Ulaanbaatar or Ulan Bator is the capital and the largest city of Mongolia. A federal municipality, the city is not part of any aimag (province), and its population as of 2014 was over 1.3 million.
Located in north central Mongolia, the municipality lies at an elevation of about 1,310 metres (4,300 ft) in a valley on the Tuul River. It is the cultural, industrial and financial heart of the country, the centre of Mongolia’s road network and connected by rail to both the Trans-Siberian Railway in Russia and the Chinese railway system.
The city was founded in 1639 as a nomadic Buddhist monastic centre. In 1778, it settled permanently at its present location, the junction of the Tuul and Selbe rivers. Before that, it changed location twenty-eight times, with each location being chosen ceremonially. In the twentieth century, Ulaanbaatar grew into a major manufacturing centre.
Mainstream tourist guide books usually recommend the Gandantegchinlen Monastery with the large Janraisig statue, the socialist monument complex at Zaisan Memorial with its great view over the city, the Winter Palace of the Bogd Khan, Chinggis Square and the nearby Choijin Lama Temple. Additionally, Ulaanbaatar houses numerous museums, two of the prominent ones being the National Museum of Mongolia and the Zanabazar Fine Arts Museum. Popular destinations for day trips are the Gorkhi-Terelj National Park, the Manzushir monastery ruins on the southern flank of Bogd Khan Uul and Genghis Khan Equestrian Statue.
Important shopping districts include the 3rd Microdistrict Boulevard (simply called Khoroolol or “the District”), Peace Avenue around the State Department Store (simply called Ikh Delguur or “Great Store”) and the Narantuul “Black Market” area (simply called Zakh or “the Market”). Ulaanbaatar presently has three large cinemas, one modern ski resort, two large indoor stadiums, several large department stores and one large amusement park. Food, entertainment and recreation venues are steadily increasing in variety. KFC, Round Table Pizza, Cinnabon, Louis Vuitton, Ramada and Kempinski have opened up branches in key locations.
A 309m tall tower called the Morin Khuur Tower (Horsehead Fiddle Tower) is planned to be built next to the Central Stadium. It is scheduled to finish in 2018. Other future skyscrapers are the 34-floor Shangri-La Phase 2 luxury hotel project (construction ongoing and scheduled to finish in 2015) and the 41-floor Mak Tower being built by South Korean “Lotte Construction and Engineering”.