The Grand Palace and the beautiful Wat Phra Kaew temple are the number one tourist attractions in Bangkok. It’s not hard to understand why, because even from outside the palace walls the view is spectacular. Behind a perfectly manicured lawn and white walls with red cobbled roofs, three enormous, gold-colored towers pierce the sky. So far so good!
Once you work your way past the chaotic crowd with their colored umbrellas and clicking cameras, you can purchase an entrance ticket for 500 baht. Walk through the gateways and you’ll arrive in the middle of a beautiful courtyard, with golden Buddha statues and perfectly groomed bonsai trees. In the background you’ll see the sparkle and array of colors of the holiest temple in Thailand: Wat Phra Kaew.
Wat Phra Kaew: The Temple of the Emerald Buddha
The territory of the Grand Palace is 94.5 hectares, which equals to approximately 94 (!) sports fields. Although there are more than 100 buildings on the premises, Wat Phra Kaew demands (and deserves!) all the attention.
It is impossible to describe how beautiful Wat Phra Kaew is. It’s total sensory overload: the golden temples, stone statues of gods, and beautifully decorated towers all call for your attention. Hundreds of pilgrims walk by and offer incense and lotus flowers. Tourists are swarming around trying to capture everything on camera.
The exterior of Wat Phra Kaew is like a fairy-tale. The walls are decorated with shiny gems and mosaic tiles painted with flowers. The pillars are enhanced with gold and covered with tiny mirrors that reflect the sunlight. On the ceiling’s edge there are hanging bells that tinkle in the breeze. Bronze lions guard the various entrances. Around the temple are several pavilions where you can rest in the shade and take a sip of water.
The inside of Wat Phra Kaew
Take off your shoes and step inside the temple. The walls are fully covered with huge, golden murals depicting Buddha’s life. The red ceiling is interrupted by large beams with gold-colored patterns. In front of the huge, wooden throne there are dozens of people sitting and praying. On the throne the sculpture that all the fuss is about: The Emerald Buddha.
Although everything around Wat Phra Kaew is huge, the Buddha statue itself is only 66 centimeters high. But that does not make it any less impressive. The name, Emerald Buddha, is actually misleading, seeing that the sculpture is carved out of a block of jade. The sculpture wears a different sash three times a year, and may only be dressed by the king.
Grand Palace: The Royal Palace of Bangkok
Less impressive than Wat Phra Kaew – but still worth a look – is the Grand Palace. This is the former accommodation of the Thai royal household. Today, the Grand Palace is only used for ceremonies and on certain holidays.
The gold-framed roofs shine brightly against the grey sky, the stone elephants guard the palace and the well-tended gardens all seemed majestic to us. In front of the two entrances are uniformed guards, who are eagerly joined by tourists taking selfies.
Important to know
- Wearing long pants and shirt with sleeves is compulsory;
- Tattoos must be covered;
- Shoes must be removed before entering a temple;
- Do not point your feet to the Buddha, kneel with your feet behind you;
- Taking photos and videos inside Wat Phra Kaew is prohibited.
Opening hours and entrance fee
The Grand Palace and Wat Phra Kaew are open every day from 08:30 AM to 3:30 PM. The entrance fee is 500 baht per person, tickets can be purchased at the Royal Thai Decorations Pavilion near the entrance. Visit the Grand Palace and Wat Phra Kaew as early as possible to avoid the large volumes of tourists.
The Grand Palace is located in the old center of Bangkok, on Thanon Na Phra Lan and on the shores of the Chao Phraya River. From Khao San Road it’s about a 15-minute walk to the Grand Palace, but you can also take a taxi or tuk tuk. A tuk tuk costs about 70 baht, and a taxi (with the meter on) about 45 baht. However, on the way back, the taxi drivers refuse to turn on the meter and the trip will cost you about 100-150 baht.
Behind Wat Phra Kaew is Wat Pho, the Temple of the Reclining Buddha. And on the other side of Chao Phraya you will find Wat Arun, the Temple of Dawn. So you can easily combine a visit to these two temples!