Things to do in Mandalay – Myanmar
Welcome to Mandalay, a city located in the northern part of Myanmar, known for its rich culture and history. Our team has crafted this guide to help you explore and experience the best of Mandalay. From ancient temples to bustling street markets, there’s something for everyone in this vibrant city.
- Explore Mandalay’s ancient temples, including Mahamuni Pagoda, Shwenandaw Monastery, and Kuthodaw Pagoda.
- Discover Mandalay Hill and its panoramic views.
- Unravel Mandalay’s royal history at the Mandalay Palace.
- Experience Mandalay’s vibrant cultural scene through traditional performances and local arts.
- Indulge in Mandalay’s street food scene with its signature dishes such as Mandalay noodles, Mont lone yay paw, and mohinga.
- Shop in Mandalay’s local markets, such as Zegyo Market and Yadanabon Market, for handicrafts and gems.
- Plan day trips to nearby attractions like Mingun and Sagaing.
- Choose from a range of accommodation options, catering to different budgets and preferences.
- Follow our sample itinerary to make the most of your time in Mandalay.
- Get around Mandalay efficiently with our transportation tips.
- Ensure a safe and enjoyable experience in Mandalay with our safety tips.
- Select the best time to visit Mandalay based on the weather patterns and cultural festivals.
- Deepen your understanding of Mandalay’s historical significance and its role in Myanmar’s history.
Exploring Mandalay’s Ancient Temples
One of the main draws of Mandalay is its rich historical and cultural heritage, embodied in its ancient temples. These architectural marvels provide a glimpse into the city’s past and offer a spiritual experience for visitors.
The Mahamuni Pagoda is one of the most revered temples in Myanmar, famous for its stunning gold-plated Buddha image. The statue is said to have been brought to Mandalay from Rakhine State in the 18th century and is covered with gold leaves by devotees every day.
The Shwenandaw Monastery is a wooden structure that dates back to the 19th century. It was originally part of the Mandalay Palace and was later moved to its current location. Its intricate carvings and ornate decorations make it a must-visit temple in Mandalay.
The Kuthodaw Pagoda is known for housing the world’s largest book, made up of 729 marble slabs inscribed with Buddhist scriptures. The pagoda is surrounded by 729 smaller stupas, each containing a marble slab from the original book.
Mandalay Hill, while not a temple itself, is a significant spiritual site that offers panoramic views of the city. It has served as a meditation site since the 13th century and is dotted with monasteries and pagodas. Climbing to the summit of the hill is a memorable experience, with plenty of photogenic spots along the way.
Exploring Mandalay’s ancient temples is a journey back in time, providing a glimpse into Myanmar’s religious and cultural heritage.
Discover Mandalay Hill and its Panoramic Views
One of the most popular attractions in Mandalay is Mandalay Hill, which offers some of the most stunning panoramic views of the city. We highly recommend visiting Mandalay Hill during your trip, as it provides a unique experience that shouldn’t be missed.
Mandalay Hill has been a place of great significance for Buddhists for centuries, and there are several pagodas and monasteries located on the hill that are worth exploring. Visitors can climb the 1,729 steps to the summit or take a lift for a small fee.
Once at the top, you will be rewarded with a breathtaking view of the city, including the Irrawaddy River, the Royal Palace, and the Shan Mountains in the distance. It’s the perfect spot to watch the sunset, and there are several restaurants and cafes that offer refreshments.
While Mandalay Hill can be visited at any time of the day, we suggest going early in the morning or late afternoon to avoid the heat and crowds. Regardless of when you go, be sure to wear comfortable shoes and bring a hat and sunscreen.
Unraveling Mandalay’s Royal History at the Mandalay Palace
If you’re a history buff, a visit to the Mandalay Palace is a must. Once the residence of Myanmar’s kings and queens, the palace provides insights into the opulent lifestyle of royalty during the last monarchy. The complex comprises of several buildings, including a throne hall, audience hall, and a watchtower.
The palace was severely damaged during World War II, but some parts have been restored to their former glory. Visitors can admire the intricate woodwork and ornate carvings that decorate the palace’s interiors, which showcase the unique architecture of the Konbaung dynasty. Galleries display antique furniture, photographs, and other relics that tell the story of Mandalay’s royal past.
The Mandalay Palace Museum
Adjacent to the palace, the museum exhibits a vast collection of artefacts that offer a glimpse into the city’s rich cultural heritage. The permanent exhibitions include royal regalia, traditional costumes, and weaponry. Some of the notable displays include a replica of the royal throne and a 9kg gold-plated Buddha statue.
|Admission Fees:||10,000 Kyats (approx. £5) – foreigners, 5,000 Kyats – locals|
|Opening Hours:||8:30 AM – 4:30 PM, Tuesdays to Sundays (closed on Mondays and public holidays)|
The palace complex is expansive, and visitors should expect to spend 2-3 hours exploring. Guided tours are available for a more in-depth experience, but some visitors prefer to wander on their own.
“The Mandalay Palace offers a fascinating step back in time, giving us an insight into the lavish lifestyle of Myanmar’s royal family. It’s a must-visit attraction for those interested in history and architecture.” – Our Mandalay Travel Expert
Exploring U Bein Bridge and Amarapura
When visiting Mandalay, a trip to nearby Amarapura is a must, especially to see the iconic U Bein Bridge. This bridge is the longest teakwood bridge in the world and a significant attraction for both locals and tourists alike.
The bridge stretches across Taungthaman Lake and is best visited during sunrise or sunset, when the sky is painted with vibrant hues and the surrounding scenery is transformed into a breathtaking canvas.
|Things to do at U Bein Bridge||Getting there|
|-Walk along the bridge and enjoy the scenic views||-By taxi or private hire car from Mandalay, which takes around 30 minutes|
|-Boat ride on Taungthaman Lake||-By public bus from Mandalay, which takes around 1 hour|
|-Visit nearby attractions such as the Mahagandayon Monastery|
Amarapura also offers other attractions such as the Mahagandayon Monastery where visitors can witness the daily routine of hundreds of monks. Alternatively, visitors can also explore the local markets where various handicrafts, textiles, and souvenirs are available for purchase.
With its close proximity to Mandalay and the unique attractions that it offers, Amarapura and U Bein Bridge are definitely worth a visit.
Experiencing Mandalay’s Cultural Performances
If you want to immerse yourself in Mandalay’s vibrant arts scene, you must check out the local cultural performances. From puppet shows to Myanmar dance and theatre, Mandalay has a lot to offer to its visitors.
You don’t want to miss the chance to watch a traditional puppet show, one of Myanmar’s most famous art forms. These shows combine skilled puppetry with music and dance to tell unique stories. You can catch these shows at the Mandalay Marionettes Theater.
Myanmar dance performances are another must-see. These traditional performances usually involve a group of dancers in colorful costumes performing intricate movements to a backdrop of live music. You can watch these performances at the Mintha Theater.
The Mandalay Fine Arts School is another great place to check out. The school trains students in various art forms, including painting, sculpture, and performing arts. You can catch some of their performances on weekends.
Where to Catch These Performances in Mandalay
The Mandalay Marionettes Theater: No.66th Street, between 26th & 27th Street, Chan Aye Thar San Township
The Mintha Theater: 58th Street, between 29th & 30th Street, Chan Aye Thar San Township
The Mandalay Fine Arts School: No. 8th Street, between 57th & 58th Street, Chan Mya Thar Si Township
Make sure to check their schedules to plan your visit accordingly!
Exploring Mandalay’s Street Food Scene
Mandalay’s bustling street food scene is a must-visit for any foodie, offering a variety of delicious and inexpensive dishes that showcase the city’s culinary culture.
One of the most popular dishes to try in Mandalay is the Mandalay noodles, a local specialty served in a rich and flavourful broth with toppings such as crispy pork, boiled egg, and fried garlic. Another must-try dish is Mont lone yay paw, a crispy and savoury pancake made with rice flour, chicken, and onions, and served with a tangy and spicy dipping sauce.
For those who love seafood, mohinga is a must-try dish. Made with catfish, noodles, and a flavourful fish broth, it is a popular breakfast dish in Myanmar and can be found in many street food stalls in Mandalay.
When it comes to street food markets, the night market at 78st is a popular spot for locals and tourists alike. Here, you can find a wide variety of street food stalls selling everything from savory snacks to sweet treats. Another popular market is the Zegyo Market, known for its fresh produce and traditional snacks.
Whether you’re a foodie looking to sample local cuisine or simply looking for a budget-friendly meal, Mandalay’s street food scene is sure to satisfy your cravings.
Shopping in Mandalay’s Local Markets
One of the best ways to immerse ourselves in the local culture and lifestyle of Mandalay is by exploring its vibrant local markets. Here, we can find a variety of goods, from souvenirs to handicrafts, and immerse ourselves in the bustling atmosphere of local life.
Zegyo Market is one of the most popular markets in Mandalay, offering a vast selection of traditional Burmese clothing and jewelry, as well as fresh produce and street food. Yadanabon Market is another favorite, with a variety of locally-made handicrafts, including Shan bags, lacquerware, and gems.
|Zegyo Market||78th St, between 29th and 30th St, Mandalay||Burmese clothing and jewelry, fresh produce, street food|
|Yadanabon Market||85th St, between 23rd and 24th St, Mandalay||Handicrafts (Shan bags, Lacquerware) and gems|
When shopping in Mandalay’s local markets, it’s important to bargain for the best price, as the initial prices quoted by vendors are often higher than the actual value of the goods. Negotiating with vendors can also be a fun way to engage with the local culture and practice our haggling skills.
Lastly, it’s important to be mindful of our belongings and keep an eye on our valuables while shopping in crowded areas. Overall, exploring Mandalay’s local markets is an experience not to be missed, allowing us to discover unique souvenirs and immerse ourselves in the local way of life.
Day Trips from Mandalay
While Mandalay has plenty of attractions to keep you occupied, there are also some fantastic destinations to explore just outside the city. Here are some of the best day trips from Mandalay:
Located just across the Irrawaddy River, Sagaing is famous for its beautiful hilltop pagodas and monasteries. The area is also home to several meditation centers, making it a popular destination for those seeking a peaceful retreat. Don’t miss the chance to visit the Soon U Ponya Shin Pagoda, with its stunning views of the surrounding countryside.
Mingun is home to several important historical sites, including the massive Mingun Pagoda, which was never completed due to the death of King Bodawpaya. The pagoda is still an impressive sight, and visitors can climb to the top for a panoramic view of the river and surrounding area. Mingun is also home to the Mingun Bell, the largest ringing bell in the world.
Amarapura is a former capital of Myanmar and is known for its traditional silk weaving industry. Visitors can visit the U Bein Bridge, the world’s longest teak bridge, which spans Taungthaman Lake and offers a beautiful sunset view. Other must-see attractions include the Mahagandayon Monastery, one of the largest monasteries in Myanmar, and the Pahtodawgyi Pagoda.
Pyin Oo Lwin
Also known as Maymyo, Pyin Oo Lwin is a charming hill town located about 67 kilometers east of Mandalay. The town was a popular retreat for the British during colonial times and is known for its beautiful colonial-style architecture and botanical gardens. The National Kandawgyi Gardens, which are home to over 480 species of plants and trees, is a must-visit attraction in Pyin Oo Lwin.
Whichever day trip you choose, be sure to plan your transportation in advance and bring plenty of water and sun protection, as it can get hot and humid in the region during the day.
Best Places to Stay in Mandalay
Whether you’re looking for luxury or budget accommodations, Mandalay has something for everyone. Here are some of our top recommendations:
|Accommodation Type||Name||Location||Price Range|
|Luxury Hotel||The Ritz-Carlton, Mandalay||Chanmyathazi Township||££££|
|Boutique Hotel||Hotel by the Red Canal||Chanmyathazi Township||£££|
|Budget Hotel||Hotel A1||Chan Aye Thar San Township||£|
|Guesthouse||Royal Guest House||Chanmyathazi Township||££|
The Ritz-Carlton, Mandalay is a luxurious five-star hotel set in the heart of the city, offering world-class amenities and stunning views of Mandalay Hill. Hotel by the Red Canal is a charming boutique hotel with a distinctly local feel, and is located close to the city’s main attractions. Hotel A1 is a budget-friendly option with clean and comfortable rooms, while Royal Guest House offers affordable guesthouse accommodation with a friendly atmosphere.
Other popular areas to stay in Mandalay include the lively downtown area, where you can find a range of hostels and guesthouses at budget-friendly prices, and the quieter northern suburbs, known for their luxury accommodations and tranquil surroundings.
There are plenty of options for accommodations in Mandalay, ranging from luxury hotels to budget guesthouses. With its rich cultural heritage and vibrant local scene, it’s a destination well worth exploring.
Sample Mandalay Itinerary
Are you planning a trip to Mandalay and looking for some guidance on the best things to see and do? Our sample itinerary below covers the highlights of Mandalay and can be easily adapted to suit your preferences and travel style.
Note: the following itinerary assumes a stay of 3-4 days in Mandalay. If you have more time to spare, consider adding additional day trips or exploring more of the city’s cultural and culinary offerings.
Day 1: Temple-hopping in Mandalay
Start your day early and head to the Mahamuni Pagoda, one of Mandalay’s most iconic temples. Marvel at the golden Buddha statue and observe locals coming to pay their respects. Next, head to the Shwenandaw Monastery, an ornate teakwood structure known for its intricate carvings and historic significance. Afterward, make your way to Kuthodaw Pagoda, home to the “world’s largest book” – a collection of Buddhist scriptures engraved on 729 marble slabs. Finish the day with a sunset visit to Mandalay Hill, taking in the panoramic views of the city from atop the hill.
Day 2: Royal History and U Bein Bridge
Start the day by visiting the Mandalay Palace, once the residence of Myanmar’s kings and queens. Wander the grounds, explore the museum, and soak in the palace’s rich history and grandeur. Afterward, head to the nearby town of Amarapura and walk across the iconic U Bein Bridge – the world’s longest teakwood bridge. Be sure to visit during sunset for a truly magical experience. End the day with a traditional Myanmar puppet show in Mandalay.
Day 3: Cultural Immersion and Local Flavors
Begin the day with a visit to the Shwe In Bin Monastery, a peaceful oasis in the heart of the city that offers a glimpse into the daily life of Buddhist monks. Next, head to the Zegyo Market and sample some of Mandalay’s delicious street food, such as traditional noodles and curries. Spend the afternoon visiting the Moustache Brothers’ home and watching their hilarious political satire and traditional dance performance. Finish the day with a relaxing massage at a local spa.
Day 4: Day Trip to Mingun
If you have an extra day to spare, consider taking a day trip to the nearby village of Mingun. Here, you can explore the massive Mingun Pahtodawgyi – an unfinished pagoda that would have been the world’s largest if completed – and the imposing Mingun Bell – the world’s second-largest bell. Finish the day by visiting the picturesque Hsinbyume Pagoda, a beautiful white temple located on the banks of the Irrawaddy River.
There you have it – our recommended itinerary for exploring Mandalay’s top attractions and cultural offerings. Enjoy your trip!
Getting Around Mandalay
Getting around Mandalay can be challenging for first-time visitors, but there are plenty of transportation options available to make exploring the city easy and convenient.
Taxis are readily available throughout the city and can be hailed on the street or booked through your hotel. Make sure to agree on a fare before starting your journey, as many taxis do not have meters. Taxis can be a more expensive option, but they are a good choice for shorter journeys or when travelling in a group.
Public buses are a cheap and convenient way to get around Mandalay, with routes covering most parts of the city. While they may not be the most comfortable option, they are certainly the most budget-friendly. Bus routes can be difficult to navigate, so it’s best to ask for assistance from your hotel or a local.
Motorbikes are another popular option for getting around Mandalay. They can be rented for a reasonable daily fee and offer the flexibility to explore the city at your own pace. It’s important to note that traffic in Mandalay can be chaotic, so only experienced riders should consider renting a motorbike.
Finally, walking is a great way to explore certain parts of the city, particularly the historical centre. It’s important to stay aware of your surroundings and be cautious when crossing busy streets. During the hot summer months, it’s best to avoid walking in the middle of the day to avoid the scorching heat.
With these transportation options available, exploring Mandalay is both easy and exciting. We recommend doing your research beforehand to decide which option best suits your budget and travel style.
Safety Tips for Exploring Mandalay
While Mandalay is a relatively safe city, it is always important to exercise caution and be aware of your surroundings. Here are some safety tips to keep in mind during your visit:
- Be cautious when withdrawing cash from ATMs, especially at night. Try to use machines located inside banks or shopping centers.
- Avoid wearing expensive jewelry or flashing large amounts of cash while out in public.
- Be wary of pickpockets and keep an eye on your belongings, especially in crowded areas.
- When crossing the street, use designated pedestrian crossings and look both ways before crossing.
- Be respectful of local customs and dress appropriately when visiting religious sites.
- Drink bottled water and avoid ice in drinks to prevent stomach issues.
- When taking a taxi or motorbike, negotiate the fare beforehand and make sure you have enough cash on hand to pay.
- Stay up to date on any political or social tensions in the area and avoid any protests or large gatherings.
Remember that safety is a top priority, so always trust your instincts and take precautions to protect yourself and your belongings.
Weather and Best Time to Visit Mandalay
If you’re planning a trip to Mandalay, it’s essential to consider the weather to ensure an enjoyable experience. The city has a tropical monsoon climate, with three distinct seasons: the hot season, the rainy season, and the cool season.
|Season||Months||Temperature (°C)||Rainfall (mm)|
|Hot Season||March to May||30 – 36||Less than 50|
|Rainy Season||June to October||25 – 28||Between 200 and 500|
|Cool Season||November to February||20 – 24||Less than 10|
The best time to visit Mandalay is during the cool season, from November to February, when the weather is pleasant and dry, making it ideal for outdoor activities such as visiting temples and exploring the markets. This season also coincides with the famous Ananda Pagoda Festival.
If you’re not a fan of crowds, you may want to avoid visiting during the hot season, from March to May, when temperatures can be scorching, reaching up to 36°C. The rainy season, from June to October, can bring heavy downpours, making some attractions less accessible. However, this season may offer visitors a unique and quieter experience, with lush green landscapes and beautiful sunsets.
Mandalay’s Historical Significance
As we explore Mandalay and its various attractions, it is important to acknowledge the city’s rich historical significance. Established as the last royal capital of Myanmar in the mid-19th century, Mandalay has a fascinating past that continues to shape its present-day culture and identity.
The Rise and Fall of Mandalay as a Royal Capital
Under the Konbaung dynasty, Mandalay served as the country’s cultural, religious, and economic centre. It was famed for its royal palace, moat, and walls, and the stunning pagodas and monasteries that dotted the city’s skyline. However, the city’s decline began during the colonial period, when the British seized control of the region. Mandalay was largely destroyed during World War II, leaving behind a painful legacy that the city is still grappling with today.
Mandalay’s Cultural Heritage
Despite the challenges it has faced, Mandalay remains a city with a rich and diverse cultural landscape. Its teeming street markets, traditional puppet shows, and bustling neighbourhoods are a testament to the resilience and creativity of its people. Visitors to Mandalay can explore this cultural heritage by visiting its various temples and museums, sampling local food, and interacting with locals.
Mandalay’s Place in Modern Myanmar
Today, Mandalay is a bustling metropolis that is fast becoming one of Myanmar’s major economic hubs. Its proximity to China and Thailand, as well as its strategic location along the Ayeyarwady River, make it an important centre for trade, commerce, and tourism. However, amidst this modernisation, Mandalay’s rich history and cultural traditions continue to play a vital role in shaping the city’s identity and defining its place in the wider world.
As visitors, it is important that we recognise and appreciate Mandalay’s historical significance, and engage with the city’s past and present in a respectful and meaningful way. Doing so will not only enhance our own experience of Mandalay, but also contribute to the preservation and celebration of this incredible city.
Q: What are the main attractions to explore in Mandalay?
A: The main attractions in Mandalay include its ancient temples, Mandalay Hill, Mandalay Palace, U Bein Bridge, cultural performances, street food scene, local markets, day trips to nearby destinations, and the best places to stay.
Q: Which ancient temples should I visit in Mandalay?
A: Some of the iconic ancient temples in Mandalay include the Mahamuni Pagoda, Shwenandaw Monastery, and Kuthodaw Pagoda.
Q: How can I reach the summit of Mandalay Hill?
A: To reach the summit of Mandalay Hill, you can either climb the stairs or take a taxi to the top.
Q: What can I expect to see at Mandalay Palace?
A: Mandalay Palace offers insights into Myanmar’s royal history, including its architecture, museum, and grounds.
Q: Tell me more about U Bein Bridge and Amarapura.
A: U Bein Bridge in Amarapura is famous for being the world’s longest teakwood bridge and holds historical significance. It is best to visit during sunset for stunning views.
Q: Where can I experience Mandalay’s cultural performances?
A: You can experience traditional cultural performances in Mandalay at venues such as puppet shows, Myanmar dance shows, and theaters.
Q: What should I try from Mandalay’s street food scene?
A: Mandalay’s street food scene offers delicious dishes such as Mandalay noodles, Mont lone yay paw, and mohinga.
Q: Where can I go shopping in Mandalay?
A: You can explore local markets like Zegyo Market and Yadanabon Market for a variety of goods, including handicrafts and gems.
Q: Are there any recommended day trips from Mandalay?
A: Yes, you can plan day trips to nearby attractions like Mingun and Sagaing to explore more of the region.
Q: What are the best places to stay in Mandalay?
A: Mandalay offers a range of accommodation options, including hotels and guesthouses in different neighborhoods, catering to various budgets and preferences.
Q: Can you suggest a sample itinerary for exploring Mandalay?
A: We have a sample itinerary that highlights the must-visit attractions and suggests a suitable timeframe for each, helping you plan your trip efficiently.
Q: How can I get around Mandalay?
A: Getting around Mandalay is possible through various transportation options like taxis, public buses, and motorbikes. We also provide tips on navigating the city and the most efficient ways to move between attractions.
Q: What safety tips should I keep in mind while exploring Mandalay?
A: It is important to take precautions in crowded places, avoid scams, and respect local customs to ensure a safe and enjoyable experience in Mandalay.
Q: When is the best time to visit Mandalay in terms of weather?
A: The weather in Mandalay varies throughout the year, and the ideal time to visit depends on your preferences. We provide information on weather patterns to help you choose the best time for outdoor activities and cultural festivals.
Q: What is the historical significance of Mandalay?
A: Mandalay holds great historical significance, playing a vital role in Myanmar’s history and experiencing the impacts of colonisation. Understanding its historical context adds depth to your visit.