One of the most enjoyable parts of visiting Thailand is being able to visit so many of the Wat Temples. These spiritual places help show the rich cultural heritage of the country both for locals and tourists. Each of the ancient temples is unique in its way and helps to showcase the architectural style.
In Bangkok, you can choose to take a temple tour which will help highlight some of the top cultural sights of the city. These sometimes only have 2-3 of the temples listed below. Or you can choose to take your self-guided tour and plan to visit each of these temples on your travel itinerary.
This is a great place to start to not only sightseeing the country but also to discover some deep spiritual roots you may not know you have. You don’t need to be seeking enlightenment to enjoy this part of Thailand culture.
Note: Most temples require ?50.00-100.00 entry fee ($1.00-3.00 USD)
What is a Wat?
A wat is defined as a type of Buddhist temple and Hindu temple. It is located in a sacred area, which contains a large image of the Buddha and can be a place of learning and experiencing Buddhist practices. Most know it generally as a place of worship.
Thailand Temple Dress Code
When you are traveling to Thailand, you are required to dress respectfully while entering temple grounds. Both men and women are expected to have their shoulders, knees, and ankles covered during their time here. With Thailand weather sometimes being extremely humid this can be uncomfortable for some. Wear lightweight and breathable clothing for better comfort.
Some clothing stands and shops around the outside of the temples sell cheap t-shirts and almost pajama-like pants in case you didn’t think to bring your while visiting.
Also, some temples are more strict than others as I was able to go onto the outside temple grounds with a tank top and shorts without any serious problems but I may have just gotten lucky. But it is best to place it safe and not cause any religious or international incidents while here.
Location: Pom Prap Sattru Phai District
Found in the heart of Bangkok, our first stop is Wat Saket. Known as the “Golden Mount“, this Buddhist temple has been dated to the Ayutthaya period. It was constructed on a man-made hill to have panoramic views of the cityscape.
Once you have entered the temple you can take time to enjoy the meditative garden for some contemplation among the sacred Bodhi trees or you simply need to climb the steps to the top. It’s fairly easy and not at all strenuous but there are places you can take a break if necessary. At the top, you will find a golden chedi. Previously the highest point in Bangkok, this tall golden dome sparkles in the sun and here is where you can watch the city below.
In addition, you may hear the ringing of bells and the sounds of gongs being presented as you go. The Thai Buddhists ring these for good luck as well as making offerings of incense, money, and other small items in order to ensure spiritual forgiveness. This is one of the lesser crowded temples so you won’t feel like it’s too crowded or a rush to leave.
Location: Phra Nakhon District
One of the largest and oldest temples in Bangkok, the highlight here is the massive reclining Budda, 15 meters (49 ft) high and 43 meters (141 ft) long, it’s almost nearly impossible to get a full-size picture of the whole statue. But that is why this place has become popularly known as the “Temple of the Reclining Buddha“.
It has been placed as number one on the top list of first-class royal temples. The temples contain the largest amount of Buddha images in all of Thailand. Public education in Thailand is concentrated here and has become UNESCO recognized for its contribution.
This wat is also considered to be the birthplace of Thai massage, as it has become a public university in Thailand with courses in medicine. But don’t expect you can get a traditional Thai massage here. You’re going to have to go off campus for that.
Location: Phra Nakhon District
“Temple of the Standing Buddha“, Wat Intharawihan is most notable for its impressive statue of the Buddha. The statue, named Luang Pho To, is considered one of the tallest metal Buddha sculptures in the world. It is a colossal bronze Buddha statue, which stands 32 meters (105 feet) in height.
The surrounding prayer halls contain many murals that depict Buddhist philosophy and teachings. It is a little less touristy than some of the other temples due to its size which is perfect for those who don’t want to feel too crowded. The Buddha here is believed to gift the devoted the power of success. You will find Buddhists coming throughout the day to make offerings here.
Location: Bangkok Yai District
One of the best-known landmarks in all of Thailand, the “Temple of Dawn” is a delightful respite right along the Chao Phraya River. If you’re a keen observer you may notice that this temple in particular has a mix of Hinduism influencing some of the structure design and mural artwork. A great way to arrive here is by taking a river taxi which allows you to see another side of Bangkok.
It is one of the most photographable locations and you can see that each towering spire contains Chinese ceramic porcelain and colored glass to give it the “WOW” factor as you pass by. It’s been popular enough to warrant it being minted on baht coinage.
Location: Samphanthawong District
This temple contains one of the most expensive and valuable Buddha statues in the world. A solid 18-karat gold Buddha gives this location the name of the “Temple of the Golden Buddha“. Weighing 5 1/2 tons, its approximate worth ranges in the $250 million USD.
You can find the temple located in the Chinatown part of Bangkok. Learn about the backstory of this statue in the museum part of the temple. They provide a historical background on its creation along with the details of other Budda images and the involvement of Chinese trade in Bangkok.
Location: Dusit District
Wat Benchamabophit, also known as the “Marble Temple” showcases a perfect blend of Thai and European styles. The name is given to the Italian marble that was imported and used in the design. You will also notice the pair of white lion statues placed at the entrance doorways. The white marble exterior makes it one of the most popular temples in all of Bangkok.
This Wat temple is only one part of the larger complex. You will find multiple buildings surrounding it. It continues to be an active place of worship and education here. You will find monks performing their daily rituals among the outside visitors.
Wat Phra Kaew
Location: Grand Palace
This place is the “Temple of the Emerald Buddha“. As it is located within the grounds of the Royal Palace in Bangkok, this makes it the most visited Wat temple in all of Thailand. Hundreds of visitors and Thai citizens come through here every day.
The statue of the Buddha is made from jade and constructed during the 14th century. The Thai people consider this specific Buddha the guardian of the country. Surrounding it you will find other decorated buildings, many statues, and extensive artwork depictions.
It’s a little less serene with all of the foot traffic and photography so the best time would be to come in the morning when it’s less crowded. The dress code is also strictly enforced here so make sure you have your clothing prepared the night before.
Wat Bowonniwet Vihara
Location: Phra Nakhon District
What makes this temple unique is it was designated a first-class royal monastery. This is where kings and royalty studied and were protected under Buddhism practices so the temple did enjoy royal patronage. It is also a perfect place to mediate and reflect as it is a rare find and so does not get many visitors.
Unique highlights of this temple are the two main bronze Buddha statues that were made during the Sukhothai period of Thailand history. It’s unique as in most temples only have one single main Buddha image to be the central focus on.
The serenity you find here will be very enlightening along with the ambiance. It’s a great place to really avoid the crowds and to take a break. You will find it will filled with more local Thai worshippers instead of foreign visitors.
Bangkok is just full of beautiful temples and it is probably a good part of the reason you want to visit amazing Thailand. Nearly all of these are within a good walking distance from the center of the city or if you prefer you can take a tuk tuk to save some time while still exploring.
They are also close by to Khaosan Road, one of the most popular backpackers and tourist hubs in Bangkok and the country. Once you are done with these temples, explore the surrounding neighborhoods. Enjoy some Thai cooking with popular Bangkok dishes from local vendors. Check out the shopping markets or just relax until the nighttime when the parties really start.