The gilded roofs of the Grand Palace are Bangkok’s most famous landmark. This not-to-be missed sight offers many photo opportunities outside, and more than 200 years of royal and sacred history inside the palace’s white walls. The complex is home to the much-worshipped Emerald Buddha and many elaborately decorated temples, statues and pagodas.
The Grand Palace was built in 1782 under King Rama I, who established Bangkok as Thailand’s capital. You can see his ancient thrones in Amarind Hall, the building that was once his residence as well as the Hall of Justice. The Grand Palace has remained the seat of the Thai royal families for more than 150 years and Thailand’s current king still uses it for ceremonies.
The Grand Palace today blends ornaments and architecture from Thai, Asian and European styles because each royal has added features that suit his taste. Check out the French-style Boromabiman Hall and the golden, bell-shaped 19th-century structure Phra Si Ratana. Visit the audience hall in Dusit Maha Prasat to see an ancient throne inlaid with mother-of-pearl. Next door is Chakri Maha Prasat, a neoclassical building topped with Thai spires. On weekdays, step inside to visit the weapons museum. The nearby Inner Palace was once the king’s harem, a village for women and children only. It is closed to the public.
Follow monks in saffron-colored robes to the most sacred place on the Grand Palace grounds, Wat Phra Kaew. Inside the temple, the small statue of the Emerald Buddha sits on its traditional Thai-style golden pedestal.
The Grand Palace is located on the banks of the Chao Phraya River in the historic district. Taking a ferry is the most scenic way to get there, with a stop at the nearby Tha Chang pier. The complex closes in the mid-afternoon, so get there early. Cover your arms, legs and feet before you step inside. Join a free tour or browse the many Grand Palace buildings at your own pace with a guidebook or the audio tour, available to rent for an additional fee.