Temples in Bangkok - tourists' guide

Bangkok's Grand Palace is a must-see temple

Bangkok's Grand Palace is a must-see temple

Being the capital of a Buddhist country means that Bangkok is full of some of Southeast Asia's finest temples. Found in every district, these places of worship range from small local temples (wats) to ones of extravagant splendour, such as the famous Wat Phra Kaew and Wat Arun.

Religion is very important to many Thai people, and small miniature versions of temples called spirit houses are to be found in most office complexes, shopping centres, hotels and in many homes, draped in jasmine flowers and surrounded by offerings for Buddha.

So it’s true to say that in Bangkok you’re never far from a temple of some kind, even if it’s the small shrine set up on the dashboard of your airport taxi!

In every village and every suburb of Bangkok there will be at least one temple which forms the focus of religious and often community activities. Each temple is an exquisite work of art and, although the styles vary according to the architectural era (spanning almost a full millennium), they mostly conform to a common style consisting of multi-layered steeply concaved roofs with symbolic winged edges finished with gold filigree and ornate markings. 

Many Bangkok temples have colourful murals adorning the interior and the focus of each is an altar-like shrine of Buddhas to symbolise the founder of this faith. They are not used for ‘services’ as a church would be but rather for regular private prayer visits, meditation and occasional ceremonies. All are welcome in temples provided you show respect.

Recommended Bangkok temples

Wat Phra Kaew and the Grand Palace: one of Bangkok’s major tourist attractions and no trip to the Thai capital would be complete without a visit to this magnificent temple compound. It’s worth setting aside a good few hours to take in all the temples and shrines in this complex, especially the mystical Emerald Buddha.

This temple has the strictest dress code, although acceptable clothes can be borrowed inside - watch out for touts trying to tell you otherwise. Also, no pictures or movies are allowed to be taken of the Emerald Buddha. Any taxi driver can take you here, or you can get a river taxi to Tha Chang pier.

Thai temples have distinctive shapes

Thai temples have distinctive shapes

For more info see our dedicated Wat Phra Kaew and Grand Palace section. Open: 08:30-16:30; Entry: foreigners: 400 baht for both the palace and the temple, Thais: free; guide: 08:30–16:30Na Phralan Road, Phra Borommaharatchawang, Phra Nakhon, tel: (02) 623 5499, 623 5500 ext. 3100-4, fax: (02) 623 5500 ext. 3857email: Silaporn.k@palaces.mail.go.th.

Wat Po: just around the corner from the Grand Palace and Wat Phra Kaew is the impressive Wat Po. Dozens of ornately decorated spires have been constructed in between the many stunning temple buildings.

One of the principal attractions of Wat Po is the extraordinary 46-metre reclining Buddha - the biggest in Thailand. Open: Temple: 08:30-18:00; Entry: foreigners: 100 Baht; 2 Sanamchai Road, Phra Borommaharatchawang, Phra Nakhon, tel: (02) 221 2974, (02) 225 4771, website: www.watpho.com.

Wat Arun (Temple of Dawn): this riverside temple is one of Bangkok’s key tourist attractions and one of its most famous sights – the towering 82-metre spire in the centre of the temple is depicted on the reverse of the 10 baht coin and in many travel brochures.

It is often included as a stopover on canal tours but it’s worth making an effort to see even if you don’t embark on such a trip. To get there, cross the river at Tha Tien pier; you can’t miss the temple from there.

At sunset, Wat Arun presents a fantastic picture silhouetted against the setting sun with the river in the foreground. Open: 08:30-18:30 (daily); Entry: foreigners 50 baht, Thais: free34 Arun Amarin Road, Wat Arun, Bangkokyai, tel: (02) 891 2185, fax: (02) 466 9004, website: www.watarun.net.

Wat Traimit: the key attraction here is the huge solid gold-seated Buddha. It’s well worth a visit for this alone, although the temple itself is also noteworthy. Located near Hua Lamphong train station on the corner of Yaowarat Road and Charoen Krung Road. Open: 08:00-17:00. Entry: free; tel: (02) 623 3329, (02) 623 1227.

Travel tips
When visiting temples, the utmost respect is required. Usually you will be expected to wear trousers or skirt; t-shirts, shorts and flip-flops are a no go. If you’re planning on doing some temple visiting and you’re unsure as to the correct dress code, just err on the side of conservative dress and that way you won’t offend anyone. Some temples have other restrictions, too; for example, no photography - rules such as these should be clearly indicated but if you’re unsure just ask someone.

Wat Benchamabophit (Marble Temple): this interesting white marble temple contains the ashes of King Rama V and features 53 Buddha images representing all styles of Buddha iconography from all over the Buddhist world. Located on the corner of Si Ayutthaya Road and Phraram V Road. 69 Nakornpathom Road, Dusit, tel: (02) 281 2501, email: watbencha@hotmail.com.

Wat Intharawihan: the most impressive temple in Banglamphoo district (by Khao San Road), this temple has onsite a 32-metre standing Buddha. Open: 08:30-20:00 daily; Bang Khun Phrom, Phra Nakorn, tel: (02) 628 5552.

Wat Saket: is located conveniently close to the Khao San Road area and is most notable for the towering Golden Mount beside it. This was the tallest structure in Bangkok during the 19th century and the current structure sits on an artificial mound that resulted from a collapsed attempt to build a chedi here. It’s not difficult to reach the top, from where views of the city are rewarding.

Ancient City: a bit of a drive out of town, this tourist attraction is a scaled down version of Thailand and features replicas of many of the major temples throughout the country. These replicas are still big enough to be considered temples in their own right, though, meaning that this is one of the biggest collections of temples to be found in Thailand.

For more information, check out our special Ancient City section. Open: 08:00-17:00; Entry: foreign adults/children: 500/250 baht, Thai adults/children: 350/175 baht; 296/1 Sukhumvit Road, Bangpoo, Samut Prakan, tel: (02) 709 1644-8, email: info@ancientsiam.com, website: www.ancientcity.com.

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