The core of Ayutthaya’s historical attractions is on the island formed where the Lopburi, Pa Sak and Chao Phraya rivers converge. The main sites in the historical park charge separate entrance fees, but it’s possible to arrange bundled tickets through the tourist office or at any of the hotels in Ayutthaya.
The temples in central Ayutthaya are in ruins, which is a major part of their charm. One of the most impressive buildings is Wihaan Phra Mongkol Bophit, known for its enormous bronze Buddha image. This temple is joined by Wat Phra Si Sanphet, which was once part of the Ancient Palace and used for major religious ceremonies involving the king. Remnants of the Ancient Palace are on site and extend to north, but they were largely removed and destroyed when the Burmese invaded. Further west is Phra Sri Suriothai Pagoda, a tribute to Thailand’s favorite heroine.
At the height of the Ayutthaya Kingdom, this area overflowed with gold and other treasures, most of which was carted off during the Burmese invasion. The antiques and religious articles that remained eventually made it to the Chao Sampraya National Museum (closed on Mondays and Tuesdays), which is across the street from the main tourist information office.
While the ruins are the main attraction in central Ayutthaya, the city continued to develop after the sacking. More recent historical sites include Khun Pan House, Paniad Mansion and the Horse Carriage Station. Outside of the historical park, older houses and less prominent temples are intermixed with brand-new buildings.
A few of the best hotels in Ayutthaya are here on the island. They lie on the fringes of the historical park and offer excellent views of the major pagodas and temple spires. Views like this are best enjoyed in the evening, when the ruins of Ayutthaya are illuminated.