The capital of Thailand boasts of bold architecture on every soi (street). Amongst the city’s hot and sweltering backdrop is a number of landmarks that will impress even the most passionate of designers. Here is a tour of Bangkok’s architectural landmarks.
Victory Monument is one of the most recognizable architectural landmarks in the city. The military monument, constructed in 1941, sits in the center of one of the largest intersections in Bangkok, in the Ratchathewi District. The rising obelisk found at its center resembles a sword, its point facing the sky as if trying to slice through the smog-ridden city air. Around the focal point of the monument are five smaller statues, which represent Thailand’s police, navy, army, air force, and militia.
The Jim Thompson House Museum is a rare find in a city consisting of ever-expanding urban décor. Carpenters who ventured from Ayutthaya to the capital constructed the museum, which was once the home of American entrepreneur Jim Thompson. He also played a large role in the construction of the property, as he was an architect in the United States before moving to Thailand. The property comprises a number of different buildings, including a silk pavilion, spirit house, terrace, and more. Thompson collected art from around the country to adorn the unique teak wood structure, which is now one of the most visited historic relics in the capital.
Located on the banks of the Chao Phraya River, the Phra Sumeru Fortress is one architectural landmark few tourists seem to frequent in the capital. The fortress, located in Banglamphu, is surprisingly close to the infamous Khao San Road, a stretch of road that welcomes backpackers from all over the world. Those who find themselves wanting to escape the buckets of booze and herds of foreigners should take an afternoon to check out this landmark, one of the largest fortresses in the city. Though visitors cannot actually go into the structure, it sits in a quaint park, and visitors can photograph it from afar. The Phra Sumeru Fortress was built in 1783 during the reign of King Rama I and was one of 14 fortresses constructed in Bangkok during this time. Today, it is one of two forts that remain in the capital.
Also found in the area of Banglamphu is the Democracy Monument. Situated in the center of a busy traffic circle in the area, it features four rising pillars surrounding a center pedestal. Constructed after the country became a constitutional monarchy, the monument’s centerpiece has a copy of the original constitution. The pillars stand 24 meters (79 feet) tall, and the monument is best viewed at night when each pillar is lit up with fluorescent lights. Mew Aphaiwong, a Thai architect, constructed the Democracy Monument with the help of Italian sculptor and artist, Corrado Feroci.
The Santa Cruz Church is one of the most iconic structures located along the western banks of the Chao Phraya River. Those visitors who have ever traveled by boat have probably seen the building but did not know anything about its history. Located in the old capital of Thonburi, the church is one of the oldest ones in the capital, built during the reign of King Taksin in the 18th century. Also known as the Church of the Holy Cross, the king gave the Portuguese community that was dwelling in Thonburi a plot of land so that they could build and expand their community. Even though the Portuguese built the church, originally made of wood, its architecture has many instances of Chinese influences. It was renovated in 1916 to look as it does today.
After the previous capital city of Ayutthaya was besieged by the Burmese and came to an end, a large Roman Catholic Portuguese community relocated to the current capital. They made their home in the riverside community of Talad Noi, one of the oldest neighborhoods in Bangkok. Found in Chinatown, the community constructed a religious structure here known as the Kalawar Church, built in 1787 and previously known as Kalawario. The large Chinese community that resided here started to use the structure when the Portuguese community slowly began to leave the area. The original church is no longer in this location, as the religious structure burnt down—it was eventually rebuilt in 1897. Its gothic architecture is complemented by its riverside location, with its grand entrance facing the Chao Phraya River. Today, it is also known as the Holy Rosary Church.
One of the most noteworthy finds on the Chao Phraya River is the Rama VIII Bridge, one of the largest asymmetric cable-stayed bridges in the world, coming in at a whopping 474 meters (1,555 feet) in length. Construction of the bridge began in 1999 and finished in 2002, and it was built to help alleviate traffic in the city. In addition to doing this, the structure is absolutely stunning, especially after dark when the entire bridge is lit up.