As the official royal residence for 150 years, it is perhaps little wonder that Bangkok’s Grand Palace is so spectacular. Its imposing facade and glistening roofs are sure to make a lasting impression on any first-time visitors to Bangkok. Housing the revered Emerald Buddha statue, this complex is seen by many as the spiritual heart of the city.
King Rama I built the Grand Palace when he moved the Thai capital to Bangkok in 1782. It was a huge undertaking, with hundreds of boats bringing bricks and rubble along the river to help with the construction work. His official residence was Amarind Hall and it is there that you will find his ancient thrones.
As each monarch expanded the Palace with their own buildings and structures, the complex has developed into an architectural smorgasbord which blends European, Asian and Thai influences. The Boromabiman Hall played host to the King’s annual garden party and was inspired by French architecture, while Chakri Maha Prasat – housing the weapons museum – combines soaring Thai spires with neoclassical features. Also worth visiting is the beautiful Phra Mondhop, decorated with stunning mosaics made of tiny bits of glass, and Phra Viharn Yot inside which you can find the stone which served as a throne to Ramkhamhaeng, the founder of Thailand.
There are so many highlights that it can sometimes be difficult to take them all in! It might be worth joining a free tour or renting an audio guide to help you navigate the impressive collection of buildings that makes up the palace complex. Make the most of your visit by combining it with a trip to the Temple of the Emerald Buddha, located inside the Palace grounds.
Located on the banks of the Chao Phraya River, it is easy to reach by boat. There is a ferry stop just a short walk away at Tha Chang pier. Ensure you arrive early, as the complex is only open until mid-afternoon. Be careful to dress respectfully – covering your arms, legs and feet – as both the Palace and Shrine are important local landmarks.