The 9 Must-Visit Temples in Bangkok

Temples in Thailand

Words: TBT Team
Photos: Phuwadol Jankhum
Published: September 2, 2018

Wherever you happen to be in Bangkok, you can be sure there is at least one temple in the nearby vicinity. The Thai capital abounds with temples – about 460 of them to be more exact.

These temples are a cornerstone of Thai society and as such, offer tourists a fascinating glimpse into the local way of life, culture, beliefs and faith of Bangkokians. They are a kaleidoscope of unique Thai local experiences to take in. A world apart from the glitzy shopping malls and high street razzle dazzle, they present a different perspective on Bangkok.

Among Bangkok’s hundreds of glittering temples, here are 9 that are must-visits for tourists and are regarded as the most auspicious by Bangkokians.

Wat Phra Kaew

Wat Phra Kaew

The most famous of all Bangkok’s temples and known in English as the Temple of the Emerald Buddha, Wat Phra Kaew is situated within the grounds of the magnificent Grand Palace. Its official name is Wat Phra Sri Rattana Satsadaram and while for tourists it is a must-see attraction, for the Thai people it is the kingdom’s most sacred Buddhist temple.

Enshrined within Wat Phra Kaew is the Emerald Buddha statue named Phra Kaew Morakot or Phra Buddha Maha Mani Rattana Patimakon, a highly revered Buddha image carved from a single jade block.

The intricate architecture at Wat Phra Kaew makes for great photos, while other highlights include the central ubosot or ordination hall that houses the Emerald Buddha, a model of Angkor Wat, the murals that tell the Ramayana epic and the five-meter tall Yaksa Tavarnbal or Gate-keeping Giants. Unlike other temples, there are no living quarters for monks at Wat Phra Kaew.

Can be visited daily between 8.30 am to 3.30 pm
2 Na Phra Lan Road, Phra Borom Maha Ratchawang, Phra Nakhon, Bangkok 10200

Wat Pho

Wat Pho

Within an easy walk of Wat Phra Kaew is Wat Pho or Wat Phra Chetuphon Wimon Mangkhalaram Ratchaworamahawihan, also among the city’s best-known temples and another must-see for tourists. Wat Pho is also called the Temple of the Reclining Buddha for the impressive 46-metre long, gold leaf-covered reclining Buddha it houses. Named Phra Buddha Sai Yat, it is the 3rd largest reclining Buddha in Thailand.

Wat Pho was Thailand’s first public university. Today it is known as a center for traditional massage and medicine and is often considered to be the leading school of massage in the country. Getting a massage here is popular and so sometimes it’s a good idea to pop in and book a spot before you go exploring the temple.

Well worth seeing are the four chapels that contain 394 gilded Buddha images, the intricately detailed murals covering the walkways and the Epigraphic Archives of Wat Pho, a collection of 1,431 stone inscriptions and scripts made in 1831 to 1841 which represent a wide range of Thai knowledge of Asian and local roots of the time in the context of over five centuries of global exchanges in trade, politics and culture. These were inscribed in 2011 in UNESCO’s Memory of the World Register.

Can be visited daily from 8 am to 6.30 pm
2 Sanam Chai Road, Phra Borom Maha Ratchawang, Phra Nakhon, Bangkok 10200

Wat Benchamabophit

Wat Benchamabophit Dusitvanaram Ratchaworamahawihan is well known among tourists as the Marble Temple, because it was built with marble imported from Italy. It is a fine example of traditional Bangkok architectural style with multi-tiered roofs, elegant bird-like decorations at the top of the temple roofs and gold carvings. Its name literally means ‘the Temple of the Fifth King located nearby the Dusit Palace’ which was given after the completion of the palace in King Rama V’s era.

Visitors to the temple can see the marble chapel and 52 Buddha statues in different postures, a Bodhi tree brought over from India over 100 years ago, the Phra Thinang Song Dhamma or the royal merit-making pavilion, and the Phra Thinang Song Phanuat where King Rama V practiced Buddhism and resided when he went into monkhood at the temple. There is also the Wat Benchamabophit National Museum which displays Buddha images from all over Thailand and overseas.

Can be visited daily from 8 am to 5.30 pm
Nakorn Pathom Road, Dusit, Bangkok

Wat Ratchanatdaram

Wat Ratchanatdaram

One of Bangkok’s most beautiful temples, Wat Ratchanatdaram Worawihan (or Wat Ratchanatdaram for short) was built in the 19th Century during the reign of King Rama III for his niece. In Thai royal language, Ratchanatda means niece.

The temple is best known for the Loha Prasat (Metal Palace), a 36-metre high multi-tiered structure featuring 37 metal spires for the 37 virtues toward enlightenment in Buddhist belief. Inside there is an exhibition on the temple’s history and at the top of the Loha Prasat are housed Buddha relics.

Wat Ratchanatdaram is thought to be the only brazen palace (a building with a roof covered in bronze tiles) still in existence.

Can be visited daily from 8 am to 5 pm
2 Mahachai Road, Bowonniwet, Phra Nakhon, Bangkok 10200

Wat Saket

Wat Saket

Wat Saket Ratchaworamahawihan or Wat Saket is popularly known as the Golden Mount, or Phu Khao Thong (which in Thai means Golden Mount). Sitting atop a man-made hill, the temple’s 58-metre gold chedi houses a Buddha relic and draws worshippers year round. The temple’s annual week-long fair each Loy Krathong, usually in November, draws crowds of people and is a major local event.

Wat Saket’s origins can be traced back to the Ayutthaya period of 1350 to 1767, after which major renovation work was carried out during the reign of King Rama I from 1782 to 1809. The hilltop chedi was completed in King Rama V’s era. It is reached via a pathway of 300 steps. From the top there are panoramic views of the surrounding Wat Saket area and the wider city itself, as well as Luang Por To, Luang Por Dam, Luang Por Duang Dee, and the Footprint of the Buddha.

Can be visited daily from 8 am to 5 pm
Boripat Road, Ban Bat, Pom Prap Sattru Phai, Bangkok

Wat Arun

Wat Arun

Situated on the west bank (Thonburi) of the Chao Phraya River, Wat Arun Ratchawararam Ratchawaramahawihan or Wat Arun features a very different design to other temples in Bangkok. The temple’s main Phra Prang or Khmer-style tower rises at the center to a height of some 66 meters and is decorated with seashells and bits of porcelain that glimmer in the sunlight. This is surrounded by four smaller Phra Prang.

An iconic landmark, Wat Arun is also known as the Temple of Dawn and is one of the most internationally recognizable of Bangkok’s temples, having been used as a location in several Hollywood movies.

The King of Thonburi or King Taksin envisioned Wat Arun in 1768 when, after having fought his way out of Ayutthaya which was taken over by a Burmese army, he arrived at the temple as dawn was breaking. He ordered the temple renovated and renamed it Wat Chaeng (the Temple of Dawn). Later, work was done on the temple during the reign of King Rama III from 1824 to 1851 including the addition of the porcelain decoration.

Visitors to Wat Arun can climb the steps up the central prang for rewarding views of the Chao Phraya River and city surrounds, see the giant statues known as Yak Wat Jaeng which guard the temple, the ordination hall with its golden Buddha image and wall murals and the library.

Can be visited daily from 8.30 am to 5.30 pm
158 Wang Doem Road, Wat Arun, Bangkok Yai, Bangkok 10600

Wat Rakhang

Wat Rakhang is not too far from Wat Arun on the Thonburi side of the Chao Phraya River. Formerly known as Wat Bangwa Yai, Wat Rakhangkhositraram Woramahavihan was built in the Ayutthaya period and then was renovated in the Thonburi period by King Taksin who constructed a palace in the area. The temple later became the residence of the Supreme Patriarch.

In the reign of King Rama I, an ancient bell was discovered at the temple and when the bell was moved to Wat Phra Kaew, five replacements bells were made for the temple and it was given the name Wat Rakhang or Temple of the Bells.

Within the temple complex is the Ho Phra Tripitaka or monastic library which houses sacred Tripitaka scriptures and features wall murals depicting period life. Inside the main hall or Phra Ubosot is a Buddha image called Phra Prathan Yim Rap Fa, a bronze Buddha statue in the attitude of meditation.

Can be visited daily from 8 am to 5 pm
250/1 Arun Amarin Road, Siriraj, Bangkok Noi, Bangkok 10700

Wat Kalayanamitr

Wat Kalayanamit Worahamawiharn or Wat Kalaya is on the Thonburi bank of the Chao Phraya River. It was given its name, which means good friend, by King Rama III in honor of Chao Phraya Nikon Bodin who donated his house and land for the building of a temple.

The king also built the Wihan Luang, meaning royal chapel, and a Buddha statue to house inside named Phra Buddha Tri Rattananayok or Luang Por To. The statue is 14 meters high and is revered by both Thai and Chinese Buddhists, the latter calling it Sam Por Kong. In front of the royal chapel is a bell tower preserving the biggest bell in Thailand.

There is another Buddha image in Palilai posture (sitting position with legs hanging down, palms on knees) in the temple’s ubosot or ordination hall. This makes Wat Kalaya the only temple in Thailand that has the principle Buddha image in the Palilai posture. There are also mural paintings depicting the life of Lord Buddha and villagers’ way of life in the reign of King Rama III, and a Buddhist library where scriptures have been kept.

Can be visited daily from 6 am to 8 pm
New Arun Amarin Road, Kalayanamitr, Thon Buri, Bangkok 10600

Wat Chana Songkhram

Wat Chana Songkhram Ratchawaramahawihan is situated near the famous backpacker enclave of Khao San Road. Built in the Ayutthaya period, the temple was initially called Wat Klang Na and then Wat Tong Pu before King Rama I gave it the name Wat Chana Songkhram to commend Somdet Phra Bawornrajchao Maha Sura Singhanat who overcame three wars with Myanmar.

The temple is famous as a place to pray for help in fighting off tough times or bad situations. People come to the Somdet Phra Bawornrajchao Maha Sura Singhanat statue and ask for such help. Inside the ordination hall is the principle Buddha image in the attitude of subduing Mara, and there are paintings of Buddha’s story on the ubosot wall.

Can be visited daily from 8 am to 4 pm
Chakrapong Road, Chana Songkhram, Phra Nakhon, Bangkok 10200

Among the 460 or so temples found throughout Bangkok, these are nine that we recommend visiting for a fascinating glimpse into the culture, beliefs and faith of Bangkokians and unique Thai local experiences to treasure.