After many years of being off limits, this spectacular red-brick complex, which takes up a 16-acre block and was once the British seat of government for Burma, is open for guided tours. General Aung San and six of his colleagues were assassinated here in 1947, and the complex is home to independent Burma's first National Assembly: these two historical aspects are the focus of the 45-minute tour, though the star of the show is the 400,000-sq-ft building itself.
Built in stages between 1889 and 1905, the Secretariat continued to be used by Burma's government and later the military junta when it was known as the Ministers' Building. After the capital moved to Nay Pyi Taw in 2005, the complex was mostly abandoned and its roof suffered damage during Cyclone Nargis.
A reprieve came in 2011 when the Ministry of Construction selected it as one of five key Yangon heritage buildings to undergo basic renovations. A private group was awarded the lease; their plans for the complex, which will take years to be fully operational, include a cultural centre and historical museum. In 2019, there was controversy when it was announced that among the new tenants of the restored former stable block on the Anawrahta Rd side of the complex would be outlets for KFC and doughnut vendor Krispy Kreme.
The Secretariat is freely open to the public on Martyrs' Day and occasionally for special events and exhibitions. Sign up for the tours via the entrance at the corner of Thein Byu Rd and Mahabandoola Rd.