Amazing Mandalay: Top 15 Best Things to do in Mandalay, Myanmar

The second largest city and Myanmar’s last royal capital, Mandalay is also the economic hub of Upper Burma. It’s located at the north of Yangon and on the eastern part of the Irrawaddy River with a population of 1,225,553 as of 2014.

Things to do in Mandalay Myanmar
Things to do in Mandalay Myanmar

Though Mandalay isn’t relatively known for pubs, some restaurants have foreign and local beer on their menu but the main attractions of Mandalay are the temples and pagodas which are plenty and offer a unique insight of their beliefs and practices.


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These 15 Activities lets you experience Mandalay and get to know its roots and way of living.

Jade Market

Jade Market in Mandalay photo by Binder.donedat via Flickr CC
Jade Market in Mandalay photo by Binder.donedat via Flickr CC

Myanmar supplies about 70% of the world’s jade and when you’re in Mandalay you can visit the Jade Market where large blocks of the mineral can be found. Traders sit there all day to examine, sell or trade it. Tourists can buy one-of-a-kind pieces or matching items at the market.

Kuthodaw Pagoda

Kuthodaw Pagoda
Kuthodaw Pagoda – Best Things to do in Mandalay

Some 729 marble slabs with Buddhist teachings inscriptions can be seen in Kuthodaw Pagoda. These marbles slabs are called “the world’s largest book” and they are housed in mini shrines. The construction of the first book was finished in 1872 and was done by 2,400 monks. There’s a central shrine of the pagoda is the Maha Lawkka Marazein Pagoda which stands at 100 feet. The entrance to the premises is free.

Atumashi Monastery

Atumashi Monastery by Mayor mt via Wikipedia CC
Atumashi Monastery By Mayor mt – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0

The location of this monastery is just a few minutes drive from the royal palace. It was one of King Mindon’s last religious projects and was first made of wood and featured stucco as the outer part. The whole building burned down in 1980 but was rebuilt in 1996 through prison labor. The structure today also has 5 tiers of rectangular terraces, intricate carvings, and a white background.

Myanmar Train
Myanmar Train

Train Ride from Mandalay

While you’ll most likely just want to enjoy Mandalay, a train ride from there to other parts of Myanmar can offer scenic views and wonderful memories. Mandalay to Hsipaw will have you passing Pyin Oo Lwin and Goetik Viaduct which was built in 1900. Mandalay to Myitkyina offers a more interesting and bumpy ride through untouched jungles which leads to Indawgyi Lake. Train rides going back to Mandalay are available.

Mandalay Hill

Mandalay Hill by Stefan Fussan via Wikipedia CC
Mandalay Hill By Stefan Fussan, CC BY-SA 3.0

Most of Mandalay is flat except for Mandalay Hill which offers the most captivating view of the city and all of Mandalay. The trek up the hill is easy but for visitors who don’t want to take the staircase, they can take the taxi or elevator to go up. The admission is free but there’s a charge for people with cameras. It’s located outside the downtown area.

Sandamani or Sandamuni Pagoda

Sandamuni Pagoda by ccarlstead via Flickr CC
Sandamuni Pagoda by ccarlstead via Flickr CC

King Mingdon had this pagoda built in memory of his younger brother who was assassinated in 1866 during the rebellion. Three princes were also killed with his brother so they were also honored through this pagoda. Visitors can find this Buddhist stupa at the southwestern part of Mandalay Hill. It’s also where the largest iron Buddha at 18.5 metric tons is located along with other white pagodas.

Shwenandaw Kyaung (Teak Temple)

Shwenandaw Kyaung by Allan Harris via Flickr CC
Shwenandaw Kyaung by Allan Harris via Flickr CC

The monastery of Shwenandaw was built by King Thibaw Min in 1878 in memory of his father, King Mindon Min. This monastery is also sometimes called “Golden Palace Monastery”. The monastery was used by the king as a meditation spot. Beautiful carvings of teak wood which depicts Buddhist myths can be seen throughout the pagoda. It evokes traditional Burmese architecture and is the only remaining original structure of the original Royal Palace.

Mahamuni Pagoda

Mahamuni Buddha Temple photo by Wagaung via Wikipedia CC
Mahamuni Buddha Temple By Wagaung at English Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0

Also called Mahamuni Buddha Temple, this pagoda is a major pilgrimage site depicting the image of the Mahamuni Pagoda meaning ‘The Great Sage’. The Buddha came from Arakan and highly respected in the whole of Burma as the locals consider it the representation of the Buddha’s life. They say that there are only five of its kind; two in India, one in Myanmar and two in paradise.

Jin Taw Yan Buddhist Temple

Jin Taw Yan Buddhist Temple photo via FB Page
Jin Taw Yan Buddhist Temple photo via FB Page

Myanmar’s largest Chinese temple can be found in Mandalay and opened in February 2014. Jin Taw Yan Temple is located near the Ayeyarwady River where Chinese-style temples are built for 500 years. The temple is open to everyone who wants to see the ornate Chinese architecture style used in the whole temple. One of the features of the temple is a carpeted staircase to the entrance with Chinese inscriptions.

Burmese Lady in Mandalay
Burmese Lady in Mandalay

Mandalay’s Local Workshops

The population of craftspeople in Mandalay is impressive. It’s easy to see small and bigger workshops on any corner of the city. It will be a thrilling experience for visitors to see where the souvenirs they’re buying come from. Some of the workshops that tourists can visit are sewing, traditional wooden puppets, gold leaf making and pottery. Visitors can also buy something from the workshops they went to.

Mandalay Marionette Theater

Mandalay Marionette Theater
Mandalay Marionette Theater

Mandalay boasts of conserving the lost art of marionette puppetry. This art is part of their culture and visitors can go to the Mandalay Marionette Theater to watch large stringed wooden puppets as they perform traditional dances and folk scenes which tells about the story of Mandalay. The marionette puppets come in smaller versions which tourists can buy as souvenirs. These smaller versions can be seen in workshops scattered in Mandalay.

Mont Lin Ma Yar (Couple’s Snack)

These bite-size pieces that every tourist will enjoy as snacks or accompaniment to other Burmese dishes are made of rice flour batter with quail eggs, scallions or roasted chickpeas filling. It’s also called ‘Couple’s Snack’ because they’re first cooked separately and joined together to form one ball. These are cooked in cast iron round moulds and sprinkled with sesame and salt. This street food favorite can be found in many markets at the city. The 31st Street Market has sellers of these treats.

Street Food in Myanmar
Street Food in Myanmar

Gold Leaf Rice

According to some people, gold is edible and proof of that is the popularity of menu offerings that has the mineral at the starring role. In Mandalay, there’s a restaurant called Unique Myanmar which serves gold leaf rice. This is just plain rice that’s topped with gold and mixed with feta cheese and spices. They say that it goes well with curry dishes.

Zay Cho Market

Zay Cho Market photo via Go-Myanmar via Wikipedia CC
Zay Cho Market photo via Go-Myanmar via Wikipedia CC

There are many other names given to this market like Zegyo, Zaygyo and Zeigyo. Its Bamar name (Zay Cho) means “cheap rice” and in this market visitors can find many bargain items. The merchandises being sold in Zay Cho range from traditional Mandalay silk longyi (acheik), velvet slippers (kadipar), silverware, lacquerware and jewelries. Hungry crowds can also go there for a bite.

Shweinbin Monastery

Shweinbin Monastery by Kent MacElwee via Flickr CC
Shweinbin Monastery by Kent MacElwee via Flickr CC

This monastery is another structure in Mandalay which uses teak wood. It was built in 1895 by a Sino-Burmese merchant who married a royal Burmese woman. Its style followed a strict traditional Burmese monastic architecture and features pyatthat crowns on its pavilions. There are many woodcarvings inside the monastery as well as other works of art.

To get to know the culture of a place means allowing one’s self to immerse in local life to experience all there is in that place. Visiting Mandalay’s temples, workshops, and other attractions and having a taste of their food and purchasing from local shops is a great way to take a piece of Mandalay home with you.

Mandalay Travel and Tour Packages

Mandalay Walking Tour

Mandalay Walking Tour photo via KLOOK
Mandalay Walking Tour photo via KLOOK

Explore the best of Mandalay on a 4-hour private walking tour and see some of the region’s most interesting attractions.

Mandalay Walking TourBOOK THIS TOUR

Mandalay Heritage Tour

Mandalay Heritage Tour photo via KLOOK
Mandalay Heritage Tour photo via KLOOK – Things to do in Mandalay

Immerse yourself in the unique and diverse culture of Myanmar on this one-day sightseeing tour of the fascinating city, which takes to you the city’s must-visit spots! Get picked up at your hotel in the morning, then visit the Mahamuni Buddha Temple, a major pilgrimage site that houses the most highly-revered Budda image in the country.

Mandalay Heritage Tour - Things to do in MandalayBOOK THIS TOUR

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