The Grand Palace in Bangkok was once the official residence of the Thai king, site of the royal court, and administrative seat of the government. Today, the residential and administrative functions of the Palace are at a minimum and it instead functions as the spiritual heat and symbolic seat of power for the Kingdom of Thailand.
To understand the hodge-podge layout of the Grand Palace, take a look at the Grand Palace Map. The map indicates which parts of the Palace are open for visitation and which parts are closed to the public.
The Other Court
The Outer Court is open to the public. As you walk through the entry gate, you’ll find yourself in the Outer Court. The buildings here are used for various administrative and government functions, as well as some departments of the Royal Household.
A stone pathway takes you to another courtyard. Directly to the left is the Emerald Buddha Temple, or Wat Phra Kaew. This is the most sacred and important temple in Thailand – so if you’re planning on just visiting one temple, let this be the one. The Royal Family considers this their personal chapel. It is also the only temple in Thailand that does not house monks.
The courtyard is full of beautiful architectural details and intricate designs. Along the walls you’ll even find a mural of the ‘Ramakien’ – an epic tale of good versus evil, demons versus gods, family feuds, and eternal love. The tale is adapted from the Hindu legend ‘Ramayana’.
A stone pathway takes you to the Middle Court, passing under the Phimanchaisri Gateway. The King would meet honored guests in the Middle Court, and conduct business there. Parts of this Court are not currently open to the public. The oldest building in this court is the Throne Hall, which is open to the public on weekdays. Closer to the exit is the Museum.
The Museum is full of wonderful artifacts connected to the Grand Palace and Emerald Buddha. You’ll be able to see the statue’s old robes and costumes. You’ll also find old maps of the Grand Palace, detailing its growth over the years. The Museum also has an Armory of past weapons and war equipment.
Tour Guide App
One of the best ways to understand and explore the Grand Palace is to download the Bangkok Grand Palace Tour Guide App, available for both Android and Apple devices. The app gives you an interactive, GPS-aware map of the Palace as well as geo-located narration and audio recordings at specific sites. This means that the app doubles as a guidebook, tour guide, and audio-guide, all in one.
Simply download the app and then start walking through the Grand Palace – the app will automatically speak up and direct you where to walk, and then tell you what you’ll see, and then allow you to delve deeper (or move on!) based on your interest level. The app will guide you from stop to stop, ensuring that you get a cohesive, entertaining, and informative tour of the Grand Palace while allowing you the flexibility of making your own tour schedule.
Best of all, the app design is very user-friendly. It’s so simple there’s no need for a “help” page – simply click “next” or “back” to move forward/back, hit “play” or “pause”, read the script by clicking on the transcript icon, or go to the map by selecting the “map” icon. Keep in mind that once the app is downloaded, it works completely offline – so you don’t have to worry about a wifi connection or an international data plan. It’s so easy to use, your grandma could do it!