Once the political and trade capital of Thailand, Ayutthaya is steeped in history with its impressive ancient ruins and temples.
Its centrepiece is the Ayutthaya Historical Park, recognised as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, which is home to four spectacular temples, Wat Phra Ram, Wat Phra Si Sanphet, Wat Mahathat, Wat Ratchaburana, as well as the Royal Palace and Viharn Phra Mongkol Bophit.
Ayutthaya can be easily explored by bicycle and once you have visited the temple ruins, visiting the old foreign quarters – French, Portuguese, British, and Dutch – is a must.
The city also has a popular floating market, as well as several large open air markets making it one for the best places to buy traditional and locally produced handcrafted Thai souvenirs.
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Things to do
1. Wat Chaiwatthanaram
Set on the west bank of the Chao Phraya River, the magnificent Wat Chaiwatthanaram is one of the most impressive temples in the Historical Park. Built in a traditional Khmer style, it consists of a central spire, which is meant to symbolize the center of the universe. The four outer chedis depict four continents. There are also 120 sitting Buddha statues located in the vicinity.
2. Wat Phra Si Sanphet
The most historically important temple, but also the most picturesque, two of the large chedis at Wat Phra Si Sanphet were built by King Ramathibodi II and date back to 1492. A third chedi was built in 1530 by his son, King Boromaraja IV. All three were later plundered by the Burmese.
3. Wat Mahathat
Wat Mahathat features what is arguably one of the most photographed sites in Ayutthaya – the stone face of Buddha peering out from the roots at the base of a tree. In 1956, archaeologists discovered a secret chamber in the ruins where a large haul of gold, jewelry and other valuables items were discovered.
4. Wat Lokaya Sutha (Temple of the Reclining Buddha)
Located in northwest Ayutthaya, Wat Lokaya Sutha is one of the most impressive sites in the city and is a must see for anyone visiting. The highlight is the enormous reclining Buddha statue which measures 42 metres high and 8 metres wide. The statue is wrapped in a bright orange robe.
5. Chao Sam Phraya National Museum
The Chao Sam Phraya National Museum houses many of the artifacts discovered at the temples throughout Ayutthaya, including Buddha images, caskets and relics.
The museum is made up of three buildings in total and showcases pieces from in Thai history including Sukhothai, Lopburi, Sriwichai and Chiang Saen. Closed Mondays. Located next to Rajabhat Phranakhon Si Ayutthaya University.
6. Wat Yai Chaimongkol
Located on the outskirts of Ayutthaya, Wat Yai Chaimongkol is one of the most striking and best preserved temples in the area.
Built by King U-thong in 1357, it includes a huge chedi surrounded by four smaller chedhis, as well as a huge reclining buddha. Make sure you climb the stair to the top of the chedi for views of the surrounding area.
7. Foreign quarters
With it once being the trade capital of Thailand, Ayutthaya drew in people from all over the world, with some of that diversity still on show today. The city is home to some old French, British, Portuguese, Dutch and Japanese quarters which can be easily explored on bicycle. St Joseph’s Church, which was built by settlers in 1666 is located in the French quarter.
8. Bang Pa-In Summer Palace
If you get tired of temple ruins, Bang Pa-in Palace, or the Summer Palace, as it is also known, features traditional Thai and Chinese style architecture and is set among beautifully preserved grounds.
Local Reference Websites for Ayutthaya