5 ways to truly experience downtown Yangon

Yangon’s downtown area is the best place for new visitors to take in the charm and history of Myanmar’s largest city.

Street in Kyauktada Township
  • Cheong Kamei
  • January 2020

Visiting Yangon opens in new window for the first time? Be sure to check out these five spots in the heart of the city’s Kyauktada Township.

1. Waziya Cinema

Waziya Cinema interior
The cinema is the last remnant of what was once known as Yangon’s “Cinema Row”, an iconic strip of movie theatres.

Myanmar had one of the most prolific movie industries in the region — at its peak in the ’50s and ’60s, local filmmakers made about 80 movies a year, and there were around 400 cinemas in Yangon. Built in the late 1920s, Waziya Cinema is one of the last surviving relics of the country’s golden age of cinema.

Address: Bo Gyoke Road

2. Sule Pagoda

Sule Pagoda
The pagoda is said to be more than 2,000 years old.

Shwedagon Pagoda might be the most famous Buddhist landmark in Myanmar but Sule Pagoda is worth visiting for its historical significance — the British used it as the centre of their town plan when they redesigned the city’s layout in the middle of the 19th century. It was also the meeting point for the Saffron Revolution in 2007, where thousands of student activists, monks and nuns marched into Yangon to protest the military regime.

Address: Junction of Sule Pagoda Road

READ MORE: 10 things you didn’t know about Yangon

3. Bagan Book House

Bookstall in Yangon
Yangon has a thriving independent bookstore scene.

From roadside bookstalls to weekend markets, Yangon is heaven for old souls who still have a soft spot for paperbacks. Bagan Book House is considered an institution — the 44-year-old shop has an extensive collection of English books, some from as far back as the 19th century.

Address: 100, 37th Street

4. Sofaer & Co

Sofaer & Co interior
After painstakingly restoring a forgotten century-old building, the space today is a stunning blend of original fixtures and new touches. (Photo credit: facebook.com/sofaerandco)

Decades of self-imposed isolation from the rest of the world resulted in an unintentional benefit — Yangon’s architectural landscape has been left relatively untouched. But in the wake of more open market policies in the 1990s, hundreds of buildings have been torn down. Restaurant Sofaer & Co is an encouraging middle way between preserving cultural heritage and modernisation.

Address: 60 Lower Pansodan Road

5. The Strand Hotel

Interior of room at The Strand Yangon
In February 2019, The Strand became the first hotel to receive the coveted “blue plaque”, which recognises Yangon’s most historically and culturally significant buildings.

Yangon’s oldest hotel was one of the first luxury colonial outposts in Southeast Asia, and has hosted famous names from George Orwell to Mick Jagger. The old-world elegance of this landmark has been meticulously maintained — local artisans were hired to restore original architectural details including the marble flooring and teak panelling.

hotelthestrand.com opens in new window
Address: 92 Strand Road

READ MORE: The best places to enjoy Yangon’s heritage buildings opens in new window