Formerly known as Rangoon, Yangon may no longer be Myanmar's capital but remains the cultural and commercial heart of the country. By far the largest city in Myanmar, Yangon is a compelling mix of golden pagodas, colonial architecture and history-stained streets, which deserve at least a few days exploration.
Yangon's rich collection of colonial architecture is one of its biggest draws, particularly around the riverfront Strand Road, however its most iconic sight is unquestionably the monumental gilded Shwedagon Pagoda. Said to be around 2,600 years old it sits proudly atop Singuttra Hill and gleams with gold, diamonds and other precious stones, so it's easy to understand why Rudyard Kipling described it as 'a beautiful winking wonder that blazed in the sun'.
The city's other attractions may be less celebrated but are equally worthy of your attention, including the majestic riverside Botataung Pagoda, the priceless treasures of the National Museum, the striking Sule Pagoda and not forgetting the picturesque Kandawgyi and Inya lakes as well as a number of attractive parks. A real treat however is to simply walk around and soak up the city's colourful and chaotic street life, which is a real feast for the senses and makes a lasting impression. Its tree-lined avenues and narrow alleys are filled with shops and stalls, animated markets and tea houses where the aroma of spices and freshly-cooked food wafts invitingly through the air.
Yangon's most famous place to shop is Bogyoke Aung San Market (also known as Scotts Market). Housed in a colonial-era building dating back to 1926 it has over 2,000 stalls and is the perfect place to mingle and seek out souvenirs of clothing, handicrafts, jewellery and antiques. Those with a love for the arts will be delighted to find a growing number of galleries throughout the city, including River Gallery which showcases the huge diversity of contemporary Burmese talent.
Great places to eat can be found throughout Yangon. There are strong influences from neighbouring countries particularly in Chinatown and Little India where a variety of restaurants and stalls offer all manner of Asian delights, while fast food restaurants, western cafes and coffee bars also reflect the city's more cosmopolitan side. The restored Strand Hotel is one of Southeast Asia's grandest hotels and the legendary Strand Bar is the place to be seen, so be sure to pop in for a cocktail and drink in the colonial ambience.
- Array of colonial-era buildings
- Shwedagon Pagoda
- Eclectic range of museums
- Flourishing art scene
- Bogyoke Aung San Market