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The Best Things To Do In Mandalay Myanmar


Modified: December 28, 2023

by Alysia Godfrey



Welcome to Mandalay, a city rich in history, culture, and natural beauty. Located in central Myanmar, Mandalay is the country’s second-largest city and the cultural heart of the region. As you explore this fascinating city, you will be immersed in its vibrant atmosphere, marvel at its iconic landmarks, and discover the warmth and hospitality of its people.


Mandalay is a city of contrasts, where ancient traditions blend seamlessly with modern developments. From the majestic Mandalay Palace to the serene pagodas and monasteries, you will find yourself captivated by the city’s architectural wonders. The bustling markets and local eateries offer a taste of authentic Burmese cuisine, while the surrounding countryside beckons with its serene beauty.


Whether you are a history buff, an adventure seeker, or simply looking to immerse yourself in the local culture, Mandalay has something to offer for everyone. Join us as we take you on a journey to discover the best things to do in Mandalay. From exploring historical sites and landmarks to indulging in delicious food and experiencing the vibrant local culture, you are sure to create unforgettable memories in this enchanting city.


Explore the Mandalay Palace

Immerse yourself in the rich history of Mandalay by visiting the magnificent Mandalay Palace. Built in the mid-19th century, the palace was the last royal residence of the Burmese monarchy. As you step inside the palace complex, you will be transported back in time to the era of kings and queens.


Start your exploration at the impressive moat and fortified walls that surround the palace. As you make your way through the grand entrance gates, you will be greeted by meticulously landscaped gardens and traditional architecture. The palace complex consists of numerous buildings, including the throne room, residential quarters, and ceremonial halls.


Be sure to visit the Shwenandaw Monastery, also known as the Golden Palace Monastery, located within the palace grounds. This intricately carved wooden monastery is a shining example of traditional Burmese craftsmanship. Marvel at the detailed carvings depicting scenes from the Jataka tales and Buddhist iconography.


Don’t miss the opportunity to climb the watchtower, known as the Nan Myint, which offers panoramic views of the city and surrounding areas. As you take in the breathtaking vistas, imagine what it was like for the royal family to overlook their kingdom from this very spot.


While exploring the Mandalay Palace, immerse yourself in the fascinating history and stories of the Burmese royal family. Admire the opulent interiors, beautifully maintained gardens, and intricate architectural details that have been preserved over the years.


Visiting the Mandalay Palace is a must for any history enthusiast or those seeking to gain insights into the country’s royal past. It is an experience that will leave you in awe of the grandeur and majesty of the Burmese monarchy.


Visit the Mahamuni Pagoda

A visit to Mandalay would not be complete without exploring the revered Mahamuni Pagoda. Located southwest of the city center, this sacred Buddhist site is one of the most important pilgrimage destinations in Myanmar.


At the heart of the Mahamuni Pagoda is the famous Mahamuni Buddha image, which is believed to be one of the most authentic representations of the Buddha. The statue is covered in layers of gold leaf, applied by countless devotees over the centuries, giving it a mesmerizing golden glow.


As you enter the pagoda complex, you will be captivated by the vibrant atmosphere and the sound of chanting monks. Take a moment to soak in the spiritual energy and immerse yourself in the profound sense of tranquility that pervades the area.


Step inside the main hall and witness devotees and pilgrims paying their respects to the Mahamuni Buddha. Witness the devotion of the locals as they offer flowers, candles, and gold leaf to the statue. You may even have the chance to participate in this ancient ritual by applying gold leaf to the Buddha image yourself.


Take the time to explore the surrounding shrines and pavilions within the pagoda complex. Marvel at the ornate architecture, intricate carvings, and vibrant paintings that adorn the buildings. The complex is also home to a museum where you can learn more about the history and significance of the Mahamuni Pagoda.


Another highlight of the Mahamuni Pagoda is the daily washing ceremony of the Buddha image, known as the “face-washing” ritual. This ancient tradition involves cleansing the statue with a mixture of scented water and sandalwood paste, an experience that is both serene and deeply symbolic.


Visiting the Mahamuni Pagoda will not only allow you to witness the religious devotion of the local people but also provide you with a profound spiritual experience. It is a place where history, faith, and culture come together, leaving visitors with a lasting impression of Mandalay’s spiritual heritage.


Wander through Kuthodaw Pagoda and the World’s Largest Book

Prepare to be amazed as you wander through the Kuthodaw Pagoda, known as the “World’s Largest Book”. Located at the foot of Mandalay Hill, this unique site is a testament to the rich literary and religious heritage of Myanmar.


The main attraction of the Kuthodaw Pagoda is the intricately carved stone slabs, which collectively make up the entire Buddhist canon, known as the Tripitaka. These 729 marble slabs, each housed in its own white stupa, contain the complete teachings of the Buddha and are considered sacred by Buddhists.


As you explore the pagoda grounds, take the time to marvel at the sheer scale and beauty of these stone inscriptions. The delicate carvings, vibrant colors, and meticulous detailing of each slab are a testament to the skill and craftsmanship of the artisans who created them.


While walking among the stupas, you can immerse yourself in the spiritual atmosphere, listening to the melodic chanting of monks and feeling a sense of reverence for the sacred writings that surround you.


At the center of the pagoda complex stands the golden Shwezigon Pagoda. Adorned with exquisite gold leaf and intricate designs, it serves as a focal point and adds to the majestic beauty of the surroundings.


Take the opportunity to climb the central pagoda and enjoy panoramic views of the surrounding area. The sprawling city of Mandalay and the nearby hills provide a stunning backdrop, making it a perfect spot for photography enthusiasts.


Visiting the Kuthodaw Pagoda not only gives you a chance to admire the world’s largest book but also offers a serene and contemplative experience. It allows you to immerse yourself in the teachings of Buddhism and gain a deeper understanding of Myanmar’s rich cultural and religious heritage.


Make sure to allocate enough time to fully explore and appreciate this remarkable site. The Kuthodaw Pagoda and the World’s Largest Book are a testament to the profound impact of Buddhism on Myanmar’s history and its enduring influence on its people.


Discover the Shwenandaw Monastery

Prepare to be mesmerized by the exquisite beauty of the Shwenandaw Monastery, also known as the Golden Palace Monastery. This stunning wooden monastery, located in Mandalay, is a true architectural gem and a testament to the rich craftsmanship of Myanmar.


The Shwenandaw Monastery was originally part of the Mandalay Palace complex and served as the private quarters for King Mindon. After the king’s death, it was moved outside the palace grounds and converted into a monastery, where it remains to this day.


As you approach the monastery, you will be captivated by the intricacy of the wood carvings that adorn its exterior. The entire structure is covered in delicate carvings depicting mythical creatures, floral motifs, and scenes from Buddhist stories.


Step inside the monastery, and you will be transported to a world of serenity and tranquility. The interior of the building is equally ornate, with every inch of the walls and ceilings adorned with intricate carvings. The richly gilded and lacquered panels add to the grandeur and opulence of the monastery.


Take the time to observe the details of the carvings and appreciate the skill and artistry that went into creating this masterpiece. Each carving tells a story and offers insights into Myanmar’s rich religious and cultural heritage.


The Shwenandaw Monastery also holds religious significance as it is believed to be the only remaining original structure of the Mandalay Palace. It is considered a holy place and serves as a site for meditation and Buddhist teachings.


Visiting the Shwenandaw Monastery is like stepping back in time and witnessing the grandeur of Myanmar’s royal past. It is a place to reflect, appreciate the beauty of the intricate woodwork, and gain a deeper understanding of the country’s rich artistic traditions.


Make sure to visit the monastery during daylight hours to fully experience the intricate carvings. The Shwenandaw Monastery is a true masterpiece and a must-visit destination for those seeking to immerse themselves in Mandalay’s unique cultural heritage.


Enjoy the Sunset at Mandalay Hill

One of the most breathtaking experiences in Mandalay is watching the sunset from the top of Mandalay Hill. This iconic landmark offers panoramic views of the city and its surroundings, making it the perfect spot to unwind and witness the beauty of nature.


Mandalay Hill is located in the northeast corner of the city and stands at an elevation of 760 feet. To reach the summit, you can ascend the covered stairway that is adorned with colorful Buddhist murals and lined with souvenir stalls.


As you climb the hill, you will pass through various pagodas and shrines, each adding to the spiritual ambiance of the journey. It is common to see local pilgrims making their way up the hill, adding to the sense of authenticity and cultural significance of the experience.


Once you reach the top, prepare to be greeted by panoramic vistas of Mandalay and its surrounding countryside. The views are particularly stunning during sunset, as the sky is painted with hues of orange and pink, creating a mesmerizing backdrop for the city below.


Choose a comfortable spot to sit and soak in the tranquil atmosphere. The gentle breeze and the sound of monks chanting in nearby pagodas create a serene ambiance that is perfect for reflection and appreciation of the natural beauty around you.


Don’t forget to bring your camera to capture the magical moments as the sun sets over the city. The views from Mandalay Hill provide a unique perspective of the city’s landmarks, such as the Mandalay Palace, Mandalay Bridge, and the Irrawaddy River.


After the sun sets, you may choose to make your way down the hill or spend some time exploring the various pagodas and shrines that dot the summit. The Kuthodaw Pagoda, with its World’s Largest Book, is a must-visit attraction on Mandalay Hill.


Whether you’re a nature enthusiast, a photography lover, or simply seeking a moment of peace and serenity, watching the sunset at Mandalay Hill is an experience you won’t want to miss. It offers a glimpse into the natural beauty and cultural significance of this enchanting city.


Take a Boat Ride to Mingun and See the Mingun Bell

Add an element of adventure to your Mandalay itinerary by taking a boat ride to the charming village of Mingun. Situated on the banks of the Irrawaddy River, a journey to Mingun offers a glimpse into the rural life of Myanmar and the chance to see one of the country’s most iconic landmarks, the Mingun Bell.


To reach Mingun, you can hop on a local boat from Mandalay and enjoy a leisurely cruise along the Irrawaddy River. As you glide on the water, take in the picturesque landscapes of lush greenery, riverfront villages, and local fishermen casting their nets.


Upon arriving in Mingun, you’ll be greeted by the towering Mingun Bell, an immense bronze bell that holds the distinction of being the largest functioning bell in the world. Weighing around 90 tons, the bell is an impressive sight, with intricate engravings and inscriptions covering its surface.


Take the time to explore the surrounding complex and learn about the history and legends associated with the Mingun Bell. The site also features the Hsinbyume Pagoda, a stunning white-washed structure with unique design elements resembling the mythical Mount Meru.


A visit to Mingun wouldn’t be complete without witnessing the ruins of the Mingun Pahtodawgyi. This colossal unfinished pagoda was intended to be the world’s largest, but construction was halted due to a prophecy that the country would face ruin if the pagoda was completed.


Climbing to the top of the pagoda offers panoramic views of the surrounding area, allowing you to appreciate the sheer scale of the structure and the beauty of the ancient ruins.


As you explore the village of Mingun, take the opportunity to interact with the friendly locals and immerse yourself in the laid-back atmosphere. Visit local markets, sample street food, and observe the daily activities of villagers to gain a deeper understanding of rural life in Myanmar.


A boat ride to Mingun and a visit to the Mingun Bell allow you to step outside the city hustle and bustle and experience the serene beauty of the Irrawaddy River. It’s a chance to connect with the local culture, witness impressive architectural feats, and create memories that will last a lifetime.


Stroll along U Bein Bridge

No trip to Mandalay would be complete without a leisurely stroll along the iconic U Bein Bridge. Located in the township of Amarapura, this historic teakwood bridge is not only a remarkable feat of engineering but also offers stunning views of the surrounding area.


U Bein Bridge stretches across the Taungthaman Lake and spans a length of 1.2 kilometers, making it the longest teakwood bridge in the world. Constructed in the 19th century, the bridge has become an important symbol of Mandalay and a popular tourist attraction.


Arriving at U Bein Bridge, you’ll be greeted by the sight of locals and visitors alike crossing the bridge and enjoying the scenic views. The bridge stands on a series of tall wooden pillars, and you’ll see monks, villagers, and fishermen going about their daily activities as you walk along.


As you stroll across the bridge, take the opportunity to admire the intricate craftsmanship of the teakwood and the unique perspective it provides of the surrounding landscape. The sunsets at U Bein Bridge are particularly breathtaking, casting a warm golden glow over the lake and creating a picture-perfect scene.


For photographers, U Bein Bridge offers countless opportunities to capture stunning images. The silhouettes of people against the setting sun, the reflections on the water, and the overall serene atmosphere make it a dream location for capturing beautiful moments.


While the bridge is a popular spot for tourists, it also serves as an important lifeline for the local community. You’ll witness locals using the bridge for everyday activities such as commuting, transporting goods, and socializing, providing you with an authentic glimpse into their way of life.


To fully immerse yourself in the U Bein Bridge experience, consider taking a boat ride on Taungthaman Lake. This allows you to appreciate the bridge from a different perspective and gain a deeper understanding of its significance for the local community.


Visiting U Bein Bridge is a must for anyone traveling to Mandalay. The bridge’s historical importance, stunning views, and the unique glimpse it provides into the daily life of the locals make it a destination that will leave a lasting impression.


Experience the Local Culture at Zaycho Market

Immerse yourself in the vibrant atmosphere of Mandalay by visiting Zaycho Market, the largest and most bustling market in the city. This bustling marketplace offers a unique opportunity to experience the local culture, interact with friendly vendors, and sample a variety of traditional Burmese goods and delicacies.


Zaycho Market is a feast for the senses, with its colorful displays of fresh produce, aromatic spices, handicrafts, and traditional clothing. As you wander through the market, you’ll be greeted by the sights and sounds of locals bargaining, vendors promoting their goods, and the enticing aroma of street food wafting through the air.


The market is divided into various sections, each offering a different array of products. From vibrant fruits and vegetables to local snacks, from traditional textiles to intricate handicrafts, Zaycho Market showcases the diversity and richness of Burmese culture.


Take the opportunity to interact with the friendly vendors, many of whom are eager to share stories about their products and offer insights into local traditions and customs. It’s a chance to learn about the ingredients used in Burmese cuisine, the techniques behind traditional crafts, and the history behind the various items for sale.


Sampling the local food is a must-do at Zaycho Market. Indulge in flavorsome dishes such as Mohinga, a traditional Burmese noodle soup, or try a variety of street snacks like samosas, fried tofu, or coconut pancakes. The market is also known for its fresh fruit juices, a refreshing treat to enjoy as you explore the bustling stalls.


Beyond the shopping and dining opportunities, Zaycho Market provides a window into the daily lives of the local community. Observe the interactions between vendors and customers, witness the vibrant exchanges of goods and currency, and take in the energy and liveliness of this cultural hub.


If you’re interested in contemporary art and local crafts, make sure to visit the artisan stalls within the market. Here, you’ll find unique handmade items, including traditional puppets, lacquerware, jewelry, and paintings, all showcasing the artistic talent of Mandalay’s artisans.


Visiting Zaycho Market is an opportunity to immerse yourself in the local culture, support local businesses, and take home a piece of Mandalay’s vibrant spirit. Whether you’re searching for souvenirs, culinary delights, or a deeper understanding of Myanmar’s cultural heritage, Zaycho Market has something to offer for everyone.


Indulge in Burmese Cuisine at Local Restaurants

One of the highlights of visiting Mandalay is the opportunity to indulge in the flavors of authentic Burmese cuisine. The city is home to a wide range of local restaurants, street stalls, and food markets that offer a tantalizing array of dishes sure to satisfy any palate.


Burmese cuisine is a delightful blend of flavors influenced by neighboring countries such as China, India, and Thailand. From savory curries to noodle dishes, from seafood to vegetarian delights, there’s something to please every taste bud.


When it comes to dining in Mandalay, one cannot miss trying the beloved national dish of Myanmar, Mohinga. This rich and flavorful fish-based noodle soup is typically enjoyed for breakfast and is considered a comforting and nourishing start to the day.


Another popular dish to sample is Laphet Thoke, also known as tea leaf salad. Made from fermented tea leaves mixed with various ingredients such as tomatoes, dried shrimp, garlic, and chili, it offers a unique burst of flavors and textures.


For those with a love for spice, Mandalay is a haven for spicy food lovers. Try the traditional Shan-style rice noodles, Khao Soi, which combines egg noodles in a rich and spicy coconut curry broth, topped with crispy noodles and your choice of meat.


Seafood enthusiasts will delight in fresh catches from the nearby Irrawaddy River and surrounding lakes. Grilled fish, prawn curries, and spicy fish stews are among the top choices for seafood lovers in Mandalay.


Vegetarians will also find a plethora of options to suit their dietary preferences. From delicious vegetable curries to hearty lentil soups, Mandalay’s vegetarian fare showcases the variety and depth of flavors in Burmese cuisine.


When dining at local restaurants in Mandalay, don’t forget to try the traditional Burmese sweets. Treat your taste buds to delights such as Mont Lone Yay Paw (layered cake), Kyauk Kyaw (jelly dessert), or Shwe Yin Aye (coconut milk with jelly and sweet treats).


To truly savor the essence of Burmese cuisine, venture beyond the well-known dishes and try lesser-known gems. Locals are often eager to recommend their favorite hole-in-the-wall restaurants or street food stalls, where you can discover hidden culinary treasures.


Immerse yourself in the flavors, aromas, and textures of Burmese cuisine as you dine at local restaurants in Mandalay. Exploring the local culinary scene allows you to experience the essence of Myanmar’s rich food culture and create delicious memories during your visit.


Take a Day Trip to the Ancient City of Ava (Inwa)

Step back in time and embark on a day trip to the ancient city of Ava, also known as Inwa. This former capital of Myanmar offers a glimpse into the country’s rich history, with its well-preserved ruins, ancient temples, and serene countryside.


Located just a short distance from Mandalay, the journey to Inwa takes you across the scenic countryside, passing paddy fields, charming villages, and rural landscapes. Arriving in Inwa, you’ll be transported to a bygone era as you explore the remnants of the city’s glorious past.


One of the highlights of an Inwa visit is the opportunity to explore the historical landmarks by horse-drawn cart. Hop aboard a traditional carriage and allow yourself to be guided through the ancient city, soaking in the tranquil atmosphere.


Marvel at the grandeur of the Bagaya Kyaung, a magnificent teakwood monastery that showcases exquisite architectural details and intricate carvings. Wander through its halls and imagine the daily rituals and teachings that once took place within these sacred walls.


Continue your journey to the iconic Inwa Watchtower, also known as the Nan Myint. This towering structure offers panoramic views of the surrounding countryside and provides insight into the city’s strategic importance in the past.


As you explore Inwa, you’ll also encounter other historical sites such as the Maha Aungmye Bonzan Monastery, known for its stucco carvings, and the impressive brick-built Htilaingshin Pagoda. These sacred sites offer a glimpse into the architectural prowess and religious significance of ancient Inwa.


Make sure to take the time to interact with the welcoming locals and learn about their way of life. Chat with village artisans, observe traditional crafts being made, and sample local snacks and delicacies unique to Inwa.


Throughout your day trip, you’ll have the opportunity to traverse the serene countryside, bordered by the meandering Irrawaddy River. The lush landscapes and peaceful ambiance provide the perfect backdrop for a leisurely and culturally enriching experience.


A day trip to Inwa offers a chance to escape the hustle and bustle of Mandalay and immerse yourself in the historical charm of a once-mighty capital. It’s an opportunity to explore ancient ruins, interact with friendly locals, and appreciate the rich history and cultural heritage of this enchanting destination.


Explore Nearby Attractions like Sagaing and Amarapura

While visiting Mandalay, take the opportunity to explore nearby attractions like Sagaing and Amarapura. These historically and culturally rich cities offer a unique perspective on the region’s heritage, stunning landscapes, and serene spiritual sites.


Sagaing, located just across the Irrawaddy River from Mandalay, is known as the spiritual center of Myanmar. The city is home to numerous monasteries, pagodas, and meditation centers, attracting monks and devotees from all over the country.


Begin your exploration of Sagaing with a visit to the magnificent Soon U Ponya Shin Pagoda. This golden pagoda offers panoramic views of the surrounding landscapes, dotted with countless stupas, monasteries, and temples.


Continue your journey to the Sagaing Hill, a scenic hillside adorned with pagodas and monasteries. Take the time to visit the serene U Min Thonze Pagoda, famous for its unique 45 Buddha images arranged in a crescent-shaped colonnade.


Explore the serene and picturesque village of Amarapura, known for its historical significance and breathtaking landmarks. Start with a visit to the iconic U Bein Bridge, an ancient teakwood bridge that spans across Taungthaman Lake.


Walk along this iconic bridge, especially during sunset, to witness a mesmerizing scene as the sun casts its golden hues on the lake and the silhouettes of people crossing the bridge.


Continue your exploration of Amarapura by visiting the Mahagandayon Monastery, a revered center for Buddhist teachings and monastic education. Witness the daily ritual of the monks gathering for their midday meal, a serene and humbling experience.


If time permits, make a stop at Kyauktawgyi Pagoda, which houses a massive Buddha statue carved from a single block of marble. This impressive statue and its intricate details are a sight to behold.


Both Sagaing and Amarapura offer unique opportunities for spiritual reflection and cultural immersion. From the awe-inspiring pagodas to the peaceful monasteries, these nearby attractions provide a deeper understanding of Buddhism and its significance in Myanmar.


As you explore Sagaing and Amarapura, take the time to appreciate the scenic beauty of the region. The lush landscapes, the calm waters of the Irrawaddy River, and the tranquil ambiance create a sense of tranquility and peace.


Visiting Sagaing and Amarapura is like stepping into a different world, where spirituality, history, and natural beauty converge. It’s a chance to delve deeper into the cultural tapestry of Myanmar and create memories that will last a lifetime.



Mandalay, Myanmar’s cultural heart, offers a wealth of experiences that will leave you captivated and enchanted. From exploring ancient palaces and monasteries to indulging in delectable Burmese cuisine, every corner of this city is filled with history, culture, and natural beauty.


With its rich heritage and vibrant atmosphere, Mandalay invites visitors to immerse themselves in the unique charms of Myanmar. Explore the grandeur of the Mandalay Palace, marvel at the intricate carvings of the Shwenandaw Monastery, and discover the world’s largest book at the Kuthodaw Pagoda.


As you venture beyond the city limits, take a boat ride to Mingun and be awestruck by the massive Mingun Bell, or stroll along the iconic U Bein Bridge in Amarapura and witness the breathtaking sunset over the lake.


Indulge your taste buds in the flavors of Burmese cuisine at local restaurants and immerse yourself in the vibrant atmosphere of Zaycho Market, where you can experience the local culture first-hand.


Don’t miss the chance to explore nearby attractions like Sagaing, with its spiritual aura and stunning panoramic views, or Amarapura, with its iconic U Bein Bridge and serene monastic life.


As you bid farewell to Mandalay, you will carry with you memories of its grandeur, the warmth of its people, and the richness of its cultural heritage. Mandalay is a city that beckons the curious traveler to truly experience the heart and soul of Myanmar.


Whether you are an adventure seeker, a history buff, a food enthusiast, or a lover of natural beauty, Mandalay offers a diverse range of experiences that will satisfy your wanderlust. So pack your bags, immerse yourself in the magic of Mandalay, and create memories that will last a lifetime.