When it comes to Bangkok, I could write a plethora of blog posts on the best night markets, the best hostels, the best Pad Thai!!! Other posts for other days. In this post, I’ll be focusing on the Best Temples in Bangkok (there are none less than 400! in the City alone).
On my first visit to Thailand, my initial reaction to Bangkok was that it was loud, hectic and dirty; I couldn’t wait to get out of the place. That was my opinion back in 2014, at the time, Bangkok was my first Asian City as a backpacker, and I hated it! Roll on a few years and how my opinions have changed.
During my second visit to Thailand, I decided this time to give the countries capital a chance. Yes, it’s still loud, hectic and dirty but my list of adjectives now extends vibrant, exciting and with an overwhelming buzz about it.
For many, and I am 100% guilty of this, Bangkok is often just a stop-over destination for international flights. Visitors might perhaps stop for a day or so before heading South to the stunning Islands or up North for more ‘traditional’ Thailand.
Wat’s that you say?
The Buddhist temples are called Wats, which is why pretty much each of the temples in the list is called ‘Wat’ and then the name. I’ve picked out the cream-of-the-crop of Best Temples in Bangkok, saved you the legwork on finding out where they are located, giving you the basic low-down of each of the destinations AND if that wasn’t enough, provided an easy to follow map for the best route to take.
There are two options – you could get up early and totally blitz them in a day if you are short on time, otherwise, take a more leisurely 2 days in the City.
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 to get into the old town.
The temples are all within walking distance to each other, although if you don’t want to walk between each destination, then it’s easy enough to catch a taxi or TukTuk.
To see the Best Temples in Bangkok I’ve suggested the logical order in which you visit them, naturally, choose a different starting point if it suits you better.
How to Dress
As the temples are religious sites, make sure you have dressed appropriately. (In such a hot country when you all you want to wear are shorts and vest tops, it’s something that frequently gets overlooked). Some temples were a little bit more lenient than others but as a general rule make sure that your knees are covered if you are wearing shorts.
Girls – no backless/ cropped/ mid-drift bearing/ strappy tops. Some places were happy to let me in with my shawl wrapped over my upper body, other temples wouldn’t let me in unless I wore my shirt to be able to go in. Most of the temples do have sarongs to hire – so if you really don’t have anything suitable to wear, then grin and bear it that they will be dressing you appropriately.
Also, take note of shoes – to go inside most of the buildings, the likelihood is that you will have to take off your shoes each time – however some don’t allow bare foot SO IF you are wearing flip-flops, take a pair of socks to put on.
1) Wat Saket – The one on the top of the white mount.
As with all the temples in this list – this temples goes under a few names; Chedi of ‘Phu Khao Thong’ or the Golden Mount.
The Golden Mount is the first destination on the best temples in Bangkok itinerary. The temple is situated 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. There are 300 spiralling steps which lead to the top. At the top of the mount is the chedi which contains a Buddha. Take the stairs up the little passageway in the corner of the chedi which will lead up to the rooftop for an even more stunning view.
The mount is painted in pearlescent white so it really 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.
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 low buildings, and if the haze isn’t too bad you can see right the way across the city. Along the way up you’ll pass cute little waterfalls and gardens, 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.
On the walk down, don’t miss the information on the Vultures and their importance to the temple as well as a giant gold Buddha!
2) Wat Suthat – The one next to the giant red swing.
In comparison to some of the other temples on this list, Wat Suthat sometimes gets overlooked.
But don’t be too swift to dismiss this one. Look out for lots of the intricate detailing here, in particular, the wall murals and frescos inside the temple. The outside courtyard houses 156 Buddhas 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.
The iconic giant red swing outside this temple also 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 sing 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
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. The Giant red swing frame still stands to this day, although thankfully with no seat to rein act past traditions!
3) Wat Phra Kaew – The one with the Emerald Buddha
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 and certainly should be top of your bucket list if you want to see the best temples in Bangkok.
Located within the grounds of the Grand Palace – you can visit the two sites as a double whammy (more on the Grand Palace later) Wat Phra Kaew is home to an Emerald Buddha (Phra Kaew Morakot) which is carved from a single block of jade.
Of all of the temples, this is where you will see the most elaborate decorations, and gold, so much gold, adorning everything
As a heads up – this temple had THE MOST strict dress code – 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.
Along with being the most insanely grand temple, it’s also the most expensive, setting you back 500 Bhat to go inside. The entry does, however, include the Grand Palace.
4) Grand Palace – The one that shows excessive grandeur in every way imaginable.
Ok so not technically a temple BUT while in Bangkok it would be a sacrilege to visit the Grand Palace. This is one of Bangkok’s busiest tourist attractions, so expect crowds in their coach loads, tour groups, as well as being the most expensive place on this list to get in to.
The Grand Palace houses the temple complex of Wat Phra Kaew, however, the style of the Grand Palace in comparison to the distinctively Thai Temples is certainly more European. The roof of the Grand Palace does still have the Thai look about it. The Palace is quintessentially fit for a King!
Only a few of the buildings are open for public viewing in the Grand Palace, 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 500 bhat entry to Wat Phra Kaew also covers the entry to the Grand Palace.
4) Wat Pho – The one with the prayer flags, the monks, the cats, the three big Stupas, the resi-dent cats as well as the giant reclining Buddha – this was by far my favourite temple in Bangkok.
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. Even though I didn’t get a chance to see the art festival (it started the week after I was there!) 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.
Out of all the temples I visited in Bangkok, this one was by far my favourite one Wat Pho with its official name Wat Phra Chetuphon, (the Temple of the Reclining Buddha),
This temple, for whatever reason, is also home to loads of cats – you will see these adorable felines slumbering about on the little statues, steps, shrubs and in the temple courtyards.
It was also here that I saw the largest number of Buddhist Monks in their striking orange robes – there was a ceremony going on in the central courtyard, as well as lots of them setting up for the festival.
There are loads of interesting features at this Temple and why it deserves its place in the best temples of Bangkok tour. One courtyard contains three Stupas
Keep walking around this site, as in some of the walled areas you will find more cats, as well as interesting statues – a particularly odd pair, were giant feet, on legs, with an animals head on top; very weird!
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 and covered in gold leaf, it really is impressive. This hall gets quite crowded, there is a one-way system to see it, I visited fairly late in the day after the majority of the crows have left.
It costs 100Bhat to visit this temple – and certainly worth every penny of it.
There really is so much to see at this temple site and this one certainly warrants being my favourite one from my list of the best temples in Bangkok.
5) Wat Arun - The one that looks like a mini version of the Iconic Angkor Wat in Cambodia
If you squint a little and use your imagination (quite a bit), Wat Arun certainly looks like a mini Angkor Wat.
The Khmer style temples are 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.
Be prepared to share the beautiful temples with hordes of other tourists if you go at peak times, (get there either early or late to avoid them) From a distance it looks like a colony of ants have taken refuge there!
The full name of the temple is ‘Wat Arun Ratchawararam Ratchawaramahawihan’, which is a bit of a mouthful, so lots of people know it as the Temple of Dawn.
The temple is located on ‘the other side’ of the river, but a quick and easy ferry trip makes it super easy to access as well as giving ample photo opportunities. The short trip across the river costs a mere 4 bhat!
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.
Hint – If you have 2 days to do this temple – visit it at the end of day one to get the sunset shots from and then go back the following day to see it from the inside.
The entrance fee to this temple is 100 baht.
So, Wat are you waiting for?
If you are on a trip to Thailand, it really is worthwhile taking in a little of what the Capital has to offer. After spending a lot longer in Bangkok on this trip, with a total change of opinion I now put this up with one of my favourite Asian cities. I went from hating it to loving it and I cannot wait to return here.
In this post, I have listed the best temples in Bangkok for anyone on a limited timescale. Of course, there are loads more if you have the time to visit them, but these above others all had worthy points of interest
Hopefully, this post has given you a whirlwind tour of the best temples in Bangkok, if you enjoyed reading this then please save, pin and share. With so many temples, naturally, I’ve not visited them ALL, so if you think I’ve missed a must-visit temple off this list then I’d love to know about it, please comment below.