Panoramic of ancient temple ruins in Ayutthaya, Thailand

Ayutthaya, Thailand is an amazing city full of history and character.  In the past, I have had several people ask me questions about this captivating city.  So, here is a brief rundown of everything I learned about this awe-inspiring place and all the details about my favorite Ayutthaya temples.

HISTORIC CITY OF AYUTTHAYA

The Ayutthaya Kingdom, as it was originally called, was a Siamese kingdom that existed from 1351 until 1767.  The city was a large profitable hub for trading and many foreign traders were welcomed into the kingdom and lived outside the city limits.

In the beginning, it was one of the biggest and wealthiest cities in the East.  At the time it grew to be one of the largest cosmopolitan urban areas and a center of global diplomacy and commerce.

Ayutthaya is situated on an island, surrounded by three different rivers connecting to the ocean.  This was strategically planned to keep warships of other nationals from attacking, as well as to keep it from flooding.

Ayutthaya was attacked by the Burmese in 1767 and was burned to the ground forcing all its inhabitants to flee.  The city was never rebuilt and is known today as an archeological ruin.

The ruins today show an advanced art and prowess for that time period.  The city layout was built in a grid style that helped bring water from the three rivers into the city limits.  The details of the Ayutthaya temples and monasteries show influences from many surrounding areas.

Ancient temple in Ayutthaya, Thailand
Ancient temple in Ayutthaya, Thailand

HOW TO GET TO THE AYUTTHAYA TEMPLES

Ayutthaya is easily accessed from Bangkok and I would say that most visitors come here on a single day trip and are typically part of a tour group.  I honestly don’t think that one day is enough to experience all that this historic city has to offer.  So with that being said, below are a few options on how to get there from Bangkok.

READ MORE: Headed to the dreamland of Thailand?  You gotta read these 18 Hilarious Facts

TAKE THE TRAIN

This is probably the most common way to travel to Ayutthaya, but can also be more time-consuming.  The trains are frequently delayed and during peak season they are known to be fully booked, so plan ahead if you’re going to take this route.

The trains leave every 30 minutes from Bangkok’s Hua Lamphong Railway station between 4:20 am and 10:45 pm.  The journey should take less than 2 hours but it usually is more like 3 hours.  You can purchase tickets from the station or online.

From the train station, you will need to walk a few meters down the street and hop on the local ferry that will take you across the river and into the old town where most accommodations and Ayutthaya temples are located.  This will set you back about $.50 USD and they leave quite frequently throughout the day so you’ll never be waiting long.

Price for the trains depends on how fast they travel and your level of comfort.  Starting at $.50 USD all the way up to $11 USD

For timetable and more info visit this site.

HOP ON A MINIBUS

This is guaranteed to be an adventure, especially if you’re new to Asia transport.  This was how I traveled into Ayutthaya and it was my first time in Thai public transportation.  My minibus left during rush hour and I was terrified seeing that the roads were complete chaos, with no defined lanes and people swerving in and out of traffic.  Just sit back and try not to bite off all your fingernails.

These rides are far more reliable and definitely quicker.  The minibusses leave from Mo Chit Northern Bus Terminal as soon as they are full and the ride takes about an hour or two depending on traffic.  Buses are always leaving here from the hours of 5 am to 7 pm.

Price for the one-way minivan ride- $2.25 USD

For time tables and reviews on specific companies traveling this route check out 12goAsia.

TRAVEL IN COMFORT AND HIRE A TAXI

The most expensive option is to hire a private taxi.  Despite that, it’s definitely the most comfortable and convenient way to travel.  If money isn’t an issue then this would be the way go.  However, you miss out on experiencing local culture this way and I would never suggest that!  The trip takes about an hour and will include pick up and drop off at given destinations.

Prices for a private taxi range from about $60 to $80 USD.

Pro Tip: If you’re planning on traveling via taxi, I suggest chatting with your hotel front desk to get fair pricing.  Many accommodations get discounts and special prices for using certain drivers.

HOW TO GET AROUND IN TOWN

Ayutthaya is not that big of a city and most attractions are all conveniently located within a small area.  I’m a big fan of exploring on foot, however, I know a lot of people don’t share that feeling.  Not to be worried though because there are options.

Rent a bicycle– This is how I explored the Ayutthaya temples and I truly enjoyed it.  You can ride the bikes right on the street with the rest of the traffic and it’s quite safe.   I will say it can get quite hot in the burning midday sun, so make sure you bring some sunscreen.  Almost all accommodations have bikes to rent.

Price for a bike per day- $1 USD

Rent a motorbike– This is almost always my chosen form of transportation.  It can save you time and gives you a breeze to cool off when going from stop to stop.  It also offers a bit more freedom.  This is a great option if you are short on time and trying to cram all attractions into a single day.

Some accommodations offer motorbike rentals, but if not there are a few companies across from the train station.

Price for a motorbike- $6 USD

Hire a Tuk Tuk– This is the most costly option but is a convenient way to get around.  It’s definitely the most stress-free.  I would suggest hiring for an entire day and have the driver stop at all the different attractions you’re wanting to see.  The tuk-tuks can hold up to 4 people so this is a great option for groups.

Prices can vary but a fair price is $6 USD per hour or $30 USD per day.  Haggling can be effective if you’re kind and not being unreasonable.

Old black bicycle with basket in the front used for transportation in Ayutthaya, Thailand

WHERE TO STAY NEAR AYUTTHAYA TEMPLES

There are more than 130 different places to stay in the Ayutthaya area with a wide range of style and comfort.  Most of the accommodations are located on the island in the old town.  There are few across the river.    I suggest trying to find accommodation that rents out bicycles, as this is the best way to get around and makes it far more convenient to visit all the Ayutthaya temples.

PENNY PINCHER- 1301 HOSTELS AYUTTHAYA

This is the hostel I stayed in and I absolutely loved it.  The dorm was a large room with ample space for bags, as well as, for people to move around.  There were also large lockers in the room, curtains for privacy, large sized comfortable beds and a private bathroom connecting to the dorm.   The dorm has air conditioning and is kept very clean.

The building has a beautiful design and is situated right on the river with a gorgeous well-kept garden and yard for lounging and getting to know people.  I loved waking up early to grab a cup of coffee and read by the river because it’s very serene and quiet.

The staff offer breakfast in the morning, maps of the temples, extensive info about the city, can arrange further travel and also rent bicycles to get around.   The train station is a 10-minute ride away and there is a convenience store nearby.

Insider Tip: The mosquitos are pretty bad because of its proximity to the river, so make sure to stock up on bug spray before you come.

Price per night- $6 USD

Address- 130/1 Moo.7 U-Thong Rd., Hua Ro, 13000 Phra Nakhon Si Ayutthaya, Thailand

Booking.com

MIDDLE OF THE ROAD- Q ZONE BOUTIQUE

Disclaimer: I did not stay here.

This seriously cute and brightly lit boutique hotel is a real treat.  The rooms are comfortable, the building is conveniently located near most attractions, they serve complimentary breakfast and offer free bicycles for rent.  They have an on-site restaurant with delicious food and the staff is extremely friendly and helpful.

The rooms come equipped with private bathrooms, fridge, air conditioning, TV and their own balcony.  There is a sofa seating area to relax on, as well as, a fluffy bathrobe and toiletries in the bathroom.

Price per night- $50 USD

Address- 65/1 T.Tawasukri A.Pranakhon Si-Ayutthaya, 13000 Phra Nakhon Si Ayutthaya, Thailand

Check out their website here

Booking.com

TOP NOTCH- SALA AYUTTHAYA

Disclaimer: I am a budget traveler so I definitely didn’t stay here.

This stunning property sits directly on the water with clear views of the nearby ruins.  The simple, sleek interior/ exterior are clean and crisp.  They have an on-site riverside restaurant offering excellent service and delicious food with both indoor and outdoor seating.  A complimentary breakfast is served each morning in the restaurant.  They are most noted for their quiet pool area for lounging and relaxing after long, hot days of exploring.

The rooms come fully equipped with comfortable beds, flat screen TV’s, DVD player and air conditioning.  The en suite bathroom offers toiletries, bathrobes, and slippers.   The property is conveniently located in the heart of the old town and they also offer free bicycles for rent.

Price per night- $130- $375 USD

Address- U-thong Road, Moo 4, Pratu Chai,A. Phra Nakhon Si Ayutthaya, 13000 Phra Nakhon Si Ayutthaya, Thailand 

Website

Booking.com

WHAT TO DO IN AYUTTHAYA

Since I already covered history, I’ll now share some of my personal experiences from this beautiful city.  I stayed in Ayutthaya for 2 nights, which I felt was enough for me.

I rented a bike from my hostel for both days that I was there.  My hostel which was located on the water made it easy to access the city.  Being much like an island, I decided the first day that I would bike around the perimeter. This offered spectacular views of the city and its ruins. I stopped along the way when I came upon any Ayutthaya temples that I couldn’t resist.

The city is littered with ruins, they are everywhere!  I found myself dying to know what it was like living in such an extravagant city so many years ago.  The architecture is unmatched and details of art still intact.

The second day I got lost inside the city streets, turning down random alleys and finding hidden treasures.  I was absolutely in awe while exploring here.

Small white temple with a gold top in Ayutthaya, Thailand
All white temple with a pointy stupa in Ayutthaya, Thailand

BEST AYUTTHAYA TEMPLES

It can be a bit overwhelming choosing which Ayutthaya temples to spend time visiting while here.  With over 400 temples and 3 palaces, it’s no wonder people don’t know where to start.   Here are a few of my favorites with a brief history to get you started.

Insider Tip: You can pick up an Ayutthaya temples map at any accommodation in town that will help guide you to the temples you are most interested in visiting.

WAT PHU KHAO THONG

Built by the Burmese in 1569, with a white stupa and a name that means “Golden Mount”.  After the Burmese were run out of the city, Buddhist law prohibited the destruction of this temple as a way to remember the time of Burmese occupation.

You can climb to about mid-level of this temple which offers stunning views of the city and surrounding rice fields.

Hours of operation: Always Open

Price to enter: Free

WAT RATCHABURANA

This unique Ayutthaya temple was built on the cremation site of the two brothers of the reigning king in 1424.  They had fought to their death in a duel for the royal succession to their father.   The temples crypt was once raided where several artifacts and items were stolen.  The thieves were caught but few of the stolen items were recovered.

Hours of operation: 8 am- 6 pm Daily

Price to enter: $1.50 USD

 

Ancient temple ruins in Ayutthaya, Thailand
Ancient temple ruins in Ayutthaya, Thailand

AT PHANAN CHOENG

This temple was built in 1324, which was several years before the city was founded.  It is most notable for the 19 meter high seated Buddha situated within the largest building of the temple, making it a popular temple among tourists.

Hours of operation: Always open

Price to enter: Free

WAT PHRA SI SANPHET

In it’s prime, it was the most beautiful and magnificent temple in the city of Ayutthaya.  It was said to be the holiest of temples and the name means “Temple of the Holy, Splendid Omniscient”.  This temple was originally a palace grounds, however, later a new grand palace was built and this was deemed a holy site.

Hours of operation: 8 am- 6 pm Daily

Price to enter: $1.50 USD

WAT YAI CHAI MONGKHON

Once used as a monastery to house local monks.  Within the grounds are several temples and buildings that were used for meditation, religious gatherings, memorials, and teaching.

Hours of operation: Always open

Price to enter: Free

WAT CHAIWATTHANARAM

This is one of the top Ayutthaya temples to visit.  It was a royal temple where the king and his successors would perform royal ceremonies.  Built by the King in 1630 in memory of his mother who resided in the area.  The unique structures and layout reflect a Khom and Khmer style of design.

Hours of operation: 8 am- 6 pm Daily

Price to enter: $1.50 USD

WAT PHRA MAHATHAT

Definitely the most iconic temple within the city of Ayutthaya.   Its name means “Temple of the Great Relic”.  Said to date back to 1374 when a temple was erected at this site bearing a different name.  Known to be one of the most important temples in the kingdom of Ayutthaya.  Made famous by the most photographed tree where a Buddha’s head is entwined within the tree trunk.

Hours of operation: 8 am- 6 pm Daily

Price to enter: $1.50 USD

Famous Buddha head stuck inside the roots and trunk of a tree in Ayutthaya, Thailand
Giant tree and roots overgrowing ancient ruins in Ayutthaya, Thailand

Most people are coming to see the Ayutthaya temples and ruins.  To be honest with you, there isn’t much else to do here besides eat.  However, if you’re looking for more to do, below is a list of a few more attractions not to miss while in Ayutthaya.

READ MORE: Interested in more temples of Thailand? Check out my article about Chiang Mai

OTHER AYUTTHAYA ATTRACTIONS

It’s understandable that people might grow tired of visiting the same scenery of temple ruins.  This definitely wasn’t the case for me because I’m a major history lover.  However, I still wanted to add a few more attractions worth exploring.

BANG PA IN PALACE

With traditional buildings boasting both Chinese and Thai influenced structures, it is nothing less than visually stimulating.  This royal residence is known to the locals as the Summer Palace and dates back to the 17th century.  Among the many different buildings are a brightly colored lookout tower, royal palace and throne room, as well as a pavilion inside a pond.

Hours of operation: 8 am- 3:30 pm Daily

Price to enter: $3 USD Adult $.65 USD Child

MILLION TOY MUSEUM

Come learn about toys old and new from the Thai culture, as well as from all over the world.  I’m not sure that there are actually a million toys there but it’s especially fun for kids or adults who have never grown up.  In the museum, you can find toys made of wood, tin, plastic and more.

Hours of operation: 9 am- 4 pm Closed Mondays

Price to enter: $1.50 USD

AYUTTHAYA FLOATING MARKET

Created not only as a tourist destination but also as a way to educate visitors on Thai cultural heritage.  There is much to see and explore from souvenirs, food, folk performances, traditional costumes, and stunning architecture.

Hours of operation: 9 am- 9 pm Daily

Price to enter: $6 USD

FYI: It bothers everyone that it costs money just to enter a market, but what are you going to do about it?   Honestly, it’s unique and if you’re interested in culture than it’s definitely worth it.

CHAO SAM PHRAYA NATIONAL MUSEUM

A very fascinating museum housing artifacts collected during the restoration and excavation of the many temples in this region.  There is an abundance of gold jewelry, swords embedded with precious gems, royal insignia, wood carvings, votive tablets and lots of Buddha sculptures.

Hours of operation: 9 am- 4 pm closed Monday and Tuesday

Price to enter: $4.50 USD

TAKE A BOAT RIDE AROUND THE ISLAND

There are many tour companies and guides that can take you on a longtail boat ride around the island.  They range in price, some stop at temples, others serve lunch, and there are late night dinner cruises that capture the Ayutthaya temples at night in their illuminated glory.  Head down to the pier for pricing and to check out the different options to suit your style.

Hours of operation: Not actually sure, just head down to the pier with your haggling skills and someone should be there.

Price to enter: Anywhere from $6 – $30 USD

Stunning red, white and gold temple in Ayutthaya, Thailand
Stone sculpture of a dog like animal with emerald green eyes in Ayutthaya, Thailand

WHAT TO EAT WHILE VISITING AYUTTHAYA TEMPLES

Although Ayutthaya isn’t typically a culinary destination, it still has a lot of really great food.  If you think about it, the city has a rich history of royal families and sultans from afar.   It makes sense that the idea of serving good food has been around for many years.

There are eateries in every budget but whatever you do don’t miss out on some giant freshwater prawns.  Below are some favorites in town that are absolutely worth a visit.

Coffee Old City– Cafe, Thai, European, Coffee $

Cozy, cute little cafe style joint with friendly staff and attention to small details.  A common breakfast and coffee spot but also a great option for lunch.  They have both indoor or outdoor seating, free wifi and also accept credit cards.

Hours of operation- 8 am -6 pm Monday- Saturday

Address- Tha Wa Su Kri, Phra Nakhon Si Ayutthaya District, Phra Nakhon Si Ayutthaya 13000, Thailand

Malakor Kitchen & Cafe– Thai, Asian, Vegetarian $

This is a great spot for local Thai food but they also serve Western food if that’s what you’re looking for.  Offering indoor and outdoor seating.  It’s cutely decorated giving it a homey vibe with friendly staff and quick service.  The food is fresh, tasty and spicy if you like it that way.  Try the green curry, it’s amazing!

Hours of operation- 8 am- 10 pm Tuesday- Sunday

Address-  Tambon Tha Wa Su Kri, Amphoe Phra Nakhon Si Ayutthaya, Chang Wat Phra Nakhon Si Ayutthaya 13000, Thailand

The Summer House– Cafe, Thai, European, Coffee $$

A great spot to enjoy a quiet afternoon.  It’s a modern and trendy western cafe serving Thai fusion favorites.  They have pillow and lounge style seating with the river running by in the background, making it a perfect spot to enjoy an afternoon beer or cocktail after a long day of exploring Ayutthaya temples.  A little pricey but great quality.

Hours of operation: 7 am- 9:30 pm Daily

Address- Ko Rian, Phra Nakhon Si Ayutthaya District, Phra Nakhon Si Ayutthaya 13000, Thailand

The Night Market– Local Thai favorites $

Saved the best for last.  Being a budget traveler, I’m a real sucker for a night market.  I have had some of my favorite meals from little food stands.  The best part is that it’s so cheap.  I highly suggest that if you’re an adventurous eater then you should head down to the market and try some local favorites.  If you don’t like it then at least it was cheap!

Hours of operation- 5 pm- 9 pm Nightly

Address- Bang Ian Rd, Tambon Tha Wa Su Kri, Amphoe Phra Nakhon Si Ayutthaya, Chang Wat Phra Nakhon Si Ayutthaya 13000, Thailand

Spicy chicken salad with sliced red chilies and cucumbers
Pork noodle soup and coconut smoothie served inside the coconut

WHAT TO PACK FOR AYUTTHAYA TEMPLES

I’m not going to write you out a whole list here, but below are a few things I wouldn’t leave home without.

Sunscreen– When you’re out exploring the temples and ruins there isn’t much shade and it gets bloody hot, so take precaution.  Also, to be noted, sunscreen is like gold here, so consider packing your own from home.

Bug Spray– Preferably the kind with a good amount of deet in it.  There are a lot of mosquitoes because it’s surrounded by water.  It’s also hard to find sprays with deet, so consider packing them in as well.

 

Simpsons meme that says "Don't know if I just got bitten by a thousand mosquitoes or by the same mosquito a thousand times

Umbrella– This is great to have for shade from the sun as you walk around the temples.   Also doubles as a lifesaver from the seldom random rain storm.

Comfy Shoes– I feel like this is a no brainer, but I’ll put it down here anyway.   There is A LOT of walking involved in touring through the plethora of temples.  You will want comfy shoes.  I travel with a standard pair of Nike trainers and that has always worked perfectly for me.

Ayutthaya, Thailand is an extremely captivating city.   It’s a place that will make your imagination wander and drop your jaw in awe.  The people are friendly and helpful and there is an ample amount of Ayutthaya temples to keep anyone busy exploring.  With it’s close proximity to the major tourist hub of Bangkok, it makes for a perfect getaway from the bustling city.

Grab your most comfortable shoes and get out there and explore!  I would love to hear about which temples you enjoyed most and why?  Comment in the section below if you have been to Ayutthaya before!

With Love,

Julie

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Ayutthaya temples Pinterest pin
Ayutthaya temples Pinterest pin
Ayutthaya temples Pinterest pin
Panoramic of temple ruins in Ayutthaya, Thailand