Former capital city of Thailand for over four hundred years, Ayutthaya contains many stunning historical sites to visit that are truly a feast for the eyes. Make sure you have plenty of space on your camera memory card as you will probably need it! Today, modern day Thai life exists amongst the ancient relics and monuments of a bygone age. At 85km from Bangkok it’s possible to visit on a day trip, but we recommend you spend at least two full days here to take it all in. There is an abundance of accommodation to suit everyone's pocket, especially backpackers, which is mainly centrally located and is within walking (or cycling) distance of the main sights. The city was found in the mid-14th century and remained one of the grandest cities in Asia until Burmese forces overran it some four hundred years later. After which Ayutthaya never regained its former glory and the Thai capital moved to Thonburi, then later to Bangkok. At its peak in the 16th and 17th centuries the fortified city, which sits on an island, was the capital of a Kingdom that spread over much of mainland South East Asia, with trade links as far away as Persia, Japan and even London. The city and the surrounding area were home to over a million inhabitants, and settlements of more than 15 different nationalities ringed the city. Descendants of the old Muslim and Chinese communities remain, many of them dwelling along the back lanes in century-old wooden houses, making it an enjoyable and peaceful area to wander through. Most visitors to Ayutthaya rarely travel outside Koh Mueang ("The Island"), which is about 3km long by 5km wide and can be circumnavigated by the U Thong ring road. This can easily be explored by bicycle, and we cover off all the main highlights in our ‘On the island tour’ highlight. The ruins of the city are preserved in the Ayutthaya historical park which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Characterised by prangs (tall, tower-like richly engraved spires) and gigantic monasteries which provide a taste of the city's past splendour. Modern day Ayutthaya was re-founded a few kilometres to the east. Most of the ruins and monuments are in the north-west area of the island, with accommodation and nightlife clustered around the northeast. There are nine notable temples on the island along with four museums. Off the island you will find more ruins and five temples worthy of a visit. Also off the island there are relics and museums of three of the numerous foreign settlements, namely Dutch, Japanese and Portuguese. These are covered in our ‘Off the island tour’ highlight. The Ayutthaya Floating Market is open every day from 10:00am - 9:00pm and they have daily shows which feature Thai culture, particularly from the Ayutthaya period. We suggest one of the first places you visit is Ayutthaya Tourism Centre where you can see an exhibition of Ayutthaya history and pick up maps and further details of the area. TAT Ayutthaya Tourism Centre Open: 9:00am - 5:00pm (Thursday - Tuesday) Tel: +66 35246076 Address: 108/22 Mu 4, Tambon Pratu Chai, Amphoe Phra Nakhon Si, Ayutthaya, 13000. Website: www.ayutthaya-history.com Getting Here: Ayutthaya Tourism Centre (Sala Klang) is located inside the Sala Klang Jangwat Phra Nakhon Sri Ayutthaya Building in the centre of Ayutthaya. The imposing building stands at the western end of Rojana road, south of the City Pillar Shrine. It also houses a national art museum and a TAT exhibition.