Thailand is a destination that’s famous for many things – its amazing scenery, scuba diving opportunities, and rich history and culture all pull in scores of visitors year after year. If you’re firmly in the history and culture camp, you should definitely add some of the country’s impressive palaces to your itinerary.
Bangkok is one of the best places to stay if you’re keen to see palaces during Thailand vacations, and you can find out more about the various options for hotels and such by having a nose on the web or talking to specialist tour operators.
Grand Palace (Bangkok)
The ultimate palace to visit in Thailand is, without doubt, the Grand Palace in Bangkok. This sprawling complex is one of the most famous sights in the country, and is itself home to a national treasure – Wat Phra Kaew (which you might know as the Temple of the Emerald Buddha).
Located on the banks of the Chao Phraya River, it’s renowned for its amazing architecture. Once upon a time, the royal family lived here and it was also the seat of the government, but today its main role is being a tourist attraction and hosting special royal occasions.
It is worth bearing in mind that you need to be appropriately dressed to explore here – no bare shoulders or feet (that means all sandals must have a stylish accompaniment of socks!), and no bare legs or low-cut tops. The attraction has a little booth where you can hire clothes to cover up with as a fail-safe, but it’s best just to go prepared.
While you’re there, make sure you visit the throne rooms and the Temple of the Emerald Buddha, as well as take some time to stroll around the grounds.
Hat Tha Wang Palace (The Chakra Pong)
Once used by fifth monarch of Siam Rama V as a summer palace, this site is particularly well known for its beautiful grounds – so much so that they have become a celebrated picnic spot! By all means, stroll among the wonderfully restored buildings, but don’t forget to pack a lunch and make the most of your surroundings.
Phayathai Palace (Bangkok)
Dating back to 1909, this palace was built by Rama V as a retreat. This might sound odd today, given its urban location, but back in those days this was a beautiful stretch of countryside. What is left of the palace has been incorporated into a hospital, but it’s well worth visiting on Saturdays (the only day it’s open to the public) for a little tour.
Vimanek Palace (Bangkok)
Also in Bangkok, Vimanek Palace on Ratchawithi Road is the last of our top palaces to visit. Built for King Rama V, it is a celebrated example of 19th century architecture and is home to the stunning Vimanek Mansion, which is the world’s largest golden teak building. Today, the mansion has 31 exhibition rooms displaying everything from silverware and glassware to ceramics and ivory.
Bhubing Palace (Chiang Mai)
Over in scenic Chiang Mai, Bhubing Palace is another fantastic place to visit. Built in 1961, the royal winter palace is pretty impressive to behold. Since it’s still used by the monarchy, you can’t visit when they’re in residence (which is usually between January and March), but the rest of the time you can explore the grounds any day of the week. These gardens are particularly exciting, so are definitely worth spending a little time in.
These are just a handful of the palaces you can see in Thailand, but they definitely rank among the best. And, if you’re keen to see some more amazing architecture on your travels, don’t forget to check out some of the country’s famous temples too – especially in Bangkok and Chiang Mai.
Kristy Moore is a travel writer who regularly contributes to a variety of publications on everything from her travels around Europe to adventures further afield.
Thanks Kristy! Find more interesting spots in Thailand in my AFAR Wanderlist.