With about 94% of Thailand’s population identifying as a Buddhist, it’s no surprise that the nation’s capital, Bangkok has no less than 400 Temples and Wats.
If you are spending any time in the capital, it’s certainly worthwhile visiting some of the more famous temples in Bangkok. But with so many to choose from, which are the best temples in Bangkok?
Which are the 5 best temples in Bangkok?
- Wat Saket (Phu Khao Thong or the Golden Mount)
- Wat Suthat Thepwararam (& The Giant Swing)
- Wat Phra Kaew (Temple of The Emerald Buddha) & The Grand Palace
- Wat Pho (Temple of the Reclining Buddha)
- Wat Arun (Temple of Dawn)
Wat’s that you say?
The Buddhist temples are called Wats, which is why all of the temples in the list is called ‘Wat’ and then the name, they also have a less formal, more ‘tourist friendly’ name too which are the commonly used on most tourist maps and signs.
Self-guided tour of the Best Temples in Bangkok
Depending on your time scale and energy level, this is the map with my tried and tested route to see the best temples in Bangkok. I took full advantage of the taxi boat system and walked to each of the temples. You could blitz this in one full-on day, or a more leisurely two-day tour of Bangkok’s temples. Alternatively, it’s easy enough to catch a taxi or TukTuk.
Map of the must see Temples in Bangkok Self -Guided Tour
Bangkok Temples Dress Code
Naturally, there is a dress-code for visiting Buddhist temples. Some temples are a little bit more lenient than others but as a general rule make sure that you dressed conservatively.
- No shoulders or mid-drifts on show (also no very low cut tops)
- Shorts and skirts and dresses should be below the knees
- No sheer or see through clothing
Most of the temples in Bangkok have a stall outside either selling or renting sarongs if you aren’t dressed properly
It’s considered highly disrespectful to point your feet towards away Buddha statues – don’t for whatever reason point at one using your toe, or don’t kneel with your back (and feet) facing towards the Buddha. There are loads of rule to be aware of.
Visiting 5 Best Temples in Bangkok
1) Wat Saket ('Phu Khao Thong' or 'The Golden Mount')
The one with the panoramic views on the top of the white 'hill'.
Also known as Chedi of ‘Phu Khao Thong’ or The Golden Mount, this iconic white mount topped with a gold temple nestled amongst trees and gardens, doesn’t feel like you’re in the centre of Thailand’s capital.
The Golden Mount is the first destination on the best temples in Bangkok self- guided tour. The temple is situated 79metres on top of a partially-manmade white mount in the Old City, the temple you see today is actually built on top of the remains of a much older temple.
The temple is away from the main road, so it has a tranquil feel to it with pretty manicured gardens, water features, gnarled vines & trees and vegetation surrounding the base and the stairs up.
Don’t miss the vultures – ok they are fake, but there’s an information board next to them about their slightly macabre importance to the temple. During the 18th century, Wat Saket was the Capital’s crematorium. With that, it was the dumping ground for over 60,000 victims of the plague.
Also, look out for the giant gold seated Buddha at the base of The Golden Mount!
Why visit Wat Saket (The Golden Mount)?
There are 318 spiralling steps which lead to the top of The Golden Mount. Because the stairs spiral around, you’ll get loads of panoramic photo opportunities of the City. The immediate surrounding area of the Old City is mostly made up of low buildings and if the haze isn’t too bad you can see right the way across the city.
At the top of the mount, you’ll find the temple, in the centre, you’ll find a Buddha. Head to the corner of the temple to the stairs leading up to the large gold chedi on the uppermost viewing platform. Depending on when you visit this temple, you may see decorated Buddha’s, or flags coming off the upper spire of the chedi. At my time of visit, the chedi was covered in tiny origami birds!
Because of the surrounding greenery, Wat Saket is a little piece of paradise in the middle of the city where you can hear birds singing and the breeze rustling the leaves of the trees.
Best time to visit Wat Saket
The mount is painted in pearlescent white so it shimmers in the sunlight, so visit this temple early in the day when the sunlight isn’t as intense – otherwise, expect to be blinded by the glare!
Wat Saket (The Golden Mount) Details:
Wat Saket Opening Hours: 7:00 am – 7:30 pm – 7 days a week
Entry Fee for Wat Saket: 50Bhat ($1.65). The ticket office is at the bottom of the mount.
How to get to Wat Saket: The closest public transport is the water taxi (there is no metro or BTS). Take the boat to the pier called Phanfa Bridge Station. Alternatively, get a taxi or Tuktuk.
Location of Wat Saket: 344 Chakkraphatdi Phong, Ban Bat, Pom Prap Sattru Phai, Bangkok 10100, Thailand
2) Wat Suthat Thepwararam & The Giant Swing ('Wat Suthat Thepwararam')
The one with the stunning murals and over 150 meditating Buddha’s
Wat Suthat sometimes gets overlooked, but don’t be too swift to dismiss this one. Inside, look out for lots of the intricate detailing here.
Outside the temple, you’d be hard pushed to not notice the iconic giant red swing situated in the middle of the traffic island. It attracts a fair amount of attention, most notably people asking ‘why?’
Historically, during the Brahmin ‘thanksgiving’ ceremony which happened after the rice harvest, the young men in the area would swing on the err….swing.
However, with the swing seat being suspended 24metres high when it was in full swing, the young men were challenged to grab a bag of silver coins with their teeth, this bag of coins was hoisted 18 metres up on a bamboo pole.
You could imagine that with such a crazy celebratory tradition that injury or worse was fairly common and in 1932 after too many injuries and deaths they discontinued the ceremony. There is also rumour of the swing being struck by lightening and making the structure too unstable to use. Either way, The Giant red swing frame still stands to this day, although thankfully with no seat to re-enact past traditions!
Why visit Wat Suthat Thepwararam (& The Giant Swing)
The intricate murals and frescos inside the temple were some of the best I saw out of all the temples in Bangkok. They depict the life of the Buddha.
The outside courtyard houses 156 meditating Buddha’s as well as the beautifully carved teak door panels.
The ancient capital of Sukhothai plays a small part here, as the temple was commissioned in the 1700s to house a 13th Century bronze Buddha from the fallen kingdom.
Wat Suthat Thepwararam (& The Giant Swing) Details:
Wat Suthat Thepwararam Opening Hours: 8:30 am – 9:00 pm – 7 days a week
Entry Fee for Wat Suthat Thepwararam: 100Bhat ($3.30)
How to get to Wat Suthat Thepwararam: The closest public transport is the water taxi (there is no BTS). Take the boat to pier called Phanfa Bridge Station, you will see the Golden Mount Temple, from this temple, Wat Suthat Thepwararam is about a five-minute walk south-east. The nearest Metro station is Sam Yot and less than ten-minute walk north. Alternatively, get a taxi or Tuktuk.
Location of Wat Suthat Thepwararam – 146 Bamrung Mueang Rd, Wat Ratchabophit, Phra Nakhon, Bangkok 10200, Thailand
3. Wat Phra Kaew (‘Wat Phra Sri Rattana Satsadaram’ or ‘Temple of The Emerald Buddha’)
The one with the most ornate and opulent decoration situated within the Grand Palace
Wat Phra Kaew, or officially named Wat Phra Sri Rattana Satsadaram (or to the likes of you and me, the Temple of the Emerald Buddha, is viewed as the most important Buddhist temple in Thailand.
Located within the grounds of the Grand Palace – you can visit the two sites as a double whammy. Wat Phra Kaew was built for the residents of The Grand Palace and was the Royal Chapel (more on the Grand Palace in a moment). Yakshas which are giant garishly coloured, armoured, lion-esque demons guard the gateways to Wat Phra Kaew (Temple of The Emerald Buddha).
As a heads up – Wat Phra Kaew had THE MOST strict dress code out of all the temples. I had to roll my three-quarter length trousers down to my ankles, and my shoal – which had sufficed for everywhere else was deemed not acceptable. I had to pinch a very oversized shirt off my travel buddy (don’t panic – he was wearing a t-shirt!) before they would even let me set foot into the place!
Why visit Wat Phra Kaew ( Temple of The Emerald Buddha)?
Wat Phra Kaew is home to meditating Emerald Buddha (Phra Kaew Morakot). The seated Buddha is carved from a single block of green jade and covered in a gold and diamond-encrusted shroud. Buddhists from all over the world flock to Wat Phra Kaew to pay their respects to Thailand’s most important Buddha shrine.
The grounds surrounding the temple are the most ornate of the 5 best temples in Bangkok. There are gold and jewels everywhere you look, covering statues, columns, courtyards, you name it, it will have decoration all over it.
The Grand Palace of Bangkok
The Grand Palace houses the temple complex of Wat Phra Kaew, however, the style of the Grand Palace in comparison to the distinctively Thai Temple is certainly more European in places. The Palace is situated in beautifully manicured green lawns. It’s quintessentially fit for a King!
Initially built in 1792, The Grand Palace was first made from wood. Subsequent Kings gradually rebuilt sections of it from masonry. The material for the stone parts of the Palace came from the ancient capital city of Ayutthaya.
Only a few of the buildings at the Grand Palace are open for public viewing in, however, one of the more interesting ones is The Queen Sirikit Museum of Textiles if you are into dresses, shoes and all things bling it’s certainly worth a stroll through here to see some of the stunning outfits on show. The admission to this is included with the entrance ticket to the Grand Palace complex.
Best time to visit Wat Phra Kaew & The Grand Palace
Being one of Bangkok’s busiest tourist attractions, expect crowds in their coach loads, tour groups clustered around every open area and generally people everywhere. To avoid the crowds, visit very early or very late in the day. To cover the whole site of Wat Phra Kaew and The Grand Palace, and to do it justice, you’ll need 2-3 hours.
Watch out for scams! At Wat Phra Kaew & The Grand Palace
You might encounter touts outside The Grand Palace saying it’s closed or that they can get you in without the ques. Some selling unofficial and overpriced tickets. Some of these might be genuine, but just be aware that scams do take place here. Only buy tickets for official outlets (which usually aren’t men in the street!)
Wat Phra Kaew (Temple of the Emerald Buddha) Details:
Wat Phra Kaew Opening Hours: 8:30 am – 3.30 pm – 7 days a week (there are occasional closures or partial closures for events – check the offical website for full details of this)
Entry Fee for Wat Phra Kaew (Temple of the Emerald Buddha: 500Bhat ($16.50) – the most expensive Temple to visit in Bangkok, but this also includes entry to The Grand Palace and The Queen Sirikit Museum of Textiles.
How to get to Wat Phra Kaew (Temple of the Emerald Buddha: The closest public transport is the water taxi. Take the Chao Phraya Express Boat and get off at Tha Chang Pier (N9). The nearest Metro station is Sanam Chai and less than ten-minute walk north. Alternatively, get a taxi or Tuktuk.
Location of Wat Phra Kaew (Temple of the Emerald Buddha): Na Phra Lan Rd, Phra Borom Maha Ratchawang, Phra Nakhon, Bangkok 10200, Thailand
4. Wat Pho (Wat Phra Chetuphon or Temple of the Reclining Buddha)
The one with the prayer flags, the monks, the cats, the three big Stupas, the resident cats and the GIANT reclining Buddha
Wat Pho is the largest and oldest temple in Bangkok and probably at the top of the list of the best temples in Bangkok. Wat Pho is also known as Wat Phra Chetuphon, or for the tourists, Temple of the Reclining Buddha.
As well as a giant reclining Buddha, this temple is also home to loads reclining cats – you will see these adorable felines slumbering about on the little statues, steps, shrubs and in the temple courtyards. The courtyards of the temple are home to some very elaborate looking stupas.
At the time of visiting, this temple was covered with flags in every colour – it was to do with an upcoming arts festival called The Bangkok Art Biennale. Various venues across the City were hosting different events, and Wat Pho was one of them.
I loved seeing the colourful flags and the monks busying themselves around the temple, making it a little bit reminiscent of the prayer flags in Nepal.
Why visit Wat Pho (The Temple of the Reclining Buddha)?
Head to the north-west corner of the site and you will find the piste-de-resistance, the large hall which houses the giant reclining Buddha, measuring 46 metres long, 15 meters high and covered in gold leaf. It really is impressive.
Wat Pho was also home to probably one of the weirdest pair of statues I saw during my entire time in Thailand; a pair of legs with giant feet with an animals’ head on top of each. Very weird!
Best time to visit Wat Pho
If it fits in with your schedule, visit this temple either very early or very late in the day. The iconic giant reclining Buddha mean this is top of most people’s Bangkok Temple list. At peak times, queue to go inside the giant hall with the reclining Buddha goes at a snail’s pace. Avoid peak times like the plague.
Wat Pho (Temple of the Reclining Buddha) Details
Wat Pho (Temple of the Reclining Buddha) Opening Hours: 8:00 am – 6.30 pm – 7 days a week
Entry Fee for Wat Pho (Temple of the Reclining Buddha): 200Bhat ($6.60)
How to get to Wat Pho (Temple of the Reclining Buddha): This temple is pretty much next door to The Grand Palace.
The closest public transport is the water taxi. Take the Chao Phraya Express Boat and get off at Tha Chang Pier (N9). The nearest Metro station is Sanam Chai and less than ten-minute walk north. Alternatively, get a taxi or Tuktuk.
Location of Wat Pho (Temple of the Reclining Buddha)– 2 Sanam Chai Rd, Phra Borom Maha Ratchawang, Phra Nakhon, Bangkok 10200, Thailand
5. Wat Arun (Wat Arun Ratchawararam Ratchawaramahawihan or Temple of Dawn)
The one that looks like a mini version of the Iconic Angkor Wat in Cambodia
The final stop on the self guided best temples in Bangkok tour is Wat Arun. If you squint a little and use your imagination (quite a bit), Wat Arun certainly looks like a mini Angkor Wat. This Khmer style temple is made up of a ‘Prang’ in the centre which is then surrounded by four smaller towers.
The Prang and towers are covered with colourful and intricate carvings and sculptures, and steep stairs lead up to a platform about mid-way. You cannot go all the way up to the top.
The temple is named after the Indian God of Dawn – Aruna.
Why visit Wat Arun (Temple of Dawn)?
The central and largest of the prangs stands at 86 meters and represents Mount Meru which is in Buddhist cosmology, is the centre of the world. The main prang is surrounded by smaller prangs and buildings.
To get the best views of Wat Arun stand from the opposite side of the river. Alternatively, you’ll also have a great view from the Wat Arun side of The Grand Palace.
Best time to visit Wat Arun
Don’t be deceived by the name of the temple, just because it’s called the Temple of Dawn, it’s certainly worthwhile leaving this temple until the end of the day. It looks great at sunset too!
Two of the best vantage points for sunset shots are from the opposite side of the bank to the temple or take them from the actual ferry boat that crosses the Chao Phraya River, alternatively, take them from the gardens surrounding the outer walls of the temple.
Wat Arun (Temple of Dawn) Details:
Wat Arun (Temple of Dawn) Opening Hours: 8:30 am – 5.30 pm – 7 days a week
Entry Fee for Wat Arun (Temple of Dawn): 100Bhat ($3.30)
How to get to Wat Arun (Temple of Dawn): The temple is located on ‘the other side’ of the river, but a quick and easy boat ride from Chao Phraya Express Boat Dock makes it super easy to access as well as giving ample photo opportunities. The short trip across the river costs a mere 4 baht ($0.13)!
Location of Wat Arun (Temple of Dawn) – 158 Thanon Wang Doem, Wat Arun, Bangkok Yai, Bangkok 10600, Thailand
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The 5 Best Temples in Bangkok – A Self-Guided Bangkok Temple Tour
Hopefully, you’ll agree that these are the 5 best temples in Thailand. Of course, if you have more time, there is an abundance of other ones to visit.
Have you seen any other temples in Bangkok that are as good as these? I’d love to hear.
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