There are over 40,000 temples in Thailand, and while each and every one is memorable, there are three that remain the most legendary of them all: Wat Arun, Wat Pho, and Wat Phra Kaew. Here, everything you need to know about Bangkok’s three most iconic temples. 

Wat Arun



Wat Arun is found on the western banks of the Chao Phraya River in Thonburi. It towers over the waterway when visitors approach by boat, and it is one of the main structures gracing the river. The temple is also known as the Temple of the Dawn and Wat Chaeng by locals. The Khmer-style main prang, or tower, is found at the core of the temple and is one of its most memorable attributes. It is over 82 meters tall and was recently under construction, however, the scaffolding has since been removed. At the top of the tower, visitors are able to see both Wat Pho and the Grand Palace across the river. Other than the prang, the temple reflects Chinese-influenced architecture throughout with lovely foliage mosaic tiles decorating the religious structure.

Brief history

The temple of Wat Arun was built during the Ayutthaya era and made well-known by General Taksin. He and his army came across the temple at dawn on their way to fight the invading Burmese at the time. He then named the structure the Temple of the Dawn. After he became king, he made the temple part of his royal compound. The temple used to reside in the capital of Thonburi before Bangkok was designated the new capital. The temple was also known as Wat Chaeng and Wat Makok. 

What to know before you go

There is a ฿50 (approximately $US1.50) entrance fee into the temple, and visitors must wear appropriate clothing (no knees or shoulders showing) in order to enter. The temple is open daily from 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.

Wat Pho


Wat Pho is found just opposite Wat Arun and is venerated by all Thais. Otherwise known as the Temple of the Reclining Buddha, the temple is renowned for just that. The giant golden Buddha stands at 15 meters high and 46 meters long and sits at the core of the religious structure. The Buddha is housed in the Phra Buddhasaiyas (Viharn Phranorn). It is the largest reclining Buddha image in Thailand and is adorned with gold leaf. The giant Buddha is not the only thing to be seen at this amazing temple, which also consists of a large courtyard decorated with Chinese-style statues made of vibrant tiles and ceramic stoneware. Other amazing structures making up Wat Pho include the Pavilion, a library of traditional Thai massage inscriptions, the Phra Maha Chedi Si Rajakarn, a group of four huge pagodas surrounded by a white wall with Thai-Chinese style gates and colour-glazed tiles, and the main chapel, otherwise known as Phra Buddha Deva Patimakorn.

Brief history


The temple of Wat Pho was constructed in 1782 during the reign of King Rama I. The Reclining Buddha was not built until 1848, however. King Rama’s ashes are in the boht, or ordination hall, of the temple, which was built when King Rama III was in power. The site where the temple is found today used to be where Wat Phodharam was located but was later replaced with Wat Pho.

What to know before you go

There is a ฿100 (approximately $US3) entrance fee into Wat Pho that includes a free bottle of water. Visitors must take their shoes off before entering the structure that houses the Reclining Buddha. Visitors must also wear appropriate clothing (no knees or shoulders showing) in order to enter. The temple is open daily from 8:00 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Wat Phra Kaew


At the heart of Bangkok’s old city is the temple of Wat Phra Kaew. The temple is made up of three sections, or courts, that make up the extensive grounds of the religious structure. Wat Phra Kaew, otherwise known as the Temple of the Emerald Buddha, houses a number of sacred objects with the most important being the Emerald Buddha that gives this temple its name. The Buddha, or Phra Kaew Morakot, is not made from emerald like its name leads visitors to believe. Instead, it is carved from a single block of jade and adorned with pure gold clothing. It is found inside the ubosot (ordination hall). Visitors are not actually allowed to touch or even get close to the Buddha as it is so revered. The Buddha is about two feet tall and sits several platforms above the floor.

Brief history


The temple of Wat Phra Kaew began construction in 1785, just a few years after the construction of the Grand Palace began. A new palace was needed because the capital of Thailand was moved from its previous location of Thonburi (where Wat Arun is located) to Bangkok. King Rama I was the founder of the new dynasty that began during this time: the Chakri Dynasty. The highly revered Emerald Buddha that resides here is believed to have been created in 43 BC in the ancient city of Pataliputra in India. Others believe it came to Thailand from Sri Lanka, but its actual origin remains to be proved.

What to know before you go

Wat Phra Kaew is found on the grounds of the Grand Palace, and there is a ฿500 (approximately $US15) entrance fee to get into both. This religious structure is the strictest of them all, and visitors cannot show any part of their legs and must cover the entirety of their shoulders in order to get in. It is recommended to wear a shirt that covers your shoulders instead of bringing a shall or coverup, as some guards may not let you in case you take off the shall upon entering the Grand Palace. The temple is open daily from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.

How to get there

There are two ways in which visitors can get to these temples. The first and most scenic route is to take the Chao Phraya River express boat. The tickets, regardless of where you depart, are ฿15 (approximately $US.50). We suggest taking the exact route we did: starting at Wat Arun, taking the ferry across the river to Wat Pho, and ending your day of exploration at Wat Phra Kaew. You will get off at the Tha Tien pier, or pier N8. This pier is actually for Wat Pho, but the boat also runs across to Wat Arun as the Tha Tien pier is currently under construction. The boat runs from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m.

By | 2017-10-09T15:10:33+00:00 October 9th, 2017|Categories: See & Do|Tags: , , , , |15 Comments

About the Author:

Kelly is a writer and photographer living in Bangkok, Thailand. She is originally from Lenexa, Kansas and studied journalism at Kansas State University. She enjoys reading and coffee way too much.


  1. Emily October 9, 2017 at 4:49 pm - Reply

    Love this post and your website! Great info and gorgeous photos!

  2. Travel Ta Bai October 10, 2017 at 12:53 am - Reply

    Thanks for this info, I am planning to visit bangkok nest year.. 😉

  3. Matt October 11, 2017 at 10:24 am - Reply

    I stumbled across Wat Pho by accident while visiting Bangkok, I had’t done any research as I was only there for a day first time, it’s very impressive. Great info, really helpful and gorgeous photos. Good work on the video too.

  4. Kasia October 11, 2017 at 1:24 pm - Reply

    Wow these are some beautiful temples. It’s a sight to see. I really want to go to Thailand one day to see at least some of its beauty. Thanks for sharing your very useful tips.

  5. Lisa October 11, 2017 at 6:37 pm - Reply

    I really enjoy Thai architecture and design. It is so intricate and colourful. The emerald Buddha must be a wondrous and spiritual sight for many. I would like to visit it on another trip sometime in the future:)

  6. Niki October 11, 2017 at 7:28 pm - Reply

    I am regretting the fact that I have skipped Bangkok and heading just to Phuket and PhiPhi. Reading your blog makes me realize that it was a mistake to do so!

    • Kelly Iverson October 12, 2017 at 1:51 am - Reply

      Girl I told you! Phuket and Phi Phi are amazing as well, so no worries 🙂

  7. Echoesofhervoice October 12, 2017 at 1:40 am - Reply

    Wow, these are beautiful. I would love to visit one day when I get a chance. Thank you for sharing.

    • Kelly Iverson October 12, 2017 at 1:52 am - Reply

      Let me know if you ever visit, would love to help you make an itinerary 🙂

  8. Daneisha October 12, 2017 at 2:18 am - Reply

    These temples are quite impressive, I must say! Definitely have to check them out when I make my trip to Bangkok. I especially love how inexpensive everything is.


  9. Tahnee October 12, 2017 at 6:22 am - Reply

    Wowwhat a great post. I also love the photography. It’s gorgeous and really help portrays the richness of Thailand.
    Thanks for sharing a great post

  10. Tahnee October 12, 2017 at 6:23 am - Reply

    Babcock lol sorry some said Thailand whilst I was typing lol

  11. Tahnee October 12, 2017 at 6:24 am - Reply

    Oh my…….thanks for a great post smh lol x

  12. Kate October 13, 2017 at 1:04 am - Reply

    I enjoyed visiting all of these temples when I was in Bangkok, but I think that Wat Arun was my favourite because I liked being able to climb all over it, despite my fear of heights. Thai architecture is so stunning though, it’s incredible to see how much attention to detail there is and how well it has been preserved after all this time.

  13. Cristine October 16, 2017 at 11:58 pm - Reply

    These temples are fascinating. Such detail and precision. Would love to visit

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