Wats and Temples of Bangkok
Bangkok's temples are a unique part of the capital's heart and soul. A visit here would not be complete without seeing at least two of them. The architecture is awe-inspiring and the glittering decoration like no other. Imagine thousands of pieces of coloured glass and pottery adorned with intricate structures gilded in glaring gold - you're indeed in a City of Angels!
The best time to visit most temples is in the early morning. It's cooler and generally less crowded. The temples ('wats') are not just tourist attractions but also play an important part in Buddhist traditions. Monks live in the temple complexes, wake up around 04:00, attend to prayers and duties and then collect food and necessities from ordinary people on the streets. If you are up very early in Bangkok you will see monks walking around, dressed in saffron coloured robes. This daily alms ritual (called 'tak baht') takes place all over Thailand and is part of the Buddhist philosophy of giving and making merit to attain a better life beyond this one.
It's daunting to visit all the temples, so we've listed in the following sections those in the 'must- visit' category, according to their beauty, cultural significance and high regard in Buddhism. Please not that most temples are not open after 18:00. Thai temples are sacred places so you must dress appropriately. No shorts or revealing tops, otherwise you won't be allowed in. This applies particularly to Wat Phra Kaew (inside the Grand Palace.)
Temples in Bangkok
Bangkok has no lack of majestic temples, all more elegant and impressive than the next, but some really stand out with their unique architectural identity. Despite being quite near Khaosan Road and next to the well known Wat Saket, the superb Loha Prasat is not often talked about. Also called the 'Metal Castle', Loha Prasat is located in the grounds of Wat Ratchanaddaram and was even submitted to UNESCO in 2005 to become a world heritage site, highlighting the historical importance of the temple. However this title hasn't yet been given. Read More...
- Location: Maha Chai Road | Bowon Niwet, Phra Nakhon, Bangkok
- Tel: +66 2 221 0903
Pathum Wanaram Temple
At the time of founding this area was accessible only by khlong (canal) and was still surrounded by rice fields. Built by King Mongkut in 1857 it was the nearest place of worship to his Sa Pathum Palace. Take a look at the carvings on the crematorium that demonstrate rare examples of ancient craftsmanship featuring ornate stencils and lacquered sculptures. Pathum Wanaram is the perfect escape for some cultural refreshment.
- Opening Hours: 09:00-16:00
- Location: Rama 1 Road, PathumWan
Phra Pathom Chedi, meaning the 'First Stupa', is not only the tallest stupa in the world but also an incredible construction with an intriguing story. An impressive 127 metres tall from base to tip, this fantastic edifice stands on the site where Buddhism was first introduced into Thailand two thousand years ago.
The original structure was first mentioned in Buddhist scriptures in the year 675, but archaeological discoveries found traces of it all the way back to the 4th century. During the 11th century a khmer style 'Prang' was built on top of it, Prang being similar in style to the famous Angkor Wat near the city of Siem Reap Read More...
Wat Arun, locally known as Wat Chaeng, is situated on the west (Thonburi) bank of the Chao Phraya River. It is believed that after fighting his way out of Ayutthaya, which was besieged by a Burmese army at the time, King Taksin arrived at this temple just as dawn was breaking. He later had the temple renovated and renamed it Wat Chaeng, the Temple of the Dawn. During his reign (Thonburi Period), Wat Chaeng was the chief temple, and it once enshrined the Emerald Buddha and another important Buddha image, the Phra Bang, both of which had been removed from Vientiane. Read More...
- Opening Hours: 08:00 -17:30
- Location: Located on the west side of Chao Praya River (opposite Tha Thien Pier)
- Price Range: 50 baht
Wat Benchamabophit (The Marble Temple)
Located in Dusit, Wat Benchamabophit Dusitvanaram or The Marble Temple, is one of Bangkok's most modern and yet striking temples. Building began in 1899, shortly after completion of nearby Dusit Palace, when King Chululongkorn (King Rama V) asked his half-brother, Prince Narris, to design him a temple.
The result is a dazzling Ubosot (ordination hall) cast in white Carara Italian marble and with three-tiered roof - an excellent example of modern Thai architecture, with beautiful features from near and afar. This T-shaped structure contains an exquisite Sukothai-style Buddha replica called Phra Buddha Chinarahat, the original of which is located in Wat Mahatat. Interned in the base beneath it are the ashes of King Chulalongkorn.
The courtyard exhibits 52 local and foreign Buddha images from the period (33 originals and 20 copies). Each one is different in style and pose, with highlights including the Buddha in walking posture statue, and subduing Mara posture statue. Behind the cloister is a large Bodhi Tree, bought as a gift for King Rama V from Bod Gaya, the place of Buddha's enlightenment. There is also a 'Sala Nam' (water pavilion) and, in between the monks and people area, several bridges in a variety of styles.
- Opening Hours: 08:00 - 17:00
- Location: 69 Rama V Road, Dusit
On top of the obvious religious significance, Wat Bowoniwet has added sacredness due to long-standing connections with the divine royal court, making it especially important to the Thais. Located on the northeast side of Bangkok's Rattanakosin Island, just within the old city walls on Phra Sumen Road, it was founded in 1826 by HRH Prince Maha Sakdipolsep, a son of King Rama III.
Its regal history dates back to the first abbot in 1836. This was none other than Prince Bhikku Mongkut, who later acceded the throne to become King Rama IV. Before this he spent 27 years in the priesthood and 14 as abbot of Wat Bowon, founding the Thammayutika Nikaya, an ascetic monastic order, and Thailand's second Buddhist university, Mahamakut University, found within this temples grounds. King Rama VI, King Rama VII and HM King Bhumibol Adulyadej were also ordained here, making this a major temple of patronage for the Chakri Dynasty. Recently, this royal custom has continued with both Prince Vajiralongkorn and his own sons spending time as monks here.
The complex consists of a large 'ubosot', with elaborately carved doorway arches and windows in gilded stucco. The gable is decorated with glazed ceramics, indicating strong Chinese architectural influences. There are several rare and much revered Buddha statues including Phra Suwannakhet, Phra Nirantarai and Phra Phuttachinnasi, which is thought to have been moulded in 1357. Behind it is a large chedi covered in gold tiles, surrounded by four small golden prangs.
- Opening Hours: 08:00 - 17:00
- Location: 248 Phrasumen Road, Phra Nakkon, Old City (Rattanakosin)
Proof that the sacred can survive amidst the profane is Wat Chanagonkram. Its location in backpacker enclave Banglamphu, close to Khao San Road and mildly less frenetic Soi Rambuttri, belies both the ancient heritage and the tranquillity of this small temple and its shady grounds. Its origins date back to the Ayutthaya period, but it was restored in 1787, during the reign of Rama I. This was after the famous victory at the battle of nine armies, which explains the name - Wat Chanasongkhram Rajaworamahaviharn, which translates as 'victory in war'.
At the rear is a sedate tree-lined courtyard, including temple housing where monks and lay workers still reside. Within the temple compound is a small courtyard. The windows and gable of the small 'Ubosot', or ordination hall, feature elaborately gilded wood, while inside at the altar sits a famous Buddha image in the subduing mara posture called Phra Phra Buddha Norasee Trilokachet, dating from the reign of Rama I. Around it sit 15 Buddha images from the same period, and also a pair of ebony elephant tusks. There is also a statue of King Taksin, which predates the Chakri Dynasty. In front of the compound sit two chedis in the Jom Hae style, with wide base and sharp top.
- Opening Hours: 06:00 - 18:00
- Location: Chakrapong Road, Near Khao San Road, Banglamphu
A soaring 32-metres high standing Buddha is what defines Wat Intharawihan, which borders Wisut Kasat road at the northern edge of Banglamphu. Known as the Luangpor Toh, building on this statue, built of brick and stucco, began in 1867 during the reign of King Rama IV. Decorated in glass mosaics and 24-carat gold, it took over 60 years to complete and is the tallest of its kind in the world.
The Ubosot was built towards the end of the Ayutthaya period, and has several interesting Buddha images, elevated murals on the walls and lavishly gilded window shutters. Outside are unusually carved sema stones and tucked away in an alcove there's a lifelike model of Luang Phaw Toh, a famous monk. In the small museum are old Buddha images and various paintings.
- Opening Hours: 08:30 - 20:00
- Location: 114 Wisut Kasat Road, Banglamphu, Old City (Rattanakosin)
Despite dominating the western bank of the Chao Phraya River with its giant temple structure, Wat Kalayanamit is often overlooked by tourists, city guides, and even locals. The nearby Wat Arun is much more famous and acts as a magnet, drawing the crowds away from some of the other nearby Thonburi attractions and temples. If you want a more tranquil, less touristy alternative, head to Wat Kalayanamit, a temple particularly famous for its enormous seated golden Buddha inside the main building.
Getting to Wat Kalayanamit in Thonburi is easy: in fact, it even has its own pier. Take a ferry there from the opposite side at Ratchinee Pier or hop on one of the many the Chao Phraya express boats that make their way up and down the river every day (and ask for ‘Wat Kalayanamit’.)
- Opening Hours: Daily 06:00-21:00
- Location: At Kalayanamit Pier
The headquarter of Thailand's largest monastic order and Vipassana Meditation centre, Wat Mahathat is an important centre for the study of Buddhism and meditation. Although most programmes are in Thai, there are some in English and the temple has become a popular place to learn the Vipassana Meditation (Insight Meditation). Classes are held daily from 07:00 - 10:00, 13:00 - 16:00, and 18:00 - 20:00. Time needed for practice will vary with each individual English-speaking monks assisting. Read More...
Wat Pho (the Temple of the Reclining Buddha), or Wat Phra Chetuphon, is located behind the Temple of the Emerald Buddha and a must-do for any first-time visitor in Bangkok. It's one of the largest temple complexes in the city and famed for its giant reclining Buddha that measures 46 metres long and is covered in gold leaf. It’s an easy ten minute walk between here and the Grand Palace, and we recommend coming to Wat Pho second, because even though the golden Buddha here is just as popular many people don’t take the time to wander around the rest of the complex so the experience tends to be far Read More...
- Opening Hours: Daily 08:00 - 17:00 (Massage available until 18:00)
- Location: Maharat Road. Close to the river (about a half mile south of the Grand Palace), Old City (Rattanakosin)
- Price Range: The entrance fee is 100 baht
Wat Phra Kaew or the Temple of the Emerald Buddha (officially known as Wat Phra Sri Rattana Satsadaram) is regarded as the most important Buddhist temple in Thailand. Located in the historic centre of Bangkok, within the grounds of the Grand Palace, it enshrines Phra Kaew Morakot (the Emerald Buddha), the highly revered Buddha image meticulously carved from a single block of jade. The Emerald Buddha (Phra Putta Maha Mani Ratana Patimakorn) is a Buddha image in the meditating position in the style of the Lanna school of the north, dating from the 15th century AD. Read More...
- Opening Hours: 8.30 am to 3.30 pm
- Location: Na Phralan, Phra Nakorn (inside Grand Palace complex), Old City (Rattanakosin)
- Dress Code: no short pants or short skirts, not sleeveless tshirts. Sarong are for rent at the entrance but better dress appropriately to avoid the queue.
- Price Range: 400 Baht!
Wat Prayoon, or Wat Rua Lek, sits on the western side of the Chao Praya river bank. Built during King Rama III’s reign, the temple’s outstanding features include a large inverted bell shaped chedi (pagoda), turtle ‘mountain’ housing spirit houses and a pond where visitors can feed the turtles. The temple is located on the Thonburi side, at the foot of Memorial Bridge (Saphan Phut). This area is on the southern edge of the old Portuguese community (Kuthi Jeen), an area designated to Portuguese merchants and government officials during the Early Rattanakosin Period (after Ayutthaya was destroyed and King Rama I founded a new capital in Thonburi). Read More...
An ancient temple located in Thonburi next to the Chao Phraya River, Wat Rakhang was originally built in the Ayutthaya period. It earned its name - meaning temple bell - during the reign of King Rama I, when a bell was found in the temple compound. Later, King Rama II had this moved to Wat Phra Kaew (Temple of the Emerald Buddha), sending five new ones in its place. These can be found in the pretty Hor Rakhang, or bell tower, which is built in the four-gable style of Ayutthaya and early Rattanokosin periods and located in the corner of the temple compound.
Not far from this is an elegant Ho Trai, or library, considered an outstanding example of Thai architecture. Once the residence of King Rama I before his ascendance to the throne, its three adjoining buildings today function as a small museum, housing beautiful scriptures stored in lacquer and guilt cabinets. An elaborately decorated Ubosot, or ordination hall, features murals by Phra Wanwadwichit, a well-known artist of the King Rama VI era.
- Opening Hours: 05:00 - 21:00
- Location: 250 Arun Amorin Road, Sirirai, Bangkok Noi
Both the 'wiharn' (prayer hall) and 'ubosot' (ordination hall), for example, have typically Thai exteriors, decorated in hand-painted glazed benjarong ceramics and elaborate gold gilded door and window frames, but European style interiors similar to that of a gothic cathedral. The ubosot contains a well known gold-gilded Buddha image in the meditation posture, Phra Buddha Ankhiros, and rests on a base in which the ashes of Rama VII, who later inherited the temple, are kept. Instead of the typical eight sema, or boundary, stones are eight stone pillars surmounted with a carving of the Buddhist wheel of law.
An impressive chedi modelled after the famous Phra Pathom Chedi in Nakhon Pathom province (the highest Chedi in the world), contains relics of Lord Buddha, while the enclosure around it contains many Buddha images in varying postures. There is also a royal cemetery with monuments containing the ashes of the Queen, concubines, sons and daughters of King Rama V, and various other member of the Royal Family. Here are more wiharns featuring chedis, in both modern and traditional styles.
- Opening Hours: 09:00 - 18:00
- Location: 2 Fuang Nakhon Road, Phra Nakhon, Old City (Rattanakosin)
Dating from the mid 19th Century, royal temple Wat Ratchanadda cuts an unusual figure when seen alongside its Rattanakosin companions. On Rachamanoen Avenue, very near the Golden Mount and Democracy Monument, this is largely down to the distinctive Indian inspired spires of its Loha Prasat, which was built during Rama III's reign as a gift to MC Somanas (who later became HRH Princess Somanas Vadhanawadi).
This square-shaped castle is a replica of one in India, standing 36 metres high and with 37 spires representing the 37 Bodhipak Khiyadhamma - the virtues leading to enlightenment. It was extensively embellished in the reigns of King Rama V and VI. Up its stairs, Read More...
- Opening Hours: 09:00 - 20:00
- Location: 2 Machachai Road, Phra Nakhon, Old City (Rattanakosin), not far from Wat Saket and Khao San road
Located in Rattanakosin not far from the Grand Palace and Wat Ratchabophit, the diminutive and yet striking Wat Ratchapradit dates back to the late 19th Century, belonging to the Thammayut Nikai Buddhist sect. King Rama IV had it built for them on a former coffee plantation.
The central feature, the impressive ubosot, is richly decorated in grey and white marble tiles and carved wood. The gateways and windows are adorned with intricate stucco crowns, the doors and window frames with Chinese pearl. The ceiling of the room is a deep red with patterns of gold gilded rosettes, while murals of royal ceremonies grace the walls. Inside is a beautiful altar containing the ashes of King Rama IV, on top of which is a replica of Phra Buddha Sihing.
There are also two Khmer influenced prangs, one of which has faces clearly reminiscent of Cambodia's Angkor Thom temple.
- Opening Hours: 09:00 - 19:00
- Location: 2 Saranrom Road, Phra Nakhon, Old City (Rattanakosin)
Wat Saket, popularly known as the Golden Mount or ‘Phu Khao Thong’, is a low hill crowned with a gleaming gold chedi. Within, the 58-metre chedi houses a Buddha relic and welcomes worshippers all year round. The temple also hosts an annual temple fair in November, which lasts a week during Loy Krathong. The temple grounds feature mature trees and typical Buddhist structures such as the main chapel, ordination hall and library. Its origins can be traced back to the Ayutthaya period (1350- 1767 AD) and it underwent major renovations during King Rama I’s reign (1782-1809). Read More...
- Opening Hours: 09:00 – 17:00
- Location: Between Boriphat Road and Lan Luang Road, off Ratchadamnoen Klang Road
Wat Suthat, better known for the towering red Giant Swing that stands at its entrance, is one of the oldest and most impressive temples in Bangkok. It features an elegant chapel with sweeping roof, magnificent wall murals and exquisite hand-carved teakwood door panels. The temple’s construction was commissioned by King Rama I (1782-1809), to shelter the 13th Century bronze Buddha image transported by boat from Sukhotai, but it was finally completed during King Rama III’s reign (1824-51). Located in the Old City area, just east of the Royal Field, you can easily combine a visit to Wat Suthat with Temple of the Emerald Buddha, Grand Palace and Wat Pho. Read More...
- Opening Hours: 08:30-21:00 daily
- Location: Bamrung Muang Road, Old City (Rattanakosin), opposite Bangkok City Hall
Wat Suwannaram (Thonburi)
Known for its wonderful original murals, Wat Suwannaram is a little known and rarely visited temple in Thonburi, not far from the Royal Barges Museum. It was built during the reign of King Taksin, during the Ayutthaya period, and briefly became an execution site for Burmese prisoners. Separate restorations during both King Rama I's and King Rama III's reigns gave it its current name and design, and it went on to serve as the Royal cremation ground for members of the royal family and high-ranking officers until the reign of King Rama V.
The ubosot has a three-tiered roof decorated with garuda heads, leaf-like decorations and mosaics, and its gable is carved elaborately from wood. The temple's real draw though is the original early 19th Century murals by famous historic artists Thong Yu and Pae Khong, which although decaying and in need of restoration, are exquisite. They tell the story of Lord Buddha and are considered by experts to be among Thailand's most beautiful. There is also a Buddha image in the Subduing Mar posture from the Sukothai period.
Other features in the temple complex include a wihan, or prayer hall, built during King Rama V's reign, and monks' residences.
- Opening Hours: 08:00 - 18:00
- Location: 33 Soi Charanonitwong, Bangkok Noi
Originally called Wat Ban Phraakrai Suanluang, this temple was built between 1836 and 1839 on order of King Rama III. A gift for HRH Prince Apsornsudathep, its architecture is characteristic of the period, especially the ubosot, or ordination hall, with its strong Chinese features such as gable decorated with glazed ceramics. Inside are some impressive murals and the temples main Buddha image, Luang Phor Khao or Phra Buddha Devavilasa.
The wihan, prayer hall, exhibits a similar style and contains images of 43 enlightened female disciples - Bhiksuni - cast in tin. There are also four tall prangs located at each of the ubosots corners, the base of each representing the four Chinese deities. A famous Thai poet of the Rattanakosin era, Sunthon Phu was ordained here as a monk, and his former quarters, or kuti, remain.
- Opening Hours: 05:00 - 21:00
- Location: 70 Mahachai Road, Phra Nakhon, Old City (Rattanakosin)
Located at the end of Chinatown's Yaowarat Road, near Hualampong Railway Station, Wat Traimit houses the world's largest massive gold seated Buddha measuring nearly five metres in height and weighing five and a half tons. In the past, artisans crafted the Buddhas in gold and disguised them from invading armies by a covering of stucco and plaster. The Buddha at Wat Traimit was discovered by accident when it was accidentally dropped as it was being moved, revealing, under a casing of plaster, a beautiful solid gold Sukhothai style Buddha. Pieces of the plaster are still kept on display. Read More...
- Opening Hours: 09:00 - 17:00
- Location: Traimit Road (west of Hua Lampong Station), at the very beginning of Chinatown