Considered one of the oldest cities in all of Thailand, Phuket City has much to offer those who travel to the region. Read on as we give you background information regarding this great Thai tourist destination.
The City of Phuket is located approximately 860 kilometres to the south of Bangkok. It is the capital of Phuket Province and is currently home to over 60,000 permanent residents.
It encompasses two tambons (districts), Talat Nuea and Talat Yai. The municipality covers an area of 12km sq and is one of the 32 municipalities situated throughout Thailand. By size alone, it is the 20th largest municipality.
The Phuket province has an intriguing history. The region was previously known as Thalang (translation – cape) with the location of the old city in the North of the province as opposed to the south east location where the capital currently stands. Despite Phuket Town’s rich and illustrious history it was only elevated to city status on the 13th of February, 2004.
We say despite, because a simple glance around the City reveals an array of older buildings reflective of a time when tin mining was an important aspect in the region. These buildings were largely established by Chinese migrants who arrived in their droves in the area during the 19th century in search of prosperity.
This followed two important historical moments in the region’s past – European discovery and the Burmese invasion.
The first European contact was made in 1545, when a Portugese explorer by the name of Fernao Mendes Pinto arrived in Thailand (known as Siam at the time). The Portugese referred to Phuket at the time as Junk Ceylon and it was a pivotal stopping port for trading vessels to top up supplies and provisions.
Despite its popularity, the vessels that approached the port often encountered run-ins with pirates and subsequently the island became less of an attraction to travelling vessels as they looked to avoid the pirates. This was on top of the rough seas that surrounded the region and caused much grief for ship captains.
Gradually, as tin became more of an asset to the region, the popularity of the island again grew and led to a large increase in ships venturing to the foreshore.
In 1785, the region was hit with an invasion by the Burmese who perceived a weak defense and therefore mounted an offensive to take the area. The locals knowing that they did not have the numbers to defend such an advance, created a brilliant strategy to defend the area. The women of the city dressed in soldiers uniforms and took up positions along the city walls. When the Burmese approached they were surprised with the numbers of perceived soldiers and therefore called off the invasion.
In recent times, the region was substantially damaged by the Boxing Day Tsunami in 2004. The strength of the wave caused significant damage to many of the resorts along the western coastline and caused the death of over 250 people in Phuket alone.
What are some of the best things to do in Phuket City if you are pressed for time? We’ll list our top 5 favourite sites to check out (in no particular order).
The Summit at Rang Hill (Known to the locals officially as Khao Rang) is located in the north-western region of the city. It is the second highest summit overlooking Phuket City and as such offers spectacular views for those who venture to the summit.
In addition to offering a wonderful view of the city there are also a number of famous landmarks that can be seen from the summit, including Phuket’s Big Buddha, and a number of the popular tourist islands.
The walk up the hill is interesting in itself with features including a large sitting Buddha, three restaurants, and an exercise park near the summit for those using the hill as an excuse to burn some calories!
While it is still commonly referred to as Phuket Old Town, Phuket City, in our opinion, is best explored on foot.
This way you can stroll through many of the restaurants, coffee shops and bars within the area while also observing the rich architecture that dominates many of the streets that make up the town. You can easily tick off the whole town in a day given how closed-in the city is. With that said, we’d suggest performing this activity in the early morning or later in the evening when the temperature is cooler (especially in the summer months),
Any walking tour should end on Phuket Walking Street if you are in the vicinity on a Sunday. This weekly market takes place from 4pm to 10pm each and every Sunday and is tailored towards the whole family with plenty of kid-friendly activities and toy stalls to peruse.
Centrally-located as the main street within Phuket City, this narrow paved strip is the centrepoint for many attractions, quaint clothing stores and cozy cafes.
Thalang Road is perhaps best known for the colourful, glorious Sino-Portugese architecture that encompasses all the shops, restaurants and guest houses on the road.
The street runs perpendicular to Montri and Thepkasattri Roads and ends at the Yaowarat Road junction, where it continues on as Krabi Road.
For those looking for a great afternoon of fun with a couple of hundred photos added to your phone gallery, the trick eye museum should be top of your list. Opening in 2014, it has quickly become an extremely popular stop for visitors and locals alike.
The museum features approximately 100 paintings that aim to deceive the eye. This is achieved by creating a 3D illusion on a flat support. Located at the corner of Phang Nga and Montri Roads, the Museum provides sample examples to illustrate to visitors how to position yourself in front of the paintings in order to pull off the illusion. Great fun for the whole family!
One of the oldest and most well-known spiritual buildings in Phuket, the Jui Tui Shrine possesses an extremely attractive exterior matched by a equally spectacular interior.
It is located in close proximity to Phuket’s main market place and has a large role to play during the annual Vegetarian Festival. There are three significant altars that are occupied by three figures. The most notable of which is the central altar and here sits Tean Hu Huan Soy, the God commonly linked with the performing arts.
The most popular section of the Shrine worth visiting is the firecracker house. Here, tourists can learn about the fortune stick experience which is an educational and exciting tutorial.
Along Thalang Road, stands the Peranakan Phuket Museum. While the Museum is quite small in size, there is a wide range of interesting activities to partake in.
Visitors have the opportunity to not only learn about the history of Peranakan, the architecture of the region and interior design but can also take part in many interactive activities. This includes dressing up in traditional costumes in the attached photo studio.
The Museum is open from 9am to 6pm and is definitely a great way to escape the heat on a hot summer’s day while learning a little something about the local culture.
Worked up an appetite and overwhelmed with the hundreds of dining choices on offer? We’ll try to make your job easier by listing our top 5 favourites within the downtown area…
When it comes to quality restaurant food in a small, intimate environment, it is very hard to go past Flavor Phuket. Located on Yaowarat Road, this small restaurant requires advanced bookings due to its popularity in conjunction with the fact that it only contains 6 tables!
The staff are very friendly and professional and are prompt in catering to their guests. The food is delicious to say the least and it is hard to go past the seafood dishes. Our favourite would have to be the salmon and spinach lasagne which will leave you fully satisfied but, at the same time, hungry for more!
Located at: 66 Yaowarat Road, Phuket City, Phuket 83000
If you’ve spent the whole day walking the streets surrounding the city of Phuket and are looking for a well-deserved meal then its hard to go past Amore Cafe and Bar. This Mexican cafe/bar offers up some of the most delicious Mexican food and drinks you’ll get outside of Mexico itself.
The burritos are to die for, packed with generous servings of meat and the tempura shrimp tapas are a favourite and go down great with a margarita. Delicious sides of chips and guacamole accompany most dishes (or can be added at a small price).
The friendly, welcoming service and warm vibe just adds the final cherry on top of the cake to create a satisfying experience.
Location: 88 Phang Nga Road, Talat Yai, Phuket City, Phuket 83000
It would be dismissive of us to provide great food choices for visitors to Phuket City without touching on the local cuisine that the Thai are so famous for. Kopitiam by Wilai provides visitors with an affordable Thai experience that is well worth the price and then some.
The Penang curry is a hearty meal that really hits the spot as does the veggie spring rolls and pad thai. The staff are more than happy to help cater to those with food restrictions with many gluten-free modifications possible. There are also ample amounts of vegetarian options on the menu.
The service is very quick and friendly and helps make the experience all the more memorable.
Location: 18 Thalang Road, Phuket City 83000
Within a spectacular setting along Krabi Road, the Blue Elephant Restaurant is well worth checking out. You’ll think your royalty as you laze around in the outdoor dining area serviced by friendly, professional staff.
The food is sensational (their are vegan options aplenty) our personal recommendation being the chef’s specialty curry while the tamarind fish is also well worth a taste. Considering the high-quality of the food, you may be forgiven you’d be forced to pay a lot more than you will have to when the bill arrives at the end of the evening.
Location: 96 Krabi Road, Talad Neua Subdistrict, Phuket City, Phuket 83000
Nestled on Yaowarat Road, 36 Cafe is a hidden gem often visited by tourists and locals alike. Ultra-affordable, the staff and host are just about the most friendly people you’d ever be likely to meet.
As for the food, one word, sensational. The exceptionally low price of a meal here coupled with the delicious flavour makes it a stop worth making. We personally recommend the green curry and pad thai as these were as good, as in any establishment we’ve visited in Phuket City.
Location: 36 Yaowarat Road, Talat Yai, Phuket City, Phuket 83000
You can navigate around Phuket City a number of different ways. The most common are:
The most common are via taxi, bus or foot but we’d highly suggest that you take in as much of the area via foot as you can! This ensures that you will not miss anything that you’d otherwise overlook, and its entirely achievable given the small size of the city comparative to others around the world.