Wat Phra Kaew: Exploring Thailand’s Sacred Temple

Wat Phra Kaew, commonly known in English as the Temple of the Emerald Buddha and officially as Wat Phra Si Rattana Satsadaram, is regarded as the most sacred Buddhist temple in Thailand. The temple complex consists of several buildings located within the precincts of the Grand Palace in the historical center of Bangkok.

The main attraction of Wat Phra Kaew is the Emerald Buddha, a small statue measuring only 66 centimeters in height, depicting the Buddha sitting in a meditating position. Despite its size, the Emerald Buddha holds immense cultural and religious significance for the Thai people. To visit this sacred site, travelers can reach the temple by taking a river taxi and disembarking at the Tha Chang Pier (TripSavvy).


The Wat Phra Kaew, also known as the Temple of the Emerald Buddha, is a prominent Buddhist temple located in the heart of Bangkok, Thailand. Its construction began in 1783 under the order of King Rama I, the first king of the Chakri dynasty, which still rules Thailand to this day(source).

One of the main reasons for the temple’s construction was to enshrine the revered Emerald Buddha, Phra Kaew, for which the temple was named(source). The completion of the temple in 1783 marked a significant event in Thailand’s religious history, as it demonstrated the strong commitment and patronage of King Rama I towards Buddhism.

Over the years, several additions and renovations were made to the temple complex, helping it evolve into the stunning architectural marvel that it is today. The temple comprises multiple structures, including the Ubosot, Phaithi terrace, and Ho Phra Khanthararat (source).

Today, Wat Phra Kaew is not only an impressive display of Thai architecture and craftsmanship, but also a symbol of the country’s devotion to its rich cultural and religious heritage. It remains one of the most important temples in Thailand and continues to be a popular pilgrimage site for both local devotees and international visitors.

Architecture and Design

Wat Phra Kaew, also known as the Temple of the Emerald Buddha, is a significant Buddhist temple in Thailand, located within the precincts of the Grand Palace in Bangkok. The temple is officially called Wat Phra Si Rattana Satsadaram and is renowned for its intricate and exceptional architecture [1].

The temple complex boasts a variety of structures, including the ordination hall or ubosot, which is the main focus of this section [2]. Established by King Rama I in 1782, Wat Phra Kaew’s architecture is characterized by its rich ornamentation, gold-leaf covered roofs, and intricate murals [3].

Some key architectural features of the temple complex include:

  • Prasat Phra Thep Bidon: A royal pantheon housing life-sized statues of past Chakri kings, with intricately decorated walls and rooftops.
  • Phra Mondop: A library-style structure exhibiting classic Thai architectural features, such as the multi-tiered roof and fine wood carvings.
  • Phra Sri Ratana Chedi: The golden stupa, a symbolic representation of the Buddha’s enlightened mind, is adorned with glazed yellow-orange tiles and is considered sacred.

Wat Phra Kaew’s design is a clear reflection of Thai craftsmanship and its dedication to preserving its cultural heritage. The temple serves as a remarkable example of traditional Thai architecture, which is distinct from European influences during the 18th century [4].

Sacred Objects and Statues

One of the most significant features of Wat Phra Kaew is the Emerald Buddha, a small but highly revered statue located in the main hall, also known as the Ubosot or ordination hall. The Emerald Buddha, measuring only 66 centimeters in height, depicts the Buddha sitting in a meditating position and is considered one of the most important Buddha statues in Thailand.

Historical sources suggest that the Emerald Buddha was discovered in northern Thailand in the Lan Na kingdom in 1434 when lightning struck a chedi in Wat Pa Yia, later renamed Wat Phra Kaew, revealing the stucco-covered statue inside. The statue was moved to various locations, including Chiang Mai, Laos, and Vientiane, before being installed at its current location in Bangkok by King Rama I in the 18th century.

Aside from the Emerald Buddha, there are several other sacred statues and objects within the Wat Phra Kaew complex. Some notable examples include:

  • Ramakien Gallery, which showcases scenes from Thailand’s national epic, the Ramayana (Ramakien in Thai)
  • Phra Kromanusorn Buddha image, dedicated to the first two Chakri Dynasty kings
  • A replica of the footprint of the Buddha, found under a pavilion
  • Phra Si Rattana Chedi, which contains a piece of the Buddha’s breastbone relic, and is adorned with thousands of gold mosaic tiles

All these sacred objects and statues contribute to Wat Phra Kaew’s significance as the spiritual core of Thailand, representing the strong connection between Buddhism and the Thai monarchy.

Temple Complex

Wat Phra Kaew, officially known as Wat Phra Si Rattana Satsadaram, is not just a single building, but a temple complex that comprises several structures. Completed in 1783 under the patronage of King Rama I, the temple houses the highly revered Emerald Buddha, making it the most sacred Buddhist temple in Thailand.

In addition to the ordination hall or ubosot, which is a traditional site for monastic rituals and ceremonies, the complex features various other buildings, including the Royal Pantheon. This diverse collection of structures displays stunning architectural details and ornate decorations, showcasing the rich history and culture of Thailand.

Among the many interesting sights within the temple complex are:

  • Model of Angkor Wat: A detailed scale replica of Cambodia’s iconic Angkor Wat temple complex, built under the order of King Rama IV.
  • Golden Stupa: A prominent structure symbolizing the universe in Buddhist cosmology, adorned with gold leaf and colored glass.
  • Nine-tiered Parasol: Located above the Emerald Buddha, this intricately designed parasol represents the authority of the Thai King.
  • Decoration: The temple complex is adorned with a plethora of sculptures and paintings, illustrating various Buddhist and Thai stories and legends.

Located within the precincts of the Grand Palace in Bangkok, Wat Phra Kaew is open daily from 8:30am to 3:30pm. Admission for foreigners is 500 Baht, and includes access to the Grand Palace.

Visiting Information

Wat Phra Kaew, also known as the Temple of the Emerald Buddha, is one of the most fascinating and sacred sites in Bangkok. To make the most of your visit, it’s essential to understand a few important details about this esteemed attraction.

The temple is open daily from 8:30 to 15:30, with the ticket office also closing at 15:30. Make sure to arrive in time to fully immerse yourself in the beauty and significance of this landmark. Entry fees are applicable, so be prepared to cover these costs when visiting.

As one of Bangkok’s most sacred sites, it’s important to dress appropriately when visiting both Wat Phra Kaew and the Grand Palace. You won’t be allowed entry if you’re not dressed modestly, so ensure that you cover your shoulders and wear pants or a skirt that reaches your ankles.

To reach Wat Phra Kaew, you can take advantage of Bangkok’s public transport system. The most convenient method is to use the MRT (underground metro) and get off at Sanam Chai station. From there, it’s a short walk to the temple complex.

As you explore the temple, be mindful of its religious and cultural significance. Visitors are expected to behave respectfully and follow any guidelines provided by temple authorities. This is to ensure a pleasurable experience for all visitors, as well as to maintain the sanctity of this esteemed sacred site.