Across from the old elephant gate to the Grand Palace is the small former palace of Wang Tha Phra. The palace was built on the order of King Rama I for Prince Kasattranuchit, the son of the king's elder sister. The palace was occupied by a succession of princes up to the turn of the twentieth century.
The Throne Hall of Tha Phra Palace
The last royal occupant of the palace was Prince Narisaranuwattiwongse, generally referred to as just Prince Naris. He is the one primarily responsible for the overall shape of the palace that you can see today. Most of the traditional wooden buildings that originally made up the palace were torn down and replaced with European styled buildings. The exception was the front Throne Hall, which was updated but mostly left intact.
After Prince Naris' death in the reign of the current king, his heirs sold the palace to the government, which incorporated it into the campus of Silpakorn University, Thailand's leading fine arts school. The palace now serves as the campus art gallery, displaying the generally very modern works of students and professors.
The Music Pavilion in the palace grounds
You enter the gallery through the old Throne Hall, which is now a large open and airy gallery. You then generally thread your way back to one of the European-styled mansions, which now houses two floors of galleries. East of the buildings is a sculpture garden that provides a cool place to rest. At the back of the garden is a music pavilion with fine delicate fretwork and brackets supporting the roof.
The palace gallery is generally open Monday to Saturday from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. It may be closed if there is no exhibition on at the time.
Getting to Tha Phra Palace is quite easy by boat. Take the Chaophraya Express Boat to the Chang Pier (Tha Chang). Walk through the market around the pier and out onto the plaza flanked by old shop-houses. The long white wall of the Grand Palace is across the street on your right. The shorter white wall on your left encloses Silpakorn University. You can't really miss it. The entrance is the only gate in the wall facing the Grand palace.