Explore 13 Museums in Bangkok’s Old Town Near 4 Newest MRT
Khet Phra Nakhon - Bangkok’s Old Town - still reverberates with echoes from the time of the city’s foundation. Up until recently, traveling to Rattanakosin area means using conventional transportation like cars, public buses, and boats. This, unfortunately, deters many from exploring the alleys of this living historic area.
But at last, a more modern means - namely the MRT - has arrived in the neighborhood. The first phase of Blue Line’s extension to MRT Lak Song finally opens for a test run.
With five stations open to the public, the line now reaches into Thonburi, covering the 5.4 km stretch from Wat Mangkon to Thapra. During the two-month test, you can take free rides to the new stations. The extension will officially open on September 29, 2019.
Out of 11 additional stations, four features elaborate designs that blend into their surroundings. Wat Mangkon, Sam Yot, Sanam Chai, and Itsaraphap MRT Stations reflect all the quaint and unique charms of the neighborhoods they’re in.
It would seem like this happy trail has just linked the past, present, and future together. The new MRT line makes it easier to visit heritage sites well-known by Thai and international travelers like Wat Phra Kaew and Wat Pho.
What’s more, this could be a chance to see age-old destinations and to learn more about the historical area. So why not take an easygoing day trip and explore the museums hidden around the Old City?
That’s why we’re taking you on a tour of the new Blue Line! Check out the highlights of the four (soon-to-be) landmark stations and 13 museums in Khet Phra Nakhon you absolutely should visit this weekend.
Wat Mangkon MRT Station
Wat Mangkon MRT Station fits spectacularly well with its surrounding neighborhood, Yaowarat. The design and decor borrow directly from Sino-Thai architecture; bright red and gold on the walls, pillars, and ceiling give the station an imperial aura.
Around the station, you’ll see motifs of auspicious dragons alongside delicate Chinese lotuses. This choice is a reference to the nearby landmark, Wat Mangkon Kamalawat or Wat Leng Noei Yi. The famous 140-year-old temple takes its name from three Taechiew words: Leng (dragon), Noei (lotus), and Yi (temple).
The highlights of this station include a lifelike golden dragon that hangs from the ceiling near the ticket machines at Exit 1. Another is the stairwell at Exit 2, which resembles the belly of a dragon.
From Wat Mangkon Station, you can walk through the residential areas to reach these following museums. We promise they’re not too far.
Historic Hut Charoen Chai Community
Historic Hut Charoen Chai Community is a museum that sits in lot number 32 on Trok Charoenkrung 23, near Wat Mangkon Kamalawat. It was originally the residence of a renowned Chinese opera troupe.
Nowadays, the aged building houses an exhibition of Charoen Chai Community’s history, which spans over a century. Learn about the life and culture in Bangkok’s Chinatown as well as Yaowarat’s own history through the carefully curated displays.
The two-floor storefront features several highlight exhibits, including the Chinese opera troupe’s costumes and equipment.
Downstairs, you’ll find antiques like old TVs, record players, and working desks donated to the museum by the community. There are also informational displays that let you learn about Chinese traditions such as weddings or festivals, as well as an example of a proper Mid-Autumn Festival (mooncake) table.
Historic Hut Charoen Chai Community is open daily between 09.00 - 16.00. Admission is free.
Wat Traimit Museum / Yaowarat Chinatown Heritage Center
Yaowarat Chinatown Heritage Center sits on the second floor of Wat Traimit’s Phra Maha Mondop.
The museum shows you the timeline of Chinese immigration to Thailand. Its six-room exhibition details everything from origins, culture, beliefs, to the daily lives of Chinese immigrants at the time.
The first room tells you how Chinese immigrants came to stay under the protection of Siam’s king and eventually settled in Sampeng and Yaowarat.
In the second room, you’ll learn about the formation of Chinatown of Rattanakosin between 1783 - 1851. The rising influx of immigrants from China paves the way for Sampeng to become Bangkok’s largest commercial district of the time.
Each room recreates the past through dioramas, murals, and tiny models. You can easily find out about the Chinese community and lifestyle. One of the six zones even shows Yaowarat at its peak circa 1957, when it was the most developed and urban area in Bangkok, full of entertainment and exciting venues.
Wat Traimit Museum / Yaowarat Chinatown Heritage Center is open between 08.00 - 17.00 on Tuesdays - Sundays. Admission is free for Thai citizens and 140 THB for foreigners.
Krung Thai Art Gallery
Here’s one for art enthusiasts; Krung Thai Art Gallery - an art and cultural learning center founded by Krung Thai Bank - is located in Yaowarat. It’s a place for the art community to meet up and showcase creative efforts.
The contemporary gallery occupies Krung Thai’s former Yaowarat branch, which was also the bank’s first headquarter. The Sino-Portuguese architecture is still stunning despite the building being over 70 years old. And now, with some tweaks and renovations, it’s got a fresh new look.
Sitting inside is a collection of art, which include over 250 pieces of paintings, prints, mixed-media art, and sculptures. Moreover, the third floor also serves as an art space that lets artists put their work in rotating exhibitions; visitors can appreciate the art all year round.
Krung Thai Art Gallery is open between 09.00 - 17.00 on weekdays and 10.00 - 17.00 on Saturday. (Closed on Sundays, holidays, and bank holidays.) Admission is free.
Berlin Pharmaceutical Museum Bangkok
Berlin Pharmaceutical Museum Bangkok shows you how medical treatments worked 85 years ago in an up-close and immersive experience.
Standing on one corner of the Charoenkrung Road and Suea Paa intersection, the old building looks as prominent as ever with yellow paint and neoclassical / palladian architecture.
The museum takes you back to 1932, while it was the Berlin Pharmaceutical clinic. The resident doctor, Chai Chainuwat, earned his M.D. from a German university in Shanghai (now Tongji University). After returning home, he started the clinic to provide treatment for the residents of Charoenkrung-Yaowarat neighborhood.
Berlin Pharmaceutical was one of the first private clinics at the time and became renowned due to the doctor’s goodwill and altruism. He’s known to treat every patient regardless of whether they can pay him.
Though the clinic doesn’t operate anymore, the museum manages to bring it to life by recreating patient treatment rooms with old medical equipment, textbooks, and chemistry stations. The scenes look as if they’ve popped out of old photos somewhere from the display.
Along with the photos, you can read up on Chai Chainuwat’s biography as well as the clinic’s role during WWII. The clinic eventually becomes Berlin Pharmaceutical Industry, the drug manufacturing giant we know today.
Berlin Pharmaceutical Museum Bangkok is open between 09.00 - 17.00 on Tuesday - Sunday.
Sam Yot MRT Station
Reflecting thorough research on the designer’s part, Sam Yot MRT Station blends seamlessly with other buildings in Wang Burapha. In fact, if you don’t keep an eye out for the MRT sign, the station looks just like any other Sino-Portuguese buildings from the reign of King Rama V.
The walls around the entrance feature accordion doors - a nod to the classic architecture. During the walk down to the platform, you’ll see a mini-exhibition of historical photos.
These pictures can fill the gaps in the images of the past, so you imagine them more clearly; they also serve as something nice to look at while you’re waiting for the train.
From Sam Yot Station, other than the quaint Wang Burapha area, you should try visiting these three nearby museums.
Seeing a correctional facility from the inside may seem terrifying, but that’s precisely what the (very unnerving) exhibition is aiming for. Corrections Museum serves well as a reminder for all of us to be good and law-abiding citizens.
The museum is situated inside Rommaninat Park, known colloquially as the “old prison”. As you may have guessed, the area used to house Thailand’s first federal prison, built in 1892 during the reign of King Rama V.
Although parts of the facility have been transformed into a public park, some original structures like the gates, observation towers, walls, and the Ninth Block buildings are preserved. Visitors can see the actual places and settings from the museum’s past.
Corrections Museum is divided into four main buildings; each one houses an exhibition on the history of Thailand’s Department of Correction as well as punishments from past to present.
The exhibits feature description cards, video clips, and dioramas. Actual equipment such as executioner’s swords, gun mounts, and execution posts, are also put on extensive display.
Corrections Museum is open between 09.00 - 16.00 on weekdays. (Closed on weekends.) Admission is free.
Sunthon Phu Museum Wat Thepthidaram
Sunthorn Phu Museum or Kuti Sunthorn Phu of Wat Thepthidaram is a heritage site and an exhibition venue dedicated to Sunthon Phu. He’s considered one of the most famous Thai poets of Rattanakosin era, recognized by UNESCO as a World Poet in 1986, on the 200th anniversary of his birthday.
The collection includes tools and everyday items used by Sunthon Phu during his stay at the temple as a monk. Since the evidence regarding the poet’s birthplace still remains controversial, Wat Thepthidaram is currently his only historically proven home. That’s why his eponymous museum can be found here.
Sunthorn Phu Museum is divided into three smaller rooms, each one showing the poet’s life, work, up until the beginning of his monkhood. In other zones, visitors can take up a challenge by trying to arrange verses from Sunthorn Phu’s Klon, Klap, Khlong, and Nirat. The activity can keep your time here exciting and your wits sharp.
Sunthorn Phu Museum is open daily between 09.00 - 17.00. Admission is free.
Bamrung Chat Satsana Yathai (Baan Mowaan)
Bamrungchat Satsana Yathai preserves the story of Waan Rod-Muang for later generations. The Thai traditional doctor and creator of famed ‘Yahom’ recipes lived during the reign of King Rama V-VIII.
The old colonial building was previously Waan’s residence and apothecary. To this day, the shop has been serving customers around Sao Chingcha for four generations.
Inside is a myriad of antiques and relics that can tell you the story of the past. The four current ‘Yahom’ recipes are over a century old and were highly popular in the olden days. The same methods and processes are still applied today, including the use of over-100-year-old equipment.
So not only that you’ll get to learn age-old recipes in a fun setting, but you can also shop for Yathai or Yahom to take home.
Bamrung Chat Satsana Yathai (Baan Mowaan) is open between 09.00 - 17.00 on weekends. Admission is free.
Sanam Chai MRT Station
After seeing Sanam Chai MRT Station, we’d say that the palatial appearance certainly makes it worth the wait. This is the main highlight among the four new stations in terms of scale and grandeur.
The ticketing area is extensively decorated, influenced by early Rattanakosin aesthetics; many would agree that the design borrows from throne halls in traditional palaces.
Everything has been decorated to match surrounding landmarks such as Wat Phra Kaew and The Grand Palace. A white city wall facade stretches from one end of the station to the other.
Did you know? Sanam Chai is the only station to be located in the innermost parts of Rattanakosin Island.
The area around Sanam Chai station is home to many museums; here are four places that we think you should absolutely check out.
Take Exit 1 from Sanam Chai Station, and you’ll come face-to-face with the entrance of Museum Siam: Discovery Museum, one of Thailand’s top destinations for tourists of all ages.
Boasting a refreshing experience, Museum Siam breaks away from the stereotypical austere setting and turns towards a newer, more playful principal. Their ‘Play+Learn = Plearn (Fun)’ philosophy will allow you to make new discoveries while enjoying yourself, in more ways than you might think.
Inside are exhibitions chronicling the history of Thailand. The permanent feature - “Decoding Thainess” - uses innovations like models and video clips to keep the experience captivating and approachable for most audience.
There are also interactive zones that let visitors play around by becoming members of the Thai old-time royal court, getting ‘back-to-school’ makeovers, or tackling puzzles. You’ll be able to spend quality time here while learning about Thai history.
Museum Siam is open between 10.00 - 18.00 on Tuesday - Sunday. (Closed on Mondays.) Admission is 50 THB for students, 100 THB for adults, and 200 THB for foreigners. (Children under the age of 15 and seniors over the age of 60 get free admission.)
National Museum Bangkok
National Museum Bangkok is one of the city’s greatest pride and highlights as the first museum open to the public in Thailand. It was founded in 1859 to showcase collections on our country’s national history, art history, archeology, and ethnology.
The estate originally served as Wang Na (“The Front Palace”) - the residing place of the Prince Successor. That’s why it features elegant throne halls and manors in the traditional Thai style. Examples include Phra Thinang Phutthaisawan, Phra Thinang Itsaret Rachanusorn, and Phra Tamnak Daeng.
Now, it stands as a museum where you can observe relics and objects d'art such as royal tributes and offerings. These pieces are fascinating and certainly worth a closer study.
National Museum Bangkok is open between 09.00 - 16.00 on Wednesday - Sunday. (Closed on Mondays & Tuesdays.) Admission is 30 THB for Thai citizens and 200 THB for foreigners.
Ancient Artillery Museum
The Ministry of Defense is an opulent neo-palladian building, and in its front yard stands the outdoor Ancient Artillery Museum. The exhibition includes a collection of 40 ancient cannons that have seen battlefields of the late Ayutthaya, Thonburi, and Rattanakosin eras.
The cannons are installed during the reign of King Rama VI. These ancient relics were once dubbed “Kings of the Battlefield” due to their devastating power. That and the sheer range make them a formidable weapon used in attacking the enemy and defending the kingdom.
One of the most notorious ordnances is Puen Phaya Tani. At 6.82 m, it’s the longest ancient cannon in Thailand and has been around since the time of Ayutthaya Kingdom.
Another highlight is Puen Yai Narai Sangharn - the largest cannon at 29.3 cm barrel width. It was built during the reign of King Rama I. However, the ‘oldest cannon’ title goes to Puen Yai Akkanirut, forged in Spain circa 1624, making it over 390 years old.
If you’re interested in Thailand’s war and weaponry history, you should add Ancient Artillery Museum to your list. Besides seeing the grand cannons up close, you’ll also get to learn about the past against a backdrop of a magnificent heritage building.
Ancient Artillery Museum is open on weekdays for two rounds per day: 12.00 - 12.30 (register by 11.30) and 19.00 - 19.30 (register by 18.30). Admission is free.
Praisaniyakan Post Office Building
Let’s turn back time and see Thailand’s earliest line of communication at Praisaniyakan. Located near Phra Pok Klao Bridge in Khet Phra Nakhon, this monument to the past carries the history of Thailand Post since its founding in 1883. The area also housed Thailand’s very first post office.
The exhibition features the history of Thailand Post throughout 136 years of its operation to the present. Vintage items such as the first sets of stamps, postcards, and collections of commemorative stamps are put on display.
Sadly, the original Praisaniyakan Post Office Building was demolished in 1982 to make way for Phra Pok Klao Bridge, which lies to the south of Memorial Bridge.
The current building is a replica of the former one and has stood near the old site since 2003. It first opened to the public on the 150th anniversary of Somdej Wang Burapha, dubbed the father of Thailand Post, in 2009.
If you’re interested in learning about Thailand Post history or seeing Prasaniyakan’s architecture, drop by on Friday - Sunday between 12.00 - 20.00. Admission is free.
Itsaraphap MRT Station
The last station on our list is Itsaraphap Station, which is just as elaborately designed as the three earlier ones. It also makes a record of its own as the first MRT station to be located on Thonburi side, between Soi Itsaraphap 23 and 24.
The ticketing area is dressed to match Wat Hong Rattanaram Ratchaworawihan. The temple’s insignia, a swan, can be seen on the pillars, gleaming in a golden light. This eye-catching feature would undoubtedly make Itsaraphap Station one of the latest Insta-worthy locations.
As Thonburi has its own history you can explore, check out these two museums within a walkable distance from Itsaraphap MRT Station.
Baan Kudichin Museum
Explore Kudichin Community - Thonburi’s old neighborhood with a rich history that can be traced all the way back to the time of Ayutthaya Kingdom.
Baan Kudichin Museum is a learning center about the journey of Thai-Portuguese community. Started as a small settlement near the Chao Phraya River, the area became one of the most diverse neighborhoods in terms of ethnicity, religion, and culture in Bangkok today.
Learn about the culture, traditions, language, and food of Kudichin Community through the museum’s three zones.
On the ground floor is the café area - a great place to sit down and relax. The second floor houses the exhibition detailing the community’s history, while the third shows you scenes from the community’s past. Finally, the rooftop deck offers you a 360° view of the surrounding neighborhood.
Plus, while you head to the museum and explore, you can also look forward to tasting old-timey snacks and sweets from vendors on the way there.
Baan Kudichin Museum is open between 09.30 - 18.00 on Tuesday - Sunday. (Closed on Mondays.) Admission is free.
Baan Ekanak (Thonburi History Learning Center)
The highlight of Baan Ekanak Museum is the building itself - a Thai-European house constructed in the Thai ‘Panya’ style during the reign of King Rama VI. Standing over a century old today, the house originally belongs Phraya Prasongsappakarn (Yuang Ekanat), the Deputy Commissioner-General at the time.
Nowadays, the house has been restored to its former glory and put under the care of Bansomdejchaopraya Rajabhat University. It’s now known as Thonburi History Learning Center - a repository of knowledge on Thonburi Community’s culture and lifestyle. The building also serves as a tangible piece of history for later generations.
Baan Ekanak is located in Bansomdejchaopraya Rajabhat University and opens between 09.00 - 16.00 on weekdays. Admission is free.