Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia – COOL HUNTING®
When many people think of Mongolia, they think of Genghis Khaan, the endless steppe and nomadic herders living in yurts (or gers, in Mongolian). But there is also an incredibly creative, vibrant and dynamic new generation of Mongolians shaping this often misunderstood country. The capital, Ulaanbaatar, is full of venues where world-class musicians perform, bars serving amazing cocktails and shops full of inspiring designs. The city is experiencing a resurgence that is uniquely respectful of Mongolian culture, digging deep into their ancestral roots and staying true to who they are, while displaying a creative force never seen in the country before. So while UB (as the locals call it) may seem rough at first glance, it’s full of hidden secrets and surprising gems.
Life in the city revolves around the Shangri-La Center. While the Shangri-La Ulaanbaatar is often considered the best hotel for its central location, five star service and spacious rooms, it is also the adjoining Center that makes the hotel worth seeking out and staying at. Right outside your hotel room door, some of the best places in town await. The hotel has all the amenities you could want – gym, spa, swimming pool, restaurant, bar and more – making it the preferred location for diplomats, business people, musicians, actors and more.
Tucked away behind the bustle of Peace Avenue, little paradise is so much more than an average cafe. You can stop for coffee and sandwiches, but you’ll surely stay for the handmade ceramics, macrame, and miniature flower bouquets. Sit outside and enjoy Ulaanbaatar’s balmy summer temperatures and people watch the city’s most stylish residents come and go.
Some of the best drip coffee in Ulaanbaatar can be found at Mongolia’s premier vinyl store, Dundgol Records. Browse the selection of records – ranging from hip-hop to Russian and Mongolian classics – while you wait for your coffee to brew.
Bitsy & Cie
A very small space with a large cocktail presence (and without alcohol), Bitsy & Cie inside the Shangri-La Center changed the city’s cocktail scene, shifting the Mongolian mentality of drinking pure vodka to something a little more complex. While perusing the small menu of salads, quesadillas and more, sit down at the bar and prepare to meet locals and travelers with an interesting story to tell.
Designed and made from natural felt – a resource Mongolia has no shortage of –BabaFelt shoes, as well as their vests, jackets and deels (traditional Mongolian dresses) made from 100% organic non-woven fabrics are some of the most vibrant pieces you can find in the country. The Baba store is also located in the center of the Shangri-La Center.
Num Sum Speakeasy
As UB’s first speakeasy-style cocktail bar, Numeric sum is another pioneer of the city’s cocktail scene. Descending a flight of stairs and into this dark and cozy hideaway, you find yourself immersed in the Gatsby vibes. It’s the perfect place to order a Suntory whiskey on a sphere of ice or a dry gin martini, while sitting back and letting the indulgence wash over you.
Fat Cat Jazz Club
The city’s original space for live music, Fat Cat Jazz Club rivals any location in New York, LA or New Orleans. With always jazz in the evening and even better cocktails, this unsuspecting underground space is a paradise for music lovers. Book a table in advance or stop by and take a seat at the bar – this place gets packed every night of the week.
Michael and Amazonka
Michael and AmazonkaThe funky pieces mix traditional Mongolian cuts and patterns with bright patterns and added ruffles. Their clothes are all one of a kind, and the brand has even been asked to design the uniforms of Mongolian nationals participating in the Beijing Winter Olympics in 2022. With limited editions and fashion shows that are always the event must-see, Michel & Amazonka represents the city’s evolving attention to design. Getting spotted in one of their rooms is the quickest way to fit in like a true UB local. Just around the corner from their East Peace Ave location Sakura Japanese Bakery, a no-frills food spot known for its Japanese karaage, udon, and cheesecake. Locals line up for this Japanese chef’s lunch every day, so come early – they open at 10am – because there’s a reason it’s nearly impossible to score a table here.
Hero image courtesy of Fat Cat Jazz Club