The grand Royal Palace is the most visited sight in Bangkok. The huge grounds resemble a theme park of magnificently decorated buildings, pointed towers and gilded mythical creatures. The Emerald Buddha - the national shrine of Thailand - rests in a chapel.
The grand Royal Palace in Bangkok is THE sight to see in the Thai capital par excellence, featured on every tourist brochure in Thailand and part of every tour of the city. The stone cliché of Bangkok is completely crowded, completely touristy and completely worth seeing.
Tip: It is best to visit the Royal Palace early in the morning. The palace complex can be visited from 8:30 am. At this time, firstly, the crowds of tourists are not quite as big and secondly, the heat is still within limits. Knees, shoulders and feet (no sandals!) should be covered. If necessary, you can get - less attractive - clothing for a fee at the entrance.
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PICTURES: Royal Palace of Bangkok
Photo gallery: Royal Palace of Bangkok
Successor of Ayutthaya
The Royal Palace in Bangkok was the successor to the magnificent royal palace complex in Ayutthaya. Fifteen years after the former capital of the Kingdom of Siam was razed to the ground by the Burmese, the newly crowned King Phra Phuttayodfa Chulalok, also known as Rama I, laid the foundation stone for his new palace in 1782 to resurrect the old splendour of the Siam Empire.
The model for the palace was the destroyed Wang Luang in Ayutthaya. Many of the stones used for the royal palace were brought by ship from the ruins of Ayutthaya. Three years later, the king's new residence was ceremoniously inaugurated.
From the end of the 18th to the middle of the 20th century, the kings of the Siamese Empire, or present-day Thailand, resided here. It was not until 1946 with Rama VII that the King's seat was moved to Chitralada Palace. Since then, the royal palace has only served ceremonial purposes such as official celebrations and state receptions.
Sights at the Royal Palace of Bangkok
The Royal Palace in Bangkok is truly a magnificent building worthy of a ruler. The entire palace complex covers almost 3 square kilometres and consists of over 100 buildings, each more magnificent than the next.
The buildings have been constantly expanded and renovated since the palace was built and today form a veritable theme park of magnificently decorated buildings with peaked roofs, sugar-coated pagodas, gilded figures and palm-lined alleys.
Roughly speaking, the gigantic palace complex can be divided into four parts. The Inner Court was reserved for the ladies; female guards also patrolled the entrances along the high walls. The Outer Courtyard in the south of the royal palace was the seat of the ministries relevant to the king, the treasury and the royal guards.
Central courtyard of the Royal Palace
The Central Court is the most spectacular part of the Royal Palace. Here, in the group of buildings around the Phra Maha Monthien, Rama I was already crowned. To this day, it is the scene of coronation ceremonies.
Another coronation hall is the Dusit Maha Prasat in the so-called Dusit Group, which also includes the Phra Thinang Phiman Rataya and the Aphonphimok Pavilion. Another group of buildings is the Chakri Maha Prasat Group, which originally consisted of 11 buildings, of which only three remain today. One of them is the namesake Chakri Maha Prasat, at the back of which is also a coronation hall.
Thailand's holiest shrine
Next to the Central Courtyard, Wat Phra Kaeo, the Temple of the Emerald Buddha, is the most imposing highlight of the Royal Palace. Thailand's holiest shrine is decorated all over with gold, glazed tiles and mirrored mosaics and shines in unimaginable splendour.
Theemerald Buddha himself, Thailand's most important religious symbol, resides in his chapel on an 11-metre-high gilded throne that dates back to the time of Rama I and is surrounded by ten crowned Buddhas. Incidentally, the country's national shrine is not made of emerald but of jade and is said to bring prosperity and legitimacy to its royal owner.
Every four months, the robes of the Emerald Buddha are changed according to the season, there is a costume for the hot, for the cold and for the rainy season.
To the left and right of him are two more 3-metre-high Buddha statues. They are all depicted with the hand posture "holding up the ocean". The walls are artfully decorated with scenes from the life of the Buddha, the doors are adorned with valuable mother-of-pearl inlays.
The 12 bronze lions were modelled on those from Angkor in Cambodia, two of which are originals from Angkor Wat that the ruler Rama IV had procured from his homeland. Tribute is also paid to the Cambodian temple complex of Angkor Wat with a detailed miniature image from 1882.
Phra Sri Rattana Chedi
Outside the chapel, the pomp in Buddha's honour continues. A gigantic golden chedi, a pointed tower visible from afar, towers over the palace complex. The Phra Sri Rattana Chedi is said to house a fragment of Buddha's sternum. Like the palace itself, it was modelled on the chedis in Ayutthaya.
Prasart Phra Thepdidorn
The Prasart Phra Thepdidorn is the royal pantheon. Here, between mighty columns with life-size statues, the early rulers of the Chakri dynasty are commemorated.
The magnificently decorated façade of Phra Mondop, the royal library, is considered one of the most beautiful in Thailand. Originally, it was surrounded by a pond for fire protection reasons. No wonder - the bookshelves are decorated with precious mother-of-pearl and the floors are made of silver.
Mythical Creatures of the Royal Palace
Statues, figures and images of mythical beings can also be seen all over the temple grounds. According to ancient beliefs, these inhabit the "Himaphan", the "snow forest" that covers the slopes of the mythological Mount Meru in the centre of the world. For the 100th anniversary of the royal palace, King Chulalongkorn, or Rama V, had fourteen golden statues of these mythical creatures erected.
You may be informed by official-looking people outside the entrance that the palace is closed today. In the same breath, they recommend another temple that is just as spectacular and also the tuk-tuk driver...
Such tricks only serve to lure them to cheap showrooms where something is to be sold to you. You can find out about the opening hours of the royal palace at any time at the main gate. It is hard to miss because of the two huge guardian statues that flank it.