Phuket Old Town Walking Guide
If this is your 1st time in the old part of Old Phuket Town, our Walking Guide to Phuket’s most exciting streets will save you time. (and sweat!)
The historical part of Phuket Town is not huge but is still quite vast to explore. Here we break it down in several areas of interest, street by street and give you the main points of interest. It’s quite easy to explore, even on a wet day, and there are plenty of little cafes and restaurants to enjoy a break and lunch. Lately, you also can enjoy a lot of beautiful mural painting and street art that ornate the old buildings. This walking guide should keep you busy for half a day or less depending on which of the two options you’ll pick below.
(See also our large Old Phuket Town Photo Gallery)
Phuket Town Historical Centre:
The city center is the most exciting part of Phuket Town where the famous Thalang road is, but other streets are full of fun things to discover. Luckily Phuket Town is changing, and it’s a good thing. Sometimes tourism does have a positive impact and what Phuket municipality did to Thalang and Dibuk roads by hiding all electric cable underground came to a surprise, especially knowing how incredibly messy wires are in Thailand.
Here are street names you need to remember:
- Ranong Road: Phuket City market, Thai Airways heritage house, Thavorn Museum
- Yaowarat Road: Old Limpanon House
- Krabi Road: Thai Hua Museum, Blue Elephant Mansion, Baan Chinpracha Mansion
- Dibuk Road: The Charm Phuket, Lock Tien Food Court, Kanom Jin Restaurant, Phuket Indy Market, Raya House
- Phang Nga Road: Shrine of Serene Light, On On Hotel
- Thalang Road: China Inn, Sunday Walking Street Market
- Soi Romanee
- Phang Nga Road: Shrine of the Serene Light, The Memory at On On Hotel
- Ratsada Road: Thavorn Museum, Old Mansion
Our suggested walking map, starting at the central bus station:
1. Ranong Road
If you ride a bus, you will land on Ranong road next to the Phuket City Market (A) which could be the first or last item on your list. The market consists of two areas: the main building where the bus stops, and the old open-air market just across the street. Both are fun to explore as you will see veggies, fruits and spices you might never have seen before. In the same area don’t miss the Thai Airways office (B), a superbly renovated white Sino-Portuguese house (You can only take exterior photos as the building is not open to the public).
If you continue walking following the traffic flow, you will reach Jui Tui shrine (Z), an important Chinese temple during the Phuket Vegetarian Festival, and further, the unique Lor Rong market (a) selling very typical Phuket foods and confectioneries.
2. Yaowarat Road
If you are lazy, walk against the traffic flow toward the fountain circle (C) and turn left into Yaowarat road. If you are lucky, on the left you will find a dark passage leading to mysterious Limpanon House (D), a fantastic abandoned mansion, unfortunately lately the gate appears to be more often closed than opened.
Opposite to it are two antique shops worth stopping at, one is an old Kanom Jeen shop (Y) run by a young guy who was smart enough to keep the shop in its original condition, making it an exciting photo opportunity. Next to it is also an ancient pharmacy (Y) with surprising dry roots and ingredient kept in a hundred wooden drawers. If you plan to take photos in there, know that the owner can but grumpy as he probably gets more photographers than shoppers in a day, so buy something if you plan to take photos! 😀
Continue straight until you reach Thalang intersection. If you don’t have much time turn right into the famous Thalang Road and jump to #6.
3. Krabi Road
If you are not in a rush turn left to enjoy the many superb shop houses all along Krabi road, notably the surprising Thai Hua Museum (E). You should stop and visit it; it tells you what made Phuket what it is today. Continue further until you reach the Satun Road intersection where two major Phuket landmark are: The Blue Elephant Restaurant (F) which used to be the governor’s mansion, and the Chinpracha mansion (G), a privately owned museum that appeared in several famous movies.
To go back turn left at Blue Elephant (F) into Satun road the take then next right into Dibuk Road where you will find Luang Amnart Nararak Mansion (H), another beautiful Sino Portuguese still stands in its original condition.
4. Dibuk Road
Continue on Dibuk road to enjoy more shophouse architecture with their typical archway which was designed to keep walkers sheltered from sun and rain, keep your eye open and look for the shops selling some typical Phuket sweets and bread. If you happen to be on this part of Dibuk road at dinner time, don’t miss a chance to try excellent Phuket food at the newly renovated ‘The Charm Phuket.’
Then at the intersection of Dibuk and Yaowarat, you will find a trendy local food court called Loktien Restaurant (I), serving some unique Phuket specialities. Opposite of Loktien, have an old fashion Kopi at Flamingo Cafe (J) found inside an old corner shop that was initially the former headquarter of the Kian Nguan Mining Company when Phuket was more known for its tin mining industry than for its tourism.
5. Yaowarat Road (part 2)
Next to Flamingo Cafe (J), are several shops worth mentioning: some elderly ladies sit all day in front of their shop to sell some delicious Phuket cakes as well as the famous Ice Kachang, shaved ice with syrup on top and red beans inside among other things, a perfect way to cool down from the heat and long walks. Walk up Yaowarat to retrieve Thalang road where all the fun shops are. If you cross the street, you will find three small mansions well maintained, one of them is a very cute Kindergarten (K).
6. Thalang Road
Thalang Road (east) is where you probably will spend a bit of time; so to ease your walk, know that most of the shops are located on the right-hand side when walking toward the traffic. Don’t miss the little coffee shop right at the intersection called Chino Cafe Gallery (L). Not only they serve a good coffee with sweet Phuket round cakes, but you also can admire some excellent photographs hanging on the wall, all taken by Phuket photographers (apparently there will be a gallery soon on the second floor).
Walk further to find three famous restaurants Wilai and Kopitiam (M) are two small local and affordable restaurants serving excellent Thai food, and the famous China Inn Cafe (N) which has a more elaborated but more expensive meal in a superbly renovated Chinese style shophouse which happens to also be a handicraft shop.
Not far past China Inn Cafe (N) is a little Chinese shrine hidden inside an unassuming entrance. From there you will walk past a lot of Muslim fabric shops and tool shops whose owners are trying to continue their trade just like if nothing ever happened in Phuket. Look around for all the charming little guesthouse, bookshops, lovely small boutiques, plenty of little coffee shops. Don’t miss the iconic Route 68 (O) where expats mix with locals every evening to enjoy great live band music and celebrate all kinds of special occasions.
7. Soi Romanee
Just opposite of Route 68 (O) is Soi Romanee (P) and all the colourful building, which are now the beautiful part of Phuket town, but not so long ago was the naughty-naughty street of Phuket as well as a gambling spot. If you like temples, at the end of Soi Romanee (P) is Wat Mongkol Nimit (Q), a famous temple for Phuket people, where ceremonies are often held. It’s a beautiful temple with a golden Chedi in the back and some beautiful houses used as a dormitory by young monks.
Go back through Soi Romanee (P) and turn left again into Thalang road where you can admire a few more renovated shophouses, especially the Honda motorbike showroom built in such shophouse.
From there turn right onto Thepkasatree road and walk past the beautiful ‘Casa Blanca’ hotel until you reach The Clocktower building (S) which I think used to be a police station. Across the street is the old Standard Chartered Bank (R) which is now a museum. From here you can choose to walk back through Phang Nga road, or walk a bit further and go back to the circle via Ratsada road.
8. Phang Nga Road
The three highlights of Phang Nga road are the Shrine of the Serene Light (W), the amulet market and the On On Hotel (V). On On Hotel (V) has an exciting story and almost everyone saw it in the movie ‘The Beach’, but not many people know that the hotel is not in Bangkok as shown in the film, but right here in Phuket Town. Until recently, On On hotel was almost as bad as in the movie and only cost 200 baht a night! In 2013 it was entirely renovated with great skill and sense, keeping the spirit of the hotel and still quite cheap, but it is not a beautiful budget hotel.
Adjacent to On On Hotel, the Shrine of the Serene Light (W) also has an anecdote. For a very long time, the shrine was hidden in the back of a building, and only locals knew about it. It was a secret no one wanted to share. The renovation and the widening of the entrance were well executed, and the shrine itself was left mostly untouched, and it is now a famous landmark.
Opposite on the same street is the amulet market (X), an extended covered alley where amulet aficionados come mostly on weekends to exchange and discuss amulets. For us, it is a mysterious topic, but some rare charms have very high value depending on their age, origins and the monk who gave it.
9. Ratsada Road
If you choose to walk back though Phuket road, you will step back two buildings impressive in an unusual way. The first one is the quirky Thavorn museum (T) found hidden inside the Thavorn hotel which was probably the first hotel on the island. The museum consists mostly of a weird collection of old toys, photos and a mountain of objects from a vague past time of Phuket, most of which are the old apparatus used along with the history of the hotel. It’s rather fun and very dusty!
Behind the Thavorn museum don’t miss the next U shape street on your left as a fantastic old mansion (U) still stands proudly beyond a wall. Most of the time the gate of the villa is open so if you are not shy, walk in and act normal just as I did countless times to get my photos. After this mansion, you will be pretty much on your way back to the fountain circle (C).
Note that the story highlights the main landmarks, but there is a lot to enjoy, keep your eyes open!