There are many different faces to Bangkok and each neighbourhood, village and even soi has its own distinct character. While each has its pros and cons, there’s undoubtedly a few areas calling themselves the best place to stay in Bangkok.
Of course, ‘best’ depends entirely on what you want from the city.
We’ve narrowed it down to the neighbourhoods that have plenty going on by way of attractions and nightlife, with a mix of local flavour and foreign influence and with something a little extra that’s going to make you want to extend that hotel booking for a cheeky week or two.
Next time you plan on visiting Bangkok, check out these neighbourhoods for size…
Thonglor is arguably Bangkok’s trendiest neighbourhood, boasting a hipster vibe and attracting many of the city’s 20- and 30-somethings — both locals and expats alike.
For the traveller who’s after a buzzing nightlife, as well as an established Thai and international dining scene, this Upper Sukhumvit neighbourhood is one of the best places to stay in Bangkok.
Centred around the 2.5km long Soi Thonglor — otherwise known as Soi 55 — Thonglor is a wall-to-wall hub of all things epicurean. Thai, Italian, nose-to-tail dining, American and countless Japanese eateries compete for space down here, interspersed with speakeasy style bars (complete with premium cocktail lists). There are plenty of opportunities for street food eating too, but it’s certainly not a hub for it like in some other areas of the city.
Don’t forget to explore the subsois of Soi Thonglor as that’s often where you’ll find the best bars and restaurants. Queuing for tables isn’t unheard of around here, so do yourself a favour and book in advance, if possible.
Hotels tend to be mid-range and above, with a small smattering of boutique serviced apartments and hostels.
Great nightlife; lots of restaurants; on the BTS Sukhumvit line; a fun vibe with a young, trendy, HiSo Thai clientele.
An (arguably) pretentious HiSo Thai clientele; eating and drinking can be expensive; not a lot by way of tourist attractions
Bangkok Marriott Hotel Sukhumvit — check out their rooftop bar, Octave, for some cracking views.
Slightly further down the BTS Sukhumvit line are the expat-heavy neighbourhoods of Asok and Nana, which are probably best known for their lurid red-light districts: Nana Plaza and Soi Cowboy.
Just because some square-mileage is dedicated to sins of the flesh, however, doesn’t mean the whole area is; there’s also plenty of international hotels as well as some pretty excellent restaurants in this part of town.
Check out Hemingway’s (Soi 14), El Gaucho Steak House (Soi 19), The Great Kabab Factory (Soi 2) and even Cabbages & Condoms (Soi 12) if you’re into, er, condoms.
By way of attractions, you’ve got the unique Terminal 21 shopping mall, the Arab quarter on Soi 3/1 and Nana night market, Soi 11 for a sub-sleazy night on the tiles, and a helpful MRT stop to help you transit to other parts of the city.
Lots of international, hotels, restaurants, bars and a few beer gardens; easy to meet other foreigners (if you’re so inclined); well-connected with two BTS and one MRT station; Terminal 21 shopping mall (check out the state-of-the-art Japanese toilets!)
As the darkness rolls in, you may see the sexpats and their hourly rentals; arguably not ‘authentic’ Bangkok
The Landmark — The Huntsman Pub in the basement has a legendary Sunday roast
As the epicentre of Bangkok’s shopping district with more malls than you can shake a stick at, Siam is the best area in Bangkok for the shopaholic. Even away from the air-conditioned luxury, you’ll find stuff to buy in the Siam Square market and in various impromptu set-ups along the streets.
This is certainly a place to get a peek into daily Thai life: the area is normally full of university students, thanks to nearby Chula, and the crowds at Siam Paragon reveal the depth of the Thai obsession with shopping.
There’s always plenty going on in Siam, and the area has an impressive cafe and restaurant scene — although it isn’t notable for it’s nightlife or drinking scene.
Look out for events and concerts happening at nearby Central World, or in the performance space between Siam Paragon and Siam Center: there’s usually something happening guaranteed to make you question everything you thought you knew about Thailand.
Plenty of shopping; lots of restaurants and cafes; plenty of family attractions nearby, including Siam Ocean World, Madame Tussauds, MBK Shopping Centre, Jim Thompson’s house and more; well connected on both Sukhumvit and Silom BTS lines.
Not a great nightlife scene; very busy, particularly at weekends; a little staid if you’re not into shopping
Siam Kempinski — Thai fusion restaurant Sra Bua is a foodie favourite
Silom is generally better known for being the Central Business District of Bangkok, complete with an array of multinationals and banks, but it’s also a good, central neighbourhood for visiting tourists.
It’s more Thai in character than nearby Sukhumvit, with plenty of street food options and even a night market (currently under threat of closure). There’s a great restaurant and nightlife scene too — luxury rooftop bars like Vertigo & Moon Bar and Sky Bar are available alongside the seedy offerings of Patpong and the fun, gay scene in Silom Soi 4.
One of the best things about Silom is how well connected it is: the Silom BTS line runs from Sala Daeng through neighbouring Sathorn to the river while the neighbourhood also has its own MRT stop: Si Lom. The Chao Phraya Express Boat is just a few BTS stops away, and you’re easily connected to other neighbourhoods like Siam, Rajdamri, Sukhumvit, Riverside and Chinatown too.
There are plenty of international hotels in Silom, like the Dusit Thani, Le Meridien and So Sofitel, while restaurants like Le Du, Eat Me and Scarlett mean you don’t need to venture too far for good eats.
Well connected; lots going on and a lively nightlife scene; plenty of Western comforts alongside Thai character
Livelier during the week than at weekends (at least during the day); not great for shopping; accommodation can be expensive
The Sukhothai — legendary service in a really quite beautiful hotel
Stretching from the Sukhumvit Road in the north to Rama IV in the south, hemmed in by the Ratchadamri Road and expressway, Lumpini is probably downtown Bangkok’s most luxurious neighbourhood.
With the huge and wonderful Lumpini Park nearby, as well as views over the exclusive Royal Bangkok Sports Club, the hotels and residences found down Ratchadamri Road are somewhat opulent. There are plenty of options for fine dining and, conversely, street food in this area — but less offerings from the middle ground than you would find in Sukhumvit and Siam.
Lumpini is very well connected — BTS Chit Lom and Phloen Chit will take you to the heart of downtown, while the Silom line runs right down the Ratchadamri Road. The MRT also serves the neighbourhood with the Si Lom and Lumphini stations.
It’s quiet in comparison to other downtown neighbourhoods, and if you’re looking for tourist attractions — aside from the park itself — you’ll have to hop onto public transport.
Luxurious, high quality hotels and restaurants; Lumpini Park; very well connected
Reasonably quiet; not suitable for budget travellers
St Regis Hotel and Residence — unadulterated luxury
Old Bangkok City
If you fancy a more old-school style of luxury while you’re in Bangkok, you can’t go too far wrong if you stay on the Chao Phraya River. No, we’re not talking about hoisting up a houseboat or camping along the banks, but rather booking into one of its grand establishments, like the Mandarin Oriental.
As well as extraordinary views over the River of Kings, you can enjoy being in the heart of the Old European Quarter, and being among a far older and arguably more characterful neighbourhood of Bangkok than these newly built-up areas. You’re also much closer to the delights of Chinatown, Rattanoksin Island (home to the Grand Palace and many of Bangkok’s best temples), and the local communities over the river in Nonthaburi too.
There’s less riverside by way of international restaurants and bars than in the more westernised downtown neighbourhoods of Sukhumvit, Silom and Siam, but there are plenty of suitable offerings in the large, resort-style hotels in this area.
The nightlife here is more sophisticated too: think dinner cruises and live jazz rather than neon lights and Chang.
Authentic, very Thai and full of character; hotels are home to some of the most renowned restaurants and bars in the city; close to attractions along the river; access to the piers up and down the river by way of the Chao Phraya Express Boat and other longtail boat services
Less well connected to the rest of the city, save for Saphan Taksin BTS station on the Silom Line; a limited nightlife scene; hotels are generally on the pricey side
When we talk about Banglamphu, we’re really referring to the area around Khao San Road, the backpacking hub of Bangkok (hell, the backpacking hub of Southeast Asia!). Democracy Monument is also in the vicinity, as well as the famous temples of Wat Ratchanada, Loha Prasat and the Golden Mount.
If you’re a budget traveller looking to meet like-minded souls, Banglamphu is probably the best place to stay in Bangkok. Hostels proliferate down the Khao San Road and travellers from around the world converge on this surprisingly small walking street.
It’s also the second fastest growing Airbnb neighbourhood in the world.
Not everyone loves the thrills of Khao San — drunk Western teenagers are only really good company if you’re in a similar demographic — but Banglamphu has plenty of low-cost accommodation throughout the district, in sois with plenty more traditional Thai character.
There’s loads of brilliant street food around Banglamphu, and a few great bookshops too.
Cheap accommodation, food and alcohol; lots of other backpackers; close to attractions of the Old City; plenty of character; great street food.
Khao San Road is more of a pit-stop rather than a long-term holiday hide-out; very bad traffic; little by way of public transport so hard to get to downtown Bangkok
Bangkok’s Chinatown is one of the most vibrant and sprawling in the entire world, thanks to the large community of Thai-Chinese in the city, who began to settle in the area around Yaowarat Road back in the 19th Century.
The neighbourhood is a sprawling labyrinth of markets, shophouses and some of the best street food you’ll eat in Bangkok — Thai, Chinese and even Indian is on offer here. There are also plenty of quirky bars — check out Let The Boy Die, Cho Why and Teens of Thailand — and Chinatown really comes into its own after dark.
Buddhist temples, often beautifully decorated Chinese style, are also in abundance here. It’s a very colourful neighbourhood.
If you visit during Chinese New Year, usually in January or February, be prepared for crowds, dragon parades and yet more crowds. Usually there is some street closure and marshalling during the festival.
Much less touristy than downtown Bangkok, it’s much harder to find good hotels in Chinatown than elsewhere. Do your research carefully.
Incredible character and a really vibrant neighbourhood; amazing street food; cheap to stay and eat; close to the attractions of the Old City
Not very well connected so it can be difficult to get to downtown Bangkok; very busy; less by way of international hotels and restaurants
Shanghai Mansion — award-winning boutique hotel
Technically located in Samut Prakan rather than Bangkok, Bang Krachao is referred to as the “Green Lung” of the city — there are strict development rules prohibiting skyscrapers and so this man-made island has retained the flavour of traditional Thailand.
Originally a settlement for the ethnic Mon people, it’s now a great place to escape the city and immerse yourself in nature.
Bang Krachao is not somewhere you’ll likely want to spend your entire time in Bangkok, but it’s great for an overnight trip. You can rent a bike to explore the island, including the beautiful park (great for twitchers, we’re told).
At the weekend, check out the Bang Nam Pheung Floating Market — one of the more authentic floating market experiences in Bangkok.
You can get there via ferries from either Klong Toey or Bang Na piers.
An escape away from the madness of Bangkok; opportunities for biking and exploring the Thai way of life
None of the western comforts of Bangkok; not a massive amount going on
The brilliant Bangkok Tree House — exactly what it says on the tin
Where’s your favourite place to stay in Bangkok?