Bangkok Old City Walk (Self Guided), Bangkok

The ideal way to start a trip to Bangkok is to get a glimpse of its busy backstreets and to gape at its grandest holy places. Why not start your sightseeing in Krungthep, where you will see pretty squares, thronged streets and impressive temples. Then you can roam the backstreets and get a peep at the local street markets. You can also make a stop at a great local Thai restaurant that's always packed with visitors. Check out our list of the top tourist sights to kick off your trip to Bangkok.
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Bangkok Old City Walk Map

Guide Name: Bangkok Old City Walk
Guide Location: Thailand » Bangkok (See other walking tours in Bangkok)
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Sightseeing)
# of Attractions: 11
Tour Duration: 3 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 5.8 km
Author: valery
The Grand Palace

1) The Grand Palace (must see)

The Grand Palace, a building complex in Bangkok, served as the official residence of the Kings of Thailand from the 18th century onwards. King Rama I ordered the construction of a magnificent new Palace in 1782 when he moved the capital from Thonburi to Bangkok. The chosen area was, however, occupied by Chinese merchants whom he asked to relocate. The Palace has been constantly expanded and many additional structures were added over time.

Originally the palace consisted of several wooden buildings surrounded on four sides with a high defensive wall, 1900 meters in length and enclosing an area of 218,400 square meters. The Palace is rectangular in shape with the western side next to a river, the royal temple situated to the east side and all structures facing north. The King ordered the construction of the Temple of the Emerald Buddha as a royal temple and as his personal place of worship. Around the turn of the 20th century, Thai Kings stopped living in the palace. Today, the palace is used for all kinds of other ceremonial and auspicious happenings including royal funerals, marriages and state banquets.

The palace is divided into three quarters: the outer quarters, the middle quarters and the inner quarters. The Outer Court housed the government departments in which the king was directly involved including civil administration, army, and the treasury. The Temple of the Emerald Budha takes up one corner of the complex next to the outer court. In the middle is the Central Court, where the residence of the king and the halls for conducting state business were located. Behind the central court was the inner court where the king's royal consorts and daughters lived. It was like a small city entirely populated by women and boys under the age of puberty.

The Grand Palace with its beautiful architecture and intricate details is living proof of the creativity and craftsmanship of Thai people. Today, the complex remains the spiritual heart of the Thai Kingdom. The Grand Palace with the Temple of the Emerald Buddha is Thailand's most sacred site. All visitors must be properly dressed before being allowed entry to the temple. No bare feet and no see-through clothes are allowed.

Definitely the city's most famous landmark, the dazzling and spectacular Grand Palace is one must-see sight. Your visit to Bangkok would not be complete without visiting it.

Come early – the place gets quite crowded around 12pm.
They offer free English tours at 10am, 10:30, 1pm, 1:30pm or an audio guide for other languages (200 THB).
Entry fee is 500 THB, which includes the ticket to a theater play (like a Thai musical). Pick-up and drop to the theater from the Grand Palace are also included.

Opening Hours:
Daily: 8:30am-3:30pm
Wat Phra Kaew (Temple of the Emerald Buddha)

2) Wat Phra Kaew (Temple of the Emerald Buddha) (must see)

Wat Phra Kaew, commonly known as the Temple of the Emerald Buddha, is located on the ground of the Royal Palace in Bangkok. It is the most respected Buddhist shrine in Thailand. About 2 feet tall dark green statue known as Emerald Buddha stands in the center of the temple.

Some believe that the Emerald Buddha has come from Sri Lanka while art historians believe that it is crafted in Thailand in the 14th century. A legend associated with the Buddha is that the Emerald Buddha was once kept covered in the plaster in a monument in Chiang Rai. In 1434, a lighting storm revealed the Buddha image underneath.

Several wars have been fought in history because of this Buddha image. It was brought in Bangkok in 1782 and is considered a talisman and holds tremendous significance for Thailand. Wat Phra Kaew, the Temple of the Emerald Buddha and the adjoining Grand Palace together form perhaps the greatest attraction for the visitors to Bangkok and are surely well worth looking at.

Why You Should Visit:
The Grand Palace is already something unique and amazing; the Temple of the Emerald Buddha is like the cherry on the top of a beautiful cake.

Visit when the doors open around 8am to minimize crowds, come dressed appropriately (no exposed knees or shoulders), and enjoy a walk around.

Opening Hours:
Daily: 8:30am-3:30pm
Wat Pho (Temple of the Reclining Buddha)

3) Wat Pho (Temple of the Reclining Buddha) (must see)

Wat Pho (the Temple of the Reclining Buddha) is located behind the splendid Temple of the Emerald Buddha. It is one of the largest and the oldest Buddhist temple in Bangkok. Built around 200 years before Bangkok became Thailand's capital, the temple is mainly famous for the huge Reclining Buddha statue and the largest number of Buddha images it houses. The Wat was almost entirely rebuilt by Rama I when the capital was moved to Bangkok.

The highly impressive gold plated reclining Buddha is 46 meters long and 15 meters high and is designed to illustrate the passing of the Buddha into nirvana. The feet and the eyes are engraved with mother-of-pearl decoration. The bottoms of the Buddha's feet are intricately decorated with 108 auspicious scenes in Chinese and Indian styles.

The Wat Pho complex consists of two walled compounds, bisected north-south by Sanamchai Road running east-west. Reclining Buddha and massage school are found in the northern walled compound. People mostly go to visit this section which includes a large temple hall enclosed by 394 bronze Buddha images. There are also 91 Chedis of varying sizes around the ground. The library, decorated impressively with figures and pagodas made of porcelain is also present nearby. The large grounds of Wat Pho contain more than 1000 Buddha images in total, most from the ruins of the former capitals Ayuthaya and Sukhothai.

Wat Pho is also famous as Thailand's first university and is known as the birthplace and a training centre of traditional Thai massage. Rich and famous people have been known to come here. Traditional Thai dance and music are taught to the students on Sundays. Astrologers and palm readers are likewise available for consultation. For a very small donation that helps to maintain the temple, you can also receive a blessing from a monk.

Wat Pho is a good place to try a traditional Thai massage. Stimulating rather than relaxing and incorporating yoga style postures to relieve stress and improve blood circulation, it is quite different than other forms of therapeutic massage. Try this massage yourself to see if you like it!

You need to bring exact THB amount for the entry tickets because for some weird reason they won't give you change.
It takes about 2 hours to just go round and click pics but you could actually spend 4-5 hours in this huge complex.
Your admission ticket comes with a bottle of water and there are refill stations with cool clean water.
Women and men must wear long pants (covering the knees) and shirts with sleeves.
To go inside the sanctum sanctorum, you have to take your shoes off.

Opening Hours:
Daily: 8am-6:30pm
Bangkok Wat Sutat ( Great Swing )

4) Bangkok Wat Sutat ( Great Swing )

The Giant Swing is a religious structure in Bangkok and one of Bangkok's famous tourist attractions. In front of the temple is the huge Chinese-red frame of the giant swing. An annual ceremony took place here whereby young men would try to swing high enough to get a sack of gold tied to a pole about 75 feet in the air. After the death of many men during this attempt, this ceremony was banned in the 1930s.

The red colored Giant Swing, with a height of 21.15 meters, is a landmark of Bangkok. The existence of a red giant swing in front of Suthat Temple in Bangkok is an indicator of the once strong influence of Brahmanism in Thailand. The giant swing was built only two years after the establishment of Bangkok as the new capital in 1782. The story of its origin began when a Brahman named Kratai was granted an audience with King Rama I (1782-1809) and asked the King's permission to be the upholder of Brahmanism in Siam and to build a Brahmanic temple and a swing for conducting Brahmanic ceremonies. The King granted his requests and soon not one but three Brahmanic temples and a swing were built in the same area in the centre of the old city in 1784.

The original height of the swing is not confirmed to date. After over hundred years, when the old swing was decayed, it was replaced with a new one made of teak in 1920 in the reign of King Rama VI. The swing was renovated twice again in 1947 and 1970. For 36 years, the swing stood elegantly as one of Bangkok's landmarks. After its condition deteriorated again, the old swing was replaced with one made of teak in 2006.

In the early 19th century, a huge 25-foot tall Phra Sri Sakyamuni Buddha statue was brought from Sukhothai by boat. The Wat Sutat was built to house that gigantic Buddha image. One of Bangkok's tallest Wiharn housing that gigantic Buddha image sits in a large cloister whose outer wall is lined with more than 150 Buddha images. Many Chinese statues were shipped from China as ballast in rice boats. These statues are on display in the courtyard between the Buddha gallery and the wiharn. The walls are painted with murals depicting the last 24 lives of Buddha. The columns are also painted with murals showing the early life of Bangkok.

The Swing Ceremony was one of the 12 royal ceremonies held in each of the months of the Thai Lunar calendar. With a height of 21.15 meters from the base to the top, the swing is considered a giant and is a great memorial of an abolished ceremony in the history of Thailand.
Wat Saket (Temple of the Golden Mount)

5) Wat Saket (Temple of the Golden Mount) (must see)

Wat Saket, a Buddhist temple and a famous landmark in Bangkok, dates back to the Ayutthaya era. The towering gold chedi of Wat Saket, once the highest point in Bangkok, is notable for its spectacular views and its hosting of the annual Loy Krathong festival. The small dome is covered with small golden squares that reflect in the sun. Due to these shiny squares, the place got the name of Golden Mount.

Golden Mount, a steep hill inside the Wat Saket compound, is not a natural mountain but an artificial one. It was constructed under King Rama III when he tried to build a chedi which collapsed because of the soft soil beneath. He, therefore, made a sturdy mound of mud and bricks to support it. For about half a century, it was left alone until it took the shape of a natural hill and became overgrown with weeds. From then onward, it received its name of "Phu Khao". King Rama IV built a small chedi on the hilltop and put nearly 1,000 teak logs all along the shore to give support to the sinking structure into the swampy ground. Finally, Rama V added the chedi that stands here today. A Buddha relic from India was housed in the chedi. The concrete walls were added during World War II to prevent the hill from eroding and the structure collapsing.

During the Loy Krathong festival, Wat Sakhet hosts Bangkok's most important temple fair that takes place from late October to mid-November (for 9 days around the full moon). A red cloth is wrapped around the Golden Mount during this event. A carnival starts around it and many food stalls, theatrical performances, freak shows and animal circuses mushroom up here. The festival also includes a candlelight procession up to the Golden Mount. Religious visitors place flowers and light candles near the temple.

A large number of 318 steps must be ascended to reach the peak of Golden Mount but it is worth the effort as the panoramic view of Bangkok from the top of old Rattanakosin Island is fabulous and fantastic!

Why You Should Visit:
Bangkok is a pretty flat city, so to be able to climb up the only hill for miles around and have a lovely temple on top from which to admire the view... is pretty great!

Go early in the morning to avoid the heat and crowds.
If it's hot and sunny, be sure to have a hat or some sort of parasol, as you'll be exposed to the sun most of the way up.

Opening Hours:
Daily: 7:30am-5:30pm
King Prajadhipok Museum

6) King Prajadhipok Museum

King Prajadhipok Museum presents the life and history of the King Prajadhipok’s reign. The museum has nine permanent exhibition halls covering various subjects. King Prajadhipok’s personal effects are displayed including items on films, music, sports and writings that reveal his personal tastes. The exhibition shows his life before he was crowned, his life after abdication and his final years in England. On display are photos of the coronation ceremony, the celebrations of Bangkok's 150th anniversary and the revolution.

Prajadhipok was not destined to be king and planned to serve in the military. However, when King Rama VI died without heirs, he became Rama VII. King Prajadhipok rule marked the end of the absolute monarchy and changed it into constitutional monarchy.

The neoclassic building of the museum was built in 1906 towards the end of King Rama V's reign. Designed by a Western architect, the three-storey concrete edifice is decorated with Greco-Roman motifs and reliefs with a dome-shaped tower topping its front hall. 

M. Charles Beguelin, a French-Swiss architect, designed the museum building. Concrete is mostly used for its construction. In 1995, the building was recognized as a national heritage site by the Fine Arts Department. Conservation and renovation project was completed in 1999 and the building was converted into Museum in 2001. The museum has three floors. Temporary exhibits, the museum shop and café are on the ground floor and permanent exhibits are on the second and third floors.

The museum building was completed in 1908 after six years of construction work. It originally housed the John Sampson Store which sold Western high fashions and tailor made suits. But the building changed hands and sold construction materials bearing the name the Suthadilok Store. In 1933, the Public Works Department acquired the building and started using it as its headquarters. In 2001, King Prajadhipok Institute received the sanction of the Public Works Department for use of the building as the museum.

Do not forget to visit this museum as it is an enlightening source of information on Thailand during the significant period of King Prajadhipok. The museum is open Tuesday to Sunday from 9:00 am to 4:00 pm
Queen's Gallery Bangkok

7) Queen's Gallery Bangkok

The Queen's Gallery was founded in 2003 at the behest of Queen Sirikit, who wanted to provide a dedicated venue in Bangkok for the display of Thai fine arts. This gallery's exhibitions, which feature mainly pictures and figurines, are rotated each month.
Democracy Monument

8) Democracy Monument

The Democracy Monument was built in 1939 to commemorate the 1932 coup that changed the face of Thai politics forever. The 150-year-old absolute monarchy came to an end and Thailand changed to a constitutional government. Corrado Feroci, an Italian immigrant invited to Thailand by King Rama VI to develop a Western-style art tradition, designed the Monument in 1924. He stayed in Thailand, became a Thai citizen changing his name to Silpa Bhirasri. The monument has four curved columns arching inwards. Each column stands 24 m high to signify the 24th of June, date of the revolution. The winged-shaped columns signify freedom and rights of the people. The original 1932 constitution is housed in a pedestal at the center. The six swords on each door represent the six major policies of the Peoples' Party. The Democracy Monument has been an important place for democracy movements and demonstrations throughout Thai political history. In October 1973, a massive public protest against the military dictatorship of Field Marshall Thanom Kittikachorn took place here to demand the release of 13 students arrested by the military. In May 1992 further bloodshed took place at the Democracy Monument and Ratchadamnoen Avenue when demonstrators rallied against General Suchinda’s regime and military attacked the protestors again. Known as Black May 1992, that day witnessed another tragedy being added to the Thai political history after which General Suchinda left his office. In the two decades between 1973 and 1992, the area around the Democracy Monument saw three major upheavals resulting in a bloodshed. Today, the Monument symbolizes hope that there would be no more bloodshed to be witnessed.
Khaosan Road

9) Khaosan Road

Khaosan Road or Khao San Road is a short (410 meter long) street in central Bangkok, Thailand constructed in 1892. "Khaosan" translates as "milled rice", a reminder that in former times the street was a major Bangkok rice market. In the last 20 years, however, Khaosan Road has developed into a world-famous "backpacker ghetto". It offers cheap accommodation, ranging from "mattress in a box" style hotels to reasonably priced 3-star hotels. Khaosan shops sell handicrafts, paintings, clothes, local fruits, unlicensed CDs, DVDs, a wide range of fake IDs, used books, plus many useful backpacker items.
Sight description based on wikipedia
National Gallery of Thailand

10) National Gallery of Thailand (must see)

By far not a prime destination for arts and artists, Thailand nonetheless has some decent galleries and museums well worth checking out. One of them is certainly the National Gallery which displays contemporary and traditional art of Thailand from the 17th century onward. It sits in the old Royal Mint building whose construction started on February 4, 1902, and was presided over by King Rama V. On April 19, 1974, the Thai Ministry of Finance passed on the building to the Department of Fine Arts to be used as the National Gallery. In August 1978 it was listed as a national monument and in September 1983 further extended.

Made of brick with a gabled roof, the building's architectural style was influenced by a factory in Birmingham, England. It has two wings with a courtyard in the center. All windows on the ground floor are curved and decorated with strips and those of the upper floor are decorated with Roman arches. The outside wall is etched with shallow horizontal lines while the edges of the roof seem to be beautifully decorated with embroidery. The lintel above the front door is made of stained glass. The floor of the first story is ornamental marble, while that of the second story is made of teak.

Try going to the Gallery when a special exhibition is in place or when they have some modern art events.

Opening Hours:
Wed-Sun: 9am-4pm
National Museum Bangkok

11) National Museum Bangkok (must see)

The National Museum Bangkok features exhibits of Thai art and history. Opened in 1874 by His Majesty King Rama V, it is the first public venue to display the royal collection of King Rama IV and other objects of general interest. The museum occupies the 18th Century Wang Na Palace which had previously been the residence of the Prince Successor.

Named the Bangkok Museum in 1926 it had subsequently transformed into the National Museum Bangkok under the direction of the Department of Fine Arts by 1934. King Rama VII presided over the opening ceremony of the National Museum Bangkok in 1926.

The museum was originally intended to exhibit the antiques and gifts bestowed to Rama V by his father. Initially a non-organized gathering of dusty relics, it now features exhibits arranged into three areas consistent with Thai history. A good English-language description of all the masterpieces is also available.

Thai History Gallery covering the periods from Sukothai to the Rattanakosin is placed at the front of the Sivamokhaphiman Hall. The Archaeological and Art History Collection exhibits items from Thailand's prehistory to the modern Thai Kingdom, including many ancient sculptures. Decorative Arts and Ethnological Collection showcases Chinese weapons, gold treasures, precious stones, masks and many items of historical importance from all over Southeast Asia. Other exhibits include a funeral chariot hall featuring carriages used for royal cremations along with many excellent examples of Thai architecture.

Today the galleries contain exhibits covering Thai History back to Neolithic times. It houses the largest collection of Thai art and artifacts in the country and is definitely worth a visit.

There are excellent tour guides offering free services in English, French (Wed, Thu), Japanese (Wed) and German (Thu) at 9:30am.

Opening Hours:
Wed-Sun: 9am-4pm

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