It is divided into several quarters: the Temple of the Emerald Buddha (map); the Outer Court, with many public buildings; the Middle Court, including the Phra Maha Monthien Buildings, the Phra Maha Prasat Buildings and the Chakri Maha Prasat Buildings; the Inner Court and the Siwalai Gardens quarter. The Grand Palace is currently partially open to the public as a museum.
Throughout the period of absolute monarchy, from 1782 to 1932, the Grand Palace was both the country’s administrative and religious centre. As the main residence of the monarch, the palace was also the seat of government, with thousands of inhabitants including guardsmen, servants, concubines, princesses, ministers, and courtiers.
The palace’s high whitewashed castellated walls and extensive forts and guard posts mirrored those of the walls of Bangkok itself, and thus the Grand Palace was envisioned as a city within a city. For this reason a special set of palace laws were created to govern the inhabitants and to establish hierarchy and order.
The largest and most important court is the Middle Court or the Khet Phra Racha Than Chan Klang (เขตพระราชฐานชั้นกลาง) is situated in the central part of the Grand Palace, where the most important residential and state buildings are located.
The Museum of the Emerald Buddha Temple (พิพิธภัณฑ์วัดพระศรีรัตนศาสดาราม), despite its name, is the main artefacts repository of both the Grand Palace and Temple of the Emerald Buddha complex. The ground floor of the museum displays a varied selection of artefacts.
The upper floor rooms display more artistic and precious objects. In the main hall are two architectural models of the Grand Palace, the first representing the Grand Palace during the reign of King Rama I, and another in the reign of King Rama V. Behind these are numerous Buddha images and commemorative coins.
Arrive right when the Grand Palace opens (8:30 a.m.). Doing so will give you a short while to enjoy the grounds before big tour groups and heat move in.
A visit to the Grand Palace is going to be a busy and sweaty experience, so take it easy. Spare at least 2-3 hours to explore and take several rest breaks in the shade. The beauty of the palace is in its intricate details. Remind yourself just how amazing this place is and don’t rush around.
The best advice we can give you is to not plan anything major on the day of your visit to the royal residence if you can. You’ll be exhausted after exploring everything that this mega royal site has to offer.
Dress Code at the Grand Palace
To show adequate respect, you shouldn’t wear shorts or sleeveless shirts in any temple or state building in Thailand. Numerous travelers do so anyway. But unlike many of the other temples, a dress code is strictly enforced at the Grand Palace.
- Men must wear long pants; women must cover legs to just above the knee.
- Avoid wearing tight-fitting stretch pants or “revealing” clothing.
- Don’t wear sleeveless shirts or show shoulders.
- Don’t wear shirts with religious themes or symbols of death (heavy metal t-shirts, anyone?) on them. Many of the backpacker-favored Sure and
- No Time brand t-shirts portray Buddhist and Hindu themes.
- You may be told outside that flip-flops are unacceptable footwear, but this rule is usually overlooked for tourists. Shoes must be removed when entering sacred areas anyway.