Today only two forts remain out of 14 that were built more than two centuries ago. Phra Sumen Fort is one of the remaining forts that was built during the end of the 18th century to protect Bangkok from possible invasions.
When King Buddha Yodfa Chulaloke (Rama I) ascended the throne as the first ruler of the Chakri dynasty in 1782, he decided to establish Bangkok as the new capital of the Kingdom. The capital was founded on the Eastern side of the Chao Phraya river in the Rattanakosin area.
Because only a few years before that, in 1767, the Burmese had completely destroyed the old capital of Ayutthaya, the King had a number of fortifications built and canals dug out to protect Bangkok. Phra Sumen Fort was built in 1782 as one of 14 forts of which only two remain today, the other one being Mahakan fort.
The King also had city walls built and a number of canals dug out that acted as a moat surrounding the city. With the Chao Phraya river protecting Rattanakosin in the West, the area was virtually surrounded by water, hence the name Rattanakosin Island.
Phra Sumen & Mahakan fort
The octagonal white colored structure of Phra Sumen fort is three floors high and contains a number of rooms where weapons and ammunition were stored. At two levels canons were deployed, which are still there and there is an observation tower overlooking the area.
In 1982, when the foundation of the city of Bangkok 200 years earlier was celebrated, the Phra Sumen Fort was renovated by the Fine Arts Department. It is said that old photographs of the fort taken during the reign of King Chulalongkorn (Rama V) were used as a guide during the renovation.
On the top floor of the fort you will find a museum where items found in the fort during the renovation are on display. Phra Sumen fort, also called Phra Sumeru fort is today a national monument.
Between the fort and the Chao Phraya river lies Santichaiprakarn Park. From here you will have great views of the river with the impressive modern Rama VIII bridge in the distance. If you walk towards Phra Pinklao bridge to the South you will soon get to Phra Arthit Pier, from where you can take a Chao Phraya river express boat and enjoy city views from the river. After dark the fort is lit up by spotlights making it look particularly attractive.
The second fort remaining from the original 14 is Mahakan fort. It is located right next to the Golden Mount or Wat Saket temple. In 1785 the Burmese invaded Siam (the old name of Thailand) again, but their armies never reached Bangkok and the forts did not see war.
How to get to Phra Sumen fort and Mahakan Fort
Santichaiprakarn Park and Phra Sumen Fort are located on the Eastern side of the Chao Phra river on Phra Athit road. A convenient way to get there is by Chao Phra river express boat to Phra Athit pier, from where it is a short walk in the direction of Rama VIII bridge.
Mahakan Fort is located on Ratchadamnoen Klang Road next to Wat Ratchanadda. There is no BTS Skytrain or MRT Subway stations nearby, a taxi would be the best way to get there.
Admission & opening hours
Admission to Santichaiprakarn Park, Phra Sumen and Mahakan fort is free. The park and forts are open all day.