Phuket Old Town guide

A basic Phuket trip includes island hopping, beach chilling, and snorkeling. But if you want something a little extra, and to really dive into something more than just the sea, then put Phuket Old Town on your list.

The small town on the island’s east coast has a unique urban culture adorned with well-preserved Sino-Portuguese architecture indicative of its historic role as a trade hub.

Unsure of how to make the best of your venture into the town? Here are some overlooked gems that showcase this town’s transformation from being picturesque during the day to lively at night.

– Places to visit –

1. Discover the cool stories behind the historic Sino-Portuguese architecture

Phuket Old Town is filled with Sino-Portuguese architecture.

Phuket Old Town is well-known for its unique-looking architecture. The reason for its beautiful European-style facade overlaid on the Chinese-style shophouse is that Phuket was a bustling trade hub during the colonial era.

European traders came looking for Phuket’s tin, and Hokkien Chinese were hired as both miners and builders which led to how the town received its unique fusion. 

The best spots for photos are definitely the crowd-favourite landmark Promthep Clock Tower and Soi Rommanee which is famed for its rainbow houses. 

Promthep Clock Tower in Phuket Old Town during the day.

The clock tower is a prominent symbol of the town. Its construction in the early 1900s was meant to help both locals and visitors keep track of the time, but unfortunately, no one kept track of the budget and not enough money was left over to fit a clock onto the tower leaving everyone confused about what time it was.

After 40 years, a clock was finally purchased from Penang only for it to sink to the bottom of the ocean on its way to Phuket. Finally, in 1976, the tower was finally able to live up to its name when it got fitted with a clock courtesy of donations from Phuket’s Lions’ Club. 

There is also a museum within the tower where you can discover more stories like this about Phuket.

Soi Rommani in Phuket Old Town is an alley filled with colourful shophouses.
Image credit: @bkkdavidg via Instagram

But if you’re looking for one of the best-looking streets to walk down filled with cafes and restaurants, then Soi Rommani is it. Despite its multicoloured shophouses, the alley used to be known for one colour. After all, it did used to be a red-light district. Today, however, it has become a daytime marvel that is perfect for Instagram.

Promthep Clock Tower
Address: Intersection of Phang Nga Road and Phuket Road, Talat Yai, Mueang Phuket District, Phuket 83000
Google Maps

Soi Rommani
Address: Soi Rommanee, Tambon Talat Yai, Mueang Phuket District, Phuket 83000
Google Maps

2. Phuket Thai Hua Museum – an old Chinese school turned museum shedding light on early Phuket Chinese immigrant history

The entrance to the Phuket Thai Hua Museum which used to be a school.
Image credit: @chabapaplearn via Instagram

We won’t blame you if you’ve ever fallen asleep during history class in school, but if you ever wanted to make up for it, we’ve got you covered here even if it’s on a technicality. Phuket Thai Hua Museum (พิพิธภัณฑ์ภูเก็ตไทยหัว) is your chance at redemption as you learn about Chinese immigrant history in this old Hokkien-Chinese school-turned-museum.

One of the exhibits at the Phuket Thai Hua Museum.
Image credit: @chabapaplearn via Instagram

You won’t have to worry about reliving your childhood and falling asleep in school again because these interesting exhibits will bring the early Chinese immigrant stories to life. The museum will teach you about the immigrants’ way of life from their occupations down to their food and holidays. 

The ticket price for tourists is on the high side at ฿200, but is worth it if you want to learn about how Chinese culture was integrated into the Phuket community. 

Address: 28 Krabi, Tambon Talat Nuea, Mueang Phuket District, Phuket 83000
Opening hours: 9am-5pm, Daily
Contact: +66 7 6211 224 | Google Maps

3. Get a taste of urban street art including interactive graffiti for the gram & Thailand’s “Banksy”

A woman posing with street art depicting a street food stall on Phangnga Road in Phuket Old Town.
Image credit: @trunya_ang via Instagram

Even if it’s the old town, not all of it is about history. Spliced throughout the town are nuggets of amazing street art that bring the once-dead walls back to life. 

Phangnga Road, for instance, has 3d-interactive graffiti that’ll take whisk you away into a local morning routine. With right angles, you can get snap photos where it’s as if you’ve been inserted into a small 1900s Phuket household.

But it’s not all realistic murals because you can find a series of 12 murals by Thai graffiti artists including Alex Face. This mysterious artist is even touted as Thailand’s “Banksy” among certain street art circles. 

A huge mural by Alex Face near Soi Rommani in Phuket Old Town.
Image credit: @windzchill via Instagram

The murals were commissioned by F.A.T. (Food, Art, Town) Phuket to celebrate Phuket being named a city of gastronomy, so it’s only fitting that the art is situated near some great street food along Thalang Road, Yaowarat Road, and more.

Despite its aesthetic appeal and a boost to tourism, one mural drew criticism due to its placement on a historic building that the town was trying to preserve. But the artist was quick to respond to the local outcry by taking down his iconic Mardi character. 

The artist said that his piece has already done its job of sparking interest from visitors to the historic town as well as bringing together locals to think about how they want to develop their town. He even says that, in a way, the controversy has brought even more attention to the town and his art. 

4. Phuket Walking Street – weekly night market that shuts down the old town’s main street

A street filled with people at the Phuket Walking Street in Phuket Old Town.

By Sunday evening, you’ve no doubt had a lion’s share of Phuket’s delicious food. So if you want to walk off that extra weight that you suspect you’ve put on, then you shouldn’t miss the Phuket Walking Street

Phuket Walking Street, called Lard Yai (หลาดใหญ่, lit. big market), occurs weekly on Sundays from 4pm to 10pm on the old town’s main street. 

You’ll get to see the town transform from its usual beautiful historic charm into a lively night market reminiscent of its old trading days. There’s plenty of cheap food available along with live music and various other knick-knacks that’ll make for great souvenirs. 

Address: 53 Thalang Rd, Tambon Talat Yai, Mueang Phuket District, Phuket 83000
Opening hours: 4pm-10pm, Sundays
Google Maps

– Things to eat –

3. Kopitiam by Wilai – retro Chinese shophouse

Storefront of Kopitiam by Wilai in Phuket Old Town
Image credit: @phut_phusit via Instagram

Despite the name, Phuket Old Town is filled with modern cafes with AC and international desserts. But you’re not making the most of your time in Phuket if you don’t step into a cafe that’ll whisk you to a bygone era.

Kopitiam by Wilai is a retro-style Chinese shophouse that’s come right out of an old-school Jackie Chan film. The term kopitiam refers to traditional coffee shops that are prominent throughout the Malay Peninsula, so you’re definitely going to get a taste of local culture. 

Keep an eye out because this shophouse also serves seasonal classics like Hokkien Mee – and it’s only available during Phuket’s Vegetarian Festival from 6th October to 14th October every year.

Full-time vegetarians can be rest assured that they’ll still have access to this variation of the dish – you may request for it to be served to you once you’re there.

Address: 18 Thalang Rd, Tambon Talat Yai, Mueang Phuket District, Phuket 83000
Opening Hours: 11am-8pm, closed Wednesdays
Telephone: +66 8 3606 9776 | Google Maps

4. The Old Phuket Coffee “Coffee Station” – an antique cafe

Shelves filled with antique radios at The Old Phuket Coffee "Coffee Station" in Phuket Old Town.
Image credit: via Instagram

Once you walk past The Old Phuket Coffee “Coffee Station” in the island heat, you’ll definitely want to stop for an iced cold brew as well as a quick snap for the ‘gram.

Stepping into the premises, what’s immediately striking is its dark wood walls, weathered radio sets and clocks peppered all around its interior.

We’re sure having a cuppa at this coffee shop will make you wonder if you’re actually in an antique museum.

Kopi Cha, short for Thai tea with coffee, and o-aew (โอ้เอ๋ว), a white jelly dessert, are the recommended menu items to try at this coffee stop.

Address: 2 Thalang Rd, Tambon Talat Yai, Mueang Phuket District, Phuket 83000
Opening Hours: 10am-6pm, Daily
Telephone: +66 6 4246 5562 | Google Maps

7. Tu Kab Khao – Michelin-starred Thai food

A huge colourful lobster decoration hanging off the side of Tu Kab Khao in Phuket Old Town.
Image credit: @phut_phusit via Instagram

Tu Kab Khao (ตู้กับข้าว) is a Michelin-star restaurant that remains a mainstay even among locals. Expect authentic Phuket-centric cuisine and other Southern Thai delicacies, from Pineapple Yellow Curry to seasoned Giant Lobster dishes.

The name of the eatery pays homage to its history: “Tu Kab Khao” refers to a small cabinet for food that helps to keep insects away, and is used in many Thai houses.

Their dishes have variations of spiciness depending on your tolerance. The staff can help recommend the best spice level when you’re unsure. 

We’d recommend visiting only on an empty stomach as the star of the show is their juicy Dragon Lobster. You’ll even get to pick how your lobster is going to be cooked for the same price, Krapao-style or otherwise.

Address: 8 Phangnga Rd, Tambon Talat Yai, Mueang Phuket District, Phuket 83000
Opening Hours: 11.30am-9.45pm, Daily
Telephone: +66 7660 8888 | Google Maps

8. Khao Rang Breeze Restaurant – picturesque 360-degree views and steak dinners

The view from Khao Rang Breeze Restaurant.
Image credit: @khaorangbreezerestaurant via Instagram

Sometimes to appreciate something, you have to take a step back and look at it from a different perspective. And after a full day being in the middle of all the action in the old town, the vantage point atop the old town’s most famous hilltop Khao Rang will give visitors a full 360-view of the town.

In addition to possibly the best view, you can also treat you and your travel partner to a picturesque alfresco dinner at Khao Rang Breeze Restaurant.

For a rough gauge of the price point, a serving of Ribeye Steak here will cost you about ฿620 (~USD20).

So we’d save this for that special date night for you and your SO, or perhaps as the grand finale to a day well-spent at Phuket Old Town.

Address: 87/8 Moo. 5, Khaw Sim Bee Rd, Ratsada, Mueang Phuket District, Phuket 83000
Opening Hours: 10am-10pm, Daily
Telephone: +66 7635 5775 | Google Maps

9. One Chun Cafe & Restaurant – street food & local Phuket fare

The antique vibes at One Chun Cafe & Restaurant in Phuket Old Town.
Image credit: @khaonyaomamuang via Instagram

We’ve covered a Michelin-starred restaurant that’s more upmarket, so here’s one that stays true to local fare for the masses.

One Chun Cafe & Restaurant is famous for several dishes that have widespread appeal, due to their roots in hawker culture.

What we love about this particular restaurant is the vibe that it seems to exude, thanks to the presence of fascinating knick-knacks and gadgets. You may even spot old-school cinema projectors, which are prized among collectors.

Expect familiar staples like pad thai goong (ผัดไทยกุ้ง), Southern-style crab curry, and other home-cooked dishes that will warm your bellies and hearts.

Address: 48/1, Thep Khasatri Road, Talad Yai, Phuket 83000
Opening Hours: 10am-10pm, Daily
Telephone: +66 7635 5909 | Google Maps

– Where to stay at Phuket Old Town –

10. The Memory at On On Hotel – featured in Leonardo Dicaprio’s The Beach

The white facade of The Memory at On On Hotel
Image credit: @ryuji403ry via Instagram

Besides being known as a backdrop in The Beach featuring Leonardo Dicaprio – The Memory at On On Hotel is one of the oldest hotels on the island.

The hotel was initially named “Un Un”, a name derived from a Chinese dialect. When the owners noticed that it was too difficult to pronounce for tourists, they changed it to “On On”.

You’ll be able to spot this all-white hotel just a stone’s throw away from Phangnga Road in Phuket Old Town.

Antique vibes in the lobby of The Memory at On On Hotel.
Image credit: @pp.pompon via Instagram

The second-floor lobby reminds us of a living room in a small traditional Sino-Portuguese manor.

Prices for rooms used to begin at 80 satang (~USD0.026) per night back in the early 1900s. 

Most of the establishment’s clientele back then were merchants and sea crew who passed by on commercial trading boats according to The Cloud.

Now, however, the Memory Superior room is priced at ฿1,200 (USD39). Whereas, larger rooms spanning 25 sq m like the Memory Deluxe start at ฿1,395 (~USD45) per night.

The lobby welcomes non-hotel guests, so you can pop in for a glimpse of the decor.

Address: 19 Phangnga Rd, Talat Yai, Mueang Phuket District, Phuket 83000
Telephone: +66 7636 3700 | Google Maps

11. Casa Blanca Boutique Hotel – European Art Deco

The European-style facade of the Casa Blanca Boutique Hotel
Image credit: @cath.chequers via Instagram

A trip to Casa Blanca Boutique Hotel will probably involve a time warp of sorts. Hear us out. Think overtures of colonial architecture, consistent with Phuket Old Town’s general vibe, with old-timey and European-style influences.

Lodging options include a Superior Room – starting from ฿2,300 (~USD74) per night. It’s a tad pricey, but well worth the king-size bed, luxury bathrooms, and garden view.

The garden view from a balcony inside the Casa Blanca Boutique Hotel
Image credit: @piyanust via Instagram

The private balconies overlook the swimming pool, making it possible to take some cool aerial-view shots.

This boutique hotel is within walking distance from Phuket’s bus station. Airport bus transfers to and from Phuket Airport are also available. Do note that the bus fare costs ฿100 (~USD3) per passenger.

Address: 26 Phuket Rd, Tambon Talat Yai, Mueang Phuket District, Phuket 83000
Telephone: +66 7621 9019 | Google Maps

12. Woo Gallery and Boutique Hotel Phuket – spend a Night at the Museum

The Woo Gallery and Boutique Hotel's entrance, which looks like an old Chinese manor.
Image credit: @andreaspergher via Instagram

Now here’s a heritage hotel and museum that has an interesting premise: visitors get to spend a literal Night at the Museum along Thalang Road.

This hotel used to be home to Woo family for generations, dating back to the Hong Clan in Fujian, China. It was then converted from an unsuspecting shophouse into a bustling hotel that celebrates years of Chinese heritage called Woo Gallery and Boutique Hotel Phuket.

The hotel’s grand entrance – which resembles an ancient Chinese manor – with shuttered windows, lanterns, and round archways is definitely a rare sight.

Various antiques on display at the Woo Gallery and Boutique Hotel
Image credit: @andreaspergher via Instagram

The boutique is full of antiques – some that date back to the 1960s. Those with sticky fingers, should ask for permission before touching anything or preferably, stick to snapping pictures.

If you want to find a place to stay at this lodge, 25SQM rooms like the Woo Classic start from ฿1,790 (~USD58); offering amenities like a courtyard and garden view and free Wi-Fi.

Address: 43/1 The Phang-Nga Road, Talat Yai, Phuket, 83000
Telephone: +66 7635 3719 | Google Maps

Phuket Old Town has hidden gems tucked in every corner

Even though Phuket is a beautiful island, it’s much more than its beaches.

To get the full Phuket experience, you don’t want to miss out on the often-overlooked Old Town. The district is filled with pieces of rich history, while also containing some of the island’s freshest attractions. 

Cover images adapted @thalang_mike via Instagram, @bkkdavidg via Instagram, @my_lonelysunset via Instagram, @pp.pompon via Instagram

Article originally published by Joelynn Wong on 31st August 2021. Last updated by buranond on 30th June 2023.

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