A self guided Bangkok Temple Tour: A First-Timer’s Guide to the City’s Best Temples

We’ve created this easy-to-follow Bangkok Temple Tour to help you when you see some of the city’s important temples. During our first trip to Bangkok, we found it challenging to manage our itinerary. We were unfamiliar with the city, and it all seemed rather overwhelming. We hope with the aid of our tips below, you’re able to merge temple tours with visits to nearby sites and some of our favourite places to eat. This will result in a fun, thoughtfully paced day of exploration rather than a frantic race from one temple to another.

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Below we have shared five of our favourite Bangkok temples. From our first visit in the 1990s, we have now spent several months in Bangkok and have visited the first four temples listed several times. The final one is a recent addition and well worth the little extra effort it takes to visit.

You can try to see the most famous temples in Bangkok in one day on a guided tour, but honestly, this is not something I would recommend.

Temple fatigue is real and so is the heat. Rushing from place to place ticking off sites is just not enjoyable and does not allow you to appreciate the beauty of the temples. By the end of the day, you are worn out and the temples you have seen are a blur. 

  • If you only have one day, then I suggest you pick two or three temples at most. 
  • If you are in Bangkok for more than a few days, I would recommend you space your temple visits out to one or two a day. 
  • Include one of the best known and one of the newer or less visited ones on our list for some variety and to allow you to experience a less crowded but equally wonderful places. 

The best way to see the temples is to plan your day around one or two of them and add some food and some other air-conditioned sites in between to give you a relaxing, well-rounded day.

My must sees may not be yours, however if this is your first visit, then I would choose Wat Pho and its reclining Buddha.

The iconic Wat Arun on the riverside can be enjoyed from a distance if time is short. It looks especially beautiful at night.

For something entirely different, take a trip to Wat Paknam Phasi Charoen, preferably by long-tail at sunset.

Wat Pho is one of the most famous and oldest temples in Bangkok. It’s best known for its massive reclining Buddha statue, which is 46 meters long and covered in gold leaf. What most visitors don’t realise is that Wat Pho has a lot more to offer than its most famous feature. 

Wat Pho buddhas
The Wat Pho complex is more than just the reclining Buddha

The temple complex also houses over 1,000 Buddha images, making it a significant religious site for Buddhists. Wander the beautifully decorated pavilion and tranquil courtyards and take some time to look at intricate murals that depict Buddhist teachings.

Immersing in the Serenity: What to Expect Inside Wat Pho

Once you step inside the heart of Wat Pho, it’s worth spending some time strolling around its courtyards. These are beautiful. I prefer this complex to the Grand Palace, its quieter

Monks at Wat Pho
Early morning at Wat Pho

Nothing eclipses the temple’s central attraction: the 46m long and 15m tall statue of the Reclining Buddha. Encased in gold leaf, this image of Buddha during his last illness is humbling. 

Don’t miss the mother-of-pearl inscriptions at the soles of the statue. These depict the 108 positive actions, called Lokshans, that helped Buddha achieve perfection. 

Wat Pho feet
108 Lokshans or symbols of Buddhism

Wat Pho is also the birthplace of traditional Thai massage. If your legs are weary from temple-hopping, you can try a revitalising massage here for a reasonable fee. 

The best time of day to visit Wat Pho

For our first visit, we arrived right on opening before the heat of the day kicked in. There were only three other people in the entire complex, making it perfect for enjoying quiet contemplation. We have also visited at dusk when the temple lights up, a perfect time to capture some stunning photos. 

What to do near Wat Pho

  • Pop into Museum Siam to learn more about Thai culture, it’s only two minutes away.
  • Visit Pak Khlong Talat, the nearby Flower Market, for a burst of colour and culture
  • Grab a bargain priced drink with a view at Poh Tha Tian. It’s right on the riverfront.
  • Ride the Chao Phraya HOHO Ferry, it stops at Rajinee Pier.

How to get to Wat Pho 

Wat Pho is well-connected by various modes of public transportation, making it easy for first-time visitors. 

Where: 2 Sanamchai Rd, Grand Palace Subdistrict, Pranakorn District
When: Daily from 8am-6.30pm
How: From Sathorn Central Pier, you can take the Chao Phraya Express Boat or an orange flag boat towards Tha Tien pier, this is currently closed for repairs so jump off at Rajinee which is the stop before. It’s next to the nearest MRT stop at Sanam Chai, an easy 8 minute walk away.

Head to Yaowarat in Bangkok’s Chinatown, and you’ll discover Wat Traimit Withayaram Worawihan, the ‘Temple of the Golden Buddha’. This temple is home to the world’s largest gold seated Buddha – a remarkable 3 metres high and weighing around 5.5 tonne! 

The Golden Temple just before an afternoon storm

The secret of the Golden Buddha

Wat Traimit has an extraordinary history. The golden Buddha statue was cleverly concealed in plaster around the 15th century by the Ayutthaya Kingdom. This was a common method used to guard valuable treasures from invaders by masking them with less valuable materials. The secret was only discovered when the image was accidentally dropped during relocation in 1955. The covering chipped off, unveiling the impressive, solid gold Buddha beneath. 

Inside Wat Traimit

Inside the main building, you’ll find an exhibition detailing the statue’s fascinating history. If you can’t wait to see the golden statue up close, head straight up the stairs.

The Golden Buddha

Step outside and take in the panoramic view from the top of Wat Traimit over the streets of Chinatown.

Tip: We think Wat Traimit is best visited in the cool of the morning. Afternoons see large numbers of visitors who stop here before heading to Chinatown to eat.  

The Chinatown Gate is just behind the temple

What to do near Wat Traimit

How to get to Wat

Where: Traimit Road, Khwaeng Talat Noi, Khet Samphanthawong, 
How: Take the BTS Skytrain to Hua Lamphong station, then take a short 10-minute walk. If you have a day pass for the “Chao Phraya Express Boat” ride to “Ratchawong Pier” and walk 1km mostly along Yaowarat Road or get off at the Marine Department wharf for a 750m walk via Taled Noi.
When: Wat Traimit is open daily from 8am-5pm

Standing at the heart of Bangkok, Wat Saket, also known as the Golden Mount Temple, is easily visible with its gleaming gold chedi (a Buddhist stupa) set high on a man-made hill. On stepping inside the gates, you are greeted by a lush garden that seems at odds with the location. 

Green garden in Wat Saket
This garden greets you as you enter

Make your way to the red staircase. There are 344 steps between you and the golden chedi at the top. Don’t worry, they are easy to climb. Along the way, there are plenty of distractions where you can linger if you need a break.

344 steps to the temple
The 344 are small and easy to tackle

The chedi houses a sacred Buddha relic and murals detailing Buddha’s teachings in the main temple. After you have seen the inside of the chedi, spend some time taking in the panoramic views of old Bangkok. 

chedi at Golden Mount Temple
The top of Golden Mount Temple

Tip: Golden Mount Temple is particularly popular during the annual Loy Krathong festival, when thousands of people gather to pay their respects and release floating lanterns into the sky.

What to do near Wat Saket

  • Walk to Panfa Leelard Pier and ride the canal boats along Saen Saep. It’s a fun way to see another side of the city.
  • Get in line at Raan Jay Fai for a meal cooked by the famous chef in googles
  • If the wait is too long, head to Tee Yen Ta Fo for some pork leg and rice
  • Wander nearby Bobae Market, a bustling wholesale clothing market with plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables and halal food stalls.

How to get to Golden Mount Temple

Where: 344 Thanon Chakkraphat Phiphat, Khwaeng Ban Bat, Khet Pom Prap Sattru Phai.
When: The temple is open seven days a week from 8am-7pm
How: You can take the Bus numbers. 2, 47, 49, 59, 60, or 79, which stop within a 10-minute walk of the temple. The Saen Saep Khlong boat stops a few minutes’ walk away.

Wat Arun, also known as the Temple of Dawn, is a standout landmark on the Chao Phraya River. The temple’s name comes from the Hindu god Aruna, often represented as the sun’s radiations.

Climb the steps to see the tiles up close

A key feature is its tall spire, or ‘prang’, adorned with a vibrant mosaic of porcelain tiles and seashells. Climbing the steep prang rewards visitors with stunning panoramic views.

Climb the stairs for panoramic views of the river

Alongside this, Wat Arun has a collection of smaller prangs, mythical creature statues, and a beautiful courtyard featuring an ordination hall. Particularly enchanting at night, the temple creates a captivating reflection on the river.

You can rent traditional costumes and take photos in the gardens

What to do near Wat Arun

  • Book a tour with Hidden Bangkok – then visit the next temple Wat Paknam with them after you finish here. The meeting place is 6 minutes’ walk away.
  • Order a bowl of chicken rice from Mui Lee Chicken and Rice
  • Jump back on the ferry or make your way by taxi or on foot (20mins) to Wang Lang market. It’s open daily from 9am to 6pm and is a great place to try street food.

How to get to Wat Arun

Where: 158 Wang Doem Road, Wat Arun Subdistrict, Bangkok Yai District,
When: 8.30am-5.30pm
How: Take the Chao Phraya Hop on hop off ferry or the orange flag ferry to Wat Arun wharf where you will find the entry into the temple grounds. 

Wat Paknam: The Big Gold Buddha

While the huge Buddha that draws most of us here is new, Wat Paknam Phasi Charoen has a long distinguished history opening in 1610. The buddha statue, which was completed in 2021 has certainly raised the interest in visiting! 

Take a boat back to the Chao Phraya

The giant gold buddha is made entirely of pure bronze and is thought to be the largest of its kind in the world. It towers over Thonburi and it can be seen from the least expected places, like the BTS Station at Tha Phra.

The 5 storey high Buddha can be seen from Tha Phra BTS Station

Along with the statue is an 80m high five story white Stupa that houses a museum of relics and assorted donated items. Head to the fifth floor and you will find a stunning painted ceiling and impressive emerald stupa. 

Don’t miss the walkway you can access from the level. It offers unique views of the big Buddha and the surrounding area.

It’s hard to tear your eyes from the 69m tall and 40m wide Buddha.

What to do near Wat Paknam

  • Whether you are travelling by long-tail boat or on foot, make your way to the Artist’s House once a market and now an arts and craft area where you can buy local work or create your own masterpiece.
  • If you feel like a hot or cold refreshment, head to Meili Cafe just across the canal and watch the world go by.
  • Have a wander around nearby Talat Phlu Market and brave some street food you have not yet tried

How to get to the Giant Buddha

Where: 300 Ratchamongkhon Prasat Alley, Pak Khlong Phasi Charoen, Phasi Charoen, Bangkok 
When: 8am until 6pm
How: One of the more challenging places to get to. On our visit, we booked a tour with Hidden Bangkok for a long-tail boat tour that included a visit to the Artists House and the temple. It’s a 15-minute walk from Wat Arun to the meeting place for the boat tour.
You can also reach Wat Paknam by taking the MRT to Bang Phai from here, it’s about a 12 minute (800m) walk. If you prefer not to walk, then the BTS Station at Watthukat is your best bet. There are usually plenty of taxis waiting to pick up temple visitors. 

Book a private tour that covers the first 4 temples on our list in one day 

I am a big fan of early morning temple visits. The weather is usually milder, there are few visitors about and you will not run into a single tour bus at 8am. 

The two temples that I would leave until later in the day are Wat Arun and Wat Paknam, as both look fantastic at sunset and golden hour. 

  • Rather than worrying about whether what you are wearing is suitable for your visit, I suggest avoiding short or tight clothes on temple days. At the very least, cover your shoulders, your knees and everything in between. 
  • Shoes that you can slip on and off quickly are handy, but if you are like me, you might need better support on a big day of walking, it’s worth it to tie and untie your laces several times. 
  • Please remember, as you traverse the sacred spaces of Bangkok’s temples, to be respectful. Keep your voice to a minimum and avoid any public displays of affection.
  • Taking photos is allowed but don’t use your flash inside the temples.
  • Taking selfies with the Buddhas is disrespectful and often prohibited.
  • Do not point your feet towards the Buddha, as it’s seen as insulting in Thai culture. Rather, try to sit cross-legged or kneel while exploring the temples.
  • Religious objects and images are sacred in Thailand. Please do not touch, stand or climb on them.
  • If you make an offering to a monk, there may be a person for you to hand the offering to. Women should never touch a monk or give anything directly to him – instead, put the object down and allow the monk to pick it up himself. 

About the author: Paula Morgan first visited Thailand in 1999 and has been returning regularly ever since. This year she has spent 3 months discovering what’s new. She loves exploring its less visited spots, not just the iconic landmarks and historic temples, but the hidden alleys, family run cafes and food stalls and the small communities in the islands of the south and the lush forests and mountains of Thailand’s north.