What are the must-see temples in Bangkok?

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Bangkok is home to numerous breathtaking temples, each with its own distinctive charm and significance. Bangkok’s temples are a unique part of the capital’s heart and soul. A visit here would not be complete without visiting at least a couple of them. The architecture is awe-inspiring and the glittering decoration is like no other. Imagine thousands of pieces of colored glass and pottery adorned with intricate structures gilded in glaring gold – you’re indeed in the City of Angels! The best time to visit most temples is in the early morning. It’s cooler and generally less crowded. The temples are not just tourist attractions but also play an important part in Buddhist traditions. Monks live in the temple complexes, wake up around 4 am, attend to prayers and duties, and then collect food and necessities from ordinary people on the streets. If you’re up very early in Bangkok you will see monks walking around, dressed in saffron-colored robes. This daily alms ritual (called tak baht) takes place all over Thailand and is part of the Buddhist philosophy of giving and making merit to attain a better life beyond this one.

Here are some must-see temples in Bangkok:

1. Wat Arun (Temple of Dawn)

Wat Arun, the most iconic temple of Bangkok, is located on the Thonburi side of the Chao Phraya River, almost opposite to the Grand Palace and Wat Pho. Built during the 17th century, its full name of ‘Wat Arun Ratchawararam Ratchawaramahawihan’ is rather hard to remember, so it’s often called the ‘Temple of the Dawn’. The distinctive shape of Wat Arun consists of a central prang (a Khmer-style tower) surrounded by 4 smaller towers, all encrusted with faience from plates and potteries. The stairs to reach the balcony on the main tower are quite steep, usually easier to climb up than to walk down, but the view from up there is really worth it.

2. Wat Phra Kaew (Temple of the Emerald Buddha)

Wat Phra Kaew is actually within Bangkok’s Grand Palace, which we just talked about in the section above. However, I thought it deserved its own place. Many Thai Buddhist worshippers also consider it their most sacred temple because it houses the Emerald Buddha, a 26-inch (66-centimeter) figure made of jade and gold with great significance to the Buddhist religion. While it’s a very touristic place, to this day it’s also a pilgrimage destination for Buddhist worshippers coming from all over the world. Regarded as the palladium of Thailand, the image that protects the country and its citizens, it’s definitely the main attraction of Wat Phra Kaew. The temple itself is an impressive work of art, from the intricate details of its interior to the gorgeous painted murals and its cloisters.

3. Wat Pho (Temple of the Reclining Buddha)

Wat Pho or the Temple of the Reclining Buddha is the largest temple complex in Bangkok featuring 46 meters long reclining Buddha decorated with gold leaves and the mother of pearls. Wat Pho is also home to traditional Thai massage and is considered the most prominent school of Thai massage in Thailand. The Wat has four chapels and a long line of golden Buddhas.

4. Wat Saket (Golden Mount)

Wat Saket, or Temple of the Golden Mount, is one of the popular temples in Bangkok that sits atop an artificial hill, from which the large city of Bangkok looks tranquil to the core. Adore the Buddhist paintings inside the ordination hall of Wat Saket at this temple which is world-renowned for the Golden Mount that rises high above the rest of the temple grounds. Apart from climbing the Golden Mount, one can also visit the chapel and library open to visitors on these historic grounds.

5. Wat Benchamabophit (Marble Temple)

One of the famous temples in Bangkok, Wat Benchamabophit, is also referred to as the marble temple because of the Italian marble used in its construction. The building is a fine example of Thai architecture, with Singha lion statues guarding the doorways and pointy layered rooftops visible from a distance. Built-in 1899 by the king of Thailand, this Buddhist Temple is located within a huge temple complex.

6. Wat Traimit (Temple of the Golden Buddha)

Wat Traimit is an elegant, multilevel, white-and-gold temple located at the very beginning of Yaowarat Road, making it a perfect starting point for Chinatown exploration. The main attraction of Wat Traimit is not only its beautiful architecture but the immense Buddha made of solid gold seated inside – the largest of this kind in the world. This 5-meter-high, 5.5-ton statue was long hidden under an unimpressive coating of stucco and plaster thought to have been made in the 13th-14th centuries. The gold hidden underneath was only revealed by accident in 1955! A small entry fee is required to visit the museum located halfway up the steps but, in fact, visiting the golden Buddha above it is free.

7. Wat Suthat (Temple of the Giant Swing)

One of the best-known features of Wat Suthat Thepwararam is actually just outside its entrance – a giant 21.5-meter-high swing on the side of a road, which many people stop to look at, even if they’re not going inside. But go inside you should. The sprawling temple complex has several sections worth seeing, starting with the large main hall that features a famous golden Buddha statue that originally came from the ancient capital of Sukhothai, as well as many murals and traditional Thai crafts.

8. Wat Ratchanatdaram (Loha Prasat)

Bangkok has no lack of majestic temples and each is more elegant and impressive than the next, but Loha Prasat really stands out with its unique architectural identity. Also called the ‘Metal Castle’, Loha Prasat is located on the ground of Wat Ratchanaddaram and was submitted to UNESCO in 2005 to become a World Heritage site, highlighting the historical importance of the temple.

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