City of Gold: The Grand Palace, Bangkok
Before you adventure to Bangkok there’s little doubt that The Grand Palace will be at the top of your list of “must-sees”. This golden complex is certainly worth the trip but can leave some disappointed. Read our guide on visiting it to prepare and make sure you enjoy it!
It will be teeming with tourists, it will be hot and it will be absolutely awe-inspiring. You will have seen the pictures of huge golden statues, stupas glinting in the sun and colourful sloping tiled roofs. Now’s your chance to get in there and explore yourself.
The Grand Palace is Bangkok’s showpiece. Until 1925 it was where the locally revered royal family lived themselves, now it’s probably Thailand’s most popular tourist attraction. It is, however, still sometimes used for ceremonial purposes, most notably for the $90 million funeral held for King Rama IX in 2017.
Key Sights of the Grand Palace
The complex itself is massive and can be somewhat overwhelming at first. Thankfully there’s a whole host of staff and signposts to help you get around. Within the complex itself there are many different temples, halls and rooms but most people make a beeline for the picturesque and famous Wat Phra Kaew or The Temple of the Emerald Buddha.
Surrounded by huge, golden stupas and gilded statues the centre piece is the most revered buddha statue in Thailand. The Emerald Buddha is actually hewn from a single piece of jade and is strictly off limits to anyone except the king himself. Even then, the king only visits the buddha three times a year to change its robes according to the season.
The main entrance courtyard is probably the other main photograph site. As with the rest of the site expect towering statues, a rainbow of colour and gold as far as the eye can see. There’s also a miniature replica of Angkor Wat in full.
Top Tips for The Best Grand Palace Visit
Whilst we could write pages and pages of information on the history and structure of The Grand Palace, it is best explored by yourself. Therefore, put on your best walking shoes and get stuck in. That said, read these tips first and be sure to stick to them for a carefree and straightforward trip.
The Grand Palace is not closed!
This is the oldest tourist trap/scam in the book. Venture within a kilometre of The Grand Palace and you’ll be hollered at by a hoard of tuk-tuk drivers insisting that The Grand Palace is closed today and actually you’ll have a far better time if you go with them to x, y or z instead. Don’t listen and just keep walking. If the palace really is closed you’ll have likely heard about it from a legit news source. The last time it was actually closed was for the King’s funeral, and that was hard to miss.
This is a place of Buddhist worship, a seat of the royal family and one of the most important places in the whole country for the Thai people. Don’t turn up in skimpy shorts and sleeveless tops. You won’t just get frowned at, you’ll get turned away before you even get close. The list is strict and you might be surprised by some of what is banned from entry;
- Shorts, skirts above the knee, tight trousers and tights
- Any item of clothing that has any transparency to it
- Sleeveless tops of any kind
- Flip flops – they must have heel straps
- Sleeves rolled up on shirts
- Pyjamas, sweats, ponchos, fisherman trousers (they’re similar but we can’t confirm if this includes your newly bought elephant pants!)
Hot, hot, hot.
Bangkok is already hot right? It seems that the heat inside The Grand Palace is turned up a notch more. Maybe it’s the hoards of tourists or the lack of shade in the open areas. Either way, the heat here is intense. You absolutely must keep hydrated through an almost continuous supply of water. Hats are essential. You might even think about following the locals and investing in a sun umbrella or handheld fan. You won’t regret it.
Everyone gets searched if they’re carrying a bag. The search is carried out by official policemen. Just saying.
In fact, get there before it even opens. The Grand Palace is a stop for almost every bus, coach, cruise or chartered plane within Asia. They don’t arrive until after 9am. If you get there the moment it opens you can stay one step ahead of them all day making for a more enjoyable, less crowded visit.
You can get to the palace a number of different ways;
- Taxi – the quickest and most convenient method. Insist on them using the meter to avoid being ripped off. Politely decline if they offer to take you to an equally, if not more, beautiful temple…
- BTS and Boat – Take the skytrain to Saphan Taksin then the Chao Phraya River Express boat to the Maharaj Pier. Then it’s only a short walk to the entrance. Again, wander straight past the “guides” and touts.
The entrance fee at time of writing is 500 baht. This is subject to change, be prepared for it to be more.
Opening times: 8:30 to 15:30 every day.
Grand Palace Insider Tip
Once you’ve bought your entrance it’s good for use all day. We’d recommend you make the most of that. You can usually avoid crowds by going early (as soon as it opens) then doing another round of your favorite parts once you’ve finished. By the time you get around to them again the crowds will have moved through.