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Arts and Culture in Bangkok - Buddhist Temples, Contemporary Galleries, and Traditional Dance

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Bangkok's glittering stupas (Buddhist shrines) have been attracting pilgrims for centuries, but an emerging contemporary arts scene means the city offers cultural attractions old and new. For a glimpse of traditional Thai culture, you can book tickets to classical Khon dance performances. The International Festival of Dance and Music, hosted by the Thailand Cultural Centre, offers an impressive program of ballet, opera, and classical recitals.

Buddhist temples


Hundreds of fascinating temples, or wats, are spread across Bangkok. Among the most opulent is the golden Wat Phra Kaew, in the grounds of the Grand Palace. It's home to the sacred Emerald Buddha, just 30 inches tall. On a different scale altogether, 17th-century Wat Pho houses a gigantic reclining Buddha. Other temples that deserve a spot on your shortlist include Wat Arun, with its spire covered in fragments of colourful porcelain from China, and Wat Saket, which has panoramic views across the city.


Wat Pho


Bangkok's oldest temple and the site of Thailand's first university, founded by King Rama III in the 19th century. Home to a huge reclining Buddha and one of the country's earliest massage schools.


2 Sanamchai Road, Grand Palace Subdistrict, Pranakorn District, Bangkok 10200. Tel: +66 02 226 0335


Wat Pho website


Wat Phra Kaew


Sacred temple of the Emerald Buddha. Considered to be one of the most holy sites in Thailand and situated within the Grand Palace. The King ceremonially changes the Emerald Buddha's golden clothing three times a year.


Na Phra Lan Road, Phra Nakhon, Bangkok 10200. Tel: +66 02 224 3290


Modern art


Vibrant galleries and cultural centres exhibiting modern Asian art have opened throughout Bangkok in recent years. Interesting places to spot Thai creative talent include the striking Bangkok Art and Culture centre (BACC), and independent galleries such as Whitespace and H Gallery. The National Museum, in the old Royal Mint building, displays 20th century artworks, as well as paintings by the reigning King of Thailand.


Bangkok Art and Cultural Centre (BACC)


A contemporary arts centre spread across 9 floors of a bold, circular building designed to be an iconic landmark in the city. Spiral walkways lead visitors to light-filled galleries, an art library, and spaces dedicated to film and performance.


939 Rama 1 Road, Wangmai, Pathumwan, Bangkok 10330. Tel: +66 02 214 6630 - 8


Bangkok Art and Cultural Centre (BACC) website


Whitespace Gallery


An independent art gallery displaying work by up-and-coming Thai artists. Exhibitions range from sculpture and painting to photography and conceptual art.


One Sala Daeng 1, Rama 4 Road, Khet Bangrak, Bangkok 10500. Tel: +66 8 1699 5298


Whitespace Gallery website


Museums and palaces


From splendid palaces to museums packed with national treasures, Bangkok has plenty of historic sites and cultural attractions to explore. You can admire royal artifacts at the Grand Palace, while Vimanmek Mansion contains objects Rama V collected around the world. If you're interested in traditional art and crafts, take a guided tour around the collection displayed in the teakwood house of Jim Thompson, an American entrepreneur who exported Thai silk.


Vimanmek Mansion


The world's largest golden teakwood mansion, exhibiting historic artifacts collected by King Rama V during his travels in Europe and Asia. Silverware, ceramics, and ivory are displayed in traditional rooms.


16 Rajvithi Rd, Dusit, Bangkok 10300. Tel: +66 2 628 6300


Vimanmek Mansion website


Jim Thompson's House


Collection of Asian art and antiques displayed in a traditional teakwood house once owned by Jim Thompson, an eccentric American businessman and spy.


6 Soi Kasemsan 2, Rama 1 Road, Bangkok. Tel: +66 2 216 7368


Jim Thompson's House website


Classical dance


To experience traditional culture in Bangkok, you can take a break from the bustling streets of the modern city and watch a classical dance performance. Masked Khon shows, based on Thai Ramakien drama, are staged in the Art Deco surrounds of the Sala Chalermkrung.


Sala Chalermkrung


Former cinema, built in 1933, which now hosts masked Khon dance shows. Splendidly dressed dancers perform scenes from epic Ramakien tales with the accompaniment of traditional music.


Tri Phet Rd, Wang Burapha Phirom, Phra Nakhon, Bangkok 10200. Tel: +66 2 224 4499


Sala Chalermkrung website