Yangon is one of Myanmar’s most busy and exciting cities…
…And I think it doesn’t always get the attention it deserves; It’s a city that’s full of character, with so many interesting things to do, see, and eat.
This list of attractions doesn’t include everything there is to do in the city, but I think it’s a mixed-bag list of attractions and offers a good start, or place to begin exploring the city.
But like I mention in nearly all articles I write, it’s not so much about the famous things to do in any city, but it’s more about just experiencing the city, the life, the culture, the things that happen along the streets and within the nooks and crannies — Yangon is no different, and it’s a wonderful place to walk around on foot and see what there is to see (you’re bound to discover many things).
This article goes along with the video, so if you have a good enough internet connection, you should first watch the video here, and then you can get more details about each attraction I featured in this article.
*At the time of writing this, the exchange rate was just about exactly 1,000 Myanmar Kyat to $1 (1,000 MMK = 1 USD)
1. Shwedagon Pagoda
Without doubt, the Shwedagon Pagoda is one of the most important religious sites in Yangon, and all of Myanmar.
The golden chedi of the pagoda, which reaches a height of 99 meters, is visible throughout the city, and it shimmers in the sun with its incredibly golden surface. I could hardly even look at the pagoda without squinting my eyes, there was so much gold!
The Shwedagon Pagoda is a very well preserved heritage monument, and a sacred religious pilgrimage site for many Buddhist followers in Myanmar.
When you’re there, you’ll see people performing a series of rituals according to the day they were born, and people will also walk circumferences around the base of the pagoda.
One of the interesting things, things to dream about, is that on the top of the pagoda, within that little golden umbrella looking thing that’s called a hti, is gold, jewels, and thousands of diamonds. Though there are some binoculars on one side of the pagoda, unfortunately it’s still hard to see the beauty of the top umbrella of the pagoda.
A visit to the Shwedagon Pagoda is one of the things you must do when you’re in Yangon.
How to get there: The easiest way to get to the Shwedagon Pagoda from downtown Yangon is to take a taxi. From downtown, we caught a taxi for 2,000 Kyats
Open hours: 4 am – 10 pm daily (but closed on certain holidays, check website for details)
Price: 8,000 Kyats ($8.11)
2. Local fresh market
Probably my favorite way to experience a city, other than by eating, is through visiting a local fresh market – which is of course – directly related to eating. So in the end it all comes back to food.
But anyway, I think visiting a local fresh market in Yangon is one of the top things to do. You get to experience so much local life, and see what goes into the local food, which is a major part of life.
Back when I visited Yangon in 2011, I took the trip out to Thiri Mingalar market on the outskirts of town. It’s one of the largest wholesale distribution markets in the city, and it’s a great place to visit if you want an action packed market experience.
However, even within downtown Yangon there are plenty of fresh markets. One of the most notable is on Street 26, across the street from the Shri Kali Temple, known as Thein Gyi Market.
One of the interesting things about this market in Yangon is that, despite the busyness of the market and vendors selling in the middle of the road, small delivery vehicles will still pass through.
When an oncoming vehicle comes, the vendors will scurry to move their things aside, but the low laying baskets of food will remain, and the vehicle will drive right over them.
It reminded me of the Maeklong train market in Thailand (one of my first videos I ever made).
3. Sule Pagoda
The Sule Pagoda is not only a religious and historical pagoda landmark in Yangon, but it’s also a city navigational landmark as well; It seems that all roads in downtown Yangon eventually lead to the Sule Pagoda.
The area is also home to numerous government buildings and offices, and a center for bus and road transportation.
The Sule Pagoda is not only recognized and cherished for its long history, but in the more recent history of Myanmar, the pagoda has served as a strategic space for politics, rallies, and protests.
If you pay the entrance fee of $3, you’ll have the chance to enter the gates and see the pagoda up close. However, there’s not really much to see inside the pagoda (it’s not as impressive as the Shwedagon Pagoda), so I actually think it’s better to just see the Sule Pagoda from the outside and explore the area around it.
How to get there: If you’re in central downtown Yangon, you really cannot miss the Sule Pagoda, it’s the main roundabout intersection right in the middle of downtown
Open hours: 6 am – 8 pm daily
Price: $3 for entrance into the pagoda
4. Bogyoke Aung San Market
Bogyoke Aung San market, also commonly known by its former name of Scott Market, was built in 1926 under a design from the British colonial period.
On the outside of the market are a number of European looking cobblestone streets with shops housed and either side, and there’s also a large indoor section that’s setup more like a bazaar.
Honestly speaking, I’m not a huge fan of the market itself, it seems to me to be a little on the touristy side, and prices are little high as well. But that being said, it is a good place to come if you’re looking for jewelry (just use discretion), Burmese dresses and fabric, souvenirs, artwork, or handicrafts.
There’s a large selection of things to purchase all in one area, and it’s a nice clean market in a good location.
5. Chinatown Yangon – Eating and Walking
Chinatown in Yangon usually refers to the area of 24th through 18th street, west of the Sule Pagoda in downtown Yangon.
It’s one of the busiest and most action packed areas of town, especially in the evening when the sides of the streets teem with food vendors selling everything from fresh produce to ready-made things to eat.
20th street is known for its Chinese food like rice congee and grilled pork skewers.
19th Street is known as the barbecue street, a side road that’s lined with Chinese restaurants that have glass cabinets full of all things skewered ready to be chosen and barbecued up. Just grab a table at one of the restaurants, choose the skewers you want, and relax as your food is cooked.
Ying and I ate at Shwe Mingalar, mainly because they had a nice selection of food available. The grilled skewers were alright, but I actually enjoyed the stir fried dishes (which I ordered off the menu) even better.
19th street is also a famous relaxing night-life destination, a place where both tourists and locals come to drink and hang out.
How to get there: If you’re staying in central Yangon, it’s pretty manageable to walk to Chinatown. From Sule Pagoda it’s about a 10 – 15 minute walk and the toughest part is crossing a few main streets
Open hours: For the market and food, it’s best to go to Yangon Chinatown in the evening, about 5 pm things start to get buzzing
Prices: Ying and I ordered a feast of barbecued meat, fish, prawns, and I had a beer, and our total bill came to about 20,000 Kyats ($20.22), not extremely cheap, but we did get a lot of food
6. Kandawgyi Park – walk around, relax, have a drink
The downtown area of Yangon is chaotic, hectic, and there never seems to be a quiet or dull moment.
That’s quite the exact opposite from Kandawgyi Park, one of the lush green lake parks in Yangon.
There are a couple of different options to take when you visit Kandawgyi Park. On the east side of the park, there are a number of restaurants, including the Karaweik Palace, but also a few other lake-side relaxing restaurants where you can eat and have a drink (Ying and I ate at Malihku restaurant). The entrance price to this area is 300 Kyats ($.30).
The other section of Kandawgyi Park is the lake boardwalk, a nice elevated platform where you can walk or exercise with beautiful views of the lake, the Karawiek Palace, and the Shwedagon Pagoda in the background. If you go in the evening, on a nice day (when it’s not raining), you’ll have a fantastic sunset view of the Shwedagon Pagoda.
Visiting Kandawgyi Park is one of the great things to do in Yangon because it’s such a change of pace and a haven of calm in the usually buzzing downtown of Yangon.
How to get there: It’s easiest to take a taxi from downtown Yangon for 1,000 – 2,000 Kyats
Open hours: 4 am – 10 pm daily
Price: 300 Kyats ($.30) for restaurant area, 2,000 Kyats ($2.02) for boardwalk
7. Chaukhtatgyi Paya (Chak Htat Gyi Buddha) – Reclining Buddha
Chaukhtatgyi Paya, which is also referred to as the Reclining Buddha, is an absolutely massive 65 meter long reclining Buddha. Originally there was a standing Buddha statue in the same place, but about fifty years ago it toppled over, and was eventually replaced with a reclining version.
The Buddha is housed in a giant metal shed, that reminded me of an airplane hanger (it’s so big). The crown of the statue is decorated with diamonds and other gems, and the feet are etched with inscriptions showing the characteristics and symbols of the Buddha.
There’s a lot of floor space surrounding the Reclining Buddha, and when I was there, I noticed a lot of people having lunch with their friends and family. I wanted to join.
There’s another famous temple, directly across the street from Chaukhtatgyi Paya, called Nga Htat Gyi Pagoda, that you can also visit if you’re interested.
Tip: You have to leave you shoes at the entrance, and there’s a polite shoe rack guard who will take care of your shoes – what I liked is that the shoe guard doesn’t pressure you to give a tip, but there is a tip jar at the front if you wish to give a small donation.
How to get there: Taking a taxi is about the only way to get to Chaukhtatgyi Paya and from central Yangon it cost us 2,500 Kyats ($2.53)
Open hours: All day and all night – 24 hours, but daytime is best
8. National Museum of Myanmar
I have to say right off the bat that I’m personally not a huge museum person. I do like to occasionally visit museum if it’s on a subject I’m really interested in, but for the most part, I like hands on museums better (aka. walking around a historical area of a city).
The National Museum was a little on the old side, and it could do with a re-model soon, but overall, I thought the actual collection at the museum was very interesting. There was a wealth of artifacts, religious relics, artwork, cultural explanations and ethnicities, and tons of golden objects from the royal courts of Myanmar.
If you’re interested in learning more about the history of Myanmar, and if you enjoy a museum type of environment, I would say visiting the National Museum is one of the worthwhile things to do when you’re in Yangon.
Tip: Just around the corner from the National Museum is Feel Restaurant (more info coming soon), a wonderful place to sample all thing Myanmar food. I ate at Feel Restaurant before walking over to the museum.
How to get there: The easiest way to get there from downtown Yangon is by taking a taxi, should be about 2,000 Kyats ($2.02) from central downtown
Open hours: 9:30 am – 4:30 pm Tuesday – Sunday, closed on Monday and government holidays
Price: 5,000 Kyats ($5.05)
9. Yangon Circular Railroad Ride
Trains are a fairly common form of public transportation throughout Myanmar, and there’s a circular loop route in Yangon, which was built by the British back in 1954.
The circular railroad runs for just under 50 kilometers, stops at 39 station, and takes about 3 hours to complete.
Ying and I decided to go one day in the morning, and we arrived to the Yangon Central Railroad station at about 9:30 am. I think we had just missed a train departure, so we had to wait about 45 minutes for the next one, but that was fine with us.
Taking a ride on the Yangon circular railroad is not really a traditional attraction at all, but it’s a great way to experience and observe the life and culture in around the outskirts of town. I also liked that we actually left the main part of Yangon and got a brief glimpse of the countryside.
If you have a half a day to spare when you’re in Yangon, and if you’re interested in seeing the culture and life that surrounds Yangon, taking the circular railroad is a pretty cool thing to do.
My highlight of the ride was Danyingon station, which was almost in the middle of the route, where there was a huge market, full of fresh vegetables waiting to be transported.
How to get there: The train departs from Yangon Central Railroad station, which is located just north of the Sule Pagoda, in-between Sule Pagoda road and Pansodan street. I walked from the Sule Pagoda, and it took about 10 minutes.
Open hours: Trains should leave from Platform 6 (but the attendant will tell you exactly), about every 30 minutes – 1 hour starting in the morning
Price: 300 Kyats ($0.30) for a ticket
10. Walk Around Yangon (on Foot)
In a city like Yangon, you just never know what you’re going to find, see, or experience when you’re randomly walking around.
Other than eating, random walks are one of my personal favorite things to do in Yangon.
Businesses of every kind, busy street food stalls, relaxing tea stalls, markets occupying the sides of sidewalks and streets filled with a colorful bounty of produce, temples of a diversity of religions… and that’s just the beginning of what you’ll see.
I was in Yangon at the end of July, when it was the monsoon rainy season, and though it rained like crazy everyday we were there, it was still so amazing to see the city thriving and bustling – rain or shine.
Exploring Yangon on foot, gives you the opportunity to stop and watch something interesting, or to notice the details of what’s happening here and there. Downtown Yangon is such a busy place, and though it may look a bit disorganized, somehow the city functions and flows.
I didn’t have a chance to do this myself, but there are also Yangon city walks hosted for free, if you are interested.
Make sure you are careful crossing the main roads, pedestrians by all means don’t have the right of way, so just be careful, but other than that, just starting walking around the streets of downtown and you’ll see life unfolding in front of you.
11. Eat Myanmar Food and Drink Tea
Myanmar is slotted between India, China, and Thailand, and the flavors of their cuisine have been influenced by this spectrum of regional diversity.
I think eating local Myanmar food and drinking tea is one the greatest things about visiting Yangon.
Walking down the street in downtown Yangon, you literally can’t go more than a few steps without arriving at the next street food stall. There are interesting things to eat being whipped up at nearly every corner.
One of the most popular dishes in Myanmar cuisine, available nearly everywhere you go, is a dish called mohinga. It’s a bowl of rice noodles submerged in a fish based soup broth that tastes like a mild curry, full of flavorful ingredients and spices.
Another Myanmar food you can’t miss when you’re in Yangon is laphet thoke, or pickled tea leaf salad. It’s a common dish that you’ll find at restaurants and at side of the street tea stalls.
Finally for food, a trip to Yangon would not be complete without a full on Myanmar curry feast. I went to a number of restaurants while I was in Yangon, specializing in curry of all kinds. Sometimes the curries can be a little on the oily side, but the flavors and the spices are so delicious.