Phuket Town

The historical and administrative center of Phuket traces its roots back centuries – first, to the early European traders and later to the Chinese immigrants who arrived here during the local tin mining boom of the 19th century. Today, Phuket Town continues to thrive as one of the island’s most authentic cultural areas, punctuated by magnificent architectural treasures, Chinese shrines, colorful open-air markets, and restaurants that serve some of Phuket’s most delicious local cuisines.

1. Marvelous Architecture

The distinctive architectural style found in many of Phuket Town’s old mansions and shop houses derives from the British colonial style, once popular in Malaysia and Singapore (for further details see Historic Buildings in Phuket Town).

2. Phuket Vegetarian Festival

This annual festival is held over nine days in late September/early October. Devotees perform shocking rituals of self-mutilation, as they plunge spears, swords, and more through their flesh.

3. Phuket Cultural Centre

Located on the Rajabhat University campus, this museum houses old Thai shadow puppets, tin mining artifacts, historic photographs, and a range of books on Phuket’s culture and history.prac_infoPhuket Cultural Centre • 21 Thepkasatri Road • 07622 3616 • open 8:30am–4:30pm Mon–Fri • closed weekends and public hols • Adm free

4. Chatuchak Weekend Market

With a wide range of clothes, decorative items, trinkets, souvenirs, and delicious food, this open-air bazaar on the southern side of Phuket Town is definitely worth a visit.prac_infoChatuchak Weekend Market • open 9am–6pm Sat & Sun

5. Chinese Shrines

Vibrant and colorful artwork can be seen at Chinese temples throughout the town. The shrines play an important role during the Chinese New Year and the annual Chinese Vegetarian Festival.

6. Monkey Hill

Although the views from the summit of nearby Rang Hill are more impressive, Monkey Hill offers a somewhat more unique experience – curious hordes of macaque monkeys congregate near the hilltop. Watch your belongings – the monkeys may try to snatch them from you.

7. Ko Sirey

Linked to Phuket Town via a small bridge, Sirey Island features hilly forest trails that wind through rubber plantations. Along the coasts, you will find pristine views and restaurants serving delicious fresh seafood at very low prices. Located on a hill, Ko Sirey temple enjoys sea views and features a large reclining Buddha image in its main hall.

8. Suan Luang Park

Also known as King Rama IX Park, this pleasant garden comes alive in the early mornings, when people come to exercise and perform Tai Chi. The park boasts lotus ponds and a walking path.

9. Rang Hill

Wonderful views of Phuket Town can be enjoyed from the summit of Rang Hill, where a breezy, tree-shaded park also provides a relaxing venue for picnics, exercise, or reading a book.

10. Phuket Butterfly Garden and Insect World

This conservation and research facility breeds some 40 unique butterfly species, many of which are reintroduced into the wild. Visitors can also witness the stunning transformation of more than 6,000 larvae into butterflies each month.prac_infoPhuket Butterfly Garden and Insect World • 71/6 Moo 5, Soi Paneung, Yaowarat Road • 07621 0861 • open 9am–5pm daily • Adm B300 (adults), B150 (children aged 4–10), free (children under 4) •

Origins of the Vegetarian Festival

In 1825, a traveling Chinese opera company performing in Kathu, Phuket, contracted malaria. According to legend, the afflicted nursed themselves back to health by observing a strict vegetarian diet to purify their minds and bodies, and to honor the nine Emperor Gods of Chinese Taoism. They recovered, and the first Vegetarian Festival was held to praise and thank the gods.

Tip Tip: Avoid walking tours at midday – the sun can make the streets unbearably warm.
Tip Tip: Try the iced coffee at Thungkha Kafae atop Rang Hill.

Historic Buildings in Phuket Town

1. Chinpracha House

This 19th-century mansion has served as a backdrop for several Hollywood films including Oliver Stone’s 1993 movie, Heaven and Earth, based on the Vietnam War. Today, open to the public as a museum, the house stands as a timeless reminder of an earlier era.prac_info98 Krabi Road • 07621 1281 • Open 9am–4:30pm Mon–Sat, 9am–2:30pm Sun • Adm

2. Standard Chartered Bank

The country’s oldest foreign bank was formerly housed inside this graceful two-story Straits Settlement building. Efforts are ongoing to convert it into a public museum.prac_infoCorner of Phuket Road and Phang Nga Road

3. Dibuk Grill and Bar

Another fine example of century-old architecture, this building now serves as a relaxing eatery known for its delicious Thai and French cuisine. The old Chinese-style house features soft interior lighting and antique fans.prac_info69 Dibuk Road • 07621 8425 • Open 11am–11pm Mon–Sat

4. Phuket Thai Hua Museum

Built in the early 20th century, this distinctive building was once used as a schoolhouse. Today a museum, it continues to house student artifacts such as old books, desks, and photographs. It is also used for private functions and exhibitions.prac_infoThalang Road • 07621 1224 • Open 9am–5pm daily • closed public holidays • Adm •

5. Phuket Provincial Hall

The first Phuket building to receive a national conservation award, the Provincial Hall was built in the early 1910s. It originally featured 99 doors and no windows, and is said to be the first reinforced concrete building in Thailand.prac_infoNarisorn Road • 07635 4875 • Open 9am–5pm daily

6. China Inn Cafe and Restaurant

Exquisite wooden doors, Chinese lanterns, and tiled floors decorate the entrance of this classic Straits Settlement style house. The interior showcases a wonderful collection of old Chinese artifacts, while the highly regarded dining space is set in the backyard.prac_info20 Thalang Road • 07635 6239 • Open 11am–5pm Mon–Sat

7. House of the Beautiful Images

Located on Soi Rommani, a charming street lined with wonderful old architecture on both sides, the House of the Beautiful Images today serves as a café specializing in breakfast and coffee. The space also exhibits photography.prac_infoSoi Rommani 12 • 07621 4207 • Open 10am–9pm Thu–Tue • Closed Wed

8. Phuket Philatelic Museum

Also known as the Post Office Museum, this 20th-century building has displays detailing the history of the Thai postal service.prac_infoMontri Road • 07621 1020 • Open 9:30am–5:30pm Tue–Sat

9. Blue Elephant Restaurant

Located next door to the Chinpracha House museum, this former governor’s mansion is now a fine-dining venue.prac_info96 Krabi Road • 07635 54355 • Open 11am–10:30pm daily

10. THAI Airways Office

The airline bought this mansion in 1947. The white, two-story building continues to serve as the THAI Airways Office in Phuket Town. It is believed to have been constructed in 1922.prac_info78 Ranong Road • 07636 0444 • Open 8am–5pm daily

Architectural Legacy

During the tin boom of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, numerous Chinese immigrants descended on Phuket seeking to capitalize on the island’s newfound economic opportunities. The most successful tin barons often built gorgeous colonial-style mansions. The architectural style, known as Straits Settlements style, was derived from the British colonies in Singapore, Malacca, and Penang. Examples of this style abound in old Phuket Town, particularly in the shop houses and mansions along Dibuk, Thalang, Phang Nga, Rassada, Yaowarat, and Phuket roads.

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