Looking for the best things to do in Bangkok? This comprehensive guide will give you all the tools you need to make the most of your time in the gateway to Southeast Asia.
We love Bangkok. It’s exciting and a bit hectic, but full of amazing food and culture. The sprawling metropolis is huge. With so many things to do, Bangkok can be difficult to decide how best to spend your time.
But don’t worry, we’re here to help. We have spent a ton of time in Thailand, from 2000 until just last year, and have always started off all of our travels through Southeast Asia in Bangkok. It is the place we go back to again and again. You could say it is one of our favorite cities in Asia.
Best Things to do in Bangkok
When we first visited Bangkok in 2000, we were confused and hit by some major culture shock. I also remember saying I wish I had a comprehensive guide to break down exactly what to do in the city.
We don’t want you to be in the same boat as we were so we teamed up with local expert Stella Saintis and put together this ultimate guide on the best places to visit in Bangkok.
Stella has lived in Bangkok for two years and compiled this list of the top things to do in Bangkok. It includes the top attractions, points of interest, and some unique things you to please any visitor!
1. Take a Boat Tour of the Chao Phraya River
The Chao Phraya River is the heart of Bangkok. It is what gives Bangkok its name, the Venice of the East. There are so many sites to see along the Chao Phraya River that you could spend all your time here and feel that you had a good introduction to Bangkok. It is easily accessed from Bangkok’s main backpacker ghetto, Khao San Road and the Skytrain goes directly to the river from Sukhumvit and other popular Bangkok neighbourhoods.
Hopping on the River and taking the Skytrain is one of the best ways to get around Bangkok. It’s easy to. The Chao Phraya River is one of our favorite places to stay in Bangkok as well. See our full break down here. We have stayed on the river at used the boats along it as taxis. We take in the sites at sunset, enjoyed longtail boat tours and had sunset cruises. You can spend a few days exploring this beautiful river.
From the Chao Phraya River you can easily check off some of the top attractions to visit in Bangkok like the Grand Palace, Wat Pho, Chinatown, The Oriental Hotel and Wat Arun.
2. Explore The Grand Palace
Arguably one of the most popular things to do in Bangkok is the Grand Palace. For most people, it is also the first place to visit in Bangkok. Built in 1782, the Grand Palace was once known by its original name, Phra Borom Maharatchawangit, it was once the royal residence and housed government administrative buildings. Today, it is open to the public and is a must-do in Bangkok. You can only visit some of the building but make sure not to miss the Grand Palace Hall.
Wat Phra Kaew
Inside the grounds sits the famous Wat Phra Kaew – Temple of the Emerald Buddha, where visitors can catch a glimpse of the emerald Buddha statue. Make sure to dress properly when visiting – covered shoulders and legs – since there are sacred temples inside the palace complex.
Learn about the history of the Grand Palace on this Flexi Walking Tour.
- Cost: 500 baht per person
- Opening Hours: 08:00 – 17:00
Scam Alert: Many local touts and tuk tuk drivers will tell you that the temples are closed and then offer to take you to other temples that are open. Ignore them and see for yourself. The are trying to get you in the tuk tuk to take you to jewelry shops and markets where they receive commissions.
3. Wat Pho
One of the most famous wats, (the Thai word for temple) in Bangkok is Wat Pho located just behind the Grand Palace. Inside, visitors can see the Reclining Buddha. This massive golden statue that takes up the entire temple. It is probably the most famous reclining Buddha in the world and if there is one Buddha that is a must-see in Bangkok, this is it.
Wat Pho is located just beside the Grand Palace so you can definitely visit both of these attractions, as well as Way Arun in the same day. These three temples alone are the most popular things to do in Bangkok.
My advice is to go early as both of these attractions can become incredibly packed with people. Also, if you can plan your visit during the week you will avoid the throngs of tourists that flock there on the weekends. Locals from all around Thailand come to visit these temples throughout the year especially during the Thai Holidays.
- Cost: 200 baht per person
- Opening hours: 08:00 – 18:30
Travel Tips for Seeing the Wats
Be sure to dress accordingly when visiting temples in Thailand: visitors are required to have their shoulders and legs covered, so having a light shirt to throw on and a lightweight long skirt/pants are best. They do provide a cover-up for visitors who are not dressed appropriately.
Local Tip: At the back of the grounds is a famous Thai massage school, which some Thai people claim is the best massage in Bangkok. You can visit both temples independently very easily. But having a tour guide will give you a better understanding.
GetYourGuide has a good day tour of Bangkok that shows you all the most popular things to do in Bangkok with a private guide.
4. Wat Arun
A short ferry ride across the river from Wat Pho and the Grand Palace is Wat Arun, the Temple of the Dawn. The temple’s central spire is famous in the skyline of Bangkok along the river and even if you have never heard of Wat Arun, you will be familiar with it. For just 4 baht, visitors can catch a ferry across the river from Wat Pho to Wat Arun and wander the grounds of another stunningly beautiful Thai temple.
You should visit Wat Arun in the morning or at sunset to avoid the crowds. Make sure to walk around the grounds. You can also walk up the first set of stairs on the main pyramid but the ones that go higher up were gated off as of this update.
If you don’t want to ride the ferry, grab a drink at one of the restaurants with great views of the river and temple in the background.
- Hours: 8:00 am – 5:30 pm
- Cost: 50 baht per person
- Accessible via taxi, tuk-tuk, Grab Taxi (Thailand’s Uber) or ferry
5. Wat Traimit
In Chinatown, visitors can visit this temple in order to see the largest solid gold Buddha statue in the world! The Golden Buddha is located on the 4th floor of the temple. Underneath on the 2nd and 3rd floors are the Chinese Cultural Center with a museum dedicated to the history of the Chinese in Bangkok as well as information on the discovery of the Golden Buddha. This is really something you have to see.
6. Sampeng Lane Market in Chinatown
For a unique shopping experience, check out this tiny walking street in Chinatown. Shoppers can find just about anything here at wholesale prices, including fabrics, electronics, toys, beauty supplies and much more.
The street is narrow and often congested, but the hectic vibe gives visitors a fun and definitely different shopping experience than they are used to. The maze of streets that make up this market means you may get lost at some point, so be sure to set aside an hour or two to really immerse yourself in this Chinatown staple.
7. Eiah Sae – Local Recommendation for Coffee
Looking for things to do in Bangkok that are locally authentic? This small coffee shop on a side street in Chinatown is the best place to go for a Thai coffee, which is a strong coffee with lots of sweetened condensed milk added. The recipe has been handed down for many generations. It is one of the oldest coffee shops in the city and is well-known by the locals.
8. Khaosan Road (Khao San Road)
When looking for cheap things to do in Bangkok this is a great place to book tours, find cheap eats, drinks and cheap accommodation. For backpackers, Khoa San road is one of the best places to stay. Plus, those looking to party in Bangkok should look no further than Khao San Road.
No trip to Bangkok would be complete without stopping to see this iconic street. Khaosan Road is popular with backpackers and budget travelers due to a large number of cheap hostels in the area. Drinks at any of the bars are extremely affordable, and the night clubs here are always packed.
There are many stores to shop for souvenirs, as well as massage parlors for those looking to relax with a foot or classic Thai massage. This is also my favorite place to sit down, grab a Chang beer and people watch. There are characters of all shapes and sizes.
Things to see near Khao San Road
There is a reason that Khao San Road is the original backpackers hangout. It is located near many of the top things to see in Bangkok including all of the sites along the Chao Phraya River. But other sites to see are:
- Wat Saket – The Golden Mount Temple is located on Golden Mountain (Phu Khao Thong) 50 baht per person 07:00 – 19:00
- Democracy Monument – You’ll see this while driving in taxis and tuk tuks towering in the centre of a traffic circle. It was built in 1932, to commemorate the Siamese Revolution.
9. Thai Cooking School
A cooking course in Thailand is something that Bangkok is famous for and something you have to try. We are always cooking Thai at home now that we know how to make it!
Thai food is some of the best in the world and one of the best ways to learn about it and understand what to order at street food stands or in the restaurant is to take a cooking class! You’ll never be confused again.
One of the best cooking schools is called Silom Thai Cooking School. They offer classes every day of the week and even include a market tour in order for guests to see the actual ingredients used in the dishes. At the end of the class, you get a cookbook with all of the recipes and many more to take home with you!
Plus, doing a cooking class is a great way to get to know Thai food and to help understand its culture. After you have taken a cooking course, head out on a food tour to sample all the delicious Thail Cuisine.
10. Take a Food Tour
Once you’ve taken a cooking course, be sure to head out on the town to enjoy a Food Tour to check out Bangkok’s famous street stalls and street food. Popular tours take you to enjoy the best street food in Bangkok.
This food tour combines the best way to get around the city, (in a tuk-tuk) with a food and temple tour. Visit the famous Flower Market, enjoy street food and explore Wat Po.
11. Street Food – Eat like a Local
When in Bangkok, you must indulge in the delicious food that Thailand is famous for. The best (and cheapest) way to do this is to try the street food! Thai locals almost exclusively eat street food, since it is much cheaper than buying all of the many ingredients needed and cooking it for themselves.
Many tourists are nervous about eating street food, fearing they will get sick. But street food offers some of the best foodie experiences in Bangkok. It is always fresh and cooked well.
I lived in Thailand for 2 years and only got sick one time, and I ate the street food almost every day. Do not let stop you from enjoying what is some of the best food available in the country!
12. Lumpini Park (Lumphini Park)
If you are looking for one of the more quieter things to do in Bangkok, a visit to Lumpini Park is a great option. It offers a little break from the chaos of Bangkok. This refreshing green space is also the biggest park in Bangkok.
There are many things to do in Lumpini Park to fill the day. troll the many walkways or rent a paddleboat to take out on the lake. Be sure to buy some food for the fish who live there. And keep an eye out for the giant monitor lizards which roam freely.
If you are in the mood for an exercise class, you can join Thais of all ages and dance along to music in one of the aerobics classes in the evenings. You will often see older Thai practicing Tai Chi which is so relaxing even if you are just watching.
For me, one of the best things to do in Bangkok is to hang out here early in the morning or at sunset and enjoy the peacefulness.
13. Get a Traditional Thai Massage
One of the best things to do in Bangkok that make you feel rich but is very affordable is to have a traditional Thai Massage. Thai people love getting massages and see it as an essential part of staying healthy. In fact, they go to get massages multiple times a week. To experience this Thai tradition, check out any of the hundreds of massage shops throughout the city.
For more of a luxurious experience, go to one of the branches of Health Land. There you will get a private room and top of the line treatment for an incredibly cheap price.
- Cost: If you go to one of the fancier spas, you will pay about 1000 baht (this usually includes a welcome drink and a private room).
- Many smaller local spots will charge around 250 baht.
- Make sure to read our guide on Spa Etiquette!
14. Visit a Floating Market
There are two floating markets located outside of Bangkok, and they make a wonderful day trip.Of the two (Damnoen Saduk Floating Market and Amphawa), I found the latter to be less touristy and more authentic.
To get to this floating market from Bangkok, simply take a van from the southern bus terminal that will drop you near the entrance. Be sure to enjoy some fresh seafood while strolling the many stalls. I also encourage you to take a boat tour to see more of the surrounding area.
You can also hire a longtail boat to take you through the Klongs where you can see smaller markets without having to go a long way out of the city.
Scam Alert! The Floating Markets are extremely popular, and though the majority of Thai people are friendly and helpful be aware of the scammers. You should not pay more than 100 Baht per person and make sure to depart from one of the official docks around town.
If you want to avoid the hassle consider booking one of these reputable tours:
- Damnoen Saduak Floating Market 6 Hour tour
- Damnoen Saduak Floating Market & Maeklong Train Market Tour
- Bangkok’s Must-See Weekend Floating Markets Private Day Trip
- Damnoen Saduak Tour and Authentic Thai Cookery Class
15. Unicorn Cafe
Bangkok is home to many cute cafes (including a Hello Kitty Cafe and a mermaid Cafe) but my favorite one is still the Unicorn Cafe. If you are also a fan of anything rainbow or unicorn themed, then this cafe is a must!
They serve up delicious sweet treats that are all very colorful, as well as food such as rainbow spaghetti.For those wanting to take a unique picture, grab one of the unicorn costumes they have for guests to pose in! Visiting the Unicorn Cafe is definitely one of the more unique things to see in Bangkok.
16. Jim Thompson House
If traditional Thai architecture and art interest you, then the Jim Thompson House should be on your list of places to visit. Jim Thompson was an American businessman who came to Thailand and started a textile business to promote Thai silk. Because of him, the Thai Silk industry was born and is still thriving to this day.
His house has been turned into a museum to pay tribute to Jim Thompson. It is an excellent example of different Thai architectural styles. During the tour, the guide tells visitors all about his life… and mysterious death.
While the house is lovely, my favorite part was the lush vegetation located all around the grounds, making me feel like I was in a jungle in the middle of the bustling city. Jim Tompson’s house has been one of the best things to do in Bangkok for decades.
17. Manhanakhon Skywalk
The tallest building in Thailand recently opened up the newest addition to the observation deck scene in the city. It offers the best views of Bangkok. Visitors can take in 360-degree views of the city from 314 meters up in the sky. The bravest can walk out on the glass floor to view the city from unprecedented heights.
After taking in the bird’s eye views of Bangkok, grab a drink at the rooftop bar and toast to the City of Angels. This attraction is not for the faint of heart!
18. Royal Bangkok Sports Club
For those visitors looking to try something off the traditional tourist trail in Bangkok, head to the Royal Bangkok Sports Club! Every other Sunday, the club opens its a door to the public for horse racing and gambling.
This is the only location in Thailand where it is legal to gamble, so many of the locals come to try their luck. The racing may not be up to the high international standards, but it provides a fun activity. Food and drinks are available for purchase as well.
19. Chatuchak Weekend Market
The sheer size of the Chatuchak market is part of what makes it such a popular destination in Bangkok. Shoppers can find just about anything at Chatuchak Market, at crazy cheap prices.
The Chatuchak Market is one of the largest markets in the world, and one of the best places in Thailand pick up your souvenirs. The best time to visit is earlier in the day on the weekends, before the crowds and infamous Bangkok heat hit.
If you get hungry while shopping, there are small street stalls located in one section of the market. It’s another chance to try some Thai street food. Chatuchak market also has places to get a Thai massage if you need to relax (and enjoy some AC!)
20. Go the Shopping Mall at Siam Square
Bangkok is home to some of the largest shopping malls in Southeast Asia where you can shop for high-end brand names and cheap bargains.
The MBK Centre, Siam Paragon, and Central World shopping mall will blow your mind. These malls make for a great escape from the heat and offer plenty of chances to people watch. You can walk around the entire area on walkways above the traffic and congestion.
They are connected indoors as well where you can enjoy air conditioning.
21. Siam Paragon
We love going to Siam Paragon to watch a movie. Siam Paragon is the more high end, luxury shopping mall in Bangkok. It houses the Bangkok Ocean World Aquarium, indoor luxury car dealers, The Thai Art Gallery and opera house. Being one of the largest shopping malls in SEA, it is definitely one of the best places to go shopping in all of Thailand.
There are also good bargains to be had as well at the MBK Centre. The malls are easy to get to on public transportation as they are located directly on Skytrain line.
22. Bangkok Art and Culture Centre
The Bangkok Art and Cultural Centre is locaterd among the famous shopping malls of Bangkok in the heart of the city. It is a great place to meet up with friends, catch one of its revolving display of Thai Art, see live music or just go to the library to browse and have a coffee. It is located at the BTS Skytrain station and is close to attractions like National Stadium, Siam Paragon, MBK Centre and more. Cost: Free
23. Take a Tuk Tuk Ride
One of the coolest ways to get around the city is to take a ride on a Tuk Tuk. If it’s your first time to Bangkok, don’t miss hiring a tuk tuk to take you around. Thailand is famous for these three wheeler odes of transportation that skip through traffic with ease. The exhaust can be heavy, so we don’t recommend taking tuks tuks all the time, but once in a while they are a lot of fun.
Scam Alert: Tuk Tuk drivers should cost about 100 baht for a reasonable length ride. If they charge too little, you can be sure they will take you on a ride to markets and shops were they get a commission. If the price seems to good to be true, it probably is. Read our post 17 Travel Scams Around the World and How You Can Avoid Them
24. Flower Market
Located along the Chao Phraya River the Bangkok Flower Market is the largest flower market in Thailand. Bangkok is filled with flower displays around the country and every hotel, eatery or shop will have some sort of flower arrangement.
It is most likely that this is where those flowers come from. The busy chaotic market is a good addition to a tour of China Town. It is also very easy to get to with its own stop on the Chao Phraya River.
25. Muay Thai Boxing Class
A fun way to get to know Thai culture and get a workout at the same time is to take a Muay Thai boxing class!
I took classes regularly at the Chakrit Muay Thai School, which had a great central location and was close to the BTS. The teachers there were all very friendly and worked one-on-one with students in every class. I learned a lot about proper technique and always left super sweaty!
Dave and I saw a professional Muay Thai Match in Bangkok and Chiang Mai and this is another one of Bangkok ‘s must-see attractions. There are Muay Thai training centres all over Thailand and we highly recommend giving it a try. It’s a great way to immerse in the culture. Check out our Muay Thai Training in Phuket
26. Lebua Tower Sky Bar
Fans of the movie The Hangover 2 will immediately recognize the golden dome at the top of this rooftop bar.
Located at the top of the Leuba Hotel, the Sky Bar is a popular destination for those looking to see the city from above at night.
It claims to be one of the highest rooftop bars in the world, and the view is definitely second to none.
27. Soi Cowboy
Another popular place in Bangkok at night is the late-night area is Soi Cowboy. Located just off the BTS, this street is a well known red-light district, most famous for its ‘ping pong’ shows.
We do not recommend going to these as there is a real problem in Thailand with human trafficking.
The area got its name from T.G ‘Cowboy’ Edwards, an American airman who was famous for wearing a cowboy hat. He opened the first bar in the district
If a Go-Go bar is not up your alley, head down the street to Soi 11, another popular late-night hangout and fun of bars and clubs.
Bangkok Travel Tips
Plan Your Bangkok and Thailand Vacation
- Currency – 1USD = 31.27 Thai Baht. Get the XP currency Converter App for currency calculations
- ATMs can be found everywhere but take out large sums at a time as Thailand banks charge a 150 baht ($5 USD) fee above and beyond your bank’s service charges.
- Pick up your Lonely Planet Travel Guide – This is our go-to city guide and country guide when traveling the world. We’ve used Lonely Planet since 2000.
- Invest in a BTS Rabbit Card – an extremely versatile stored-value electronic card that can be used for most public transport as well as at many merchants around Bangkok.
- SIM Cards are easy to buy at the MBK Centre in Bangkok for your unlocked smartphones. Data is cheap and fast.
- When we were last in Thailand, we used KnowRoaming for unlimited data at $7.99 per day.
- You can also download the GRAB app which is Thailand’s answer to Uber.
- Thailand power voltage is: 220 V; Plugs A & C
- For electronics, we use the Eagle Creek Travel adapter in conjunction with the Belkin Mini Surge Protector.
- It’s all we need to charge 5 devices at once. Three plugs and two USB Chargers.
Where to Stay in Bangkok
We have a complete breakdown of where to stay in Bangkok explaining neighborhoods and suggested accommodations for budget, mid-range, and luxury hotels.
You can go to that Bangkok guide directly here, or you can click below to see each area.
- Banglamphu – Home to the Grand Palace and Khao San Road this is the best places to say in Bangkok for Backpackers.
- Bangrak – For those on the hunt for amazing food, this is a great option.
- Chinatown – One of the oldest areas of Bangkok.
- Sukhumvit – A modern and cosmopolitan area in central Bangkok.
- Siam – For those looking to shop ’til they drop mear Siam Paragon, BMK Centre and the Sky Train.
- Chao Phraya River – We loved staying on the Chao Phraya being close to the Grand Palace, and Wats Arun and Pho. Easy access to the sky train and Khao San Road.
When is the best time to visit Bangkok?
Bangkok is hot year-round and it can be visited at any time of the year.
While you can save during shoulder season and the offseason, Bangkok is a relatively affordable place to visit with many different types of accommodation for all budgets.
- November – March: the high season for Bangkok tourism. This is the dry season in Bangkok and it is also the busiest time of year. Prices are higher during the high season, but there is ample budget accommodation around the city. In our opinion, this is the best time to visit Bangkok
- July and August – are low seasons and this is also the wettest time of the year. Expect heavy rains, but they don’t last for too long.
- April – June is shoulder season and the rains are beginning. This is also the time of year when Bangkok is at it’s hottest. We have visited Bangkok in April and can attest it is hot and wet.
- September – October – We have visited during October and it was a very pleasant time to explore Bangkok. Because it is shoulder season and just starting to ramp up to the high season, deals can be had at more luxurious hotels. It isn’t quite as hot as November through March and rains happen in the afternoon.
Getting Around Bangkok
In Bangkok, visitors have a range of options to choose from for getting around the city. The best way to get around Bangkok is to use public transit. It has an efficient public transportation system that is fast and affordable.
The BTS sky train has frequent stops with access to many of the most popular tourist destinations. The Sky train is relatively cheap, and train cards can be topped up in stations very easily. The BTS sky train has two lines, so at connecting stations, pay attention to the direction and line you are getting on.
The MRT is the underground system that operates in much the same way as the BTS sky train, though they do use separate cards.
Tuk Tuk – For a more traditional feel, try a tuk-tuk. These three-wheel taxis are a fun way to take in the sights and sounds as you cruise to your destination. Always make sure to agree to a price BEFORE getting in a taxi or tuk-tuk.
Taxis – Ask the driver to turn on the meter. Negotiating is encouraged, as drivers will often inflate the price for visitors. I was often shocked by what tourists would pay for a taxi. Don’t get scammed!
Also, be aware that taxi drivers often refuse to take passengers; they may hear your destination and decide they don’t want to drive there. Other drivers will refuse to turn on the meter. Have no fear, as there are more than enough taxis to find one to take you where you need to go at the price that works for you.
Chao Phraya River – See our video below or click here to watch – how to navigate the Chao Phraya independently. There are tourist boats, public boats and boat taxis on the Chao Phraya ranging from 15 baht to 40 baht for Tourist boat.
Uber is no longer in Bangkok, but they have the GRAB taxi app which is similar.
Selected Bangkok Tours
Bangkok can be chaotic for people new to the city. A good tour can help you orient yourself to the city and make you feel more comfortable.
You can find a list of good Bangkok Tours here at GetYourGuide. We use Get Your Guide for our tours around the world. They are easy to book in advance, at the last minute and most tours have easy cancellation up to 24 hours before the tour.
Night Market and Temple Tours by Tuk Tuk – Going out in a new city at night can be intimidating. But Bangkok is a place the thrives at night. So if you feel uncomfortable exploring on your own at first, book this tuk-tuk night tour to see the markets and temples at night.
Take a cooking course so you can recreate your Bangkok experiences at home. There’s a great list of classes to browse here.
Bangkok Day Trips
It is worth getting out of Bangkok to see the sites. Popular day trips from Bangkok are to the floating markets and Ayuthaya.
Floating markets are 90 minutes from Bangkok, Ayuthaya is 1 hour and Kanchanaburi is a 2-hour drive.
Ayuthaya with Photo Tour Guide – This full-day tour includes air-con transfers from Bangkok, a boat tour around Ayuthaya and a photography guide.
Floating Market tours – Browse this list to choose the floating market tour that best suits your travel style.
Tours can be booked at the last minute and most tours offer easy cancellation up to 24 hours before departure.
Bangkok is a city where no one could ever get bored.
From the food to the temples, museums, shopping, and with new attractions added every year, it is a place to visit more than once.
It’s no wonder there is so much to see and do in Bangkok, it’s a city that needs to be visited again and again.
We’ve barely scratched the surface of everything there is to do in Bangkok and we look forward to going back to tell you more! Have you been to Bangkok?
What did we miss and what should we do on our next visit? Please let us know other ideas for what to do in Bangkok.
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Read More Bangkok Travel Tips
- Where to Stay in Bangkok – A Guide to the Best Neighborhoods
- 3 Days in Bangkok – The Perfect Bangkok Itinerary
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- The Importance of Responsible Tourism in Thailand
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