13 Fabulous And Simply Unmissable Things To Do In Bangkok

13 Fabulous And Simply Unmissable Things To Do In Bangkok

Who knew that there are so many things to do in Bangkok? I stopped there for a few days during my second trip to South East Asia, on my way to Vietnam. After having visited Indonesia in October 2015 on what was an enlightening experience as well as a complete cultural shock, I wasn’t expecting much from the Thai capital or from Asia, to be honest. I just had no idea of what to do in Bangkok, I guess.

I must admit it positively surprised me. Truth be told, before going I didn’t know much about Bangkok; I had never bothered researching about what to do in Bangkok. I just thought of it as yet another huge city. The thing is, I don’t really enjoy big cities and, for as interesting as they might be, after spending a mere two days exploring the must sees and browsing the museums, I start feeling suffocated by the concrete and the crowds and I feel the urge to leave and immerse myself in nature. That’s what happened when I visited Buenos Aires, in Argentina. That’s how I felt when I went to Panama City, in Panama.

However, none of this happened to me in Bangkok. There are a million things to do in Bangkok, and so many things to see in Bangkok that would keep me entertained for days on end. It is a fantastic place to visit for solo travelers, and there are plenty of Bangkok solo travel tips online to help a girl find her way around and have a blast.

what to do in Bangkok

One of the best things to do in Bangkok is visiting the temples

Bangkok is a fantastic introduction to the region and a great starting point to further explore Thailand – it is fairly easy to reach the famous Thai islands such as Koh Chang from Bangkok. It is busy and full of life, with a very Asian soul, yet international and open minded. It helped me ease down the inevitable cultural shock of jumping from the Western world to the completely different South East Asia, and the range of things to do in Bangkok is incredible.

As I set out to discover what to do in Bangkok, I finally understood why so many travelers rave about it. Although I only had a few days to explore Bangkok, I managed to make the most of it and to get a good feel for the city. I have thus decided to put together my personal selection of the things to do in Bangkok in just a few days, with a few recommendations to save time (and money) here and there.

13 Unmissable Things To Do In Bangkok In Just A Few Days

Enjoy Bangkok funky architecture and multiple layers

Among the millions of things to do in Bangkok, I particularly enjoyed admiring its funky architecture. I was immediately captured by how modern skyscrapers stand right next to historical buildings, traditional homes and temples. Modern highways cut across the city, whereas tiny alleys develop a web that connects its most remote corners.

Bangkok attractions

One of the things to do in Bangkok: gazing at its many layers – photo courtesy of I@mie (flickr)

To me, seeing the many layers of the city is what to do in Bangkok. I have yet to think of another city that I can compare to this when it comes to crazy architecture. It is simply incredible how a huge part of the city has developed on three different levels.

Cars, buses, tuk tuks and scooters dodge the traffic of the ground level: one of the best things to do in Bangkok is actually riding a tuk tuk. The state of the art sky train and the metro dominate the first level, with huge led screens placed around town to entertain the passengers that stand in orderly lines waiting for their train and to advertise the latest mobile technology. Finally, on the top level there’s the sky walk, that allows pedestrians to walk across the city without having to bother with the traffic of the ground level.

I really enjoyed walking around Bangkok, following the sky walk and looking at the buzzing life below: it’s one of the unmissable things to do in Bangkok.

Visit the stunning temples

One of the unmissable things to do in Bangkok is visiting the temples of Wat Phra Kaew, Wat Pho and Wat Arun. This is where to go in Bangkok to be impressed by its beauty; they have an incredile historical, cultural and religious value and that they are perfectly kept. Watching the tall white buildings, with their golden roofs and colorful green and blue mosaic walls against the clear sky is simply fascinating.

what to do in Bangkok

One of the things to do in Bangkok is exploring the temples

One of the things to do in Bangkok is pay homage to the enormous statue of the reclining Buddha in Wat Pho temple. Wat Phra Kaew temple is even larger and more elaborate, if only a bit harder to explore due to the crowds and the vastity of the place. Another of the places to visit in Bangkok is Wat Arun, also known as the temple of dawn (it takes its name after the Indian god of dawn). However, its main feature, which is an 82 meters Khmer style tower, is currently under restoration and can’t be climbed.

Practical information and advice:

These Bangkok attractions are right next to each other and can be easily visited during on a half day guided tour. Admission to Wat Pho is 100 Baht; whereas Wat Phra Kaew costs 500 Baht.

These are some of the best tours of Bangkok Temples:

One of the things to do in Bangkok if planning a visit to the temples is to be dressed appropriately. As most of the temples in the city, these are sacred places and it is required to wear long pants, skirts below the knee and long sleeves shirts in order to visit. It’s better to wear sandals too, as visitors are required to take off their shoes before entering the sacred buildings and to observe silence wherever people are praying.

If visiting the temples is what to do in Bangkok, make sure to avoid visiting during the weekend and plan a visit during the week. Apparently large numbers of Chinese tourists consider these to be the things to see in Bangkok, and battling with a large crowd of people who push, elbow, speak loudly and seem to always be in a rush is not a pleasant thing – in fact, it definitely isn’t one of the things to do in Bangkok.

And then go to the Grand Palace

Of all the things to do in Bangkok, visiting the Grand Palace is a real must. Part of the bigger complex that includes Wat Phra Kaew, the original name of the palace is Phra Borom Maharatchawang, and the place used to be a royal residence. Nowadays, the Grand Palace is used for ceremonies, and it is mostly seen as a tourist attraction. It’s only possible to explore some of the buildings, including the Grand Palace Hall, which is the largest one.

This is a good tour of the Grand Palace:

Explore Bangkok’s Canals and floating markets (and avoid a scam or two!)

Not far from the area where the temples are located, among of the most interesting things to do in Bangkok is boarding a long tail boat to explore one of Bangkok attractions: its canals. The boat tour goes by Wat Arun temple and then enters a narrow canal; it moves on to another temple and various areas where people stop to feed the fish. There even are some ladies on boats that sell all sorts of items, in the fashion of the floating market. This is a nice way to get away from the chaos and noise of the city, but it is not possible to disembark the boats unfortunately. The views are pretty nevertheless.

what to do in Bangkok

Taking a cruise along the canals and exploring the floating markets is one of the things to do in Bangkok

Practical information and advice:

Taking a boat tour of the canals is one of the unmissable things to do in Bangkok, but beware of scams. The tour lasts about one hour and should cost no more than 100 Baht per person and depart from one of the official docks around town – it is better to check in advance for the departure points.

Bangkok is packed with “friendly locals” who are keen to help tourists find their way around town and who suggest what to do in Bangkok. I only know too well (or else, I would not be an unsuccessful backpacker): the people who are so nice to offer help to find a boat tour are typically scammer, and unaware tourists may end up paying over 1000 Baht for the tour. If you really do want a friendly local to take you around Bangkok, consider hiring one here.

The best way to go may be to book a tour in advance. These are some of the best tours I have found:

Pay a visit to Jim Thompson House

Among the things to do in Bangkok, visiting Jim Thompson deserves a special mention. He was an American architect turned silk entrepreneur who fell in love with Thailand and did everything he could to bring back to splendor the art of silk production in the country. So much he loved Thailand that he established his residence there, in a house that was fully built according to Thai traditions. He disappeared mysteriously during a visit to Malaysia in 1967.

Places to visit in Bangkok

Jim Thompson House is one of the places to visit in Bangkok – photo courtesy of Clay Gilliland (flickr)

Visiting Jim Thompson House is one of the best things to do in Bangkok, but it can’t be done independently. It is necessary to arrive a bit in advance and sign up for a guided tour, which costs around 120 Baht including the entrance fee. The tour is available in English and French. The guides take visitors around the house, giving a good explanation of the architectural style of the house and of the various artifacts to be found there. Photos are not allowed inside the buildings but just in the gardens.

These are some good guided tour of Jim Thompson House:

Visit the flower market

Among the top things to do in Bangkok there is visiting the wholesale flowers market, Pak Klong. What is interesting about Pak Klong is that it is open 24/7 – in fact I visited when it was already dark. Pretty much any kind of flower is sold here, from the traditional roses to the lotus flowers which are worked to various shapes. Shop keepers use ice to keep the flowers fresh against the heat of the city, and most businesses are family run.

Here’s some amazing tours of the flower market to pick from:

Take a street food tour

If I had to pick just one of the many things to do in Bangkok, it would be eating its incredible food. Those traveling on a budget should rest assured: eating the delicious street food is what to do in Bangkok. Coming from me, a terribly picky eater, such a statement is worth a million times more. Unsure where to start from, and hardly adventurous with food, I decided to go on a street food tour so that I would have some guidance on what to eat and on where to go in Bangkok for the best food. It was the best decision I took in a long time!

what to do in Bangkok

Eating pad thai is one of the unmissable things to do in Bangkok

Doing a street food tour is one of the best things to do in Bangkok not only for the short term gain of eating delicious food, but also because it teaches a lot about the culture of the country (the importance of eating together, of sharing the dishes, and the overall food culture of South East Asia), and it gives some good insights on how to pick the best places for street food. I quickly understood that the best places are those that have a line (that has to mean something, when people line up to eat!), where the food is cooked to order and constantly being cooked.

The tour took me around Chinatown – by the way, visiting Chinatown is what to do in Bangkok – and stopped at some of the most popular food stalls. The first dish I ate was a vermicelli stir fry which consisted of glass noodles, shrimps, chicken and eggs as well as cabbage, celery and spring onions. It was deliciously spicy and thus made my beer all the more welcome and refreshing.

The second place where the tour stopped was so popular that we actually had to wait for a while before being seated – and yes, it was really worth it! This was a seafood place, where my guide ordered some grilled squid and some scallops. They were mouthwatering and just delicious. And after all, having good seafood is one of the top things to do in Bangkok!

Our final stop was at a homemade noodles place – the kind of place where, once the noodles are sold out, has to close for the day. We ordered two noodles dishes – a soup one and a dry one. Both came with a dumpling and both were absolutely mouthwatering. So much I enjoyed it that I think this place should be where to go in Bangkok for noodles.

things to do in Bangkok

Gorging down noodles: one of the things to do in Bangkok

Stuffed as I was, I still managed to eat some fruit on the go. I tried a pineapple – I must have been the first sale of the evening as the lady who sold that pineapple said some sort of prayer after my guide paid her, for good business. She then cleaned the small pineapple and put it on a stick, much as a lollypop. So I walked around with my fruit lollypop, juice drooling all over my face and arms as I enjoyed what must have been the sweetest pineapple I have ever had. It was one of the most fun things to do in Bangkok.

These are some of the best food tours in Bangkok:

Take it easy in Lumpini Park

Lumpini takes its name from the Lord Buddha born in Nepal. The park sees lots of older Thai generations either practicing Thai Chi; or younger ones going for a romantic walk by the lake. It’s a great place to be during the weekend; and one of the top things to do on Bangkok is hanging out there in the early morning or right before sunset, to get away from the chaos of the city.

Go people watching

As with all countries in the world, one of the most fun things to do in Bangkok is to go people’s watching. The place to do it in Bangkok is the famous (or rather, infamous now!) Khao San Road. This is a road where bars are clubs are one after the other, and it is just a matter of picking one where to sit and have a drink. It now is a backpackers’ hub, so a good place to meet other travelers too.

Have fun in Bangkok nightlife

Dodging Bangkok nightlife is no easy task. There are bars and nightclubs everywhere in Bangkok, but with such a choice and in such a wide city, it isn’t always easy to find a place that matches one’s tastes and interests. I was lucky enough to have a friend who lives in Bangkok take me around – she knew exactly where to go in Bangkok and we ended up at a fun place with live music, the kind of place we used to go in our college years back home.

what to do in Bangkok

Admiring a good sunset before a night out – one of the nicest things to do in Bangkok

In recent years Bangkok nightlife has seen a tightening of regulations. Bars and clubs now close between 1:00 and 2:00 am (way past my bedtime anyways!) and smoking is not permitted indoors (a welcome fact for me, as I can’t stand cigarette smoke!). In general, unless at a dirt cheap backpackers’ kind of place, cocktails are generally good. I’d suggest going to a sky bar as one of the top things to do in Bangkok.

As my friend who lives in Bangkok explained to me, the trick to make the most of a night out in town is to know where to go on which night of the week. In lack of a local friend, there are some websites that report the various bars, clubs and whatever is on in Bangkok nightlife. Consulting these sites is what to do in Bangkok if in search of a good time.

There’s some of the best night tours of Bangkok:

Shop till you drop at Chatuchak Market

I have never really had much interest in shopping, yet I admit that one of the best things to do in Bangkok is shopping, so much so that I would never recommend the city to a shopaholic on her way to recovery. From small market to shopping malls, from designer clothes to bargains, the only issue one may find while shopping in Bangkok is having to choose among the millions of inviting items to buy. Even I could not resist the temptation and had to shop! Those looking for where to go in Bangkok for shopping, should head straight to Chatuchak Market.

Have a proper night’s sleep in a fabulous hotel

One of the nicest things to do in Bangkok is to be treated to a great hotel. The good news is that luxury is more than affordable there, and that even a budget hotel such as Nasa Vegas can be a total treat. Besides, Bangkok is so big that, in terms of accommodation, there is something for any budgets and need: from hostel dorms to home-stays, from boutique hotels to luxury and anything in between.

Bangkok attractions

Treating myself to a nice room: one of the things to do in Bangkok

Knowing that I can’t stand traffic noise and that I need my beauty sleep, I decided to stay in Lumpini Park, an area that, although very well connected to all the main Bangkok attractions, is not nearly as busy. Lumpini Park, in Silom, is where most embassies and consulates are located; it is clean, quiet and with lots of trees and pleasant to walk around. If treating yourself to a nice room is what to do in Bangkok, Aetas Hotel Lumpini is the right choice.

I stayed at Somerset Park Suanplu Bangkok and had an entire 70 square meters apartment to myself. Arriving there after a long journey from Italy, I was really happy to find such a spacious, comfortable and quiet place. It was one of the top things to do in Bangkok that I picked to do!

things to do in Bangkok

Things to do in Bangkok: enjoy a fantastic view from the balcony

Having a good view of the city is one of the nicest things to do in Bangkok. I was lucky then that my apartment was on the 20th floor, offering an incredible view of the city. It consisted of a large bedroom with all the amenities and a balcony; a fantastic living room with a cozy sofa and a large flat screen tv; a walk in closet which included an ironing board and a safe; a fully equipped kitchen with a large fridge, washing machine and anything I may possibly need to prepare and serve a meal (provided that one would ever cook in a city like Bangkok, where street food is so good!) as well as a large dining table; and a bathroom with a walk in shower.

Bangkok attractions

Relaxing in a great room: one of the best things to do in Bangkok

The hotel has a gym, but I am more of a swimming pool kind of girl so I found no better way to relax and wash away the heat of the day after having explored the city than jumping in that fantastic pool. Chilling at the pool is what to do in Bangkok after a day of exploration.

places to visit in Bangkok

Treating myself to a nice pool – one of the things to do in Bangkok

Breakfast at Somerset Park is incredibly varied – from traditional Thai dishes, to eggs, pancakes, and pastries and a very large selection of fresh fruit. The hotel also offers a free tuk tuk service to the main metro station nearby – which is very convenient. Indeed, using public transportation is one of the coolest things to do in Bangkok.

To sum up, these are the best places to stay in Bangkok:

Get a proper Thai massage

At such convenient prices, one of the unmissable things to do in Bangkok is having a relaxing yet invigorating full body massage. Nothing better than this to end a day of exploration and right before going to sleep.

what to do in Bangkok

Riding tuk tuks is one of the most fun things to do in Bangkok

Dodge the local transportation

Getting around town is really easy, and one of the most fun things to do in Bangkok is actually trying out every possible mode of transportation around. Whether taking the sky train, a tuk tuk, a taxi or, even better, a moto taxi, all of these systems are very convenient money-wise, and they are fantastic ways to get to know the city. An easy way to reach all the best places to visit is by taking the tourist bus.

You can buy the Bangkok Bus Pass here.

What To Do In Bangkok To Avoid Scams

As is the case in most tourist destinations, scams against  tourists in Bangkok are rather common, and it is easy to fall for them. Even the most experienced travelers end up falling for them – it sure happened to me. Knowing about the scams is what to do in Bangkok to protect against them. These are the most typical ones:

  • The very friendly locals: typically hanging out around major tourist attractions, such as the Grand Palace, exceedingly friendly locals will say that the attraction is closed and invite tourists to do something different, caring to offer transportation and guidance for an inflated price. Checking the opening times of attractions is one of the things to do in Bangkok to avoid this scam.
  • The tuk tuk: as there is no meter on tuk tuk, agreeing on a price before jumping on is what to do in Bangkok to avoid paying an inflated price. Also beware of drivers that suggest taking you to souvenir shops that have the best prices.
  • The taxi: contrary to tuk tuks, taxi have meters. One of the things to do in Bangkok as soon as getting on a taxi is making sure that the meter is on and that the correct rate is set.
  • The change: street vendors often give back incorrect change, on purpose. Among the things to do in Bangkok is going out with small change so to avoid using big notes.
  • The bag: not so much a scam, and again this happens in any big city. One of the things to do in Bangkok is to wear bags by putting the strap around the shoulder, as it is not uncommon for petty criminals to drive their motorbikes right by and try to pull it away.

Have you ever been to Bangkok? What did you like the most about it?

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Discover all the top things to do in Bangkok - via @clautavani