Bangkok is one of those legendary cities that is just so full of life. For first-timers, Bangkok may be a tad bit overwhelming. Don’t worry, as soon as you ease into it, you will actually find the hustle and bustle like no other place.
To help you make the best out of your time in this city, in this article, I will walk you through some of the best things to do in Bangkok. After living on and off in Thailand over the last couple of years, Bangkok has been a place we frequent at least 3x a year.
Between its bright lights, exotic food, along with a myriad of different places to see and things to do, there’s a little bit of something for everyone in this city.
- 1 1. Eat Thai Street Food
- 2 2. Shop at the Chatuchak Market
- 3 3.Visit a Rooftop Bar in Bangkok
- 4 4. Visit Bangkok’s Famous Shopping Malls.
- 5 5. Go Explore Some Temples
- 6 6. Go on a Culinary Food Tour
- 7 7. Eat Your Way Around the Gourmet Michelin Starred Restaurants
- 8 8. People Watching at Khao San Road
- 9 9. Visit the Reclining Buddha
- 10 10. Marvel at the Floating Markets
- 11 11. Do a Thai Cooking Class
- 12 12. Watch a Muay Thai Fight
- 13 13. Visit the Jim Thompson Silk House
- 14 14. Go for a Boat Ride in the Chao Phraya River
- 15 15. Try Durian
- 16 16. Pamper Yourself with a Thai Massage
- 17 17. Chill Out at Lumpini Park
- 18 18. Get a Sak Yant Tattoo
- 19 19. Visit an Airplane Graveyard
- 20 20. Explore the Abandoned The Sathorn Unique Tower
- 21 Day Trips from Bangkok
- 22 Bangkok Travel Tips
1. Eat Thai Street Food
No one in their right mind would come to Bangkok and skip out on its amazing street food. Just the thought of a steaming plate of pad thai along with some cold mango sticky rice is enough to make me hop on a plane.
Oh, did I mention that most meals from the street are only $1? Although its hard not to get delicious street food, our recommendation is to head to Sukhumvit Soi 11, a street in downtown Bangkok whose streets get lined up with street food vendors. Alternatively, you can also check out Yaowarat, Bangkok’s own version of China Town, Ratchawat Market, and Petchaburi Soi 5 for some great street eats.
Netflix Street Food Locations:
Given the popularity of Netflix’s show called Street Food, we decided to include the locations of the places that are being recommended in the show. Listed below are some of the popular street food vendors that people frequent when in Bangkok.
- Jek Pui- If you’re in the mood for a good curry, head on to Jek Pui in China Town for a cheap yet delicious meal.
- Sukhumvit 38 Famous Ba Mee– Another popular street food to try in Bangkok would be the egg noodles in Ba Mee.
- Jai Fai- Being the first street food vendor in Thailand to win a Michelin star, Jai Fai’s popularity has grown year after year. Apart from Netflix’s street food, she was also featured in Somebody Feed Phil and is known for her amazing crab omelets.Although there is now a long queue for her food, people wait in line just to have a taste of her cooking. If you feel like having a Michelin star meal for a fraction of the price, definitely head here. Click the video below to see what she serves.
2. Shop at the Chatuchak Market
Explore and get lost in the maze-like Chatuchak Weekend Market which has about 15,000 vendors. Even if you’re not looking for anything in particular, chances are you will go home with something in tow. From cheap clothes, gadgets, to even exotic animals, Chatuchak Market is a sight to see.
There is also a massive eating area which has loads of cheap and delicious street food. You could easily get lost wandering around the seemingly never-ending maze of stalls. While there are a variety of tours around the area, we recommend that you visit it independently so as you have enough time to wander around.
How to Get to Chatuchak: You can opt to take either the Skytrain (BTS) to Mo Chit station, then exiting at exit no. 1 until you see rows of canvas stalls selling clothes.
Alternatively, you can also take the Subway (MRT) to Chatuchak Park station exiting at exit no.1 until you arrive at the small entrance that leads into the market.
3.Visit a Rooftop Bar in Bangkok
One of my favorite things to do in a city…even if I’m not a city person is to see the skyline of the city at night. We did this when we were in Chicago, New York, and even in Manila.
What better way to admire a city than by going to a rooftop bar in order to take in the sights and sounds. In Bangkok, the Vertigo and Moon bar at the Banyan Tree Hotel is our pick! They serve amazing cocktails, with the most amazing view to match. Trust us, a visit here is a must!
While most of these bars are located in hotels, you can easily reserve a table given that you will pay for food or cocktails. Although the prices are usually much higher, the views are 100% worth it.
Other Rooftop Bars in Bangkok
- Red Square at the Novotel Bangkok Sukhumvit
- Yao Rooftop Bar at the Marriott Hotel
- Penthouse Rooftop Bar at the Park Hyatt Bangkok
- Cru Champagne Bar at the Centara Grand at CentralWorld
4. Visit Bangkok’s Famous Shopping Malls.
If you can’t stand the heat but you still want to shop, check out many of Bangkok’s famous shopping centers like Pratunam, Siam Square, Siam Paragon, Central World, and MBK. Known for their bargain shopping, these destinations are great as they are usually a one-stop shop that has everything from clothes, electronics, footwear and more.
Here is a quick map that I made which has all the locations of the popular shopping malls around Bangkok.
5. Go Explore Some Temples
Bangkok is home to many impressive temples which are not to be missed. If you’re a big temple fan, this is the place for you. If you just want to see the highlights, don’t miss out on the Grand Palace and Wat Phra Kaew which are located in the same compound.
Here, you can marvel at their intricate craftsmanship and architecture. Lastly, don’t forget to visit Wat Arun which is also known as the Temple of the Rising Sun.
Other Temples Worth Visiting
- Wat Traimit
- Wat Saket
- Golden Mount
- Wat Kalayanamit
What to Wear in Temples
Please note that you have to observe proper attire when entering the temples. Shorts and sleeveless tops aren’t allowed. You also need to cover your knees and shoulders at all times (even for men). Flipflops and sandals without back straps aren’t really allowed either so make sure you keep this in mind.
It will save you a lot of time if you have the proper items of clothing with you when visiting these locations. Otherwise, there are booths outside where you can rent sarongs to cover up.
Grand Temple Scams
There are a few popular travel scams around the Grand Temple area so make sure you only get tickets from the official ticket window and don’t listen to anyone who tries telling you that the area is closed. They are just trying to upsell you on a private tour.
If you want to see all the temples in one go, we recommend this temple walking tour which takes you to all the temple highlights. For a quick guide to the city, discover the best of Bangkok with Expedia’s tourism guide.
6. Go on a Culinary Food Tour
If you want to know where the locals dine, we recommend going on a food tour which takes you to some of the best street food stalls in the country. We love doing this in Bangkok because the local guides always have so much good advice on what to do in the city.
Recommended Food Tours in Bangkok
7. Eat Your Way Around the Gourmet Michelin Starred Restaurants
If you’re a foodie like me, Bangkok is heaven as they have so many dining options. If you want to live it up for a night, you can opt to eat in many of Bangkok’s Michelin Starred restaurants. The episode of Chef’s Table and Somebody Feed Phil featured a few popular places including Gaggan and Bo.lan.
Gaggan is a progressive Indian fine dining restaurant that has made waves in the BKK food scene. Although it is set to close in 2020, it is still frequented by many. For another impressive meal, Bo.lan gives you a glimpse of what traditional Thai food is, using only local and sustainable ingredients.
8. People Watching at Khao San Road
Known as the backpacker hub, Khao San road is an interesting area lined with people, food stalls, bars, and hostels. Soak in the hustle and bustle of Bangkok by sitting in one of the many street bars and watch the world go by.
If you’re traveling alone, Khao San Road is a great place to meet other travelers. Do take note that it is BUSY. We wouldn’t recommend staying there as the hostels can get a bit loud, but do yourself a favor and check it out at one point.
If you’re looking for something a little bit quieter, Soi Rambuttri has a similar vibe without being over the top chaotic.
9. Visit the Reclining Buddha
To see the iconic reclining and gold Buddha, head over to Wat Pho where you can wander around their massive compound. This place was also where the first Thai massage was created. Wat Pho is set in the banks of the Chao Phraya River and is considered an icon in Bangkok.
It is known as Wat Pho, Wat Phra Chetun, and the Temple of the Reclining Buddha and is located just South of the Grand Temple which makes it convenient for those who are sightseeing in the area.
10. Marvel at the Floating Markets
Not too far away from the city are Tailing Chan or Khlong Lat Mayom, home of the floating markets in Thailand. Tailing Chan is located only 12 km from downtown Bangkok, making it an ideal place to visit unlike the larger markets like Damnoen Saduak which is a lot farther.
You can hop on a small longtail boat cruise to see the sights as you watch the locals trade, sell, and bargain various items. There are loads of food for sale but the markets can also get very busy so best to head there in the mornings. The particular tour listed above is a great way to cover all the sights in one day.
Because these places are easily accessible by public transport, we recommend avoiding a tour group. Experience it for yourself and you might even make a local friend or two. Other floating markets are Amphawa, Bang Nam Pheung. If you want more information, check out this article for a list of the best floating markets in Bangkok.
11. Do a Thai Cooking Class
If you want to learn how to cook your own Thai food, we recommend taking cooking classes while in the area. The cooking classes in Bangkok are out of this world with heaps of choices and varieties! Check out the link above to see the various cooking classes available.
We’ve taken cooking classes in all corners of the world and will continue to do so as it is the ultimate travel souvenir for us and is the perfect way to instantly be able to go back to a place.
12. Watch a Muay Thai Fight
For those people that have been living under a rock for the last few years, Muay Thai is a Thai combat sport that is very popular in the country. It’s quite similar to MMA, but still, has some differences which make each one stand out.
The city has two national stadiums, Ratchadamnoen or Lumpini which has regular Muay Thai fights. Try to score tickets to these matches and you will find yourself highly entertained! This Muay Thai tour guarantees you good seats, allowing you to fully take in the vibe of the place.
The ambiance, the fight, the spectators, oh and of course, the beer and other stadium snacks all contribute to the overall experience.
13. Visit the Jim Thompson Silk House
For those that are interested in textiles, a visit to the Jim Thompson silk house is a must. The traditional teak houses where the complex is located at are also an architectural feat and are considered highlights for those that come and visit.
14. Go for a Boat Ride in the Chao Phraya River
Take a break from the business of Bangkok and peacefully sail down the Chao Phraya River. There are tons of river tours where you can enjoy dinner, live music, all while watching the spectacular Bangkok sunsets.
During your river ride, you will see hotels, wooden shacks, old colonial buildings, and temples. The local water taxi will also allow you to interact with the locals in comparison to the ones just for tourists. You can ride these boats from the Sathorn Pier to the Grand Palace and back.
15. Try Durian
You can’t say you’ve been to Bangkok (or anywhere in Thailand) if you don’t try durian. Loosely dubbed as “the king of fruits”, it is known worldwide due to its distinct smell. Most hotels don’t even allow durian to be brought in the premises due to the smell so trying it while you’re out in the streets is your best bet.
For me, its a type of fruit that you either love or hate. If you can get past the odor, the rich creamy texture and flavor of this fruit are obsessed by durian lovers. You can find these all over the streets of Bangkok and is considered a delicacy by many.
16. Pamper Yourself with a Thai Massage
After a busy day of sightseeing and walking around, there is no better way to end your day than a massage. I mean, seriously! Now given that you are in the place where Thai massages originated, there is no shortage of spas and massage places. For an affordable treatment, head on over to Ruen Nuad by Convent Road.
Here, you can avail of a no-frills massage with a simple menu composing of a Thai massage, foot massage, and one with aromatic oils.
Another well recommended and popular spa is Health Land. Despite being a chain, they come well recommended and gives good value for their massages (2 hours for 500THB ($14)…Unreal!)
17. Chill Out at Lumpini Park
If you’re looking to escape the busy streets of Bangkok, head over to Lumpini Park where you will find both locals and tourists strolling around. The park itself is more than half a million square meters big, and the home to different kinds of plants and flowers.
Strolling around there is highly entertaining as there is always something going on. People laying on mats taking naps, doing various fitness activities, and even live music performing during the weekends. Naturally, there are also lots of food vendors near the gate of Rama VI statue, making instant picnics possible!
Related: Need more inspiration check out these 20 Fun Things to do in Bangkok.
18. Get a Sak Yant Tattoo
While in Bangkok, you can look at getting a Sak Yant Tattoo from a monk. Rather than looking at this as a souvenir, the Sak Yant Tattoos are a rather sacred experience where you are blessed by a sacred prayer, designed specifically for you.
This is an incredible experience and is something that is both sacred and memorable. If you want to read more about it, you can do so here.
19. Visit an Airplane Graveyard
If you like photography and exploring the unique and unusual, visit the airplane graveyard which is home to a bunch of abandoned airplanes, including a 747 plane which is now home to a family. For a small fee ($8-10), you can walk around the area and take as many photos as you want.
20. Explore the Abandoned The Sathorn Unique Tower
All over Instagram, you can find photos of people scaling up abandoned hotels and towers. One of the most famous ones is the Sathorn Unique which is a 49-story luxury hotel which has been abandoned due to the financial crisis.
If you do decide to go, make sure you wear closed shoes and bring some water with you as the walk up the stairs is steep!
There you have it, folks! A good mix of sightseeing, culture, shopping, and relaxation. Having been to Bangkok on multiple occasions, I can attest that every time I go, I find something about it that completely enamors me, over and over again.
Day Trips from Bangkok
There are heaps of great day trips in Bangkok that are worth visiting. Listed below are just a few of our top recommendations.
Kanchanaburi Highlights 1-Day Small Group Tour– Travel back in time to see the famous bridge build in WWII by war prisoners near the town of Kanchanaburi. This tour is a must for history buffs!
Ayutthaya Temples & Floating Market Day Trip– A trip to the ancient city and temples in Ayuthaya is a must for those interested in culture, history, and photography!
Bangkok Travel Tips
Pre-Travel Information: Before traveling to Thailand make sure you understand the visa situation. Most people are able to get a Thailand online visa and some on arrival. Either way, make sure you do your research.
After Bangkok, whether you’re heading to the Thai Islands or up to Northern Thailand, save time by booking your bus, train, and ferry schedules ahead of time. Click here to see the transportation schedules from 12go or Bookaway. We’ve been using these companies for years while traveling all over Southeast Asia and found them to be a fantastic resource that will save you loads of time!
Where to Stay in Bangkok
Naturally, there are literally thousands of places to stay while in Bangkok. A few things that you would have to consider when choosing a place would be the location, distance to the things you want to see, and budget. Check out our article which has multiple places to stay, varying from budget hostels to nice splurges for hotels.