In 1755 King Alaungpaya conquered central Myanmar and built a new city at Dagon, a village that had existed for centuries around the Shwedagon Paya. He renamed the place Yangon, meaning ‘end of strife’, and, a year later, following the destruction of Thanlyin (Syriam) across the river, built it up into an important seaport.

In 1841 the city was virtually destroyed by fire. The rebuilt town again suffered extensive damage during the Second Anglo-Burmese War in 1852. The British, the new masters, renamed the city Rangoon and mapped out a grand building plan for what would become the capital of their imperial colony.

By the 1920s Rangoon was thriving as a port and key stopover point for steamships in the region, notable international visitors. In 1937 Amelia Earhart dropped in during the second of her attempts to fly around the world.

The city was also the spawning ground for Burmese independence. When that independence came in 1948, Rangoon continued as the nation's capital. However, its fortunes took a turn for the worse when military rule was imposed in 1962. The Burmese road to socialism as promulgated by General Ne Win and his cohorts drove Rangoon, like the rest of the country, to the brink of ruin.

In 1989 the junta decreed the city would once again be known as Yangon. Six years later the military announced that the newly constructed city of Nay Pyi Taw in central Myanmar was to be the nation’s capital. Yangon again suffered as government ministries departed from the downtown area, leaving behind empty and uncared for state owned buildings.

In late 2007 Yangon was the centre of huge nationwide fuel protests, which were led by Buddhist monks. The protests quickly escalated into antigovernment demonstrations, which resulted in the deaths of many protestors and worldwide condemnation.

In May 2008 the worst natural disaster in Myanmar’s recent history, Cyclone Nargis, hit the south of the country. Yangon was declared a disaster area by the government. However, when reconstruction work began, it was found that most of the city had escaped major structural damage. By mid-June 2008, electricity and telecommunications were back to normal, and shops and restaurants had reopened with brand new, corrugated tin roofs.

Since the 2010 elections, Yangon's fortunes have skyrocketed along with its land prices, as both local and foreign investors scramble to grab a foothold here. A game changer will be the Yangon Dalah bridge connecting the city's downtown to rural areas across the Yangon River. Ground was broken on this in 2016 with the aim of completing the crossing by 2020.

In the meantime, decades of economic stagnation and under investment are only too apparent in the city's slums and creaking, frequently overwhelmed infrastructure, something you will quickly realise as you crawl into town in a taxi from the airport.

Yangon is the former capital city of Myanmar and this is also the largest city in the country. The city is famous for having a mix of gorgeous colonial architecture which is located alongside traditional pagodas covered in gold leaf and studded with jewels. As you wander around the city, you can also enjoy delicious street food bites or you can also visit some of the more modern parts of the city to have a rooftop cocktail as you take in the glittering monuments and limpid lakes for which Yangon is so famous. If you don’t have much time to visit Myanmar then this is also a good choice as Yangon is close to other spots that make an easy day trip such as Hpa-an and the Golden Rock.

1. Shwedagon Pagoda

The Shwedagon Pagoda is one of the most famous pagodas in the world and is simply stunning. This is the main attraction that you have to see when you are in Yangon and the pagoda is also one of the most sacred sites to the Buddhist community in Myanmar. The pagoda is made up of a central structure which is covered in gold leaf and studded with precious stones like diamonds and rubies. You will also find other amazing objects here such as diamond crowns and if possible try to come here at sunset when you can take in the gorgeous skies across Yangon. It is said that the pagoda has been in situ since the 6th century CE when lotus blossoms bloomed here and a sacred hair of the Buddha was housed in the building.

Shwedagon Pagoda

2. China Town

This is one of the best places to visit in the city if you are looking for local markets as well as a whole plethora or barbecue and street food options. Chinatown is located around 19th street in Yangon and this is also one of the best places to not only shop and eat but also take in the pretty architecture in this part of town which is quite different from other locations.

China Town

3. Sule Pagoda

Sule Pagoda was built some 2,500 years ago and is one of the most famous temples in the city. What makes this pagoda so unique is that it is located in the middle of a rather modern part of town which serves to highlight its historical importance. The Sule Pagoda, also known as Sule Paya is made up of a 46 meter (150 feet) stupa that is shaped like an octagon. You can now walk around the pagoda and check out all the architectural motifs inside the main building and the walkways are an oasis of calm in the middle of the bustling city.

Sule Pagoda

4. Martyrs’ Mausoleum

The Martyrs’ Mausoleum is located near to Shwedagon Pagoda and is a memorial which was built to honor the Major General and ‘founding father of modern Myanmar’ Aung San and six of his cabinet members who were assassinated. It also contains the tomb of Queen Suphayalat who was the wife of the last king of Myanmar as well as others such as former Un Secretary General U Thant and writer Thakin Kodaw. From the mausoleum you can also check out panoramic vistas over the rest of Yangon although bear in mind that it is only open on the 19th of July every year as this is a public holiday to remember the assassination of Aung San.

Martyrs’ Mausoleum

5. Chaukhtatgyi Buddha Temple

Chaukhtatgyi Buddha Temple is known for having a statue of a reclining Buddha which is 217 foot (66 meters) long and is one of the largest in Myanmar. This is one of the most beautiful Buddha statues in this part of the world and the attention to detail that was put into this monument is amazing. The face was worked on several times as it was said to look too severe when it was first made, and you can now enjoy all the intricate details and design touches up close. You can even take in the long eyelashes of the Buddha as well as inscribed feet which make this well worth the trip as the temple lies outside of downtown Yangon.

Chaukhtatgyi Buddha Temple

6. Botataung Pagoda

Botataung Pagoda is also known as ‘1,000 soldiers’ and it was built to honor 1,000 military leaders in Myanmar who made of guard of honor and paid their respects to the relics of eight strands of hair that were said to have belonged to the Buddha and which were brought over from India some 2,000 years ago. The hair is still preserved in the pagoda although it is not on show to the public, but this is still one of the most important religious monuments in Yangon.

Botataung Pagoda

7. Kandawgyi Lake & Park

Kandawgyi Park is one of the best places to visit in Yangon if you want to get out of the center of the bustling city. The lake here is a great spot to watch the sunrise or sunset across the city and you can watch local families visiting the park at all times of the day. From the park you can look out across the lake and see sights such as a massive golden dragon boat which sits on the water and also look across to the brilliant Shwedagon Pagoda.

Kandawgyi Lake used to be known as Victoria Lakes and although it is not the largest body of water in the city it is definitely the most famous. The lake is located on Bogyoke Aung San Park and is known for its boardwalk which wraps around the water and is the best place to go for a stroll in the evening. Depending on when you visit you can also find musical performances held in the park.

Karaweik restaurant, the golden dragon boat, on Kandawgyi Lake.

8. Swe Taw Myat Pagoda

The Swe Taw Myat Pagoda is one of the best in Myanmar and is made of gold leaf and white stucco which glows in the afternoon sun. The pagoda is also covered in eye catching motifs in different colors and there are a number of entrances which mean that you can spend time exploring the different alleyways through the pagoda. This is also a famous religious spot in Buddhism as it is said to house a tooth of the Buddha.

Swe Taw Myat Pagoda

9. Bogyoke Aung San Market

Bogyoke Aung San Market is also sometimes referred to by its former name which is Scott Market. This market was built in 1926 during the British colonial period and surrounding the building you will find a number of cobbled streets that look like they would not be out of place in an English city. There is also a large indoor section of the market where you can get a good range of Burmese souvenirs such as textiles, handicrafts and paintings, so if you are shopping for gifts and mementos of your trip then this is the ideal place to come.

Bogyoke Aung San Market

10. Kaba Aye Pagoda

Kaba Aye Pagoda is one of the prettiest pagodas in Yangon and you will find a peaceful courtyard here that seems a world away from the busy streets of the city. The main reason to come to the Kaba Aye Pagoda is to take in the Buddha centerpiece which is made of silver. Make sure to note that you cannot wear your shoes in the pagoda so you will need to bring a bag with you or leave these outside, which is true of all sacred spots in Myanmar. Also make sure you try to visit in the morning or late afternoon as the sun can make for rather a hot visit.

Kaba Aye Pagoda

11. Maha Wizaya Pagoda

The Maha Wizaya Pagoda is one of the more modern temples in Yangon and is located on top of a small scenic hill. The pagoda is notable as it is topped with a picturesque blue domed ceiling that is covered in motifs and you can also see turtles crawling around the monument and swimming in the lakes on the lush grounds. Another reason to come here is to take in the amazing views over Yangon from the top of the hill.

Maha Wizaya Pagoda

12. Walk around Inya Lake

Inya Lake is the largest lake in Yangon and has recently been renovated so that you can now easily walk along its pretty shores. The lake also backs on to lush gardens and the area is known for its scenic villas which are owned by many of Yangon’s elite. This makes a top choice to go for a walk in the evening and you can also stop off for a drink at the Inya Lake Hotel and watch the views across the water that way if you prefer.

Inya Lake

 13. Visit the National Museum

If you want to walk through some of the history in Yangon then you need to head to the National Museum. Here you will find a whole range of Burmese artifacts as well as galleries filled with antiques and other regalia that date back to the Konbaung Dynasty. The museum has one of the best collections of antiques in Southeast Asia and this is the ideal place to come for anyone interested in Burmese craftsmanship and heritage items.

Yangon's National Museum

 999 Shan Noodle

Many visitors to Myanmar don’t realize that the food is simply delicious, as Burmese cuisine has failed to catch on as much as other Asian foodstuffs worldwide. That said, Yangon has an amazing food scene and when you are in town you need to try one of the most famous dishes in Myanmar which is Shan noodles that originated in Shan State.

The best place to eat them in the city is in 999 Shan Noodle and this small shop serves up bowls of steaming noodles which are accompanied by vegetables, herbs, and a range of sauces to customize your dish. 999 Shan Noodle is a humble eatery in the city so do not expect anything fancy but the line of locals eating here proves just how delicious the toothsome delicacy served here really is.

999 Shan Noodle Shop

Strand Hotel

The Strand Hotel is a Yangon institution and is known for being the grandest hotel in the city. The Strand Hotel was built in 1901 by the Sarkies brothers and it was renovated in the 1990s to its former glory. This is one of the most famous colonial buildings in Myanmar and you can come here for a cocktail or have a traditional English afternoon tea.

Strand Hotel

Have a bowl of Mohinga

If Myanmar has a national dish then it is definitely Mohinga. Usually eaten for breakfast, this dish is made of rice noodles which are cooked in a fish based broth. The whole dish also has a curried flavor to it as it is packed full of spices and aromatics and this is usually eaten for breakfast so make sure not to miss trying a steaming bowl when you are in town.

Bowl of Mohinga

Thiripyitsaya Sky Bistro

The Thiripyitsaya Sky Bistro is the best place to come in Yangon if you want to get a drink with a view. The bistro is located on the 20th floor and looks out over the city with panoramic vistas over the downtown area which stretches to the Shwedagon Pagoda. The best time to come here is in the late afternoon when you can watch the sunset with a bottle of ice cold local beer.


Thiripyitsaya Sky Bistro