What to see in Ulan-Ude in one day
Most tourists find themselves in Ulan-Ude just passing through, when they go to Baikal. And it is not worth it: there is a lot to see here.
Ulan-Ude is the capital of sunny Buryatia. You may see there wooden houses with carved platbands, colorful Buddhist temple and round buildings resembling yurts. Even the usual Soviet-era panel buildings in residential neighborhoods are decorated with national ornaments.
I was born in Ulan-Ude and lived there for 13 years until I moved to Irkutsk. I love my hometown and still go there every year. I like to see how the capital of Buryatia changes every year: it becomes more modern, but it doesn’t lose its coziness and flavor.
I’ll tell you what to see in the city if you’re there for a while. The route begins on Sovetov Square and ends at the Ethnographic Museum of the Peoples of Transbaikalia. On the way you will see the Buryat Academic Theater, the local Arbat, the museum of Ulan-Ude’s history, the Drama Theater and the Rinpoche Bagsha Datsan.
The route is 21,5 kilometers long. You can walk it, but it’s a long way: it’s easier to use public transport. In this article I will tell you where and when to change to a shuttle bus.
How to get to the center from the airport and train station. Tourists from the western part of Russia most often come to Ulan-Ude by plane. There is Baikal International Airport 14 km from the city. You can get to the starting point of the route – Ploschad Sovetov – from there by bus #28 and route taxis #55 and #77 for 20 R. A trip from the airport by “Yandex-taxi” or “Maxim” will cost you 300 R.
From the railway station to the start of the route you can walk just 20 minutes. If you want to save time, the fastest way to get there is to take bus #4 and #23. The necessary stop – “Ploschad Sovetov”. The fare is 20 R .
On Sovetov Square there is a landmark, depicted on most postcards from Ulan-Ude – a huge head of Lenin. It was installed for the 100th anniversary of the leader in 1970. The height of the monument without a pedestal is 7.7 meters, which makes it the largest sculpture of Lenin’s head in the world. Some tourists notice Asian features in the image of the leader.
The height of the Lenin monument without a pedestal
At first glance, it seems like an ordinary monument with nothing special. But on Tripadvisor, tourists write that “the head exceeds the boldest expectations.” In the site’s rating, it is the second most popular attraction in the city.
Otherwise, Sovetov Square is ordinary, like central squares in other Russian cities. The main government buildings are located there: the presidential administration, the government of the republic and the People’s Khural of the Republic of Buryatia, which is the legislative body of power.
All important city events are held on the square: parades, festivities, rallies. In winter, an ice town with slides, ice sculptures, and the main Christmas tree is installed there.
When people from rural areas came to Ulan-Ude, they would arrange meetings near the only place they knew in the city – near Lenin’s head. They came to be called “heads”. Now it is one of the most popular colloquialisms in the city
The Tsydynzhapov Buryat Academic Theater of Opera and Ballet is across the street from Sovetov Square. The theater building is an object of cultural heritage. It is impressive: it is a building in the Stalinist Empire style, decorated with elements of national Buryat décor. The protruding semicircular parts of the façade are somewhat reminiscent of a yurt. There is a terrace on the southern side of the theater, which offers a beautiful view of the historic part of the city.
The repertoire includes classical and national productions. Tickets for “Swan Lake”, “La Traviata”, “Carmen” cost 150-350 R . Children’s shows are cheaper: admission to “1001 Night”, “Cinderella”, “Buratino” costs 150 R .
The Buryat Academic Theater of Opera and Ballet is the only opera theater in Eastern Siberia. The building had been under construction for over ten years: work began in 1938, but the first concert was not given until 1952. The war and repressions got in the way.
I recommend tourists to go and see the performance, based on Buryat legends about the harsh, mighty Lake Baikal and its daughter, the beautiful Angara. This ballet is a landmark for the theater; there is even a sculpture of the main characters at the entrance. The ticket costs 200-500 R and you can buy it on the official website of the theater.
Arbat is a pedestrian part of Lenin Street. It was named by analogy with the capital’s street. There are many monuments, such as Chekhov. He visited Ulan-Ude during his trip to Sakhalin and called it “a nice town”. That’s why the townspeople loved the writer.
Of the traditional Buryat monuments on the street there is a “Rod of Mercury, the god of commerce, and a Horn of plenty. They are symbols of Ulan-Ude, which are depicted on the coat of arms: in the 18th century the city was an important trading center for the Russian Empire.
A view of the triumphal arch “Tsar’s Gate” at the beginning of the Arbat. It was built to commemorate the arrival of Tsesarevich Nicholas Alexandrovich. During Soviet times the arch was demolished, but was rebuilt 70 years later on the day of the city.
Kapelman House is one of my favorite buildings in Ulan-Ude. It’s an unusual building for a historical city: it reminds me more of Saint Petersburg with its atlantes than small provincial cities, which Ulan-Ude usually resembles.
Fruit, taiga cones and a traditional Buryat dish – buuzy – pour out of the horn of plenty. The sculpture is also a money-box: it has a hole, where people walking along the Arbat throw coins. I don’t know what happens to those coins.
In the Ulan-Ude History Museum you can see household items from the 18th and 19th centuries. There is also an exhibit called “Verkhneudinsk Fair” about how a small stockaded town turned into a big trading center. Verkhneudinsk used to be called Ulan-Ude.
The museum often hosts new exhibitions and various events, such as art nights. There are meetings for children, where they can drink tea from a real samovar. All activities are listed on the website of the museum.
Tickets for adults cost 60 R, for pupils, students and seniors – 45 R. Photography is an additional cost and costs 35 P. For 150 P you can listen to the tour.
There is the excursion at the city history museum
In the Russian Drama Theater named after Bestuzhev show classical productions: “Richard the Third,” “The Cherry Orchard,” “Three Sisters,” “Woe from Wit. Tickets can be purchased at the city box offices and on the official website. Costs vary: from 250 P for children’s performances to 800 P for adult performances.
The drama theater is named after the exiled Decembrist Bestuzhev, who influenced the formation of theater culture in Verkhneudinsk. In front of the building is a fountain, which is beautifully illuminated in the evening
Rinpoche Bagsha Datsan. A datsan is a Buryat Buddhist monastery where monks, or lamas, are trained. Believers come there to pray or ask advice.
Rinpoche Bagsha is located on Bald Mountain overlooking the entire city. Inside the datsan is a six-meter statue of Shakyamuni Buddha, the largest in Russia, covered in gold leaf. Buddhists say that one cannot turn one’s back to the statue: it is impolite.
Near the datsan is the “Road of Long Life”, a kilometer-long path paved with planks. It goes through a pine forest and winds up and down. The atmosphere is soothing: during the walk I have time to calm down and think about life.
There are arbors along the road, with statues of animals – symbols of the years of the eastern horoscope – in front of the entrance. There are memorials with mantras and dates of the horoscope hanging in them. There is also a Japanese-style rock garden where monks meditate and the largest Buddhist bell in Russia.
31 colorful sights of Ulan-Ude
The city of Ulan-Ude is a beautiful regional center with national color and many attractions. There is no such thing in neighboring Chita. Ulan-Ude is one of the three capitals of the republic where Buddhist culture is represented. There are also several interesting museums, which is why it is worth visiting for an informative vacation and at the same time to get acquainted with Buryat culture and cuisine.
What interesting sights you can see in one day
A day is enough to take a circular route around the city on a streetcar, giving you an idea of what the city looks like. Take a map with you. The streetcar passes by most of Ulan-Ude’s landmarks. From the center you can go first to the ethnographic museum and then to the datsan.
Rinpoche Bagsha Datsan
It is worth spending a few hours to see the museum exhibits in the center. First of all, the art and history museums, the geological and nature museums can be left for the second day. Thus, if you have 12 hours of free time (for example from 8 am to 8 pm in warm season), it is enough to get an idea of the history and culture of Buryatia.
Beautiful places in Ulan-Ude for photo session
In the far reaches of the city, the tourist can have a photo shoot among the buildings of the ethnographic museum and on the territory of the datsan, where sculptures of all the years of the Chinese calendar are presented and where newlyweds often go. In the southeast of Ulan-Ude you can take a photo session in Yubileiny Park, and from there you can take a streetcar west to the Russian Theater, around which there are many interesting objects, such as sculptures of Buryat warriors.
From there move to the bridge over the Uda, where is also a photogenic place and the beginning of the historic quarter of the city with pleasant wooden architecture. In the center the Victory Park and a unique monument in the form of Lenin’s head of enormous size are suitable for photo sessions.
Monument “Mother of Buryatia”
It was originally installed in the center of the city, but later it was moved because this area is full of different monuments and sculptures
Another name of the monument is “Hospitable Buryatia”. If you enter Ulan-Ude from the side of Selenginsk bridge, it looks as if it is welcoming to guests. It is the tallest monument in the city, 16 meters high, 8 of which are on the pedestal, and the arms are 6 meters long. In 2008 it was moved to the bridge from the Opera and Ballet Theater.
There are many interesting buildings along its perimeter, such as a rare example of Art Nouveau style – the House of S. I. Rosenstein (center). I. Rosenstein (center).
Before the revolution, the main street of the city passed by it, and the square was built up with houses. During the USSR, they turned it into the administrative and cultural center of the republic, constructing the House of Soviets in 1928-1931, and in the 1940s-1960s, the House of Radio, a theater, cinema, the Regional Committee, and various republican departments. A very unusual monument in the form of a huge head was erected to the 100th anniversary of Lenin. Now it is one of the symbols of the city.
This building was built in 1959, belongs to the late Stalin Empire style, almost none was built after 1959. It impresses visitors with its monumentality and a five-storey tower with a spire. The illuminated clock dials adorn its gables, so the time can be read even at night.
One of the free museums of the city, opened in 1960. Buryatia has rich deposits of minerals, so their samples are on display for viewing in the beautiful building opposite Lenin’s head. Children are unlikely to enjoy the museum, but adults can spend 30 minutes admiring the stones, it is desirable to understand something about geology.
Near the square in front of the Buryat Opera and Ballet Theater there are several interesting buildings such as examples of local Stalinist Empire, administrative buildings from the late Soviet times and the Mongolian Consulate with a yurt-shaped roof. If a tourist came to Ulan-Ude by train, you can quickly walk to this square from the station and then start walking to the historic center along Lenin Street.
This object was opened in 2011 by order of the head of the republic. It is located at the main entrance to the Opera and Ballet Theater on one side and the GTRK-Buryatia on the other. Interestingly, the fountain “dances” to music, the tunes are diverse, such as the anthem of Buryatia. The area around it is a convenient viewing platform, there is also a monument “Beautiful Angara” and a good view of Lenin’s head.
Monument “The Beauty of the Angara”
The Angara River is usually associated with Irkutsk, but in Ulan-Ude in 2002, a monument with such a strange name was erected near the Opera and Ballet Theater. It refers not to the river, but to a ballet-poem. It was made in bronze by the ballet master spouses Larisa Sakhyanova and Pyotr Abasheev.
The “Tsar’s Gate” arch.
In 1891 before the Trans-Siberian railway was built the future emperor Nicholas II rode through Verkhneudinsk (the first name Ulan-Ude). To commemorate the event a Triumphal Arch was erected. In 1917 the tsarist symbols were taken away from it, and in 1936 it was finally dismantled, and 70 years later it was restored. The new arch is larger than the original – 9 meters high, 14 meters wide.
The street perfectly reflects the history of the country. At first it was called Traktovaya, in honor of the Siberian road, at the end of the XIX century it was renamed after Nicholas II, and since 1924, it carries the name of the leader of the revolution. Along it are many monuments of architecture, both pre-revolutionary merchant houses and beautiful Soviet buildings, such as the building of the Opera and Ballet Theater. The part of the street, which is less than 0.5 kilometers long, has been a pedestrian street, the local Arbat, since 2004. It starts from the oldest stone building in the city and leads north to the zero kilometer of Buryatia roads.
This is the name of the local puppet theater. It was founded in 1967, holds performances in Russian and Buryat languages, and is the organizer of the international festival “The Way of the Nomad. The theater building doesn’t look anything special, but the performances are interesting, and the puppets are cute.
The history of this street dates back to the middle of the XVIII century, when it was part of the Siberian Route. Nicholas II used it to pass through the city in 1891. It is worth a walk along it and admire the various monuments of architecture and sculpture, such as A. P. Chekhov and “Two Birds”. On the Arbat is one of the stores with souvenirs and in good weather there are street musicians.
House of merchant N.L. Kapelman
This house is a part of the historical buildings of Ulan-Ude. It is of interest as it was built in record-breaking time for the beginning of the 20th century, from June to October 1907. Fashionable for those times two-storey stone house “with atlantes”.
Sculptural composition “Two Birds
A sample of modern sculpture on the local Arbat. The bronze bird figures are mounted on a crude boulder, which is placed on a two-story pedestal. The birds symbolize love and care for nature. You can start your walk along the Arbat from there.
The first square in Ulan-Ude, it was the place where fairs were held since 1786. It is a convenient point of reference during a walk through the historic part of the city. There are several architectural monuments along the square: Gostinye Riody of the first half of the 19th century, merchant Kurbatov’s Market, a monument to the heroes of the Civil War and the chapel, which was restored in 2003, following the model of the 1830 building.
St. Odigitrievsky Cathedral
The walls of the cathedral had seen a lot, during the Soviet Union it was used as an antireligious and local history museum.
Its construction was conducted over 40 years, from 1741 to 1785. The interesting thing is that it was built in a zone of high seismic activity. Located at the beginning of Lenin Street, it is useful as a landmark during a walk through the historic center. Nearby is the place where the Uda flows into the Selenga and the bridge over the first river.
Monument to Geser
Geser is a character not only of local mythology, his image can be found in the mythology of all Buddhist nations all the way to Tibet. He is a heaven-sent hero who protects the earth from monsters. In short, a typical bogatyr, only his “biography” differs from the more familiar Ilya Muromets. The monument has an impressive size, together with the spear – 9 meters.
Namsaraev Drama Theatre
Ulan-Ude has two notable theaters – Russian and Buryat. The second was founded in 1932 and is beautifully set in a place near the intersection on Kuybyshev Street. The building is relatively modern, built in 1982. Its appearance is rare in Russia. The facade is decorated with a bas-relief in the national style and the shape of the roof is suggestive of a yurt, such an architectural solution is popular in some Asian countries: Mongolia, Kazakhstan and China.
The church was built at the turn of the 18th-19th centuries and is quite old for the Transbaikalia region. The style is late Siberian baroque with elements of classicism. From 1940 to 1991 it was closed, now it pleases passers-by with its whitestone look. It fits well into the small square near the Victory Avenue.
It is a convenient landmark in the city center, where you can make appointments and start or end your walks. Buses and streetcars pass by, and there are various chain stores, several museums, and the local Stalinist Empire quarter nearby. The centerpiece of the monument is a T-34 tank on a pedestal, which is decorated with bas-reliefs of soldiers and home front workers. In front of the memorial an eternal flame burns and there is a fountain in the shape of a star.
Museum of History of Buryatia. Khangalov.
Museum with an almost 100-year history, is not the oldest in the republic, in Kyahta older. The price for a visit can be overpriced because of the amateur staff, who charge a separate fee for each floor or exposition. Of the exhibits worth mentioning is a unique atlas of Tibetan medicine, Tsam mystery masks, and a manuscript of the Geser epic.
The building of the Buryat Opera and Ballet Theater
One of the most notable examples of Stalinist Empire in Buryatia. Even if you don’t feel like attending an event, it is worth at least walking around its perimeter and taking a close look at all the decorative elements. Inside the theater there is a beautiful bas-relief – the sculptural images represent the main images of the mid-20th century – the military, engineers, metallurgists, cattlemen, pioneers.
Monument to the God of Trade
This monument is associated not only with the god Hermes (Mercury), but also with the emblem of Ulan-Ude, which was approved in 1790. It was installed for a reason, and on the occasion of the reconstruction of Lenin Street and the creation of the local Arbat. It is presented in the form of a column, which is entwined with two snakes. Musicians often hang out near it.
Monument to a student
At the entrance to the Buryatian Agricultural Academy, from Pushkin Street, in 2012 a monument to a student was built. It’s very unusual. A student is sitting on the bench with a closed notebook and dreamily looking somewhere. And nearby a small doggie is relieving himself.
Monument to chess players
A funny monument in the style of “2 in 1” on Komsomolskaya Street, near the city chess club and the northern streetcar terminus. It looks like two chess kings, thick and thin, in 17th century European costumes. Next to them are miniature cast metal cat and mouse, also playing chess.
Museum of Nature
There are such museums in every major city, but this one is interesting because it is located in the building, which was built during World War I by Austrian prisoners. It occupies two floors. Among the exhibits are stuffed animals, such as Przewalski’s horse and a Manul cat.
Ethnographic Museum of Transbaikalia Peoples
On the outskirts of Ulan-Ude is the largest museum in the entire Buryatia. Tickets are relatively inexpensive, cheaper than museums in the center, but the exhibits are diverse: ancient houses, churches, farm buildings. They relate to Buryat culture as well as to Russian and Old Believer culture. There is even a zoo on the territory. It is not easy to reach it on foot, better to take a bus from the center.
Museum of LVRZ history
There is a wheel at the museum entrance. During the WWI it was ordered from USA for Russia, because there was not enough of its own.
There are a lot of railway museums in Russia, but it is hard to find a museum of locomotive repair plant history. The museum is located near the northern terminus of the streetcar, right in the building of the plant, behind an inconspicuous door near the entrance hall. It is open only on weekdays, free to visit, the exposition takes up two halls. They give an insight into the history of the plant and its achievements in sports and production.
Asian Art Gallery
In the center of Ulan-Ude, museums are either suspiciously expensive or free. A small gallery belongs to the second category. Since 2017 its two halls have been used for exhibitions and lectures by travelers. It does not take much time to look around, one exhibition in 15 minutes is realistic.
A branch of the Kyakhta Museum of Local Lore
The exposition “Kyahta and Trade in Kyahta” will tell about the peculiarities of Russian and Chinese trade via Kyahta.
The city of Kyakhta in the south of Buryatia is famous for its museum. If you have no time to visit it or, on the contrary, if your visit arouses interest in Kyakhta, it is useful to come to its branch at the intersection of Pobedy and Kommunisticheskaya Streets. Inside there are thematic exhibitions and an exhibition on the history of Kyakhta.
Art Museum named after Ts. Sampilov
This museum has a curious property – the cost of visiting all expositions is close to the Moscow and St. Petersburg museums and more expensive, for example, art museum in Minsk, although the capital, as well as any museum in Ulaanbaatar. Consequently, if your heart is not in the mood for art, you can skip it. You do not need to buy a ticket for all exhibitions, the most interesting is the art of Buryatia.
Rinpoche Bagsha Datsan
Rinpoche Bagsha Datsan is located on the top of Bald Mountain, which offers a beautiful view of the surrounding area
A Buddhist datsan is quite rare for Russia. One of them is hidden in the northeastern outskirts of Ulan-Ude. You have to get to it through the colorful private sector by city bus. The place is popular for honeymooners to visit. It is interesting to see the building itself with the Buddha and the monks inside, as well as the stupas nearby and the park around it. Along its alley are sculptures of all the animals of the Chinese calendar.