What to See in Ayutthaya
Ayutthaya has become synonymous with temple ruins and historical sites. Most visitors head over to Ayutthaya Historical Park located in the centre of the inner city for a comprehensive overview of its history and past glory. When surrounded by these ruins, it’s not difficult to imagine the grandeur that once was the kingdom of Ayutthaya.
Ayutthaya Historical Park comprises four temples – Wat Phra Ram, Wat Phra Si Sanphet, Wat Mahathat, Wat Ratchaburana – the Royal Palace and Wiharn Phra Mongkol Bophit. Outside of the historical park, the sites are randomly peppered along the west, south and eastern parts of the outer island.
Many of the archaeological finds from the ruin sites around Ayutthaya are exhibited at Chao Sam Phraya National Museum, so this is a good place to visit if you are interested to learn more about Ayutthaya’s heritage.
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Constructed during the reign of King Prasat Thong (1629-1656), this riverside palace complex (20km south of Ayutthaya) is set in a lovely landscaped lake garden that was once an island itself. The royal chronicle recorded only one building – Aisawan Thiphaya-art Royal Residence – during King Prasat Thong’s time. Abandoned after Ayutthaya fell, it was revived by King Rama IV (r. 1851-1868) who commissioned additional buildings to be constructed in an eclectic style that blends European neoclassical and Victorian architecture with Early Ayutthaya and Chinese palace styles. Read More...
- Opening Hours: 08:30 – 17:00 (last entry 15:30)
- Location: Bang Pa-In District, about 20km south of Ayutthaya City
- How to get there: Hire a tuk-tuk from the train station or take the train
Chao Sam Phraya National Museum
This two-storey museum houses most of the excavated artifacts from Wat Ratchaburana and other temples across Ayutthaya. The first floor features Buddha images in various postures and styles as well as porcelain ware and bullet money of the period. The second floor displays a collection of gold ornaments, caskets containing the Buddha’s relics, carved wooden door panels and similar treasures.
Apart from the main building, the second exhibition hall showcases religious artifacts and art pieces from earlier periods, such as Dvaravadhi, Sukhothai, Lopburi, Sriwichai and Chiang Saen, for the purpose of comparative studies. The third exhibition area features traditional Thai houses from the central region and a collection of everyday artifacts from the Rattanakosin Period.
- Opening Hours: 09:00 – 16:30 (Tues – Fri); 09:00 – 17:00 (weekends and holidays); closed Monday
- Location: Rojana Road, next to Rajabhat Phranakhon Si Ayutthaya University
- How to get there: From highway 309, cross the bridge to the inner city and keep going straight until you see the museum on your left-hand side.
Chan Kasem Palace
This enclosed palace complex at the confluence of the Pa Sak and Lopburi Rivers was the royal residence of King Naresuan the Great in 1577 and several subsequent crown princes. But the buildings you see are a reconstruction of the old palace, as it was accidentally burned down during King Boromakot’s reign (1733- 1758). Today, the palace is a museum with permanent exhibits on the history of the Ayutthaya Kingdom and personal artifacts of King Rama IV, who commissioned the construction of the new palace buildings.
- Opening Hours: 09:00 – 16:00
- Location: U-Thong Road, opposite Hua Ro Market
- How to get there: From Naresuan Bridge (Highway 309), turn right into U-Thong Road and continue about 1km.
Khlong Sra Bua Floating Market
More of a cultural theatre than a functional market, Khlong Sra Bua Floating Market is a replica of the ancient Khlong Sra Bua village, a community of clay potters and home to an important river trade route north of town. Today the replica village brings a slice of the ancient village to life, with an addition of fascinating performances on its water stage – the main highlight of the floating market. The performances depict various scenes from traditional Thai folk tales, boat songs and stage dramas, which can rarely be seen today. Admission fee includes a buffet lunch and five shows.
- Opening Hours: 10:00 – 17:30 (Sat, Sun and public holidays)
- Location: Khlong Sra Bua, north of Ayutthaya Historical Park, opposite King Naresuan the Great Monument
- How to get there: From Pa Thon Road, turn right into Khlong Tho Road and continue across the bridge into Highway 309. When you see King Naresuan Monument on your left, the floating market will be on your right.
Krirk Yoonpan’s Million Toys Museum
A departure from historic sites and museums, this private museum houses one man’s passion for toys – thousands of them, from tin robots to antique dolls and life-size Japanese superheroes. Inspired by Japan’s Kitahara Tin Toy Museum, the owner Krirk Yoonpan decided to acquire his own collection of toys and, in 2008, opened the Million Toys Museum to the public.
The museum building itself is constructed in the style of a rice warehouse, but painted in pastel blue-and-white colours, to add an element of fun. Inside, various toys and antiques fill the display shelves and cabinets, and even more toys await you on the second floor. Don’t forget to drop by the museum’s souvenir shop, where some of the tin toys you see inside the museum are for sale.
- Opening Hours: 09.00 - 16.00 (closed Mondays)
- Location: U-Thong Road, northwest of the Royal Palace
- How to get there: From Pa Thon Road, turn right into Khlong Tho Road and continue until it meets U-Thong Road. Turn left into U-Thong and the museum will be on your right-hand side.
Thai Boat Museum
Ayutthaya is home to Thailand’s most skilled boat builders. In the past, the city had more klongs (canals) than roads, and boats used to be the main mode of transport. This private museum belongs to Phaithun Khaomala, a renowned boat modeler and former boat builder. His extensive collection, mostly constructed with teakwood and iron Malabar wood, ranges from Thai and Chinese trade junks, rice barges and market boats to miniature Royal Barges. Some of them are more than 100 years old.
- Opening Hours: 08:00 – 17:00 (by appointment only)
- Location: Bang Ian Road, just off Chikun Road, opposite Wat Mahathat
- Tel: +66 (035) 241 195
- How to get there: From Rojana Road, turn right into Chikun Road and, before you reach Wat Mahathat, make another right into Bang Lan Road.
Wat Chai Wattanaram
Set across the river, facing the inner city, this royal temple boasts one of the most elaborate interpretations of the Mount Meru concept in ancient Khmer architecture, which influenced heavily the architectural style of the Late Ayutthaya Period (1629 – 1767).
The principal prang, modeled after the Ancient Khmer prangs, symbolises the centre of the universe, while the surrounding chedis depict the four continents and the outer universe. Each corner chedi houses two huge Buddha images set inside a wooden frame. The surrounding galleries contain eight smaller chedis and feature ornate relief patterns. The four sets of stairs that lead up the principal prang are very steep, so do exercise caution at all times.
- Opening Hours: 09:00 – 16:30
- Location: Western bank of the Chao Phraya River
- How to get there: From U-Thong Road, cross the bridge on the western part of the island (Highway 3263), turn left at the first intersection and continue on for about 2km
Believed to be the spiritual centre of Early Ayutthaya Period, Wat Mahathat was the royal ceremonial ground for both religious and non-religious affairs before King Trailoknat replaced it with Wat Phra Si Sanphet. Built before Ayutthaya became the Siamese capital, the temple features a Khmer-style prang (now collapsed) which used to enshrine a miniature casket containing the Buddha’s relics (now on display at Chao Sam Phraya Museum).
Apart from the principal prang, Wat Mahathat is the site of the lone Buddha's head entrapped by the roots of an overgrown banyan tree – today a popular icon of Ayutthaya. The head is closely guarded around the clock, and even the slightest gesture of disrespect (e.g. taking photographs while standing over the Buddha’s head) will not be tolerated.
- Location: Ayutthaya Historical Park, corner of Chikun and Naresuan Roads
- How to get there: From Rojana Road, turn right into Chikun Road and continue straight until you reach Naresuan Road
Wat Na Phramen
This was the only temple left intact at the time Ayutthaya fell, as it was used as a military headquarters by the Burmese army. It houses a beautiful Buddha image inside, fully decorated in regal attire, which is the signature style of the Late Ayutthaya Period. The main chapel boasts an ornate hand-carved wooden gable and baluster windows which is a unique architectural feature of the Middle Ayutthaya Period (1488 – 1629).
- Location: North of the Royal Palace, across the river to the outer city area
- How to get there: From the Royal Palace, head north on Naresuan Road and cross the bridge, then continue about 20 metres and the temple is on your left.
Existing well before King U-Thong founded the Ayutthaya Kingdom, the temple houses a revered Buddha image dating back to 1324 and an ornate Chinese shrine dedicated to an Ayodhya Queen. This area used to be occupied by Chinese merchants, who transformed it into a lively commercial area with goods from China, including gold, porcelain and Chinese silk.
The temple contains a large bronze Buddha image – the oldest in Ayutthaya – built in 1325. Walk around the main chapel to the riverside and pay respect to the Queen at the Chinese shrine. It is widely believed that the queen will fulfill a wish of those in search of a soul-mate.
- Location: Southeastern bank of the Chao Phraya River, off Highway 3477, outer city
- How to get there: From Highway 309, turn left at the chedi roundabout into Highway 3477
Wat Phra Si Sanphet
Serving as the Royal Monastery from 1350 to 1448, the temple occupies expansive grounds inside the walls of the now-collapsed Royal Palace. The three iconic chedis – housing the royal relics of three Ayutthaya Kings – are among the few structures left standing in the temple grounds, which is itself a must-see ruin site.
On what appears as empty space between the three chedis once stood two mandapas for storing Buddhist scriptures and religious relics. East of the chedis are the remains of the main chapel’s concrete columns. Continue walking towards the north and you will reach the entrance to the Royal Palace.
- Opening Hours: 07:00 – 18:00
- Location: Ayutthaya Historical Park, on Naresuan Road
- How to get there: From Rojana Road, turn right into Naresuan Road and continue about 500m
Wat Phuttai Sawan
Built during the reign of King U-Thong (1351–1369), the temple’s principal prang is clearly visible across the river from the inner city area. Highlights include rare wall murals painted in the Late Ayutthaya Period, a replica of the Buddha’s footprint inside the prang and ruins of an old chapel that houses a reclining Buddha. The mural paintings describe the close religious ties between Ayutthaya and Langka (today’s Pattani in southern Thailand).
- Opening Hours: 08:30 – 18:00
- Location: Southern bank of the Chao Phraya River, outer city
- How to get there: From Wat Chai Wattanaram, head south via Highway 3469
Wat Yai Chaimongkol
One of the best-preserved ancient royal monasteries, situated just before the eastern entrance to the inner city, the temple is famous for its large reclining Buddha and a 62-metre inverted bell-shaped chedi (pagoda) built to commemorate King Naresuan’s victory over the Burmese.
Set in vast landscaped grounds, the temple was constructed during King U-Thong’s reign (1350 – 1369) as a forest temple school. Surrounding the principal chedi are cloister walls lined with several Buddha images – a unique architectural feature of the Early Ayutthaya Period.
- Location: Southeast of the island (outer city), on Highway 3477
- How to get there: Hire a tuk-tuk from the train station or if you drive, from Highway 309, turn left at the chedi roundabout before crossing over the bridge to the inner city to get onto Highway 3477.
Wiharn Phra Mongkol Bophit
South of Wat Phra Si Sanphet, this stand-alone chapel was built to shelter a large bronze Buddha image, Phra Mongkol Bophit. It was ransacked and burned by the Burmese, then finally restored to its original glory in 1956. Although it houses a Buddha image, Wiharn Phra Mongkol Bophit is not a temple because it is the only structure standing, built on the original site of Wat Chi Chiang, which was burned down in 1767 along with the rest of Ayutthaya.
- Location: Naresuan Road, south of Wat Phra Si Sanphet
- How to get there: From Rojana Road, turn right into Naresuan Road and continue about 400m