A Detailed Guide to the Ancient City of Ayutthaya

A Detailed Guide to the Ancient City of Ayutthaya

The city of Ayutthaya was the second capital of Siam (the former name for Thailand) after Sukhothai. It was lucky enough to have an ideal location close to China, India and the Malay Archipelago.

Ayutthaya became the trading capital of Asia and the largest city in the world. From 1351 to 1767, the Ayutthaya Kingdom was thriving. International traders visited Ayutthaya and raved about it. Sadly it didn’t last because the Burmese invaded Ayutthaya in 1767 and burnt the city to the ground, almost completely destroying it.

Nowadays you can visit the remnants of that ancient empire and even though there are a lot of ruins, you can still imagine just how impressive it once was. The Ayutthaya Historic Park was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1991. It’s a great place to explore, especially as it is so close to Bangkok.

Entrance fees in Ayutthaya

Most of the temples you’ll visit have an entrance fee. The most popular ones cost 50 Baht and less popular ones cost 20 Baht. Temples that are still actively used, such as Wat Puddhaisawan, don’t have an entrance fee. If you are planning on visiting a few of the temples you can purchase a temple pass that covers six of the most popular ones. You can buy the pass at the entrance of any of those temples for 230 Baht.

Things to do in Ayutthaya?

You are unlikely to be bored because there are so many places to visit in Ayutthaya. Depending on how long you have there, you can visit as many or as little temples as you like. It’s worth getting the multi-temple pass if you have time to visit at least five of the six temples.

Wat Pra Mahathat

Wat Phra Mahathat is Instagram-famous because of its main feature, a Buddha’s head entwined in the roots of a Bhodi tree. But although it’s pretty neat, there is more to see than just the Buddha’s head. The central prang of Wat Phra Mahathat is also the old city’s most impressive structure.

Entrance fee: 50 Baht (or included in the temple pass)

Wat Ratchaburana

Immediately across the road from Wat Mahathat is Wat Ratchaburana. This was my favourite temple in Ayutthaya. Its Kmer-style prang standing tall in the centre of the temple grounds is really well preserved. The prang has fine stucco detailing and sculptures of mythical creatures. You can also climb the prang for some great views across the surrounding area. Wat Ratchaburana also has some great photo opportunities.

Entrance fee: 50 Baht (or included in the temple pass)

Wat Phra Si Sanphet

Wat Phra Si Sanphet is the largest temple in Ayutthaya and used to be the holiest one. It is now one of the most popular temples, especially at sunset. It used to be home to a 16 metre high Buddha, covered entirely in hundreds of kilograms of gold. But of course, the Burmese made sure to help themselves to this before they burnt Ayutthaya to the ground. Nowadays it’s famous for its three enormous chedis, which are best photographed at the end of the day.

On the same site as Wat Phra Si Sanphet, you’ll find what’s left of the Royal Palace. Unfortunately, that’s not a lot!

Entrance fee: 50 Baht (or included in the temple pass)

Wat Lokkayasutharam

There’s not a lot remaining of this temple but there is an enormous and extremely well preserved reclining Buddha. There are some ruins to explore behind the Buddha but really the impressive statue is the main reason to visit. There is no entrance fee.

Wat Phananchoengworawihan

Don’t even bother to try and pronounce this temple’s name! The temple is notable for the thousands of catfish that congregate in the river near the entrance. People feed them special catfish food and they go mental, flapping around like crazy. It’s pretty amusing to watch.

Wat Phananchoengworawihan is also the first stop on the sunset boat trip (more on this below).

Entrance fee: 20 baht

Wat Phutthaisawan

Wat Phutthaisawan is stop number two on the sunset boat trip and is popular because of its reclining Buddha. As the temple is still in use, there is no cost to enter but if you like you can make a donation.

Wat Chai Watthanaram

Wat Chai Watthanaram was stop number three on our boat tour. This temple is another popular one to visit at sunset. You can enter and walk around the temple grounds, or if (like Simon) you are all templed out, you can simply stop and take some great sunset photos from outside.

Entrance fee: 50 Baht (or included in the temple pass)

Take a sunset boat trip

Our hotel organised this boat cruise for us and arranged a transfer to the boat terminal. We were expecting a car or a minivan, so we were quite surprised when just a man on a motorbike turned up.

He said, “OK, get on, let’s go!”. We didn’t have a lot of choice, so we both hopped on the back (no helmets either of course – just like the locals!). Safety concerns aside, it was good fun riding through town on the back of his motorbike, although it was a little cramped!

The boat cruise was quite nice as well. It stopped at the three temples mentioned above, Wat Phananchoengworawihan, Wat Phutthaisawan and finally Wat Chai Watthanaram for sunset. It was a fun two-hour trip and we’d recommend doing it if you have the time.

Cost: 200 Baht per person.

How to get to Ayutthaya from Bangkok?

The Ayutthaya Historic Park is located 85 kilometres north of Bangkok. Getting from Bangkok to Ayutthaya is actually super easy because you have several options available to you.

Train

Assuming that you go third class, the cheapest and easiest option to get to Ayutthaya is to take the train. They leave several times a day from Hua Lamphong train station in Bangkok.

It takes approximately two hours to reach Ayutthaya and travelling third class costs as little as 15 Baht; it’s a bargain! You’ll share third class with lots of friendly, smiling locals (unless you drop your bottle of water on their head putting your bag in the luggage rack – then they’re not so smiling!).

There’s no air conditioning in third class but the windows are kept open, giving you plenty of fresh air. If you fancy something nicer you can pay quite a bit more to go second or first class.

Bus

You can take the bus from Bangkok to Ayuthaya. They leave from different points around the city and also from Moh Chit, the main bus terminal in the north of Bangkok. Expect the journey to take between 1.5 to 2 hours depending on the traffic. Tickets cost around 60 Baht per person.

You can buy tickets online with 12go.asia. We’ve used them before and it was very easy. Use the search box below to find your tickets:

Powered by 12Go Asia system

Boat

If you have more time you can take a boat cruise from Bangkok to Ayutthaya along the Chao Praya River. You’ll have to organise it yourself as there aren’t any scheduled boats and it will probably be quite expensive and take most of the day.

By a tour

If you don’t want to worry about anything and are short on time, you can book a day tour. There are many tour companies who will take you to Ayutthaya. They will pick-up and drop-off at most Bangkok hotels.

By taxi

If you aren’t short on cash this could be an option but you’ll spend well over 1000 baht.

How to get around Ayutthaya?

By Bike

Our favourite mode of transport in Ayutthaya was by bike. Ayutthaya is a lovely city to ride around, especially the historic park area. It’s pretty flat, so riding around this historic city is not hard at all and most temples are within a short distance of each other.

You can hire bikes at a few places around town and some hotels and guesthouses will even provide them free of charge during your stay. Our hotel did this and it was the perfect way to see the city. Just don’t do what we did and try and ride all the way across the river along a super busy, major highway trying to find a distant temple!

There are also organised bike tours that take you around the historic park area to some of the popular temples.

The Information Centre provides tourist maps that have suggested biking routes to follow.

By foot

Ayutthaya is also a great place to walk around. Most temples aren’t that far from each other. But if you are only there for the day, we’d suggest using a faster mode of transport.

By tuk-tuk

It wouldn’t be Thailand without them and you can easily catch a tuk-tuk in Ayutthaya as well. You can hire one for the day to take you around the temples. Just make sure you agree on the price up front!

How long to stay in Ayutthaya?

Many people choose to visit Ayutthaya on a day trip from Bangkok. It’s totally possible to do this but you may not have time to visit as many of the temples. You can choose to go solo or take an organised tour. An organised tour will be simpler as you won’t have to figure everything out by yourself. There are many day tours from Bangkok to Ayutthaya.

We would recommend staying at least the night in Ayutthaya so that you have a bit more time there to enjoy the city. It also gives you an opportunity to watch the sunrise and/or sunset over some of the temples. We chose to stay two nights there and we were certainly not bored.

Best time to go to Ayutthaya?

You can visit Ayutthaya all year round as it never gets cold there. In fact, it’s always hot and the temperature doesn’t vary that much across the year. But if you don’t cope well with humid climates, consider visiting from November to January as it is slightly cooler and less humid. It’s still going to be really hot though!

Where to eat in Ayutthaya?

The Night market

The Ayutthaya night market is a popular spot for grabbing dinner, not only for the locals but for tourists as well. The market has many stalls that sell all sorts of Thai specialities. The food is pretty delicious and we found it hard not to try everything on offer. There are a few souvenir stalls but the prices are quite high so it’s probably best to do your souvenir shopping elsewhere.

Where to stay in Ayutthaya?

If you decide to stay the night in Ayutthaya (and you really should), there is lots of accommodation available around the city, to suit all budgets. There are hotels, guest houses, hostels and even Airbnb.

Pan Din Boutique Hotel

We stayed in this friendly little boutique hotel which is just 1.5 kilometres from the Ayutthaya Historical Park. Their nice, clean rooms come with free wifi, free breakfast and free bikes (which were really handy). They’ll also give you a free ride to the night market every night. The rooms have a terrace where you can enjoy a Chang beer after a long day of cycling in the heat. Prices start from AU$40. Click here for the latest prices.

Luang Chumni Village

This small hotel is located minutes from the Historical Park and provides Traditional Thai-style rooms with free wifi, a bicycle rental service and a lovely garden to wander around. Prices start from AU$70. Click here for the latest prices.

Other Accommodation

Use the search box below to find alternative accommodation in Ayutthaya:

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A Detailed Guide to the Ancient City of Ayutthaya

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