5 Bangkok royal residences that aren't the Grand Palace

5 Bangkok royal residences that aren't the Grand Palace

These historical Bangkok palaces include the world’s largest golden teakwood building and a former palace that takes medical tourism a little too literally

Bangkok's Grand Palace is one of the most visited tourist sites in Thailand. And rightfully so.

But with the exception of this globally recognized palatial icon, very few visitors have bothered to check out the other historical legacies Thailand's royals have left behind.

Keep in mind that some of Bangkok's palaces and royal venues are closed to the general public, though they're definitely worth reading up on -- or even viewing from outside the gates. And fortunately there are plenty of precious cultural artifacts in central Bangkok palaces where the staff didn't mind you snooping around.

Here's a quick look at five Bangkok palaces -- off limits and all.

Vimanmek Mansion: Open to the public

Vimanmek MansionThe most popular on our list among tour groups, this palace-cum-museum built by King Chulalonkorn V is home to the world's largest golden teakwood building, with a seemingly endless assortment of rooms stocked with antiques.

Its broad introduction to the history of Thailand and the royal family makes the Vimanmek Mansion best as a first stop on any cultural journey.

The mansion itself is ultimately the highlight, but Vimanmek is a massive green compound filled with other historical buildings, antiques and exhibitions worth checking out.

Ratchawithi Road, Dusit district. Tel: +66 2 628 6300. Open daily, 9:30 a.m.-4 p.m. Closed on public holidays. Proper attire is required.

Chitralada Palace: Off limits

Chitralada PalaceWe know it's normal to be curious about any place with a moat surrounding it. But you’ll have to conduct your research into Bangkok’s Chitralada Palace online or in a library as His Majesty the King's Bangkok residence isn't open to the general public, though media and students are among the fortunate few occasionally granted tours.

What's inside? Contrary to what you'd assume, Chitralada Palace has more in common with an organic farm than the rest of the world's ostentatious royal residences. A sizable portion of the land is dedicated to royal agricultural projects and a school.

If you don’t mind checking Chitralada Palace out from outside the gates, there are some nice mythological baroque fountains surrounding the palace while the armed Palace Guards who stand alert at various checkpoints are cool to see too.

Rama V Road, Dusit district

Varadis Palace & Damrong Library: Open to the public

Varadis PalaceIf you loved the antiques in the Vimanmek Mansion or you're an aspiring Thai history buff, you'll think you've hit the jackpot at Varadis Palace, the former home of Prince Damrong Rachanupab (1862–1943) built by German architect Karl Dohring in 1911.

The large rooms of this house are cluttered with antiques and there’s even a staircase lined with vintage canes.

It's a fun place to poke around in as the caretakers are quite happy to answer questions or take you to the nearby Damrong library so you can delve even deeper into the history and culture of Thailand.

204 Lan Luang Road, between Ratchadamnoen Avenue and Phitsanulok Road, Pom Prap Sattru Phai district. Open Monday to Friday, 9 a.m.-12p.m. and 1:30 p.m.-4:30 p.m. Tel: +66 (0)2 282 9110

Phayathai Palace: Open to the ailing public

Phayathai PalaceYou're not likely to rub elbows with many tourists at this palace, unless maybe they’re in a hospital bed in the King Mongkut Hospital, which occupies most of the former palace structures.

Sickness and injury aside, Phayathai Palace's well-preserved throne halls and gardens are tranquil places to reflect on the real meaning of “medical tourism.”

315 Rachavithi Road, Phayathai. Open Monday to Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Tel: +66 (0)2 354 7732.

Srapratum Palace: Not entirely off limits

Srapathum PalaceTo access the revered Srapratum Palace, once home to the Queen Grandmother, you'll need to make special arrangements to visit the Friday-Saturday exhibit held in 'Tamnak Yai' -- the Grand Mansion -- as they only allow a limited number of visitors per day.

The formal royal residence has been turned into the Queen Savang Vadhana Museum, which opened permanently to the public this month. It's the most impressive of Bangkok's modern palaces, allowing visitors a look back into the lives of several generations of the royal family.

Their Majesties the King and Queen were married in this palace, so in celebration of their 60th wedding anniversary a special exhibition of memorabilia from the occasion is now on display.

195 Phayathai Road, near Siam Paragon. Tel: +66 2 252 1965. Open Friday and Saturday, 10 a.m. - 4 p.m. Visitors must wear proper attire and reservations need to be made in advance by calling the above number.

Bangkok's fun seeking, volunteering, tweeting American.

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