Bangkok’s Buddhist temples are generally open to visitors of all faiths. You can usually wander around the grounds, enter the main prayer hall (viharn), have a close up look at the stupas (chedi), and take photos. Below are the temples that we recommending visiting, each with a few interesting features for children.
While the Grand Palace is one of the city’s most famous attractions, it’s huge, crowded and not that ideal for children. We prefer the nearby Wat Pho for its expansive grounds, impressive collection of Buddha images and huge, 46-metre long Reclining Buddha. In the building housing the latter, children can walk down the length of the hall while dropping coins into multiple metal alms bowls – a noisy, enjoyable activity that’s also meant to be meditative. Children can also explore the picturesque gardens within the grounds, complete with waterfalls, trees and mythical creatures carved from stone. The famous on-site traditional Thai massage school is also open; parents may be able to get a quick foot massage.
Wedged between Siam Paragon and CentralWorld, Was Pathum exemplifies traditional Thai Buddhist architecture, including a main temple building and a striking white stupa on the premises. It’s a great escape from the bustling Siam area, especially if you walk to the small forested area and meditation hall in the back.
Wat Saket (Golden Mountain)
Wat Saket dates back to the Ayutthaya period during the reign of King Rama I, making it one of Bangkok’s oldest temples. But the temple is most famous for the Golden Mountain – a man-made hill topped by a glittering golden chedi that’s said to enshrine the relics of the Buddha. The journey to the top involves a 318-step climb with flower gardens, prayer bells and a few welcome benches along the way. Once you reach the summit, panoramic views of Bangkok provide a photo-worthy reward for all that leg work.
Situated within a lush temple compound on the Thonburi side, Wat Prayoon makes for a great outing for children, especially the younger ones. The temple is known for its vast population of turtles that you can feed with bread, pork balls and fruit on sale in the courtyard. Turtles and large fish are clearly visible when food is on offer. Children will be delighted and fascinated as they personally hand feed the animals.
Built in 1846, the striking Loha Prasat (‘metal castle’) of Wat Ratchanaddaram is comprised of multiple concentric square levels built on geometrically aligned pillars with a total of 37 black metal spires. Children will enjoy the maze-like configuration and spiral staircase. It is especially magical at night when it is lit up against the skyline of historic Bangkok. You can combine a visit to Loha Prasat with a trip to the Rattanakosin Exhibition Hall next door.
Wat Suthat features impressive architecture, magnificent wall frescoes depicting the previous incarnations of the Buddha, and ornate carved teakwood door panels. The cloister surrounding the main chapel boasts 156 Buddha images along the outer walls, along with Chinese stone sculptures and eight-tier hexagonal pagodas believed to have been shipped as ballast with Chinese trade vessels. A 21.15 metre-tall red teak Giant Swing stands at the temple’s entrance; in the past, the swing was used in Brahmin ceremonies to celebrate the main rice harvest but injuries and deaths led to the end of this practice in 1932.
Tips for Visiting Temples with Kids
- Temples have a dress code (no short shorts, mini skirts, sleeveless tops…); just dress modestly in casual clothes and wear shoes that are easy to slip on and off as you may be required to remove them before entering certain buildings such as the prayer hall.
- Don’t visit too many temples, especially those that are major tourist attractions, in one day. For example, if you’ve toured the Grand Palace, don’t drop by the nearby Wat Pho as it would be too hot and possibly overwhelming for young children.
- Even if you are not Buddhist, feel free to light incense and candles as offerings to the Buddha images as well as ring bells and/or make a monetary donation for the temple’s upkeep.
- You can wander around and take pictures on the grounds but be aware that certain areas like monk’s quarters are not open for visitors. Use your judgement and/or look out for signs prohibiting photography.
- Don’t touch or point to sacred objects such as Buddha images. When sitting, avoid pointing your feet at the images and/or other people. Also, walk around sacred objects in a clockwise direction only.
- Before entering the prayer hall, remind kids to talk in hushed tones, sit with their legs tucked underneath them, and be respectful of the space and worshippers.
- There are often many stray dogs and cats living on temple grounds; most are friendly but do keep an eye on small children when approaching these animals.