The city of Ayutthaya is one of the ancient capitals of the Kingdom of Siam, its archaeological park is to be discovered and is only 75 km north of Bangkok.
The old and new city of Ayutthaya
The ancient city whose full name is Phra Nakhon Si Ayutthaya was destroyed by the Burmese armies of King Hsinbyushin in 1767. Its ruins have been constituted as a Historical Park.
The new city was rebuilt a few kilometers further east and is located at the confluence of Chao Phraya and Pa Sak.
The name Ayutthaya comes from the name of the city of Ayodhya, India. This city is indeed that of Rāma, the hero of Rāmāyana. This name means “that cannot be conquered” in Sanskrit.
History of the old city
The city, founded in 1350, was the second capital of the Kingdom of Siam.
Between the 14th and 18th centuries, this flourishing city became one of the largest and most cosmopolitan cities in the world, as well as a world center for diplomacy and trade.
Ayutthaya was built on an island surrounded by three rivers connecting it to the sea, at a strategic location above the bar of the Gulf of Siam.
This position protected her from attacks from foreign warships and also protected her from seasonal flooding.
It was never rebuilt in the same place, and its ruins now constitute a vast archaeological site.
This World Heritage site is located in the territory of Phra Nakhon Si Ayutthaya district; its area is 289 hectares.
Well known by contemporary sources and maps, the city plan was based on a strict grid of roads and canals surrounded by moats.
Taking advantage of the city’s location in the center of three rivers, its water supply network, unique in the world, was of very advanced technology.
Ideally located at the top of the Gulf of Siam, at equal distance from India and China and far enough upstream to resist the Arab and European powers then expanding in the region, the city itself was in the process of establishing and expanding its power by filling the void left by the fall of Angkor.
It thus became a real economic and commercial center on a regional and global scale and a bridge between East and West.
The Royal Court of Ayutthaya exchanged ambassadors all over the world, including at the Court of Versailles in France and the Mughal Court in Delhi, as well as with the Imperial Courts of Japan and China.
The government employed foreigners and others who lived in the city on a personal basis.
Below the royal palace were enclaves of foreign traders and missionaries, each building having its own architectural and historical/rural style.
There were therefore many foreign influences in the city, and the ruins of Ayutthaya have preserved the trace of this artistic and architectural diversity.
The Ayutthaya Art School testifies to the ingenuity and creativity of local civilization but also to its ability to assimilate a multitude of foreign influences.
The great Buddhist palaces and monasteries built in the capital, such as Wat Mahathat and Wat Phra Si Sanphet, testify to economic vitality and technical prowess while at the same time embodying an intellectual tradition.
The decoration of all the buildings used the best crafts and wall art, eclectically combining traditional styles from Sukhothaï, inherited from Angkor and borrowed from the 17th and 18th centuries in Japan, China, India, Persia, and Europe.
A rich and unique expression of a cosmopolitan culture at the origin of the fusion of the artistic and architectural styles of the future Rattanakosin era and the periods that followed.
- When the capital of the restored kingdom was moved downstream and a new city built in Bangkok, it was the urban model and architectural style of Ayutthaya that was sought to be reproduced.
Many architects and masons from Ayutthaya then worked on the construction of the new capital.
This desire for reproduction refers to the urban planning philosophy of the many cities of the world that strive for the perfection of the mythical city of Ayodhaya.
In Thailand, the official name of the capital Bangkok still contains the name “Ayutthaya” (see the full name of Bangkok).
The old city nowadays
The old part is partly made up of the ruins of its ancient temples (or wat).
These ruins represent about fifteen sites, including a lying Buddha.
While at the time of their construction, the temples and sculptures were entirely covered with white plaster, this has deteriorated over time and now covers only a tiny proportion of the buildings.
The underlying red brick is now bare.
Wat Na Phra Men is the only period temple still in good condition and active today.
The new city of Ayutthaya is a pleasant, quiet place, where you will find a wide choice of hotels and restaurants.
If you spend a night in Ayutthaya, don’t miss the night market (in Thai: Talat nat) which is Thanon Bang Ian (Thanon = street in Thai).
Things to see and do in Ayutthaya
The tourist office
It is a good starting point to get free maps, see an exhibition on the history of the city, its inhabitants, its culinary specialties and the main tourist sites.
Address: Pratu Chai Sub-district, Phra Nakhon Si Ayutthaya, Ayutthaya Province 13000, Thailand
Ayutthaya Centre for Historical Studies
On Rojana Rd.
An interesting museum that places the remains of the city from a historical perspective.
A large part of the museum is devoted to Siam’s relations with other peoples, but the life of the city, art, and culture are also treated.
foreigners: adults 100 baht
children 50 baht.
Located in Soi Kan Rua and open from 9 am to 5 pm.
This information center was offered to King Bhumibol and the Thai people by former Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands.
It is located on the eastern bank of the Chao Phaya River, on the site of the Dutch pavilion that was built there in 1608.
It aims to tell the story of Dutch colonization; it’s functioning, its life, and its interactions with Siamese society.
The museum offers informal learning by combining education and fun.
Admission fee: 50 baht
The National Museum of Chantharakasem
On Uthong Rd, open from 09h00 to 16h00.
It is the former residence of King Naresuan the Great, built-in 1577.
Admission fee: 100 baht (foreigners)
Chao Sam Phraya National Museum
Most of Ayutthaya’s treasures have been stolen, burned and melted down by armies or treasure hunters.
Some of the pieces have survived and are on display in this museum.
Most of the wealth is gold statues found at Wat Ratchaburana and Wat Phra Mahathat.
Admission fee: 150 baht (foreigners)
Finding a hotel in Ayutthaya
You will have no trouble finding hotel places, but if you come between November and February, the high season in Thailand, it is better to book in advance.
You will find the best quality/price ratio by comparing the offers of the largest platforms through our partner: Hotels in Ayutthaya on Hotellook
How to get to Ayutthaya
To compare transport prices, check timetables or book a flight, bus, train or boat ticket see: 12go.asia
From Hua Lamphong station in Bangkok.
From Bangkok’s North Bus Station (Mo chit) air-conditioned buses depart for Ayutthaya every half hour from 5:30 am to 7:20 pm.
Many non-air-conditioned buses to Bang Pa-in, Bang Sai and Ayutthaya depart between 5:30 am and 7:20 pm.
1- Take Highway 1 (Phahonyothin Road) then Highway 32 towards Ayutthaya.
2- Take Highway 304 (Chaengwattana Road) or Highway 302 (Ngamwongwan Road), then turn right onto Highway 306 (Tiwanon Road) then Highway 3111 (Pathum Thani Sam Khok Sena) and finally turn right into Sena onto Highway 3263.
3- Take highway 306 through Nonthaburi and Pathum Thani and then take road 347.
Traveling in the city
Minibusses run from the bus station to the city center, the journey from the station to the city center costs around 20 baht.
Rent a minibus to drive around the city costs between 250 and 300 baht per day.
Minibusses operating between Ayutthaya and Bang Pa-In leave from the Chao Prom Market at 6:30 am.
The price is about 30 baht, and the journey takes about 50 minutes.
You can also:
Rent a bike for about 50 baht/day
Rent a motorcycle for about 250-300 baht/day
Using the services of a tuk-tuk
You will find other maps on the forum: Ayutthaya maps
Historical park map
Source: whc.unesco.org; wikipedia.org; Photos: Wat Chaiwatthanaram: PlusMinus; Wat Phra Si Sanphet: Ahoerstemeier; Map of the historical park: Heinrich Damm