Top 10 Things to do in Bangkok – A local’s recommendations
By Kat Yindee, an office manager and HR specialist who has been living in Bangkok for more than 40 years, always exploring the city’s diverse food culture and teaching visitors about its rich history.
Edited by Elodi Troskie
You need to spend a lifetime in Bangkok to explore all of its uniqueness. There is really no place in the world quite like this incredible city – I’ve lived here my entire life and I never want to leave. The food is amazing, the people are friendly, the history and culture is so interesting and the list of things to do and places to see will never leave you wondering what to do in Bangkok. A few days are far too little to experience all of Bangkok’s attractions, but if you have a couple days in the city, use my guide to the best of Bangkok to plan your trip! Here are my recommendations for the top 10 best things to do in Bangkok, the city of angels.
Take a boat down the Chao Phraya River
The Chao Phraya is Thailand’s major river that flows through Bangkok and then into the Gulf of Thailand. The river flows through the heart of Bangkok and has always been an important part of the city. There are many places of interest along the river, so taking a boat trip isn’t just a great way to explore Bangkok from a different point of view, but it’s also a convenient way to get from one point of interest to the next – deal if you plan a visit to the Grand Palace, Wat Arun, the Pak Khlong Flower Market and other temples situated along the river. There are 34 piers on the 21km Chao Phraya River Express Boat route with boats and ferries operating from 06:00 until 19:30 every day. You can expect to pay between 10 and 15 baht for a trip, although fares can reach 30 baht during peak hours. Boats stop at every pier every 20 minutes and tickets can be bought onboard.
Visit the Buddhist temples
If you’re fascinated by Thailand’s temples, Bangkok won’t disappoint you. There are more than 400 temples across the city, so the most difficult part will be deciding which ones to visit! My recommendations are Wat Phra Kaew, Wat Arun and Wat Pho. Wat Phra Kaew, or the Temple of the Emerald Buddha, is located within the grounds of the Grand Palace in Bangkok’s historic centre. This temple is considered the most important Buddhist temple in all of Thailand. Entrance is about 400 baht and the temple is open every day from 08:30 until 15:30. Wat Arun, also known as the Temple of Dawn, is one of the most beautiful temples in Bangkok. Situated along the west side of the Chao Phraya River, Wat Arun can easily be reached by boat. Entrance is only 50 baht and the opening hours are from 08:00 until 17:30. Wat Pho is the well-known Temple of Reclining Buddha and is one of the most incredible things to see in Bangkok. At 46 meters high, this is one of the biggest temples in the city. Entrance is 100 baht and the temple can be visited from 08:00 until 17:00. When visiting temples, be mindful of dressing respectfully. The basic rule is to cover your shoulders, knees and, preferably, your ankles as well.
Visit the Grand Palace
The Grand Palace is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Bangkok and one of the best places to visit in the city. Established in 1782, the palace served as the home of the Thai king for more than a century and remains a place of pride as a representation of the Thai kingdom. As the only country in Southeast Asia that have never been colonized by other countries, the kingdom is an important part of the Thai culture. There are many other landmarks and sites to see within the palace grounds, such as the Temple of the Emerald Buddha and the Chapel of the Emerald Buddha. Entrance to the palace is free for Thai nationals and 500 baht for foreigners. Tickets can be bought at the gates or online. The palace is open every day from 08:30 until 15:30. Once again: remember that strict dress code is enforced to allow visitors into the grounds to remain respectful of the sacred site.
Weekend & night markets
The Chatuchak Weekend Market is the largest market in Thailand – a must-visit in Bangkok. Home to more than 8 000 stalls, you can find anything you can think of at Charuchak. The market is only open on Saturdays and Sundays, and because this is a very popular tourist spot in Bangkok, you can always expect quite a big crowd. To avoid the masses (and the afternoon heat), go as early as possible. Another cool place to visit in Bangkok is Chinatown, especially at night. You’ll find more locals shopping here than at Chatuchak, so prices will often be lower as well. I really like going to Indian Town, also known as Pahurat Market, one of Bangkok’s hidden gems. I enjoy making clothes and I always find the most beautiful fabrics and flowers at this market (and the delicious Indian food is a bonus). The prices here are the lowest in the city! The Flower Market (Pak Khlong Talat) is also a must-visit in Bangkok. This 24-hour flower market is one of the most beautiful places to see in Bangkok. Situated along the river, you can conveniently access it while on your boat tour down Cha
Try Thai street food
Thailand is well-known for its amazing street food. In Bangkok, you can find street food vendors in almost every street. You’ll never walk more than just a few minutes to find delicious, freshly cooked food at very affordable prices. Street food is not only popular among tourists but is also the go-to for locals. At night, Bangkok’s streets come alive with even more street food vendors than during the day, often accompanied by live music or performances. If you don’t know what to do in Bangkok, simply venture into the streets for a traditional Thai food experience. Try tom yum (a sweet and sour soup), pad thai, fried rice and pa thong ko (deep fried donuts). You can also find really cheap fresh fruits and vegetables at these street vendors. Keep in mind that the majority of street food stalls will only accept cash.
Shop at Siam Paragon
If you’re looking for more luxurious, high end shopping, Siam Paragon is where you want to go. This is a very popular shopping mall and the fourth largest in Thailand, where you’ll find international brands as well as Southeast Asia’s largest aquarium, a cinema and a wide selection of restaurants and cafes. The mall is located in the centre of Bangkok and can easily be reached by taking the BTS Skytrain. Siam Paragon houses more than 250 shops selling international luxury brands. This is definitely one of the must-see places in Bangkok, but unless you have a high budget, you might not really be able to fill your shopping bags here. For budget shopping, the local markets I mentioned earlier are a much better fit. Siam Paragon is open from 10:00 until 22:00 every day.
Get a Thai massage
In need of a relaxing massage? In Bangkok, you never need to wonder where to go for a pamper session. You can find any kind of beauty treatment you can think of, but perhaps the most popular is the traditional Thai massage. Thai massages differ from Western practices because the focus is on pressure points. It often starts at the feet and moves upwards towards the head. This is one of the best ways to relax and to reenergise – an experience you can’t miss out on when you’re visiting Thailand. Much like street food vendors, you won’t need to walk much further than a few hundred meters in Bangkok before you’ll find a massage parlour. You can expect to pay about 200-300 baht for an hour’s treatment.
Get a ride in a tuk-tuk
If you’re looking for unique things to do in Bangkok, sightseeing Bangkok by tuk-tuk might interest you. It may not be the fastest or most practical way of getting around the city, but it certainly is an experience. Many people might tell you to avoid tuk-tuks completely since foreigners are often exploited by drivers who charge way too much. You can avoid this by negotiating the fare before the ride and by refraining from using tuk-tuks during peak hours (07:00-09:00 and 16:00-19:00). You can expect to pay around 30 baht for a short distance trip, so if you need to take a longer trip, consider a taxi, which will roughly cost the same and will be much faster as well. A good idea would be to make a night out of it by taking a tuk-tuk during the evening when you head out for dinner or drinks.
Visit Lumphini Park
If the busy city becomes a bit too much for you, find refuge in the beautiful and peaceful Lumphini Park. The park is a popular spot for locals to relax next to the lake or underneath the trees. The park also offers outdoor entertainment for people of all ages – from swings and jungle gyms for kids to gym equipment for an early morning workout routine. The paths around the park also make for a popular jogging location. You’ll find street food vendors outside all the park’s main entrances, so you’ve got everything you need to camp out for an entire day. You can reach the park by taking the MRT Subway and getting off at either Silom or Lumphini Stations – both are located just across the street from the park. The opening hours are 04:30 until 21:00 every day.
Experience Bangkok’s vibrant nightlife
Bangkok is the ultimate destination for party animals! Bangkok is one of Asia’s most energetic cities after dark and depending on the type of night scene you’re looking for, you’re bound to find it here. Khao San Road, for example, is very popular among younger travellers as it is located in the middle of Bangkok’s most lively backpacking area. Another popular district at night is Sukhumvit, where rooftop bars and dance clubs are in abundance. This area is also home to the infamous red light districts, Soi Cowboy and Nana Plaza. If you’re in the mood for dancing, head to Royal City Avenue, where you’ll find local live music as well as international DJs. Trying to avoid the noisy party scene? The area surrounding the Asiatique Riverfront offers somewhat classier (and quieter) bars and other entertainment like night markets and cultural shows.