Top of most people’s Bangkok must-see lists are the stunning temples. Unlike the subdued Protestant churches we’re used to in England, Thai Buddhist temples don’t hold back, with huge gold statues, beautiful mosaics, and massive murals depicting the stories and teachings of Buddha.
There are thousands of temples in this city, so many in fact that even google doesn’t give an exact result on the numbers. It can feel like there’s one at every corner and it can be hard to work out which ones to prioritise seeing on your trip. After all, temple fatigue affects everyone after a while!
So after four trips to the capital of Thailand, we’ve planned an itinerary to ensure you get to see the best of the temples in Bangkok in just one day.
5 Incredible Bangkok temples you can see in a day
Wat Phra Kaew at the Grand Palace - The Showstopper
Start early for the Grand Palace as this is the most popular site in Bangkok and for good reason.
It can get pretty busy here, so starting early will mean you can beat the crowds and see this magnificent place in relative peace.
If you’re only going to see one temple in Bangkok, make it this one.
Until 1925, the Grand Palace was the residence of the King, his court and the government of Thailand, but it is now a ceremonial place that is used for state functions. Luckily most of the area is also open to the public.
Wat Phra Kaew means temple of the Emerald Buddha and whilst the Buddha itself might be smaller than you’re expecting, it is impressive none the less.
Within the grounds of the Grand Palace, you’ll see virtually every type of Buddhist structure: temples, stupas, and pagodas. The detail is exquisite and it is hard not to be wowed.
There’s a lot to see and you could easily spend half a day looking around, although you can see a lot in just a few hours.
Essential information about the Grand Palace & Wat Phra Kaew
Opening time: 8:30am - 3.30pm
Entrance fee: 500 Baht - $15 USD (yep, this is by far the most expensive!)
How to get there: Unless you plan on getting the boat, it’s easiest to take a taxi to the entrance.
Wat Mahadhat - the quietest
After the Grand Palace, it’s time to head somewhere a bit more humble. This is a great Wat to visit if you are looking for something less touristy.
Wat Mahadat is literally across the road from the Grand Palace and is a place of peace and tranquility.
It is made up of only a couple of buildings and a small courtyard, but it enables you to get a feel for Thai Buddhism without the crowds.
We were lucky enough to visit when a ceremony was going on and it was very moving to hear the devoted chanting.
You may get lucky and get to speak to a monk here, which is near impossible to do in any of the others we’ve listed.
Essential Information about visiting Wat Mahadat
Opening hours: 9am - 5.30pm
Entrance Fee: Free, although we suggest a donation
Getting there: You can walk from the Royal Palace as it is just across the road.
Wat Pho - The home of the huge reclining buddha
After Wat Mahadat, head over to Wat Pho.
It is a 15 minute walk, but if you don’t fancy walking in the heat then a tuk-tuk will be able to take you.
It should only cost 50 baht, but you’ll be lucky to get any tuk-tuk driver in Bangkok to accept a fare of less than 100!
The primary reason you visit Wat Pho is to see the huge reclining buddha, measuring over 45 metres in pure gold leaf! It is a pretty commanding sight with this giant statue looming over you.
It is unlike anything else we’ve seen in Thailand, and after this all other buddha statues will pale in comparison (so we’ll forgive your early onset of temple fatigue).
Wat Pho is also a beautiful temple complex in its own right, with statues, hallways lined with golden sitting buddhas and stupas covered in colourful mosaics, all set round a pretty courtyard area.
It was one of the first buddhist temples we saw in Thailand and one that everyone should see on their first trip.
Essential Information about visiting Wat Pho
Opening hours: 8am - 6.30pm
Entrance fee: 100 Baht - $3 USD
Getting to Wat Pho: Wat Pho is a 15 minute walk from Wat Mahadat. You can also get there by ferry.
Wat Arun - The Bangkok Icon
After a hectic morning, you can take it easy during the hottest part of the day. In the afternoon head over the river to Wat Arun.
If you can, we’d recommend arriving by boat as Wat Arun looks beautiful from the water.
It dominates the western side of the Chao Phraya River (it is also beautifully lit up at night) and is a very distinctive sight.
When you arrive, you’ll realise it is more of a stupa/pagoda than a temple so it feels quite different from the first three.
The pearly white exterior of Wat Arun is covered with several layers of intricate mosaics and statues that make it equally impressive when you look up close.
You’ll see why it is one of Thailand’s most recognisable landmarks and one of our favourite temples in Bangkok.
Essential information about visiting Wat Arun
Opening hours: 8am - 7pm
Entrance fee: 50 baht, $1.50 USD per person
Getting there: By ferry is the most picturesque way. Alternatively you can get a taxi or tuk-tuk but it’s a longer round trip. It’s directly across the river from Wat Pho.
Wat Saket - The best for sunset views
You might think four is more than enough, but hold on as Wat Saket will seriously be worth it. Even if you don’t go for the temple, go for the views!
Alternatively known as the Golden Mount, Wat Saket sits way above the surrounding buildings and offers great views over Bangkok, especially pretty at sunset.
You’ll have to walk up 340 steps (which actually feels like half this number because the steps are so tiny that you have to take two at a time) and there’s a few random things to keep you interested along the way. First up, there’s the several “see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil” sculptures - monkeys, humans plus anything else they could think of.
Then comes the coffee shop! Yep, this is a buddhist temple that offers a coffee break halfway up to the top. But persist as the views at the top are worth it!
Once you’ve got to the foot of the golden stupa you’ve made it. Now you can watch the sky put on a performance from the best seat in the house.
As you head down, you could check out the creepy statues depicting when Bangkok left people who died from the cholera epidemic (there were so many that it was the only way) to be eaten by vultures outside the city walls - the statues are surprisingly detailed.
Or you could just head out and avoid it….
Essential information about visiting Wat Saket
Opening hours - 9am - 7pm
Entrance fee - 50 baht, $1.50 USD
Getting there - From Wat Arun you can take a ferry back to the Grand Palace and pick up a tuk-tuk or taxi. It shouldn’t cost any more than 100 - 150 Baht ($1.50 - $2.25 USD), but if you get a metered taxi it will be a lot less.
Before you go
Watch out for scams
Bangkok tuk-tuk drivers love to pull this one scam in the hope of putting you off going to a temple and taking an absurd city tour with them instead.
It goes like this: you’ll ask a driver to go to Wat Pho. He’ll drive you to a side of Wat Pho that is really quiet and say that it’s closed (some kind of ceremony is going on and the public can’t go in).
He’ll then suggest taking you to some “better sights” for a ludicrously cheaper price - something like 20 baht. What will happen is that they will take you to several places (shops and places where you can pay to release caged birds) where they have partnered with people to extort money out of you and there’s nothing you can do.
If you hear someone say “sorry, it’s closed”, don’t believe them, especially if it’s between 9am and 5pm.
It is incredibly rare that they close during the day, so either push the driver to take you or find another. Whatever you do, don’t take the 20 baht city tour!
Bangkok Temples Dress Code
Make sure you cover your legs as you won’t be allowed into a temple with shorts on. A lot of places will loan you something to wrap around you, but it is easier to wear trousers or a long dress. Similarly wear a top that covers your shoulders.
This was one of the signs at Wat Arun.
You will be asked to take your shoes off at some of the temples, so you won’t need to worry about what you wear on your feet.
Don’t wear anything with an image of the Buddha and if you have a Buddha tattoo cover it up. A Brit got arrested and deported in Sri Lanka for this!
Where to stay in Bangkok
Villa Phra Sumen
Want to know a gem of a hotel in Bangkok that isn’t too expensive, quiet and in a great location? Then head to Villa Phra Sumen. It’s only a 5 minute walk away from the Khao San Road, but you won’t have to suffer the non-stop partying and noise.
Make sure you book any room other than the street view one, this way you’re guaranteed a good night sleep. The rooms are huge, the beds are bliss and you’ll overlooked a pretty courtyard. After years of visiting Bangkok, we’re glad to have found a place that ticks all the boxes!
Mid-range: Grand Sukhumvit
We’ve stayed in dozens of hotels in Bangkok over the years and this is our pick.
The city is blessed with some great hotels (there are also plenty of terrible ones), but the Grand Sukhumvit nicely balances quality with a great price and touches of a five star hotel at much cheaper prices.
Located in a great area (Sukhumvit has lots of transport links, shopping malls and places to eat), the Grand Sukhumvit feels like you’re in the heart of the action without having to suffer the road noise. The rooms are huge, beautifully furnished and very stylish with stunning bathrooms. If there’s one place to stay in Bangkok, it’s this one.
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Are you planning a trip to Bangkok? Do you know of any great temples we should have included? Let us know in the comments below!