The Old City district in Bangkok is home to a glittering array of temples, palaces and ancient architecture, representing the cultural and historical center of the city. For anyone interested in the history and origins of this bustling city, a visit to the wide, tree-lined avenues of the Old City is a must.

    This district is dominated by the famous Grand Palace. Scattered around it is a bountiful collection of ancient structures that will impress even long-time visitors to the city. Museums and art galleries are also prominent here, while the many old marketplaces are a fascinating glimpse into the past whether you’re interested in shopping or not. Here are our not-to-be-missed attractions in Bangkok Old City.

    The dazzling, spectacular Grand Palace is a must-see when visiting Bangkok. Built in 1782 and the home of the Thai King, the Royal court and the administrative seat of government for 150 years, the Grand Palace of Bangkok is a grand old dame indeed. It continues to have visitors in awe with its beautiful architecture and intricate detail.

    A strict dress code applies. After all, the Grand Palace and the Temple of the Emerald Buddha it contains is Thailand's most sacred site. Remember, long pants and shirts with sleeves (no tank tops) for men and no see-through clothes or bare shoulders for women. Also, no bare feet (put on socks when wearing sandals or flip-flops).

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    Location: Na Phra Lan Road, Old City (Rattanakosin), Phra Nakhon, Bangkok 10200, Thailand

    Open: Daily from 8.30am to 3.30pm

    Phone: +66 (0)2 623 5500


    Wat Pho (the Temple of the Reclining Buddha) is a must-do for any first-time visitor in Bangkok. Also known as Wat Phra Chetuphon, the temple is located behind the Temple of the Emerald Buddha and is one of the largest temple complexes in the city. The centerpiece here is the giant reclining Buddha that measures 46 meters long and is covered in gold leaf.

    Wat Pho is an easy 10-minute walk from the Grand Palace, and it’s recommended to visit Wat Pho second – 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.

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    Location: Maharat Road, Phra Nakhon, Bangkok 10200, Thailand

    Open: Daily from 8.30am to 6.30pm

    Phone: +66 (0)2 226 0335


    The popular book The Beach famously described Khao San Road in Bangkok as ‘the center of the backpacking universe’. Judging by the truth-seeking travelers 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 1-km-long strip are countless budget guesthouses and mid-range hotels, internet cafés, swanky bars and clubs, restaurants, massage parlors, travel agents, bookshops, market stalls, tattoo shops and much, much more.

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    Location: Talat Yot, Phra Nakhon, Bangkok 10200, Thailand


    The Museum of Siam is a museum in Bangkok Old City that’s set inside a very large neoclassical house. Even so, it’s definitely not the usual display of historical artifacts and dusty mannequins you'd expect to find in such an antique building. In the reception area, wooden stairs, ceramic tiles and old-fashioned columns contrast with resolutely modern art and advanced technology.

    The 2 elements blend with great harmony as designers use every possible way to challenge the traditional expectations you might have of a museum. From room to room, you’ll be transported through all things Thai, from the very beginning of Ayutthaya to the daily life and highlights of Thai history, wars, Buddhism and finally the rapid entry into the modern world.

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    Location: 4 Sanam Chai Rd, Phra Borom Maha Ratchawang, Phra Nakhon, Bangkok 10200, Thailand

    Open: Tuesday–Sunday from 10am to 6pm (closed on Mondays)

    Phone: +66 (0)2 225 2777


    photo by Yakuzakorat (CC BY-SA 3.0) modified

    Loha Prasat Temple was built in 1846 at the request of King Nangklao (Rama III) and was inspired by 2 other similar temples found in India and Sri Lanka. The temple structure is 36 meters tall and supports 37 metal spires, representing the 37 virtues toward enlightenment.

    The temple is erected in a very unusual way, with multiple concentric square levels built on geometrically aligned pillars. A relic of Lord Buddha is kept at the highest level. Don't miss the large white temples of Wat Ratchanaddaram surrounding Loha Prasat itself and admire the golden seated Buddha and the beautiful murals pairings and door carvings. Check out the popular amulet and statues market behind Loha Prasat, too.

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    Location: 2 Maha Chai Rd, Bowon Niwet, Phra Nakhon, Bangkok 10200, Thailand

    Open: Daily from 9am to 5pm

    Phone: +66 (0)2 224 8807


    In the grounds of the 18th-century Wang Na Palace, 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 on him by his father, the museum once held a reputation for being an ill-organized gathering of dusty relics. But now, with exhibits arranged into 3 areas consistent with Thai history and good English-language descriptions available, it’s a great spot for learning about Thai arts while exploring Bangkok Old City.

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    Location: Na Phra That Alley, Phra Borom Maha Ratchawang, Phra Nakhon, Bangkok 10200, Thailand

    Open: Wednesday–Sunday from 9am to 4pm (closed on Mondays and Tuesdays)

    Phone: +66 (0)2 224 1402


    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-meter 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 (also known as the Festival of Lights).

    During the festival period, the massive stupa is draped in a bright-red cloth, with a candlelit procession to the top of the Golden Mount marking the start of the week-long celebration. Colorful lanterns and decorative flags as well as food vendors, fairground games and rides bring Wat Saket to life. At the top of the hill, you’ll be surrounded by a wall of bells and panoramas of Bangkok Old Town.

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    Location: 344 Chakkraphatdi Phong, Ban Bat, Pom Prap Sattru Phai, Bangkok 10100, Thailand

    Open: Daily from 8am to 5pm


    photo by Preecha.MJ (CC BY-SA 4.0) modified

    Bangkok Flower Market (Pak Khlong 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 are 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 (Memorial Bridge).

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    Location: Wang Burapha Phirom, Phra Nakhon, Bangkok 10200, Thailand


    photo by Globe-trotter (CC BY-SA 4.0) modified

    Chang Chui Bangkok Plane Night Market offers a nice selection of shopping and dining options, combined with modern, urban and often wacky art pieces, much of it made from recycled and scrap materials. The concept behind the night market is that ‘nothing is useless’ and we’re confident you’ll be deeply impressed by what the artists have managed to create.

    The huge shell of a retired Tristar airliner is the real head-turner at Chang Chui, but as you explore the grounds you’ll find loads more sculptures and urban art pieces. It seems every walkway leads to something interesting. This feature makes this one of the best night markets in Bangkok.

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    Location: 460/8 Sirindhorn Rd, Bang Phlat, Bangkok 10700, Thailand

    Open: Thursday–Tuesday from 4pm to 11pm (closed on Wednesdays)

    Phone: +66 (0)81 817 2888


    Democracy Monument

    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. It was designed by Italian-born Thai citizen Corrado Feroci (who later adopted the Thai name Silpha Bhirasi).

    The monument is rich with symbolism relating to the constitution's birth date of 24th June 1932. In its center is a pedestal, inside of which is a copy of the original 1932 constitution. The 4 surrounding wing-like structures are 24 meters high, representing the date the constitution was signed. Each symbolizes one of the 4 branches of the Thai armed forces that guard it.

    Location: Ratchadamnoen Avenue, Wat Bowon Niwet, Phra Nakhon, Bangkok 10200, Thailand


    photo by Y.Thanongsak (CC BY-SA 4.0) modified

    The National Gallery in Bangkok is housed in what used to be the Royal Mint and the main collection focuses on national artists from the 17th century onward. Without a great knowledge of Thai art, getting a good understanding of the permanent collection can be difficult. But the temporary and modern exhibitions in the gardens and special collections building are worth checking out.

    You can easily find Bangkok National Gallery just 5 minutes from Khao San Road and the northern end of Sanam Luang. A taxi is the best way to get there, though 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. The museum is on your left.

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    Location: 4 Chao Fa Rd, Chana Songkhram, Phra Nakhon, Bangkok 10200, Thailand

    Open: Wednesday–Sunday from 9am to 4pm (closed on Mondays and Tuesdays)

    Phone: +66 (0)2 281 2224


    Sanam Luang

    Sanam Luang (the Royal Field), also known as Thung Pra Meru (Royal Cremation Ground) has been around for over 200 years. It was originally used for royal cremations (hence the name) up until the reign of King Rama III when the king decreed that all cremations should be held outside the old city walls.

    Surrounded by famous attractions such as the Grand Palace, Temple of the Emerald Buddha and the National Gallery, Sanam Luang is a gathering ground for various activities throughout the year. Take part in the kite flying festival around March or have a family picnic on a breezy late afternoon while watching an exciting game of sepak takraw (Asian soccer). You can also feed the pigeons, or even have your fortune told!

    Location: Ratchadamnoen Avenue, Phra Borom Maha Ratchawang, Phra Nakhon, Bangkok 10200, Thailand


    photo by Mr.Sticker (CC BY-SA 3.0) modified

    Part of Rambuttri runs parallel to Khao San but, despite being located so close by, these 2 streets are like different worlds. Rambuttri gives you a taste of how Bangkok used to look before all the skyscrapers arrived. Leafy banyan trees shade the sidewalks and the vibe sways more towards local than backpacker.

    You can usually walk the entire horseshoe-shaped road in half an hour, passing a great mix of guesthouses, restaurants, bars and street food stalls. Most of the shops are similar to those you’d find elsewhere in the area, selling the usual T-shirts, books and other tourist trinkets.

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    Location: Talat Yot, Phra Nakhon, Bangkok 10200, Thailand


    Wat Arun, locally known as Wat Chaeng, is situated on the west (Thonburi) bank of the Chao Phraya River. It’s 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. That’s why it’s also called The Temple of Dawn.

    Dawn just happens to be the quietest time to visit, before the crowds. But despite its name, it’s most breathtaking at sunset when it’s all lit up. The imposing prang (spire) by the Chao Phraya rises over 70 meters high, beautifully decorated with tiny pieces of colored glass and Chinese porcelain placed delicately in intricate patterns.

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    Location: 158 Wang Doem Road, Wat Arun, Bangkok Yai, Bangkok 10600, Thailand

    Open: Daily from 8am to 5.30pm

    Phone: +66 (0)2 891 2185

    Price: 50 Baht


    Wat Mahathat is the headquarters of Thailand's largest monastic order and Vipassana Meditation center. It’s an important center for the study of Buddhism and meditation. Though most programs are in Thai, there are some in English and the temple has become a popular place to learn Vipassana Meditation (Insight Meditation).

    Classes are held daily at certain intervals and the time needed for practice will vary with each individual English-speaking monk assisting. The temple was originally built to house a relic of the Buddha and is one of the oldest temples in Bangkok. You can also have your fortune told inside the wat (temple).

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    Location: 3 Maha Rat Rd, Phra Borom Maha Ratchawang, Phra Nakhon, Bangkok 10200, Thailand

    Open: Daily from 9am to 5pm

    Phone: +66 (0)2 222 6011


    photo by กสิณธร ราชโอรส (CC BY-SA 4.0) modified

    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 historical center 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.

    Mind the dress code when visiting Wat Phra Kaew: no short pants or short skirts and no sleeveless T-shirts. Sarongs are available for rent at the entrance, but it’s better to dress appropriately before going to avoid the queue.

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    Location: Na Phra Lan Road, Phra Borom Maha Ratchawang, Phra Nakhon, Bangkok 10200, Thailand

    Open: Daily from 8.30am to 3.30pm


    Wat Suthat, best known for the towering red 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 Sukhothai. It was finally completed during King Rama III’s reign (1824-1851). 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.

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    Location: 146 Bamrung Mueang Rd, Wat Ratchabophit, Bangkok 10200, Thailand

    Open: Daily from 8.30am to 9pm


    Queen's Gallery

    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 5-storey building, the gallery covers 3,700 sq m of minimalist space to showcase permanent as well as changing exhibitions. This gallery is highly recommended for art lovers.

    Location: 101 Ratchadamnoen Klang Rd, Wat Bowon Niwet, Phra Nakhon, Bangkok 10200, Thailand

    Open: Thursday–Tuesday from 10am to 7pm (closed on Wednesdays)

    Phone: +66 (0)2 281 5360


    Rattanakosin Exhibition Hall

    Bangkok’s Old City 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’ll get to experience the many things that make Bangkok great through a series of films, music, computer displays and a guided tour.

    If you have ever wanted to have a greater understanding of the palace, temples and neighborhoods that make up Rattanakosin Island, this is the exhibition to visit.

    Location: 100 Ratchadamnoen Avenue, Wat Bowon Niwet, Phra Nakhon, Bangkok 10200, Thailand

    Open: Tuesday–Sunday from 9am to 5pm (closed on Mondays)

    Phone: +66 (0)2 621 0044


    Baan Bat

    Baan Bat – literally ‘house of monk’s alms bowl’ – is perhaps the last place in Bangkok that still hand-crafts the brass bowl that Buddhist monks carry with them during the morning alms round. The Baan Bat community has been producing monk’s alms bowls since the late 18th century, but today less than 5 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-descript buildings fail to give any hints to what’s hidden down the alley. But step inside and look very closely – you’ll notice stacks of unfinished brass bowls lying about and a constant banging noise echoing through the air.

    Location: 55 Boriphat Road, Baan Bat, Pom Prap Sattru Phai, Bangkok 10100, Thailand


    Silpa Bhirasri Memorial & Museum

    Silpa Bhirasri 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 crafted by his able hands. Among his best-known works are 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 the tools he used on display. Works of several of his pupils are also displayed, including famous painters Fua Haripitak, Khien Yimsiri and Saway Tantisuk.

    Location: Fine Arts Department, Silpakorn University, Na Phra That Road, Phra Nakhon, Bangkok, 10200, Thailand

    Open: Monday–Friday from 8am to 5pm (closed on Saturdays and Sundays)

    Phone: +66 (0)2 223 6162

    Paul Smith | Compulsive Traveler

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