Best temples in Ayutthaya

The Ayutthaya Historical Park is packed with temples which exhibit the rich history and distinctive architecture of this ancient capital and UNESCO World Heritage Site. While you would need at least a couple of days to explore all of the city’s attractions, for those short on time, here is a selection of the best temples in Ayutthaya to have at the top of your list.

  • Wat Phra Si Sanphet

    Wat Phra Sri Sanphet, Ayutthaya

Wat Phra Si Sanphet

Set on the site of ancient Ayutthaya’s Grand Palace, Wat Phra Si Sanphet is the holiest temple in the city and one of its most historically important. The temple was initiated by Ayutthaya’s first king, Ramathibodi I, in 1350, with King Ramathibodi II adding two large chedis to enshrine the ashes of his father and brother in 1491.

Today it features the remains of three large chedis which were all plundered by the Burmese, as well as the foundations of a viharn which once housed a large gilded Buddha image. Many of the relics and wooden door panels from its ubosot ordination hall are now on display in Ayutthaya’s Chao Sam Phraya National Museum.

  • Wat Mahathat

Wat Mahathat

Considered by many to be the symbolic centre of Ayutthaya, Wat Mahathat is believed to have been initiated by King Boromma Rachathirat I in 1374 and expanded by his nephew and successor King Ramesuan in 1384. Its large central prang is one of the ancient city’s most impressive, built to enshrine relics belonging to Lord Buddha which are now on display in Ayutthaya’s Chao Sam Phraya National Museum.

Wat Mahathat was a royal monastery and where the king performed important ceremonies, as well as serving as the residence of the Supreme Patriarch of Buddhism. Today it is most famed for its Buddha head which is enveloped in the trunk and roots of a tree and has become one of Ayutthaya’s most photographed sites.

  • Wat Ratchaburana

Wat Ratchaburana

Renowned for its beautifully preserved prang which symbolises Mount Meru as the centre of the Buddhist universe, Wat Ratchaburana lies adjacent to Wat Mahathat. It was founded in 1424 by King Borommarachathirat II on the cremation site of his two elder brothers who had fought to their death over the royal succession of their father, Intha Racha.

The prang features fine stucco ornamentation depicting mythical creatures such as multi-headed nāga snakes and Garudas, together with a crypt where faded frescoes provide rare examples of the early Ayutthaya period. This central prang is surrounded by four smaller chedis in various architectural styles, together with an ubosot ordination hall and large viharn assembly hall.

  • Wat Yai Chai Mongkhon

Wat Yai Chai Mongkhon

Located on the eastern outskirts of Ayutthaya, Wat Yai Chai Mongkhon, or “The Monastery of Auspicious Victory” is one of the few temples in Ayutthaya which still function as an active monastery. Its imposing chedi was built in honour of Ayutthaya King Naresuan’s victory over the Burmese Crown Prince Minchit Sra in the 1592 Battle of Nong Sarai. Follow the stairway up its eastern side to see the Buddha images housed in its interior, together with the excavated chamber where relics were once enshrined.

Wat Yai Chai Mongkhon also includes hundreds of Buddha images seated on pedestals in the subduing Mara pose and draped in yellow cloth, as well as the Viharn Phra Phuttha Saiyat which enshrines a large Reclining Buddha image. It was built during the reign of King Naresuan facing east towards the rising sun, with its feet covered in gold leaf which has been applied by devotees over the years.

  • Wat Na Phra Men

Wat Na Phra Men

Established as a Royal cremation site in front of the ancient Grand Palace, Wat Na Phra Men is one of the few temples to have survived destruction by the Burmese army in 1767. It is believed to have been built in 1503 by King Ramathibodi II, with its ubosot ordination hall featuring a beautifully decorated gable and ceiling with wooden carvings, as well as octagonal columns which resemble lotus buds.

It was renovated at the start of the 17th century by King Prasat Thong and redesigned in a typical Ayutthaya style. A Buddha image in the subduing Mara position and dressed in royal attire can be seen here today, together with another carved from green stone which is housed in the nearby viharn.