Yangon is most likely where you’re going to get your first impression of Myanmar. Don’t touch down thinking it’s going to be anything like Bangkok though as tourism has yet to really hit Myanmar and the city is a mix of chaos and religious sites.
It feels completely different to the rest of Asia and is a refreshing change where you don’t see as many tourists and the hot spots aren’t overly packed (yet!). Finding where to go in Yangon is made easy with this guide that shares the best things worth seeing and doing.
Yangon is one of the largest cities in Myanmar but it also holds the most attractions that you’ll want to see in one spot than compared to the rest of the country.
Yangon may seem rough on the edges but when you dig down and experience the culture, food and incredible sites first hand then you’ll start to love just how different and unique Yangon is, making it the perfect starting point for your Myanmar trip.
How to Get to Yangon
The most common way to get to Yangon is by flying. Buses can be taken if you’re coming from elsewhere in the country.
Things to do in Yangon
Find out what to do in Yangon for an epic time in the city!
Visit Shwedagon Pagoda for Sunset
When it comes to Yangon attractions, Shwedagon Pagoda is the most popular. It stands 99 metres tall and is covered in gold. It really is a beautiful site to see and I highly recommend you visit in the late afternoon to see it in the sunlight and then stay for sunset as the lights turn on and the gold starts to sparkle. The very top part is filled with thousands of diamonds and gems and it’s woth taking a look through the binoculars to see.
Shwedagon Pagoda is an important religious site and is where you can see people moving around the pagoda practicing rituals according to the day that they were born. It is extremely well preserved as it’s over 2500 years old which makes it the old Buddhist stupa in the world and the most important sacred site in all of Myanmar.
Pro Tip: The difference between a temple, pagoda and a stupa is that a pagoda is a general term for a temple or a stupa. A stupa you can go around but not into while a temple you can go into.
Shop at Bogyoke Aung San Market
Bogyoke Aung San Market was built in the 1920’s and was originally named Scott Market when Myanmar was colonized by the British. The market is large and touristy but it’s a good spot to check out many local Burmese souvenirs from jewelry to fabric, handmade goods and art. Keep in mind that it is more expensive and haggling here is difficult.
When I visited the locals were extremely kind and will show you around, however, they do expect you to buy something at the end (I bought a cheap card that he had painted). I also picked up some fabric here for a longyi which is what the locals wear and got good use out of it when I was visiting religious sites and needed to cover up.
READ MORE: 10 Tips for Myanmar Travel
Take in Sule Pagoda
Sule Pagoda is not nearly as impressive as Shwedagon Pagoda but it’s worth seeing. It’s best from afar and is interesting because it acts as the centre of a traffic circle. It’s a small fee to get inside and there isn’t much to actually see other than more gold up close. But it does hold plenty of history as it was here that many rallies and protests took place.
Eat Your Way Through Chinatown
Chinatown is the heart of downtown Yangon and is one of the best places to visit in Yangon. Spanning between 18th to 24th street, it’s in Chinatown where you’ll find most of the action and where I recommend you stay. It is the best spot in town to eat, stroll the streets finding interesting dishes and one of the few places where you can have a late night drink (after 9PM).
Want to find out the best spots to eat at in Chinatown? Join a tour with a local or take advice from this foodie blogger.
Chill Out at Kandawgyi Park
If you need to know what to see in Yangon that is more chilled out then a visit to Kandawghi Park is in order. Yangon is a very hectic city that is overpopulated with cars (as motorbikes are not allowed due to a political death).
To get away from it all head to Kandawgyi Park where you can grab a bite to eat at a lakeside restaurant, relax on the grass or make your way around the boardwalk where locals stroll or exercise. From this park you can also catch a great sunset with Shwedagon Pagoda in the background.
See Chaukhtatgyi Paya (the Reclining Buddha)
Take a peek into this temple to see a reclining Buddha that tops the famous one at Wat Pho in Bangkok. The reclining Buddha in Bangkok is impressive at 46 metres but the one in Yangon reaches 66 metres in length. The feet show inscriptions about the Buddha while the crown is decorated with diamonds and gems.
Visit a Tea House
There are many things to see in Yangon but you have to taste some of the city as well. A tea house in Myanmar means a street-side stall that has little plastic chairs. That’s just how you drink tea in Myanmar! Tea is very much a part of the culture in Myanmar and is enjoyed throughout the day, not in the afternoon like the British. Tea houses are littered throughout the street so you won’t have trouble finding where you can enjoy a cuppa. The tea is Myanmar is Chinese style.
Take a Ride on the Circle Train
The circle train line was never meant to be a tourist attraction but it has become one. The line was originally built in the 1950’s under the British rule and today it serves as a way for locals to get around.
The entire trip is 3 hours and if you have the time I highly recommend it as you’ll get to see the locals go about their day to day business, see the land outside of Yangon and markets pass by the windows. Fresh fruit can be bought on board and it is extremely cheap, about 300 kyats or $0.30.
Grab a Drink at Inya Lake
If you’re looking for things to do in Yangon at night then head to Inya Lake. It’s Yangon’s biggest lake and is where you can see sailing and rowing during the day. By night the area is filled with locals and very few tourists who are drinking and enjoying the night. The lake is artificial but it’s the perfect place to have a more authentic experience in Yangon. The area is popular for the younger crowd, roadside stalls selling beer and you can grab some food here too.
See Nga Gyi Pagoda Up Close
This is another great spot to visit to venture away from any tourist crowds because for some reason this place has yet to capture the attention of most people. But it’s worth visiting to see the 45 metre tall Buddha that sits here up close.
Check Out the Crumbling Colonial Buildings
You won’t find as many colonial buildings in the rest of Southeast Asia as you will in Yangon. Take a stroll down Pansodan Street where you can see the beauty of the crumbling buildings. As stunning as they would have been during their time the decaying of the buildings over time puts you in the present and offers a glimpse into the past. Yangon Heritage Trust puts on free tours of this area and the buildings.
Fancy having a local show you around? Check out these top Yangon day tours.
- Total Yangon Tour: Full Day with a Local Guide
- Half Day City Tour with Schedawgon Pagoda
- Tradition and Culture in Half Day City Tour
Where to Stay in Yangon
Check out my ultimate guide to the best hostels in Yangon here.
Best Hotels in Yangon
- Best Mid-Range Hotel: Crystal Palace Hotel | BOOK NOW: Booking.com
- Best Location: Best Western Chinatown Hotel | BOOK NOW: Booking.com
- Best Luxury Hotel: Pan Pacific Yangon | BOOK NOW: Booking.com
You’re all set for some Yangon sightseeing now that you know all of the top things to do in Yangon. Enjoy your Yangon trip!