Bangkok began as a small trading centre and port community on the west bank of the Chao Phraya River some 200 years ago. Today, while the city is up to speed with modern times, the grandeur and glory of its illustrious past still prevails. Be it dazzling temples, spectacular palaces, a world-famous floating market or colourful Chinatown, each of these famous places has an intriguing story to tell. Take a look at Top Ten Most Popular Historical Attractions in Bangkok.
1. The Grand Palace
If there is one must-see sight that no visit to Bangkok would be complete without, it's the dazzling, spectacular Grand Palace. Built in 1782, and for 150 years the home of the Thai King, the Royal court and the administrative seat of government, the Grand Palace of Bangkok is a grand old dame indeed, that continues to have visitors in awe with its beautiful architecture and intricate detail, all of which is a proud salute to the creativity and craftsmanship of Thai people.
2. Wat Phra Kaeo (Temple of Emerald Buddha)
Regarded as the most important Buddhist temple in Thailand, Wat Pra Kaeo enshrines Phra Kaew Morakot (the Emerald Buddha), the highly revered Buddha image meticulously carved from a single block of emerald. The Emerald Buddha (Phra Putta Maha Mani Ratana Patimakorn) is a Buddha image in the meditating position in the style of the Lanna school of the north, dating from the 15th century AD.
3. Wat Pho (the Temple of the Reclining Buddha)
Wat Pho (the Temple of the Reclining Buddha), or Wat Phra Chetuphon, is located behind the magnificent Temple of the Emerald Buddha. It's the largest temple in Bangkok and famed for its huge and majestic reclining Buddha measuring 46 metres long and covered in gold leaf. The Buddha's feet are three metres long and exquisitely decorated in mother-of-pearl inlays of auspicious 'laksanas' (characteristics) of the Buddha. The temple is also famous for its traditional Thai massage.
4. Wat Arun (The Temple of Down)
Wat Arun (the Temple of the Dawn) is situated on the west (Thonburi) bank of the Chao Phraya River. It is believed that after fighting his way out of Ayutthaya, which was under siege by a Burmese army at the time, King Taksin arrived at this temple just as dawn was breaking. He later had the temple renovated and renamed it Wat Chaeng, the Temple of the Dawn. During his reign, Wat Chaeng was the chief temple, and it once enshrined the Emerald Buddha and another important Buddha image.
5. Vimanmek Palace
Vimanmek Royal Mansion is the world's largest building made entirely of golden teak. Moved from Ko Sichang in Chonburi province, it was rebuilt on the grounds of Dusit Palace in 1900 by the command of King Rama V. It was recently renovated by H.M. Queen Sirikit, and made into a museum paying homage to the late King. As well as antique furniture, there's glassware, porcelain, old photographs and memorabilia from the late King's reign (1868 - 1910).
6. Ananta Samakhom Throne Hall
Constructed in lavish Italian Renaissance and Neo Classic style, Ananta Samakhom Throne Hall is often used as a venue for important royal and state ceremonies such as the celebration of the Constitution Day (December 10), and for the opening ceremony of the first annual ordinary session of the National Assembly. On June 9, 2006. H.M. King Bhumibol appeared on the balcony of Anata Samakhom Throne Hall to receive statements of well wishes during his Diamond Jubilee Celebrations.
7. Floating Market
Even though transactions are more concerned with tourists rather than locals these days, the floating market boats are still piled high with tropical fruit and vegetables, fresh, ready-to-drink coconut juice and local food cooked from floating kitchenettes located right on the boat. Totally chaotic, small 'klongs' or canals are filled with small flat boats jockeying for position, expertly paddled by mature ladies ready to stop and bargain at a moment's notice. It's colourful, noisy and totally touristy — but great fun!
8. The National Museum
The National Museum is dedicated to preserving the national cultural heritage through extensive collections of art, archaeological and cultural objects in the Palace of Wang Na compound near the Grand Palace. The Gallery of Thai History, the Weapon Room, Gold Treasures, Royal Cremation Chariots, and Ceremonial Objects are some of the highlights displayed at the museum. Also located on the premises is a series of spectacular ‘salas’ (pavilions), which are considered to be the most outstanding examples of traditional Thai architecture.
9. Chinatown (Yaowarat)
Chinatown is a colourful, exotic and busy area, packed with market stalls and probably the greatest concentration of gold shops in the city. The Chinese community, relocated here from Rattanakosin (Old City) in the 1700's, still continue their own traditions and religious practices, and the area is quite unlike the rest of Bangkok. Relatively untouched by modern development and despite being always crowded, hot and exhausting — it's an experience not to miss.
10. Chao Phraya River & Waterways
The Chao Phraya River and ‘klongs’ (canals) are where Bangkok’s historic roots lie; the traditional heartland of this magical city with origins that read like an epic novel — complete with fallen and rising Kingdoms, heroes and traitors. One of the most fascinating and scenic areas of Bangkok, the riverside reflects a constantly changing scene day and night; water-taxis ferrying commuters and heavily laden rice barges chugging upstream, set against a backdrop of glittering temples and palaces, historical landmarks and luxury, five-star hotels.