Guide to Bangkok city
Bangkok is the capital of Thailand. With over 11 million people living in the city it's Thailand's largest and most populated city. Bangkok is also the world's most visited city in terms of travel and tourism.
For tourists, despite its size, Bangkok still remains a very popular city to visit. Culturally beautiful temples (Wats) dot the city alongside the Grand Palace and other majestic monuments. For shoppers Bangkok offers the best in designer and cheap copies of just about anything money can buy next to great tasting food. Meanwhile Bangkok's fabled nightlife continues to draw in the crowds.
This guide to Bangkok is focused on making the most of your time in the city. Find out the best places to visit, how to get there easily and discover some off the beaten path locations.
Did you know?Bangkok was not Thailand's first capital. Ayutthaya to the north was Thailand's first capital. Bangkok started out as a small trading post.
There's a lot to see and do in Bangkok city. It's much faster to see the city by using public transport than taxis or the like so check out the section below. Likewise to save time and not to miss anything after these highlights do see my suggested travel itineraries for Bangkok.
- Take a river boat along the Chao Phraya River and stop off at the many temples and shopping centers along the way
- Visit the huge Grand Palace and adjoining Emerald Buddha Temple
- Make your way to Wat Pho and admire the huge reclining Buddha and surrounding Wats
- Take another river boat to Wat Arun and climb up its steep spires
- Visit Chinatown at night for great street food and shops
- Shop at the world's largest outdoor market Chatuchak Weekend Market
- Step out at night and experience Bangkok's crazy nightlife
- Enjoy Bangkok's countless street food stalls and eateries
- Go shopping for days on end at Bangkok's many shopping centers
Bangkok is serviced by Suvarnabhumi international airport (BKK). There is also a secondary international airport called Don Muang Airport (DMK) which generally supports low-cost airlines.
For a detailed description on what it's like arriving into Bangkok check out this guide to arriving into Bangkok airport.
For those traveling by land check out my guide to traveling overland into Thailand.
If flying from outside Thailand save some time and check out the new flight routes and rates using my search tool below:
|Try my custom flight search for the lowest priced flights to and from Thailand!
Bangkok is a huge city with an excellent public transport system. Take full advantage of it to save time and money getting around the city. But first let's look at where the main attractions/places are.
Bangkok city for visitors can be divided into the following areas:
- Khao San Road - backpacker area with cheap accommodation and bars
- Phahonyothin - Chatuchak Weekend Market and Mochit Bus Terminal
- Pratunam - cheap shopping market areas
- Rattanakosin - Bangkok's old temple district (Grand Palace etc)
- Siam Square - shopping area and basically the center of Bangkok
- Silom - daytime business centers/banks, nightlife
- Sukhumvit - expat district, hotels, nightlife
- Thonburi - the other side of Chao Phraya River
- Yaowarat (Chinatown) - Chinatown's busy streets & Hua Lamphong train station
Public transport in Bangkok
- BTS (Bangkok Mass Transit System)
- MRT (Metropolitan Rapid Transit)
- Tuk Tuk
- Motorbike Taxi
- River boat
This is just a summary for a full in depth version do read my guide on how to get around Bangkok (which includes all the popular junctions, stops and how to get there)
Thai food is one of the world's most beloved. In Bangkok there are several "ways" to experience great Thai dishes.
Tom Yam Soup
Thai street restaurants: popular around tourist attractions or along side streets they vary from air-conditioned boutique affairs to fan cooled indoor and outdoor establishments.
Thai shopping center restaurants: in all the big shopping centers you will find both individual restaurants (more expensive) and in most a food court (cheaper)
Thai food courts: in many shopping centers and popular markets you will come across a food court. Simply buy vouchers or a card, hand it to a vendor in exchange for food then get a refund for the vouchers from where you bought them from.
Thai hawker stalls: dotted around many of Bangkok's streets are hawker stalls. These are usually portable (or semi portable) food stalls but have multiple seats and tables set up in front of them. This is where you'll meat many a Thai after they've finished work.
Thai street food vendors: small portable stalls with no seats (or few) that appear on Bangkok's streets. Generally selling barbecue meats they are useful for quick snacks.
To learn more about what Thai food dishes are really like check out my series on Thai food.
- Traffic is heavy nearly 24 hours a day. Don't expect working traffic lights or pedestrian crossings. Do expect to get stuck in traffic.
- Pollution is high in Bangkok and many people are starting to wear face masks to protect against high levels of dust and pollution.
- Bangkok can reach up to and over 40+ degrees in the hot season with a high level of humidity. Take advantage of the MRT/BTS and shopping centers to cool down a bit.
- Touts are everywhere in Bangkok. Be particularly cautious around the Grand Palace and most tourist sites.
- Despite its reputatio Khao San road has become a tourist attraction for more than just backpackers.
- Tuk Tuk's may be cheerfully colorful but the drivers will be quick to take you for for a financial ride. Always settle on a price before getting in.
- Taxi's are relatively cheap in Bangkok just make sure they are on the meter.
In the map below I've marked out the main highlights of Bangkok city. See the recommended itineraries below for more.
What to do in Bangkok? From one day river boat trips to the temples walking day to week long stays here are my recommendations.
One-day itinerary for Bangkok city
Only got one day in Bangkok city? Make the most of it. Get up early and make your way to Sathorn Pier (Saphan Taksin BTS) for a river boat trip up the Chao Phraya River. Stop off at the Grand Palace (don't forget to wear long trousers) and the Emerald Buddha Temple. Take a quick Tuk Tuk ride to Wat Pho and the huge reclining Buddha. Grab a quick lunch in on of the restaurants nearby. Then make you way over to the pier opposite it can cross the river to Wat Arun. Take a river boat back to Saphan Taksin and take the BTS to National Stadium where MBK Center is for some souvenir shopping. Follow the skywalk to Siam Center and then Siam Paragon to get a taste of top shopping centers in Bangkok. Then if you are tired either eat at Siam Paragon's impressive food court and then catch a movie upstairs. Or, make your way to Siam BTS and then Asok/ (BTS)for a wild night out or Sala Daeng for a quieter night out on the town.
Reclning Buddha at Wat Po
Two-day itinerary for Bangkok city
Just like the one day itinerary but slow everything down. Leave the shopping malls out of it and after the hot temples walking head back to your hotel for a shower and go out that night at your leisure. On the second day make your way to MBK Center before a quick visit to the Bangkok Cultural center. Then visit Siam Center and Siam Paragon. Now continue on to Central World where you can either shop, go ice skating or continue on outside and visit the Platinum Fashion Malls or Pantip Plaza (for electronics). Take the BTS back that night to Sukhumvit for a night out.
Three-day itinerary for Bangkok city
Follow the one day and the two day itinerary's but add in the amulet market into day one. If you are still into more shopping then check out my guide to shopping in Bangkok for more shopping centers to visit. Otherwise on day three try visiting some of Bangkok's lesser visited Wat's like the impressive Wat Prayoon. Make your way to Chinatown for some shopping and enjoy a night out eating there. Finish up your evening with a relaxing Thai massage.
Additional Days and activities in Bangkok
There's lot's to do in Bangkok and the above is not set in stone. Shopping centers alone can easily keep an addict busy for a week in Bangkok! Moreover there are plenty of day trips and weekend activities you can add into your schedule.
- Take a day trip via train to Ayutthaya
- Take a weekend train to the bridge over river Kwai.
- Take in a Muay Thai fight
- Visit Chatuchak Weekend Market
- More activities you can book online
Do you want to let the experts plan your trip to Thailand and beyond so you can relax and enjoy yourself. Take a look below for more information to make your trip that bit better:
I've written up a several dedicated pages to recommended accommodation in
Bangkok city from budget to luxury class hotels and the districts to find them in. Meanwhile if you'd like a quick search try my search tool here to find the best rates:
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