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The palace’s construction began in 1782. King Rama I was in power at the time, and the palace was not considered to be complete until the late 1800s. King Rama I was the founder of the Chakri Dynasty, and he believed that it also deserved a new royal palace, which is why construction initially began. From 1782 until 1925, the palace was home to the country’s royalty. Today it acts as one of the most popular tourist destinations in Thailand. Not all of the grounds are open to the public; however, there is still plenty to see in those parts that are. Over the past 200 years, different leaders have continued to build upon the magnificent palace until it finally looks how it does today. The Grand Palace serves mainly as a tourist attraction and is sometimes used for ceremonial purposes, however, no member of royalty has lived here since 1925.
The chosen location of the Grand Palace was anything but random. It is very close to the artery of Bangkok, the Chao Phraya River, making it easier to defend against possible invasions. A large Chinese community was residing here when King Rama I decided that the location was perfect for the Grand Palace. They were forced to relocate to what is now Chinatown, located on the outside of the city.
The grounds of the Grand Palace are made up of three different zones, or courts. There is the Inner, Middle, and Outer Court. You will likely spend most of your time in the Outer Court, where you will find buildings open to the public as well as the Temple of the Emerald Buddha. You will find that much of the palace consists of traditional Thai architecture, while other areas are inspired by the European renaissance era, and oftentimes you will see a combination of both. There are over 100 buildings on the grounds.
Otherwise known as Wat Phra Kaew, the Temple of the Emerald Buddha remains one of the main reasons visitors flock to the Grand Palace. The temple sits inside the ordination hall, and it is considered to be one of the most important temples in Thailand.
Be aware that there is a fairly strict dress code you must oblige by in order to enter the Grand Palace. Prohibited items of clothing include shorts, mini-skirts, tight-fitting trousers, any see-through items of clothing, sleeveless tops, sandals (excluding those with heel straps), sweatshirts, sweatpants, and pajamas. Even if you have a shawl to cover your shoulders, chances are a security guard will be hesitant to let you in. It is better to be overdressed and drink plenty of water to avoid overheating than it is to be turned away at the Grand Palace’s entrance.
This area of Bangkok is incredibly popular with tourists, and as such should be approached with a little sensibility. If someone incredibly friendly approaches you and offers to drive you around the area for a set fee, walk away. If someone insists that the Grand Palace is closed, but they would be more than happy to take you to another, equally as beautiful temple, politely decline. This area is very beautiful but also very busy, and many people are willing to take advantage of this.
The easiest way to get here is via taxi, just because every driver will know where the Grand Palace is. Do not get into a taxi who insists on not using the meter, as they are legally obliged to use them. You can also take the BTS Skytrain to station Saphan Taksin and take the Chao Phraya River Express boat to the Maharaj Pier. It is a short walk from the main entrance. There is a ฿500 (about $15) entrance fee. The temple is open every day from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., so be sure to get there early in order to have ample time to explore.
Grand Palace, Na Phra Lan Rd, Phra Nakhon, Bangkok, 10200, +66 02 623 5500