Top 10 Museums in Bangkok

Bangkok’s museums provide insight into Thai culture and its unique heritage. Often overlooked, they are relatively inexpensive, and should be placed in any traveler’s itinerary, especially the National Museum, but there are other unique institutions that may be of interest. Some of them are traditional homes that now stand as examples of local architecture, displaying artifacts of cultural or historical significance, like the Jim Thompson House. Below are the top 10 best -- just note that most are closed on Mondays.

    National Museum, Bangkok

  • 1. National Museum
  • Thailand’s most important museum presents a magnificent range of arts and crafts from every period of the country’s history. It provides a good introduction to Thai culture, and holds one of Thailand’s holiest Buddha images in a chapel. Other highlights include lavishly-decorated chariots, and treasures from Ayutthaya.
    See the National Museum Visitor's Guide.

    Jim Thompson House, Bangkok

  • 2. Jim Thompson House
  • Fourteen centuries of Asian art (from paintings to sculptures to porcelain) can be seen in the former residence of Jim Thompson, an American entrepreneur who revived the Thai silk industry in the mid-20th century. His home was a group of six teak buildings, which are the city’s best examples of traditional Thai houses.
    See the Jim Thompson Visitor's Guide.

    Museum of Siam, Bangkok

  • 3. Museum of Siam
  • Just a short walk from the must-see Wat Pho, this museum offers a lesson in Thai and Southeast Asian cultures. The European-style three-story neoclassical building from 1922 is divided into 16 rooms, with interactive displays and ancient and modern art. It has a permanent exhibition, but it’s the temporary ones that usually draw the most crowds. Themes explored have included gender and sexuality, village life, Buddhism, and politics.
    How to get to the Museum of Siam: Take the MRT subway to Sanam Chai station
    Opening hours: 10am-6pm (closed on Mondays)
    Admission: 200 baht

    MOCA Museum of Contemporary Art, Bangkok

  • 4. MOCA - Museum of Contemporary Art
  • For a look at Bangkok's (and Thailand's) modern art scene, go off the tourist trail and head to this five-story museum housing a huge Thai modern art collection. It has hundreds of works by most of the country’s leading artists from the past half century, and, as a private institution, you can expect edgier exhibitions. The modern building was designed to look like it was carved from one single piece of granite, and the all-white interior has plenty of natural light. Most of the floors are for the permanent collection, but there’s always space for the temporary exhibitions. Everything is labeled in English and well displayed.
    How to get to the MOCA: Unfortunately, neither the MRT subway or the BTS Skytrain have a station within reasonable walking distance from this museum. You can only reach it by taxi.
    Opening hours: 10am-6pm (Closed on Mondays)
    Admission: 250 baht

    Bangkokian Museum, Bangkok

  • 5. Bangkokian Museum
  • A group of small houses from the 1930s makes up this charming, frozen-in-time museum displaying an eclectic collection of artifacts. The houses are just as interesting as the contents they display, which range from period furniture to household items. All together, they provide a glimpse into traditional Thai life in the last century, and a collection of old photos shows how Bangkok used to be before it became a concrete jungle. Discreetly located in a side street, the museum mostly draws history and architecture buffs, but anyone will enjoy a visit, especially when you often have the entire complex and the well-maintained garden all for yourself.
    How to get to the Bangkokian Museum: Take the BTS Skytrain to the Saphan Taksin station or the Chao Phraya Express boat to the Sathon pier and walk up Charoen Krung Road (it's about a 15-minute walk)
    Opening hours: 10am-4pm (Closed on Mondays and Tuesdays)
    Admission: Free

    Royal Barges Museum, Bangkok

  • 6. Royal Barges Museum
  • The fabulous Ayutthayan barges depicted in old paintings, inspired King Rama I to create his own marvelous vessels in the 18th century. Those designs live on to this day, and can be seen in this museum showcasing several examples. In addition to admiring their gilded details, visitors can witness the constant restoration works, and see them at work through old photographs and paintings.
    See the Royak Barges Museum Visitor's Guide.

    Bangkok Art & Culture Center

  • 7. Bangkok Art & Culture Center
  • Despite its central location by some of the city’s most popular shopping malls, many tourists overlook this modern museum inaugurated in 2008. It’s mostly visited by Thai students, but any art lover will enjoy the exhibits of paintings, photography and sculpture from around Thailand and the world. Like the Guggenheim in New York, it has a central atrium surrounded by several floors where it displays its permanent collection and temporary exhibitions. It often also hosts musical performances and movie screenings. There are free guided tours of some exhibits, so be sure to ask to join one if available.
    How to get to the Bangkok Art & Culture Center: Take the BTS Skytrain to National Stadium station
    Opening hours: 10am-9pm (closed on Mondays)
    Admission: Free

    Queen's Gallery, Bangkok

  • 8. Queen's Gallery
  • As the name suggests, this museum is funded and commissioned by Thailand’s royal family. Inaugurated in 2003, the five floors of the contemporary building present rotating exhibitions of paintings and sculptures by national artists, mixing the well-established and the rising stars. The shop offers art books and gifts.
    How to get to the Queen's Gallery: There's no BTS Skytrain or MRT subway station within reasonable walking distance, so take a taxi. It's about a 20-minute walk from the Grand Palace.
    Opening hours: 10am-7pm (closed on Wednesdays)
    Admission: 50 baht

    National Gallery, Bangkok

  • 9. National Gallery
  • Established in 1977, this is Thailand’s main art gallery. It’s housed in the old mint building, and presents modern Thai and international art. Most of the foreign works are from around Asia, and are found both in the permanent collection and in temporary exhibitions, spread over spacious, high-ceilinged halls.
    How to get to the National Gallery: Take the Chao Phraya Express boat to the Phra Athit pier
    Opening hours: 9am-4pm (closed on Mondays and Tuesdays)
    Admission: 30 baht

    Ratchadamnoen Contemporary Art Center, Bangkok

  • 10. Ratchadamnoen Contemporary Art Center
  • This vast exhibition center has three floors to host temporary exhibitions of contemporary art. It focuses on Thai artists, but includes many foreign names. It’s located just a short walk from the Queen’s Gallery, so if you’re interested in one, you’ll want to visit the other.
    How to get to the Ratchadamnoen Contemporary Art Center: There's no BTS Skytrain or MRT subway station within reasonable walking distance. If you're around the Grand Palace, it's about a 20-minute walk from there.
    Opening hours: 10am-7pm (closed on Mondays)
    Admission: Free