Temple in National Museum Bangkok Thailand

Getty Images/iStockphoto

National Museum

Ko Ratanakosin & Thonburi

Thailand's National Museum is home to an impressive collection of items dating from throughout the country's glittering past. Most of the museum's structures were built in 1782 as the palace of Rama I's viceroy, Prince Wang Na. Rama V turned it into a museum in 1874, and today there are three permanent exhibitions spread out over several buildings. The principal exhibition, Gallery of Thai History, is home to some of the country's most beautiful Buddha images and sculptures of Hindu gods.

The history wing has made impressive bounds towards contemporary curatorial aesthetics with a succinct chronology of prehistoric, Sukhothai-, Ayuthaya- and Bangkok-era events and figures. Gems include King Ramkhamhaeng’s inscribed stone pillar, said to be the oldest record of Thai writing (although this has been contested); King Taksin’s throne; the Rama V section; and the screening of a movie about Rama VII, The Magic Ring.

The decorative arts and ethnology exhibit covers seemingly every possible handicraft including traditional musical instruments, ceramics, clothing and textiles, woodcarving, regalia and weaponry. The archaeology and art history wing has exhibits ranging from prehistory to the Bangkok period.

In addition to the main exhibition halls, the Bhuddhaisawan (Phutthaisawan) Chapel includes some well-preserved murals and one of the country’s most revered Buddha images, Phra Phuttha Sihing. The northern Chariot Hall houses the ornate funeral chariots of past royalty.

Lonely Planet's must-see attractions

Nearby Ko Ratanakosin & Thonburi attractions

1. Thammasat University

0.11 MILES

Much of the saga that followed Thailand’s transition from monarchy to democracy has unfolded on this quiet riverside campus. Thammasat University was…

2. National Gallery

0.14 MILES

Housed in a building that was the Royal Mint during the reign of Rama V, the National Gallery’s permanent exhibition is a rather dusty and dated affair…

3. Sanam Luang

0.21 MILES

On a hot day, Sanam Luang (Royal Field) is far from charming: a shadeless expanse of dying grass and concrete pavement ringed by flocks of pigeons and…

4. Amulet Market

0.24 MILES

This arcane and fascinating market claims both the footpaths along Th Maha Rat and Th Phra Chan, as well as a dense network of covered market stalls that…

6. Thanon Khao San


From seedy backpacker ghetto of the 1980s to atmospheric flashpacker central of the current times, Th Khao San has undergone a considerable image makeover…

7. Silpakorn University

0.35 MILES

Thailand’s universities aren’t usually repositories for interesting architecture, but Silpakorn (pronounced sĭn lá þà gorn), the country’s premier art…

8. Lak Meuang

0.36 MILES

Serving as the spiritual keystone of Bangkok, Lak Meuang is a phallus-shaped wooden pillar erected by Rama I during the foundation of the city in 1782…