Wat Arun (The Temple of Dawn)
Wat Arun is one of the most iconic temples in Bangkok. Its design is quite different from all the other temples you will find around Bangkok, making it a must-see unique attraction.
You have probably seen photos of Wat Arun’s 86m tall central spire on the cover of magazines and travel guides. From afar it appears white, however up close you will see that it is actually covered in thousands of pieces of colored porcelain and seashells. These pieces are all carefully arranged into a pattern, which would have taken years to complete.
Recently Wat Arun has been covered in scaffolding for a few years for extensive restoration works. This meant that from the river you wouldn’t actually be able to see the main spire of the temple, rather just an ugly construction-like site. However, since 2018 the temple has been fully uncovered again so you can appreciate how beautiful it is.
Here I’ll give you a quick overview of the history of Wat Arun, and all the essential information you’ll need to go visit.
A Brief History of Wat Arun
Wat Arun’s full official name is Wat Arun Ratchawararam Ratchawaramahawihan, however, you’re never going to remember that, let alone pronounce it, so let’s just stick with Wat Arun.
The original temple was actually called Wat Makok and existed on the site since the Ayutthaya period right back to the mid-1600s. Wat Makok was later renamed to Wat Chaeng (Temple of Dawn) by Thailand’s former King Taksin after the fall of Ayutthaya. The temple was then abandoned for a long period of time until it was restored around 1900 by King Rama V. The final restorations were carried out from 2013 to 2017.
Where is Wat Arun?
Wat Arun is located on the Thonburi side (western side) of the Chao Praya River. This is the district of Bangkok Yai. It is just opposite the old quarter of Bangkok known as Phra Nakhon.
Wat Arun is within easy walking distance of lots of other temples around the old quarter like Wat Pho (Reclining Buddha) and Wat Phra Kaew (Grand Palace).
How to get to Wat Arun
Almost everyone will reach Wat Arun by crossing the Chao Praya River at Tha Thien Pier. There is a ferry which makes the short trip across the river for just 4 THB (USD 0.10). The trip across the river takes about 5 minutes.
If you are coming from Khao Sarn Road you can quite easily walk the 2.5km distance to Tha Thien Pier. However, Bangkok is hot all year round, so the half-hour walk can be quite uncomfortable. An alternative is to hop in a Tuk-Tuk which you should be able to get for around 100 THB. A bit of haggling might be required though.
If you are coming from elsewhere in Bangkok like Sukhumvit or Silom, then the best way is to get the BTS Skytrain to Saphan Taksin. From there you can catch the Chao Praya Express ferry up to Tha Thien Pier, fares are less than 20 THB (USD 0.80) per person one way.
I don’t recommend getting a taxi through the city to Wat Arun. Traffic around Phra Nakhon and Chinatown is generally quite bad. You could easily get stuck in standstill traffic for over half an hour.
Best time to visit
Wat Arun can get quite busy during the day with lots of tourists visiting. I’d suggest the best time to visit is the late afternoon, just before sunset. Arrive around 4.30pm, a bit before the last entry tickets are sold at the ticket booth.
Wat Arun is still busy at sunset, however, there are considerably fewer people around. Also, the warm afternoon light makes the temple glow in a way you just won’t see earlier in the day.
For the best view of Wat Arun, you should go back across the Chao Praya River just before sunset. There is a rooftop bar called Eagle’s Nest on the top floor of the Sala Arun hotel. The platform has an amazing view looking back across the river. As the sun goes down the temple is lit up, making it glow beautifully against the sunset.
The viewing area at Eagle’s Nest tends to fill up early, and they do not take reservations. If you want to guarantee a place you should actually arrive well before sunset. The bar is open from 5pm to midnight. If the rooftop bar is full then you can also view Wat Arun from the ground floor bar called Bitter Deck, which is also quite amazing.
Wat Arun Opening Hours and Entrance Fee
Wat Arun is open daily from 8.30am to 5.30pm daily, however, you should try to buy your tickets before 5pm. You can stay in the temple grounds a little after 5.30pm after most people have left already.
The entrance fee is 100 THB (USD 3) for foreigners as of 2019. There is free entry for Thai people.
Other Temples in Bangkok
There are a few other temples near Wat Arun which you should consider visiting. Wat Pho (Temple of the Reclining Buddha) is just a short walk away, and Wat Phra Kaew (The Grand Palace) is a quick Tuk-Tuk ride up the road.
I’ve written a detailed guide on temples in Bangkok which will help you plan out a full day of temple hopping around the city.
Once you’ve seen enough temples you can continue on with these 11 awesome things in Bangkok. From rooftop bars to floating markets, I guarantee you will busy for at least 3 days in Bangkok. If you’re planning to explore further outside of the city you should also check out my guide on 14 things to do near Bangkok.