The Grand Palace Bangkok is not only the capital’s most visited sight, but it also Thailand’s most visited sight. Located on the banks of the Chao Phraya river, the Palace enjoys one of the best pieces of real estate in Bangkok, and is the official home of the King.
History of the Grand Palace Bangkok
Construction of the Grand Palace was commissioned by King Rama I in may 1782 to be his official residence when he moved to Bangkok, to establish a new capital city. The original palace as completed, was significantly smaller than the site is today. Extra buildings have been added to the grounds by successive monarchs, each eager to add their own stamp to the Palace.
Originally constructed entirely out of wood due to a shortage of more suitable materials, the Palace was ready for King Rama to officially move into just 5 weeks after construction started. King Rama I officially took residence of the Palace on the 13 June 1782.
Over the succeeding years the king slowly replace the wooden structures, with those built from more luxurious materials and those more fitting to the monarch. Each new Monarch added their own stamp to the Palace, by either added new buildings or refitting existing buildings in more lavish materials.
Now the palace is one of the most luxurious and opulent buildings in all of Asia.
The Palace served as the official home of the monarch, and home to official royal courts from its construction through to the abolition of the absolute monarchy in 1932. The King officially moved out in 1925, and all official government departments had vacated by 1932.
Layout of the Palace
The Grand Palace Bangkok occupies a huge 218,000 square meter plot, and the main site is roughly rectangular in shape. The Palace consists of 4 main courts. The outer court, the inner court, the middle court and the temple of the Emerald Buddha. Each of the 4 courts has it’s distinct function and purpose.
Navigating around the palace is fairly easy due the site rectangular shape.
The Outer Court
Situated to the NW of the site is the outer court, or Khet Phra Racha Than Chan Nork. The outer court is home to the a palaces information center and is a great place to start for any visitor to the site. There is also a small museum here
Originally the outer court was home to various departments of the Royal household in which the King had a direct influence. Such as armories, the royal mint and other civil administrations
The Inner court
Occupying the southern most part of the palace is the Inner Court. Originally this section was for the exclusive use of the ruling monarch and his women. The residence was home to the harem of Queens and lesser wives. The only other inhabitants of the inner court were the Kings Children.
The Inner court is made up of several inner households each of which was once home to and individual Queen or Consort. Each house was of varying size and the grandeur of the household was a symbol as to the rank of residing lady. The larger the household the more important wive lived there, the largest reserved for those who had born a royal child. At its peak the inner court was home to more than 3,000 inhabitants, many of whom would never leave the grounds.
The Middle court
The largest and most important section is the middle court. As its name would suggest the middle court occupies the central part of the Palace.
The middle court is where the most important departments and residences were located. The middle court is actually sub divided into 3 further sections.
Temple of the Emerald Buddha
One of the most popular sights within the grand palace is the Temple of the Emerald Buddha or Wat Phra Kaew. Constructed shortly after the original Palace. The Chapel was completed in 1783 and is the royal place of worship. It was constructed in accordance with ancient tradition, which depicts a royal chapel being on the grounds of the royal palace.
Although it is commonly referred to as the “Temple of the Emerald Buddha” Wat Phra Kaew is not a temple, rather a chapel. The main difference between the two, is a temple traditionally has residence for monks, and Wat Phra Kaew is missing this vital distinction.
Visitors are not allowed anywhere near the actual Emerald Buddha, in fact the only person allowed is the King himself. During the year the Buddha is protected by three different covers, each is placed to depict the changing seasons, winter, summer and rainy. The changing of the cloth is a very important part of Thai culture, and the act is performed by the King.
Visiting the Grand Palace Bangkok
The palace is the most visited site in Bangkok if not Thailand. We highly recommend anyone visiting the city pay a visit to the Palace.
It should not take more than 4 hrs to make your way around the palace and the best time to visit is early morning when the main stream of tourists have not yet arrived. The heat is also much more bearable during the early hours of the day.
The palace is open daily from 08:30 until 15:30 and tickets are on sale at the entrance during these times. Ticket prices for entrance only is 500thb. Getting to the palace is easy if your hotel is located on the river and you can get a water taxi straight to the Palace. Public transport can be difficult as the palace is not within easy reach of the transport system.
For those that prefer a more organised tour of the palace, including hotel pick up, guide and entrance all rolled into one then we recommend booking through our partner Viator.