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 it. I just thought of it as yet another huge city. If you are anything like me, you may really not 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, you may end up feeling suffocated by the concrete and the crowds and feel the urge to leave and immerse myself in nature.
However, I can promise you this won’t happen to you in Bangkok. There are a million things to see and do in Bangkok, that you will be 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 you find you way around and have a blast.
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 will help you ease down the inevitable cultural shock of jumping from the Western world to the completely different South East Asia.
It’s easy to understand why so many travelers rave about it. And the good news is that you can make the most of the city even in a short time.
In this post, I highlight the unmissable things to do in Bangkok in just a few days, with a few recommendations to save time (and money) here and there.
20 Unmissable Things To Do In Bangkok
Enjoy Bangkok funky architecture and multiple layers
Among the millions of things to do in Bangkok, you will sure appreciate admiring its funky architecture. You will be 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.
There aren’t many cities that 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 (more about this below). 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 am sure you will enjoy 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 incredible 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.
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 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:
- Bangkok: Wat Pho and Wat Arun Temples Private Tour
- Bangkok Old City, Highlights & Temples Half-Day Tuk-Tuk Tour
Remember that you need to be dressed appropriately to visit the temples. 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 you will be asked to take off their shoes before entering the sacred buildings and to observe silence wherever people are praying.
TIP: Make sure to avoid visiting during the weekend and plan a visit during the week. That’s when large crowds of Chinese tourists also visit, and it will be a show of pushing, elbowing, loud speaking and just not pleasant.
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.
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 should last at least 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. I only know too well (or else, I would not be an unsuccessful backpacker): most of the time these people are just scammers who will offer a boat ride for 10 times the actual price. If you really 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:
- Damnoen Saduak floating market 6 hour tour
- Bangkok: 100-Year-Old Market Discovery by Long-Tail Boat
- Bangkok: Full–Day Damnoen Saduak, Palace & Temple Tour
- Bangkok: Canal Boat and Bike
- Damnoen floating market private guided tour
Pay a visit to Jim Thompson House
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.
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
Make sure to visit Bangkok best flowers market, Pak Klong. What is interesting about Pak Klong is that it is open 24/7 – in fact you can visit when it is 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:
- Bangkok: Chinatown and Flower Market at Sunset Group Tour
- Bangkok by night bike tour
- Bangkok by Night Tuk Tuk Tour: Markets, Temples & Food
Take a street food tour
If you just do one thing while in Bangkok, that has to be trying its incredible food. Those traveling on a budget should rest assured: eating the delicious street food is extremely budget friendly. Coming from me, a terribly picky eater, such a statement is worth a million times more. If you are unsure where to start from, and hardly adventurous with food, you can go on a street food tour so to have some guidance on what to eat and on where to go in Bangkok for the best food.
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. You will quickly realize 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 usually goes around Chinatown and stops at some of the most popular food stalls. You normally will have three or four dishes, including noodles, dumplings and seafood or fish.
You can even have some fruit on the go. Make sure to try the pineapple – it’s as sweet as it gets. And for a real local dessert, go for mango and sticky rice.
These are some of the best food tours in Bangkok:
- Bangkok Chinatown 3.5-Hour Night Food Tour
- Bangkok Chinatown Food Discovery
- Old Town Bangkok Food Tour
- Chef’s designed Bangkok food tour
- Bangkok local’s favorite dishes food tour
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.
Enjoy a drink with a view
Bangkok is packed with places where you can get a drink. But for a real treat, make sure you go for a drink with a view. Comes sunset, make sure to head to the Vertigo and Moon Bar, located on the 61st floor of the Banyan Tree Hotel. It’s the perfect place to admire the skyline of Bangkok with a drink in hand. Drinks aren’t cheap by local standards, but the view is worth every penny.
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.
In recent years Bangkok nightlife has seen a tightening of regulations. Bars and clubs now close between 1:00 and 2:00 am and smoking is not permitted indoors (a welcome fact if you ask me). In general, unless at a dirt cheap backpackers’ kind of place, cocktails are generally good.
The trick to make the most of a night out in town is to know where to go on which night of the week. 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 you 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.
If you can’t stand traffic noise the best area to stay is 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!
Having a good view of the city is one of the nicest things to do in Bangkok. If you are as lucky as I was, you may end up with an apartment on the 20th floor, offering an incredible view of the city. You may get 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 you 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.
The hotel has a gym, as well as a swimming pool 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.
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:
- Somerset Park Suanplu Bangkok click here for reviews and here for the best rates
- Aetas Hotel Lumpini click here for reviews and here for the best rates
- Nasa Vegas click here for reviews and here for the best rates
- Wake Up Hostel Bangkok click here for reviews and here for the best rates
- Jam Hostel Bangkok click here for reviews and here for the best rates
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.
Ride the sky train
Getting around Bangkok is really easy, and you have ample choice of transportation options to get from one place to the other. I recommend riding the skytrain if you are looking for a quick way to cover longer distances. As it rides above the traffic, is much faster than the average tuk tuk or taxi. Besides, it is air conditioned which – in a city such as hot as Bangkok – is rather comforting.
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.
Ride a mototaxi
If you really want to move around town the way locals do, then opt to ride a mototaxi. Whenever you see a guy waiting on the side of the street with his motorbike, holding two helmets, that means it’s a mototaxi. Make sure to agree on a fee before jumping on, and prepare to zip through traffic.
Hope on a tuk tuk
Tuk tuks are a great way to get around town. They are cheap, reliable and found anywhere – but they tend to get stuck in traffic. Keep in mind that tuk tuks have no meter, so you will have to agree on a fee before getting on and chances are the minute the driver realizes you are a tourist, rates will be inflated. Make sure to haggle fiercely.
Ride the hop on hop off bus
If you want to cover all the tourist spots of Bangkok, you may as well ride the hop on hop off bus. You can buy the Bangkok Bus Pass here.
Attend a Muay Thai match
Kickboxing is a popular sport in Thailand, and people love practicing as much as watching matches. There are stadiums everywhere, but the best places to see a match in Bangkok are Lumpini or Ratchadamnoen stadiums. Attending a muay thai match is also a great way to get immersed in local culture. You can even bet on who the winner is!
You can get tickets for a Muay Thai match online here.
Beware of local 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.
Below, I summarize the most common scams in Bangkok.
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.
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.
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.
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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