Best Things To Do and See in Ayutthaya, Thailand – Long Tailed Boats, Ancient Palace and More

Statues in Ayutthaya – copyright Russ Bowling, Creative Commons License

Ayutthaya was Thailand’s capital city for more than 400 years, until it was burned to the ground by Burmese invaders in 1767. Today, Ayutthaya is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Thailand as it’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site with many interesting things to see and do.

Chock full of Thai history, there are temple ruins spread out for miles, as Ayutthaya used to have more than 500 temples, as well as palaces and museums. Visiting Ayutthaya, there are many interesting things to see and do, but make sure you don’t miss these.

Hire a Long Tailed Boat and Do a River Tour – Because much of ancient Ayutthaya was built along the klongs and rivers of the city, much of it is only viewable by boat. The best way to see it is to hire a long tailed boat and cruise around the klongs (small canals) and rivers to see the ruins – great photo opportunities too! You can even stop off at one of the floating restaurants along the way to get lunch – just make sure you buy lunch for your boatman too!

Chao Sam Phraya National Museum – This museum is fascinating as, unlike wandering around the temple ruins, here you can actually see models of the old city, the golden artifacts of ancient Ayutthaya and some of the Buddha heads that are no longer on the statues in the old city grounds. Open Wed-Sun from 9 AM to 4 PM, entrance 30 baht (around $1).

Khun Phaen Residence – This is interesting to see, primarily because it’s a lovely park with a renovated traditional Thai teak house as the focal point. There are also beautiful grounds and flowers but, what’s even more fun for many is the Khun Phaen Residence is where you’ll see many of the tour elephants stopped having photographs taken. They are huge, and can be unpredictable, so don’t get too close, but it is a lovely photo opportunity.

Chantharakasem Palace – This was a palace that was built before Bang Pa-In summer palace, and is a must see because the National Museum is also in the grounds,. The Chantharakasem┬áPalace was burnt to the ground by the Burmese but was then partially restored by the present royal dynasty, the Chakris.

Do not miss the Phisai Sanyalak Hall, a large tower that was reconstructed from the plans of the old tower that was burnt to the ground, and is now actually the National Museum. King Rama IV used to stand at the top of the tower to watch the stars.

Thai Boat Museum – Hundreds of traditional Thai boat models in the Thai Boat Museum, many of them you can no longer see on the waterways in Thailand, as well as information about the history of Thai boats.

It is actually a private museum, in a traditional Thai teak house, and was opened by a Thai man who loves Thai boats and the history of them, so wanted to share his love of boats with the general public. It is open daily from 8.00 a.m. – 5.00 p.m

Ancient Palace – One of the most interesting things to see in Ayutthaya is the Ancient Palace. It used to be the residence of every Thai king when Ayutthaya was the capital city, but was one of the first buildings to be sacked and destroyed by the Burmese.

You can still see many half destroyed buildings, statues and stupas (stone is difficult to burn!), and even climb up some of the buildings to take photos of the surrounding areas. Just don’t climb on the Buddha statues – it’s incredibly disrespectful to Thais.

There’s more than enough fun and interesting things to see and do in Ayutthaya, making 2-3 days a good length of time for a trip.

Ayutthaya is only an hour on the bus or train north of Bangkok, and has some nice resorts, hotels and guest houses, as well as a modern town with all the amenities a modern Thai town has to offer.