Bangkok is blessed with a long and rich history and a great way to discover this is by taking a tour of the city’s excellent museums. These museums come in all shapes and sizes, from the traditional National Museum to the weird and wonderful Erawan Museum. They offer an important insight into Thai culture and visitors will find most exhibits are labelled in English as well as Thai.
Museums are listed in order of popularity:
Containing one of the finest collections of Southeast Asian antiquity in the world, no trip to Thailand would be complete without visiting the National Museum. The museum was originally established under the reign of King Rama IV and contains this famous King’s extensive private collection. The National Museum also once served as the Privy counsellor’s residence as it occupies a prime position beside the Grand Palace on the edge of Sanam Luang ground.
All the exhibits found here are labelled in English and guides provide additional information. Highlights of the National Museum include a magnificent display of ancient musical instruments and incredible woodcarvings and statues from various periods in the region’s past (particularly Khmer).
Open: 09:00-16:00 (Wed-Sun). Entry: foreigners; 200 Baht, Thais; 30 Baht. Na Phrathat Road, Phra Nakhon. Tel: (02) 224 1370.
The National Gallery
The National Gallery is a popular attraction with art lovers as it is home the finest collection of traditional and contemporary art in Thailand. Located near the Grand Palace, the main building is separated into two individual areas, with the first of these containing traditional art; including magnificent examples of the 17th century Ayutthaya style and the 19th century Bangkok style. The other section is reserved for contemporary art and houses examples of cubism, surrealism and modern art. The National Gallery is located conveniently close to Tha Athit pier, meaning visitors can get here by ferry.
Open: 09:00-16:00 (Wed-Sun). Entry: foreigners; 200 Baht, Thais; 30 Baht. 4 Chao-Fa Road, Pra Nakorn. Tel: (02) 281 2224.
The Royal Barges National Museum
Housing the elaborately designed and decorated vessels used in Royal processions along the Chao Phraya River, the Royal Barges Museum can be found in a series of sheds across the water from the Grand Palace. All of the barges here have been designed with ultimate skill and care and are a real treat to the eye. Some of the barges measure a massive 50m and are adorned with the heads of mythical creatures.
Open: 09:00-17:00 . Entry: foreigners; 100 Baht, Thais; 20 Baht. Arun Amarin Road, Bangkok Noi (across the river). Tel: (02) 424 0004.
The former residence of one of Thailand’s most famous entrepreneurs, Jim Thompson’s House is located conveniently close to Siam Square – tucked down a lane beneath the National Stadium BTS station. This lavish property once belonged to the legendary pioneer in the Thai silk industry, Jim Thompson, and has been preserved as it was just before his mysterious disappearance. Visitors are treated to a guided tour of the main house and its many treasures, which hail from all over Asia, before exploring the garden and surrounding traditional Thai building at their leisure. There is also an excellent restaurant and souvenir shop situated onsite.
Open: 09:00-18:00. Entry: adults; 150 Baht, students; 100 Baht. 6 Soi Kasemsan 2, Rama 1 Road. Tel: (02) 216 7368.
The Vimanmek Mansion Museum
Located within the Dusit Palace compound, this is the largest building in the world to have been constructed from golden teak. The three-storey structure contains a wealth of incredible architecture and art and is a true rendition of how the Thai monarchy lived during the turn of the 20th century. Among the building’s 81 rooms are fine examples of Thai art and furniture and guests can witness a collection of King Bhumibol’s photography and Queen Sirkit’s collection of rural handicrafts in nearby buildings.
Open: 09:30-16:00. Entry: foreigners; 100 Baht, Thais; 75 baht. 16 Ratchawithi Road, Dusit.
Suan Pakkad Palace
Tucked away in a peaceful little oasis of central Bangkok is the former palace of a 19th century royal. Today, Suan Pakkad Palace houses an unusual collection of Thai artefacts, especially the Thai traditional musical instruments of Prince Paributra. This traditional Thai house has a peaceful garden and is within walking distance of Siam Square or Panthip Plaza.
Open: 09:00-16:00. Entry: foreigners; 100 Baht, Thais; 50 Baht. Sri Ayudhya Road, BTS Phaya Thai station. Tel: (02) 245 4934.
M.R. Kukrit’s Heritage Home
The beautiful traditional Thai house of former PM MR Kukrit contains an interesting collection of artefacts centred around his interests as a poet, writer, artist, philosopher and politician. Wandering through the gardens is particularly rewarding and this is a good example of a Thai statesman’s working residence.
Open: 10:00-17:00 (weekends). Entry: adults; 50 Baht, children; 20 Baht. 19 Soi Prapinit, South Sathorn. Tel: (02) 286 8185.
An excellent example of a rural Northern Thai mansion, the Kamthieng House Museum has been transplanted from the banks of the Ping River. Home to the Siam Society, this beautiful building contains an extensive collection of traditional artefacts. The Northern style gardens are particularly pretty and wandering through them is a soothing experience.pen: 09:00-17:00 (Tue-Sat). Entry: adults; 100 Baht, children; 50 Baht. 131 Soi Asok, Sukhumvit Soi 21. Tel: (02) 258 3491.
The Prasart Museum
Tracing the history of Thailand from the pre-historic age to the Bangkok period, the Prasart Museum is home to a huge collection of historic artefacts. The museum is set in lush gardens and among the many treasures that can be found here is an assortment of Siamese and Colonial era artefacts.
Open: 09:30-15:00 (Tue-Sun, by appointment). Entry: 2 persons for 1,000 Baht (more 500 Baht each). 9 Krung Thep Kreetha Road, Soi 4, Bang Kapi. Tel: (02) 379 3601.
Those who simply don’t have the time to explore all of Thailand during their trip will be able to wander, or ride in a golf cart, around scale models of most of the nation’s natural and manmade wonders.
Resembling (roughly) the shape of Thailand, the Ancient City is the world’s largest outdoor museum and features models of remote temples that are big enough to explore both inside and out, as well as ponds and gardens. Known locally as Muang Boran, the Ancient City is located in Samut Prakarn; a 45-minute drive to the south of Bangkok.
Open: 09:00-16:00. Entry: foreigners; 700 Baht, Thais; 350 Baht. Sukhumvit Road, Samut Prakan. Tel: (02) 323 4094.
Museum of the Department of Forensic Medicine
Situated in Siriraj Hospital on the banks on the Chao Phraya River, this unusual museum was originally built as a way of showing medical students the workings of the human body. However, word of the ghoulish collection of displays that can be found here quickly spread and the museum has become a beacon for those seeking something slightly different from their trip to Bangkok. The museum’s main attraction is the stuffed remains of some of Thailand’s most notorious murderers, which are displayed in full sized glass cases. Also exhibited here are skulls shattered by bullets and the skeletons of Siamese twins.
Open: 10:00-17:00 (Wed-Mon). Entry: foreigners; 200 Baht, Thais; 80 Baht. Siriraj Hospital, 2 Prannok Road, Bangkok Noi. Tel: (02) 419 2618.
One of the city’s most unusual museums, this bizarre, giant three-headed elephant stands on a lofty plinth and took the artist 10 years to complete. Visitors can climb inside the elephant statue to explore the interior, which is decorated with all sorts of complex Buddhist and Hindu symbolism, as well as rare and valuable Buddhist statues dating back to the 8th century.
Open: 08:00-17:00. Entry: foreigners; 400 Baht, Thais; 200 Baht. 99/9 Moo 1, Bang Muangmai, Samut Prakan. Tel: (02) 371 3135-6, Fax: (02) 380 0304.
The Philatelic Museum
Those who are interested in stamps will want to take the time to explore this museum, which contains a large collection of Thai and foreign stamps from both the past and present. Many of the items displayed here are for sale.
Open: 08:30-16:30 (Wed-Sun). Entry: free. Metropolitan Postal Bureau (North), Phahon Yothin Road. Tel: (02) 271 2439.