The capital city of Thailand is probably the most visited city in all of Asia. Tourists from all over the world come here for the nightlife of Khao San Road, the bustling culture and the beautiful temples. In all of Asia you probably won’t find a city with such a high concentration of temples. From golden stupas to colorful mosaic and huge Buddhas. Where to start? With these highlights!
Tip: temples are sacred places, so dress accordingly. Please note that you should take of your shoes when entering a temple. We therefore recommend to wear slippers or shoes you an easily take off. Also consider bringing a bag for your shoes, so you don’t have to find them back each time.
Best temples in Bangkok you must visit
#1 Wat Arun by the river
Right on the river that runs across Bangkok, is the impressive Wat Arun. It’s not the biggest temple and not the most important one, but my top favourite. The highlight of this temple is a huge prang: a white tower with colourful mosaic. As I mentioned, the temple is located on the bank of the river. So you can get there by taking the ferry from the other bank, approximately at the royal palace. It only takes a few minutes to cross.
The best thing about Arun is that you can also partly climb the prang. You can see from up close how the mosaic is made of pieces of porcelain. It’s a huge piece of art and for sure the most photogenic temple of Bangkok! You’ll also have a great view of the city from the tower. The climb itself is quite a challenge though: the stairs are very steep and narrow.
#2 Wat Phra Kaew and the royal palace
Wat Phra Kaew is the main temple in Thailand. The temple is located on the same complex grounds as the impressive Royal Palace. The palace is the old residence of the Thai royal family and now mainly an important tourist attraction. The temple is besides a landmark also a pilgrimage for Buddhists.
The complex has countless temples, sculptures and buildings. The colourful giants, the murals with historical stories and the famous Emerald Buddha are all equally impressive. This Emerald Buddha statue was moved to the central temple in the eighteenth century. Make sure to pay attention to the clothes of the Buddha. The image changes from outfit each season.
#3 The reclining Buddha of Wat Pho
Right next to Wat Phra Kaew you’ll find Wat Pho. Although there may be less tourists here than in Wat Phra Kaew, this is also one of the more famous temples of Bangkok. This temple has the largest reclining Buddha of Thailand. An elongated temple was built around the golden statue. The Buddha hardly fits in! You walk around the Buddha and get a grip of the gigantic size of it. 46 meters long and 15 meters high! Of course the image is not entirely made of gold, but of wood with a layer of gold leaf. Pay particular attention to the feet of the statue with a mother-of-pearl inlay with sacred images.
Don’t forget to visit the other temples on the complex as well. Wat Pho has probably the largest collection of Buddha statues of all. You can wander from temple to temple and visit the perfect gardens. The temple is also the oldest massage school in Thailand. So fancy a foot massage? This is the place!
#4 The view from Wat Saket
For the most beautiful views of the city you have to go to Wat Saket. The golden structure is located on top of an artificial hilltop and is therefore also called the Golden Mount. The hilltop is not a natural hill, but the result of a constructional error. A huge stupa collapsed here and was never cleaned up. Plants grew on the rubble, creating a hill in the middle of Bangkok. The climb to the top is definitely a must, even if you are templed out. From the top you have an amazing 360 degrees view over the city!
#5 The Marble Temple
Take a look at the back of the 5 baht coin? That’s the Wat Benchamabophit. Difficult to pronounce? The temple is also known as the Wat Ben or the marble temple. In the early morning, the locals from Bangkok come to the temple to bring food and other sacrifices to the monks who live here.
Wat Ben is perhaps the most classical temple in Bangkok with its traditional, symmetrical design. Similar constructions are built all around Thailand. The temple was built at the end of the nineteenth century, making this one of the last of the grand temples in Bangkok. It is also called the Marble Temple because of the special, grey marble of which it is largely made. Origin? Italy! The temple is a UNESCO World Heritage site.
#6 The murals of Wat Suthat
This temple is perhaps most famous for its huge red swing in front of it. Yet it is the temple itself that fascinated me the most. You may sometimes get the feeling that all Thai temples look the same, but certainly not at Wat Suthat. There are only few tourists, making this more peaceful place. This allows you to absorb the beautiful walls of the inner temple undisturbed. The gold and black frescoes fill the walls from floor to ceiling. They are breathtaking!
#7 Wat Traimit in Chinatown
Chinatown is an attraction itself, but Wat Traimit is probably the most famous highlight. Most Buddha statues have a layer of gold leaf, but this image is of solid gold! For years the golden image was hidden under a layer of plaster work. Probably to hide the gold for thieves. But as a result, the image was so well hidden that no one knew about it anymore! The temple is not very special besides the statue, so get into Chinatown again to enjoy the street life.
#8 A day trip to Temple City Ayutthaya
Outside of Bangkok is the most unique temple complex of all. Ayutthaya has the ruins of one of the former capitals of the Thai Empire, when Thailand was still knowns as Siam. There were once hundreds of temples, but only few of them have been restored. Of the others, the remnants are scattered around Ayutthaya. The ruins are overgrown by trees and plants, which is the reason the famous Buddha head is grown into a tree.
The largest and most famous temple in Ayutthaya is Wat Chaiwatthanaram, a popular spot for sunset. Another famous highlight are the three stupas of the temple Wat Phra Si Sanphet.