National Museum

Museum in Ko Ratanakosin & Thonburi
Image by Tuayai / Getty Images

Thailand's National Museum is home to an impressive collection of items dating from throughout the country's glittering past. Most of the museum's structures were built in 1782 as the palace of Rama I's viceroy, Prince Wang Na. Rama V turned it into a museum in 1874, and today there are three permanent exhibitions spread out over several buildings. The principal exhibition, Gallery of Thai History, is home to some of the country's most beautiful Buddha images and sculptures of Hindu gods.

The history wing has made impressive bounds towards contemporary curatorial aesthetics with a succinct chronology of prehistoric, Sukhothai-, Ayuthaya- and Bangkok-era events and figures. Gems include King Ramkhamhaeng’s inscribed stone pillar, said to be the oldest record of Thai writing (although this has been contested); King Taksin’s throne; the Rama V section; and the screening of a movie about Rama VII, The Magic Ring.

The decorative arts and ethnology exhibit covers seemingly every possible handicraft including traditional musical instruments, ceramics, clothing and textiles, woodcarving, regalia and weaponry. The archaeology and art history wing has exhibits ranging from prehistory to the Bangkok period.

In addition to the main exhibition halls, the Bhuddhaisawan (Phutthaisawan) Chapel includes some well-preserved murals and one of the country’s most revered Buddha images, Phra Phuttha Sihing. The northern Chariot Hall houses the ornate funeral chariots of past royalty.