Phuket Town is the perfect place to spend an afternoon away from the beach exploring some of the diverse cultural and culinary highlights the island has to offer. During special celebrations like the Phuket Vegetarian Festival and Songkran (Thai New Year) the streets come alive with activity, colour, music and excitement.
Despite being one of Phuket’s most popular day trip locations, Phuket Town retains a unique, old world charm that stands in marked contrast to sophisticated international feel of many beachside areas.
The town, which is Phuket’s provincial capital, is steeped in history and home to an array of temples, museums and other cultural attractions. It is therefore ideal place for visitors to explore when they are ready to explore beyond the beach.
Phuket Town is a great destination for foodies and shopaholics – particularly those who make time to visit at the weekend for the town’s Sunday ‘Walking Street’ market.
Below are five "must-dos" on a day in Phuket's heritage heart.
Phuket Old Town is the historical nucleus of the island. Established during a tin mining boom in the late 19th
century, the Old Town boasts a colourful collection of Sino-Portuguese style shop houses, in addition to exquisite mansions built on the wealth of the mining industry. The colourful arcades that flank each side of the street offer up some unique photo opportunities for visitors who want to take home a visual reminder of Thailand’s diverse history and culture. It's easy to pass an entire day meandering through the historical streets of the old town and visiting a few of its museums, but the best time to do so is in the early morning or late afternoon and evening when the streets are a little cooler.
Phuket is well known for its unique Sino-Portuguese heritage and Phuket Town is one of the best places to get a real feel for the island's lasting Chinese influences – particularly if you enjoy the fantastic flavours of delectable Chinese food. The modest eateries that line the street offer a vast selection of scrumptious street eats. If you aim for an early morning visit, you can even taste local dim sum delicacies – traditional Cantonese steamed parcels filled with meat, vegetables and fish. Some of the best Chinese food on the island can be enjoyed at Laem Tong, the oldest Chinese restaurant on Phuket. This restaurant is famous for its Beijing chicken, por phee (non-fried spring rolls) and steamed fish balls.
Phuket Town’s weekly walking street market (known as ‘Lardyai Phuket’ in Thai) has become one of the centre's main attractions. Held in the heart of the Old Town on Thalang Road from 4pm – 10pm every Sunday, the market is a great place to pick up souvenirs and trinkets to take back home as gifts or mementos. A range of eclectic stalls pop up each week, selling everything from locally-made handicrafts and sarongs to ornate jewellery. The Walking Street market is also a great place to sample some of the best street food in Southern Thailand, including barbecued squid and beef skewers for your main course, and khanom
(Thai sweets) to finish off.
Sightseeing can be tiring, particularly in Thailand’s warm tropical climate. Luckily, Phuket Town’s is famous for its ,cafes and cake shops where you can stop off for a pick-me-up when energy is running low. Right in Phuket Old Town, Café y Té is the ideal place for your mid-morning iced tea. If you are feeling a little peckish, this quaint café also offers home made treats such as cheesecake, chocolate fudge cake and apple crumble. Another good choice is Mac-Chiato House (also known as Cake Box) where hip young locals often head for an afternoon catchup with friends over a cappuccino and a slice of cheesecake.
There are few better ways to round off a day in Phuket Town than with an evening of live music. If you don’t fancy one of Phuket’s world-famous cabaret shows, head down to the Route Café & Music Bar for something a little more low key. Positioned on Phang Nga Road, this lounge bar has a groovy Bohemian feel to it, and often hosts live jazz, rock and blues performances. Alternatively, if you find yourself in the vicinity of Yaowarat Road, Rockin’ Angels Blues Café is the place to go. Each night, the bar’s owner – Patrick – takes to the stage with his own band to entertain guests with a set-list of rock and blues classics.