3 Most Famous Temples in Bangkok: Wat Pho, Wat Arun & Wat Phra Kaew
Out of the 400 plus temples or wats that Bangkok boasts of, the best known are: Wat Pho, Wat Arun and Wat Phra Kaew.
If you consider yourself spiritual, or a history buff, or an admirer of awe-inspiring architecture, you should visit at least one of them. The brilliance and beauty of these temples will leave you wanting for more.
Which famous Bangkok temple should you visit: Wat Pho or Wat Arun or Wat Phra Kaew?
- If you decide to visit only ONE temple in Bangkok, you’d probably enjoy exploring Wat Pho the most. Wat Pho is the largest and oldest temple in Bangkok, with much to see, including the famous Reclining Buddha statue. Entry cost: 100 ฿ (Baht) ($3).
- If you are interested in design and architecture, Wat Arun is the best option. The sheer size of Wat Arun means that to truly appreciate it, you also need to view it from a distance. The wat looks stunning from across the river. Entry fee ฿100 ($3).
- If, like many others, you’d like to visit a wat along with The Grand Palace, Wat Phra Kaew (Temple of the Emerald Buddha) would be your best bet. It’ll take you at least 3 hours to explore them. Wat Phra Kaew is in the Grand Palace Compound. Entry for both ฿500 ($15).
Ideally, you should plan to see all these famous temples in Bangkok. They are unique, and because they are close to each other, you can cover all three in a day.
For those of you who prefer pre-organised trips, this 5 iconic temples tour is a great option.
Wat Pho (Temple of the Reclining Buddha)
Famed for the massive – 15 meters tall and 46 meters long – Reclining Buddha, Wat Pho is the most popular temple in Bangkok.
Not only is Wat Pho the biggest wat in Bangkok, it also has the largest collection of Buddha images in Thailand. Wat Pho is old, too. In fact, founded in the 16th century under the name Wat Photoram, the wat predates Bangkok itself.
Although Wat Pho is best known for the larger than life Buddha statue, there is a lot more you can see.
In 1832 Rama III built the Chapel of The Reclining Buddha and turned the temple into a centre of learning. An entire encyclopedia has been carved in stone on topics as varied as Buddhism, medicine, history and literature. Illustrations of yoga postures, stellar constellations and other sciences are also found in the temple.
Wat Pho is still an important centre of medicine, and is considered as one of the leading schools of Thai massage in Thailand. You should get a Thai massage here.
The courtyards of the temple have many elaborately decorated stupas.
Phra Rabiang has 400 Buddha statues. Buddhist scriptures inscribed on palm leaves are displayed in Phra Mondop. The Queen Siriket Museum of Textiles is of much relevance to those interested in clothes.
Wat Pho Details:
Visiting Hours: 8:00 am – 5:00 pm
Entry Fee: ฿100 ($3)
Getting to Wat Pho:
BTS & boat: Take the Silom Line to Saphan Taksin Station (S-6 Station). Then take exit No – 2 and go to Chao Phraya Express Boat Dock. Take the boat going to Tha Tien Pier (No – 8). From there, a 10-min walk will get you to Wat Pho.
You can take a taxi or tuk-tuk as well.
Wat Arun (Temple of Dawn)
From the West bank of the Chao Phraya River rises the majestic Wat Arun – the Temple of Dawn. Named after the Indian God of Dawn, Aruna, Wat Arun is one of Bangkok’s most memorable landmarks.
Although the wat existed since the 17th century, Rama II constructed its spires in the beginning of the 19th century. Each of Wat Arun’s five prangs have beautiful multi-coloured horizontal layers with exquisite craftsmanship.
The main prang is an 86 meter tall architectural wonder that represents Mount Meru – the centre of the world in Buddhist cosmology. This Khmer style tower can be climbed by a steep flight of stairs. From the top, you are treated with spectacular views of the winding Chao Phraya River and The Grand Palace complex on the other side of the river.
It is believed that Rama II designed the main Buddha statue inside. His ashes are buried beneath. Beautiful murals depicting the life of the Buddha can be seen in the wat as well.
Wat Arun’s base has 4 fascinating statues depicting the stages of the Buddha’s life: birth, meditation, preaching his first sermon, and entering nirvana.
Until 1785 Wat Arun served as the Royal Chapel and housed the Emerald Buddha. Even though the relocation of The Emerald Buddha (to Wat Phra Kaew) resulted in the temple losing its special status, it continues to be revered.
(If you are interested in architecture, consider visiting the Sanctuary of Truth in Pattaya. Not a single nail has been used in its construction, making it a truly unique building).
Wat Arun Details:
Visiting Hours: 8:00 am – 5:00 pm
Entry Fee for Wat Arun: ฿100 ($3)
Getting to Wat Arun:
BTS & boat: Take the Silom Line to Saphan Taksin Station (S-6 Station). Then take exit No – 2 and go to Chao Phraya Express Boat Dock. Take the boat going to Tien Pier (No – 8). (This is the same pier you would get down if you plan to visit the Wat Pho, and one stop before the stop for Wat Phra Kaew). From there, take a shuttle boat to go to the other side of the river.
Wat Phra Kaew (Temple of The Emerald Buddha)
Built as the royal chapel of the Grand Palace, the Temple of The Emerald Buddha is a spectacular combination of style and colour. Wat Phra Kaew’s construction began in 1782 by King Rama I to be a fitting-resting place for the Emerald Buddha.
The Emerald Buddha – also known as Phra Kaew Morakot – is a Buddha statue in a meditating position. The statue is carved from a single block of green jade. The mystique of the Emerald Buddha draws Buddhists from all over the world, making Wat Phra Kaew Thailand’s most important Buddhist temple.
A ฿500 ($15) ticket, will grant you access to The Grand Palace and Wat Phra Kaew.
Please visit our Grand Palace & Wat Phra Kaew page for further details on Wat Phra Kaew.
Points to remember when visiting a temple in Bangkok:
Dress Code: Dress conservatively – no vests, shorts, short skirts, or see through clothes. Bear in mind that you are visiting a place of worship.
- If someone tells you a temple or The Grand Palace is closed, do not believe him. It is most likely a scam. More Thailand scams.
- Remember to point your feet away from Buddha statues.
- Do not point your back towards the Buddha. Remember this when taking photographs.
- Consider visiting these must-see Bangkok temples early morning. This way, you will avoid crowds and the temperature will be lower.
- Carry water and snacks.
If you are a history buff, you must visit Ayutthaya’s temples & ruins.