Visiting the Grand Palace in Bangkok, Thailand
The grand palace will probably top every list that you come across about the best things to do in Bangkok, Thailand. And it is well justified. You cannot come to Thailand and not visit the royalty!
It is not just the Grand Palace, but the whole area of the Old Bangkok that has a distinctive characteristic. It is something that most people could never associate with Bangkok’s global image.
You will come across whole buildings made of polished gold with inlaid ceramics and mirror work. Colourful demons and winged Garuda guard the gates. Something like time-travelling to ancient Siam, a rich and powerful civilization that we rarely talk about.
So here is everything you need to know about visiting the Grand Palace in Bangkok, Thailand.
History of the Grand Palace
The construction of the Grand Palace started in May 1782, by King Rama I, the first ruler of the Chakri dynasty (who rules Thailand till day). He seized the kingdom from the former king. Subsequently, he wanted to build a new empire with a new palace as its epicentre.
It required moving the royal seat from the old palace in Thonburi. You can still see the old palace on the other side of the Chao Phraya river.
Initially, the grand palace was only built only out of wood due to lack of funds. Over time, the king upgraded the structure by ferrying bricks and stones. They were brought from the demolished buildings of Ayutthaya (the old capital). Over the years a lot of important buildings were added to the palace grounds. These including the temple of the Emerald Buddha and various government offices.
By 1925, the king along with the royal family completely moved out of the Royal Palace to a newer residence. However, important ceremonies still take place in the Grand Palace.
Where is the Grand Palace Located?
The Grand Palace in Bangkok at the heart’s centre of the city, next to the Chao Phraya River opposite to Wat Arun at its west side, Wat Pho in the south and the grounds of Sanam Luang in the north.
Address: Phra Borom Maha Ratchawang, Phra Nakhon, Bangkok 10200
How to get to The Grand Palace
Metro: The easiest way to reach The Grand Palace is by MRT. Get down at Sanam Chai Station on the blue line and walk for 15 minutes for 1.5km to the entrance of the palace. Tuk Tuks are easily available in the area if you need a ride.
Another way is to get down at Saphan Taksin BTS Station (dark green line). Move out of Exit 2 to Sathorn Pier and take a ferry to Tha Chang (N9). Walk for 300m from the pier.
Bus: There are several buses that stop nearby. These bus routes are 1, 3, 9, 15, 25, 30, 32, 33, 43, 44, 47, 53, 59, 64, 80, 82, 91, 203, 503, 508, 512. You can check the bus routes of buses in Bangkok on ViaBus app. Here are buses on some of the popular routes:
Terminal 21 – Bus. 25
Central Plaza Ladprao – Bus 26, 59, 203
MegaBangna, Bang Phli – Bus 132, 508
Fashion Island – Bus 60
If you want to club other popular destinations with the Palace, you can opt for a hop-on-hop-off bus. The bus runs on most of the major routes. The buses are open-air. They come with an audio narrative in a number of languages about the popular landmarks as you pass by. You can buy passes for 1, 2 or 3 days.
Book a hop-on-hop-off bus ticket: Bangkok Hop-On Hop-Off Bus Tour by ElephantGoGo
Ferry: If your location has good connectivity with the famous ‘Bangkok’s waterways’, a ferry is also a great way to reach the Grand Palace. Take a ferry to Tha Chang pier on the Chao Phraya River and walk for 5 minutes or 300m from there.
A great way to see some of the famous places in Bangkok is by using a hop-hop-hop-off ferry. These run frequently across the Chao Phraya River. They stop at most of the popular tourist destinations along the river bank. (Refer this article for more information).
Book a hop-on-hop-off ferry: Chao Phraya River: Hop-On Hop-Off Boat Pass
Day Tour: I often sign up for day tours. They are a pretty great way to see a lot of places in a short period of time. Especially if you don’t want to spend time figuring out routes and changing several vehicles. Although I will always suggest being a part of a smaller group. Talk as much as you can with the local guide to get the most out of it.
Book a tour: Flexi Walking Temple Tour: Grand Palace, Wat Pho, Wat Arun
Private Car: You can drive to the Grand Palace but the parking is not available on the palace grounds. Here is where you can park your car:
Wat Mahathat, Tha Maharaj soi Thapphen, beside City Pillar Shrine, Rajadamnern Road Car Park, Soi Wat Pho, Wat Rakang Parking Building.
The Grand Palace Opening Hours
The grand palace is open from 8.30 am to 4.30 pm every day of the week. The last entry is at 3.30 pm. The palace closes only in case of state functions which these days are rare.
The best time to visit the palace is early in the morning as close to its opening time as possible. The time during the mid-day sees a huge surge in tourist population and some areas may get crowded.
The Grand Palace Entry Fee
The entry is fee is THB 500 for foreign national and free for Thai locals. There is no fee for children of height below 120 cm. You can buy the tickets at the main gates or you can buy one ahead on the official website only. You need to purchase the online tickets at least 24 hours prior to the visit. Carry your passport with you if you are a foreign national.
The tickets include 3 parts and can be used to visit the following:
1. The Grand Palace, the temple of the Emerald Buddha and Queen Sirikit Museum of Textiles which are located inside the palace grounds.
2. The Arts of the Kingdom Museum and the Masterpieces by artisans of Queen Sirikit Institute at Koh Kred, Ayutthaya province. The ticket is valid for 7 days after purchase.
3. Khon Thai Classical Masked Dance at Sala Chalermkrung Royal Theatre. It is performed from Monday-Friday at 10.30 am, 1 pm, 2.30 pm, 4 pm and 5.30 pm. The ticket is valid for 7 days after purchase.
Additional services are available as follows:
Rent Clothes: There is a strict protocol on clothing on a visit to the Royal Palace (see below). If your knees or shoulders are showing, you can rent clothes at the counter for additional 200THB.
Audio Guide: You can also rent a personal audio guide in English, German, Russian, Spanish, French, Japanese, Mandarin and Thai for additional 200THB.
Grand Palace Map
- Temple of the Emerald Buddha
- Bureau of the Royal Household
- Queen Sirikit Museum of Textiles
- Sala Luk Khun Nai
- Sala Sahathai Samakhom
- Museum of the Emerald Buddha Temple
- Pavilion of Regalia, Royal Decorations and Coins
- Phra Thinang Amarin Winichai
- Phra Thinang Phaisan Thaksin
- Phra Thinang Chakraphat Phiman
- Phra Thinang Dusidaphirom
- Phra Thinang Racharuedee
- Phra Thinang Sanam Chan
- Ho Sastrakhom
- Ho Sulalai Phiman
- Ho Phra That Montien
- Phra Thinang Chakri Maha Prasat
- Phra Thinang Moon Satharn Borom Ard
- Phra Thinang Sommuthi Thevaraj Uppabat
- Phra Thinang Borom Ratchasathit Mahoran
- Phra Thinang Dusit Maha Prasat
- Phra Thinang Phiman Rattaya
- Phra Thinang Aphorn Phimok Prasat
- Phra Thinang Rachakaranya Sapha
- Ho Plueng Krueng
- Mount Kailasa
- Siwalai Garden
- Phra Thinang Boromphiman
- Phra Thinang Mahisorn Prasat
- Phra Thinang Siwalai Maha Prasat
- Phra Thinang Sitalaphirom
- Phra Phuttha Rattanasathan
- Phra Thinang Chai Chumpol
- Phra Thinang Suthaisawan Prasat
- The Inner Court
You can also check out a more interactive map a the official website of the Grand Palace here.
Inside The Grand Palace
There are numerous sections to the Grand Palace (as you can see on the map above). And I will not write long essays talking about their architecture and historical facts. But let me tell you about the few that matter most and why are they so important.
Wat Phra Kaew or Temple of the Emerald Buddha
The temple of the Emerald Buddha is the most sacred temple in Thailand. It is because of the statue of the Emerald Buddha seated inside it. The statue is considered as the sacred palladium (an object on which the safety of a community or nation depends upon) of Thailand.
The emerald statue is actually made of Jade. Its origin dates back to 15th century in the kingdom of Lanna (North Thailand around present-day Chiang Mai). The statue also stayed in Laos for two centuries. After that, it made its way to Siam, often always by the side of the ruling emperor.
The statue of the Buddha sits in a Lotus position is draped in three different attires. The attires corresponds to the time of the year – summer, monsoon and the winters.
On the inner walls of the courtyard surrounding the Temple of Emerald Buddha is a long stretch of wall murals. It depicts a popular story ‘Ramakien’, the Thai version of the Indian mythological story of Ramayana.
The story revolves around the centre character Rama, a king in present-day India. King Rama was put in exile from his kingdom with his wife and brother. The villain is Tosakan (or Ravana), the king of Longka who abducts Sita, Rama’s wife. Rama then travels across the country and kills Tosakan to rescue his wife over. Another important character Hanuman is a monkey king, his aid in the journey.
The gallery visually translates the characters of the story in a way that later became the attributes of traditional Thai art.
Phra Mandop is the palace library that contains the most sacred scriptures of the Buddhist literature. The library is not accessible by tourists. However, the striking building gathers attention like none other.
The building façade is golden in colour. White, green and red inlay tiles with gold medallions cover the whole building. There are demon statues at the entrance with embellishments of intricate mosaic glasswork. I think it is the epitome of Thai craftsmanship that you can rarely witness anywhere else.
The Throne Room or Phra Thinang Amarin Winitchai
The Throne Room is one of the most important rooms in the palace. Here the king used to host an audience to foreign ambassadors conducting important state and royal business ceremonies.
The throne of the King is in the shape of a boat. Its placed on top of a structure depicting Mount Meru, the epicentre of Hindu and Buddhist cosmology. Above the throne, the pediment shows the Hindu god Indra, the ruler of Mount Meru.
There is a 9-tiered umbrella above the throne (5 represents a crown prince) representing the King’s prestige and power.
The Great Chakri Palace
This was the residence of the royal kings of Thailand before they moved out to other royal residences. The building was initially built in Italian Renaissance style by an English architect. However, King Rama V asked him to add rich elements from the Siamese style to the building.
The rooms in the palace are rich in interiors contributing several generations. There are valuable paintings, artefacts and portraits of all Kings of the Chakri dynasty.
Surrounded by rich buildings in white colour and golden décor is something nobody will expect. It is a miniature version of Angkor Wat, Cambodia commissioned by King Rama V.
It was set here during the time when present-day Cambodia was still a vassal state of the Siam Empire. And while the glory of the original temple cannot compare to this, it is still worth a visit.
Queen Sirikit Museum of Textiles
Recently opened, the Queen Sirikit Museum of Textiles was an inaugurated on the Queen’s 80th birthday. The museum is an ode to the Thai silk and textiles industry that the Queen herself had helped develop.
Numerous locals and international designers and artisans have come together for this. They have created iconic silhouettes and garment pieces around Thai traditional draping style and materials.
There are several other important buildings like The Museum of Emerald Buddha, Phra Thinang Phaisan Thaksin. Its where the coronation of each king takes place, the primary apartment and the living quarters amongst many others.
Take your own sweet time and explore with your guide.
What to Wear
The dress code for visiting the Royal Palace is quite strict and you are expected to adhere to it. They do not allow sleeveless shirts or tops, crop tops and see-through clothing. You muse cover your shoulders and your attire should not be too body-hugging or revealing.
The same goes for the knees. You cannot wear shorts and skirts ending above the knees. Make sure you do not wear pants that are ripped, torn or are too tight. Gym clothes will not do either.
Make sure you take care of it before you leave your place. You can always buy clothes at one of the many flea stalls in the area. You can also rent clothes at the counter. A sarong or a scarf is a good temporary solution that can be used to cover shoulders and knees.
Places to visit near Grand Palace
If you are in the area, you can cover some of the following places that are within a walking distance or with a short ride.
National Museum – 10-minute walk at a distance of 750m. (Location)
National Museum of Royal Barges – 5-minute drive at a distance of 3km. (Location)
Chinatown – 10-minute drive at a distance of 4km. (Location)