Once one of the biggest cities in the world, today Ayutthaya is a UNESCO World Heritage Site that boasts ancient ruins and monasteries. Spend the day wandering through the extensive Ayutthaya temples. There are several ways to plan a visit, but taking a Bangkok day trip to Ayutthaya is an adventure all on its own. You can do an Ayutthaya day trip on your own by taking the train, or join a tour for the day.
Is it Worth it to Plan a Bangkok – Ayutthaya Day Trip?
There is so much to see and do in Bangkok, that it’s hard to know whether a day trip to Ayutthaya is worth it. In our opinion, the town is so different from Bangkok and has so much to offer that it is worth a visit, even if you only have enough time for a day trip. A tour will give you more time since you will go straight there, but we enjoyed taking the train and found it easy and relatively quick.
The ruins in Ayutthaya are extensive and while you won’t see everything in a day, you will have plenty of time to see the highlights.
Quick Look at the Top Things to See in Ayutthaya
You can see detailed information about the places to see when you visit Ayutthaya below, but use this quick list to help plan your Ayutthaya itinerary (click on the image below for a printable list of things to do in Ayutthaya). It’s important to note that there are many spelling variations for these sites. Also note that there are many more sites you can visit and if you are not taking a Ayutthaya tour, I recommend simply stopping when you see something interesting.
Top things to do in Ayutthaya:
- Wat Phra Si Sanphet
- Wat Ratchaburana
- Wat Mahathat
- Bang Pa-in Palace
- Wat Suwan Dararam
- Wat Phra Ram
- Wat Chaiwatthanaram
- Wat Na Phra Men
- Wihan Phra Mongkhon Bophit Temple
- Take a Boat Tour
- Chao Sam Phraya National Museum
- Chao Phrom Market
- Ayutthaya Floating Market
Other things to do: visit the Portuguese Settlement, Muslim Quarters, Million Toy Museum, Thai Boat Museum
Should You Take an Ayutthaya Tour or Plan Your Own Bangkok Day Trip to Ayutthaya
With so many options of things to do and the logistics of planning your day, it may seem easier book a tour from Bangkok – and for many of people, this will be your best option for an Ayutthaya day trip. The table below outlines the pros and cons of each option
Ayutthaya Tours From Bangkok
- Easy to Plan
- More comfortable
- More expensive
- Set Itinerary
Self Guided Tour of Ayutthaya
- Less expensive
- More control over what you see
- Get to travel by train
- More planning
- Takes longer on the train
- Very little information at the sites
We opted to visit Ayutthaya on our own by taking the train and renting bikes to explore the ruins. We loved the entire day and are so glad we did it on our own. On the other side, it would have been nice to have gotten a bit more information about the places we visited as there was very limited signage at the different sites.
Visiting Ayutthaya as an Overnight: one other option we looking into was spending a night in Ayutthaya. We ultimately opted to do the visit as just a day trip to Ayutthaya, but it would have been nice to have a bit more time in the town. If you are looking to stay in town for the night, this guesthouse was where we were looking at staying.
Things to Know About Visiting Ayutthaya from Bangkok
A Short History of Ayutthaya
Strategically placed between 3 rivers, Ayutthaya was founded in 1350 and rose to the center of diplomacy and commerce as the capital of the Siamese Kingdom. The town flourished between the 14th and 18th centuries and was built on a system of city planning grids made up of roads and moats. This model was used centuries later to create the city of Bangkok.
In 1767, Ayutthaya was attacked by the Burmese and burnt to the ground. Never rebuilt, the city remains an archaeology site and has been a UNESCO World Heritage site since 1991.
How to Get from Bangkok to Ayutthaya
If you aren’t taking a guided tour from Bangkok to Ayutthaya, the easiest way to get there is by train. You can catch the train from the Hualamphong station and it takes between 80-120 minutes. We were delayed getting out of Bangkok and it took about 30 extra minutes of just sitting on the tracks. You can purchase different class tickets. We bought the cheapest tickets and had no problems. It was hot on the train until we got out of town and opened the windows.
There are many trains between Ayutthaya and Bangkok each day and you can use the boxes below to search or simply go to the train station. Tickets are typically between $1 and $11. You can also see options for bus and mini-van transport.
Once you arrive at the train station in Ayutthaya, check your return train so you know when to go back to the station. Depending on how you plan to get around you will find lots of options waiting right outside the train station for you.
How to Get Around Ayutthaya
There are several options for getting around town. First, you can book a tour or a driver for the day. There are people offering tours right at the train station. You can take a tuk tuk around town or you can hire a taxi/tuk tuk to take you into the town and walk a bit from there. The town itself is quite large and it will be difficult to walk around and see everything.
A better option than trying to book a tuk-tuk from the train station is to walk across the street and head towards the river. From here you can take a boat across the river for just a few baht. On the other side of the river start walking towards town and you will see bike shops and tuk tuks and you can negotiate a price here that is more reasonable.
The final option for getting around town is to ride a bike. This is what we did. The bike rentals are very basic and there is lots of traffic, but we felt generally safe biking all over town with Freja (our 8-year-old) and 11-year-old twins. Use your own judgement to decide if this is the best option for you. There are some bike paths but otherwise, you will bike on the road. No matter what, make sure you grab a map.
Best Time of Year to Visiting Ayutthaya
No matter when you visit Ayutthaya – it will be hot and humid! We were there in February and it was quite hot. Many of the sites have very little shade so if you can get an early start you may avoid some of the heat. November-April tends to be the driest.
What to Wear in Ayutthaya
When you are visiting many of the temples and sites in Ayutthaya, you need to dress in clothes that cover your shoulders and knees. There were plenty of people outside the main sites selling pants and wraps in case you need them.
A Note About Elephants
Do not ride elephants when you are in Thailand. You will likely see this offered in Ayutthaya. Elephants that are trained to be ridden are not treated ethically.
Map of Ayutthaya
The map below shows some of the best temples in Ayutthaya to visit, but does not include everything.
Complete Details of the Best Ayutthaya Attractions
Below is a short description of the different things to see on a Bangkok day trip to Ayutthaya. It is nearly impossible to see everything in a single day, so it’s best to keep things flexible as you go.
Wat Phra Si Sanphet
Once considered the spiritual center for the Thai people, Wat Phra Si Sanphet was once the largest temple in the city. It served as the royal chapel and became a temple when King Borom Trai Lokanat decided to build new living quarters. Don’t miss the three Ceylonese pagodas (bell-shaped) as these are one of the symbols of Ayutthaya.
Built by King Borom Rachathirat II in the location where his two brothers were cremated, this royal monastery is one of the oldest temples in Ayutthaya, dating back to 1924. Two pagodas each represent one of the brothers who fought each other to the death from the backs of elephants. This temple was also home to a crypt that stored a large treasure.
Built between 1370 and 1388, Wat Mahathat is one of Ayutthaya’s oldest temples. This was where Buddha’s holy relic was housed and is also famous for the sandstone buddha head located amid tree roots. The temple was abandoned in 1767 when it was damaged by fire.
Bang Pa-in Palace
Also called the Summer Palace, Bang Pa-in Palace was used as a summer retreat for the royals in the 17th century. In addition to the buildings, the grounds include ponds and other water features. The palace has been rebuilt several times all different styles. Since Bang Pa-in Palace is located about 15 minutes outside the town by car.
Wat Suwan Dararam
This site is best known for the paintings including some beautiful murals. One of the more famous murals shows the Buddha subduing evil. The site is located in the southeast corner of Ayutthaya and was constructed by King Rama I ‘s father.
Wat Phra Ram
Founded in 1369, this temple has a large prang and other ruins and a large swampy area you can walk around and explore.
Located just to the west of the city, Wat Chaiwatthanaram was designed based on Angkor Wat in Cambodia in 1630 by King Prasat Thong. This is a very popular site to visit and includes a large Prang surrounded by several smaller prangs.
Wat Na Phra Men
To the north of the city, this temple was one of the few places not destroyed by the Burmese troops. Built as an area for royal cremation area during the later Ayutthaya period, this is a well-preserved temple.
Wihan Phra Mongkhon Bophit Temple
Located right near Wat Phra Si Sanphet. The Buddha was originally built in the 1500th century and designed to be kept outside. Since then, it’s been moved and covered in the current structure.
Take a Boat Tour
Surrounded by rivers, one of Ayutthaya’s strengths was its geographic position. Today, the rivers make the perfect way to see the ancient city. You can take a very short ride across the river from the train station, but you won’t see much. A better option is to book a river tour such as this sunset tour with audio.
Chao Sam Phraya National Museum
Filled with artifacts, the Chao Sam Phraya National Museum showcases extensive items from throughout the Ayutthaya time period. The museum is centrall located and you can find a few places online to pre-book your tickets.
Chao Phrom Market
If you are looking for a change of pace from the temples of Ayutthaya, there are 2 markets worth exploring in town. The first, Chao Phrom Market is large with lots of things to eat. Located just on the east of the island, you can stop here for lunch or dinner during your day in Ayutthaya.
Further to the east just off the island, you can find Ayothaya Floating Market. This popular market includes some people selling their goods from boats.
Suggested Ayutthaya Itinerary
When we first headed off to Ayutthaya, I tried to make a very detailed itinerary. With so much to see and not really understanding the scope of some of the sites, this is very difficult. For your self guided Ayutthaya itinerary, I would recommend selecting 3-4 sites that you really want to see and building your day around these sites. As you visit, keep a list of the other top sites (you can print the sites on this list at the top of the post) and adding on sites based on your timing and your interest.
We found that some of the sites take well over an hour to explore, while others are just short visits. It was also REALLY HOT when we visited and we needed to take breaks in the shade once in a while. Pay attention to which sites are located right on the island and are easy to reach and which sites are off the islands and need more time. Since we visited and rented bikes for the day, we prioritized the temples that were close together on the island.
Here is the itinerary we used – it took us about 5.5 hours of total time (arrived around 10 and left on the train around 3:30).
We started with a visit to Wat Phra Ram. It took us a while to explore this temple and we headed straight for Wat Phra Si Sanphet. Combined, these temples too us about 2 hours to explore with a short stop at Wihan Phra Mongkhon Bophit. By 1230 we were ready for a break and some food. We stopped along Chikun Alley for some Thai food where we could look across at Wat Ratchaburana.
After lunch we explored Wat Ratchaburana and Wat Mahathat. While there was still time in our day to explore more temples, after 5 full hours with 3 kids, we were done. If there is time in the afternoon, this would be the perfect time for a river cruise or a visit to one of the markets. Alternatively, you could head off the island to see one of the sites that are further away. We found the bike rental to be a great way to see the different attractions on island, but if your top attractions in Ayutthaya are off the island, you will need to take a tuk-tuk or van.
Final Thoughts on Visiting Ayutthaya
- Taking the train was easy and enjoyable and it’s an easy way to take a Bangkok day trip to Ayutthaya
- There is limited signage so you will get the most history from a guided tour
- There are many sites that they are fairly spread out so you can’t see everything in a single day
- You need a minimum of 5 hours to really see some of the ruins
- Remember to dress appropriately and do not ride the elephants
Want to see more about our trip to Ayutthaya and Bangkok – see a video of our visit or check out this post of The Perfect Bangkok Itinerary for 1-4 Days: Complete Travel Guide
Any questions about taking a Bangkok day trip to Ayutthaya? Ask in the questions and I’ll continue to update the article.