Many of us know Phuket primarily as a tropical beach destination where we can find some of the world’s best beaches, nightlife spots, and entertainment hubs. But beyond the glistening sea and towering coconut trees lies a gem that showcases the best of the island’s cultural and historical heritage: Phuket Old Town.
Photo: The Phuket News
Before Phuket became renowned as one of Asia’s best tropical destinations, the island was known for tin mining. In the early days, these tin mines served as the island’s primary source of wealth, attracting European and Asian merchants to establish businesses and eventually settle there.
The immigrants built their communities in the area known today as Phuket Old Town. As a result, the town became a melting pot of diverse cultures with various foreign influences still evident in the town’s architecture, cuisine, artworks, and lifestyle up to this day.
Getting To Phuket Old Town
Phuket Old Town lies in the Southeastern part of the island, right at the heart of the capital, Phuket Town. The town is easily accessible via taxi, tuk-tuk, rental vehicles, buses, or shuttle services for sightseers traveling from the beach areas or straight from the many resorts and private villas in Phuket.
Once there, the best way to explore the area is by strolling around on foot. That way, you can soak in the town’s charming vibe at your own pace.
Here are six of the must-try experiences in Phuket Old Town:
1. Walk around to marvel at the architecture
Photo: Remote Lands
When visiting Phuket Old Town, you should not pass up on the opportunity to walk around and admire the majestic buildings and structures. Phuket Old Town is known for its Sino-Portuguese architecture that blends European and Chinese styles characterized by vibrant hues and intricate designs on tiles, doors, windows, and even walls. Some of the old homes in the area with this distinct architectural design were converted and became shops, restaurants, and museums.
Aside from the eye-catching buildings, Phuket Old Town is also filled with artistic murals and street art. Local and international artists flock to Thalang Road and nearby locations to create these masterpieces that often depict the culture and history of Phuket.
2. Visit museums, shrines, and temples
Photo: Inspirock (Wat Wichit Sangkaram), Thailand Life (Wat Mongkhon Nimit), Phuket Mag (Sang Tham Shrine)
Aside from the buildings and murals, several cultural, historical, and religious sites also add a distinct character to the town. Since Thailand is predominantly Buddhist, you’ll find several temples dedicated to the Buddha in Phuket Old Town, such as Wat Mongkhon Nimit, Wat Wichit Sangkaram, and Wat Khao Rang Samakkhitham.
You may also visit the Sang Tham Shrine, a Taoist temple that pays homage to the Chinese deities and the distinct Thai-Chinese culture cultivated in Phuket. Lastly, if you want to learn more about how Phuket became the island that it is today, make sure to visit the Thai Hua Museum and the Thalang National Museum.
Like any other area in Phuket, the Old Town is also home to several culinary masterpieces and exclusive Thai cuisine you should not miss. If you are craving an authentic and high-quality Thai meal, check out Tu Kab Khao Restaurant. This Michelin Plate-awarded establishment is known for its premium take on traditional Thai favorites such as crab in yellow curry, Pad Thai, dim sum, and Kanom Jeen.
Another culinary gem in Phuket Old Town is the Blue Elephant Restaurant, a fancy restaurant located inside a mansion. It is famous for its authentic Thai delicacies, including crab curry with betel leaves and rice noodles, a specialty from southern Thailand. Aside from dining, you may also book an upmarket cooking class or check out their bar and souvenir shop.
For a modern gastronomic experience, head over to Surf & Turf by Soul Kitchen, a Bib Gourmand-awarded restaurant located at the heart of Phuket Old Town. The place is small, cozy, and unassuming, but their dishes pack a punch! Even more exciting about this Thai-European restaurant is that their menu changes regularly, so you will get a different experience each time.
If you prefer light snacks and a cup of coffee or tea, you will be delighted to know that Phuket Old Town has many outstanding cafes, coffee shops, and even ice cream parlors. Aside from delectable meals and aromatic beverages, the cafes in Phuket Old Town are known for their unique decorations and themes.
For example, the Old Phuket Coffee Station is known for its rustic and vintage decor. In contrast, Campus Coffee Roaster is known for its trendy interiors reminiscent of an old-school cafeteria. On the other hand, Kopitiam is an open-air cafe that resembles traditional Malay coffee and breakfast spots.
Are you looking for something to cool you down on a hot day? Check out Torry’s Ice Cream, a dainty shop along Soi Romanee. The ice cream parlor offers unique homemade concoctions that pay homage to local delicacies and Thai childhood favorites. Some of their most popular flavors are Bi Co Moi (black glutinous rice), crispy A-pong (coconut crepe), and O’aew (jelly from fig seeds).
5. Shop for souvenirs and trinkets
Photo: Phuket 101
A trip to Phuket Old Town will not be complete without checking out the wide variety of shopping stalls and local markets. Historical houses and buildings converted into shops line the streets of Phuket Old Town, selling handicrafts, local delicacies, souvenirs, accessories, and clothing items.
You should also check out the Phuket Town Central Market, where you can find the freshest produce, food items, and other local Thai products.
6. Explore the town at night
Photo: The Midnight Blue Elephant (Good Vibes P-Town), Expique (Dibuk House)
Nights in Phuket Old Town offer a stark contrast to the Phuket nightlife that most of us are familiar with. While beaches like Patong, Karon, and Kata offer lively nightclubs and party tunes, Phuket Old Town has laid-back karaoke bars, cocktail lounges, and relaxing live music.
Two well-known bars in town are Dibuk House and Good Vibes P-Town. And, of course, a visit to Phuket Old Town will not be complete without a trip to Thalang Road’s Walking Street Market, where you can score the best street food, local handicrafts, clothing items, and even art pieces every Sunday night!
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