Bangkok Grand Palace, found in the heart of the city, is a key tourist attraction and the major architectural symbol of the Thai Royal family. Whilst the royal family no longer reside here, the palace is used for ceremonial purposes and attracts over eight million visitors every year.
With various temples and throne halls to explore, it’s an absolute must for any backpacker visiting Thailand. However, the popularity of the site does attract scammers. Those visiting should be wary of pickpocketing and local tuk-tuk drivers saying that the palace is closed. Don’t let this deter you from visiting though, once you know what to look out for, you too can enjoy the beauty of Bangkok’s top attraction.
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A Guide to the Grand Palace, Bangkok
History of the Grand Palace
The Grand Palace was built in 1782 after King Rama came to the throne. Before the palace was constructed, the administration centre and royal palaces were located in Thonburi on the West bank of the river. The king ordered for the former capital to be moved and rebuilt on the opposite side of the river and the Grand Palace as we know it today was born!
The site covers an area of 218,000 square feet and was originally built entirely out of wood. Over the years, the structures were slowly upgraded and the royal family lived on the grounds permanently up until 1925.
Nowadays, the palace is open to the public as an attraction and museum, but, the site is also used for special events including state functions and royal ceremonies.
Things to See at the Grand Palace, Bangkok
The Grand Palace houses multiple temples and sacred buildings. Below are just a few that you should see during your visit:
1. The Emerald Buddha / Wat Phra Kaew
The temple of the Emerald Buddha is perhaps the most famous site within the Grand Palace grounds and is regarded as the most sacred Buddhist temple across the whole of Thailand.
Within the temple, a statue of a meditating Buddha carved from jasper stands on a tall plinth. The green statue is dressed in gold robes and is believed by many scholars to have been carved in India before making its long journey to Bangkok.
The King of Thailand changes the Buddha’s robe three times every year. This occasion is marked by a special ceremony to mark the beginning of a new season.
Visitors are allowed to enter the temple but there are some etiquette rules to be aware of. It’s important that you sit on the floor facing the buddha and do not turn your back to the statue. It is also prohibited to take any photos once inside. This is considered disrespectful.
2. Phra Mondop
Also housed within Wat Phra Kaew, Phra Mondop cannot be accessed by tourists. However, its exterior, covered in small green and gold mosaic tiles and huge spires, makes it a beautiful spot to wander around. The site serves as the palace library and holds some of the Buddha’s most sacred scriptures.
Visitors can admire the large pearl doors, images of dragons and classical Ayutthaya-style architecture.
3. The Royal Pantheon
This pavilion within the Grand Palace complex is well worth a visit. In fact, it was originally tipped to be the chapel in which the Emerald Buddha would be housed.
The Pantheon was constructed in 1856 before a fire destroyed the roof of the building in the early 20th century. The building was restored by King Rama VI and was dedicated to all the kings that reigned since Bangkok became the capital. Within its walls are life-sized statues of the kings from the Chakri Dynasty.
4. The Royal Reception Halls
The royal halls are still used today for important ceremonial occasions. However, some of these buildings are open to the public.
The Chakri Maha Prasat is a European-styled room which contains a small museum. It documents the history and use of the Grand Palace over the years.
As the Royal family no longer resides here, visitors can wander around this impressive site at their leisure. It’s likely to be one of the final buildings you pass on your tour of the grounds.
Best Time to Visit the Grand Palace
The best time to visit the Grand Palace is commonly said to be between December and February when the region experiences mild and comfortable temperatures – perfect for wandering outdoors!
However, if you are in Bangkok outside this period, don’t worry! Just be prepared for rainy days by packing a waterproof jacket. In hot temperatures, don’t forget your sun hat. You can still enjoy the beauty of the palace, no matter what the weather has in store.
Practical Information for a Visit to the Grand Palace
Opening Hours and Tickets
For international tourists, the cost of entry to the Grand Palace is approx. 500 baht (around $13USD) and you can visit any time, daily, between 8:30 am and 3:30 pm. You can also pay an additional fee to have an audio tour or an in-person guide show you around.
The cost of this entrance ticket gives you inclusive access to the sites’ temples with no time limit, meaning you can spend as long or as little time there as you like.
It is worth noting that offers are also available with some ticket purchases. At different times throughout the year, the ticket also gives you free access to watch and enjoy a traditional Thai dance show. In this instance, you can jump on the free bus transfer from the palace and head directly to the theatre to enjoy the performance.
Dress Code at the Grand Palace
As the Grand Palace contains multiple temples and places of worship, there is a strict dress code that must be respected by all visitors.
Whilst the official website lists multiple instructions for what items are not appropriate, the short version of this is that all visitors must cover their shoulders and their knees. This means no sleeveless shirts or shorts for men, and no crop tops or short skirts for women.
You cannot rent a sarong from the Grand Palace ticket office so coming prepared is essential. If you are unsure of what to wear, bring some options with you. Packing a shawl or a long-sleeve t-shirt in your bag is recommended.
Grand Palace Scams
As the Grand Palace is one of the most visited attractions in Thailand, tourists are often subjected to scams.
The main one is being given false information by local tuk-tuk drivers that are stationed around the roads leading up to the site. Many drivers will tell you that the Grand Palace is closed or that foreign tourists can only enter the palace later in the afternoon.
Tuk-tuk drivers use this lie as a way to offer you tours to alternative attractions where they receive a small commission.
If you are approached by a tuk-tuk driver telling you that the site is closed or inaccessible, simply ignore them and continue as you are.
👉 Also read: Scams in Southeast Asia. 👈
Tips for Visiting Bangkok’s Grand Palace
Here are a few top tips to make the most of your visit to the Grand Palace. Psst… we’ll even include our best advice on how to avoid the crowds!
1. Visit in the morning
The palace opens at 8:30 am which is the coolest time of day to visit. Bangkok can get extremely hot, especially between March and May. Avoiding the heat in the middle of the day is a smart move.
Getting to the Grand Palace early also means that you have a better chance of getting some photos of the palace without many tourists in the background! It is unlikely to be really quiet but you’ll avoid the worst of the lunchtime crowds.
2. Check your bags
When you enter the palace, security professionals will check any handbags or backpacks that you bring in with you. Be mindful of this and prepare your items ahead of the main gate, so you can get on with enjoying the grounds.
3. Bring a hat
As we’ve said before, Bangkok gets extremely hot and as the palace grounds are all outside, you’re bound to feel the effects of the sun. Protect yourself and pack a hat!
4. Don’t forget your camera
The Grand Palace is one of the most beautiful attractions in Thailand, enriched with history and full of beautiful temples to wander around. You’ll need a good camera to capture its beauty.
5. Be respectful of the rules
The Grand Palace is a sacred place and the Thai people take pride in its history and preservation. As for most sacred places across Thailand, the dress code is not optional and tourists must respect it or risk being refused entry.
You are forbidden to take photos inside the Emerald Buddha temple. If you are caught snapping photos on the sly, you’ll be asked to leave by one of the stationed guards.
6. Take your time!
The Grand Palace site covers over 218,000 square metres, meaning there is plenty to see. With ticket entry not limiting you to a specific slot, you have as much time as you like to enjoy its wonders. Make the most of it!
How to Get to the Grand Palace
The best way to get to the Grand Palace is either by walking, hopping on a local bus or jumping in a Grab taxi. Bangkok is a huge city, so it’s worth assessing your options when you arrive at your accommodation.
Local buses can cost as little as 20 cents per person, so this is usually the most cost-effective option for getting to the Grand Palace. Tuk-tuk drivers will take you there, but they may need some convincing. If they propose taking you elsewhere, politely refuse to ride and look for another driver.
Places to Stay Close to the Grand Palace
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Bangkok has an abundance of affordable and well-located accommodation options within easy reach of the Grand Palace. Here are just three highly-rated options:
This award-winning hostel is ideally located next to Khao San Road and combines budget-friendly accommodation with a little bit of luxury! Travellers love the retro style and central location, making it a great choice for backpackers.
Situated near the Patpong area, which is home to some of the best Japanese restaurants in Bangkok, this hostel provides travellers with vibrant decor and dorm rooms for as little as $4USD a night. With an on-site cafe and central location, this hostel provides a sociable atmosphere away from the hustle and bustle of Khao San Road.
Whilst this isn’t a hostel, Rambuttri Village Plaza does offer backpacker-friendly prices. It’s perfect for those who want to be near the hustle and bustle but on a slightly quieter road. With a rooftop pool and prices starting at around 600 baht for two people ($24USD), it’s a great choice for the more chilled traveller.
No trip to Bangkok is complete without a visit to the Grand Palace. Whilst some may shun this attraction for being a tourist hotspot, its beautiful buildings and fascinating history make it a worthwhile visit for any culture vulture. Plus, as the spiritual centre for the Thai people, it’s a wonderful place to soak up Thai culture, further enhancing your understanding of this beautiful country and its people.
Have you visited the Grand Palace in Bangkok yet? Let us know about your experience in the comments!
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