A fascinating visit through holy Pagodas, crowded markets and old colonial buildings in Yangon
Yangon is the largest city in Myanmar and has a mix of colonial architecture, modern high-rises and Buddhist pagodas defined its skyline. The city is plenty of religious sites, natural lakes, markets selling a variety of traditional products, museums and an incredible array of colonial-era buildings hidden down side streets, many of which are now crumbling. The biggest concentration of colonial buildings is on the riverfront Strand Road, around the bottom of Pansodan Street and Sule Pagoda Road.
What to see and do in Yangon
1. Shwedagon Paya
The Shwedagon Paya is the most beautiful pagoda of Myanmar, and it stands on Singuttara Hill. It is the largest religious building in Myanmar, standing 99 meters tall, plated with 21,800 real gold bars and with a tip encrusted with thousands of diamonds, rubies and sapphires. It’s also the most sacred religious site of the country, and it says to be the oldest pagoda in the world and the only temple which holds four Buddhist relics of such high value. Inside the complex, there are hundreds of colourful temples, stupas, and statues, all of which form a microcosm of life within the pagoda.
2. Sule Paya
Located at the intersection of Mahabandoola Road and Sule Pagoda Road, in the heart of downtown, it is a stunning structure with a great historical significance. It is highly revered because it enshrines a hair relic of the Buddha and, according to legend, the pagoda was built during the lifetime of the Gautama Buddha, about 2500 years ago. It has been renovated and enlarged several times by later Kings. The pagoda reached its present height of 44 meters when it was renovated the 15th century halfway.
3. Colonial buildings and Mahabandoola Park
Start walking from Sule Pagoda you’ll see the heritage buildings of the City Hall dating back to the year of the 1930s, the High Court Building just across from the City Hall, and the Mahabandoola Park with its Independence Monument. Then continue your historic trail through Pansodan Street admiring the colonial architectural constructions along the wide avenue, ending your walk at the Strand Hotel, known to be the first hotel in Myanmar. Ten minutes walk from the Strand Hotel there is another awesome historic building, the Ministers” Office, formerly called Secretariat’s’s Center. Here, Aung Sang, Burmese nationalist leader and Independence Hero of Myanmar, was assassinated together with his comrades in the year 1947.
4. Chaukhtatgyi (Reclining Buddha) Pagoda
Chaukhtatgyi Pagoda is known for its colossal 65 meters long and 16 meters high reclining Buddha image. The enormous Buddha is wearing a golden robe, the right arm is supporting the back of the head and is decorated with very expressive colours, white face, red lips, blue eye shadow and red fingernails.
5. Botahtaung Pagoda
Located on the banks of the river in downtown, it is one of the city’s most highly revered temples. The 40-meter high golden pagoda enshrines a sacred hair relic of the Buddha. The Botahtaung Pagoda was destroyed during an air force bombing mission aimed at the nearby docks and rebuilt in 1948 following the original design. The religious building is not far from the Strand Hotel.
6. Thiri Mingala Kabar Aye Pagoda and Maha Pasana Guha caves
Known as “World Peace Pagoda”, Kabar Aye Pagoda was built with the adjoining “caves” in 1952 by the prime minister of Burma to host the 6th Buddhist council which ended in 1956. The stupa is 36 meters tall and has a circumference of 34 meters around the base. Its golden dome is topped with an ornamental spire shaped like an umbrella. The Maha Pasana Guha is a large human-made “cave” that contains a meeting hall where the 6th Buddhist council was held.
7. Theingyi Zay market
Theingyi Zay Market is more authentic than Bogyoke Market and its prices are lower and its customers are almost entirely locals. It is the biggest and oldest market in Yangon, and it sells all sorts of clothes, household items, toys and an array of unknown products. The northern end of the market, opposite the Sri Kali Hindu temple, has a decidedly Indian feel, with stalls full of spices, herbs and traditional medicines. On the 24th, 25th and 26th Street section of Theingyi Zay takes place the morning market (6 am-10 am) with it’s’s beautiful and colourful stalls selling fruit, vegetables and food in general.
8. The Thirimingalar Market
Located on the west edge of the city along Bayint Naung Rd, it’s one of the highlights of Yangon and provides some great photo opportunities. This is a market out of the touristic paths where you can live a real slice of local daily life. Trucks and lorries coming in and out filled with various fruits and vegetables and the hundreds of stalls selling any sort of food, dried and fresh fish, meat and chickens, fruit, vegetables and flowers make this market really unique and sure not to be missed.
9. Bogyoke Aung Sang Market
Situated on the northern edge of downtown along Bogyoke Aung San Road, it is Yangon’s’s most famous place to shop. To be honest is nothing special, just a place for tourist inside a colonial-era building constructed in 1926, where you can find over two thousand shops and stalls selling clothing, handicrafts, jewellery, antiques and paintings and any kinds of souvenirs. Opening time: 10 am to 5 pm.
10. Karaweik Hall & Kandawgyi Lake
It is a large lake in Yangon downtown where you can relax surrounded by the green. On the southern end of the lake, there is a boardwalk (entrance fee 2,000 Kyat) and around the park, there are several open-air restaurants. The Karaweik Hall, located in the south-east corner of Kandawgyi Lake, is a replica of a classically styled Royal barge that hosts a reception hall, a conference room, a buffet restaurant and a theatre. On the south-west corner you’ll find the Yangon Zoological Garden, where, in a green area, you can spot many animal species including elephant, rhino, hippo, zebra, crocodile and more.
11. Yangon Central Railway Station and the “circle line” trains
One of the most beautiful experiences that could be done in Yangon is to visit the Central Railway Station and have a ride on an old train. Built in traditional Burmese architectural style, it’s a landmark building since 1996. Once at the station, don’t miss to catch the urban railroad line, better known as “circle line”, which begins and ends at Yangon Central Railway Station with several departures a day going clockwise and anti-clockwise, passing through the city, its suburban areas and satellites towns.
Need to Know about Yangon
Yangon International is located 20 km north from downtown. It has three terminals, two international (Terminals 1 and 2) and one domestic (Terminal 3). A shuttle bus runs between the three terminals, whereas you have to take a taxi (around 11000 kyats) to reach downtown.
2. Central railway station
It’s’s located close to downtown between Alan Pya Pagoda Road and Upper Pansodan Street. You can catch the train to reach the most important cities of Myanmar (Bagan, Mandalay, Nyaung Shwe – Inle lake) but it takes a long time. For example, Yangon – Mandalay takes 15 hours, Yangon – Bagan takes 18 hours.
3. Bus Terminals
They are located far from downtown, and it takes you around 1 hour and more to get there by taxi. Buses from most important destinations around Myanmar depart and arrive at Aung Mingalar Bus Terminal (known as Highway Bus Station). The ticket for the VIP buses can be bought online or at the bus terminal, all the others directly at the bus terminal.
* When you use the transports search engine you can usually check and book the means of transport within 7/10 days.
4. Getting around Yangon
You have to reach major attractions by taxi. The downtown is walkable and starting from Sule Paya you can visit the Mahabondoola Park and the colonial-era buildings around the park and trough Pansodan street until you’ll reach the Strand hotel. From here you can walk to Botahtaung Pagoda and then take a taxi towards your next spot. We suggest visiting the Shwedagon Paya in the late afternoon, the local Markets (Thirimingala and the alleys around Theingyi Zay) and the “circle line train” during the early morning.
If you are in Yangon for a short layover, you don’t have much time, or you simply want to visit the city with a shared or private tour, you can click here to check the options and book your activity.
5. Activities in Yangon
If you like to book a specific experience in Yangon or a daily tour away from the chaotic city, you can try with Klook.com. This reliable company offers a wide choice of activities.
Yangon offers a wide range of affordable accommodations. Since you have to move around by taxi, you can choose the area that you like most. We suggest sleeping in Bahan (north-central Yangon), one of the most thriving areas of the Yangon, or in Kyauktada around the Colonial area (Yangon downtown). We slept at the Sky view Hotel in Bahan (double room 45 US dollars) and Hotel K Yangon in the colonial area (double room 30 US dollars). In these areas, you can find cheaper hotels so as some hostels.