Just five minutes from Khao San Road and the North end of Sanam Luang is the National Gallery. Housed in what used to be the Royal Mint, the main collection focuses on national artists, starting in the 17th century and working forwards. Without a great knowledge of Thai art, getting a good understanding of the permanent collection can be difficult. What are worth checking out are the temporary, more modern exhibitions, housed in the gardens and special collections building.
The museum is very easy to find. Coming from the Old Town you’ll find it at the opposite end of Sanam Luang (the large park) to the Grand Palace. From Khao San Road the walk there takes only five minutes. The nicest way to get there is via the river, as you get to check out some great Bangkok sites on the way. You can take the express boat or the orange flag boat and get off at Phra Athit Pier (N13), walk to the end of the road then turn left at Chao Fah Road and continue walking for about 15 minutes. Whilst not worth visiting by itself, as you probably won’t spend more than an hour here, there are other interesting attractions in the area.
The permanent collection is spread over two floors, in large dark and rather warm rooms. If you are used to galleries in Europe, the paintings don’t seem well lit and the space feels empty. There are also hardly any descriptions of the works which can make them hard to appreciate. What was interesting was the paintings by past and present Kings of Thailand, including some very colourful works by H.M. King Bhumibhol Adulyadej painted in the 1960s. Some of the pieces in the ground floor sculpture room are also worth having a look at.
The Garden and courtyard usually displays some interesting sculptures. The special collection building is at the back of the courtyard with art from home and abroad, everything from painting to prints and installations. There are usually two exhibitions on at a time.
Even the biggest art enthusiast would struggle to spend hours here. But if you happen to be in the area and are interested in getting a glimpse of Thai art throughout the ages or checking out the current King’s remarkable artistic skills, make a quick stop here during your time in the area.
National Art Gallery
- Opening Hours: 09:00 - 16:00 (Wednesday - Sunday)
- Location: 4 Chao-Fa Road, opposite the National Theatre, Rattanakosin
- BTS: National Stadium
- Tel: +66 (0)2 282 2639
- How to get there: Taxi is the best way, although you can take the Chao Phraya Express Boat to Phra Athit Pier (N13), then walk back towards Phra Pin Klao Bridge, turn left at Chao Fah Road and continue walking for about 15 minutes and the museum is on your left.