The palace was originally built in 1577 as the residence of King Naresuan and served as his residence until he ascended the throne, after which it became the palace of the crown prince.
Most of the original palace was destroyed by the Burmese but it was rebuilt under King Rama IV's orders in the mid-1800s and finally proclaimed a national musuem in 1936.
Three attractive pavilions with white plaster walls and traditional Thai pointed roofs are now home to the museum. As you enter the complex, the first two buildings on the left contain exhibitions one and two, while the large L-shaped building ahead and to your right contains the third exhibition. There is also an interesting multi-storey lookout building tucked behind the pavilions, where visitors can climb steep stairwells and pretend to be soldiers keeping watch from the top floor.
The first building, the Chaturamuk Pavilion, contains a memorial to King Rama IV and a variety of items used by him and his family, such as beds, chairs and tables. Next up, Phimanrathaya Pavilion is home to a large display of Buddha images, votive tablets and other relics. The Deputy Government Building features displays ranging from cannons to Chinese ceramics to wardrobes.
The odd thing is that virtually all of the items displayed in the museum didn't come from Ayutthaya (many of the Buddha images are actually of Khmer design), giving the impression that the museum has no clear focus. Still, it's well worth a stop thanks mostly to the buildings themselves, which are separated by symmetrical courtyards and are very photogenic.
Note that the museum is closed on Mondays and Tuesdays. If you're heading back westward on U-Thong Road, make a stop first at Hua Ro market and second at the minor ruins of Wat Khun San.
How to get there
The museum is on U-Thong Road to the northeast of the island, just west of the immigration office and police station.
Last updated on 10th February, 2013.