The Ultimate Guide to Bangkok’s Best Temples

If you’re planning a trip to Thailand, I’m pretty sure you have at least one temple visit on your list. Bangkok (and Thailand overall) is home to some of the world’s most stunning Buddhist temples.

But getting your head around Bangkok’s hundreds (yes, hundreds!) of temples, their multiple similar names, and varied opening hours can leave you in a tizzy. Don’t worry, I’ve got you covered below! Here’s the guide I wish I had to visit Bangkok’s best temples.

Fun fact: ‘what’s up with a temple having multiple names?’ I hear you ask. Well, much like Thai people themselves, each temple has a formal long name and also often a much shorter ‘nickname’. The most famous temples in Thailand also tend to have a third ‘descriptive English’ name. Beware of the multiple use of names on Google Maps! It doesn’t understand the same temple might have multiple names. Several times I almost ended up going to the same temple twice…

Top tip: avoid the ‘temple is closed’ scam! Particularly common around the Grand Palace – loitering touts with tuk tuks will often falsely tell you that said temple or palace is closed with the aim of getting you on their ‘custom tour’ instead to rip you off!

Another point on temple opening times – the prayer halls (main buildings with Buddha states inside) often close earlier than the main temple complex so always best to check separately. The times I list below are for the overall temple complex.

Temple etiquette

  • Basically church-rules for clothing. Cover your knees and shoulders, don’t wear ‘sheer’ clothing or anything too revealing, tight-fitting etc. Just use common sense – a dress that’s floor length and is accompanied by a shoulder covering still isn’t going to be acceptable if the dress is very low cut at the front… You WILL be denied entry if they think you’re not dressed appropriately. Tourists aren’t exempt.
  • No PDA. Hand holding is fine but save the kissing for later… I’ve seen a few western couples get told off for taking kissing selfies etc in front of temple buildings…
  • Don’t point your feet at Buddha statues. (Or anyone, for that matter). In Thai culture (and other Asian and Middle-Eastern cultures), the bottom of the foot is the dirtiest part of a person and therefore the most offensive to show.
  • Be mindful of people praying. All these temples are functioning places of worship for local people.
  • If you plan to stay in the temple ‘hall’ a little while and aren’t going to walk around the temple, it’s considered polite to sit on the floor. Any chair you see is generally reserved for monks.
  • Remove your shoes before entering. (You can still wear them in the outside areas of the complex, just not inside the buildings). Wear shoes you can slip on and off quickly. (Will also bode well for other parts of Thailand where you have to take your shoes off before going into a shop). I personally prefer to wear a loosely laced pair of Vans/Converses so I’ve got comfy footwear for all my city walking but I can still slip them on and off. Plus I can still wear my socks inside the temple because I’m a germaphobe and hate feet…
  • Can you take photos inside the temple prayer halls? It depends. Sometimes signs will say no photography. If in doubt, ask a temple worker. If photos are allowed, they’ll happily let you snap away providing you’re not disturbing worshippers or disrespecting Buddha. If you’re going to have your photo taken with Buddha in the background, don’t do any kooky poses. This isn’t the time for your Leaning Tower of Pisa pose. And be aware that some temples will let you take photos but not if your back is turned to Buddha. If in doubt, ask a worker. They’re very friendly and will appreciate you making the effort to respect their culture. If they don’t speak English, I’ve found pointing at your camera, smiling and shrugging is pretty universal. Bonus points if you can learn how to ask in Thai!!

Ticket prices

Admission is generally free for Thais (or at least discounted). But even as a foreigner, tickets aren’t extortionate. The most expensive is the Grand Palace at 500 baht and the cheapest of the temples in this list are about 50-100 baht.

1. The Grand Palace (home to The Temple of the Emerald Buddha)

Also known as: Wat Phra Kaew or Wat Phra Si Rattana Satsadaram

Getting there: If you’re near an MRT or BTS station, you can catch a train to Saphan Taksin station. From here, take the Chao Phraya Express Boat (river taxi) to Ta Chang Pier.

Opening times: Monday – Sunday, 8:30am – 3:30pm

The biggest and arguably most famous temple site in Bangkok. Technically it’s a royal palace but the site is so huge that it encompasses several museums and ‘phras’ (a special building or hall). 35 buildings make up the Grand Palace and the most notable is the Temple of the Emerald Buddha

It’s actually a royal chapel rather than a temple and houses the famous Emerald Buddha statue. Although only a modest 66cm tall, this 600-year-old statue is one of the most scared artefacts of all of Thailand and still plays a crucial role in royal ceremonies. Visitors are forbidden from taking photos of it but Wikipedia has a photo showing the statue impressively dressed in various seasonal attire.

2. Wat Phra Chetuphon 

Also known as: Wat Pho or The Temple of the Reclining Buddha

Getting there: As Wat Pho is opposite the Grand Palace, I recommend visiting both in the same day. But if you only want to visit Wat Pho for some reason, follow the same Grand Palace route above to get to Ta Chang Pier. 

Opening times: Monday – Sunday, 8:00am – 6:30pm

Clue’s in the name for this one. This temple houses a huge gold reclining Buddha statue – one of the largest Buddha statues in Thailand. It’s mostly made of brick rather than solid gold, and is then moulded with plaster and gilded in gold. At 15 metres tall and 46 metres long, it really is an amazing sight! 108 bronze bowls line the corridor where Buddha lays, representing the 108 auspicious ‘characters’ of Buddha. Visitors drop coins in the bowls for good luck with the money going to the monks to pay for the upkeep of the temple.

The temple complex itself is one of Bangkok’s oldest and was actually around before Bangkok was ever established as the Kingdom of Siam’s capital. The reclining Buddha statue and the ‘wat’ that houses it were both built later in 1832.

3. Golden Mount Temple 

Also known as: Wat Saket

Getting there: As it’s in the oldest part of Bangkok, it’s not reachable by train. Either take the bus to ‘Pukaotong, Wat Saket’ or take a river taxi to Phan Fa Leelat Pier (tip: destination spellings can differ in English as they’re sometimes just phonetically translated from Thai script so don’t be alarmed if your destination’s spelling doesn’t match with signposts etc). Learn more about getting around Bangkok with my transport guide.

Opening times: Monday – Sunday, 7:00am – 7:00pm

Another as-described temple. This one felt like I’d temporarily left Bangkok for rural Thailand. You have to climb 344 stone steps to get to the top of the main temple building but it’s not too hard and there’s lovely jungle-esque scenery along the way. There are big bells along the way that you’re welcome to ring for good luck! The temple’s construction started in 1467 but wasn’t as we see it today until the concrete walls surrounding the stairs were built in the 1940s.  

Aim to reach the top just before sunset to make the most of the panoramic views across Bangkok. With the monks chanting and bells ringing in the background, it’s a beautifully unique experienced. Bangkok weather is notoriously unpredictable but do your best to find an evening where it’s not forecast to rain as the ‘golden mount’ itself is exposed to the elements. You’d rather not have rain falling in your eyes when craning your neck up to see it! 

4. Wat Arun 

Also known as: Wat Arun Ratchawararam Ratchawaramahawihan

Getting there: The easiest way is taking the river taxi to Phra Arthit pier. Or if you’re coming from Wat Pho right opposite the other side of the river, take the river taxi from 
Rajinee pier to Wat Arun pier.

Opening times: Monday – Sunday, 8:00am – 6:00pm

You’ll recognise this temple from Bangkok’s signature postcard view over the Chao Phraya River. It’s even more beautiful up close! The temple complex was founded in 1656 but the main ‘prang’ (spire) was built in 1851 and restored 2013-2017. Although the restoration work was controversial and criticised by some for not being authentic enough, the mosaic work you see up close on each prang is incredibly detailed and beautifully coloured. Really take your time to admire the mosaics and the ‘stories’ they all tell. I definitely got Antoni Gaudí vibes!

If you were thinking of booking a guided tour around any of the temples, I’d probably suggest this one. There are a lot of stories and symbolic meanings in this temple’s architecture that you can’t really pick up yourself.

Top tip – once you’re done at the temple, rush over to the other side of the river (via river taxi) in time for an iconic sunset! While there are plenty of (expensive) options to book for dinner and drink venues to watch the Wat Arun sunset, I recommend just buying a coffee and snack in ‘ViVi the Coffee Place’ and camping out on their outside terrace. Be warned – those seats are very sought after – I recommend getting there at least 90 mins before sunset! (Fellow photographers, you know…).

Have you been to Bangkok before? What’s your favourite temple? Tell me in the comments!

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