The National Museum was established in 1874 in the reign of King Rama V. It is the largest museum in South East Asia consisting of multiple buildings housing a massive collection of historical Thai artifacts dating as far back as Dvaravati, Srivijaya, to the Sukhothai and Ayutthaya period, the museum also displays extensive collections of regional Asian Buddhist Art such as Indian Gandhara, Chinese Tang, Vietnamese Cham, Indonesian Java, and Cambodian Khmer.
The museum is in the Rattanakosin district opposite Sanam Luang and a short walk from the Grand Palace. The ticket office is just inside the main gates to the left.
The three main exhibitions feature Thai history, archaeological and art history and decorative arts and ethnological history.
The Thai History Gallery at the front of the Siwamokhaphiman Hall provides an overview of Thai history spanning the Sukothai to Rattanakosin periods and features the famous King Ramkhamhaeng black stone Inscription which dates from the 12th century. The Archaeological and Art History collection is in the back of the Siwamokhaphiman Hall and in the North Wing Building.
There are displays of historic sculptures and exhibits from the Dvaravati, Srivijaya and Lopburi periods before 1257 AD, up to the Bangkok period 1782 and from all over Asia including one of the earliest statues of the Buddha from Gandhara, along with various Buddhist sculptures in stone, bronze, and terracotta. There is also an impressive Javanese statue of the elephant-headed Ganesh.
The prehistory section displays artifacts from Ban Chiang, one of the earliest bronze age settlements ever discovered. Items on show include pottery, ax-heads, spear points, tools and bronze objects.
The Decorative Arts and Ethnological collection is displayed in the old central palace buildings and features Chinese weapons, gold treasures, precious stones, royal emblems, Costumes, Khon masks, puppets, ceramics, clothing and textiles, Carved Ivory, woodcarving, old weapons, old royal transportation and traditional musical instruments from around South East Asia.
Also in the complex is the Buddhaisawan Chapel which houses the second-holiest Buddha image in Thailand, PhraBuddhasihing. Inside the chapel, mural paintings depict scenes from the life of the Buddha.
Also, within the complex is a rare Ayutthaya style house made from golden teak. It’s called the Red House or Tamnak Daeng. It is furnished in an early Bangkok period style to illustrate Thai people’s lifestyle in the past with some of the objects which once belonged to Queen Sri Suriyen including a large beautifully carved bed. The house also has a rare indoor bathroom.
Next to the Northern building is the Funeral Chariot Hall featuring carriages used for royal cremations. Most of the Chariots date from the reign of King Rama 1 between 1782-1809 and are made of teak. The highlight is the very large beautifully carved Grand Chariot of Victory built in 1795. This chariot is used for the funeral of every King and Queen and carries the urn containing the body to the funeral pyre. The chariot weighs 20 tons and is hand pulled by soldiers. It takes 160 men to pull it from the front and 135 behind it to act as brakes.
Free tours of the National Museum are available in English and French on Wednesday/Thursday. Also in Japanese on Wednesdays and German on Thursdays. Tours start at 09.30. There are a cafe and a souvenir shop next to the ticket office.
When approaching, the museum beware of touts outside who will tell you that the museum is closed. They are even there when the museum is closed. They will try to talk you into taking a cheap tuk-tuk tour which is a shopping trip to various dodgy gem stores.
Location: 4 Na Phra That Road
Opening Hours: 09.00-16.00 Wednesday-Sunday
Admission: 200 baht
Rules: No bags allowed inside. Free lockers.
Bus: 3,6, 9, 15, 30, 32, 33, 43, 53, 59, 64, 65, 80, 91, 123, 124, 503, 524