While it is hailed today as one of Asia’s premier holiday destinations, Phuket was first known as a center for tin mining. In the 19th century, the industry flourished on the island, attracting traders and miners from Europe and China to settle down in the district, resulting in the diversification of the culture in Phuket, which is evident up to this day.
One lasting proof of this fusion of traditions is the unique Sino-Portugese architecture that characterizes the streets of Phuket Old Town, a historical town located on the western part of the island. These structures have been transformed into shops, restaurants, and guesthouses, catering to travelers and locals who want to experience Phuket Old Town’s unique heritage and distinct traditions.
With its cobbled streets lined with elaborately decorated buildings and colorful artworks, this charming town is best explored on foot. Here is a curated walking tour route to help you uncover the best of Phuket Old Town.
Queen Sirikit Park
Begin your adventure at the Queen Sirikit Park, which features a statue of Hai Leng Ong, a golden sea dragon regarded as Phuket’s protector. You will find the park along Thalang Road, one of Phuket Old Town’s oldest and most famous streets.
This well-known road has shops, cafes, and accommodations in Sino-Portugese structures. If you visit on a Sunday, check out the Phuket Walking Street Market, where you can find local handicrafts, Thai street food, clothing items, souvenirs, and more. If you’re up for some tasty grubs, check out Aroon Po Chana, Chino @ Cafe Gallery, Hé House Home Cafe, Kopitam, and the China Inn Cafe.
From Thalang Road, head towards Soi Romanee, a side street that was once a famous red-light district. Today, this colorful and romantic alley is known for its Instagram-worthy stores, charming coffee shops, fancy dessert parlors, and posh guesthouses.
After exploring the vibrant houses along Soi Romanee, you can head to Wat Mongkol Nimit, on the other end of Soi Romanee, along Dibuk Road. Food lovers will find Dibuk Road delightful as it is home to some of the best restaurants around Old Town.
Here, you’ll discover Lock Tien, a famous local food center, and other restaurants and coffee shops like Dibuk Restaurant, Mirror Mirror, and The Charm Dining Gallery. You can also find the Luang Amnart Nararak Mansion here and the iconic and mysterious green mansion at the intersection of Dibuk and Yaowarat.
From Dibuk Road, turn left to Satun Road. Traverse this junction and head towards Krabi Road. You will find the iconic Blue Elephant Restaurant and Chinpracha House and Museum along the way. Also located along Krabi Road is the Phuket Thai Hua Museum, which showcases Phuket’s rich history and the influence of Chinese immigrants on the island.
While traversing Krabi Road, you will reach Yaowarat Road, which connects to other major roads like Thalang, Phang Nga, Ranong, Ratsada, and Dibuk. This boulevard is known for its vintage shops and local restaurants like O Cha Rot, Endless Summer, and Chair Cafe. The popular tropical concept store Pink Flamingo is also located along Yaowarat and Sino-Portugese mansions like the Limpanon House.
Ranong Road runs parallel to Krabi Road. The charm of Ranong lies in its authentic local ambiance, showcasing a more traditional vibe compared to more popular and colorful streets like Thalang and Dibuk. Ranong has several small shops run by the locals and is home to the Phuket Town Central Market and the Jui Tui Shrine, where the annual Phuket Vegetarian Festival is held.
Phang Nga Road
From Ranong, head back to Yaowarat and cross the Suriyadej Circle, where you’ll find Ratsada and Phang Nga. If you want to be in the center of creativity, then Phang Nga Road is the place to be.
The street is laden with intricately designed antique buildings and colorful murals, making it feel like you stepped into the middle of a vibrant artwork. It is also home to the Sang Tham Shrine (Shrine of the Serene Light) and The Memory at On On Hotel, featured in the Hollywood film The Beach.
If you have more time on your hands, check out Ratsada Road, where the Thavorn Museum is located, and Phuket Road, where you will find the Casa Blanca Hotel, Wanlamun Shop, and One Chun, a MICHELIN Guide restaurant.
Phuket Old Town beckons us to partake in an elaborate voyage through time centered on its rich cultural heritage and unique traditions. Wander through the enthralling streets of this historic town and find yourself captivated by the stories of the past entwined with the spirited artistry of the present – a truly remarkable experience that you definitely won’t forget.
Check out more Phuket Travel Guide articles here.
Featured Image by Scott Miller via Flickr