National Museum of Mongolia.

© Stetiukha Kristina/Shutterstock

National Museum of Mongolia

Top choice in Ulaanbaatar

Mongolia’s wonderful National Museum sweeps visitors from the Neolithic era right to the present day. It’s UB's only genuine blockbuster sight, offering an unparalleled overview of Mongolian culture, ranging from stone-age petroglyphs and exquisite gold ornamentation to, arguably the highlight, the full gamut of traditional ceremonial costume – which unmistakably inspired the look of characters from the Star Wars prequels.

The 1st floor has some interesting exhibits on Stone Age sites in Mongolia, as well as petroglyphs, deer stones (stone sculptures of reindeer and other animals) and burial sites from the Hun and Uighur eras. Look for the remarkable gold treasure (including a golden tiara), found in 2001 by archaeologists digging near the Kul-Teginii Monument in Övörkhangai.

The 2nd floor houses an outstanding collection of costumes, hats and jewellery, representing most of Mongolia’s ethnic groups. Take a gander at some of the elaborate silverwork of the Dariganga minority or the outrageous headgear worn by Khalkh Mongols. Some of the outfits contain 20kg to 25kg of silver ornamentation.

The 3rd floor is a must-see for fans of the Mongol horde. The collection includes real examples of 12th-century Mongol armour, and correspondence between Pope Innocent IV and Guyuk Khaan. Written in Latin and Persian and dated 13 November 1246, it bears the seal of the khan. There is also a display of traditional Mongolian culture with, among other things, a furnished ger, traditional herding and domestic implements, saddles and musical instruments. In the 20th-century-history section, look out for D Sükhbaatar’s famous hollow horsewhip, inside which he hid a secret letter written in 1920 by the Bogd Khan enlisting the aid of the Russian Red Army. It also covers the Soviet era, including the suit of cosmonaut Jügderdemidiin Gurragchaa, the first Mongolian in space.

The final hall contains a rousing, self-congratulatory display of Mongolia’s recent history and the 1990 democratic revolution, with no mention of the breadlines of the early 1990s or other hardships of the transition from communism to democracy.

Lonely Planet's must-see attractions

Nearby Ulaanbaatar attractions

1. Government House

0.09 MILES

Behind the Chinggis Khaan Statue in Sükhbaatar Square stands Government House. An inner courtyard of the building holds a large ceremonial ger used for…

2. Chinggis Khaan Statue

0.11 MILES

The enormous marble construction at the north end of UB's main square was completed in 2006 in time for the 800th anniversary of Chinggis Khaan’s…

3. Damdin Sükhbaatar Statue

0.15 MILES

The square that bears Damdin Sükhbaatar's name features a statue of him astride his horse. The words he apparently spoke when declaring Mongolia's…

4. Sükhbaatar Square

0.17 MILES

In July 1921 in the centre of Ulaanbaatar, Damdin Sükhbaatar (the ‘hero of the revolution’) declared Mongolia’s final independence from China. A square…

5. Mongolian Stock Exchange

0.18 MILES

The white colonnaded building to the southwest of Sükhbaatar Sq is the Mongolian Stock Exchange, which was opened in 1992 in the former Children's Cinema…

6. Cultural Palace


The tall, modern Palace of Culture is a useful landmark, containing the Mongolian National Modern Art Gallery and several other cultural institutions.

7. Mongolia Theatre Museum


The history of film and theatre in Mongolia is told through photographs and models at this small museum located on the 3rd floor of the Cultural Palace…

8. Stamp Museum

0.23 MILES

Well hidden within the Central Post Office, this small stamp museum covers Mongolia's history from 1924 to the current day. Of most interest are the…