The capital of Mongolia finally settled on its present site in 1778.
Territory of the Capital Ulaanbaatar city occupies 470,444 hectares of land, covering areas of the mountain ranges in the tributary basin of the Tuul river west bank, and the Tolgotiin Nuruu range to the north and Bogd Khan mountain. Holy mountains surround it; the Bogd Uul Mountain to the south, the Songino Mountain to the west, the Bayanzurkh Mountain to the east and the Chingeltei Mountain to the north.
Ulaanbaatar situates 1,250-2,000 meters high above sea-level.
The population of Ulaanbaatar – the administrative, political, economic, cultural and scientific center of the country – is 800,000 inhabitants. The livestock around the capital totals 270,200 heads.
The city has the only international airport in the country and the Trans-Siberian railway crosses Mongolia from north to south, stopping in Ulaanbaatar, connecting Moscow and Beijing.
This large and famous landmark is the heart of Ulaanbaatar where the Parliament, the Government House, Stock Exchange and many other important establishments are concentrated. It is named after Sukhbaatar, the famous patriot, whose statue is the main attraction on this square.
Gandan is the largest and most significant monastery in Mongolia and one of Ulaanbaatar’s most interesting sights. Built in the mid 19th century, it is the only monastery where Buddhist services continued during the communist years. Temples are flocked by visitors during religious services that start at 10 a.m. and last until mid day.
The Megjid Janraiseg Temple
Most important part of a monastery is the Megjid Janraiseg temple.The temple was built in 1911 – 1912 to celebrate the end of Manchu domination and, it is said, to heal the Bogd Gegeen from blindness. It is in a mixed Chinese and Tibetan style and inside is the 25.6 meter and 20 ton Avalokiteshvara-Janraiseg statue. The deity was consecrated in 1996, is hollow and contains a storehouse of precious items including sutras, medicinal herbs, bundles of Buddhist mantras and even a fully furnished ger. The statue was built with donations of Mongolian people as symbol of Buddhist revival in the mid 1990’s.
National History Museum
The museum houses a rich collection of historical and ethnographic exhibitions dating back to the period when first human beings resided in Central Asia. It has displays on several millennia of the history of Mongolia – beginning with the Stone Age, running through the Turkic and Mongol empires, the rise of Buddhism, the communist regime and ends with a colorful display of contemporary society. A special gallery exhibits the clothing and accessories of Mongolia’s 20-odd ethnic groups. The ethnographic section features a furnished ger (yurt) and a collection of saddles.
The Natural History Museum
Located near the city center the museum displays exhibits on the geology, zoology, botany, anthropology, and paleontology of Mongolia. Among the treasures on display are 800 objects from the lower Cambrian Age (500 million years ago) to the Quaternary Age (10,000 to 15,000 years ago), including fossils of vertebrates, plants, leaf prints, dinosaurs and mammals. The specimens of dinosaur skeletons and bones vary in size from a few centimeters to over 30 meters tall, and several are to be found only in Mongolia.
The Museum of Fine Arts
Named after the pre-eminent religious leader and artist of the 17th century, the highlights of this museum include the four Buddha sculpted by Zanabazar, a mandala done in silver and gold threads and pearl beads, and the painting “One Day in Mongolia”, attributed to the artist Sharav.
Choijin Lama Monastery
This complex of temples was built between 1904 and 1908; this museum was originally a temple for the younger brother of the last Bogd Haan, the political and religious leader of Mongolia. This is the only museum where all religious objects are kept ready for Buddhist chanting ceremonies and this is why it is called a temple museum. The museum is famous for its collection of Buddhist artworks, original silk icons and tsam dancing masks.
The Art Gallery
Founded in 1990, this large gallery features 20th century art, primarily paintings. The most important works include “Stallions Fighting” by Tsevegjav, “Black Camel” by Sengetsokhio, and “The Tale of the Great Horse” by Tengicbold. One gallery is devoted to Mongol Zurag, or traditional Mongolian painting.
Opera and Theaters
The Drama Theater or Opera /Ballet House and State Circus offers a fascinating array of folk shows, national or classic opera and ballet, and amazing contortionist performances.
Winter Palace of Bogd Khan
Built between 1893 and 1903, the Winter Palace of Bogd Khan was the home of the Mongolia’s last king Javzun Damba Khutagt VIII. This complex of temples and houses contains a number of Buddhist artworks and the private collection of the Bogd Khan, composed of gifts from rulers and kings from all over the world. The artworks displayed here were made by the top Mongolian, Tibetan and Chinese master-sculptors of the 18th and 19th centuries and represent the gods of the Buddhist pantheon. Inside the home is the Bogd Haan’s ornate ger covered with snow leopard skins. The main gate to the temple was made without a single nail.
Located to the south of Ulaanbaatar, Zaisan Hill Memorial was erected on the 50th anniversary of the Communist Revolution and honors the Soviet and Mongolian soldiers who died in WWII in the fight against Japan and Nazi Germany. Next to the monumental statue of the soldier, a mosaic composition on a large circular panel in reinforced concrete illustrates the theme of friendship between Mongol and Soviet peoples. In the center of it a large granite bowl holds an eternal flame. A good view can be had over the capital.