Did you know that Yangon was once known as “The Garden City of the East?” Or that the Burmese words yan (ရန်) and koun (ကုန်) making up its name literally means the end of strife?
Ensconced in nature, Yangon appeals to first-time visitors who appreciate the city’s serene lakes, lush tropical trees and rustic parks.
Previously known as Rangoon, Yangon is also known for housing the country’s oldest and most revered revered temples and pagodas. Beyond the oft-visited Shwedagon or Sule Pagodas, Myanmar offers new travellers a chance to sample diverse cultures and communities, thanks to its charming blend of colonial English, traditional Burmese, and immigrant Chinese and Indian influences.
If you fancy a unique sojourn, consider our guide on experiencing Yangon’s history and modernization. For first timers to the city, however, the Pan Pacific Yangon team recommends that your explore these unusual historical sites in Yangon.
A deeply Buddhist country, Myanmar’s main tourist attractions are Buddhist temples, stupas and pagodas. Travellers should observe local religious customs when visiting various Yangon points of interest. Familiarise yourself with these Dos and Don’ts to better enjoy your first Yangon travel experience.
Dos for Travellers in Yangon
Treat places of worship with respect. Be prepared to remove your footwear when visiting pagodas or temple grounds.
Dress appropriately when visiting places like pagodas or monasteries. Women should wear conservative long dresses or skirts and avoid low cut blouses. Men should avoid wearing short pants.
Carry tissue paper with you at all times. Not all restaurants and toilets provide paper napkins or toilet paper.
Be mindful when you are snapping pictures, especially of Myanmese. The locals are known for their friendliness, but they might not like to have their photographs taken without consent. Always ask for permission first.
Don’ts for Travellers in Yangon
Address: Strand Rd, Yangon, Myanmar
Opening hours: 9am to 8pm daily
Be awed by the sight of a 2,500-year-old, 40-metre high golden Pagoda.
While the Shwedagon or Sule Pagodas may be Instagram favourites, the Botataung Pagoda has a charm of its own. Religious visitors may be keen to know that the main stupa of this much-revered temple on the banks of the river in downtown Yangon contains a sacred hair relic of the Buddha, among other ancient artefacts.
One of the highlights here is the Royal Palace Bronze Buddha statue—a finely filigreed religious artefact which rests on a high pedestal in an ornate pavilion. Do take some time to admire the intricate carvings of the pavilion and uncover the life story of the Buddha.
Address: Corner of Bo Gyoke Rd, Bo Aung Kyaw St, Yangon, Myanmar
Opening hours: 8am to 12pm, 2pm to 5pm daily
Peek inside Myanmar’s largest Catholic cathedral—a much loved religious icon which survived a 1930 earthquake and resisted the Japanese invasion during World War II. The cathedral stretches across 15 acres of land adorned with various religious Christian statues interspersed with flowers and trees.
The main cathedral is a remarkable red-brick building dating back to 1909. Designed in a neo-Gothic style, its imposing twin spires are modified from a Byzantine-inspired structure. While the cathedral’s exterior is a sight to behold, St Mary’s Cathedral’s main highlight is its interior— situated amidst red-white and green brick patterns, its original stained glass windows were destroyed in World War II and are replaced with immaculately detailed stained glass works.
Address: Shwe Gon Taing Road. Tamwe Township, Yangon, Myanmar
Opening hours: 6am to 8pm daily
Be mesmerised by a 66-metre-long reclining Buddha bearing a hint of a smile at the Chaukhtatgyi Temple. One of the most massive Buddha statues in Myanmar, the Chaukhtatgyi Buddha took nine years to complete, finishing in 1907.
This reclining Buddha’s gargantuan glass eyes measure over 1.5 metres wide and were custom-made at a local glass factory. The Buddha also wears a crown encrusted with real diamonds and precious stones.
When you visit, do make a point to gaze at the Buddha’s feet, with intricate carvings depicting scenes from the Buddha’s life.
Address: YCDC 2, Maha Bandula Road, Yangon, Myanmar
As a former British colony, Myanmar possesses numerous colonial structures: the Yangon City Hall is a prime example. Listed on the Yangon City Heritage List, the City Hall is a historic building where many significant events in Myanmar’s convoluted past took place. This government building was the place where General Aung San, father of national leader Aung San Suu Kyi, gave his public speeches.
What’s unique about this building is its traditional Myanmese tiered roofs. Called pyatthats, they were designed by renowned Burmese architect, U Tin, whose syncretic architectural style fusing indigenous elements with Western designs won him many fans.
Unfortunately, visitors are not allowed inside the City Hall building. However, if you stand on the field in front of the building, you can snap a photo of the structure’s colonial architecture complemented with traditional Myanmese motifs and patterns.
Address: No 1 Pyay Rd, Yangon, Myanmar
Opening hours: 7am to 5pm daily
Relive the tumultuous wartime history of Yangon at the Taukkyan War Cemetery. Here you can pay homage to Allied soldiers from the British Commonwealth who died in the battle in Myanmar (then called Burma) during both World Wars.
At this beautiful and poignant war cemetery, you can find 6,734 graves of fallen soldiers and memorial pillars with names of more than 27,000 Commonwealth soldiers who perished without graves during the Second World War. Look out for the two graves of recipients of the Victoria Cross—Britain’s highest award of gallantry.
(Do note that the cemetery does not have bathroom amenities, so do plan accordingly if you wish to visit its premises.)
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