Thailand is a gorgeous country famous for its spectacular beaches, bright city lights, and stunning temples that attract visitors from all over the planet. The country features some of the most famous landmarks in the world, including the world’s largest outdoor museum, as well as some fascinating landmarks that are unlike anything you’ve ever seen.
From the best examples of ancient Khmer architecture to the tallest Buddha statues in the country – Thailand’s most famous landmarks are so varied, that each one offers something unique and fascinating to the visitor. This list includes eleven of the most famous landmarks in Thailand, from the best temples of Bangkok to some rather unique attractions located in more remote areas of the country!
The Grand Palace is the most famous landmark in all of Thailand. The complex of buildings has functioned as the private residence of kings since 1782. It remains the official residence of the King of Thailand, but some buildings are open to the public. This vast complex features several buildings, halls, courtyards, and gardens – some of the buildings are open for public tours and others remain working royal offices.
The Grand Palace is divided into two main zones – the royal residence and the Temple of the Emerald Buddha. The latter is one of the most popular landmarks in Bangkok, and it’s a must if you happen to visit the palace grounds. A fun fact not many people know about one of Bangkok’s most popular attractions is that it’s not actually a Buddhist temple. It’s actually a chapel because it lacks living quarters for the monks.
It’s worth noting that there is a strict dress code for both men and women who visit the palace, so be sure to dress appropriately if you want to tour the grounds.
Phimai Historical Park is an ancient complex of Buddhist temples and one of the most famous landmarks in the country. The park is situated in Phimai town, and numerous visitors travel to this part of the country just to see the stunning Khmer architecture and ornate decorations.
The temple complex is known for stone sculptures and intricate stone carvings, as well as a small museum that will teach you everything you need to know about Phimai Historical Park. The complex grounds also feature manicured lawns with plenty of large trees that provide some shelter from the hot Thai sun, which is especially useful for travelers who visit the temple complex in the summer.
As a prime example of Khmer architecture, the temple complex has a lot in common with Angkor Wat, the largest temple complex in the world. The temples in Phimai are characterized by the materials used in construction since Khmer architects traditionally preferred to use sandstone over brick and similar materials. Phimai temples are no exception – sandstone is visible on their outer layers, while laterite remained the preferred material for inner walls and some hidden parts.
Wat Mahathat is a Buddhist temple featuring ruins, sculptures, colorful shrines, and perhaps the most unique in Thailand – a Buddha head jutting out of Banyan tree roots. The famous temple is situated in Ayutthaya, inside the Rama Public Park. If you opt to visit Wat Mahathat, make sure to visit other temples in the park as well, to really get the most out of your trip to this part of Thailand.
The temple dates back to the 18th century and it is one of the most important landmarks in this region. It’s the headquarters of the Mahanikai school of Buddhism, which is the largest monastic order in Thailand. Also, it’s believed that this temple is home to the relic of Buddha, and its name translates to Monastery of the Great Relic.
Wat Mahathat is famous for traditional Khmer architecture, with sandstone ruins in the middle of lush grassland. Visitors can also observe headless Buddha statues, faded murals in the chambers and courtyards, and stupas throughout the complex. Everything in the complex is mesmerizing, but the sandstone Buddha head embedded in the tree roots remains the most popular landmark in this complex, and probably the whole of Ayutthaya.
The Big Buddha is a huge marble statue in Phuket and easily the most popular tourist attraction in that city. The 45-meter statue sits atop a mountain, rewarding all visitors with magnificent panoramic views. Thailand’s third tallest statue depicts Guatama Buddha in a sitting position, and it truly is a remarkable sight.
It’s possible to drive to the monument and there’s parking nearby, so it’s fairly easy to reach it either by your own car or in a taxi. It’s worth noting that this is considered a sacred site in Phuket, so visitors should follow the dress code that is standard in Thai Buddhist temples.
One of the things that the Big Buddha statue is famous for is the presence of monkeys in the area. Although they’re an interesting sight, it’s worth noting that they like to steal stuff from visitors, so just make sure that your valuables are safely tucked away in your pockets.
Wat Arun is a famous Buddhist temple in Bangkok, situated at the bank of the Chao Praya River. It is famous for its ornate spire (central prang), which is coated with colorful porcelain. The prang is decorated with faience, and the ornate decorations are the key reason for its huge popularity.
Different sources report different heights of the spire, and it is somewhere between 66.8 and 86 meters. The main prang features a seven-pronged trident at the top, and it is surrounded by four satellite prang at the corners, which are decorated with seashells and porcelain.
The entrance to Wat Arun temple is across the Chao Phraya River, and it’s best to take a ferry across the river to reach the temple. Also, be sure to visit the terrace viewpoint at the main spire, as it offers stunning views of the complex and the surrounding prang.
Wat Benchamabophit is a Buddhist temple in Bangkok, best known for its Italian marble construction, ornate decorations, and stepped-out roofs. It’s one of Bangkok’s most popular landmarks, famous for the mix of European and Thai architectural styles. The temple dates back to the early 20th century, and its diverse architectural styles make it one of the most unique landmarks in Thailand.
Apart from the stunning architecture, the temple is also known for its peaceful atmosphere. It is an active temple though, so you will need to follow the dress code if you want to tour the interior. It’s definitely worth it to go inside the temple and see the many statues and gold decorations that are truly breathtaking.
Mrigadayavan Palace is a 1920s beachfront palace, built as the summer home of King Rama VI. The palace grounds are huge, and they feature many different buildings including a tea room and a residential home for the inner court attendants. The palace faces the ocean and the spectacular sandy beaches, while lush forest provides the necessary privacy in the back.
It’s possible to rent bikes to explore this compound, and it can be a lot of fun for avid cyclers. Otherwise, you’ll need to do a lot of walking to see all the buildings in the compound. It’s worth noting that most buildings are connected by roofed verandas, so touring the palace on a hot summer’s day is actually a nice experience.
The architecture of the beachside palace is truly gorgeous, and the entire area is incredibly peaceful and relaxing. The same dress code that applies to Thailand’s temples and palaces applies here – although it’s a seaside home, you’re required to have your shoulders and legs covered. No worries – you can rent a sarong or a piece of cloth to cover up when you arrive, but it’s best to come prepared in comfortable and lightweight clothes.
The Ancient City is another famous landmark in Bangkok. It’s an open-air museum shaped like Thailand, featuring both life-sized and scaled-down replicas of famous buildings and monuments. If you can’t travel through the country to see the most famous Thai attractions, you can just visit this park to get a sense of what there is to see.
Ancient Siam occupies an area of 200 hectares, and it is dubbed as the largest outdoor museum in the world. Inside it, visitors can observe 116 replicas of some of Thailand’s best-known attractions and landmarks. The museum grounds are shaped like the country of Thailand, and the landmarks are positioned according to their actual geographical locations.
The open-air museum even features life-sized replicas of existing and former sites, and there are even quite a lot of creatively designed landmarks throughout Ancient Siam. Some of the most famous replicas here include the destroyed Grand Palace of Ayutthaya, Wat Khao Phra Viharn, the Phimai Historical Park, and many others.
Phanom Rung Historical Park is a Khmer temple in Buri Ram. The temple was built atop an extinct volcano, and it’s known for stunning scenic views of the lush forest that surrounds it. This is one of the most popular Khmer temples in Thailand, and it is easily accessible by road. It’s less than a 10-minute walk from the nearest parking lot to the temple, and there are bus tours every day that transport passengers from nearby towns to the historical park.
This temple complex features traditional elements of Khmer architecture, including sandstone exteriors and laterite interiors. The temple was built between the 10th and 13th centuries, and it was originally a Hindu shrine dedicated to Shiva. Since Khmer architecture is designed to resemble the universe, it’s no surprise that the largest temple in the complex symbolizes Mount Kailash with its shape.
It’s possible to go inside the main temple in Phanom Rung Historical Park, but the interior is not quite as impressive as the exterior. It’s always colder inside the temple though, so it is a nice escape from the Thai summer heat. In any case, you should definitely explore the entire grounds of Phanom Rung Historical Park if you happen to visit, since it’s quite an adventure to get to the top of the extinct volcano.
Wat Rong Khun is perhaps the most unique Buddhist temple in Thailand. It’s a privately owned temple that’s open for visitors, and it’s famous for its all-white construction – that’s also why the temple is more commonly known as just the White Temple. The temple was designed and built by Chalermchai Kositpipat, who remains the owner of the famous art installation to this day.
The White Temple is situated in Chian Rai, and it’s the most popular attraction in this region. Numerous visitors flock to this part of the country just to see the mesmerizing landmark with the intricate detailing. It’s worth noting that this famous landmark is in a remote part of Thailand, and it’s not exactly on the way for most tourists who intend to stay in Thailand’s more popular cities like Bangkok and Phuket. But Wat Rong Khun is such an astonishing sight that it’s undoubtedly worth it to make a trip to this part of the country, especially if you’re trying to see all the best landmarks this charming country has to offer.
Tsunami Memorial Park is a historical landmark in Phuket that attracts numerous visitors, both local and foreign. The vast park is most popular for the monument dedicated to victims of the disastrous 2004 tsunami that practically wiped out the smaller islands of the Phuket regions. The monument is an interesting modern sculpture that’s beautiful to see, but the main reason for coming here should be to pay respects to the victims of the natural disaster.
It’s worth noting that, although the memorial park is one of the most famous landmarks in Thailand, it’s not exactly well-maintained. The area near the statue is fairly clean, but the playground and the lawns beyond it tend to be littered by frequent visitors.
Anna is the co-owner of expert world travel and can't wait to share her travel experience with the world. With over 54 countries under her belt she has a lot to write about! Including those insane encounters with black bears in Canada.