Visiting The Grand Palace, Bangkok – Guide and Useful Tips
Are you planning on visiting the Grand Palace Bangkok? It’s Thailand’s most sacred temple and the #1 tourist attraction in the entire city, should there’s a good chance it’s on your list!
Before your visit, there are some things you need to know such as the opening times, entry fees, dress code, common scams to avoid and some useful tips that will help you a lot during your time spent here. Luckily for you, this article will tell you everything you need to know!
Scroll down to find my complete guide for the Grand Palace and some important tips that I learned before I went there:
Quick info and a brief history of Bangkok’s Grand Palace
The Grand Palace is without a doubt the most famous tourist destination in Thailand. After all, it’s the place where Bangkok was born!
The incredible complex of buildings in central Bangkok was the royal family’s official residence from 1782 (when King Rama I started the construction) until 1925. Even though the royal home has moved to Dusit Palace afterwards, the Grand Palace still holds most of the major monarchy events such as royal ceremonies and state functions.
With gold-plated buildings and walls covered with precious stones, the Grand Palace is hard to miss even from outside the palace walls. But the real treasure can be found within Wat Phra Kaew’s temple, which holds the most sacred Buddhist relic in South East Asia – the Emerald Buddha, also known as the Jade Buddha.
The Emerald Buddha was carved out of a single block of Jade and is wrapped in a golden coat, which is changed seasonally by the King of Thailand himself. By the way, two of the golden coats were created by King Rama I himself for the Buddha!
It is said that the Emerald Buddha watches over the Thai Nation, protecting it from harm. Moreover, it is believed that this Buddha will protect whichever country it is placed in, and was fought over by the neighbouring nations for many years until it landed in Thailand in 1779. The statue moved to Bangkok in 1784 and has remained here until the present day.
WHY IS IT WORTH VISITING?
First of all, for the Temple of the Emerald Buddha (Wat Phra Kaew) where you can see the famous statue. Second of all, for the beautiful green gardens and the mesmerising murals found all around the palace complex. Plus a couple of other nice buildings I’ll mention below!
What to see inside the Grand Palace
I must tell you right from the start: the Grand Palace complex is quite BIG! It’s 218.400 sqm big, to be more precise and it has a square shape surrounded by 4 walls.
Here’s everything that you can see there on this Grand Palace Bangkok map:
The Palace is divided into three main sections:
- Outer court – all the buildings related to the King’s “duties” such as the treasury and the army building;
- Center court – the palace and temples;
- Inner court – residencies and all the buildings where the royal family lived;
Now I know there are many different buildings inside the Grand Palace, but here are the real highlights that are worth visiting while you’re walking around the grounds:
- Temple of the Emerald Buddha (Wat Phra Kaew) – no. 10 – the holy grand temple where the Jade Buddha is showcased;
- Phra Mondhop – no. 7 – the scripture crypt with superb green and golden glass mosaic;
- Phra Viharn Yot – no. 5 – the treasury with the ancient treasures, including King Ramkhamhaeng’s throne, dating from the 13th century;
- Chakri Maha Prasat – no. 26 – Great Chakri Palace / Grand Palace Hall / Royal Reception Halls – a true insight into the royal lives of the kings – you can find beautiful paintings and portraits inside. Prasat Phra is actually the place where the royal family used to live;
- Prasat Phra Debidorn – no. 9 – the Royal Pantheon with full-size statues of former kings. Unfortunately, travellers can only see the inside on the 6th of April each year, during Chakri Day. But the outside of the Royal Pantheon is really pretty too!
- Model of Angkor Wat – no. 6 – the model version of the real Angkor Wat carved in stone and used for the planning of the famous temple in Cambodia. You will find the mini Angkor Wat right across the Emerald Temple.
- Dusit Maha Prasat – no. 31 – Great Dusit Hall – this traditional Thai hall was the place where King Rama used to receive his guests while sitting on a gorgeous throne. Now, the beautiful hall is open to visitors and you’ll get to see some original furniture inside.
When to visit the Grand Palace
There’s only one bad thing to note about the Grand Palace (and it’s quite a heavy one): It is the most crowded tourist destination I have ever visited in my ENTIRE LIFE of being a traveller!
It is said that the only way to beat the crowds is by being ready to enter when it opens, right at 8.30 AM. I have also heard that later in the day, just before closing time, the palace starts to get less crowded, but try and avoid the midday rush if possible.
OPENING HOURS: 8.30 AM – 3.30 PM. The Grand Palace is open every day of the week including national and religious holidays; it can only be closed during very rare Royal ceremonies;
- IDEAL SCENARIO: enter the temple at 8.30 AM
- WORST SCENARIO: visiting at midday, on weekends or public holidays
If you struggle in crowded spaces, seriously, consider giving the whole thing a miss. Due to the temple’s importance, thousands of tourists visit every day, making the experience really stressful. During your visit, there will be lots of moments when you will be crammed up against hundreds of other people. It can be hot and frustrating and a lot of people lose their manners and morality in the chaos.
OUR EXPERIENCE: Honestly, seeing the Grand Palace was beautiful and incredible, but the experience itself was horrible, hectic and one that I would never do a second time. We entered first thing in the morning and it was still extremely crowded. As the morning went on it only got busier, so I recommend you go early while it’s still less busy and the midday heat hasn’t added to the stress.
The palace grounds themselves are really beautiful, so if this sounds like something doable for you, then go for it! If not, don’t stress, scroll down to find my recommended attractions in Bangkok to visit instead of the Grand Palace, so you won’t feel like you’re missing too much.
Grand Palace Bangkok entry fee
Grand Palace admission fee: 500 baht (16 US$) per person
Audio guide: extra 200 baht (6.40 US$) – recommended if you want to do a self-guided tour; it’s full of interesting information and it’s available in English, French, German, Spanish, Russian and more.
What’s included in your ticket: entry to the palace grounds and inside Wat Phra Kaew temple and museum, Royal Thai Decorations & Coins Pavilion and the Queen Sirikit Museum of Textiles
You have two choices: you can either buy your ticket at the booths at the entrance gate (Wiseedtschairi Gate) or, if you don’t want to waste time in long lines, you can also pre-order your ticket online (at least 24 hours before your visit) and collect it from the dedicated booth/window on the day of your visit. If you decide to book it online, you can do so on the official website here.
TIP: Remember not to purchase tickets on the day from anywhere else apart from the official ticket office as scams are common around the gates of the site.
TIP #2: Your ticket also includes entrance to Vimanmek Palace and Abhisek Dusit Throne Hall and it’s available for 7 days after your visit to the Grand Palace.
Best Grand Palace tours for your visit
There are free tours in English taking place at 10 AM, 10.30 AM in the morning and 1.30 PM and 2 PM in the afternoon. If you feel like the knowledge of a local guide will help you understand this place better, I recommend going for it!
In case you don’t want to be in a large crowd of tourists for the free tour, here are some other, better guided tours I can recommend, as well as some combo tours and unique ways to see the Grand Palace without actually being inside of it:
- Grand Palace: English Guided Tour – admission included + 2-hour guided tour;
- Private Tour: Best of Bangkok in A Day – if you prefer a private experience instead – includes the Grand Palace, Wat Arun and Wat Pho;
- Half-Day Bangkok City Highlights Small-Group Tour – with a delicious Thai lunch on the riverside included!
- Flexi Walking Temple Tour: Grand Palace, Wat Pho, Wat Arun – mix and match your favourites;
- Best Of Bangkok: Temples & Long-tail Boat Tour with Lunch – includes a visit to the Grand Palace;
- Bangkok Dinner Cruise on the Chao Phraya River – superb dinner cruise on Chao Phraya River during which you’ll see the Grand Palace and Wat Arun from afar;
TIP: You can also hire a local guide on the spot at the palace, but you’ll have to negotiate a price with them beforehand.
What to wear - Dress code for Bangkok’s Grand Palace
As The Grand Palace is an active place of worship, it requires a set dress code for visiting:
If in doubt, aim for long pants and a T-shirt.
If you’re worried that you may not have the right attire, it’s okay. You can rent clothes (tops and trousers) at the entrance of the premises. However, I would advise you to come prepared to save yourself from the stress of renting and returning clothes.
NOTE #1: This dress code is the same for all active Buddhist sites across Thailand, in case you’re planning to visit other temples too!
NOTE #2: Unlike other temples, the Grand Palace does not allow you to use a scarf or sarong to cover your chest and shoulders. If you try to enter this way they will ask you to rent a proper top from their rental service.
Common scams to avoid at Bangkok’s Grand Palace
Sadly, busy tourist spots like this one attract scam artists looking to make an extra dollar on gullible tourists. Please be aware of the following scams when visiting the Grand Palace:
- FALSE: You can’t get inside the palace without purchasing a ticket prior to entry or without a tour guide accompanying you inside. TRUE: The ticket booth is inside the premises, and you can always purchase entry tickets there or pick up your tickets there if you bought them online;
- FALSE: You are not dressed correctly and need to purchase some clothing in one of the shops outside of the palace. The reason is that tuk-tuk drivers will want to take you to their preferred shops where they get a commission. TRUE: If you don’t have appropriate clothing, a security official will let you know and direct you to the official Grand Palace’s clothing rental location;
- FALSE: The Grand Palace is closed for some reason. You will then be persuaded to purchase a tour of Bangkok and told that you will be dropped at the Grand Palace once it reopens. TRUE: The Grand Palace is closed on very, VERY rare occasions when Royal ceremonies take place, so there’s a 99% chance this is a lie. Just ignore the people telling you this and proceed to enter the palace grounds – you’ll see that the Palace is open.
If you haven’t done your research, it can be easy to fall into one of these traps. We personally weren’t approached by any scammers, but we heard a lot of stories from other tourists we met. Just be ready for anything and only believe what the officials tell you!
How to get to the Grand Palace, Bangkok
The Grand Palace is located right on the banks of the Chao Phraya River, on Na Phra Lan Road. Here’s its exact location:
Co-ordinates: 13.750039, 100.491420
Getting to the Grand Palace can be a bit tricky depending on where you are staying. The easiest way is to order a Grab (Asian version of Uber), but this could take ages if you accidentally leave during rush hour (the traffic in Bangkok can be quite hectic!) so make sure you double-check before you leave.
NOTE: Grab is Southeast Asia’s version of Uber, where you can order on-demand taxis for cheaper and less hassle than regular taxis. When using Grab, the price of the fare will show before you order a ride, you can pay in cash or card through the app, and the car picks you up and drops you off at a location of your choice.
NOTE #2: When going to The Grand Palace, taxis are not allowed to drop you off right at the gates. Instead, they will drop you off a 5-min walk away from the palace’s gate.
Here are the best ways to reach the Grand Palace (express boat, MRT, BTS, bus) from the most popular spots in Bangkok, along with the trip distances:
BY BOAT: take the Chao Phyara Express Boat to Tha Chang Wang Luang Pier, which is within walking distance to the entrance.
- Grab / Taxi: 20min duration (depending on traffic)
- BTS Skytrain and boat: 41min duration, BTS to Saphan Taksin, Boat shuttle to Tha Chang
- Bus: 50min duration, 47 or 508 Bus from Siam Centre
- Grab / Taxi: 30min duration (depending on traffic)
- MRT: 47min duration, MRT blue line to Sanam Chai
FROM KHAO SAN ROAD:
- Grab / Taxi: 10min duration (depending on traffic)
- Public Transport: 25min duration, 404 or 59 Bus from Ratchadamnoen Klang Road
RELATED READ: In case you’re looking for the best accommodation options in Bangkok’s Old Town (the perfect location near the temple – a 10-minutes walk to the Grand Palace), I recommend reading my dedicated post: Where to Stay in Bangkok – 6 Best Areas and Hotels
The most important things to bring with you to the Grand Palace
My top tips for visiting Bangkok’s Grand Palace
Now that you know all the practical info you need for the best experience, don’t forget about my most important tips:
I recommend arriving right when the gates open, at 8:30 AM. The bigger groups arrive a bit later so let’s say you’ll have a couple of peaceful moments before it becomes hectic and before the heat settles in. The ticket booths are open from 8 30am to 3 30pm.
Yes, it’s crowded and yes, it’s hot, which can mean you can get frustrated quickly. Try to enjoy your time there without stressing and don’t feel like you have to explore everything on the palace premises. If the atmosphere is too much for you, proceed to some other tourist sites instead such as Wat Arun - for more recommendations, check my list below.
ONCE INSIDE, BE AWARE OF YOUR BELONGINGS.
Make sure you keep an eye on your bag, phone, camera and other valuables at all times, just as you’d do in other tourist places around the world.
WEAR A HAT AND LOTS OF SPF + BRING WATER.
I can’t stress this enough: Bangkok is extremely hot and humid, especially during March, April and May, so a hat, lots of water and sunscreen are essential for your comfort. I don’t advise bringing a sun umbrella with you, as you’ll be bumping into crowds all day and that can get uncomfortable quickly.
WEAR APPROPRIATE CLOTHES.
I have told you everything you need to know about the Grand Palace’s dress code in my dedicated section above - long pants, decent tops, no sleeveless shirts.
SHOES OFF BEFORE ENTERING SACRED PLACES.
Keep this in mind when deciding what you’re wearing - aim for shoes that are easy to put on and take off.
IS PHOTOGRAPHY ALLOWED?
Yes, but you can’t take pictures inside the Emerald Buddha Temple.
GET INFORMED AND DON’T FALL FOR THE SCAMS.
I told you all about the most famous scams at the Grand Palace above - make sure you’re aware of them at all times before you enter the gates!
DON’T GET DISCOURAGED.
Just because the Grand Palace is super touristy and crowded, this doesn’t mean all the places in Bangkok are like this. On the contrary - this is probably the worst one in terms of crowds, so rest assured that you’ll have a more relaxed time at other sites and highlights in Bangkok.
What to visit near the Grand Palace in Bangkok
When planning your itinerary for the city, you’ll quickly realise that there are many other beautiful landmarks located within walking distance of the Grand Palace. Here are the best nearby attractions:
- Wat Pho – this is another beautiful temple where the Reclining Buddha is located, a 46-meter-long statue that’s just as impressive as the Emerald Buddha. You can either walk to it, take a water taxi or a tuk-tuk.
- Wat Arun / The Temple of Dawn – another gorgeous Buddhist temple right across the river from Wat Pho and a must-see during your stay in Bangkok. You can take a water taxi to it.
- Wat Mahathat – a great place for Vipassana Meditation and buying cute souvenirs. It’s also among the oldest temples in Bangkok;
- Bangkok National Museum – one of the biggest museums in Southeast Asia and the best place to see some beautiful local art;
- Kao San Road – 25-minutes by foot from the Grand Palace.
RELATED READ: For my complete list of unmissable highlights and cool activities in this city, I recommend checking my dedicated article: 5 Unmissable Tourist Places to See in Bangkok
BONUS #1: What to visit INSTEAD of the Grand Palace in Bangkok
If the Grand Palace sounds too much for you, I completely get it. I know most travellers say this is a must-see during a trip to Bangkok, but I’m not 100% sure of it. In case you decide to skip it, don’t worry, here are some equally cool places to see around Bangkok instead of spending time here:
- Wat Pho and Wat Arun – these two temples are located across the river from each other. I recommend visiting them both for a calmer, better-valued experience;
- Ayutthaya – a UNESCO World Heritage site that can be visited as a day trip from Bangkok. You can even spend two days here, it’s simply awesome! Ayutthaya used to be the biggest city in the world 300 years ago; now, you can visit the remaining stone palaces and monasteries in this historical site. If you’re interested, I recommend booking this day trip by bus & boat.
BONUS #2: Recommended camera gear for visiting Bangkok
Here’s our camera gear that we take all around with us, perfect for Bangkok too. It has everything you’ll ever need!
CAMERA: Canon EOS 5D Mark IV
EVERYDAY LENS: Canon EF 24-70mm F/2.8L II USM Zoom Lens
WIDE ANGLE LENS: Sigma 10-20mm f3.5 EX DC
PORTRAIT LENS: Sigma 35mm F1.4 DG
GOPRO: GoPro HERO8 Black
NV FILTER: Hoya 82mm Variable Density Screw-in Filter
HARD DRIVE: LaCie 4 TB
RELATED READ: If you want to read more about travel photography gear, I recommend checking out my dedicated article: What’s in my Camera Bag – All My Travel Blogging Gear
Phew! This was my complete guide for all travellers visiting the Grand Palace for the first time and, I promise, you’ll have ALL the information you need above; entrance fees, common scams to avoid, when to visit, what to wear and everything in-between! And remember: Bangkok is SO much more than the Temple of the Emerald Buddha!
If you’re interested in reading more tips and precious information that will help you prepare the perfect Bangokok itinerary, I recommend clicking here to read all my articles about Bangkok, Thailand.