Rise of the City Yurt

yurt under christmas decorations in a city square

Traditionally, yurts were mostly found in the vast grasslands of Mongolia.

More recently, they have gained popularity in remote places throughout other countries, such as the United States or Canada.

What may surprise some, is that they have also landed in cities.

Yurts in Mongolia

yurt enclave in ulaanbaatar mongolia

Ger district in Ulaanbaatar (photo Miroslav Hodecek)

In Mongolia, there’s been a few waves of rural exodus, due to multiple factors.

Two of the main factors are extreme winters, called zuud, and a deterioration of schools after the return to a market economy.

Nomads are then pushed towards the cities, often with what little they have left, which is sometimes just a yurt and some furniture and gather in the ger districts. Those quarters are made almost entirely of yurts.

Because they do not have the cattle to produce new layers of felts or the dung to feed their stoves, they use huge amounts of coal in nonefficient stoves. Harsh winters require significant heating within the yurts, therefore causing the capital city of Ulaanbaatar to become one of the worst urban polluters on the planet.

Yurts in Europe & North America

yurt at aga khan foundation toronto

It has now become a tradition every year to see a few yurts at the Aga Khan Foundation for the Nuit Blanches festival (Toronto)

In Europe or North America, the rare yurts that pop up in cities are usually temporary.

This generally includes event yurt rentals, as city by-law regulations often prohibit or limit more permanent installations.

Some seasonal installs have been authorised, such as patio yurts in restaurants during the winter. Some purchase the structures for more personal uses and choose to keep a low profile, like the young gentlemen living in an 8’ yurt in his Toronto backyard.

Others have gotten quite creative and have managed to keep their backyard offices, pool covers or yoga studios for years, while others have had to move their temporary dwelling at the cry of their neighbours.

We are continuously amazed at the many uses that people come up with for their tiny dwellings.

We’ve included some photo evidence in this article.

Happy yurting!


rental yurt in ottawa canada

Yurt rental for Winterlude (downtown Ottawa)

urban yurt in montreal quebec canada

A yurt installed over a swimming pool in winter for extra space (Montreal)

yurt on rooftop in montreal

A winter restaurant on a roof top (Montreal)

rooftop yurt in new york chinatown

A roof top yurt (Chinatown, New York)

winter yurt in city of toronto