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What To See In Yangon – Myanmar’s Original Capital City


Modified: December 28, 2023

by Malanie Salter



Welcome to Yangon, the former capital and largest city of Myanmar (formerly known as Burma). Yangon is a city filled with rich history, captivating landmarks, and a vibrant cultural heritage. As you stroll through the streets, you’ll be immersed in a unique blend of traditional Burmese culture and colonial charm.


Yangon is a city full of contrasts, where centuries-old pagodas stand tall alongside modern skyscrapers. From the iconic Shwedagon Pagoda to the bustling Bogyoke Aung San Market, there is something to captivate every visitor. Whether you’re a history enthusiast, a food lover, or an avid photographer, Yangon has something to offer for everyone.


In this article, we will explore some of the must-see attractions in Yangon, showcasing the city’s diversity and beauty. So, get ready to embark on a journey through Yangon’s enchanting streets and discover its hidden gems.


Shwedagon Pagoda

The Shwedagon Pagoda is the crown jewel of Yangon and one of the most sacred Buddhist sites in Myanmar. This magnificent golden pagoda stands tall on a hilltop, shimmering in the sunlight and casting a mesmerizing glow across the city. Believed to house relics of four previous Buddhas, including strands of Gautama Buddha’s hair, the pagoda holds immense religious significance.


As you approach the pagoda, you’ll be greeted by a grand staircase adorned with colorful prayer flags. Upon reaching the top, you’ll be awe-struck by the sheer size and beauty of the Shwedagon Pagoda. The main stupa, standing at over 99 meters tall, is encrusted with thousands of diamonds, rubies, and other precious gemstones. Its golden exterior is meticulously adorned with intricate carvings and ornaments, making it a sight to behold.


Visiting the Shwedagon Pagoda at sunset is a particularly magical experience. As the sun starts to set, the pagoda is bathed in a warm golden light, creating a surreal ambiance. The atmosphere is filled with the sound of monks chanting, and devotees offering prayers and lighting incense sticks. It’s a serene and spiritual experience that will leave a lasting impression on your soul.


Take your time to explore the pagoda’s sprawling complex, which includes smaller stupas, pavilions, and shrines. Don’t miss the chance to visit the planetary posts, each representing a day of the week according to Burmese astrology. It’s believed that rotating the post associated with your birth day brings good fortune.


Whether you’re a believer or not, the Shwedagon Pagoda is a must-visit destination in Yangon. Its beauty, religious significance, and peaceful ambiance create an unforgettable experience for all those who visit.


Sule Pagoda

Located in the heart of downtown Yangon, the Sule Pagoda is a historic and iconic landmark of the city. Standing tall in the middle of a busy intersection, this pagoda dates back over 2,000 years and holds great religious significance for Buddhists in Myanmar.


The Sule Pagoda is known for its unique octagonal shape, which sets it apart from other pagodas in the country. It is said to enshrine a hair relic of the Buddha, making it a revered site for pilgrims and locals alike. The pagoda is not as grand or towering as the Shwedagon Pagoda, but it exudes a sense of tranquility and charm.


One of the highlights of visiting the Sule Pagoda is exploring the surrounding area. The pagoda sits at the convergence of several major streets, making it a central hub of activity. Take a leisurely stroll around the pagoda and you’ll encounter bustling markets, street food stalls, and shops selling traditional Burmese handicrafts.


As you approach the Sule Pagoda, you’ll notice the intricate golden spire rising above the city skyline. The pagoda is adorned with colorful flags and surrounded by smaller shrines and statues. Many visitors come here to light incense sticks, make offerings, and say prayers for good fortune and blessings.


The Sule Pagoda holds historical significance as well. It has served as a focal point for political demonstrations and gatherings throughout Myanmar’s history. It’s a symbol of resistance and perseverance for the people of Myanmar.


For a truly memorable experience, visit the Sule Pagoda in the evening when it is beautifully illuminated, casting a soft glow across its surroundings. Take your time to explore the interior and admire the intricate artwork and architecture. Don’t forget to climb to the top for panoramic views of Yangon’s cityscape.


The Sule Pagoda, with its rich history and spiritual ambiance, is a must-visit destination that will provide insight into the cultural fabric of Yangon.


Bogyoke Aung San Market

Bogyoke Aung San Market, formerly known as Scott Market, is a bustling and vibrant market in the heart of Yangon. Named after General Aung San, a national hero of Myanmar, this market is a haven for shoppers and a treasure trove of local crafts, gems, and souvenirs.


As you step into Bogyoke Aung San Market, you’ll be greeted by a maze of narrow alleys filled with stalls selling a wide range of products. From traditional Burmese clothing, jewelry, and accessories to lacquerware, handicrafts, and artwork, the market offers a myriad of options for those looking to take home a piece of Myanmar’s culture.


One of the highlights of the market is the abundance of handcrafted products made by skilled local artisans. You’ll find intricately designed lacquerware bowls, handwoven textiles, and beautiful gemstone jewelry. Take your time to browse through the stalls, interact with the vendors, and learn about the stories behind each product.


While shopping is the main attraction, Bogyoke Aung San Market also offers a glimpse into the local way of life. You’ll witness the hustle and bustle of locals going about their daily routines, bargaining with vendors, and enjoying a quick meal at the food stalls. The market is a vibrant hub of activity where you can immerse yourself in the local culture.


When exploring the market, be prepared to haggle and negotiate prices. Bargaining is a common practice in Myanmar, and it’s part of the shopping experience. Remember to have fun while haggling, but also be respectful to the vendors.


After you’ve finished shopping, take a break at one of the many food stalls or local restaurants within the market. Indulge in local delicacies such as mohinga (a traditional rice noodle soup) or samosas. It’s the perfect way to refuel and immerse yourself further in the local flavors.


Bogyoke Aung San Market is a must-visit for shoppers and those interested in experiencing the local culture and craftsmanship of Myanmar. With its vibrant atmosphere and diverse range of products, you’re sure to find something special to take home as a memento of your time in Yangon.


Chaukhtatgyi Pagoda

Another remarkable religious site in Yangon is the Chaukhtatgyi Pagoda, known for its colossal reclining Buddha statue. This magnificent statue stretches an impressive 66 meters in length and is one of the largest reclining Buddha images in Myanmar.


As you approach the pagoda, you’ll notice the intricate details and stunning craftsmanship of the statue. The reclining Buddha rests on a beautifully adorned platform, with its face exuding a sense of serenity and peace. The statue’s elongated feet, marked with the symbols of the Buddha’s virtues, give visitors the opportunity to walk alongside and pay their respects.


Visiting the Chaukhtatgyi Pagoda allows you to experience the spiritual side of Myanmar. The pagoda attracts locals and tourists alike, who come here to offer prayers and make offerings. The tranquil atmosphere invites contemplation and reflection, providing a moment of respite from the hustle and bustle of the city.


Adjacent to the reclining Buddha statue, you’ll find a small museum housing a collection of Buddhist artifacts and relics. This provides an opportunity to delve deeper into the teachings and history of Buddhism in Myanmar.


One unique aspect of the Chaukhtatgyi Pagoda is its accessibility. Unlike many other pagodas, visitors are allowed to take photographs inside and around the statue, making it a photographer’s delight. The intricate details, including the ornate decorations and the statue’s expressive face, offer countless opportunities for capturing stunning images.


There is also a charming courtyard surrounding the pagoda, where you can relax and take in the peaceful environment. The scent of incense wafts through the air as devotees offer prayers and pay their respects to the Buddha.


Whether you are a spiritual seeker or simply interested in appreciating the artistry of the reclining Buddha statue, a visit to the Chaukhtatgyi Pagoda is a must when exploring Yangon. It offers a glimpse into Myanmar’s deep-rooted Buddhist culture and provides a serene and enlightening experience.


National Museum of Myanmar

If you’re interested in exploring the rich history and cultural heritage of Myanmar, a visit to the National Museum of Myanmar is a must. Located in Yangon, this museum houses a vast collection of artifacts and exhibits that provide insights into the country’s ancient civilizations, art, and religious traditions.


The National Museum is divided into several galleries, each displaying different aspects of Myanmar’s history and culture. From archaeological treasures and ancient sculptures to ornate traditional costumes and royal regalia, the museum showcases the diverse heritage of the country.


One of the highlights of the museum is the display of artifacts from the ancient city of Bagan, including intricately carved statues and religious relics. These artifacts offer a glimpse into the artistic prowess and spiritual beliefs of Myanmar’s ancestors.


As you make your way through the museum, you’ll also come across exhibits dedicated to Myanmar’s ethnic diversity, showcasing traditional costumes, musical instruments, and handicrafts from different regions of the country. This allows visitors to gain a deeper understanding of Myanmar’s cultural mosaic.


One of the most significant exhibits in the National Museum is the Lion Throne, which belonged to the last Burmese king. This magnificent throne adorned with gold, gemstones, and intricate carvings is a testament to Myanmar’s royal past.


The National Museum also offers a glimpse into Myanmar’s struggle for independence and the country’s political history. The museum houses exhibits dedicated to the life and legacy of General Aung San, a national hero and father of Myanmar’s independence.


Visiting the National Museum of Myanmar provides an educational and immersive experience. The exhibits are well-curated, providing historical context and engaging narratives. It’s a great opportunity to learn about Myanmar’s past and gain a deeper appreciation for its cultural heritage.


Before visiting the National Museum, it’s advisable to allocate enough time as the exhibits are extensive. The museum is a must-visit for history enthusiasts, cultural enthusiasts, and anyone seeking to delve into the fascinating world of Myanmar’s past.


Botataung Pagoda

Nestled alongside the Yangon River, the Botataung Pagoda is a hidden gem that holds both historical and religious significance. Named after the thousand military officers who escorted relics of the Buddha to this site, the pagoda is known for its unique hollow interior, housing a sacred hair relic of Gautama Buddha.


As you approach the pagoda, you’ll notice the impressive golden exterior adorned with intricate carvings and delicate filigree work. The pagoda has undergone several restorations over the years, but its original architecture and essence have been preserved.


What makes the Botataung Pagoda truly special is its hollow interior. Visitors have the rare opportunity to enter inside the pagoda and walk along a maze of mirrored corridors. The walls are adorned with intricate mosaics, reflecting light and creating a mystical atmosphere.


As you make your way through the corridors, you’ll come across small shrines dedicated to various deities and teachings of Buddhism. Devotees offer prayers, light incense sticks, and leave offerings, creating an environment of serenity and devotion.


A visit to the Botataung Pagoda is not complete without taking a stroll along the riverfront promenade. The view of the pagoda reflected in the waters of the Yangon River is a sight to behold, especially during sunset when the pagoda shines in golden hues.


The pagoda complex also includes a museum that showcases ancient artifacts, religious relics, and historical photographs. The museum offers insights into the history and cultural significance of the Botataung Pagoda, enriching visitors’ understanding of this sacred site.


Botataung Pagoda holds particular significance during the annual Botataung Pagoda Festival, a vibrant and lively event where locals come together to celebrate with music, dance performances, and traditional food stalls. It’s a great time to experience the local festivities and immerse yourself in Myanmar’s rich cultural heritage.


Visiting the Botataung Pagoda provides a unique opportunity to explore a lesser-known gem in Yangon and witness the blend of spirituality and architectural beauty. It’s a place of tranquility and reflection that will leave a lasting impression on your journey through Myanmar.


Kandawgyi Lake

Escape the hustle and bustle of Yangon by visiting the serene Kandawgyi Lake. Located in the heart of the city, this large artificial lake is a popular recreational spot for both locals and tourists.


Kandawgyi Lake, also known as the Royal Lake, offers a peaceful atmosphere surrounded by lush greenery and picturesque views. The lake is best explored by taking a leisurely walk along the wooden boardwalk that encircles it. As you stroll, you’ll be treated to stunning views of the Shwedagon Pagoda, which is reflected in the calm waters of the lake, creating a mesmerizing scene.


The lake also boasts a beautiful park where you can relax, have a picnic, or simply enjoy the tranquil surroundings. The park is adorned with colorful flowers, shady trees, and well-manicured lawns, providing a perfect escape from the city’s chaos.


A popular attraction at Kandawgyi Lake is the Karaweik Palace, an ornate replica of a traditional Burmese royal barge. This striking golden structure is perched on the eastern bank of the lake and functions as a restaurant and cultural center. Inside, you can experience traditional Burmese performances, enjoy a sumptuous meal, or simply admire the intricate craftsmanship of the palace.


Another highlight of visiting Kandawgyi Lake is the opportunity to witness the breathtaking sunset. As the sun sinks into the horizon, the lake and its surroundings are bathed in warm hues, creating a magical ambiance. It’s a perfect spot for photographers or anyone seeking a peaceful and romantic experience.


In addition to the natural beauty, Kandawgyi Lake also offers recreational activities for visitors. You can rent a paddleboat or rowboat to explore the lake at your own pace. It’s a great way to immerse yourself in the tranquility of the surroundings while enjoying a leisurely cruise on the water.


Whether you’re looking for a serene escape, a scenic jog, or a romantic evening, Kandawgyi Lake offers a peaceful retreat in the heart of Yangon. Embrace the tranquility, soak in the natural beauty, and create lasting memories during your visit to this charming destination.


Yangon Circular Train

Embark on a unique and immersive experience by taking a ride on the Yangon Circular Train. This iconic train journey offers a glimpse into the daily lives of Yangon’s residents and provides an opportunity to witness the city’s vibrant neighborhoods and countryside landscapes.


The Yangon Circular Train is a 46-kilometer loop that takes you on a leisurely ride around the outskirts of the city. As you board the train, you’ll be greeted by the lively atmosphere of local commuters, vendors selling snacks and drinks, and the rhythmic motion of the train as it moves along the tracks.


The train slowly chugs along, passing through various neighborhoods, bustling markets, and rural landscapes. You’ll have a chance to witness the vibrant street life of Yangon, with vendors selling fruits, vegetables, and other goods at the stations. The train also crosses several iconic bridges, offering panoramic views of the city’s rivers and lush greenery.


One of the highlights of the journey is the opportunity to interact with locals. As you sit in the compartments, you may strike up conversations with friendly passengers who are curious to know about your travels. It’s a great chance to learn about their daily routines, hear interesting stories, and gain insights into the local culture.


The slower pace of the train allows you to appreciate the changing scenery and observe the simple beauty of the countryside. From rice fields and small villages to urbanized areas and bustling markets, the journey offers a glimpse into the diverse landscapes of Yangon.


The entire loop takes approximately three hours to complete, but you can choose to hop on and off at different stations to explore specific areas of interest. It’s recommended to bring snacks and water, as well as a camera to capture the captivating moments during the journey.


The Yangon Circular Train is not just a mode of transportation; it’s an experience that immerses you in the local culture and provides a unique perspective of the city. It’s an opportunity to see beyond the tourist attractions and connect with the heartbeat of Yangon.


Yangon River Cruise

Experience the beauty and charm of Yangon from a different perspective by embarking on a captivating river cruise along the Yangon River. This scenic journey allows you to witness the bustling riverfront, iconic landmarks, and a breathtaking sunset while enjoying the tranquility of the water.


A Yangon river cruise offers a delightful escape from the city’s bustling streets and provides a unique opportunity to explore the vibrant river life. As you board the boat, you’ll be greeted by the friendly crew who will ensure your comfort throughout the journey.


As the boat sets sail, you’ll see the city’s skyline gradually fading away, replaced by the picturesque riverbanks lined with quaint villages, lush greenery, and local fishing communities. The cruise takes you past the bustling port, where you can witness the loading and unloading of cargo ships, showcasing the commercial importance of the river to Yangon’s economy.


One of the highlights of the Yangon river cruise is passing by the iconic landmarks that dot the riverbanks. You’ll have an unobstructed view of Yangon’s architectural gems, including the Shwedagon Pagoda, Botataung Pagoda, and the stunning colonial-era buildings that line the water’s edge. It’s a perfect opportunity to capture memorable photographs of these iconic sites.


The sunset river cruise is particularly enchanting as the golden sun dips below the horizon, casting a warm glow over the river. The tranquil setting coupled with the vibrant colors of the sky creates a magical ambiance that is hard to forget.


During the cruise, you can indulge in a delicious meal prepared by the onboard chefs, featuring a variety of local and international flavors. Relax on the deck, savor the flavors, and let the gentle breeze sweep away any cares or worries.


Whether you choose a daytime cruise to admire the river’s beauty or a sunset cruise for a romantic experience, a Yangon river cruise offers a serene escape and an opportunity to connect with the natural and cultural heritage of the city. It’s a perfect outing for couples, families, or anyone looking for a memorable experience on the waters of Yangon.


Yangon’s Colonial Architecture

Yangon’s colonial architecture is a testament to its history as a former British colonial capital. Walking through the streets of downtown Yangon, you’ll be transported back in time as you marvel at the beautiful buildings that reflect a fusion of Western and local architectural styles.


The colonial-era buildings in Yangon showcase a variety of architectural influences, including Victorian, Edwardian, and Art Deco styles. The ornate facades, intricate detailing, and grandeur of these structures add to the city’s charm and appeal.


One of the iconic examples of colonial architecture in Yangon is the Strand Hotel. This charming Victorian-style building, dating back to 1901, has hosted numerous famous guests throughout history. Its elegant white facade and nostalgic ambiance make it a must-visit destination, whether for a luxurious stay or a relaxing afternoon tea.


Another striking building is the Secretariat, formerly the seat of British administration during colonial rule. This grand red-brick edifice is a blend of Georgian and Victorian architecture and holds historical significance as the location where General Aung San and his cabinet were assassinated in 1947. Although not accessible to the public in its entirety, the Secretariat’s exterior is a notable sight that showcases the architectural splendor of the past.


As you wander through the streets, you’ll come across other colonial buildings that house government offices, banks, and hotels. Some of them have been preserved beautifully while others bear the marks of time, adding to their character and allure.


The preservation and restoration efforts in recent years have helped revive many of these architectural gems. The restoration projects aim to maintain the authenticity of the buildings while repurposing them for modern use, such as boutique hotels, restaurants, and art galleries.


Exploring Yangon’s colonial architecture not only allows you to appreciate the beauty of these buildings but also provides insights into the city’s history and the influence of British colonial rule. Walking along the streets, you’ll feel like you’ve stepped into a bygone era, with the buildings acting as living witnesses to the city’s past.


Whether you’re an architecture enthusiast, a history buff, or simply looking to immerse yourself in the city’s unique charm, a tour of Yangon’s colonial architecture is a captivating experience that shouldn’t be missed.



Yangon, the former capital of Myanmar, is a city that captivates visitors with its rich history, vibrant culture, and captivating landmarks. From the majestic Shwedagon Pagoda to the serene Kandawgyi Lake, there are countless attractions that offer a unique glimpse into the city’s heritage.


Exploring Yangon is like stepping into a living museum, where ancient pagodas, colonial-era buildings, and bustling markets coexist harmoniously. The city’s blend of traditional Burmese charm and colonial influences creates a unique and captivating ambiance.


Visiting the iconic Shwedagon Pagoda allows you to witness the grandeur and spirituality of Myanmar’s culture. The Sule Pagoda and Botataung Pagoda offer peaceful retreats and insights into the country’s religious traditions. Browsing through the stalls at Bogyoke Aung San Market allows you to immerse yourself in the vibrant local culture and take home a piece of Myanmar’s craftsmanship.


The National Museum of Myanmar provides a deeper understanding of the country’s history and cultural heritage. The Yangon Circular Train and river cruise offer unforgettable experiences, allowing you to witness the daily lives of the locals and witness the beauty of the city from different perspectives.


Furthermore, the colonial architecture of Yangon adds a touch of nostalgia to the cityscape. Walking through the streets and admiring these beautifully preserved structures transports you to the bygone era of British colonial rule.


Yangon is a city that captures the hearts of those who visit. Its diverse attractions, warm hospitality, and unique charm make it a destination that should be included on any traveler’s itinerary. Whether you’re seeking spiritual enlightenment, cultural immersion, or simply a memorable vacation, Yangon offers a myriad of experiences that will leave a lasting impression.


So, pack your bags, immerse yourself in the cultural tapestry, and embark on a journey to Yangon, where ancient traditions meet modern life in a captivating fusion that will enchant and inspire you.