Are you looking for travel tips on things to do in Bangkok?
As part of our city guides series, we interviewed Mark Wiens from Migrationology who first landed in Bangkok at the beginning of 2009, and now calls Bangkok his home base.
Mark shares with us his insider tips on the best things to do in Bangkok including where to eat, sleep, shop and explore.
Why Visit Bangkok?
Golden shimmering palaces and temples, solid teakwood mansions, museums of everything imaginable, shopping that never ends, and a smorgasbord of delightful things to eat are all top reasons to include Bangkok on your travel bucket list.
Things to Do in Bangkok
Grand Palace / Wat Phra Kaew (Temple of Emerald Buddha)
Without doubt, the Grand Palace and Wat Phra Kaew (on the same compound), are the most cherished and well known attractions in all of Bangkok. The golden palace and temple is a magical display of Thai craftsmanship, and a must see for any first time visitor to the city.
Wat Pho (Reclining Buddha)
Wat Pho is home of the giant golden reclining Buddha, and is also the location where the original Thai massage was created. It’s a seriously impressive sight you don’t want to miss!
Wat Arun (Temple of the Rising Sun)
One of my personal favorite temples in Bangkok is Wat Arun, located along the Chao Phraya River. You can climb two flights of steps up the main stupa for a fantastic view of the river.
Once the palace of the royal Thai family, the Vimanmek Mansion is the world’s largest golden teakwood structure, and is now set aside as a museum. The mansion itself, and the collection of precious artifacts inside it, are a glimpse into the Thai royal family.
Chatuchak Market (video)
With both permanent stores and makeshift stalls, the Chatuchak weekend market includes around 15,000 vendors. Nearly everything you could possibly desire is available somewhere within the shopping sprawl.
Khlong Toey Market (video)
Local fresh food markets are one of the best places to observe daily life in any city; For Bangkok, it’s the wild and hectic, constantly energized Khlong Toey Market.
Nearly everyone who owns a restaurant or street stall in central Bangkok does their shopping at this market. For a less busy and cleaner option try Or Tor Kor Market, located across the street from Chatuchak Market.
Best Neighborhoods to Explore?
Busy, hectic, packed with stores, and overflowing with food, is Bangkok’s Chinatown. During the day you’ll discover markets selling everything from food to trinkets, and beginning in the evening, you can dine at the countless street food stalls that set up along Yaowarat Road.
Siam / Pratunam
Siam and Pratunam, just a short distance from each other, are the most well known shopping districts in Bangkok. Along with mega malls, you’ll find plenty of street shopping, entertainment, hotels, and restaurants.
Khao San Road
Nearly all backpackers that visit Thailand eventually head to Khao San Road, a street that’s lined with hostels, bars, nightclubs, food, clothing stalls, and loads of travelers.
It’s not everyone’s favorite area of town, but if you’re searching for budget accommodation and nightlife, Khao San Road is a popular option.
Where to Eat in Bangkok?
Sukhumvit Soi 38 (Budget)
There are plenty of top Bangkok street food streets, and one of them is Sukhumvit Soi 38. Every night, street food stalls set up on both sides of the road serving delicious things like pad Thai, soup noodles, stir fried dishes, and Thai salads.
Larb Bpet Yasothon (Budget)
Situated on a sidewalk opposite a cemetery, we’ve nicknamed this popular Silom street restaurant “graveyard dining.” Attracting a large local crowd each evening, their entire menu is superb, especially their green papaya salad and grilled chicken wings.
Boat Noodles (Budget)
Boat noodles are one of the most beloved soup noodle dishes in Bangkok. They were previously served directly from boat vendors floating in canals, but nowadays the most popular place for boat noodles is next to the canal at Victory Monument. The noodles are porky, rich, and always flavorful.
Sabai Jai Gai Yang (Mid)
This long standing Thai restaurant, that’s serves nearly all genres of Thai cuisine, is a great place to meet friends or to share a meal with your family. The grilled chicken is well known, as is their tom yum goong soup.
The Local (Upmarket)
A combination of Royal Thai recipes and home comfort foods is what the chef aims to deliver at The Local. The marvelous array of salads, curries, and stir fried dishes are not only perfectly balanced, but they are elaborately presented.
You Can’t Visit Without Eating ______?
Everything you see!
Ok, I know that’s not completely possible, but the world of Thai food is so diverse and so incredibly exciting to the taste buds, that whatever you come across should be eaten.
That being said, here are a few things you shouldn’t miss.
This is the famous Thai green papaya salad which includes shredded green papaya, tomatoes, dried shrimp, garlic, and chillies. The ingredients are pounded together in a mortar and pestle and dressed in palm sugar, fish sauce, and lots of lime juice.
Khao Neow Moo Ping
There’s no better snack on the streets of Bangkok than a few skewers of freshly grilled pork paired with a bag full of sticky rice!
As mentioned above, they are small bowls of rice noodles blanched with water morning glory, and smothered in rich pork broth.
Pad Kra Pao
Pad kra pao, the most commonly available stir fried dish in Bangkok, is a choice of meat or seafood fried with garlic, chillies, and the all important holy basil. Placed over rice, with a fried egg on the side, this is one of the classic Thai street food dishes.
For more deliciousness, check out this Eating Thai Food Guide
Where to Drink in Bangkok?
Located just down Sukhumvit Soi 11, Cheap Charlie’s is one of the city’s most popular dive bars. It’s a perfect place to grab a drink and hang out.
As one of the best live music venues in Bangkok, Saxophone Pub is a fun place to listen to great music and relax. They serve a variety of beverages and also have a full menu of meals.
The Londoner is a favorite Bangkok British style brewery that offers both food and drink in a classic pub environment.
Open 24 hours, you can get coffee and WiFi around the clock at this popular Silom cafe.
Where to Stay in Bangkok?
New Road Guest House (Budget)
New Road is a friendly budget guest house located on Charoen Krung Road and just a short walk from the Chao Phraya River.
Lub d Siam Square (Mid)
Across the street from MBK shopping mall and right below the National Stadium BTS station, Lub d Siam Square is one of the most conveniently located hostels in the city. It’s a chic hostel with super comfortable beds and incredible showers.
Bangkok Loft Inn (Mid)
This hotel offers fantastic value for price, and makes a perfect place to stay for both families and couples. Located near the BTS Skytrain and very close to the river, you’ll have easy access to Bangkok’s top attractions.
If you’re looking for the ultimate in 5 star luxury, be sure to check out Hansar. I’ve personally never stayed there, but I have heard from friends that it is Bangkok accommodation at its finest.
Best Markets and Shopping in Bangkok?
Shopping is one of the most popular reasons people come to Bangkok, and there’s no better place to get everything you need than at Siam. Including Siam Discovery, Siam Square, Siam Paragon, Central World, and the giant MBK, you’ll never run out of shopping choices.
Just behind Central World, and a short distance from Siam, is Pratunam market. If you want the best deals on locally made wholesale clothes and fashion accessories, go to Pratunam.
Open Saturday and Sunday, Chatuchak weekend market, is one of the top shopping destinations in Bangkok. Wind through the narrow alleys and you’ll find everything from clothes to puppies.
Bangkok is a shopper’s paradise, and for more options, check out these 6 most popular shopping markets.
Major Events and Festivals in Bangkok?
Songkran Festival, which officially takes place from April 13 – 15, is a joyous celebration of ushering in the Thai new year, spending time with family, and playing with water (as Thais refer to it as).
A light sprinkle of water over the head, which was previously a symbol of a fresh clean start, has now turned into an all out water fight throughout the entire country.
During Songkran, stepping outside is like stepping into a swimming pool – you will undoubtedly get splashed. The entire country is ready to have fun, so it’s a perfect time to visit Thailand and celebrate with everyone.
Chinese New Year
The Chinese have long been intertwined into Thailand and Bangkok, so one of the most celebrated holidays of the year is Chinese New Year. Parades, food, and family get togethers are all a part of the occasion.
After falling ill in Thailand, a group of Chinese opera performers decided to go on a strict vegetarian diet. Today, the vegetarian festival is an annual event and attracts many people from around the world.
You’ll find plenty of vegan street stalls throughout Bangkok, especially around Chinatown.
Are you vegetarian? Then check out this vegetarian Thai food guide.
Getting Around Bangkok?
Bangkok literally offers every form of transportation available: train, subway, bus, taxi, canal boat, river boat, motorbike, tuk tuk, and even some man powered rickshaws in certain areas.
Around the central part of Bangkok, the BTS Skytrain (elevated train) and the MRT Subway, are the two most convenient and easy ways to get around. They are new, clean, efficient, and best of all, you don’t have to wait in traffic.
Unfortunately, while the plan is to expand the train lines, as of now they don’t cover the entire city, so it’s necessary to take other forms of transportation as well.
Public river boats are also extremely convenient. Throughout the day, ferry boats usher passengers up and down Bangkok’s central Chao Phraya River, stopping at a series of piers along the way.
Since the area around the river is the old section of Bangkok, many of the most notable attractions are along the banks of the river.
Taxis, tuk tuks, and motorbikes, are all widely available, affordable, and can get you anywhere in the city.
Is Bangkok WiFi friendly?
Yes, and more and more so all the time. Now, just about all Bangkok accommodation includes WiFi as well as many indoor restaurants, cafe’s, and shopping malls.
Terminal 21 is a new and exciting shopping mall that happens to have a nice food court and decent WiFi.
Third Place is a Bangkok workspace club where you can pay 150 THB for a one day pass, and then use their awesome facility, and WiFi for the entire day.
Best Time of Year to Visit Bangkok?
April is the most exciting time of the year in Bangkok and all of Thailand. Though it’s the hottest time of the year, it’s when the famous water festival (which is actually Thai New Years), known as Songkran, takes place.
November / December / January
By relative standards, this period is Bangkok’s cold season, making for a less sweaty and more pleasant visit. December is also one of the busiest tourist seasons, so many of the most well known attractions are packed.
So visiting Bangkok in November or January, when the weather is cooler, but there’s still not as many visitors as in December, makes those months a great time to visit.
Favorite Side trip Away from Bangkok City?
One thing I can’t get enough of in Thailand is the abundance of fresh tropical fruit. I eat a lot of fruit! During the main fruit season, between April and July, I like to go to Suan Supatra Land fruit plantation. Not only can you see the fruit trees and see how each fruit grows, but you can eat as much fruit as you want!
Many people that visit Bangkok head straight for the famous Damnoen Saduak floating market (which is about 1.5 hours outside of Bangkok) under the guidance of all the tour guides and guidebooks. Many don’t realize that within Bangkok there are also quite a few floating markets.
My two favorites are Khlong Lat Mayom and Bang Nam Pheung, both accessible by public transportation. They make a great place to wander, shop, and sample some tasty food.
One of the most well known day trips from Bangkok is to Ayutthaya, an ancient capital of the Siamese kingdom. Visiting temples, ruins, shrines, and forts are all attractions the city has to offer.
Getting There and Away?
Bangkok is a major Southeast Asian hub, so it’s never difficult to find a flight into the city.
There are hundreds of airlines and carriers that land at Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi International Airport. I’ve flown everything from Korean Air to Emirates to China Airlines into Bangkok before.
If coming from other destinations in Southeast Asia, or even a few cities in Australia, Air Asia provides good deals on budget flights. Buses and trains are great, but sometimes if you get a good deal on an Air Asia flight it can save a lot of time, effort, and prices can be very reasonable.
Air Asia operates from Bangkok’s Don Mueang International Airport in the north of the city.
Getting to and from Bangkok by bus is probably the best option after budget flights. There are a number of different classes from sit down seats to luxurious armchairs that lean back into beds.
Mo Chit is Bangkok’s main bus terminal for northern destinations, while most buses bound for the south of the county leave from Sai Tai Mai. To get to some of the major destinations that are close to Bangkok, like Pattaya and Hua Hin, head to the Ekkamai Bus Terminal.
The railroad system is alright, but I wouldn’t call it overly extensive. The Bangkok to Chiang Mai route is a good option and there’s also a railroad line heading south.
Best “insiders” tip?
Local markets are the best places in Bangkok for shopping, people watching, and food. I personally like to go to a market known as Wang Lang Market, a local open air shopping area that includes an outrageous supply of street food and snacks.
This giant 3 headed elephant, which doubles as a temple and private museum, is actually located just outside of Bangkok, in the province of Samut Prakan. But with the extension of the BTS Skytrain (all the way to Bearing station), it’s easy to get there, and it’s a seriously impressive attraction.
That’s right, the spiky, notoriously pungent fruit is what I consider one of the top attractions in Bangkok. Give it a try, you might love it (like I do)!
I love Bangkok because ______?
You never have to walk more than a few steps before you stumble into something that looks delicious!
It really is the incredible mixture of food that made me initially fall in love with Bangkok.
In busy areas of town, every square meter is home to a smiling vendor ready and happy to serve you a plate of spicy green papaya salad or a freshly stir fried plate of chicken with basil. Bangkok is a never ending buffet.
Along with food, I absolutely love the way Bangkok is a very modern functioning city, yet at the same time it remains quite traditional and true to its rich cultural heritage. It’s possible to be surrounded by skyscrapers one moment and then be in a peaceful traditional community the next.
Lastly, I love Bangkok simply because everything is so extraordinarily convenient. Hungry, thirsty, sick, or have any other need whatsoever? You can literally walk outside your door and get whatever it is you need.
About the Author
Mark Wiens was born in the United States, grew up in Kenya, and eventually moved to Thailand where he became insanely obsessed with food. On Migrationology, he shares his latest travel feasts, while on Eating Thai Food he blogs about mouthwatering Bangkok street food.
Can you suggest things to do in Bangkok?