Experience the history and beauty of one of Thailand’s oldest cities with these incredible things to do in Ayutthaya, Thailand.
Ayutthaya, Thailand is a city lost in time. Packed with long-forgotten ancient Buddhist temples, this former capital of Siam is witnessing a resurgence in tourism.
Ayutthaya was founded in 1350 CE and thrived until the 18th century when it was sacked by the neighboring Burmese. Although the city fell into ruin, it still holds some of the most important relics of ancient the country. The city was never rebuilt in its original location, and Ayutthaya is now a collection of restored and original ruins that echo the city’s grandeur. It has become one of the most popular places to visit in Thailand.
Exploring the wats, statues, and temples of Ayutthaya makes for an unforgettable experience. It can be done as a day trip from Bangkok, but there are so many things to do in Ayutthaya, that you may want to dedicate two days to the city if you have the time.
In this guide to Ayutthaya, we’ll cover all of the amazing attractions in the city and give you all the tips to help explore the city to its fullest.
In 1766, Ayutthaya was among the most prosperous cities in the world. With a population of one million residents, it was the most populated city on the planet. The city was packed with merchants, monasteries, and dignitaries, and held the prestigious title of the Siamese capital from the 14th through the 18th century.
Because of the wealth and prominence of Ayutthaya, many prestigious residents compete for the largest and most opulent wat’s and temples in order to gain bragging rights and favor with the king. This led to the city becoming one of the most magnificent destinations to see early Buddhist temples.
The city came to an abrupt end in 1767 when the city was attacked by Burma. The army leveled the city, forcing all of its residents to flee. The Burmese ransacked the city, taking treasures and documents, but what remained were the majestic temples. The city was never rebuilt to its original glory. Although much of Ayutthaya was reclaimed by nature, many of the temples and palaces can still be visited today.
Things To Do In Ayutthaya, Thailand
Ayutthaya is among the most magnificent destinations in Thailand. This archaeological wonder features ancient Buddhist temples, monasteries, and some of the most famous statues in the country. Now a Unesco World Heritage site, Ayutthaya draws your attention; here is our list of the top 10 things to do and see in Ayutthaya
Grand Palace Complex and Wat Phra Si Sanphet
Our first stop in Ayutthaya was the Grand Palace Complex, also known as Wang Lang Palace. This opulent former royal residence features a massive bronze Buddha that has been fully restored to its original sheen. The spacious grounds make for a popular place to wander and picnic.
The palace itself was the home to every king of Ayutthaya. The large temple in the center offers a welcome break from the hot sun. You can remove your shoes and walk all the way around the towering Buddha statue and look at photos from the temple’s discovery and restoration.
Within the Grand Palace Complex is another one of the best things to see in Ayutthaya, the magnificent Wat Phra Si Sanphet.
In 1448, the leader of the Ayutthaya Kingdom, King Borommatrailokanat ordered a new temple to be the center of his new palace. The result of the inspiration was the incredible Wat Phra Si Sanphet. Its focal point was a 52-foot-tall bronze Buddha statue.
The temple, known as the King’s Temple, has three enormous chedis and several small ones. Its three large chedis and numerous smaller ones. While King Borommatrailokanat did not survive to see the entire wat completed, his ashes were interred in one of the chedis by his son King Ramathibodi II. King Ramathibodi’s own ashes were interred in a third chedi that was built in 1530.
Although much of the wat was destroyed by the Burmese in 1448, there were many small Buddha statues made with gold, emerald, and lead that were missed. Many of them are on display at the National Museum in Bangkok.
Among the most popular places to visit in Ayutthaya, Thailand are the ruins of Wat Chaiwatthanaram in the city center. This centerpiece of the Ayutthaya Historical Park on the western banks of the Chao Phraya River was among the looked wats in Ayutthaya and restorations began in 1987.
This is among the most famous Buddhist temples in Thailand and draws tens of thousands of visitors every year. The Khmer architecture draws comparisons to Angkor Wat in Cambodia due to its impressive prang and eight chedi.
Wait Chaiwatthanaruam might be a shadow of its former self, but it’s easy to catch glimpses of the temple’s ancient glory. The temple is at its most impressive at sunset when the golden rays light up the grounds.
Of all of the places that my family visited in Ayutthaya, our favorite was Wat Ratchaburana. Centered by a massive tower with views over the entire city, this should definitely be included in your Ayutthaya itinerary.
The temple was commissioned by King Boromracha II during his reign from 1424-1448 in honor of his older brothers. The story of their battle over the succession of the thrown is central to the wat’s experience. The story goes that the two brothers, Ay and Yi, the first and second in line for the throne, battled for power, and both were killed.
The grounds of Wat Ratchaburana are vast, but every corner offers a delight. There are mesmerizing murals, large prangs portraying royal stories, and a massive tower that visitors can climb and peer down into a deep crypt.
Don’t miss the two chedis that house the ashes of the two fallen brothers. There is a third chedi within the ruins in honor of Queen Si Suriyothai who dressed as a man during a battle with the Burmese in 1550 and was tragically killed.
Home to one of Thailand’s most iconic images, Wat Mahathat is one of the must-see places in Ayutthaya. The temple complex, which is directly across from Wat Ratchaburana is a sprawling complex that was built in 1370, shortly after the city of Ayutthaya was founded.
The wat was the most important temple in the city and hosted popular celebrations and performances as well as royal events. It was also home to the head monk in Ayutthaya.
Don’t miss the two intricate towers by the entrance, and follow the pathway to find the iconic Buddha face emerging from the roots of a tree. The statue itself is quite small, but you can’t miss it, as the spot draws crowds eager for photos early in the day.
Although the temple was plundered by the Burmese, much later one of the largest stupas collapse revealing a wealth of gold inside. Almost 70% of it was taken by thieves, but the rest is on display at Chao Sam Phraya National Museum.
Wat Phra Ram
Wat Phra Ram is unmistakable, the majestic and intricate tower at its center is visible from much of the Ayutthaya Historical Park, yet this is one of the least visited things to do in Ayutthaya.
The temple was built in the 14th century by King Ramesuan. Its Khmer-style architecture is unmistakable, and it stands in stark contrast with many of the restored temples in the city. There is an idyllic pond just behind the temple ruins that makes for a wonderful spot to catch some shade and relax.
Chao Sam Phraya National Museum
Considered one of the best museums in Ayutthaya, Chao Sam Phraya National Museum is a great place to see some of the jewelry and artifacts that survived the Burmese invasion. Among notable items in the museum are some of the golden treasures rescued from Wat Mahathat after the collapse of one of its stupas.
Bang Pa-in Palace
Not all of the places to visit in Ayutthaya are ancient. Bang Pa-in Palace was completely rebuilt by King Rama V into this modern palace. The palace is located about 10 miles south of Ayutthaya and can be reached by train, taxi, or tuk-tuk.
The buildings are reminiscent of many of the temples in Bangkok and central Chiang Mai with intricate designs and exquisitely manicured gardens. Among the rare, intimate glances into modern Thai royalty are a history of the Thai royal family as well as a row of small houses along the outer wall. These were the homes of the King’s concubines.
Ayutthaya Floating Market
Floating markets are one of the unique draws of Thailand, and one of the coolest things to do in Ayutthaya is to visit the local river. You’ll find a collection of boats moving up and down the Chao Phraya River and several sections of the river that act as a more traditional market with boats moored to the banks.
In the center of the river are the market stalls serving up hot food and some of the best food in Thailand. Many of these dishes are cooked right on the boat. It’s a very relaxed and family-friendly floating market compared to some of the ones in Bangkok.
Places To Visit in Ayutthaya With Kids
Ayutthaya is an incredible city to visit with children. The wide-open grounds offer plenty of spaces to explore and the towering ruins are typically open to climb, so kids can burn off some energy and get some incredible views along the way.
If you’re looking for some unique things to do in Ayutthaya with kids, here are some cool options.
The Million Toy Museum
Re-live your childhood in one of the most incredible toy museums. You’ll find thousands of toys spread across the two stories of the Ayutthaya toy museum representing a thousand years of play. There’s everything from ancient wooden toys to gifts from McDonald’s Happy Meals.
The museum is the brainchild of Professor Krirk Yoonpun, who still visits the museum on most weekends to host a children’s storytime.
Ayutthaya is known for ‘pla taphian,’ a unique mobile shaped like a fish that is made with palm leaves. One of the fun things to do in Ayutthaya with kids is to visit the Sala Pla Thai workshop where kids (and adults too) can learn the art of creating these unique keepsakes.
Work with master craftspeople to weave palm leaves together into the shape of barb fish with fancy tails. Kids can color the fish however they wish and create several to form a mobile that they can hang at home.
Our Experience In Ayutthaya
We included Ayutthaya in our list of places to visit in Thailand as a day trip from Bangkok. We had spent a few days exploring Bangkok with our kids before jetting off to explore Kanchanaburi to experience the Death Railway sites and spend a few days in a floating lodge in Sai Yok National Park. After returning to Bangkok, we headed to Ayutthaya for the day before flying to Chiang Mai for a few days of temples, waterfalls, and amazing food.
We spent most of our time exploring the temples, museums, and wats in the Grand Palace Complex and the Ayutthaya Historical Park, checking off those bucket list places in Ayutthaya. But what really set our visit to the city apart from the norm was that the city had recently experienced a devastating flood. And there were a few sections of the city that were still completely submerged.
As we drove through the city we found a back road where some children were waving visitors to a small landing near the water. They asked if we wanted to have a tour of Wat Phra Ngam, a small temple in an Ayutthaya neighborhood. We couldn’t resist their smiling faces and were soon being boarded into a small plastic boat by two local women.
The children and their mothers were residents of one of the Ayutthaya neighborhoods that were completely underwater. They weren’t able to return to their homes, so they were spending their time giving tourists and locals tours of the wat for a few baht.
It was incredible to see the smiles and resilience on the faces of families who had lost so much during a natural disaster. And it gave my family pause to appreciate that, even when things are at their worst, life goes on.
How to Get To Ayutthaya From Bangkok
Ayutthaya is one of the best day trips from Bangkok. And getting from Bangkok to Ayuthaya is quite an easy journey.
Getting from Bangkok to Ayutthaya is quite easy. If you’re driving yourself, simply follow HWY 1 to HWY 32.
Traveling by train from Bangkok to Ayutthaya is one of the most popular ways to get between the two cities. Along the way, you’ll pass some incredible scenery including rice fields, waterways, and forests.
The train from Hua Lamphong in Bangkok typically leaves every 30 minutes. The journey takes between one and a half and two hours.
Getting Around Ayutthaya
The Ayutthaya Historical Park is where most of the important places to visit in Ayutthaya are located. Walking between some of the temples is quite easy, especially in the center. But if you’re visiting on a hot day or visiting Ayutthaya with kids, you might want to consider hiring a tuk-tuk for the day. This typically costs 300 THB.
Another alternative is hiring a taxi or a local guide who can take you on an Ayutthaya tour. This private tour is one of the most popular and includes stops at all of the most important Ayutthaya temples as well as lunch.
Where To Stay In Ayutthaya
If you’re looking to spend the night or a few days in Ayutthaya to wander the temples, museums, and palaces, you’ve made a great choice. There are many things to do in Ayutthaya, and it’s impossible to pack them all into one day.
There are some excellent Ayutthaya hotels to choose from, here are a few of my top choices.
Located in a quiet and out-of-the-way corner near the banks of the Chao Praya River, Sala Ayutthaya is a wonderful place to stay for families or couples. The hotel is just one and a half miles from the Ayutthaya Historical Park and features 26 large rooms.
The riverside rooms have fantastic views of Wat Phutthaisawan, which is usually lit up at night offering a wonderful view over which you can enjoy a glass of wine. There’s a small swimming pool on site that’s perfect for cooling off on a hot afternoon.
You can find their current rates and availability here.
With large rooms and both one and two-bedroom suites, Kantary Hotel Ayuthaya offers everything you need for a few days in the city. The rooms all feature full kitchenettes, so you can cook your own meals if you would like. It’s also in easy reach of great restaurants, as well as having an on-site buffet offering both lunch and dinner.
The Kantary Hotel has a fantastic pool along with a sauna and steam room. There are also soft drinks and snacks available at no additional cost. The hotel is located in New Ayutthaya, so you’ll likely need to use a taxi or tuk-tuk to get to the temples. But it’s less than a 10-minute trip.
You can find their current rates and availability here.
Enjoy These Wondrous Things To Do in Ayutthaya, Thailand!
Thailand is a special destination for family travel. The city of Ayutthaya is packed with some of the most incredible temples and magical history of the country. From the towering Buddhas, stunning temples, and floating markets food, these fun and exciting things to do in Ayutthaya, Thailand will surely thrill every visitor.
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