Bangkok, the capital of Thailand, is home to over 10 million residents and a plethora of tourist attractions.
What started as a small trading post is now a proud city that continues to experience rapid growth.
Big and boisterous Bangkok is Thailand’s city that never sleeps.
From the snaking Chao Phraya River to the buzzing bazaars of Yaowarat to the soaring skyscrapers of stylish Sukhumvit, there’s such palpable energy to the sprawling megalopolis that most travellers will need a back-soothing massage by the time they’re done.
Bucket-list experiences come thick and fast in the BKK.
One moment you’ll be glugging beers between the steaming noodle stalls of Khaosan Road, the next gazing at glimmering Buddha statues in the Grand Palace.
Shopping through Chatuchak’s curious emporiums might take the morning; clinking cocktails by poolside on the 43rd floor comes in the eve.
You never really know what to expect in Bangkok. But are you wondering what Thailand is famous for?
Where exactly is Bangkok?
Bangkok is the heart of Thailand – both figuratively and literally.
Located on the central coast of the Gulf of Thailand, it looks southwards to the famous islands of Samui and Pha Ngan but north to the rice fields and historical relics of Ayutthaya.
The snaking Chao Phraya River wiggles right through the middle of the capital, bisecting it in two on a roughly north-south axis.
Top Things to do in Bangkok.
There’s hardly a dull moment to be had in Bangkok. Between peanut-sprinkled pad Thai noodles and meditative moments in mystical Buddhist shrines, you’ll find it’s easy to pack any itinerary full to bursting.
Drink a beer on Khaosan Road.
Khaosan Road is the first port of call for any backpacker hitting Thailand. Many a young’un has cut their teeth in this party mecca, which rose to fame thanks to its cameo in the Leo DiCaprio flick The Beach.
The revelry continues to this day. There are clubs, pubs, eateries, and sizzling street stalls to hop between.
Things go into overdrive when darkness comes, with uber-attractive happy hours that see Chang beers cut to just 60-80 THB (around $2).
You’ll also find massage parlours, suit tailors, street markets – it’s a real overload for the senses that’s not to be missed!
Boat up the snaking Chao Phraya River.
The Chao Phraya River is the waterway that links all of Bangkok from head to toe. It wiggles like a grass snake through the metropolis, hosting the famous water taxis.
You can grab a ticket for those for around just 30 THB ($1). It’s a great way to immerse yourself in the local crowd aboard long-tail boats that are crammed with saffron-robed monks and Thai students alike.
Travelling by water is also a great way to glimpse some of Bangkok’s major landmarks, from the hulking Khmer stupa of Wat Arun to the gold-tipped spires of the Grand Palace.
Shop in the Chatuchak Weekend Market.
The Chatuchak Weekend Market beckons visitors with its menagerie of stalls and shops and eateries every Friday to Saturday. It takes place on the northern edge of the capital, in the district of Chatuchak itself.
Reigning as the largest market in all of Thailand, there’s virtually nothing you won’t find. From glazed pots to knock-off designer wear to blooming bougainvillaea plants, it’s sure to be up for grabs in these parts.
Looking for something special to do in Bangkok? what about visiting the Airplane Graveyard in the middle of Bangkok.
To delve into the walking streets of Yaowarat is to discover a real hodgepodge of energy and action. The smells of incense and five-spice tumble out from madcap shops owned by stooping old men.
There are fishmongers with shark fins and crates of mussels, and more. There are veg sellers hidden behind stacks of aubergines and courgettes and pak choi.
Yaowarat is the traditional Chinatown of Bangkok, though its streets are a real melting pot of people and cultures, with Korean cafés converging on bumping beer halls. During the evening is when it’s at its craziest.
Eat street food in Wang Lang.
Catch the water ferry across from Banglamphu district to Wang Lang, and you’ll instantly be taken by the maze of shouting hawkers and steamy food courts.
Because this remains an indelibly local market, it’s an excellent place to sample Thai street food.
Noodles garnished with wontons, pork balls in spicy sauce, tom yam – the whole load makes an appearance in these parts.
Afterwards, there are vast vintage clothes emporiums where you’ll find country-style flannel and hip 80s threads being sold to Bangkok’s student crowd.
Too many surprises do Thailand have some of the stickiest and strangest beer brewing laws in the world; while you might not notice it quickly, but Thai laws prohibit people from brewing and distributing their own beer.
Many bars sell foreign craft beers, but due to high import taxes, don’t expect these to be cheap.
Actually, are the local alcohol brewing laws so strict in Thailand that the local craft beer brewers export their local Thai ingredients across the borders to neighbouring Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam, to produce their Thailand craft beer in Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam instead, and then import it back into Thailand.
And crazy enough, some of the “Thailand Craft Beer” are these days made as far away as in Australia, Taiwan, Japan and South Korea.
Even the oldest Thai Craft beer, “Phuket”, is produced in Cambodia, but they are all labelled as Craft beer from Thailand, but then read the small writing on the bottles, and you will see where it´s really brewed.
But even with these strange rules are Bangkok´s craft beer scene rapidly growing; click here to read a guide for 11 places to go for craft beer in Bangkok.
Enjoy a panoramic view of Bangkok from one of the tallest buildings in the city.
Bangkok has a fair share of tall buildings with rooftops, terraces and restaurants, with the world-famous (and expensive) The Dome at Lebua, where they filmed a scene for the Hangover 2 movie, is by far the most popular place to enjoy a view over Bangkok.
But nearly 20 years was Baiyoke Tower II, the tallest building in Bangkok and the best place to enjoy a panoramic view of the city.
Wonder at the Grand Palace.
The home of the Thai royal family and the most revered temple in the country is a must for any culture buffs or history lovers.
Grand Palace and Wat Phra Kaew
The Grand Palace is the former home of the King of Siam and the seat of government. The royal complex is made up of numerous halls, gardens, pavilions, and courtyards.
Dozens of buildings are divided into quarters, some of which are still being used by royal officials. Part of the royal complex is open to the public, especially for important rites.
“Eclectic” best describes the architecture of the Grand Palace complex. Some structures have the eye-catching pointed roof of traditional Thai houses, while others follow a more familiar Western style.
Enjoy gazing at the lavish buildings. The decor ranges from golden lacquer and glass mosaics to intricate wood carvings, painted murals, and stone statues.
Speaking of statuary, Wat Phra Kaew (Temple of Emerald Buddha) is also part of the Grand Palace complex. At the heart of the temple sits the Emerald Buddha, a 26-inch statue made of green jasper or jade.
Monks change the Buddha’s garments to mark the change of seasons: summer, monsoon, and cool. Buddhists strongly believe that the Emerald Buddha protects them from epidemics and other misfortunes.
The Grand Palace is open to visitors every day from 8:30 am to 3:30 pm.
You certainly can’t miss it – it sits in a large walled complex smack bang in the heart of the capital. Inside, you’ll be able to see gold-trimmed temples and courtrooms.
The highlight is surely the opulent Wat Phra Kaew, which holds the sacred Emerald Buddha relic.
Climb Wat Saket.
Wat Saket, also known as the Golden Mount, is one of the most recognisable temples in all of Bangkok. Like a colossal metallic peak, it rises high above downtown Bangkok.
It dates all the way back to the Ayutthaya era (the 1300s-1700s) but remains a sacred place to meditate and pray.
It’s also perfect if you’re keen to escape the crowds of the city.
Leafy parks filled with ferns and fruit trees surround the mount, and the stupa on the top has lookouts with sweeping views going north, south, east, and west.
Try The Thai Cuisine
If your Thai food experience has been limited to pad Thai and pandan chicken, you’re in for a hot surprise. Thai cooks are quite liberal with the spices.
Prepare yourself for the burn when you order tom yum, tom goong, or any type of curry. Soothe your tongue with sticky rice and mango for dessert.
Take a tour of the streets of Bangkok and savor the city’s delicacies. Nearly every street corner has a stall selling scrumptious food at affordable prices.
You can also find great eats here:
- Chinatown (across the river from Wat Arun)
- Chatuchak Market
- Food courts in shopping malls
Vegetarians are in luck, as most dishes are chock-full of greens. If you’re vegan, remember to ask your server to skip the meat garnishing’s, fish sauce, and oyster sauce.
Looking for a caffeine fix? Skip the coffee and go for a refreshing cup of Thai tea. Ceylon or Assam tea leaves are steeped then combined with condensed milk for a super-sweet brew. Thai tea is served chilled or piping hot.
Go in one of the many Bangkok Shopping Malls.
Bangkok has an overwhelming number of shopping places to satisfy your tastes. “Shop until you drop” is quite possible here, as you may not be able to resist the bargains. The locals consider malls as a community center of sorts, as anyone can eat, shop, and socialize in air-conditioned comfort.
Considered to be the “mother of all malls,” Icon Siam is an all-in-one bonanza. From shopping and dining to lifestyle options, this gigantic structure has it all.
Siam Paragon houses Southeast Asia’s largest aquarium in its lower levels, while you can find Thailand’s Madame Tussauds in Siam Discovery. One mall, Asiatique, even has a Ferris wheel!
Most malls are open daily from 10:00 am to 10:00 pm.
Practice Muay Thai (Thai Boxing)
Locals love a good boxing match but are done their way. Muay Thai is heavy on the punches and kicks. You can watch live matches at Khao San Road for a hefty fee. Or, just switch your hotel TV to Channel 7 and witness Muay Thai fighters in action for free.
To experience the fine art of Thai boxing, visit Luktupfah gym on Soi On Nut Road. The teachers some experts have trained Lebanese special forces and the Vietnamese under-18 boxing team.
If you have the time, ask about self-defense classes for beginners.
Visit one of the many Distinctive Markets in Bangkok
Markets are one of the top things to see and do in Bangkok. Despite the popularity of shopping malls, people still flock to outdoor markets for items not found anywhere else.
Most market stalls don’t have price tags. You need to learn the art of negotiating to get the best possible price in these open-air bazaars.
Don’t miss the best markets in Bangkok:
- Chatuchak Market – Saturday and Sunday, 9:00 am to 6:00 pm / Friday 6:00 pm to 12 midnight.
- Damnoen Saduak Floating Market – 7:00 am to 5 pm
- Klongsan Market – 7:00 am to 10:00 pm
- Neon Night Market – 5:00 pm to 12 midnight
- Pak Khlong Talat (Flower Market) – open 24 hours
- Pratunam Market – 10:00 am to 8:00 pm
- Sampeng or YaowaratMarket (Chinatown) – 9:00 am to 6:00 pm
- Talad Rot Fai (Train Night Market) – 5:00 pm to 1:00 am
Every year, these open-air markets attract between 100,000 and 200,000 visitors. Prepare your wallet for bargain finds quirky souvenirs and yummy street food.
The Thai people are deeply devout. No wonder there are over 30,000 temples scattered across the country. One of the most famous is Wat Arun (Temple of the Dawn), a temple complex located on the western bank of the Chao Phraya River.
Standing an impressive 79 meters tall at its highest point, this temple is clad in smooth porcelain tiles that reflect the light. Sunset is a magical time in Wat Arun. Watch as the buildings and pagodas seem to glow with the dying sun.
Wat Arun is open from 8:00 am to 5:30 pm.
Visit Jim Thompson House
Fancy a trip to the past? Visit Jim Thompson House, a mid-century abode near the Sky Train. The original owner built the house in the 1950s out of materials from existing structures in old villages. Its grounds include a tranquil garden, lotus pond, and cafe.
Jim Thompson, an American, was instrumental in introducing Thai silk to US buyers and thus reviving the industry.
The fabric’s brilliant hues and luxurious texture soon won fans, including the costume designer for the film “The King and I.” His sudden disappearance in 1967 lends his house an air of mystery.
Make sure to visit the silk shop on the premises. Watch a demonstration of how silk is produced as well as a Thai cultural dance. You can buy gorgeous clothing and other gifts from the silk shop.
Jim Thompson House is open daily from 9:00 am to 6:00 pm.
Relax in Lumphini Park
Do you need some time in nature? You don’t need to go far, as there are several green zones within the city proper.
Take a breather in Lumphini Park, the first public park in the country. This 57-hectare grassy space features an artificial lake, event venues, and lots of trees. Biking and jogging are allowed here.
Lumphini Park is open from 4:30 am to 9:00 pm.
Enjoy A Spa Treatment
Thailand lends its name to a therapeutic technique that uses stretching and pressure points to soothe aching muscles. With massage and spa options available at every nook and corner of Bangkok, feel free to relax and nurture yourself with an authentic Thai massage.
A massage therapist will knead pressure points on your back to gradually loosen them up.
This is followed by stretches that help correct posture problems and realign your spine. Don’t forget to pamper your sore feet with a foot massage. Spa places are hands-down one of the top things to do in Bangkok.
Best place to stay in Bangkok.
Bangkok might just have the most eclectic range of hotels in all of Southeast Asia. From heritage-rich colonial homes with cute interiors to slick design hotels for the jet setters, there’s something to suit every traveller…and every budget.*
Looking for a proper accommodation guide for Bangkok?
But for most first time visitors to Bangkok is Koh San Road usually the best place to stay, while the more experienced Thailand traveller usually stay far away from that area.
The Yard Hostel Bangkok ($)
The very definition of a poshtel (a posh hostel), the Yard really pushes the boundaries of what it means to offer budget accommodation. Smooth concrete walls converge on leafy gardens shaded by banana trees. There are decking areas to chill on. The interiors ooze industrial-chic charm and minimalism. What’s more, the whole place is eco-centric, made from as much recycled material as possible.
Villa Mungkala ($$)
This timber-built home oozes traditional colonial style between the ramshackle neighbourhoods of the Bangkok canals. Its lobby is a mind-boggling menagerie of portraits, antiques, and trinkets collected during the owner’s own travels throughout the world. The rooms are cosy and small but put you right on the edge of the lively districts of Khaosan and Banglamphu.
SO/ Bangkok ($$$)
Luxury comes in a five-star format at this uber-chic hotel. Channelling the cutting-edge energy of the city, it opens onto sleek rooftop cocktail bars that overlook the forest of skyscrapers in the Silom district. Rooms have floor-to-ceiling windows with stunning panoramas, private bathtubs, and access to an infinity pool.
Of course, Bangkok is changing and renewing all the time.
Travel Tips For Bangkok
- Bangkok’s transportation options range from motor-powered to water-borne. You can take taxis, buses, trains, or riverboats to get to your destination. A visit to Bangkok won’t be complete without going for a spin on the famous tuk-tuk.
- Keep in mind that temples often have strict dress codes. We recommend that you wear a long-sleeved shirt with pants or a long skirt. Make sure your knees and shoulders are covered.
- Flip-flops and sandals are only allowed in temple areas if you wear socks with them. Always take off your shoes before entering sacred areas.
- Like the rest of Thailand, this city enjoys a tropical climate with high humidity. Remember to dress lightly, slather on the sunscreen, and bring a water bottle.
Now that you know the top things to see and do in Bangkok, it’s time to plan your itinerary.
You can book a guided sightseeing tour for convenience.
Just be sure to pick a guide who knows and speaks fluent English. Or, explore this bustling metropolis on your own for the thrill of a lifetime.
Bangkok Fun Fact
Did you know that Bangkok holds the world record of having the lengthiest place name? Bangkok official name is quite a mouthful: Krungthepmahanakhon Amonrattanakosin Mahintharayutthaya Mahadilokphop Noppharatratchathaniburirom Udomratchaniwetmahasathan Amonphimanawatansathit Sakkathattiyawitsanukamprasit.
How to get to Bangkok.
There are oodles of ways to arrive in Bangkok.
Those already in the Land of Smiles can enjoy a ride on the Thai railway that runs in from the north.
The most popular connection from Chiang Mai links the capital to the country’s second city on a comfortable overnighter. You’ll need to purchase tickets in advance, particularly in the high season.
There are also so-called VIP buses (which are hardly VIP at all!). They can bring you to BKK from most major tourist towns across the country.
Being Bangkok, the metropolis is also a hub for air traffic. Smaller Don Mueang Airport handles most domestic flights and all international flights by AirAsia and most other budgets airlines.
They make for easy links to islands like Koh Samui, the beaches of Krabi, and also towns up north.
You’ve also got stacks of Southeast Asian short-haul flights arriving there, making it a cinch to come in from Bali, Cambodia, Vietnam – the list goes on.
If you’re arriving from further afield, then there’s great news: Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi Airport (BKK) is one of the largest in the whole world.
It’s served by flag carriers and low-cost, long-haul providers alike, with connections that originate in Europe, Australia, North America, the Middle East, and beyond.
From the terminals, the modern BTS Skytrain can whisk you to the edges of Phaya Thai district on the outskirts of the downtown in less than an hour (and for just 45 THB), or you can take AE2 Or S1 busses directly to Koh San Road for 60THB.
If you think we’ve missed something, or if you have something to add to this ultimate guide, we’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.
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