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Located at the heart of Bangkok, Thailand, the Grand Palace was a residence for Kings Rama I to Rama V of the Rattanakosin Kingdom. Today, the place is used for hosting royal ceremonies and welcoming the King’s guests, state guests, and other foreign dignitaries. It is also a place where remains of kings and high-ranking members of the royal family were situated before cremation.
The Grand Palace is divided into two main zones, which are the Temple of the Emerald Buddha and the Royal Residence. The latter is divided into three major areas: the Outer Court, the Middle Court, and the Inner Court.
The Grand Palace, located in the old city of Bangkok on the banks of the Chao Phraya River, is one of the must-see sites of Thailand. This complex is one of the most famous landmarks of the country and offers spectacular buildings and sacred sites.
The gilded roofs of the Grand Palace are Bangkok’s most famous landmark. This not-to-be-missed sight offers many photo opportunities outside, and more than 200 years of royal and sacred history inside the white palace walls. The complex is home to the much-worshipped Emerald Buddha and many elaborately decorated temples, statues and pagodas.
Today the Palace is used for a number of royal rituals, state banquets and other official functions. Some parts of the Palace, like the Inner Court, are not open to the public. The ornaments and architecture of this palace are taken from Thai, Asian and European styles, because each Royal has added features that suit his taste.
The grounds of the Grand Palace are made up of three different zones or courts. There is the Inner, Middle, and Outer Court. You will likely spend most of your time in the Outer Court, where you will find buildings open to the public as well as the Temple of the Emerald Buddha. It takes half a day to see all the highlights of this magnificent temple.
The Dusit Palace is a large, spacious complex of mansions and throne halls, built at the start of the 20th century. The Dusit Throne Hall was completed in 1904. It is just east of the Vimanmek Mansion, across a small canal. The small one-storey building was used exclusively for state occasions such as receiving foreign ambassadors, during the time of the Dusit Palace.
The building was restored and reopened by Their Majesties in 1993. The throne hall now displays awards and medallions from the reign of King Rama V.
The hall was built by King Rama V and completed in 1882. Its unusual design is due to some controversy during its construction. Rama V wanted an entirely western look to his new home, but others in the court argued that the King's residence and throne hall should reflect Siamese motifs.
Thus the domed roof was replaced by a Thai styled roof. It should be no surprise that the Thai nickname for the building is the 'westerner with a Thai hat'. The building is located in the central court section, inside the Grand Palace.
The group of buildings near the eastern edge of the central court were built to be the main residence and audience hall for the king. The main building of the group, barely visible to tourists, is the Chakraphat Phiman hall. It was the primary residence of the first three kings of the Chakri dynasty, and it is still customary for new kings to spend at least one night there after their coronation.
In front of the Chakraphat Phiman hall is the cross-shaped Phaisan Thaksin hall. This was the place where the king dined, relaxed and held informal audiences. King Rama II held his coronation here, and it has become the tradition for new kings to receive the invitation to take the throne in this hall. In the middle of this hall is the Phra Siam Devadhiraj, the symbolic guardian of the country. It was installed by King Rama IV.
The most visible building is the Amarin Winichai Mahaisun Audience hall. This is the most important hall in the group, since it is where formal audiences are held, as well as where every important state occasion is conducted. There are actually two thrones in the hall, both gilded.
The original tall boat-like Busabok Mala Maha Chakraphat Phiman throne is now used as an altar. Kings now use the lower Phuttan Kanchanasinghat throne.
The Inner Court or the Khet Phra Racha Than Chan Nai, referred to simply as Fai Nai, occupies the southernmost part of the Grand Palace complex. This area is reserved exclusively for use by the King and his harem of queens and consorts (minor wives).
The court is surrounded and separated from the rest of the Grand Palace by a second set of walls within, parallel to those that ring around the palace as a whole. These walls are punctuated by a set of gates that connect the Middle and the Inner Courts to the outside and to each other; access through these gates is strictly monitored.
The Siwalai Garden is situated to the easternmost part of the Middle Court and is considered separate from the other state buildings and throne halls. The garden has been in its present form, since King Rama V, and contains both royal residences and religious buildings. Throughout the years, several structures were built and demolished by various kings.
The greatest change to the area occurred during the reign of King Rama IV, when the entire garden was turned into a new residential palace. This palace was composed of several interconnected buildings of various styles and sizes for the King's use.
The Grand Palace is a magnificent complex of buildings of great significance. Construction of the complex began in 1782, when King Rama I decided to move the capital of Thailand from Thonburi to an area known as Rattanakosin Island on the East side of the Chao Phraya River.
The complex is surrounded by 1,900 meters of walls and houses, among others Royal residences, the throne halls, and the Temple of the Emerald Buddha. It housed the center of the government, and the Royal Court and became the center of the Kingdom. The Grand Palace served as the official residence of Thai Kings until the reign of King Chulalongkorn.
Nowadays, the Grand Palace serves mainly as a tourist attraction and is sometimes used for ceremonial purposes, however, no member of royalty has lived there since 1925. Over the past 200 years, different leaders have continued to build upon the magnificent palace until it finally looked as it does today.
The Grand Palace is divided into four main courts, separated by numerous walls and gates. It will be very hard to understand the purpose and history of each building in the Grand Palace without a guided tour, therefore it is recommended to join a guided tour when visiting this site.
If you travel with Asia Highlights, we will guide you throughout your visit in the Palace. We will also provide an experienced guide so you can listen to mind-blowing stories and learn how the palace has remained the seat of power and the heart of the Thai kingdom for so long.
Admission to the Grand Palace is 500 Baht. Note that the admission fee also includes tickets to the Vimanmek Mansion and some other sights around Bangkok (the exact list varies from time to time) that can be used within seven days of your Grand Palace visit.
The Grand Palace is open every day from 8:30 to 15:30, unless it is being used for a state function, which is quite rare. Be careful of touts working outside the palace area, who tell you it is closed, and suggest their own guided tour instead.
Be aware that there is a fairly strict dress code you must adhere to in order to enter the Grand Palace. Prohibited items of clothing include shorts, mini-skirts, tight-fitting trousers, any see-through items of clothing, sleeveless tops, flip-flops, sweatshirts, sweatpants, and pyjamas.
Even if you have a shawl to cover your shoulders, chances are, a security guard will be hesitant to let you in. It is better to be overdressed and drink plenty of water to avoid overheating, than it is to be turned away at the Grand Palace entrance.
At Asia Highlights, we have experts who will show you the unique parts of Bangkok that most tours don’t take you to – and which you probably wouldn’t discover on your own.
Joining one of our tours or experiences (or having us create a custom tour for you) is a great way to make the most of your time in Bangkok and to ensure that you leave with a memorable experience.