Bangkok’s best museums aren’t given the respect they deserve as for many years they were a little too dusty, a little too old fashioned. However, in the last few years, a lot of work has been done to improve the city’s finest cultural venues. This list contains the best museums and galleries Bangkok has to offer, be it museums with artefacts of historical significance, Buddhist relics, or modern art pieces that have been displayed in the world’s premier cultural institutions in Europe and the US. Take a look at our favourite museums in Bangkok, we are confident you will be pleasantly surprised with the quality on showsee here – best famous Bangkok Museum in the world.
The Jim Thompson House
is a popular attraction for first-time visitors to Bangkok, and it’s easy to see why. The gorgeous traditional Thai home of American Thompson, who fell in love with Thailand and is credited with re-establishing the country’s declining silk industry, was reconstructed under the architect’s watch from six teak buildings he had transported to Bangkok from elsewhere in the country.
These days it serves as an outdoor museum to Thai architecture and art, thanks to the enthralling collection of curio that Thompson amassed on his travels – and helped on by the man’s legacy after he mysteriously vanished in the jungles of Malaysia’s Cameron Highlands in 1967. The lavish house and its gardens, overlooking the Saen Saeb canal, are also an oasis of greenery and serenity in an otherwise bustling part of Bangkok that’s just a short walk from popular MBK shopping centre and the Bangkok Art and Culture Centre. Guided tours are compulsory (and included in the cost of admission).
Siriraj Medical Museum
This infamous yet seriously under-visited museum, part of Mahidol University’s Department of Forensic Medicine within Bangkok’s prestigious Siriraj Hospital, is divided into six separate museums. The shelves are stacked high with everything from the preserved corpses of babies affected by genetic disorders, and oversized 35kg-weight human testicles caused by elephantiasis, to the bodies of accident victims and serial killers.
Famous mass murderer Si Quey’s body is kept on display here, alongside post-mortem photos that seem primarily intended for the medical students who visit, but which will also appeal to those with merely a leisurely insist in the utterly gruesome. Also a bonus is that it’s another free Bangkok attraction, and located just a short hop across the river from the Grand Palace and Wat Pho.
Bangkok National Museum
In the former grounds of the 18th Century Wang Na Palace, The Bangkok National Museum houses the largest collection of Thai art and artifacts in the country. It’s definitely worth a visit, especially if visiting nearby Wat Phra Kaew or the Grand Palace. Opened by King Rama V to exhibit the antiques and gifts bestowed to him by his father, it once held a reputation for being an ill-organised gathering of dusty relics.
That has now changed, with exhibits now arranged into three areas consistent with Thai history, and good English-language descriptions available.
Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA)
Set in the north of Bangkok, towards Don Muang airport, the world-class Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) is home to the country’s biggest collection of modern art under one roof. It’s a privately run collection that aims to showcase the history of Thai fine art over the years. And the museum itself – a five-storey purpose-built building that’s been designed to firmly put the focus on the artworks – is as modern as the pieces inside.
MOCA exhibits the kind of pieces that you won’t always find in more typical Thai galleries, covering social issues that can be taboo elsewhere. Yet while the emphasis is on Thai artists, there’s also a collection of notable international works. MOCA might be a bit of a trek from downtown, but it’s one that it’s worth making.
Museum of Siam
One of the best free museums in Bangkok is set inside a very large neoclassical house, it is definitely not the usual display of historical artifacts and dusty mannequins you would expect to find in such an antique building: wooden stairs, ceramic tiles and old-fashioned columns contrast with resolutely modern art and advanced technology.
Everywhere you look, the two elements blend with great harmony as designers use every possible way to challenge the traditional expectations you might have of a museum.
The Bangkokian Museum
In Bangrak is hard to find and is not even very well known. It’s a simple, discreet museum but the charm is in the pleasure of discovering this small frozen-in-time gem. In fact the Bangkokian museum, sometimes called ‘Bangkok Folk Museum’, consists mostly of two beautiful wooden houses preserved in perfect condition just the way they were in the last 1800s and early 1900s. Best of all, it’s absolutely free! Just write down your name inside the guest book.
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Vimanmek Royal Mansion
Located on Ratchawithi Road behind the National Assembly, Vimanmek Royal Mansion is the world’s largest building made entirely of golden teak. Removed from Ko Sichang in Chonburi province, it was rebuilt in the Dusit Palace in 1900 by the command of King Rama V. It was recently renovated by HM Queen Sirikit, and made into a museum paying homage to the late King.
As well as antique furniture, there’s glassware, porcelain, old photographs and memorabilia from the late King’s reign (1868 – 1910). Many rooms currently maintain the atmosphere of the past. Vimanmek Mansion Museum is very popular with tour groups so it can get busy at certain times of day, but the old world charm and beautifully maintained house and grounds are still worth a visit.
Bangkok Art and Culture Centre
One of our favourite spots in Bangkok for a dose of culture, the Bangkok Art and Culture Centre (BACC) is more than just an art gallery. It’s a community hub that has a refreshingly relaxed atmosphere, and which also does a commendable job of encouraging the public to showcase their own photography. Did we mention that it’s free to enter? There’s also a comprehensive but under-publicised art gallery on the basement floor, frequent talks and film and theatre performances, and a number of great shops and cafés – including one of our favourite caffeine pitstops, Gallery Drip Coffee.
Museum of Counterfeit Goods
Run by a Bangkok-based legal firm as a way to raise awareness of the issues surrounding intellectual property and copyright infringement, the excellent and long-running Museum of Counterfeit Goods is unlike most others – and yet, again, one that many visitors to the Thai capital don’t ever see. The museum centres around a large collection of fake goods seized in raids – including the opportunity to spot the difference been the phoney and the genuine article. In addition, there are studies, tours and talks that all seek to expose the scale of and the story behind Thailand’s infamous trade in counterfeit goods that keeps many of the country’s markets buzzing – and which continues seemingly unabated despite politicians’ repeated insistence on a desire to crack down on it – and its impact not only on huge, wealthy manufacturers, but also on those selling and indeed buying the goods.
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!
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