Downtown Yangon, the best area to stay in Yangon
Most of the main sights, including the Shwedagon Pagoda, hotels, shopping and riverside area are centred around Downtown Yangon and walkable from each other, meaning that Downtown Yangon is the best area to stay in Yangon. Designed by British military engineers Alexander Fraser and Montgomerie after the Second Anglo-Burmese War in 1852, the city is shaped by its wide grid of streets and although many buildings were pummelled during the Second World War, you can still marvel at many of the colonial buildings and historical landmarks that are still intact.
The best place to dive into the city is at the Shwedagon Pagoda (shwe means gold in Burmese, and dagon is the name of the era from when it was built). Perched on top of Singuttara Hill the “winking wonder” as it is known, and Buddhist temple, is carved out of solid gold and encrusted with precious diamonds, rubies and sapphires. The temple dates back over 2500 years and attracts pilgrims from all four corners of the globe. An architectural masterpiece, the structure’s centrepiece is four Buddhas who have reached enlightenment. If you are staying in Yangon in February or March you will experience the Shwedagon Pagoda Festival.
At the city’s core, lies the Sule Pagoda, said to date back even further than the Shwedagon Pagoda and believed to contain a hair of Buddha. Venture along the riverfront to visit the cherished Botataung Pagoda, a treasure of the city and also alleged to accommodate a strand of Buddha’s hair. Yangon’s colonial past is evident all over the Downtown Yangon neighbourhood. The crumbling Pegu Club is a wonderfully atmospheric relic of a bygone era that hosted the likes of Rudyard Kipling and George Orwell. Yangon Central Station railway station is a good example of Burmese post-colonial architecture and where you can board the Yangon Circular Railway passenger train to experience bona fide local life in Yangon.
There are a number of holy temples, mosques, churches and synagogues dotted about Downtown Yangon, that reflect Yangon’s cultural diversity. A stroll along the river is one of Yangon’s highlights, and during your stay is well worth hopping on a river cruise at sunset or taking a boat over to the iridescent markets of Dala.
Yangon is also known for its production of textiles, handicrafts, precious gem production and jewellery and you can rub shoulders with locals at the immense Bogyoke Aung San market and the Theingyi Zay market.
Hotels in Downtown Yangon