Designated a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1991, Ayutthaya is one of Thailand’s most precious historical cities, displaying some fine ancient architecture within easy reach of Bangkok. Although mostly in ruins now following its fall in 1767, it was described as one of the world’s greatest ancient cities in its heyday and controlled an empire that included all of present day Thailand, Laos and Cambodia, as well as parts of Burma.
It is true that the main sights can be seen in just a few hours, meaning that Ayutthaya can be covered on a daytrip from the capital. But it is far better to spend at least a night here to do the place justice, that way you have time to visit the Bang Pa–In summer Palace where King Rama V built an eclectic mix of European–styled palace buildings. The Ayutthaya tourist infrastructure is good, catering well for the bus loads of day–trippers from Bangkok and also for those who stay on, with plenty of guesthouses, hotels and restaurants.
Attractions Hotels Restaurants Transportation
Delve into the history of one of Asia’s most historic ruined cities through its many preserved temple sites which are still revered today by Thai Buddhists who flock here to make merit…more
Well–priced budget to mid–range guesthouses are the norm in Ayutthaya, although those looking for greater comfort also have options on the riverbanks with scenic views…more
Ayutthaya remains first and foremost a historic treasure, with hotels and guesthouses providing most of the entertainment in a relaxed atmosphere with a few fun bars and pubs…more
Within an hour’s journey from Bangkok by car, bus, train or taxi, Ayutthaya is one of Thailand’s more accessible destinations, making it a great day trip from the capital for those rushed for time…more
Ayutthaya guide - ancient capital of Siamese empire
Ayutthaya was founded by Prince U Thong in 1350 and is essentially an island city surrounded by an oxbow in the Chao Praya River, and intercepted by three rivers. After its founding, the city quickly grew in prosperity and soon became capital of Siam, controlling much of the region for centuries until the Burmese sacked, destroyed and looted the place in the late 1700s.
Although much of the original temple architecture remains, a great proportion still lies in ruin. But this nevertheless does not detract from the area’s stark beauty. Large swathes of parkland, the pretty river, wide avenues of the modern city and an unhurried atmosphere all combine with the heady sense of history. Being so close to Bangkok, it is an obligatory stop on all tour itineraries and certainly an important Siamese history lesson.
Khmer and early Sukhothai styles can be discerned in the remains, where prangs (cactus–shaped obelisks) and pointed stupas fill the sky. Ruins of temples are scattered mostly in the central and northern part of the island with Wat Si Sanphet being the most recognised with its trio of chedi. Within walking distance around the pretty ponds is Wat Ratchaburana, another fine example of Ayuthaya architecture. Nearby Wat Mahatat also revered and is today noted for the bizarre felled Buddha head around which a Bhodi tree’s roots have grown, making it a favourite for photographers.
The old city can be seen on foot, although it must be said that Ayuthaya does get very hot and cycling on a bike is less exhaustive. But why not do things the traditional style and see it all from the back of an elephant? If you plan on seeing more, a motorbike is ideal for exploring out of the bounds of the moat, where several other less–visited yet no less impressive temples reside.
There are several other important temples and sites on the outside of the river banks. The most impressive is Wat Chaiwatthanaram which is simply jaw–dropping when traditionally approached by boat, with its multiple lofty chedis reaching for the sky. Wat Yai Chai Mongkhon, with its reclining Buddha and excellent example of a Khmer prang, also shouldn’t be missed. Other sites include a more modern gilded memorial chedi for the heroic Queen Suriyothai, St Joseph’s Church and Phom Phet Fort.