13 Highlights at Bangkok's Grand Palace: A Visitor's Guide
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If you could only choose one thing to do during your visit to Bangkok, seeing the Grand Palace should be it. Built in 1782, the palace was commissioned by then-king Rama I, who founded Thailand's Chakri Dynasty.
Although the palace is no longer the official administrative seat of the government or home to the Thai King, the original buildings used for these purposes still stand and can be toured during your visit.
During the centuries since it was first built, the palace grounds have been well maintained, with particular care being taken to preserve and restore the palace's extensive murals. Thailand's most sacred site, the Emerald Buddha temple, is located between the walls of the palace, and so are many other important buildings where you can get a chance to experience a piece of Thailand's history firsthand.
For details on everything you should see when you get here, check out our list of top tourist attractions inside the Grand Palace.
Things to See at the Grand Palace
1. Temple of the Emerald Buddha/Wat Phra Kaeo
This holy site is easily recognizable by the two imposing demon figures guarding the entrance. The statues, gifts from Chinese merchants, stand sentinel at the gate to the gorgeous temple. Those brave enough to pass by the demons are treated to a cycle of murals depicting the epic poem of Ramakien, which recounts the work of the gods and their relationship with humanity. Inside the gold-tiled chedi, known as Phra Si Ratana, there's a relic that (according to tradition) its either a piece of bone or hair of the enlightened Buddha.
Inside the bot, the exquisite statue of a meditating Buddha–made completely out of the semi-precious stone jade and dressed in gold robes–stands just 66 centimeters high and rests on a tall plinth beneath a nine-tiered canopy. Scholars believe the figure was carved in Pataliputra in India, though other sources claim it to be from Burma and the work of an unknown artist. It first came to light in 1434 in Chiang Rai, northern Thailand, having arrived there by way of Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) and Cambodia.
At the time of its discovery, the statue was encased in plaster. While being transported, the casing was damaged and split open, revealing the figure within. The Buddha traveled a long way to end up in Bangkok in 1778, where it has been kept ever since. Three times a year, the king changes the Buddha's robes during a special ceremony to mark the beginning of a new season.
2. Phra Mondop
Behind Phra Sri Ratana is Phra Mondop–a building made out of tiny green and gold glass mosaics, a gilt spire, and pure silver floors–which serves as the Palace library. This golden building holds the Canon of Buddha–sacred scriptures written on palm leaf–as well as a number of Buddhist publications and ancient literature.
While the building remains closed to the public, and you won't be able to get even a peek of the sacred texts, the outside sight of the beautiful mother-of-pearl doors, dragon imagery, and Ayutthaya-style architecture are more than worth a stop.
3. Ho Phra Parit
Originally, this unique hall was created especially for the use of monks, who would congregate here daily to create Holy water and then sprinkle it all around the palace. During times of war, the water was also used to "enhance" the power of weapons through a special ceremony performed here. While the practice of creating Holy water was discontinued in the 1920s, the ceremony is still performed during Buddhist holy days.
Ho Phra Parit is divided into two rooms, with the largest one being used for prayers and rituals, and the smaller one used as a storage space for religious artifacts.
4. The Royal Pantheon
Also known as Prasat Phra Dhepbidorn, this pavilion is of great importance within the Grand Temple complex. It was constructed in 1856 by King Rama IV, and was originally going to be the chapel in which the Emerald Buddha was held. After construction, it was considered too small to hold the iconic statue, so it was originally left empty.
A fire destroyed the roof of the building in the early 20th century. After it was restored, King Rama VI turned it into the Royal Pantheon of all the kings who have reigned in the period when Bangkok has been the capital of Thailand. It is protected on either side by two stupas that were built during King Rama I's reign.
5. Angkor Wat
While nothing beats the magnificence of the real Angkor Wat in Cambodia, this perfect replica of the Khmer-style temple is worth visiting. Although much smaller than the real thing, the stone model does offer an interesting history lesson and a glimpse at the landmark as it was being planned. The model dates from the reign of Rama IV, when what is now Cambodia was a vassal state of Siam.
The mini Angkor Wat is right across from the Emerald Buddha temple, and you can easily miss it if you're not looking for it. Surrounded by colorful, ornate buildings, the simple design of this gray sand model offers a noticeable contrast worth a look.
6. Boromabiman Hall
Boromabiman Hall is the official name for the building that overlooks the lawns where the king's annual garden party used to be held. Frescos inside depict the four Indian gods (Indra, Yahuma, Varuna, and Agni) as guardians of the universe. Inscribed on plaques beneath are the ten royal virtues: liberality, propriety, readiness to make sacrifices, clemency, modesty, conscientiousness, freedom from anger, freedom from suspicion, patience and right dealing.
Ever since the time of Rama VI, all the Crown Princes have grown up here. Nowadays the building is only used occasionally, usually to accommodate visiting heads of state or high-ranking Buddhist dignitaries.
7. The Great Chakri Palace
Though it is no longer the royal residence (the present monarch, King Maha Vajiralongkorn, lives at the Amphorn Sathan Residential Hall inside Bangkok's Dusit Palace since 2016, when he inherited the throne after the death of his father), the Great Chakri Palace is still something special to behold.
The residence was originally designed by an English architect in Italian Renaissance style, but King Rama V ordered that it be embellished with typically Siamese stepped roofs and mondhop. While the design makes the building stand out from the ones around it, it also makes it seem more royal and important. As well as being notable for the richness of their interiors, all the rooms in the palace are treasure troves with valuable paintings and portraits of every Thai king.
8. Phra Thinang Amarin Winitchai
This is the "High Residence"–essentially a throne room where King Rama I once received homage. The hall is still used today, often in ceremonies involving heads of state or for future anniversary celebrations of the present king's coronation. You can see a peristyle in front of the building, which is where royal proclamations used to be read.
Inside, the golden throne, shaped like a boat, takes center stage. Right in front of it, there's a giant, royal, nine-tiered umbrella, which represents the king's prestige and power. Royal umbrellas can have anywhere from five tiers (for a crown prince) to nine for a sovereign king.
9. Dusit Maha Prasat
The single large inner hall of this building, which is open to visitors, was originally Rama I's Audience Chamber. Here, the king received his guests, seated not on the large throne seen today, but higher up on a niche-like throne set in the south wing wall. On the roof, a spire designed to look like the king's crown adds a royal touch to this Italian Renaissance meets Thai traditional hall.
While the furniture inside is original to the time of the building's construction, the murals were painted in a later period. There's also a second mother-of-pearl inlaid throne here, which was used by the king when he stepped away or took a break between audiences.
10. Aphorn Phimok Prasat
When leaving the Dusit Maha Prasat, the delicate golden wooden pavilion ahead is the Aphorn Phimok Prasat, used by Rama I as a robing chamber. Here, the king would change before entering the audience room and then again after leaving. Drapes interlaced with gold thread were drawn around the pavilion pillars while the king donned his ceremonial robes.
This pavilion was also used to park the king's palanquin, a one-passenger human-powered form of transport–basically a large box or seat carried by six bearers on long poles. Before a ceremony, the king would change inside Dusit Maha Prasat before leaving in the palanquin to join the festivities.
11. Hor Phra Monthian Dharma
King Rama I's younger brother had Hor Phra Monthian Dharma built as an auxiliary library. The building looks humble next to Phra Mondop, but it is worth stopping in front of. Inside the building are mother-of-pearl inlay book cabinets, which hold many Buddhist scriptures.
Be sure to pay attention to the central door panels of the building, which have also been inlaid with mother of pearl. The panels have an inscription, which says that they originally belonged to Wat Borom Phuttharam, which is Ayutthaya. They were made by King Boromkot, who was the King of Ayutthaya in the 1700s.
12. Phra Wiharn Yod
Directly across from Hor Phra Monthian Dharma is Phra Wiharn Yod, which you'll recognize from its elaborate roof. This building was built by King Rama II and served as a chapel, filled with many images of Buddha.
The roof is the most standout feature of this building and was constructed to resemble the Thai crown. It is decorated with porcelain mosaics from China.
13. The Belfry
The belfry building may not be as grand as some of the other structures within the Grand Palace, but it is a beautifully decorated construction. Built by King Rama IV, the belfry is plastered with colorful mosaics. Today it is rung on only the most important of days, like when a new king takes the throne.
Grand Palace Tours
Overwhelmed by everything there is to see and do within the walls of the Grand Palace? Let a professional guide take you to see the top sights in Bangkok, including the most important Grand Palace buildings, in a six-Hour Best of Bangkok City Tour.
At 7:30am, an expert guide will pick you up directly at your hotel in an air-conditioned vehicle. From there, you'll be taken straight to Wat Traimit in Chinatown, home to the world's largest (and heaviest at 5.5 tonnes) seated gold Buddha. You'll then continue on a walking tour through Chinatown's wooden shophouses and make another stop at the shrine dedicated to Kuan Yin, the Chinese Goddess of mercy.
Your next stop is at the Grand Palace, where your guide will take you on a tour of the grounds–including the Temple of the Emerald Buddha; the giant demon guardians protecting the entrance to the temple; and Phra Siratana Chedi, a golden bell-shaped stupa–before heading to Wat Pho, just south of the Palace Complex. Here, you'll see the giant reclining Buddha, a magnificent 46-meter-long golden statue.
You'll end the tour at a restaurant over the Chao Phraya River, where you can enjoy a traditional Thai lunch before being dropped off at your hotel.
Hours and Entry Fee
Hours: 8:30am-3:30pm daily. The Grand Palace doesn't close for any national or religious holidays, but it might close on very rare occasions during special Royal ceremonies.
Admission: The standard admission ticket includes access to Wat Phra Kaeo, the Queen Sirikit Museum of Textile, and The Royal Thai Decorations & Coins Pavilion. Tickets can be bought at the gate or online at the Palace's official website to skip the long queues. If you're buying online, keep in mind the tickets must be purchased at least 24 hours before your visit and must be picked up in person at a special window near the Palace entrance.
There's an additional fee for the rental of an audio guide in a number of foreign languages, including English, German, French, Spanish, Russian, and more.
Getting In: Visitors can enter the palace through the Wiseedtschairi Gate ("Gate of Wonderful Victory"), beyond which a wide roadway leads through the outer courtyard. On either side are modern buildings housing government offices. The ticket office is located at the start of the roadway that leads to the actual palace precinct.
Where to Stay near Bangkok's Grand Palace
For easy access to the magnificent Grand Palace in Bangkok, choose hotels in Phra Nakhon or the surrounding districts. This will put you within walking distance or at least a short tuk-tuk ride away from the palace.
- For five-star luxury that includes a yoga terrace, a riverfront infinity pool, and private boat transfers, nothing can beat The Siam. Each of the 39 suites here comes with its own private butler and is carefully designed using turn-of-the-century artwork and antique furniture. The Siam is all about the extras, and guests will find everything from a cooking school to a Muay Thai boxing ring to a cinema inside the hotel's premises.
- Riva Surya Bangkok is an elegant riverside resort that offers comfortable beds, a lovely pool with river views, and a well-equipped gym.
- For budget rates and tasteful comfort, Villa Phra Sumen Bangkok can't be beaten–you'll get stylish rooms in a restored historic building, windows that open over one of Bangkok's many canals, and even a free Grand Palace tuk-tuk shuttle for very affordable prices.
- Phranakorn-Nornlen Hotel is an affordable guesthouse with colorful rooms and eclectic décor, a rooftop restaurant, and a quiet courtyard to disconnect after a hectic day on the streets of Bangkok.
Tips and Tactics
- Dress appropriately. As is the case at any temple or palace in Thailand, visitors are expected to dress modestly. For women, this means covering the shoulders and the leg all the way to the knee at least. For men, a t-shirt and pants will do. Flip-flops, see-through clothing, sweats, and the baggy fisherman pants popular among backpackers in Thailand are not allowed. If your attire is deemed inappropriate, you can rent a sarong to wear for a nominal deposit fee (which will be returned when you return the sarong).
- Beware of scams. Because the Grand Palace is a major tourist attraction, it also attracts a lot of scammers. A common scam is someone approaching you and telling you the palace is closed or they have another attraction to show you. If this happens, politely shake your head and keep walking. No matter how sweet a package they are offering, chances are you're about to be duped, big time. Only buy tickets at the official ticket counter, not from "guides" on the street.
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Exploring Bangkok: Once you're done touring the grounds of the Grand Palace, it's time to see what else Thailand's capital has to offer. From neighboring Wat Pho, with its magnificent reclining Buddha, to floating markets and the lush greenery of Lumpini Park, you can check out a great list of things to see and do in our Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in Bangkok article. If you need tips on finding the best neighborhoods for accommodations in Bangkok, check out Where to Stay in Bangkok: Best Areas & Hotels.