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Bangkok's Top Museum and Attractions

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Looking for places to go sightseeing in Bangkok? Though there are plenty of temples to see, and lots of shopping and eating, too, the city has plenty of museums and other cultural attractions to visit. Whether you're looking for a traditional museum or more quirky display of culture and history, you'll find it in the capital. The Grand Palace and the National Museum are must sees for anyone interested in Thai history and culture; the others are optional but worth your time if you have it.

The Grand Palace

photo copyright Suzanne Nam

The gilded, sparkling Grand Palace was built in 1872 by King Rama I after he moved the Thai capital from Ayutthaya to Bangkok. Through renovations and expansions, as Bangkok changed around it, it remained the home of the Kings of Thailand until King Rama V moved to Chitralada Palace in Dusit. The collection of buildings, many built using both European and Thai design elements, now serve as a museum and cultural sight. On the grounds of the palace is Wat Phra Kaew, the Temple of the Emerald Buddha, one of Thailand's most significant religious sights. The complex sits on the banks of the Chao Phraya River and is stunning to look at at night from the water. When you visit, watch out for this scam!

Address: Na Phra Lan Rd.

Hours: Daily 9 a.m. - 4 p.m.

Cost: 250 baht

The National Museum

copyright Masgatotkaca

This museum in the old city has one of the best collections of art in all of Southeast Asia. Most of the collection, housed in a former palace, is Buddhist and Hindu devotional art, although there are also some pieces that relate to the Thai royal family. Plan on spending at least a few hours there, or even half a day. Some find the museum a little confusing, but there are free guided tours on Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday mornings.

Address: Na Phrathat Rd.

Hours: Wednesday through Sunday, 9 a.m. - 4 p.m.

Cost: 200 baht

Jim Thompson House

copyright Ahoerstemeier

This lovely little museum just around the corner from Siam Square was once home to spy-turned-textile manufacturer Jim Thompson. The museum is worth a visit if only to tour the wooden homes on the premises, all originally built in other parts of the country and brought to Bangkok by Thompson. There's also lots of information about Thompson's life and the Thai silk industry. Though the museum is in the middle of one of the busiest parts of the city, because it faces the old canal and is set back from the main road, visiting it feels like going back in time.

Address: Soi Kasem San 2, Rama I Rd.

Hours: Daily 9 a.m. - 4 p.m.

Cost: 100 baht

Vimanmek Teak Mansion

This former palace, made almost entirely of golden teak, was once a residence of King Rama V. It had originally been built on the small island of Si Chang, near Pattaya, but was moved piece by piece by the king in 1901. He lived in the complex for six years, then it was used as a residence by other members of the royal family, but after that was used as a storage facility. In the 1980s it was restored and turned into a museum, and is currently one of the only places in Thailand where visitors can see how modern day royalty lived.

Address: Ratchawithi Rd.

Hours: Daily 9:30 a.m. - 4 p.m.

Cost: 50 baht. If you've visited the Grand Palace, hold onto your ticket as you can use it to get admission to Vimanmek Teak Mansion, too.

Museum of Royal Barges

Thailand’s historic capitals have nearly all been on river banks (including Ayutthaya), and as far back as the 13th century Thai royalty have navigated the waters using fleets of wooden barges. Though these days the King of Thailand has faster ways to get around, there is a collection of intricately decorated wooden barges permanently on display and taken out on special occasions.  The Royal Barges museum is just across the river from the National Museum and near Wat Arun.

Address: Arun Amarin Rd.

Hours: Daily 9 a.m. - 5 p.m.

Cost: 30 baht

Suan Pakkad Palace

Though most royal historic cultural sights are located in the old city, this former palace is right in the center of modern Bangkok, just a few blocks from Victory Monument. The palace, yet another collection of wooden houses, is the former residence of two members of the royal family. The structures and the grounds now serve as a museum with exhibits displaying Thai art, instruments, furniture and other items. Suan Pakkad Palace is a rarity not only because it’s in the city center, but because it’s one of the few former palaces open to the public.

Address: 354 Si Ayutthaya Rd. (near Payathai Skytrain)

Hours: Daily 9 a.m. - 4 p.m.

Cost: 100 baht

Corrections Museum

The morbid but interesting corrections museum is housed in an old prison near Chinatown and has exhibits demonstrating all sorts of methods of punishment used in Thailand over the past 200 years. The displays, which use life-size mannequins to demonstrate torture techniques, are a little shocking, but those who are easily upset should steer clear of the photos of actual executions.

Address: 436 Mahachai Rd.

Hours: Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. - 4 p.m.

Cost: free

The Silpa Bhirasri Museum

Did you know that one of Thailand’s leading artists wasn’t even Thai? He was Italian, and before he changed his name and became a Thai citizen, he was called Corrado Feroci. Feroci, later known as Silpa Bhirasri, is responsible for many of the city’s most famous monuments – Victory Monument and the statue of Rama IV in Lumphini Park to name two, but he was also a prolific painter and sculpture and the founder of Silpakorn University, Thailand’s premier art school. Visit his old studio on the school’s campus to see his work along with the work of other leading Thai artists.

Address: Na Phra Lan Rd.

Hours: Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. - 4 p.m.

Cost: free

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