Thailand’s capital is one of the most visited cities in the world and is well-known as an exotic and exciting destination. Its infamous nightlife, delicious street food, gorgeous temples, picturesque landmarks and exhilarating lifestyle have given Bangkok this reputation. This large and diverse city has something to offer to anyone and everyone. However, by being such a popular destination, visiting can get overwhelming if you get caught in all the tourist attractions. To stay focused and get the most out of your time in the city, here are our top things to do in Bangkok.
1. Eat like a Bangkokian
No matter where you turn your head while walking in Bangkok, you’ll be tempted with something delicious from a street food vendor. Even though eating street food might be intimidating at first, it is also the best way to get in touch with local culture. Chinatown, the Bang Rak area and the old city (Rattanakosin) are go-to destinations to get a full-on foodie experience.
Sample yummy Thai recipes
As you browse around these hotspots, you’ll want to sample some of Thailand’s most popular dishes, such as:
- The classic Pad Thai;
- Som Tam, Thailand’s famous papaya salad;
- Tom Yum Goong, a sour shrimp soup;
- Pad Ka Prao, a chicken stir-fry with Holy Basil.
Stimulate your taste buds
Visiting Thailand is also the perfect occasion to step out of your comfort zone. In fact, many of this country’s dishes include ingredients and flavours you may never have experienced before! Want to try the world’s smelliest fruit? Head over to Or Kor Tor, Bangkok’s freshest market, where you’ll find fresh and quality pre-peeled durians to eat on the spot. Make sure to grab a pair of plastic gloves if you don’t want your hands to smell like Durian for a week!
But if you really want to feel like a local, you have to try eating fried insects. The most popular ones amongst Thais are grasshoppers, water bugs, crickets and silk and bamboo worms. For the most local experience, go to Talad Rod Fai market and mingle your way through the crowd to get your Thai snacks!
Take a Street Food Tour
Now, if you want to see a little bit of everything, your best bet is to take a street food tour. Yes, there is such a thing in Bangkok. And it’s the best way to sample street food while visiting the city with a local guide. Oh—and it’s also a fabulous opportunity to meet other travellers! Discover the various types of tours and select the one that best suits your mood, budget and travel style:
- Walking tour;
- Biking tour;
- Night tour (with open-air ride in a tuk tuk included!);
- Small group tour;
- Large group tour.
Price: tours range from $25 to $180 per person.
Follow a cooking class
To cherish more than memories, learn how to cook Thai food and bring home a taste of Thailand with you. Many classes are offered throughout Bangkok, but we suggest a class that’s interactive and brings you to the market to collect ingredients for your recipe. We recommend Thai cooking classes with chef Leez, which all start with a tour of the market followed by a class in which you’ll learn to make twelve Thai dishes, no less!
- Class schedule: 10 AM to 2 PM
- How to get there: Chef Leez is centrally located. Here are directions to get there.
Insider tip: only eight people are allowed per class.
2. Get around like a local
If Bangkok is known worldwide for its street food, it’s also renowned for constant traffic jams in its gridlocked roads. If you plan on using traditional means of transportation such as the colourful tuk tuks or regular taxis, you’ll most probably be in for a very long ride! Here are a few alternatives:
With drivers spread out across Bangkok, a popular means of transportation among locals is the motorbike taxi. It’s definitely one of the cheapest and fastest ways to get around Thailand’s capital. The motorbikes are quite easy to spot, thanks to the drivers’ bright orange vests. On the down side, it isn’t the safest way to get around, as most of the drivers don’t carry a spare helmet for their passengers.
The BTS Skytrain
If you want to avoid Bangkok’s chaotic traffic and stifling heat, the air-conditioned BTS Skytrain is one of the most convenient ways to get from point A to point B quickly, without breaking a sweat. Fares are calculated according to the distance you travel on the train and tickets are available via ticket machines located at every station.
The Chao Phraya Express Boat
If motorbike taxis and Skytrains aren’t your cup of tea, you can just boat it! Yes, you can simply hop on the Chao Phraya Express Boat near the river and make your way through the city by boat. To save a few bucks, watch for the orange-flagged boats, which are local boats and cost less than touristic ones—but still stop at the most popular piers.
3. Visit the temples
Being one of the most visited cities in the world, Bangkok has many popular attractions that can get quickly overcrowded by tourists. Whether it’s the famous Khao San Road, the reclining Buddha Temple (Wat Pho Temple) or the Chatuchak weekend market, you’ll quickly find yourself bumping into another tourist, eager to quickly grab a picture of the attraction. That being said, a visit to Bangkok would not be complete without visiting a few temples!
Onto temples. There are more than 400 of them in and around Bangkok, called “wats”. To save you time, we’ve selected three for you to explore: the Wat Suthat Temple, the Wat Arun and the Loha Prasat. If you can, visit these early in the morning. You’ll find that the temperature is more agreeable and you’ll bump into fewer tourists as you discover these incredible venues. What’s more, you might catch the monks rituals if the temples are open to the public—as these early birds are up as of 4 AM to kick off their day.
Insider tip: be sure to dress appropriately to visit Bangkok temples: shoulders and knees must be covered at all times. We recommend wearing long pants in light flowy fabric, so you don’t get too warm!
The Wat Suthat Temple
Worth visiting at night because of its shimmering pagodas, this royal temple is one of the oldest and most impressive temples in Bangkok. Set on some 10 acres of land, the complex is in fact one of the largest venues in the city and features magnificent walls and a striking chapel. Located right in front of one of the city’s most famous landmarks—the Giant Swing—the Wat Suthat Temple boasts a unique architecture as well as an eight-meter golden Buddha statue that is well worth the detour.
- Admission fee: 20 Thai Baht, which you can pay at the booth just inside the North gate.
- Opening hours: open daily from 8:30 AM to 9 PM
- Location: Bamrung Muang Road, Old City (Rattanakosin), opposite Bangkok City Hall.
The Wat Arun Temple
Also known as the Temple of Dawn, Wat Arun flaunts five majestuous towers overlooking the Chao Phraya River. It is the architectural representation of Mount Meru, which is considered to be the centre of the world in Buddhist cosmology. For a magical experience, head to the Wat Arun Temple at sunset when it’s particularly beautiful, thanks to the low light reflecting on the towers. Visiting the temple at night when the towers are lit up is also quite lovely, but note that you won’t be able to visit the interior as it closes at 6 PM.
- Admission fee: 50 Thai Baht
- Opening hours: 8 AM to 6 PM, for the inside of the temple, but we still recommend admiring the outside of the complex at night.
- Location: 158 Thanon Wang Doem, west bank of the river, which can be reached by boat.
The Loha Prasat Temple
Known as the “metal castle” because of its 37 cast iron towers, the Loha Prasat Temple has an impressive architecture that stands out from other Buddhist temples in Bangkok. Be sure to check out the temple’s supporting columns at the base, which form a maze-like collection of corridors.
- Admission fee: 20 Thai Baht
- Opening hours: Open daily from 8:30 AM to 6 PM
- Location: Loha Prasat is located on Mahachai Road, close to the Democracy Monument. There are no BTS Skytrain stations in the area, so your best bet is to get there by metered taxi.
4. Discover the Grand Palace
Probably Bangkok’s most famous landmark, the Grand Palace will surely be bustling with people. Located in the heart of the city, this imposing complex brings together buildings, halls, pavilions and temples, all set around open lawns, beautiful gardens and majestic courtyards. Notice its eclectic style and unusual architecture, built asymmetrically through centuries of different royal families. The Grand Palace was developed over 200 years, in multiple stages led by successive reigning kings. Be sure to plan enough time ahead of you as browsing through this massive complex can easily take three hours.
- Admission fee: 500 Thai Bhat
- Opening hours: 8:30 AM to 3:30 PM. Due to its short opening hours, the Grand Palace is always extremely crowded. Keep your valuables close and arm yourself with patience!
- Location: Grand Palace is located on Na Phra Lan Rd. To get there, take the BTS Skytrain to Saphan Taksin station, and follow the signs to the boat pier, then take the river taxi north to the Tha Chang (elephant) pier.
5. Engorge in luxury at the Bangkok famous shopping malls
Bangkok is home to multiple state of the art shopping malls. These are a great place to bargain and sample some amazing food … and best of all, escape the Thai heat. You’ll find luxurious high-end malls as well as malls tailored for locals where bargaining is accepted—and even encouraged. Check out these two different malls for the full experience!
Insider Tip: Many of Bangkok’s malls offer tourist cards with benefits such as 6% VAT refund, free Wi-Fi, lounge services and sometimes sweet discounts. Remember to enquire for one if you intend on shopping for more than a couple of things, it will definitely be worth it.
The Siam Paragon Mall
The Siam Paragon Mall is probably the fanciest mall Bangkok has to offer. In fact, it is considered a shopper’s paradise for luxury addicts, with more than 250 shops featuring high-end designers and even car manufacturers, such as Ferrari and Lamborghini. Siam Paragon is also home to Southeast Asia’s largest aquarium, a huge multiplex cinema and a gigantic food court. Even if you’re travelling on a tight budget, it’s worth the detour to gawk at the abundance of luxury… And hey, you don’t have to buy anything!
- Opening hours: Open daily from 10 AM to 10 PM.
- Location: Siam Paragon Mall is located at 991 Rama 1 Road, Puthumwan Bangkok, Thailand. To get there, you can take the Skytrain to Siam station.
The MBK Shopping Centre
The MBK Shopping Center is one of Bangkok’s most popular shopping malls and definitely a place to experience while visiting Thailand. The mall is truly massive, with its eight floors and more than 2,000 shops, selling everything from clothing to electronics to furniture. There isn’t much you won’t be able to find at the MBK Mall and not much you can’t bargain, since everything is negotiable. Put your bargaining skills to the test and you’ll be surprised how much you’ll be able to knock off from the original price. And if all that bargaining makes you hungry, head to one of the two food courts, located on the fifth and sixth floors of the shopping centre. The first is the place to go for some international flavours, and the second serves local food.
- Opening hours: Open daily from 10 AM to 10 PM
- Location: Pathumwan Intersection, diagonally opposite Siam Discovery Centre. Simply take the Skytrain to the National Stadium station.
6. Hit the Bangkok Markets
Bangkok markets have a vibrant atmosphere and host just about anything and everything. These are worth visiting, even if you just walk through the markets to experience the local culture, food and smells. Whatever time or day you’re visiting Bangkok, there are multiple night and weekend markets in Bangkok, so there will always be one open for you to browse! If you are visiting the city for an extended period of time, here are our two favourites: Chatuchak Weekend Market and the JJ Green Night Market.
The Chatuchak Weekend Market
The Chatuchak market is the ultimate Bangkok market and the biggest one in town. It features some 15,000 booths, selling just about anything you can imagine coming from all regions of Thailand. The market is incredibly popular amongst tourists, with about 200,000 daily visitors. The market is strategically divided in 27 sections, with areas dedicated to arts and crafts, food, fashion, gifts, and much, much more so you should be able to pick one main focus and explore the Chatuchak market at least partially.
- Opening hours: Saturdays and Sundays, 6 AM to 6 PM
- Location: You can take the Skytrain to Mo Chit station, or the underground to Chatuchak station and then follow the crowds.
Insider Tip: wear comfortable shoes and keep your valuables close. Also, DHL and TNT both have booths in the market so you can directly ship some items home.
The JJ Green Night Market
A visit to the night market is a great way to end the day and grab a cheap bite. The JJ Green Market is located directly next to the famous Chatuchak Market and features similar goods but on a smaller scale, and with fewer tourists than its neighbour. Locals prefer the JJ market because as the sun goes down, the many bars and restaurants come to life and provide entertainment, like awesome Thai bands. Whether it is for the local handicrafts, the delicious Thai cuisine or the live music, this market is worth stopping by.
- Opening hours: Open from Thursday to Sunday from 6 PM to 1:30 AM
- Location: Same as Chatuchak market, you can take the Skytrain to Mo Chit station, or the underground to Chatuchak station and follow the crowds.
7. Get a Thai Massage
A Thai massage is the perfect way to relax and unwind after a busy day visiting Bangkok This type of massage focuses on specific pressure points and is performed fully clothed, so it’s perfect if you’re a bit on the shy side. Since Bangkok is home to thousands of massage parlours, we’ve identified two that you’ll enjoy: Healthland and Asia Herb Association.
Get a massage at the Healthland Spa Bangkok: a wellness resort, internationally acclaimed as one of the finest spas in the world. Healthland has ten locations across the city and they all offer a wide range of massages, treatments and packages for every taste. We recommend trying their traditional Thai massage for 600 Thai baht (around $20) for a two-hour massage. Other treatments include facial treatments, foot reflexology, tourmaline sauna and much more. Find their locations and packages here.
Asia Herb Association
Another great place to get a Thai massage in Bangkok is the Asia Herb Association, which has several locations across Thailand and Cambodia—five of which are in Bangkok. Asia Herb is famous for its fresh herb ball, which they use to do herbal ball therapy. They offer traditional Thai massages with fresh herbal balls and oil body massages as well as many other amazing treatments. A traditional Thai massage with herb ball costs 1,300 Thai Bhat ($42) for 90 minutes. Be sure to check out all their treatments and locations right here.
8. Experience a River Cruise
Known as the River of Kings, the Chao Phraya River flows through the centre of Bangkok. Quite wide, this river winds past some of Bangkok’s most famous landmarks, which you can see as you take a river cruise. It’s a great way to discover Bangkok without being confronted with the crowds, and a great place to be in order to escape the blazing hot streets. Most cruises are dinner cruises, so put on your fanciest outfit and enjoy the view as you feast on delicious Thai food.
The Apsara Dinner Cruise
The Apsara Cruise is one of the best dinner cruises in Bangkok! Enjoy the city’s skyline as you slowly cruise on the Chao Phraya River and catch a glimpse of the Grand Palace and the Temple of Dawn. Elegantly decorated, the Aspara Dinner Cruise welcomes some 40 people for an excellent meal with a view. A welcome drink is included, as well as a souvenir photo so you won’t forget this memorable evening!
- Departure point: River City Bangkok, 23 Soi Charoen Krung 24, Khwaeng Talat Noi, Khet Samphanthawong, Krung Thep Maha Nakhon 10,100, Thailand
- Departure time: 7:45 PM. Cruise takes about 2 hours and 20 minutes.
- Price: tickets start at $85, depending on the season.
The Afternoon Rice Barge Cruise Bangkok
If dinner on a boat isn’t your thing, you can also take the Rice Barge Tour, which will take you on an afternoon cruise down the main river and into smaller waterways around Bangkok. Again, you’ll be able to enjoy the coolness away from the crowds and snap some great photographs to bring home with you. And—on the upside, the Rice Barge Cruise will set you back a little less than a full dinner cruise.
- Departure point: The Rice Barge Cruise offers hotel pick ups and drop offs. Reserve your tickets here!
- Departure time: 3 PM. Cruise lasts two and a half hours.
- Price: Tickets start at $40 per person, depending on the season.
9. Navigate the Bangkok Nightlife
Known as having one of the liveliest nightlives in the world, Bangkok is a great city to visit if you like to party. Thankfully, there is a scene for every taste, with fancy rooftop bars, clubs, hip cocktail bars and many rowdy places. Here are two recommendations to get the most out of the Bangkok nightlife!
The Lebua Skybar
The Sky Bar Rooftop at Lebua is where the Bangkok movie scene from Hangover II was filmed! The venue holds one of the best views in the city, with its 63 stories that stretch out into the sky. Try the Hangovertini—a cocktail created to celebrate the film, which features a blend of green tea liquor, apple juice, Martini Rosso and rosemary honey. Head there early if you can, as the bar can get quite crowded and there aren’t many seating options.
- Opening hours: Open daily from 6 PM to 1 AM.
- Location: Lebua at State Tower 63rd Floor, 1055 Silom Road, Bangrak, Bangkok, 10,500. To get there, take the Skytrain to Saphan Taksin.
Khao San Road Nightlife
Khao San Road is located in the Bangkok Old City. The street is famous for its lineup of bars and restaurants and its cheap drinks. After sunset, mobile bars take over, selling buckets filled with cocktails on the roadside. Khao San Road is a great place to kick off your evening and get a buzz on at a cheap price, before heading to other bars and clubs.
- Location: Khao San Road nightlife happens in the heart of Bangkok old city. To get there, you can take bus lines 509, 157 or 171 to Khok Wua intersection (one stop away from Democracy Monument) followed by a short walk.
10. Take one or two Bangkok Day Trips!
Visiting Bangkok will surely be filled with adventure and excitement but you might get tired of the heat and crowds after a few days visiting the city. To get away from the action and freshen up, you might want to take a day trip from Bangkok. Here are the two best Bangkok Day Trips to add to your bucket list!
Pattaya Day Trip
Located just two hours away by bus from Bangkok, Pattaya is one the closest coastal town from Bangkok. It is filled with fun things to do, such as taking in the breathtaking scenery in Jomtien Beach or opting for action and going swimming, snorkelling or diving. From Ban Phe, a small fishing village close to Pattaya reachable by bus, you can even hop on a ferry and ride all the way down to Koh Samet Island, locally known as the Paradise Island, thanks to its white sandy beaches.
Getting there: Bus tickets from Bangkok to Pattaya cost between 5 and $12, with departures every hour.
Erawan National Park
Another amazing Bangkok Road Trip is Erawan National Park. With its many caves to explore, the park is a great place to head for a little adventure and do some animal sightings, with the residing elephants and deers. Be sure to check out Erawan Falls, located in the park, a waterfall pooling into beautiful emerald-green ponds of water. After, simply stroll in the park following the trails along the fall and take it all in.
Getting there: Minivans will take you to the park from the Victory Monument Skytrain station and depart when they are filled or every 15 minutes. Expect to pay around $10 for the round trip.