Bangkok: The Temple Town
In Bangkok, there are more temples than enough time to see them. From the Grand Palace to the Marble Temple and everything in between, it’s not easy to decide which temples to visit during a trip to this massive metropolis. And if you’re especially strapped for time, you’ll want to make the most out of your temple visits.
While you can definitely visit multiple temples in one day, you’ll probably end up overheated and tired of the crowds, which can take away from the entire experience. Depending on the time of day you visit a particular temple, you may have trouble snapping that perfect photo or even making your way around to see the best parts. Not to mention, crowds of tourists can keep you from getting the tranquil experience you’d probably expect at a temple.
The best times to visit any of the temples in Bangkok is right at opening time or around closing. That’s when there are typically the fewest people, before the tour groups roll in (and after they roll out), and you’ll have a chance to take some great photos. Visiting first thing may also mean you’ll enjoy a morning breeze and slightly cooler weather rather than the mid-day Bangkok heat.
If you’re in Bangkok for about one week, I suggest you start your days of exploring with a temple visit before other activities like dining or shopping. It’s a perfect, serene start to the day and the best way to experience these glorious sites.
Without further ado, in no particular order, my 3 favorite Bangkok temples:
1. Wat Pho
Wat Pho, also known as the Temple of the Reclining Buddha, is the oldest and largest temple in Bangkok. It was completed in the 16th century and existed before Bangkok was the established capital of Thailand. It covers an area of 80,000 square meters and houses over a thousand Buddha images.
What astounded me about Wat Pho was the Reclining Buddha statue. Just imagining how it was built hundreds of years ago made me appreciate the amount of effort and human labor that went into such a magnificent statue. The gold-plated Buddha is 46 meters long and 15 meters high, weighing about 300 tons – about the same as a jumbo jet!
Entrance fee: 200 baht ($6-7 USD)
2. Wat Arun
Located across the Chao Phraya River from Wat Pho is Wat Arun, also referred to as the Temple of Dawn. As its name suggests, dawn is a great time to visit. While the temple doors don’t open until 7:30 AM, getting there a little earlier means you can catch the sun rising across the river and glimmering off the surface of the temple. You can also watch the locals setting up their shops, praying, or practicing Tai Chi.
What I loved most about Wat Arun was the unique layout and colors of the temple, which are different from all the other temples in Bangkok. Being able to climb the steps allows you to see the colorful porcelain architecture up close. You can take photos from all kinds of angles and immerse yourself in the beauty of it all.
If you aren’t able to make it at dawn, sunset is another wonderful time to visit this temple as it’s lit up at night. I suggest hopping on a shuttle boat for only 3 baht from Wat Arun to the other side of the river to take in a view of the entire temple across the waterfront.
Entrance fee: 50 baht ($1-2 USD)
3. Wat Benchamabophit
Wat Benchamabophit is more commonly known as The Marble Temple because its beautiful structures, including the floors, are made of Carrara marble imported from Italy in the 19th century. Heading inside the temple, you can make your way around the interior courtyard, admire over 50 different Buddha statues, take some stunning photos and ring the hanging bells in sequence for good luck.
What took my breath away at Wat Benchamabophit was how beautiful the temple looked as the sun reflected off its marble surfaces. The surrounding grounds add to how magnificent the entire place is. With lush greens and a river flowing through with water fountains and small bridges to walk across, it’s a lovely place to spend your time. You might even spot a monk or two.
Entrance fee: 50 baht ($1-2 USD)
Top Temple Tips
If you have the time, there are other wonderful temples to visit. The Grand Palace is the most popular but it comes with the biggest crowds right from the moment it opens its doors each day. It also has the highest entrance fee of 500 baht (about $15-16 USD per person), but it’ll get you access to the vast grounds including the opportunity to see both the Golden Buddha and the Emerald Buddha.
The Golden Mountain Temple is another great option. It requires a bit of a hike up several steps to get to the top, but the views of Bangkok are magnificent and it’s the perfect place to catch the sunset and end a day of exploring.
All temple entrance tickets are cash only. Some will provide a water bottle with the entry ticket but it’s best to bring extra water and stay hydrated as you’re walking around in the heat.
Out of respect, you’re typically required to cover up when visiting these holy sites. The Grand Palace tends to be the strictest where even men may not be allowed in with shorts. Wat Arun and Wat Pho require women to cover their shoulders (no sleeveless tops or dresses) and legs past the knees. You can buy or rent sarongs outside the temple gates or bring your own to avoid the hassle.
By Preethulina Shi from @preethulina