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The Grand Palace located on the Chao Phraya River is a fantastic but also very crowded location in Bangkok. Until 1925 the Grand Palace was the home of the royal family of Siam, later Thailand. In addition to the home address of the royal family, ministries and other administrative departments were also politically active here. Despite the fact that the king and his family no longer live here, the grounds are still a very important, if not the most important place of Thailand. This because on the terrain stands the Wat Phrae Kaew, the most important Buddha of Thailand for the Buddhist Thai. And despite the occasional unpleasant crowds, we think you should not skip the Grand Palace during your stay in Bangkok!
- History of the Grand Palace
- The Grand Palace as royal residence
- Before entering the Grand Palace grounds
- Within the walls of the Grand Palace complex
- Wat Phra Kaew
- The (large) Chakri Palace
- Phra Siratana Chedi
- Phra Mondop
- The Royal Pantheon
- Scale model of Angkor Wat in Cambodia
- Beautiful murlas
- Yaksha’s and other statues and sculptures
- The three-headed pink elephant statutue
- A place of honour for the statuue of Cheewok Komataphat
- The beauty can (also) be found in the details
- Important rules such as dress codes
- In the vicinity of the Grand Palace
It all began with the inception of the first king of the Chakri Dynasty, King Rama I. The Chakri Dynasty is still the ruling dynasty in Thailand today. King Rama I found that a new dynasty also included a new capital of Thailand. He felt that his home in Thonburi was not safe enough and the memories of the destruction of Ayutthaya by the Burmese were still fresh in his memory. Therefore, the king decided to move to the island of Rattanakosin in Bangkok, making Bangkok the new capital of Thailand. Of course, a new capital city also includes a new palace, King Rama I must have thought. That is why the construction of the Grand Palace started in 1782. In the beginning, the first buildings were made of wood, but soon people wanted to switch to stone. In order to obtain sufficient building materials, materials were brought in from the ruined Ayutthaya. In this way the construction of the walls, gates, palaces and the like could be started.
DID YOU KNOW?
In the period before the construction of the Grand Palace, a large group of Chinese lived on the island of Rattanakosin? This community was summoned to move to what is now China Town / Yaowarat Road.
Until 1925, more than 150 years, the Grand Palace was the residence of the royal family. What was once their home is now mainly a tourist attraction for the countless tourists who wander around the grounds here on an annual basis. Only on certain holidays and special occasions this domain is still used for important ceremonies such as the recent coronation of King Rama X (early May 2019).
Despite the fact that you probably already know this, we want to warn you about the crooks at the main entrance. They kindly tell you that the Grand Palace is closed today. Then this very nice person has other nice sights in store for you. This includes a ride on the tuk tuk. If you fancy a tuk tuk ride through the city with the aim of scamming you for a “fancy” suit or “gorgeous” jewelry then you should definitely go with this friendly looking person. Would you rather visit the Grand Palace than thank you kindly and walk into the Grand Palace which of course is open.
Try to stand in front of the entrance at 8:30 am. This will prevent you from exploring the area in the hustle and bustle. Or arrive around 13:30 so that hopefully the biggest crowds has already left.
Once inside you’ll find a wide range of impressive and majestic buildings such as the Temple of The Emerald Buddha that we’ve written about before on our website. This is only one of the many beautiful buildings that can be admired here. Some of the buildings look like from the time of the previous capital Ayutthaya. Another part doesn’t. This is because the construction of the complex took decades, so occasionally influences from outside, such as from Europe, were applied. On the Grand Palace grounds you will see numerous government buildings, as a visitor you have access to some throne rooms. There are also plenty of buildings or even entire areas to which you cannot gain access. The rooms where the last royal family lived, for example, are not open to visitors. Luckily there is plenty to discover and we give you a small selection of all the beautiful things you can admire.
DO YOU KNOW?
The walls surrounding the Grand Palace are a total of 1,900 metres long and the yellow ground covers an area of 218,000 m2!
The most important temple of the complex is called Wat Phra Phra Kaew. To us better known as the Temple of the Emerald Buddha. This temple was built by order of King Rama I in exactly the same architectural style as the temples looked like in Sukhothai 800 years ago. The temple was built in 1782. In the temple is a Phra Ubosot (kind of chapel) in which The Emerald Buddha is exhibited. Because this building is so important for the Thai (and tourist), we have chosen to write a special article about Wat Phra Kaew.
On May 7, 1876 the then reigning King Rama V ordered the construction of a new accommodation on the grounds of the Grand Palace. Two years later in 1878 the result was a beautiful and grand palace called Phra Thinang Chakri Maha Prasat. Literally translates as ‘the seat of the Chakris’. The palace consists of three floors with on the roof three beautiful ‘prasat’ towers as you can see them at the impressive Loha Prasat. What makes this palace so special is that the upper part like the roof has a typical Thai look. You’ll see this in the green and orange tiles and how the roof is shaped. The underside of the building has a European atmosphere with influences from Italian and French architecture. In the palace you’ll find the Chakri Maha Prasat throne room where nowadays still highly appreciated or spiritual (foreign) visit is welcomed by the king. In addition, you can visit the Boromabiman Hall, the Amarinda Hall which houses an old weapons museum. There is also a storage room for important relics of the kings. Besides the relics there is also a shrine in which the ashes of the kings Rama IV, V, VI and their wives are kept.
DID YOU KNOW?
The throne room in the Chakri Maha Prasat was the first place in Thailand where electricity was installed.
The eye-catching Phra Mondop is an important library commissioned by King Rama I in 1789. The main function of the Phra Mondop was to store important documents such as a collection of the earliest writings of Buddhism (Tripitaka). Outside the building is a variety of monuments in honour of the kings of the Chakri dynasty.
DID YOU KNOW?
The floor of the Phra Mondop is made of pure silver.
The royal Pantheon, built by order of King Rama IV, is also called Prasat Phra Dhepbidorn. Its construction began in 1856 and it was initially intended for The Emerald Buddha. After completion the king found this structure too small and it remained empty for a long time. In 1903 there was a major fire which subjected the building to a thorough restoration. After the restoration King Rama VI chose to place immense statues here in honour of the eight kings from the Chakri period. The question arises as to when statue 9 in honour of the popular King Bhumibol (Rama IX), who died in 2016, will be placed here. This man, who was very popular among the Thai population, deserves a beautiful statue in this location.
Only on April 6th, during Chakri day, the royal Pantheon is opened. Chakri day is the day that the Thai celebrates the founding of the Chakri dynasty and of which the current King Rama X is also a member.
On the grounds of the Grand Palace you’ll also find a special scale model of the Khmer temple of Angkor Wat. A model of a temple complex from Cambodia I hear you think. In the time of King Rama IV, who commissioned the construction of this model, Cambodia was under the authority of Thailand (Siam). With this model King Mongkut (Rama IV) wanted to show his subjects how impressive the Angkor Wat complex was.
In many buildings on the grounds of the Grand Palace you can see beautiful murals. These tell stories and sagas from ancient Siam. The battle of King Rama with his monkey army against Tosakanth is a work of art to see. The murals date from the period of King Rama I and are in such good condition because they are constantly updated.
A Yaksha is a guardian god who is often shown as a temple guard at gates just like at the Grand Palace. But you also come across these giants as guardians of the Wat Arun or the Suvarnabhumi Airport of Bangkok. In addition to the Yaksha’s, there are impressive statues and sculptures everywhere on the grounds that you can admire.
Outside the grounds of the Grand Palace there is also a fine piece of sculpture. Here is a statue with three three-headed pink elephants. This statue on the roundabout of the Sanam Luang crossing, was a gift for King Rama IX. It was donated on 5 December 2011 to celebrate his 84th birthday.
Finally, we would like to point out that the beauty can also be found in the details. The way the glistening glass and porcelain is placed, the beautiful mosaic and the murals that take you into the story. It is super beautiful if you have an eye for it. Despite the fact that many people find the Grand Palace too busy – which they are unfortunately right about – this is of course not for nothing. The Grand Palace is really a unique and dazzling place to visit when you are in Bangkok. Just do it!
Dress codes for both men and women: No bare shoulders, no bare feet after taking off your shoes and long pants (without hip cracks and holes as you see nowadays). If you haven’t been able to take the desired dress code into account, you can rent clothing at the entrance. Furthermore, no visible tattoos and in some places, such as the Wat Phra Kaew, no photo or video may be taken. It is also important to know that you always have to be lower than Buddha, that’s why you sometimes have to kneel. Also, you should never point your feet to sanctuaries or people . Have fun!
Bring water, the smartest thing to bring is a large bottle per person, you can refill it on the premises.
In the vicinity of the Grand Palace is a lot to see and do! We have collected some great options and information about the area around the Grand Palace for you. Such as information about transportation, well-appreciated places to sleep, good restaurants, shopping malls and other sights worth seeing, you are so close now! We hope this will make your visit to Bangkok even easier and more fun!
Open: Daily from 08:30 – 15:30 (guides from 10:00 – 14:00)
Entrance: 500 baht (Audioguide 200 baht extra for two hours)
For people with mobility problems, there are free wheelchairs on loan at the main entrance.
Address: Na Phra Lan Rd, Phra Nakhon
Route from Khao San Road (a fifteen minute walk)
Restaurants in the Grand Palace area
- Rad Na Yod Pak 40 Years
For the locals in the neighborhood for 40 years a very popular place because of the delicious food.
- AMA Art & Eatery
Located between the Wat Pho and the Grand Palace, good food for a soft price! Art for the eyes and mouth!
- The Sixth
Trendy little tent with delicious snacks and drinks. Also enough choice for vegans.
- Home Cafe Tha Thien
Cosy family restaurant where you will quickly feel at home, what a sweet people!
- The Deck
Well-known and highly valued place opposite the Wat Arun. Yes The Deck is a top spot!
- Jin Chieng Seng by Inn A Day
A good restaurant located in an equally good hotel. Inn a Day makes your day all right!
- Sala Rattanakosin Eatery and Bar
Not only do you get very good service and delicious food but also a beautiful view of the Wat Arun.
- Supatra River House
Fantastic location on the banks of the Chao Phraya River with quality and authentic Thai food.
- Savoey Restaurant Tha Maharaj
In the small shopping area Tha Maharaj near the Grand Palace you will find this very good restaurant.
Nice restaurant with good food and an amazing view over the Grand Palace.
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