Bangkok Old City Attractions
What to See in Bangkok Old City
The majesty and grandeur of Rattanakosin's temples, palaces and pavilions, which date back to the beginning of the Chakri Dynasty and the foundation of the new capital, rarely disappoint. For those seeking an initiation into Thailand's unique culture and history, a visit here is a must. Bangkok's longest boulevard, Rachadamnoen Avenue, is the scene of royal pomp and ceremony during times of celebration, mass-protest and demonstration during upheaval.
It links the Houses of Parliament at the north end, and leads to the Grand Palace at the other. Other significant sights include Makahan Fort, the Temple of the Golden Mount - a glittering 59-metre high chedi on a man-made hill - and Wat Sutat. The latter is one of the city's oldest temples and site of the Great Swing, where young men used to ride perilously high in an attempt to grab a bag of silver coins - until the King banned it back in 1932 on account of the many deaths it caused. The striking-looking Democracy Monument , built in 1932 to commemorate the peaceful transition from absolute monarchy to constitutional monarchy, is also on Rachadamnoen.
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Literally translated as ‘house of monk’s alm bowl’, Bann Bat is perhaps the last existing place in Bangkok that still hammers out – by hand – the brass bowl that Buddhist monks carry with them during the morning alms round. The Baan Bat community (or Monk’s Bowl Making Village) has been producing monk’s alm bowls since the late 18th Century, but today less than five households continue to make a living selling their craft.
Tucked away in a narrow backstreet just south of Wat Saket (The Golden Mount Temple), it looks no different from any other backstreets of Bangkok, where the same old, non-descriptive buildings fail to give any hints to what’s hidden down the alley. But step inside and look very closely – you will notice stacks of unfinished brass bowls lying about and constant banging noise echoing through the air.
- Location: Soi Ban Baat, Bamrungmuang Road (south of Wat Saket)
Bangkok Flower Market (Pak Klong Talad) is the biggest wholesale and retail fresh flower market in Bangkok. The market has all kinds of popular flowers and flora-related items, including roses, forget me nots, orchids, lilies and more. Most of them sold in packs of 50 or 100 flowers in each, and prices are amazingly cheap. Part of the Old City, Bangkok Flower market is located on Chak Phet Road near Saphan Phut or the Memorial Bridge. Read More...
- Opening Hours: 24 hours, more popular during nighttime
- Location: Chak Phet Road, the Memorial Bridge or Saphan Phut Chao Phraya pier
- How to get there: Taxi or Tuk Tuk
In the former grounds of the 18th Century Wang Na Palace, The Bangkok National Museum houses the largest collection of Thai art and artifacts in the country. It's definitely worth a visit, especially if visiting nearby Wat Phra Kaew or the Grand Palace. Opened by King Rama V to exhibit the antiques and gifts bestowed to him by his father, it once held a reputation for being an ill-organised gathering of dusty relics. That has now changed, with exhibits now arranged into three areas consistent with Thai history, and good English-language descriptions available. Read More...
- Opening Hours: 09:00 - 16:00 (Wednesday - Sunday)
- Location: Na Phrothat Road, near the Grand Palace
- Tel: +66 (0)2 215 8173
- How to get there: Taxi is probably the best way to go. Or embark the Chao Phraya Express Boat to Maharaj Pier, then walk about 20 minutes.
Circled by perpetual swarms of traffic, the Democracy Monument on Ratchadamnoen Road is a large Western-style symbol of Thailand's adoption of democracy and liberty. Field Marshall Plaek Pibulsonggram commissioned it to commemorate the June 1932 military coup that led to the country's first democratic constitution in place of absolute rule. He intended the monument to be the equivalent of the Arc de Triomphe, its European style a symbol of a newly invigorated Bangkok complete with similar Western freedoms.
Like most monuments built in a spirit of self-congratulation, however, it came to resemble propaganda more then a celebration of a remarkable democratic awakening. By the time it was built in 1939, the regime had turned autocratic, factions in the regime leading to what was in effect a military dictatorship. Since then, however, it has gained a legitimacy it once lacked, pro-democracy demonstrators using it as a rallying point in 1973, 1976 and 1992.
Designed by Italian-born Thai citizen Corrado Feroci (who later adopted the Thai name Silpha Bhirasi), it's rich with symbolism relating to the constitution's birth date of June 24, 1932. In its centre is a pedestal, inside of which is a copy of the original 1932 constitution.
The four surrounding wing-like structures are 24 metres high to represent the date the constitution was signed, and each one symbolises one of the four branches of the Thai armed forces that guard it. Bas relief sculptures at the base of the monument depict the armed forces both as champions of democracy and as the personification of the Thai people.
- Location: Ratchadamnoen Road, Rattanakosin (Old City)
If there is one must-see sight that no visit to Bangkok would be complete without, it's the dazzling, spectacular Grand Palace, undoubtedly the city's most famous landmark. Built in 1782 - and for 150 years the home of the Thai King, the Royal court and the administrative seat of government - the Grand Palace of Bangkok is a grand old dame indeed, that continues to have visitors in awe with its beautiful architecture and intricate detail. Read More...
- Opening Hours: Daily 08:30 - 15:30
- Location: Na Phra Lan Road, Old City (Rattanakosin)
- Price Range: Tickets sold from 8:30 - 15:30 and cost 400 baht! One ticket includes entry to Vimanmek Palace and Abhisek Dusit Throne Hall.
The popular book 'The Beach' famously described Khao San Road as "the centre of the backpacking universe". Judging by the truth-seeking travellers who converge here to shop, exchange tales and prepare for their next stint on the backpacker trail, it's a phrase that sums it up pretty much perfectly. Packed into a 1km long strip are countless budget guesthouses and mid-range hotels, internet cafes, swanky bars and clubs, restaurants, massage parlours, travel agents, bookshops, market stalls, tattoo shops and much, much more. Read More...
While the Museum of Siam is set inside a very large neoclassical house, it is definitely not the usual display of historical artifacts and dusty mannequins you would expect to find in such an antique building.A huge bronze ‘ribbon’ coiling and looping in the front garden is the first clue of things to come inside... In the reception area, wooden stairs, ceramic tiles and old-fashioned columns contrast with resolutely modern art and advanced technology. Read More...
- Opening Hours: 10.00 - 18.00 (Tuesday to Sunday)
- Location: Phra Nakorn District, Rattanakosin Island, south of Wat Pho
- Tel: +66 (0)2 225 2777
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. Read More...
- 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.
The Queen's Gallery opened in 2003 in response to Her Majesty Queen Sirikit's initiative to create a permanent public space to exhibit and promote the works of both established and up-and-coming Thai artists. Set in a five-storey building, the gallery covers 3,700 square metres of minimalist space to showcase permanent as well as changing exhibitions.
- Opening Hours: 10:00 - 19:00; closed on Wednesdays
- Location: 101 Ratchadamnoen Klang Road (near Phan Fah Bridge)
- Tel: +66 (0)2 281 5360-1
Bangkok’s old town has an interesting history, and the most entertaining way to discover more about it is with a visit to the Rattanakosin Exhibition Hall. Here you will get to experience the many things that make Bangkok great through a series of film, music, computer displays and a guided tour. If you have ever wanted to have more understanding of the palace, temples and neighbourhoods that make up Rattanakosin Island, this is the exhibition to visit. Read More...
- Opening Hours: Tuesday-Friday 11:00 – 20:00 and Saturday-Sunday 10:00 – 20:00
- Address: 100 Ratchadamnoen Klang Road
- Tel: +66 (0)2 621 0044
- Price Range: Entrance Fee: 100 baht, free for students
Situated at the heart of old Rattanakosin city, Sanam Luang (the Royal Field) has been in existence since the founding of Bangkok (around 200 years ago).The area was also known as 'Thung Pra Meru' (Royal Cremation Ground), because it was originally used for royal cremations up until the reign of King Rama III, when the king decreed that all cremations be held outside the old city walls.
Surrounded by famous attractions such as the Grand Palace, Temple of the Emerald Buddha, the National Museum, National Gallery, the Supreme Court, and Ministry of Defense, Sanam Luang is a gathering ground for various activities throughout the year. Take part in the kite flying festival around March and see a plethora of colours in different shapes and sizes floating in the sky. Alternatively, have a family picnic in breezy late afternoon while watching an exciting game of sepak takraw (Asian football).
You can also feed the pigeons, or even have your fortune told! The Royal Ploughing Ceremony in May marks the start of the new planting season. It's when the royal oxen are brought out to plough the field, and to provide an omen for the coming plantation.
As the year draws to an end, people congregate at Sanam Luang to celebrate the King's birthday on December 5, Constitution Day on December 10, and to usher in the New Year. Once in four years when the national elections come around, Sanam Luang is also where intense and vociferous political campaigning takes place.
- Location: Phra Nakorn (near Khao San Road and the Grand Palace)
Silpa Bhirasri Memorial & Museum
Many who've lived in Bangkok their whole lives don't know who Silpa Bhirasri is. Without exception though, they've seen his work. He was an Italian-born sculptor who first came to Thailand in 1923 to work for the Department of Fine Arts. Today he's regarded as the father of modern art in Thailand, his work on show in public places throughout the city. Many iconic and impressive landmarks and monuments were cast by his able hands, and some of his best-known works include the Democracy Monument and statues of King Taksin, King Rama I and King Rama VI.
This memorial and museum at Silapakorn University is located in the building he not only lived, worked and taught in, but also designed. It maintains the original atmosphere, with paintings and sculptures as well as implements used on show. Works of several of his pupils are also displayed, including famous painters Fua Haripitak, Khien Yimsiri and Saway Tantisuk.
- Opening Hours: 09:00 - 12:00 (Monday to Friday, closed on weekends and public holidays)
- Location: Fine Arts Department, Silpakorn University, Rattanakosin
- Tel: +66 (0)2 223 6162
Part of Rambuttri runs parallel to Khao San, but despite being located so close by these two streets are different worlds. Rambuttri gives you a taste of how Bangkok used to look before all the skyscrapers arrived. Leafy banyan trees shade the pavements and the vibe sways more towards local than backpacker, despite a number of them now choosing to stay here rather than on the famous street itself. Read More...
Toot Yung Gallery
A French man’s vision, this uplifting gallery-slash-meeting space promotes the works of aspiring local artists as well as introducing foreign artists and designers to the Bangkok art scene. Working with partner spaces both here and abroad, Toot Yung Gallery showcases contemporary art across all media platforms, whether objects, performing art, live music, or mixed media. It intends to create a multicultural space where artists, writers and musicians meet, and is accessible and open to anyone with artistic talent.
- Opening Hours: 10:00 – 20:00
- Location: 19 Prachathipatai Road (near Wat Tri Tossathep and Wisut Kasat Road)
- Tel: +66 (0)84 914 5499
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. 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
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...
- Opening Hours: 09:00 - 17:00
- Location: Phra That Road (near Sanam Luang Park, between the Grand Palace and the National Museum), Old City (Rattanakosin)
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 more relaxing. 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. 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 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. Read More...
- Opening Hours: 09:00 – 17:00
- Location: Between Boriphat Road and Lan Luang Road, off Ratchadamnoen Klang Road