It’s probably the most well-known attraction in Bangkok, and it’s top of the bucket list for the majority of first-time visitors to Thailand. There’s little denying the beauty and splendour of the Grand Palace, but a few insider tips can make your trip even better. Consider our suggestions the next time you’re in Bangkok and considering checking out the Grand Palace in all its resplendent glory.
Don’t trust Bangkok’s infamous touts, who will tell you just about any number of lies in their efforts to get you to take a scammy tuk tuk tour or visit a dodgy tailor’s shop for which they are on commission. We’ve heard stories of tourists being told everything from the complex being closed for Buddhist holiday celebrations, to lies about the whole place having burned down!
But whatever you’re told, the truth is that the Grand Palace rarely closes. It does happen on occasion, for example for royal ceremonies (see below), but in these cases it’s almost always just a smaller section of the complex that closes, leaving the rest open for visitors. For instance, the Temple of the Emerald Buddha (Wat Phra Kaew) might be closed for a day or two, but the Grand Palace itself is likely to still be open.
If you want to be up to speed in advance of your visit, following travel blogger @richardbarrow on Twitter is a good idea – he regularly tweets about planned closures to the Grand Palace, so you’ll know if what you’re hearing is the real deal or just a scammer with a good imagination. Under ordinary circumstances, the Grand Palace is open daily from 8.30am until 3.30pm.
The Grand Palace admission fee is steep for Bangkok (500 baht as of June 2017), there’s no getting away from it – but it’s a better deal than it might seem at first glance. In addition to allowing you to take in the undeniable splendour of the Grand Palace complex itself, which includes Wat Phra Kaew (the Temple of the Emerald Buddha), you also get access to Bang Pa In Palace in Ayutthaya, Sanam Chandra Palace in Nakhon Pathom, and Ananta Samakhom Throne Hall in Bangkok’s Dusit area. Also normally included is the Vimanmek Mansion, but this has been closed for renovation since July 2016.
Thailand’s explosion of tourist arrivals means that, at times, the Grand Palace can be a veritable swarm of visitors all vying for the shame shot of the complex’s shimmering beauty. Throw in the kind of forty-plus-degree temperatures that are common in the height of Thailand’s hot season, especially in the run-up to the Songkran festival holidays, and you have a situation that can easily become quite unpleasant.
The solution? If you can pull yourself out of bed on time, getting to the Grand Palace at around the opening time of 8.30am gives you a far greater chance of having the place to yourself for an initial wander and getting that peace-exuding shot of the complex grounds without a soul around.
The Grand Palace might no longer be home to Thailand’s royal family – they moved out to the Dusit Palace as long ago as 1925 – but it still plays a role in the most important of Thailand’s royal and religious ceremonies. Among these is the changing three times a year of the costume that adorns the Emerald Buddha statue inside Wat Phra Kaew – the switch between the three different costumes marks the transition between Thailand’s seasons, with one costume for each of the hot, rainy and cool seasons.
Don’t be fooled by the proximity to backpacker enclave Khaosan Road (which even itself isn’t all trash and vodka buckets) – the area around the Grand Palace, in Bangkok’s old town of Rattanakosin Island, is a pocket full of historical, cultural and gastronomical interest. There are countless other temples, plus numerous museums, a wealth of spots for authentic Thai street food, great coffee, classy dinners, and stylish sundowner cocktails, plus no end of charming back alleys for you to wander aimlessly through and find a new side to the city.
The Grand Palace is at the top of the must-see list for many visitors to Bangkok, but the Thai capital is bursting with glittery Buddhist temples that are just as deserving of your time. From other big-hitters like Wat Pho and Wat Arun, to lesser-known gets like Wat Ratchabophit, Wat Prayoon, Wat Kalaya and Wat Benchamabophit, there’s a whole host of temples out there waiting for you to see. Take a look at this round-up of our favourite Bangkok temples to discover a few new ones for your next trip.
Daily, 8.30am-3.30pm; Na Phra Lan Road, Phra Nakhon
At Expique, we’re experts at showing you the unique parts of Bangkok that most tours don’t take you to – and which you probably won’t discover on your own. Joining one of our tours or experiences (or having us create a custom tour for you) is a great way to make the most of your time in bangkok and ensure you leave with a memorable experience.
Are you visiting Bangkok? Take a look at our expert recommendations for:
Do you have a tip for visitors to the Grand Palace in Bangkok? Let us know in the comments!
Photos by Greg Knapp; VasenkaPhotography; Thanate Tan; Nik Cyclist; Kyle Pearce; Chris Wotton
Want to explore more of Bangkok? Contact us about arranging to come on a custom-curated adventure with Expique.