The Grand Royal Palace is a complex of buildings located in the central district of Phra Nakhon in Bangkok, and is the official residence of the kings of Thailand since 1785.
Since the founding of Bangkok, the Grand Royal Palace has been the main architectural symbol of the Thai royal family. For some 150 years, it has been not only the official residence of the king, but also the administrative headquarters of the government.
Today, the palace serves as a venue for royal ceremonies and state receptions.
The history of the complex coincides with that of the Chakri royal dynasty. It was the first Chakri king, Rama I, who founded Bangkok and made it the capital of the kingdom of Siam, giving it the longest name in the world, so long that it appears in the Guinness Book of Records: “The city of angels, the great city, the city of eternal joy, the impenetrable city of the god Indra, the magnificent capital of the world endowed with precious stones, the happy city, overflowing with the colossal royal palace, which is similar to the divine house where the reincarnated gods reign, a city blessed by Indra and built for Vishnukam.”
The royal palace complex occupies an area of 2.5 km and is completely surrounded by a high white wall.
Once you enter, you are catapulted into the ancient capital of Siam, among the ancient palaces and colorful temples.
Construction of the palace began in 1782, when Rama I moved the capital from Thonburi to Bangkok. He chose an area near the Chao Phraya River for the palace complex, which was then occupied by Chinese merchants, who settled in Yaowarat, which would soon become one of the largest Chinatowns in the world.
Initially, the palace consisted of only a small group of wooden buildings. Within the walls, the royal chapel of Wat Phra Kaew was built to house the Emerald Buddha.
In 1785, when the work was completed, the king inaugurated the palace with a solemn ceremony on his coronation day.
Thereafter, kings Rama V, Rama VI and Rama VII chose different residences, until Rama VIII returned to reside in the Great Royal Palace in 1945, before dying the following year in unclear circumstances. His brother Rama IX, the current monarch, succeeded him, but preferred to move to Chitralada Palace, also located in central Bangkok.
Today, the Grand Royal Palace remains the king’s official residence and is used for weddings, funerals, state banquets, etc., and also houses the office of the royal family and the king’s private secretary.
The Great Royal Palace is surrounded by a circle of walls 1900 meters long.
The palace complex is overall very similar to the palaces of Ayutthaya, the former glorious capital of Siam. The outer courtyard, near the entrance, was used to house governmental services in which the king was directly involved, such as the civil administration, the army and the treasury. The Temple of the Emerald Buddha is also located here. In the inner courtyard are the king’s residence and the rooms used for government business. Only two of the pavilions are open to the public. The consorts and daughters of the kings also resided here.
The contrast is striking between the Emerald Buddha Temple, in classical Thai style, and the more European design that inspired the construction of the Grand Royal Palace.
The complex is divided into 4 parts:
Inner courtyard. Here are the buildings whose access was reserved for the king and women (wives, concubines and daughters of the monarch, as well as all the female staff of the various palace buildings). Outside court. Here are the palaces that housed the ministries, the Royal Guard and the Treasury. Central Court. This area houses the most interesting palaces, such as the Chakri Mahaprasad Hall, where the king held his court and audiences, a hall built in a style between the Italian Renaissance and the Thai classical style. Wat Phra Kaew. Literally, “Temple of the Emerald Buddha”, a complex of religious buildings of different styles and periods. Inside the main temple is the Emerald Buddha, one of the most revered statues in Buddhism.
The crenellated walls of the royal palace were built during the reign of King Rama I in 1782. Later, during the reign of King Rama II, the palace and its walls were extended to the south, while cannon emplacements and guard cages were added.
The walls contain 12 doors. Inside the palace, there are still 22 gates and a labyrinth of interior walls, but some of them have been demolished.
Each of the doors is made of brick and mortar and is painted in red and white.
Opening hours: daily from 08.30 to 15.30. Admission: free for Thai people, 500 baht for foreigners. Dress code to enter the Emerald Buddha Temple: A strict dress code applies in this area. Both the Grand Palace and the Emerald Buddha Temple are considered one of the holiest sites in Thailand. Visitors must dress appropriately before entering the temple. In particular, men should wear long pants and shirts with sleeves (no tank tops, no sandals without socks). The same applies to women, who are not allowed to wear transparent dresses or dresses that leave their shoulders bare.
How to get to the Grand Royal Palace in Bangkok
Take the Silom line and get off at Taksin Saphan station, exiting at exit 2. Continue by taking the Chao Phraya express boat to Ta Chang Pier. After a 5-minute walk, you will find yourself in front of the palace entrance gate.