Phuket Old Town: From SHopHouses to Street Art
[A self-guided walk]

Phuket Old Town is one of the most endearing places in Phuket, filled with vibrant colour, rich history, and food that make your taste buds dance with joy. Most visitors only make time for the Sunday market, but there’s a whole lot more to see and do here. We recently spent 3 nights based in the old town and fell in love with the beautiful Sino-Portuguese architecture and the ambiance found in its old streets.

Read on and see what we got up to – Trust me, this is a place you won’t want to miss!

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The old town of Phuket is considered the island’s cultural soul, a great place to engage in the history and community of this popular southern Thai island.

The streets themselves have been transformed into living canvases, adorned with captivating murals that tell stories of Phuket’s rich heritage.

So tear yourself away from the stunning beaches and come and learn more about Thai food and culture on the streets of this pretty town.

You may wonder how this stunning Portuguese-style architecture ended up on an island in South East Asia. Well, perhaps it will help if we start with a quick history lesson.

A brief history of Phuket

The modern history of Phuket can be traced back to the early 19th century when the island was an important centre for tin mining.

At this time, the King of Siam, who governed the area, granted concessions to foreign companies to mine for tin on the island.

This saw an influx of Chinese immigrants, who brought with them their own culture and architecture. Resulting in Phuket Old Town’s blend of Sino-Portuguese and Thai styles of architecture and even food!

You may notice these streets seem rather uncluttered, that’s because the electricity cables that are a common eyesore across Asia are buried under the streets here.

Immigration continued through the late 19th and early 20th centuries, as the island’s position along the Andaman Sea made Phuket Old Town an important centre for trade and commerce.

The most important streets in Phuket old town

Most of the key sights of the old town are found within a small grid in the centre of the city.

Within this compact, very walkable area is the most famous street in Phuket town, beautifully restored buildings, delicious street food, and plenty of coffee shops and restaurants.

Our self-guided tour covers the following streets:

  • Thalang Road
  • Soi Romanee
  • Phuket Road
  • Dibuk Road
  • Yaorawat Road
  • Krabi Road
  • Phangnga Road

If you only have one day to explore old Phuket town, try to fit in as many of these streets as you can.

Phuket Old Town walking map

We have marked some of our favourite attractions on this map. Either visit them in order as we did or choose the spots that interest you.

Thalang Road

Thalang Road is best known as the home of the Phuket Sunday Walking Street Market. This is likely the one Phuket market you will have on your list of things to do on the island well before you arrive.

Considered by many to be the best market on the island, you will find everything from clothing and handmade crafts to food stalls and street performances in this market.

Phuket Old Town Night Market Thailand
Sunday night market just before sunset

Tip: Try to arrive just before dark, the buildings look especially lovely in the light of golden hour.

Even if you don’t visit on a Sunday you will enjoy strolling Thalang Road and checking out the beautiful shop houses and cafes.

In fact, if possible, I think you should visit twice so you can see it with and without the market crowds.

There are plenty of places ready to tempt you to open your wallet here. We visited and chatted with a herbalist who sold us some ligament I put to good use after some hiking in Chiang Mai.

We also stocked up on crunchy sweet crackers from a small bakery.

Next up we treated ourselves to some sweet roti from Aroon Po Chana, it was so good we went back from breakfast roti the next day.

Pandan roti with foi tong (egg threads), and condensed milk.
Pandan roti with foi tong (egg threads), and condensed milk.

Along with the cafes, restaurants are plenty of shops that attract the locals, even a hardware store. It was nice to see the old town is still a functioning community centre and not just a tourist hot spot.

On the Monday morning of our visit, there seemed to be as many locals as visitors doing their shopping.

Alex Face Mural red Turtle in Old Phuket Town
Mardi and the Red Tortoise Cake by Alex Face (Patcharapol Tangruen)

Don’t miss the Alex Face mural on the corner of Thalang Road and Soi Romanee. The artist is one of the best known Thai street artists and if you are visiting Bangkok I am sure you will come across his work again.

Eat: Aroon Po Chana – Best known for their roti, both the sweet and savoury ones are excellent. Open for lunch and breakfast I think it’s impossible to beat the Pandan roti with foi tong (egg threads), and condensed milk for a sweet treat.

Drink: Coffee lovers will want to make a pit stop at Hé House Home Cafe for a modern Thai coffee experience. For a more traditional stop try China Inn.

Soi Romanee

Once famous as the red-light district of Phuket old town, today you will more likely find Soi Romanee packed with visitors snapping the perfect Instagram shot than people looking for love.

This small street is full of traditional Sino-Portuguese houses that are predominantly painted pink and have mainly been converted into shops or cafes.

The star of the show is Aung Ku on the corner- far from a hidden gem, this craft, and coffee shop is Insta-famous for its pink flower-draped exterior.

From mid-morning till early evening, people wait patiently to snap the perfect photo. Head inside for even more floral beauty and gift shopping.

Aung Ku Cafe is one of the Instagram hot spots in the old town

On the back wall of Aung Ku is some of Phuket’s best-known street art with two large-scale murals.

Geometric Eagle by Rukkij is on the wall behind Aung Ku Cafe

Other notable buildings on Soi Romanee include these pink shop houses which house everything from a post office to an ice cream store.

Soi Romanee

Drink: We grabbed a coffee at Rush Coffee but you could easily go cafe hopping along this small street with three excellent options.

Eat: Pornthip Old Town does delicious traditional Thai desserts that are the perfect antidote to the heat. You can also pick up packaged Thai sweets to take home as souvenirs.

From Soi Romanee turn left into Dibuk Road…

Dibuk road

Dibuk Road, which is parallel to Thalang Road, is home to several restored shop-houses, Wat Mongkhon Nimit, and at the western end of the road between Yaowarad Rd, and Satun Rd the famous strip of colorful properties featured across the internet.

On the corner of Dibuk Road and Yaowarat Road is another example of charming Sino-Portuguese architecture. This one is not open to the public.

The beauty is on the corner of Yaowarat Road

Our favourite stop on Dibuk Road, directly opposite the bright blue building above is a rather nondescript-looking food centre which turned out to be anything but!

We grabbed an early lunch here just before the locals arrived for the midday meals and it was one of our favourite Pad Thai dishes on the island. It’s not fancy, but it’s well-priced, and our three dishes were great.

Lock Tien Food Center Pad Thai Phuket
Pad Thai from Lock Tien

Continue down the street and you will come to a row of beautifully restored and painted shophouses.

Shop houses on Dibruk Street
The bottom end of Dibruk Street features this lovely row of houses

I also loved this old place, waiting for someone to come along and spruce it up… and hopefully not tear it down.

This beautiful old building had me wishing I could afford to buy it and renovate!

Along this stretch are several restaurants. We visited one that was run by three siblings who had been here for over 50 years.

Sadly I can’t remember the name but the pork soup we had here (below) was sensational. You will find it at 74 Dibuk Street.

If you want to learn more about the cuisine of Phuket Island we highly recommend this old tour food tour we did while we were there. Just go with a very empty stomach, you will be eating for 4 hours solid.

Drink: Dibuk House is a cocktail bar, just a few steps from the corner of Yaowarad Rd
Eat: Lock Tien – Phuket Local Food Centre, for over 50 years, they have been serving up some of the best food in the city.

Krabi Road

Continue down Dibuk until you reach Satun and turn left.

As you come around the corner, you will see a gravel driveway almost opposite. Make your way along the driveway to the Blue Elephant Cooking School which is housed in one of the old town’s most impressive buildings that dates back to 1903.

Blue Elephant Cooking School and Restaurant
Blue Elephant Cooking School and Restaurant

You can book to dine here or just pop into the onsite shop and buy some souvenirs for a chance to glimpse the inside of this gorgeous property.

Our last stop is Chin Pracha House, which is right next door. A historic mansion that is considered the first example of Sino-Portuguese architecture in the whole of the Phuket province.

The property has been home to the same family since it was built in 1903. The Chinprachas family were wealthy merchants and tin miners.

The house was restored by the great-granddaughter of the original owner and opened as a museum in 2003.

You can explore the mansion’s many rooms, including the grand reception hall, the master bedroom, the dining room, and the kitchen. You may get lucky and be shown around by a family member. A tour will cost you approx 150฿.

Phang Nga Road

As you turn into Phang Nga Road from Yarowat Road you will find this lovely artwork on the wall just a few metres before the Giant Lobster.

A Thai food carts serving popular local sweet Oh Tao by Phichit Paidaeng.

The lobster is outside Tu Kab Khao restaurant and you will see it as soon as you turn into the street.

The Tiffen box is by 4Studio. I could not find out who created the lobster

While the lobster draws everyone’s attention, don’t miss what’s sitting right next to it. A very sweet little girl sitting on a tiffin box. These were traditionally used to carry your lunch to work.

We didn’t eat here but have heard it is one of the best places in Old Town to eat lobster, a dish the town is famous for.

The next thing that we came across was this restored building post office box in an alcove of the Kasikorn Bank Building (14 Phang Nga Road).

Phuket Old Town post office box
This building has been beautifully restored

Just across the road is the On On Hotel which featured in the film The Beach.

Opening in 1927 this was the first hotel in Phuket and these days seems like a cross between a hotel and a museum with lots of really interesting objects displayed around the common areas.

It’s a great choice if you want to stay in Old Town.

Wander in to the hotel for a sticky beak, we did!

On the side wall of Khun Jeed Yodpak Restaurant just a few doors along you will find another fabulous mural by Alex Face but we will leave that one for you to discover for yourself.

At the end of Phang Nga Road you will come to Phuket Road.

Phuket Road

Phuket Road forms one boundary of the old town. On the corner of Phuket Road and Phang Nga Road you will find two bright yellow buildings, the Phuket Baba Museum and directly opposite Museum Phuket (Phuket Nagara).

These two traditional buildings are a popular stop for photos.

Phuket, Thailand. Building with clock tower in Chino-Portuguese style after has been renovated in Phuket old town.
The famous Clock tower is one of the best-known buildings in town.

If you only have time for one museum in Phuket the Baba Museum is our pick, with a bonus of free entry. Inside you will find a timeline detailing the history of Phuket, from the early years right up to today.

On the second floor is a virtual reality experience that looks that the influence of Chinese immigration on Phuket town.

Phuket Road is a good place to head for an evening meal with several restaurants and two bars to choose from.

On our last visit, we stayed at Casa Blanca Hotel, a gorgeous, well-priced boutique property in a very central location. It was perfect for exploring the entire old town on foot.

One Chun Cafe n Restaurant Phuket
Moo Hong Phuket Style at One Chun Cafe n Restaurant Phuket

Our favourite dinner was a Michelin Bib Gourmand-rated dish we chose from the Phuket Michelin Guide, Moo Hong Phuket Style, which is a braised pork dish pictured above. It made our top 10 list of things we ate in Thailand last year.

If you are hanging out for a Western meal Papaluza has a Middle East/Mediterranean-style menu and a couple of great house bands. We spent happy hour here a few nights in a row and really had a lot of fun singing along.

papaluza phuket
Papaluza has live music several nights a week

Eat One Chun Cafe & Restaurant Michelin listed, their signature dish – the slowly steamed pork belly in pepper and garlic sauce still lingers in my memory every time I think of Phuket Old Town.

Drink: Papazula – the party starts at 7 pm with live music several nights a week. We enjoyed a light dinner here one night after a 5-hour food tour at lunchtime saw us too tired to move further afield. Great fun for a bit of a singalong and a friendly team.

Be prepared to fall head over heels for Phuket Old Town. Its captivating architecture, colourful streets, and mouthwatering flavors will weave a spell around you, leaving an planning your next visit before you have reached the airport.

Explore more of Phuket Island

About the author: Paula Morgan has been travelling to Thailand since the mid-1990s and has fallen in love with the people, culture, and of course, the food. These days she visits as often as she can and is planning an extended stay in the country in 2024.