Ulaanbaatar is a capital of Mongolia, built along the Tuul River and surrounded by lovely mountains. It's a modern city with one third of the entire population of Mongolia. High rise apartments, crowded suburbs, chaotic traffic are in stark contrast to the quiet, simple life of the countryside. The East meets the west here and the promise of technology and modern values collides with traditional culture: you can see young people talking on their cell phones next to old men in traditional dress flipping their prayer beads, talking to the Gods, apartment buildings being close to gers in the outskirts of the city.
City center is Suhkbaator Square, near the statue of the revolutionary hero Sukhbaator. From this spot in July 1921 Damdiny Sukhbaator, the 'hero of the revolution', declared independence of Mongolia from the Chinese. The words he apparently proclaimed at the time are engraved on the bottom of the statue: 'If we, the whole people, unite in our common effort and common will, there will be nothing in the world that we cannot achieve, that we will not have learnt or failed to do.' Today the Square is occasionally used for rallies, ceremonies and even rock concerts.
You'll see gray building just in front of the Square, it's State Parliament House. Directly in front of it is a Mausoleum, built in 1921, which contains the remains of Sukhbaator, and possibly Choibalsan.
At the southeast corner of the Square, the salmon-pinkish building is the State Opera & Ballet Theatre.
To the northeast there is modern Palace of Culture, containing the impressive Mongolian Art Gallery is the next building.
One block to the north-west from the square you'll find the National Museum of Natural History. And believe please, it's worth visiting.
If you go few kilometers south of the Square you'll find the Winter Palace of Bogd Khaan. Built between 1893 and 1903, it's where the 8th Bogd Khaan (Living Buddha) and last king of Mongolia, lived for 20 years. The Winter Palace contains collections of gifts given the Bogd Khaan, including an extraordinary array of stuffed animals.
At the end of Ondor Geegen Zanabazaryn Gudamj there is the Gandan Monastery
(Gandantegchinlen Khiid). At the beginning of the 19th century over 100 Tibetan Buddhist sum (temples) and khiid (monasteries) served a 50 000 population of Ulaanbaatar. Most of the temples and monasteries, along with their belongings, were destroyed during the Stalinist purges of the late 1930s. This monastery survived because the communists kept it as a showcase to impress foreigners. Roughly meaning 'the great place of complete joy', Gandan is one of the most amazing sights of Ulaanbaatar.
On the other side of the city, to its south, there is the Zaisan Memorial, high monument on top of the hill. Built by the Russians to commemorate 'unknown soldiers and heroes' from various wars, it offers the best views of Ulaanbaatar and the surrounding hills.
In Ulaanbaator you may expect western standard hotels, a variety of restaurants, good art and history museums and friendly people.
You are welcome to Ulaanbaatar!