Things to Do Ulaanbaatar
Go Thrift and Vintage Clothes Shopping

It also didn’t take me long to notice that young Mongolians are extremely fashionable. This isn’t the kind of place you’ll want to step out for dinner in your adventure clothes, as many travelers learn the hard way. Whether you’re feeling underdressed and underprepared for Ulaanbaatar’s nightlife, or you just want to see what thrift and vintage stores are like in this Central Asian country, these are the shops worth checking out.

  • Toirog Thrift Store
  • Tako Vintage
Visit Antique Stores and the Gold Market

While Mongolia isn’t a treasure trove of goodness waiting to be discovered by antique hunters, it does have some interesting finds. You just need to know where to look. Antique tea kettles, ornate silver bowls, and fine gold jewelry, you can find a little bit of it all in Ulaanbaatar.

  • Eternal Art Antique Gallery
  • Mungun Zawya
  • Алтанзүүлт дэлгүүр
Ulaanbaatar Antique Market
Drool Over the Cashmere at the World’s Largest Cashmere Store

Step into Gobi Cashmere and admire the beauty of Mongolia’s finest resource and export at the world’s largest cashmere store. With two floors of jackets, sweaters, leggings, socks, hats, scarves, blankets, and more, it’s here where you’ll start to understand how high quality Mongolian cashmere really is.

A piece of local advice, the Gobi Cashmere Organic line is my preferred line to shop. Since they don’t die the fibers in this line, these are the softest pieces you can buy. Every purchase I’ve made from this line is still in great condition and it really has been my secret weapon out on the Mongolian steppe. Cashmere is moisture wicking, it doesn’t smell, it holds your internal heat, and it looks good. What’s not to like about it! Plus, buying cashmere in Mongolia will cost a fraction of what it does abroad. Expect to pay at least $100 for a sweater and $400 or more for a cashmere jacket.

For a bigger selection of cashmere items, but not necessarily better prices, you can also visit these factory stores on the outskirts of town.

  • Gobi Cashmere Factory Store
  • GOYO Cashmere Factory Store
  • EVSEG Cashmere Factory Store
  • Goyol Cashmere Factory Store
  • Negun Cashmere Factory Store
Step into the Ultimate Murin Khuur Musical Instrument Shop

Stepping into Egshiglen is a musician’s dream. If you’re thinking about buying a Murin Khuur, otherwise known as a horse head fiddle, or you’re curious to see them in person, this is the place to do it.

Instrument Shop Ulaanbaatar
Enjoy the Walking Path in the National Park of Mongolia Along the Tuul River

Walk along the bank of the Tuul River on this nice, clean, and well-kept walking path in the National Park. A popular spot for bikers and runners, the path’s entrance is on the backside of the park, just off Ikh Mongol State Street, and is about 8 kilometers long.

Visit One of the Lesser Visited Monasteries, Sambyaa Hiid

While other monasteries get all the recognition, Sambyaa Hiid (Самъяа хийд on Google Maps) falls under the radar. Skip the crowds and go local by seeking out this lesser visited, but equally cool, monastery in Mongolia. While monasteries in Mongolia are free to visit, but sure to leave some sort of offering when you go.

Female Travelers Only: Visit the Women at the Mongolian Women’s Buddhist Center

You won’t find information about this place in a guidebook or online. This is one of those places that’s so local, I only know about it from living in Ulaanbaatar and finding it on accident myself. It’s been several years since I’ve been, but when I went I was able to sit with a woman who listened to my problem and said prayers for me, much the same way monks do. It was a great experience, and one that is very, very local. So local that you’ll need a translator when you go.

The Mongolian Women’s Buddhist Center is located almost directly across from Nomado Hotel at Dilav Khutagt Jamsranjav’s street 25.

See the Lenin Reliefs and Be Reminded of Mongolia’s Soviet Past at the Former Lenin Museum

Most people, including myself, forget that Mongolia was the second state to join the Soviet Union back in 1924. During Soviet rule more than 30,000 people were killed, mainly monks, artists, and intellects, and it was a dark time in Mongolian history. Glimpses of that dark past can still be found around Ulaanbaatar today. My favorite, and the most glaring example, are the reliefs that still adorn the front of what is now the Central Dinosaur Museum. Years ago the museum was the Lenin Museum and there was even a statue of him proudly standing out in the square in front. Today the statue is gone, but the reliefs remain.

Former Lenin Museum Ulaanbaatar
Browse the Stalls at the Black Market

Narantuul, more commonly called the Black Market, is the city’s biggest open market. It’s where locals come to buy everything from furniture and kitchen stuff to saddles and horse tack. My favorite section is the two rows of men’s and women’s deels (traditional Mongolian robes) hanging in all sizes and colors. You can haggle on the price, but don’t expect a huge drop in what the seller originally quotes. They are hard bargainers and usually get almost what they originally asked for. Still, it’s fun to get a banter going.

Things you can also buy at the Black Market:

  • Horse riding boots
  • Tents, camping equipment, and sleeping bags
  • Cheap outdoor clothing
  • Horse tack
  • Pelts and furs including wolf
  • Souvenir shop
  • Shaman paraphernalia
  • Buddhist Items
Black Market Ulaanbaatar
Hike Bogd Khan Mountain in the World’s First National Park

A fun fact that most people don’t know is that Mongolia is home to the world’s first national park. Bogd Khan Uul Strictly Protected Area was declared a protected site back in 1783 by the Qing Dynasty. Inside the national park, Bogd Khan Mountain is one of the most popular places to hike in Ulaanbaatar and it sits at 2,261 meters (7,418 ft). The mountain’s main hiking trail starts behind the “Chinggisiin Urgoo” Hotel and Restaurant. It’s also a great area to have a picnic with a view of the capital directly in front of you. The hike up the mountain is challenging, especially given Ulaanbaatar’s elevation (1,300 meters/4,300 ft), but the nature along the trail is incredible. Look for the blue sign with gold soyombo symbol at the top of the peak to know you’ve successfully made it to the most panoramic view of Ulaanbaatar. If you’re craving a longer adventure, put aside two to three days to cross over the mountain to Tsetsee Gun peak and down to Manzushir Monastery before hitching a ride back to Ulaanbaatar.

People watch in Sükhbaatar Square

There’s no doubt that Sukhbaatar Square is the heart of Ulaanbaatar and one of the most visited places in the city. From June thru September the area of the main square in front of the Parliament Building is laid out with artificial turf that’s the perfect place for relaxing and people watching. A stage is also erected in the square over these summer months, and free concerts, ceremonies, and other celebrations happen almost daily.

If you want to be really local, buy a bag of khuushuur (Mongolian fried meat pockets) from one of the food trucks in the square. They’re actually pretty delicious!

Sukhbaatar Square Ulaanbaatar
Listen to the Monks Chant at Gandantegchinlen Monastery

The Great Place of Complete Joy, Gandantegchinlen Monastery, or Gandan for short, is the perfect way to start a day in Ulaanbaatar. Go before 9 am to listen to the monks start their morning chants. Be sure to follow the lead of the locals when entering and exiting the main temple, it’s bad energy to turn your back on the monks and relics!

Not free, but still cheap at 7,000 tugrik, buy a ticket to see the Avalokiteśvara Statue inside the monastery compound. They say this 25.6-metre (84 ft) gilded bronze and precious stones statue is the largest indoor statue in the world, but I can neither confirm nor deny!

Gandantegchinlen Monastery Ulaanbaatar
For the Best Sunset View of Ulaanbaatar Climb the Steps to the Zaisan Memorial Monument

For the best view of Ulaanbaatar, go to the Zaisan Memorial Monument at sunset. There are almost 100 steps to reach the top of the hill and you won’t want to forget your camera when you go. My biggest piece of advice for this outing is to plan your trip accordingly. Traffic to Zaisan from the city center might seem like a short trip, but it can take more than one hour to reach during rush hour traffic. If you really want to make it into an adventure, jump on one of the local buses heading south down Chinggis Avenue.

Zaisan Memorial Monument Best View Ulaanbaatar
Embrace the Quirkiness of the National Amusement Park

On the backside of the Shangri-La Mall, the National Amusement Park is a small, quirky, and fun amusement park. A merry-go-round, Ferris wheel, high-flying rollercoaster, zoo and aquarium all round out the experience here. Stroll through the park at sunset and look for the castle at the back of the park surrounded by a moat! There’s a restaurant inside the castle that serves Mongolian and western cuisine.

Go on the Hunt for the City’s Best Street Art

Street art in Ulaanbaatar comes as quickly as it goes. Usually the pieces are reflective of present day Mongolia, but with a hint of the country’s rich history and diverse culture. I’ve marked a few spots below where there are always cool pieces to see, but let me know if you find more!

  • Nastennoye Graffiti
  • Sansar Tunnel
  • Under the north side of the Нарны гүүр Bridge (look for Time Out Restaurant)
Ulaanbaatar Street Art
Feel the Power of Democracy in Beatles Square

One of the more obscure things to do in Ulaanbaatar, Beatles Square is a small park that pays tribute to the Beatles and the freedoms they inspired. Across the street from the State Department Store, the square was once where young Mongolians listened to Western music illegally during Soviet times. As a result, it was here where discussions around freedom and democracy took place, helping to spark the Mongolian Revolution of 1990, also called the 1990 Democratic Revolution.

Beatles Square Ulaanbaatar
Dashchoilin Monastery

Home to an estimated 100 monks, Dashchoilin Monastery is a progressive, forward thinking center in Ulaanbaatar. Inside the center a school and research institute operate alongside training, health, humanitarian, and nature conservation initiatives all coordinated by the monks.

To support the monastery and learn more about Buddhism, book a torma-making class (a Buddhist offering made from flour and butter), see one of their cultural performances, or book a time to drink a cup of tea with a monk. Book any of these experiences with the local tour company Monastery Stay.

Picnic on the Choijin Lama Temple Lawn

Away from the crowds in Sukhbaatar Square, ease into a quiet afternoon reading, relaxing, or eating lunch on the lawn at the Choijin Lama Temple Museum. A quiet oasis in the center of the urban hustle and bustle, pick up food from Millie’s Espresso just next door.

Take a Picture in Front of the Ulaanbaatar Sign

Were you even in Ulaanbaatar if you don’t get a picture with the famous red sign? Ulaanbaatar translates to Red Hero and this sign in front of the National Academic Drama Theater is just that.

Ulaanbaatar Sign Mongolia
Write in Your Journal, Sketch, or Paint at Yavuukhulan Park

Named after the great poet Begziin Yavuukhulan, this tiny park is a great place to visit in the city. Sit on one of the benches, watch the fountain, and channel your creative vibes from the master himself.

If you need to pick up art supplies, there’s a great art shop at this location.

Play at Misheel Park

Located behind Misheel Expo in Yarmag city, the Misheel park is a great place in Ulaanbaatar for families and kids. There are wooden play areas, walking paths, and picnic areas ideal for a slow day spent along the Tuul River.

Pay Your Respects to Mongolian Culture the Camel Caravan Statue

Close to the National Sport Stadium and Winter Palace of the Bogd Khan, the Camel Caravan Statue is one of the most iconic and recongnizable statues in Ulaanbaatar. This Silk Road monument pays respect to the camel herders and nomadic families of the Gobi Desert who have moved this way for centuries. The statue is easily seen from the road, so keep your eyes on the lookout after crossing the Peace Bridge on Chinggis Avenue heading towards Zaisan. The statue is at the main intersection near the Naadam Center.

Camel Caravan Statue Ulaanbaatar
Look for the “Stalin of the Steppe” Statue at the National University of Mongolia

Buzzing with young, inspiring Mongolians, walking around the National University of Mongolia is a fun way to rub elbows with the future leaders of the country. Look for the famous Statue of Khorloogiin Choibalsan, the leader of the Mongolian People’s Republic from 1939 until 1952. A close friend of the communist party, Choibalsan is considered the “Stalin of the Steppe” and is a stark reminder of how far the country has come and how hopeful locals are of the future generations.

Early Risers and Photographers Love Ulaanbaatar’s Morning Street

Also called Tourist Street or Juulchin Street, this block of cafes, restaurants, coffee shops, and brightly colored buildings is one of the cutest streets to walk in Ulaanbaatar. The shops here open early, so it’s a terrific place to come if you’re an early riser. Additionally, there are always people taking photos here, and it’s not uncommon to see bride and grooms and their wedding parties! My favorite café on Morning Street is Anjuna Book & Art Café and Evelyn’s Oven also serves some of the most delicious pastries in town. Just around the corner from Morning Street is the National Museum of Mongolia and if you plan accordingly you can have a walk, coffee, and visit the museum all before lunchtime.

Tourist Street Ulaanbaatar
Search for Ulaanbaatar’s Best Statues

As you’ve noticed by now, Ulaanbaatar is full of statues that commemorate poets, politicians, revolutionaries, the Mongol empire and even Genghis Khan himself. They also represent herding culture, wildlife, and the country’s history as an important hub along the Silk Road. Besides the other statues and monuments already on this list, here are a few more of Ulaanbaatar’s best historical monuments I urge you to go out in search of.

  • Chinggis Khaan Statue (Genghis Khan Statue)
  • Marco Polo
  • Natsagdorj Statue
  • Argal Monument
  • Sculpture to Damdin Sükhbaatar
  • Statue for General Lkhagvasuren
  • Silver Tree Statue
  • Statue Of L.Enebish
  • Chingunjav Statue
Ulaanbaatar Historical Monuments

Author: Breanna Wilson

Hi! Sain uu! I’m Breanna, an American travel writer and adventurer living in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia for more than 5 years. I’ve written for and been featured in Condé Nast Traveler, CNN, Forbes, and the New York Times, among others. Read more of my Mongolia travel articles here.

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