Temples are very significant places in Thai culture, as a place of education, the residence of the local monks and a central gathering place for all people. They are also considered a place of healing and spiritual connection.
It’s been estimated that there are more than 40,000 temples in Thailand, with over 30,000 still in use daily. Isn’t that insane?! You pretty much can’t walk more than a block without spotting another temple. While some of the temples in Bangkok are in super impressive – tall, covered in gold and bright colours – many of the temples are humble and simple, not interested in luring in tourists and nosy visitors.
If you’re not sure where to start, or maybe you’re just a little overwhelmed by how many (thousands) of options you have, here are the 4 temples that we loved the most and you can’t miss on your Bangkok visit.
Wat Arun – Temple of Dawn
Wat Arun was absolutely my favourite temple that we visited in Bangkok. It’s design is completely different to other temples around Bangkok, with tall white towers intricately painted with beautiful designs right up to the top of the tallest tower.
It’s located on the bank of the Chao Phraya River, this prime riverside location is just another part of it’s charm. It’s pretty much right across the river from Wat Pho, and down the street from the Grand Palace, so it’s very central and easy to get to. To cross the river you’ll need to take a shuttle boat from Sapphan Taksin Pier 8, for about 4 baht each way.
Wat Arun is also know as the Temple of Dawn, known to be a particularly beautiful place to watch the sunrise. This is also the quietest time of the day to visit, before the crowds begin arriving for the day. At night, Wat Arun is completely lit up, shining a light across the river through the darkness.
The central prang of Wat Arun is one of Bangkok’s most famous landmark, standing at over 70 metres high, and carefully decorated with patterns created from colourful glass and Chinese porcelain. You can actually climb the central prang if you wish, although it is incredibly steep and can be very tricky to get up and down.
If you only visit one temple in Bangkok, it should definitely be Wat Arun. It was absolutely beautiful, and much calmer and quieter than the popular temples across the river. We could have spent ages wandering around the temple prangs and exploring the manicured grass around the temples.
Everything You Need To Know About Wat Arun
Dress Code: Although they are not as strict as other temples at Wat Arun, it’s still a good idea to dress respectfully, with your knees and shoulders covered. There is a stall outside the main walls where you can rent sarongs if you’re not dressed appropriately.
Sarong hire costs 20 baht per piece. You will also need to pay a 100 baht deposit, which you will get back when you return your sarong. Make sure you don’t lose the deposit receipt they give you!
Admission: Tickets to Wat Arun cost 50 baht per person.
Opening Hours: 8am – 5:30pm.
Location: Wat Arun is located on the west side of Chao Praya River, opposite the Tha Thien Pier.
How To Get There: Take the Skytrain to S6 Saphan Taksin Station on the Silom Line. Take Exit 2 in the station and make your way to Sapphan Taksin, and from Pier 8 you can take the Chao Phraya Express Boat across the river to Tien Pier.
Wat Benchamabhopit (Wat Benja) – The Marble Temple
My second favourite temple in Bangkok, I was determined to visit The Marble Temple after falling in love with it on Instagram. It’s one of the most beautiful temples in Bangkok, and it is also classified as a first class Royal Temple, so it holds a special place in the hearts of the Thai people.
It was nicknamed The Marble Temple because all the walls of the main temple are covered with marble that has been imported from Italy. It is also the temple that you will find on the back of a 5 baht coin!
Wat Benchamabhophit is still an active temple in Bangkok, with monks living in quarters found just across the canal separated from the temple area. Each morning, at about 6am, locals from outside the temple come to bring food offerings to the monks – unlike other temples that participate in Tak Bat, where the monks go out to the street to receive their offerings.
Everything You Need To Know About The Marble Temple
Dress Code: Dress respectfully with your knees and shoulders covered. You can rent sarongs from the ticket booth when you arrive for a small fee.
Admission: Tickets to The Marble Temple cost 20 baht per person.
Opening Hours: 8am – 5:30pm.
Location: The Marble Temple is located at the intersection of Thanon Rama V and Thanon Si Ayutthaya, near many of Thailand’s government offices and palaces.
How To Get There: A little bit out of the way from the more popular and well-known temples, we found the easiest way to get to The Marble Temple was to grab a taxi. There is no MRT Subway Station or BTS Skytrain Station close to the temple. It was pretty cheap and definitely the easiest way to get there.
Wat Pho – Temple of the Reclining Buddha
Wat Pho holds a lot of important titles in the temple game. It’s the oldest temple in Bangkok, one of the largest temple complexes in the city, and also the home to the largest reclining Buddha in the whole world, reaching 46 metres long, 15 metres tall and completely covered in gold leaf. The Buddha’s feet alone are 5 metres long (WOAH!) and intricately decorated.
Although most people come for the reclining Buddha, make sure you take your time exploring the rest of the grounds of Wat Pho. The temple grounds actually stretch quite far, and there is so much more to see than just the main temple. Lots of English speaking guides work at Wat Pho as well, and cost about 200 – 400 baht for a private tour, depending on how big your group is.
If you’re hoping to find a little bit of good luck at the temple, you can purchase a bowl of coins at the temple entrance. Small bronze bowls line the wall in front of the reclining Buddha, there are 108 in total, and you should drop one coin in each bowl in the temple and make a wish. 108 is a significant number in Buddhism – referring to the 108 positive actions and symbols that helped lead the Buddha to perfection.
As you walk through the temple, all you can hear is the tinkle of coins dropping into the bowls, hundreds of them all at once! The money you pay for the coins goes to helping the monks renovate and preserve Wat Pho. It can be quite crazy and busy in the temple, so make sure you are watching what’s going on around you and know where your belongings are at all time.
Random fact – Wat Pho is actually considered the leading school of Thai massage in Thailand, and is actually a great place to get a traditional Thai massage.
Everything You Need To Know About Wat Pho
Dress Code: Females must have a skirt below the knees to enter the temple grounds. You can borrow a sarong from the tent at the front if your clothes are not long enough, or you can buy your own across the street.
If you want to go into the temple you will need to have your shoulders covered. You can grab a wrap as you go into the temple, and then return it on your way out free of charge. They will also give you a bag to carry your shoes in, which makes them heaps easier to locate on the way out!
Admission: Tickets to Wat Pho cost 100 baht per person. Ticket also includes a free water inside the temple grounds – such a life saver on a hot, humid Thailand afternoon!
Opening Hours: 8am – 6:30pm.
Location: Wat Pho is on Maharat Road, next door to the Grand Palace and close to the Old City and the river.
Wat Phra Kaew – Temple of the Emerald Buddha
Wat Phra Kaew, also known as the Temple of the Emerald Buddha, and officially known as Wat Phra Sri Rattana Satsadaram (wow, that’s a mouthful!), is highly regarded as the most important Buddhist temple in all of Thailand.
Sitting within the grounds of the Grand Palace in Bangkok, Wat Phra Kaew is where you can find the Emerald Buddha – a Buddha statue that was carefully carved from a single block of jade, which dates back to the 15th Century.
The Emerald Buddha itself sits high on a series of platforms, to keep people away. The only person that is allowed anywhere near the Buddha is the King of Thailand. The Emerald Buddha wears a seasonal robe, which changes three times a year in line with the summer, winter and rainy season in Thailand. The changing of the robes is an incredibly important ritual in Bangkok, and is only done by the King himself, to bring good fortune to the country during each season.
Although the Grand Palace and the Temple of the Emerald Buddha is incredibly beautiful, intricately decorated and the most important temple in all of Thailand, it was also the busiest, craziest and where you’re most at risk of passing out from heat stroke.
I would recommend getting there as early as you can to avoid the crowds, although they will start to pile in pretty quickly as the Palace is only open for 7 hours a day. Wear sun protection too, there is very little shade around the Palace and nowhere to escape the midday heat.
Everything You Need To Know About The Temple of the Emerald Buddha
Dress Code: Knees and shoulders MUST be covered in the grounds of the Grand Palace. Men also need to be wearing long pants. This is non-negotiable and they are VERY strict. If you are not dressed appropriately you can buy clothing from the stalls across the street from the Grand Palace.
Admission: Tickets to the Temple of the Emerald Buddha is included in your ticket to the Grand Palace, you can not buy a ticket to only the temple only. Tickets cost 500 baht per person.
Opening Hours: 8:30am – 3:30pm.
Location: The Temple of the Emerald Buddha is located inside the Grand Palace Complex – Na Phralan, Phra Nakorn
There are literally thousands of temples in Bangkok, more than anyone could every visit, and these are just a small selection of the most popular, and the ones that we had time to visit on our short trip to Bangkok. If we had more time I definitely would have liked to explore some of the other temples around the city, they are all just so unique and interesting, and offer such a beautiful insight into the Thai way of life.
Our final recommendation though, if you only have time to visit one temple, head straight for Wat Arun.