Last updated on May 22, 2024 by Stefano Ferro, founder of MEL365, following extensive travelling in Thailand

Uncover 50 Must-Experience Things to Do in Ayutthaya

Visiting the formal capital of Siam is a must on any trip to Thailand. There are so many interesting things to do in Ayutthaya that it is impossible to get bored. I had such a great and busy time there.

The Ayutthaya Kingdom was one of the most powerful in Asia and the capital was one of the biggest cities in the world with over 1 Million people in the 17th century.

The Ayutthaya temples were mostly built on a big island created by the many rivers and canals around the area. Because of that, the city was also called the Venice of the East. I just can imagine how beautiful must have been Ayutthaya in that era.

In this post, I talk about the 9 most important and iconic things to do in Ayutthaya. Moreover, I have picked another 41 experiences, organised in 6 groups, to build your own itinerary to this unique destination.

Discover 9 spectacular things to do in Ayutthaya

Things to Do in Ayutthaya – The 7 Key Points

  1. Diverse Temple Exploration – Ayutthaya is a haven for history buffs and spiritual seekers alike. From the iconic Wat Phra Si Sanphet to hidden gems like Chedi Phukhao Thong, the city offers a wide range of temples, each with its unique architecture and history.
  2. Outdoor Activities Galore – Whether it’s cycling around the historical park or taking a Kayaking tour along the Chao Phraya River, Ayutthaya offers a plethora of outdoor activities that allow you to soak in the natural beauty and local culture.
  3. Off the Beaten Path – For those looking to escape the tourist crowds, Ayutthaya has several lesser-known attractions like the Portuguese Settlement and the Ayothaya Floating Market that offer a more authentic experience.
  4. Family-Friendly Fun – Ayutthaya isn’t just for history enthusiasts; it’s also a great destination for families. With activities like elephant rides and visits to the Million Toy Museum, there’s something for kids of all ages.
  5. Rich Culinary Experiences – From sampling local street food to dining in riverside restaurants, Ayutthaya offers a culinary journey that caters to different tastes and budgets.
  6. Museums and Galleries – Beyond temples, the city is home to several museums and galleries like the Chao Sam Phraya National Museum that offer deeper insights into Thailand’s rich history and culture.
  7. Opening hours – The opening hours of the Ayutthaya Historical Park may change based on seasons. Usually, it is open between 8:30 am and 4:30 pm. I personally suggest a visit as early as possible to avoid the heat of the central hours of the day. For more information and the latest news, you can check the Ayutthaya info page of the Thailand Tourism site.
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Most of the things to do in Ayutthaya are related to temples. Visit them, cycle around them, and take a tuk-tuk to wander between them.

There is also the possibility to take a boat and navigate the many rivers and canals.

The 9 most important place to visit and things to do in Ayutthaya

Wat Yai Chai Mongkol

The historic city of Ayutthaya is an Unesco World Heritage Site and it covers a vast part of the new modern city.

It is such a vast area that on my first day I decided to take a tuk-tuk to go around. As you can imagine, bargaining is a must.

The alternative is to use one of the Uber-like services and bargaining won’t be a problem 🙂

I started my visit at the Wat (temple) Yai Chai Mongkol, just outside the main island.

Beautiful warm colours of Mongkhon
Beautiful warm colours of Mongkhon

This is probably one of the most well-known temples in the area. Visited by both tourists and local worshippers.

I was there early in the morning, just after the opening hour and there were not that many people, probably a good time to visit it.

King U-thong built this temple in 1357 A.D. to host the monks back from Ceylon, where they studied under Phra Vanarat Maha Thera.

In fact, monks are still everywhere and a great photographic opportunity too.

Monks praying in Wat Yai Chai Mongkol
Monks praying in Wat Yai Chai Mongkol

Wat Phra Sri Sanphet

This is another must-see in Ayutthaya, one of the best-preserved ruins too.

Wat Phra Sri Sanphet is probably the temple that delivered more than expected.

Wat Phra Si Sanphet my favourite temple in Ayutthaya
Wat Phra Si Sanphet my favourite temple in Ayutthaya

The entrance was majestic, with a long walk to the main temple area.

I was there late in the afternoon and it was not busy at all. Maybe it is not as popular as other wat, but surely it did not disappoint me.

Wat Phra Sri Sanphet was the grandest and most beautiful temple in the capital of Siam, besides being the holiest. It was the temple of the Royal family.

Unfortunately, the temple area was highly damaged in the Burmese invasion in 1767 leaving only the three Chedis that can be visited today.

But do not be pulled out, as I was initially, there is still so much to see and visit around.

Wat Mahathat in Ayutthaya

My tuk-tuk in Ayutthaya took me to the Wat Mahathat, probably the biggest area of ruins on the island.

As you enter you will see, on your right side, a big group of people photographing a tree. This is the most photographed subject of all Ayutthaya, the Buddha’s Head.

Passed the busy entrance you will step into the big temple area, still under renovation (probably a never-ending one).

Wat Mahathat temple in Ayutthaya, Thailand
Wat Mahathat temple in Ayutthaya, Thailand

The first Wat was built almost 700 years ago. At that time the area was most probably surrounded by canals and moats. What a magical place must have been!

Being such an ancient temple area, there is a fair long history behind Wat Mahathat that you can read here.

Honestly, this is an area to wander around as there are so many hidden corners and nice spots to visit and take a photo.

Watching the gigantic Chedis of Wat Mahathat
Watching the gigantic Chedis of Wat Mahathat

The Ayutthaya Buddha’s head

Technically speaking the Buddha statue is in Wat Mahathat and should have been part of the previous section, however, because of its popularity, I have decided to dedicate a special section.

Remember when I said that at the entrance of the temple area, a group of people were photographing a tree? The subject was the Ayutthaya Buddha head that got stuck in the roots of a gigantic tree, an amazing photographic subject and definitely one of the things to see in Ayutthaya.

The Ayutthaya Buddha head photographed from the side, my favourite corner
The Ayutthaya Buddha head photographed from the side, my favourite corner

But, how did the Buddha’s head end up there?

There are a couple of theories.

A close-up of the Buddha statue
A close-up of the Buddha statue

After the Burmese invasion, most of the inhabitants left the city and the vegetation grew out of control and trapped the beautiful Buddha statue. Similar to what happened in Angkor Wat.

The second theory is about a thief who moved the head there before escaping over the wall, probably with the idea to go back and collect it at a later stage…..but it never happened and nature took hold of it

In either case, it was decided to leave it as we see it today.

Bike tour in Ayutthaya

Bike rental in Ayutthaya is widely available, with also the possibility of joining one of the many bike tours in Ayutthaya

Every guest house or hotel has also a few bikes available otherwise walk around the corner and you will probably end up in a shop, bar, cafe, or agency that rents bikes.

I wanted to be flexible with my time, stopping wherever I wanted and spending the time I needed, with a couple of stops in cafes or bars for a drink. So renting my own bike was the way to go.

With the bike, you will be able to cover most of the Ayutthaya area and have a great time too. Remember to download a map of the area to explore the secondary roads. It’s more fun. Have a look at my favourite travel apps for more information.

Wat Chai Wattanaram

Wat Chai Wattanaram is located on the west bank of the Chao Phraya River, outside the island.

It is another amazing example of well-preserved Ayutthaya ruins.

Stairs to the Shrine in the Wat Chai Wattanaram
Stairs to the Shrine in the Wat Chai Wattanaram

Unfortunately, access is quite limited to a few areas and I was not able to get too close to the temples. I was a bit disappointed, but I fully understand that preservation, sometimes, means that visitors can’t get too close, to avoid possible damage.

I discovered only later that I could go there by boat too, which is a different experience altogether.

Built in 1630, the Wat Chai Wattanaram was a temple used by the Royal family for religious ceremonies, including cremation.

Wat Chai Wattanaram on the west bank of the Chao Phraya River
Wat Chai Wattanaram on the west bank of the Chao Phraya River

Chedi Phukhao Thong, the unique monastery

If you still wonder about the things to do in Ayutthaya, take a taxi, a tuk tuk or have a ride to the white land of Chedi Phukhao Thong, about 2km from the town centre

This is one of the most impressive temples I have seen in this area. Probably because it is completely different from the others in the Ayutthaya Historical Park.

Construction of the Chedi Phukhao Thong, or Monastery of the Golden Mount, started over 400 years ago, in 1569, to celebrate the occupation by the Kingdom of Burma.

200 years later, King  Borommakot of Siam decided to build a new Chedi on top of the old one, by that time in full disrepair. This time with a new Thai style, based on a square plan.

Why did I love it?

Primarily because of its uniqueness, with a bright white colour, it pops out from a long distance.

The white temple: Chedi Phukhao Thong
The white temple: Chedi Phu Khao Thong

But mostly for the fantastic view of the rice fields and the town of Ayutthaya I had from the highest accessible point, which is halfway to the peak.

I had also the possibility to visit the shrine inside the central tower where I met a lovely group of local elderly who tried to explain to me the secrets of the shrine……with a bit of their broken English and my minimalist Thai….a good fun talk.

Spotting a Michelin man in Thailand

This is not Pokemon. It is even more fun!

Taking a collection of photos of a Michelin man in Thailand has been one of my favourite hobbies. And Ayutthaya is probably the town where I saw the widest, and wildest, population. Basically on every vehicle with an engine. I saw even some on a bicycle, just to make it a bit heavier!

The most notable ones are on the tuk tuk however the most majestic, sometimes gigantic, are on the big trucks.

The Bibendum family
The Bibendum family

Photography-wise, I suggest using a small aperture, f/4 ideally, to focus on the single detail, the Michelin man, also called Bibendum.

You can go even for a wider aperture, down to f/2 or f/1.4 however your depth of field will be very small, which may work great….or it may be the source of a sharpness problem.

Bang Pa-in Palace

This is a site not in the city of Ayutthaya, it is actually around 20km from it.

You can take the train there and the station is a few hundred meters from the palace.

Alternatively, you can ride the bike along the Chao Phraya River.

If travelling by train from Bangkok to Ayutthaya, you may have a stop at the Bang Pa-in railway station.

It is also known as the Summer Palace and it was formerly used by the Royal family.

6 Unique Outdoor Activities to do in Ayutthaya

Kayaking on the Chao Phraya River

Paddle your way through the historic waterways of Ayutthaya. Kayaking on the Chao Phraya River offers a unique perspective of the ancient temples and lush landscapes. It’s a serene yet adventurous way to explore, suitable for all skill levels.

Sunset Boat Tour

As the sun dips below the horizon, the ruins of Ayutthaya take on a magical glow. A sunset boat tour is not just a romantic but also a photographer’s dream. Capture the temples and palaces bathed in golden light as you glide along the river.

Elephant Riding at Ayothaya Elephant Palace & Royal Kraal

Get up close and personal with these majestic creatures at the Ayothaya Elephant Palace. While elephant riding is a subject of ethical debate, the facility aims to provide a sanctuary for these animals. Make sure to research and choose responsibly.

Hot Air Balloon Ride Over the Historical Park

For a bird’s-eye view of Ayutthaya, nothing beats a hot air balloon ride. Float over the ancient city and its surrounding rice fields and rivers. It’s an exhilarating experience that offers unparalleled photo opportunities.

Visit the Ayutthaya Floating Market

Step back in time at the Ayutthaya Floating Market. It’s a lively place where you can sample local foods, shop for souvenirs, and even catch a traditional Thai puppet show. The market is a blend of culture, history, and delicious eats.

Explore the Ayutthaya Night Market

When the sun sets, the Ayutthaya Night Market comes alive. It’s a feast for the senses with aromatic street food, colourful crafts, and live music. It’s the perfect place to soak up the local atmosphere and try some authentic Thai dishes.

5 Off the Beaten Path activities to do in Ayutthaya

Visit the Portuguese Settlement

Discover the remnants of Ayutthaya’s multicultural past at the Portuguese Settlement. This area offers a glimpse into the lives of Portuguese traders and missionaries who lived here during the 16th century. It’s a quiet escape from the more touristy spots.

Explore the Muslim Quarter

Ayutthaya’s Muslim Quarter is a vibrant community that reflects the city’s diverse cultural heritage. Wander through the narrow lanes, visit the local mosque, and don’t miss the chance to try some delicious Muslim-Thai cuisine.

Visit St. Joseph’s Church

St. Joseph’s Church is a testament to Ayutthaya’s cosmopolitan history. Built by French Jesuits in the 17th century, the church stands as one of the oldest European structures in Thailand. It’s a peaceful sanctuary that tells a different story of Ayutthaya.

Take in a Traditional Thai Puppet Show

For a unique cultural experience, catch a traditional Thai puppet show. These intricate performances are a dying art form and offer a fascinating look into Thai folklore and mythology. It’s a must-see for culture enthusiasts.

Visit the Ayutthaya Retro Market

Step back in time at the Ayutthaya Retro Market, where vendors dress in traditional Thai costumes and sell vintage goods. It’s a fun way to experience the local culture while picking up some unique souvenirs.

3 things to do in Ayutthaya for the kids

Ayutthaya Boat & Travel’s Family Cycling Day

Gear up for a family-friendly cycling tour with Ayutthaya Boat & Travel. These guided tours are tailored for families and cover easy routes that even young kids can manage. It’s a fantastic way to see the sights while keeping the little ones engaged and active. Plus, it’s educational!

Ayutthaya Elephant Camp Visit

Take the kids for an unforgettable experience at the Ayutthaya Elephant Camp. Here, they can learn about these magnificent creatures, their habitats, and conservation efforts. It’s not just a fun outing but also an educational one, teaching kids the importance of wildlife conservation.

Million Toy Museum

A paradise for kids and adults alike, the Million Toy Museum is home to a vast collection of toys from around the world. From traditional Thai toys to modern action figures, the museum is a nostalgic journey through the history of play.

5 Museums and Galleries to visit in Ayutthaya

Chao Sam Phraya National Museum

This museum is a treasure trove of artifacts from Ayutthaya’s golden age. With a focus on the art and history of the ancient kingdom, it’s a must-visit for history buffs. The museum is well-curated and offers English explanations, making it accessible for international visitors.

Ayutthaya Historical Study Centre

If you’re looking to understand the rise and fall of the Ayutthaya Kingdom, this is the place to go. The Ayutthaya Historical Study Centre offers detailed exhibits and models that bring the past to life. It’s a great educational stop for both adults and kids.

Baan Hollanda (Dutch Village)

Step into a slice of the Netherlands in the heart of Thailand at Baan Hollanda. This museum is located on the site of the original Dutch trading post and offers insights into the historical relationship between Thailand and the Netherlands. It’s a fascinating detour that showcases the global influences that have shaped Ayutthaya.

Japanese Settlement Museum

Discover the history of Japanese traders and samurais who once resided in Ayutthaya. The Japanese Settlement Museum offers a unique perspective on the city’s multicultural past. It’s a small but informative museum that’s often overlooked by tourists.

Ayutthaya Art Gallery

For those looking to explore the contemporary art scene in Ayutthaya, the Ayutthaya Art Gallery is a hidden gem. This gallery features works from local artists, showcasing a blend of traditional Thai art forms and modern artistic expressions. It’s a refreshing break from the historical sites and offers a glimpse into the city’s evolving cultural landscape.

3 Culinary Experiences to try in Ayutthaya

Try the Local Dish “Boat Noodles”

Ayutthaya is famous for its “Boat Noodles,” a hearty bowl of noodle soup that was traditionally sold from boats along the canals. The dish is a flavorful blend of spices, meat, and herbs. It’s a must-try for foodies and offers a taste of local life.

Take a Thai Cooking Class

What better way to immerse yourself in Thai culture than by learning how to cook its famous dishes? Several places in Ayutthaya offer cooking classes where you can learn to make classics like Pad Thai and Green Curry. Plus, it’s a skill you can take home with you!

Visit a Local Fish Market

For a more authentic culinary experience, head to a local fish market. Here, you can see the day’s freshest catches and even try some seafood dishes prepared right before your eyes. It’s not just a feast for your taste buds but also a feast for the senses.

10 more Temples and Historical Sites to visit

Wat Na Phra Men

This temple is unique for its well-preserved architecture and the stunning crowned Buddha statue inside. Unlike many temples in Ayutthaya, Wat Na Phra Men survived the Burmese invasion relatively intact, making it a must-visit for history enthusiasts.

Wat Lokayasutharam

Home to one of the largest reclining Buddha statues in Ayutthaya, Wat Lokayasutharam is a serene spot that offers a sense of tranquility amidst the ruins. The statue is particularly impressive and makes for a great photo opportunity.

Wat Phanan Choeng

This temple is famous for its enormous seated Buddha statue, known as Luang Pho Tho. The statue is highly revered, and the temple often hosts ceremonies where visitors can participate.

Wat Phu Khao Thong

Also known as the “Golden Mount,” this temple offers panoramic views of Ayutthaya. The climb to the top is a bit of a workout but well worth it for the stunning vistas.

Wat Ratchaburana

Known for its well-preserved prang (tower), Wat Ratchaburana is another must-see. The temple also has an underground crypt that you can explore, featuring ancient murals and relics.

Wat Thammikarat

This temple stands out for its unusual lion statues and the chedi adorned with rooster decorations. It’s less crowded than other sites, offering a more peaceful experience.

Wat Suwan Dararam

An active royal temple, Wat Suwan Dararam is known for its beautiful murals depicting scenes from Thai history and mythology. It’s a living piece of Ayutthaya’s cultural heritage.

Wat Chedi Liam

With its five-tiered chedi, this temple is one of the few that were built in the Mon style. It’s a bit off the beaten path but offers a different architectural perspective.

Wat Maheyong

This temple was used as a residence by the Burmese King Bayinnaung during his invasion of Ayutthaya. The ruins are spread over a large area and offer a sense of the grandeur that once was.

Wat Phra Ram

Located near the Grand Palace, Wat Phra Ram features a large central prang surrounded by smaller chedis. The temple is set in a well-maintained park, making it a perfect spot for a leisurely visit.

From Bangkok to Ayutthaya

Usually, the formal capital city of Siam is visited from Bangkok either on a day trip or a longer break, which I highly suggest.

Spending 2 or 3 nights works best as you will not be in a rush to see most of the temples in the Ayutthaya Historical Park.

I was twice there. I went by train the first time and by rented car the second time.

Bangkok to Ayutthaya train

This is probably the easiest way to travel to Ayutthaya.

There is a train every hour, or so, and the ticket is quite cheap, a couple of dollars.

The trip takes less than two hours. You may want to check if it stops at the Bang Pa-in Palace (there are direct and local trains)

The train departs from Bangkok’s Hualamphong station and more information is available at the State Railway of Thailand

The arrival station is located on the east side of the island. From there take a taxi or a ferry to the Historical Park.

Bus transportation

In Bangkok go to the Northern bus terminal Mor Chit.

Ticket prices and time are similar to the train option. It may be more complicated in case you plan to stop at the Bang Pa-in Palace

The Ayutthaya bus terminal is located outside the town, and not easy to access I must say (see map below for more info).

As an alternative, head to the Victory Monument Square in Bangkok for a direct minivan to Ayutthaya. Slightly more expensive ($3) but a much shorter trip.

Ayutthaya to Bangkok by boat

Unfortunately, I have not experienced the boat trip. I planned to but eventually, it didn’t work out.

There are a few operators you can google. You can take one way by train and back by boat or even bike + boat, an unusual experience

Bangkok to Ayutthaya by car

On my last trip, I decided to rent a car in Bangkok and drive there. Honestly, it was a super easy trip or a great road too.

The stop in Ayutthaya was part of a much longer trip to the Isan province, east of the capital.

Ayutthaya day trip from Bangkok

The single-day tour to Ayutthaya from Bangkok is the last possibility.

Keeping in mind the travelling time, between 3 and 4 hours, you soon realize how busy will be the day.

Although an option, I do not think it is a viable one. You will end up with a super tiring day without seeing that much.

My accommodation

Ayutthaya has a few guest houses and many hotels around. It is a tourist centre with an area dedicated to flash packers and a few nice resorts here and there.

I ended up staying in three places during my two visits

The first one was the Baan Thai House, very close to the train station in a great location with a beautiful garden and a small lake. Friendly staff (as usual in Thailand) and quiet hotel. The small swimming pool was great for a break in the hottest part of the day.

This is my favourite spot and the one I would recommend. Unfortunately, it is quite popular and it gets booked out well in advance.

Baan Thai House
Baan Thai House – My favourite accommodation in Ayutthaya

If Ban Thai House is already booked out I would suggest Baan Luang Harn, another exceptional homestay. I stayed there only for 1 night and I was really impressed.

It is actually better located than the previously suggested accommodation. Really it’s all down to a personal decision. A great place to stay

Baan Luang Harn
The beautiful Baan Luang Harn

The first time I was in Ayutthaya I stayed in another guest house, more on backpacker style, although very clean and with lots of space.

It is called Tamarind Guesthouse and it’s basically in front of the Historical Park. Very cozy rooms and a nicely decorated house overall. Again friendly staff and comfortable. Really cheap for what you get!

Tamarind Guesthouse
Cosy entrance to the Tamarind Guesthouse

My final thoughts

I loved my days in town and although I was already twice there I never had the time to question on what to do in Ayutthaya. Every time I discovered a new temple, a new corner, a new secret place (let’s say just suggested by the hotel staff 😉 )

My tip here is always to check the Ayutthaya Historical Park opening hours with the accommodation staff. It may change.

Getting around Ayutthaya was very easy. A bike rental was always around the corner and taxis were available everywhere. Otherwise tuk tuk or download the Uber app.

Map of Ayutthaya with the useful places

Map-of-Ayutthaya-with-things-to-do-and-places-to-stay

For the interactive Google map click here

Stefano Ferro - MEL365.com Founder and Editor

About the Author

Stefano is a seasoned travel expert and the visionary founder of MEL365.com, a leading travel website with traffic across 6 continents. With a rich background in the travel industry, Stefano spent four pivotal years at Amadeus Travel Distribution System, gaining invaluable insights into travel technologies and distribution.

7 thoughts on “Uncover 50 Must-Experience Things to Do in Ayutthaya”

  1. Nice roundup and great photos. We were just there a little over a week ago for 3 days. Our 2nd time as well, the 1st being 10 years ago. Have to admit I was surprised however at the amount of tourists there now – 10 years ago it felt like we had every temple to ourselves. And we could wander all over Wat Chai Wattanaram (which we couldn’t this time around with all the restoration going on). The argument I have going on with my wife now is which is more impressive: Sukhothai or Ayutthaya?

    Reply
    • Indeed Frank,
      tourism is booming….everywhere. So no wonder that you feel like every temple and destination nowadays is full of tourists. I still like visiting the iconic places like Ayutthaya but I always try to give space to others less touristic as Sukhothai. Sometime I push myself to visit sites absolutely out of the touristic route as Ta Moan but than, being so remote I need time and determination as there are no tours and public transportation.
      I guess It’s always a choice between easy to reach places, but with lots of tourism, or remote and hard to get, but almost no tourism…..and believe you me these places still exist 😉
      Happy travelling Frank

      Reply
  2. Hey
    Right now in Ayutthaya. Following your blog post and exploring this beautiful place. This post proved to be a great help to me by your side. Thanks for sharing the post.

    Reply

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