Best Museums in Bangkok

10 Best Museums to See in Bangkok

It may be crowded, hot, and full of traffic, but one thing about Bangkok is certain, it will never be dull. This is true even of its museums, places most tourists skip, having heard more about the nightlife, the shopping malls, and the golden temples. While it may not be Paris or London, there certainly are some really interesting museums that should be part of any visitor's itinerary to the Big Mango. There are some very offbeat and rather bizarre spots, such as the ghoulish Siriraj Medical Museum, home to a forensics and pathology display that will certainly leave you shaking your head. Or how about the Museum of Counterfeit Goods, which offers an informative look at the efforts to curb Thailand's rampant rip off industry. Also of weird and quirky would be a stop at the Condom Museum, only to be found in Bangkok. On a more cultural note, places like the Suan Pakkad Palace and Jim Thompson House have some outstanding Thai architecture and a peek into the past of Siam, while the Museum of Siam tends to be a winner with the entire family, as their "touch everything" highly interactive displays are great for kids, and adults will appreciate the digital technology and extremely well put together presentation of just what it means to be Thai. Also of interest, as well as free, the Bangkok Folk Museum, known also as the Bangkokian, provides a glimpse as to what life was like in Bangkok in the mid-1900s.


Outside the city

Another one of Bangkok's quirkier attractions, and given its reputation for the naughty nightlife, perhaps a well needed one. Far from just a barrel of laughs, the recently opened Condom Museum is an effort by the Ministry of Health to get Thais to overcome their negative images of condom usage. The museum is tucked into the back of the sprawling Ministry of Health complex, and has several small rooms that show the history of condom awareness and manufacturing in Thailand (Thailand is actually one of the world's largest producers of condoms). There are sizes, colors, and flavors of every spectrum on display. Even more interesting are the strength and endurance testing rooms, where staff will show you just how far a piece of rubber can stretch!

Recommended for Museums because: Where else in the world can you find a condom museum! 'Nuff said!

Dave's expert tip: a bit off the beaten track, the museum is in the back of the ministry in building #9. You need to get permission from the department head upon arrival in order to gain entrance to the museum.

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A former New York architect who came to Thailand as a soldier in WWII, Jim Thompson is known for re-establishing the Thai silk industry. His beautiful traditional home, renovated from several up-country buildings, house a fine and priceless collection of Asian art, silk, and pay homage to the man who received the royal Order of the White Elephant and who mysteriously disappeared in the jungles of Malaysia. His house, which has changed little since he vanished in 1967, is a series of six traditional teak wood homes, with curved roofs and naga mythical serpent motifs, set amidst pleasant gardens. The Thompson House also features an art center that has ongoing exhibitions, multimedia presentations, and guest lectures.

Recommended for Museums because: For a look at an interesting life story and Thai history, make sure to visit the Jim Thompson House.

Dave's expert tip: The Thompson House is best reached via the BTS Skytrain and is just across from the station at National Stadium. Guided tours of the mansion are compulsory.

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This relatively unknown gem was the former palace of Prince Paribatra, grandson of King Rama V, and is a series of eight traditional reconstructed Thai houses which are full of memorabilia of the Prince's artistic collection, including musical instruments, glass and laquerware, and paintings. In addition to the beautiful traditional homes, the museum also houses pottery from Ban Chiang. Ban Chiang is a UNESCO World Heritage site in northeastern Thailand, where pottery shards were discovered by an American archaeology student who accidently tripped on a root while returning from a dig in the mid 1960's, and came face to face with ceramic pieces that ended up dating back to 2000 BC, one of the most ancient Bronze Age cultures in the world.

Recommended for Museums because: For an architectural gem off the beaten tourist track, Suan Pakkad Palace is excellent.

Dave's expert tip: Don't miss the murals hidden inside the Laquer Pavilion, the most beautiful home in the Pakkad complex. It is easy to reach Suan Pakkad by taking the BTS Skytrain to Phayathai and walking down Sri Ayutthaya Rd

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Outside the city

Muang Boran, which means "ancient city" in Thai, is an immense outdoor museum spread over 240 acres on grounds that are sculpted to resemble Thailand. The museum, supposedly the world's largest outdoor one, has over 100 miniature replicas of famous Thai buildings and sites, all of them placed on the grounds in geographic preciseness to their real counterparts. The famous temples of Sukhothai and the ancient capital of Ayutthaya are here, as is the well known Phimai sanctuary from Nakhon Ratchasima, and there is also a model of the disputed Phra Wihan (known as Preah Vihear to the Cambodians) Khmer temple on the border. This being Thailand, there is also a floating market here along with the requisite grilled chicken and som tam papaya salad to keep visitors sated.

Recommended for Museums because: For a perfect replica of the most important sites in Thailand all under one roof, Muang Boran is outstanding.

Dave's expert tip: To get here on public transport, take the 511 air con bus all the way east along Sukhumvit Road to its terminus in Samut Prakan, from where you can either jump on the number 36 songthaew (pick up truck) or take a taxi. A taxi from Bangkok will run about 1000 baht return.

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Outside the city

The world class Siriraj Hospital is also home to one of Bangkok's weirdest attractions, the rather macabre Forensic and Pathology Museum, which features all sorts of ghoulish displays, ranging from dead bodies and mummified corpses of murderers and accident victims to genetically mutated babies that sit floating in jars of formaldehyde! Body parts, skeletons, and victims of various parasites round out the collection of horrors. Despite how gruesome it all sounds, the museum (which is actually a collection of six separate museums) is pretty informative, and meant as a living learning lab for medical students and forensic professionals as well as the casual visitor with an interest in the bizarre!

Recommended for Museums because: It may be ghoulish, but the Siriraj Medical Museum is one of a kind!

Dave's expert tip: best way to get here is by taking the Chao Phraya River ferry to Pranok pier or else the cross river ferry from the Prachan or Chang piers to Wang Lang pier.

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Thailand's national museum is the main home of Thai art, history, and culture. Set in the former Wang Na Palace just near the famed Grand Palace, the museum has a great ethnological collection, with items such as classical dance costumes and khon masks, shadow puppets, and traditional musical instruments. There are also sculptures and busts from the Ayutthaya and Sukhothai periods as well as other prominent eras in Thai history. The museum is housed in 6 different buildings, one of which includes the Buddhaisawan Chapel and its stylish murals and revered Buddha image, and most Thais can be found paying respects in the Sivamokhapiman Hall history gallery, which houses the famed Inscription #1 from King Ramkamhaeng.

Recommended for Museums because: For a look into Thai history and cultural, the National Museum is worth a visit.

Dave's expert tip: free tours in English are available on Wednesdays and Thursdays at 9am and are well worth it to make sense of the rather sprawling displays.

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M.R. Kukrit's House
Photo courtesy of Dave Stamboulis

Most visitors to Bangkok never make it to Baan Kukrit, the heritage home and museum of one of Thailand's most interesting and many talented individuals. Not only is this quiet spot an amazingly green oasis, it is also an architectural gem, an informative museum, and an excellent place to while away an afternoon. Kukrit (who was an artist, newspaper owner, writer, and prime minister among other things!) built his heritage home from five traditional Thai houses in Ayutthaya which were completely dismantled, transported, and reassembled on the present site in Bangkok. The homes show off classical Thai architecture, featuring an open ground floor, lush Khmer style gardens, a lotus pond, and sculptured miniature mai dat trees, which are similar to Japanese bonsai.

Recommended for Museums because: To see a beautiful home of one of Thailand's most colorful characters, the Kukrit House is a must visit.

Dave's expert tip: The Kukrit Home is best reached by taking the BTS to Chong Nonsi and walking south on Narathiwas Road, crossing Sathorn, and then turning left onto Narathiwas Soi 7 which leads to Prapinit.

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certainly one of Bangkok's more unique, relevant, and interesting museums, the Museum of Counterfeit Goods is well worth spending an afternoon in. Bangkok is well known as one of the world's capitals of counterfeit goods, as any waltz down the street through a night market will show. While the average person might not think twice about buying a fake Louis Vuitton bag, a watch, or some perfume, this well laid out display that is part of the Tilleke and Gibbins law firm, seeks to educate people about intellectual property infringement and just how pervasive and intrinsically destructive it can end up being for all parties involved. There are thousands of goods seized in raids, case study examples to learn about, and the law firm provides well prepared free lectures and guided tours.

Recommended for Museums because: This is a quirky and extremely interesting off the beaten track attraction, well worth an afternoon of one's time.

Dave's expert tip: You'll need to make an appointment to come here, and the tours are given Mondays at 2pm and Thursdays at 10am. Call or email Hathaya Tungkahotara in advance to set something up.

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The Museum of Siam, also known as the Discovery Museum, is a well designed and lain out multimedia exhibition, focusing on the questions of "who are Thais" and "what is Thai culture?" The museum traces Thai history from past to present, going through a series of different rooms looking at different aspects of Thai history, from Suvarnabhumi (the Golden Land) to Buddhism, to the founding of Ayutthaya, to Thailand today and its relation to the world. In each room, visitors have a variety of digital exhibits they can interact with, and video exhibitions posing questions of what "Thai-ness" might be as well as explaining the history and ethnography of the region. Everything is translated or subtitled into English, so foreign visitors can get just as much out of the exhibits as Thais, and the friendly staff greets everyone on entry with a plan of the museum and the instructions to "please touch everything."

Recommended for Museums because: For a fun hands on museum, it's hard to top the Museum of Siam.

Dave's expert tip: Because of the use of video and digital technology and the hands on approach, the museum is well suited for young children

Read more about Museum of Siam, National Discovery Museum Institute →

The Bangkok Folk Museum, also known as the Bangkokian, sits behind a lovely garden, where a house dating from 1937 and comprised of three buildings, shows off what life was like in Bangkok prior to World War Ii. There are some really great period pieces here, such as a three-mirror vanity and a pleating machine, charcoal irons, and 75rpm records. The owner, Acharn Waraporn Surawadee, is the daughter of the original owners, and she lives in another small house right next to the rest of the displays. She wanted to preserve and show off what life was like for urban Bangkokians living in the city in the mid-1900s, and its quite the contrast to compare life then and now. The early influences of Westernisation can be seen in the items and styles displayed, and the entire property is an oasis of calm away from the city. The property was recently threatened by a condo development project that wanted adjacent land alongside the Chao Phraya River, and it was nice to see private citizens step up and donate millions of Thai baht to help the owner buy the encroaching land and keep the Bangkokian as protected heritage. It is one of the only free museums in Bangkok, and well worth a visit to check out Bangkok's wonderful past.

Recommended for Museums because: For being one of Bangkok's only free museums and a preserved look at its past, the Bangkokian is well worth a visit.

Dave's expert tip: The best way to get here is via a taxi from the Saphan Taksin BTS station, or else by taking the Chao Phraya River ferry to the Sri Phaya pier and walking the short distance up.

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Meet Dave Stamboulis

Dave Stamboulis is a travel writer/photographer based in Bangkok. Born in Athens, Greece and growing up in the U.S., Dave first discovered Bangkok while on a 45,000-kilometer bicycle trip and...  More About Dave