The Bangkok Riverside Guide

While many tourists and expats in Bangkok prefer to stay in the urban metropolises of Sukhumvit and Siam, the Bangkok Riverside area is one of the most densely packed areas of the city in terms of attractions, hotels and things to do.

When we say ‘Riverside’, we’re referring to the area surrounding the Chao Phraya River — otherwise known as the River of Kings.

Steeped in history, this area is home to an impressive array of ancient temples, spectacular restaurants, shopping and ever-changing sights. Quite frankly, no trip to the Thai capital would be complete without taking the time to venture out to the Chao Phraya River and the Old City that surrounds it.

But while this area has a lot to offer in terms of history and culture, it can be difficult to navigate and find the places that you truly want to visit.

This Bangkok Riverside guide is intended to pinpoint the best attractions, restaurants and hotels in the area so you can explore to your heart’s content.

Bangkok Riverside: Location

The Chao Phraya River is located on the western side of the city, and actually flows all the way from Nakhon Sawan — around 250 km north of Bangkok.

Bangkok Riverside typically refers to those neighbourhoods between the Rama VIII bridge, past Wat Arun and Rattanakosin Island, and from Chinatown down the Charoen Krung Road down to Rama III.

The area is intersected with the Silom line of the BTS, with Saphan Taksin station serving as the transit point for people travelling between the area and downtown Bangkok.

How to Get There

If you’re staying in Sukhumvit, the best way to reach Bangkok Riverside is either of the following:

  • Take the MRT from Sukhumvit to Si Lom, change onto the BTS at Sala Daeng station and get off at BTS Saphan Taksin
  • Take the Sukhumvit line of the BTS to Siam, change onto the Silom Line and ride it to Saphan Taksin

At Saphan Taksin, you can easily transfer to the central pier from which you can catch any number of boats going a variety of ways up and down, and across, the river.

asiatique riverfront bangkok

By Bernard Spragg. NZ (Public domain)

Chao Phraya Express Boat

The best way to traverse Bangkok Riverside is to take the Chao Phraya Express Boat — the busy commuter boat identified by its orange flag.

It departs every 10-20 minutes — it’s most regular during weekday rush hours — and fares are cheap as chips at 15 baht. There will be a fare collector on the boat so there’s no need to buy tickets beforehand (no matter what the touts at the pier might tell you!).

Here are some of the most popular stops for riverside attractions:

  • Thewet N15: Dusit palace and the zoo
  • Phra Athit N13: Khao San Road
  • Wang Lang N10: Wang Lang market
  • Tha Chang N9: Grand Palace
  • Tha Thien N8: Wat Pho and the cross river ferry to Wat Arun
  • Rajchawongse N5: Chinatown
  • Wat Worachanyawas S2: Asiatique (*there’s also a free shuttle boat from Sathorn pier regularly during its opening hours)

Bangkok Riverside Attractions

Bursting full of fascinating attractions, the area around the Chao Phraya River offers you a delightful escape from the hustle and bustle of downtown Bangkok. Many of the best attractions are on the water, and you can use the Chao Phraya Express Boat and other public and chartered boats to explore the magical river itself.

Whether you like the sound of visiting historical temples and palaces or strolling through the charming markets and seeing the riverside lit up at night, the riversides changing scene always spoils you for choice.

The Grand Palace

grand palace bangkok

The Grand Palace is the most visited and spectacular tourist attraction in Bangkok, if not the entire of Thailand.

Rather than just a singular building, it’s actually a large complex home to a number of temples, palaces and municipal buildings and is the official (if not in practice) home to the Kings of Thailand since the court was moved there in 1782.

The most famous building in the Grand Palace is Wat Phra Kaew, home to the famously revered Emerald Buddha. This Buddha figure is actually made of jade, clothed in gold, and is the source of legends dating back to India in the 1st century BCE. It can only be touched by the King.

  • Open 08.30-15.30 all year round
  • 500 baht entrance fee for foreigners
  • Tha Chang N9 pier

Wat Pho

Just round the corner from the Grand Palace is the large Buddhist temple complex of Wat Pho — mercifully much quieter than the Grand Palace.

It’s home to the largest collection of Buddha images in Thailand, and most notably is the site of the 46 metre long Reclining Buddha, covered in gold leaf.

Wat Pho is also considered ground zero for Thai massage and has a school onsite offering foot and body massages for a reasonable fee.

  • Open 08:00-17:00 all year round
  • 100 baht entrance fee for foreigners
  • Tha Thien N8 pier

Wat Arun

anantara bangkok riverside

By Manoonp (CC BY-SA 3.0)

Directly across the river from Wat Pho is Bangkok’s most iconic temple — Wat Arun, or Temple of Dawn.

It was originally home to the Emerald Buddha before the capital was moved across the river, and was originally given its name and current aesthetic when King Taksin established Thonburi as the capital of the country in the 18th century following the fall of the Ayutthaya Kingdom. The legend goes that he arrived at the temple during the breaking of the dawn, hence the name.

You can climb the central prang of Wat Arun, and it’s particularly beautiful when it’s lit up at night.

  • Open 08:00-17:30 all year round
  • 50 baht entrance fee
  • Take the 3 baht cross-river ferry from Tha Thien pier

Asiatique

From culture to consumerism — you can eat, drink and shop at the popular night market Asiatique on Bangkok’s riverside.

It’s a conglomerate of restaurants, a quasi shopping mall and covered market stalls, and is very popular with tourists. There are 1500 shopping outlets and around 40 restaurants. A former trade port, the design aesthetic has retained that old warehouse feel while being clean and spacious — a sanitized version of a traditional Thai market, if you will.

As well as shopping and eating, you can indulge in the nightly shows of Calypso ladyboy cabaret and Thai puppets. Occasionally, special events will see music concerts and Khon performances set up shop here too.

  • Open daily from 17:00-00:00
  • Entrance free
  • Free shuttle boat back and forth from Sathorn central pier from 17:00 to 23:00

 

 

Thonburi

Situated on the other side of the river, Thonburi is full of canals (khlongs) just waiting to be explored by long tail boat. If you want to escape the tourists, opt for a private cruise where you’ll get a front row view of many temples, secluded streets and waterside homes.

Thonburi is also home to the brilliant Wang Lang market — a foodie’s dream.

  • Thonburi Railway N11/Wang Lang N10 pier

Siriraj Forensic Museum/Museum of Death

things to do in thailand

(By Bobby under Licence CC BY 2.0)

Packed full of preserved dead bodies, the notorious Forensic Museum is a truly unique experience that you won’t find anywhere else in the world.

It’s split into 5 mini museums, each specialising in one of the following: pathology, anatomy, prehistory, parasitology and forensic medicine.

Probably the ‘highlight’ of this creepy museum is the mummified body of cannibal serial killer Si Quey.

It’s highly educational and gives you the opportunity to see the specimens once used by medical students at the hospital. It’s fun, wacky and ideal for anyone into morbid content.

  • Open 09:00-16:00 Monday to Saturday
  • 40 baht entrance fee
  • Wang Lang N10/Thonburi Railway N11 pier

Royal Barges Museum

This unusual museum will be particularly interesting to anyone gripped by royal history.

Home to a suite of luxury canal boats, the Royal Barges Museum boasts an 8-strong collection of incredibly decorative barges which offer a great insight into the rich history of Bangkok. The barges only depart for special occasions, including royal processions along the tranquil river.

  • Open daily from 09:00 – 17:00
  • 100 baht entrance fee (plus an additional 100 baht if you want to take photos)
  • Wang Lang N10 pier

Assumption Cathedral

bangkok riverside restaurants

By MOs810 (CC BY-SA 3.0)

Also known as the principal Roman Catholic church of Thailand, Assumption Cathedral dates back to 1820 although was only refurbished to its current splendour in 1919. It was even visited by Pope John in 1984 (

It’s truly stunning façade will draw you in to view the high vaulted ceiling, as well as the grand architecture and decoration. If you time it right, you might even get to see the cathedral choir perform.

  • Open during daylight hours
  • English service on Sundays at 10:00
  • Oriental N1 pier

The Oriental

Now the Mandarin Oriental, this is Bangkok’s oldest hotel and arguably its most prestigious.

Old world charm and literary history are in abundance here: the hotel has played host to such greats as Somerset Maugham, John Le Carre, Joseph Conrad, Noel Coward and Graham Greene.

The Author’s Lounge is one of the city’s most photographed locations and a beautiful spot for some afternoon tea.

  • Oriental N1 pier

Bangkok Riverside Restaurants

While Bangkok Riverside is best known for its incredible street food offerings (seriously — check out Wang Lang market!), it’s got a fair few excellent restaurants that are worth a dime or two.

Great food + riverside views = good times.

Here are a few of the best dining spots along the Chao Phraya:

  • Sala Rattanakosin Eatery and Bar: the view across to Wat Arun is the real star of the show at this Thai hotel restaurant, but the cocktails certainly aren’t bad either
  • Sala Rim Naam: the Oriental’s Thai restaurant that stretches onto the water in its terrace section serves up incredible dishes and traditional Thai entertainment
  • Le Normandie: also at the Oriental, Le Normandie is considered Bangkok’s premier French restaurant
  • Steve Cafe and Cuisine: a great little Thai restaurant with a cracking view down the Chao Phraya, near Thewet pier
  • Babble and Rum: a riverside Western restaurant in the Riva Surya hotel near Phra Athit pier
  • Sheepshank Public House: an American restaurant and bar on the river near Phra Athit pier

Best Bangkok Riverside Hotels

Like everywhere in Thailand, there are many Bangkok river hotels that offer everything you could possible want and need.

Scattered among historical buildings and Bangkok riverside restaurants, we’ve picked some of the finest establishments that will guarantee a pleasurable stay in the heart of the old city.

Chatrium Hotel Riverside Bangkok

bangkok river hotels

With 396 rooms, the Chatrium Riverside Bangkok provides you with all the luxury you’d expect from a five-star hotel.

  • 2.8 miles from Wat Arun
  • Outdoor pool, terrace and garden
  • Hot tub, Jacuzzi and sauna
  • Spa and wellness center
  • Children’s playground
  • Bar and restaurant
  • Beauty and barber shop
  • Airport shuttle service
  • On-site mini market

ibis bangkok riverside

The Peninsula Bangkok

anantara bangkok riverside

Another top pick for riverside hotels Bangkok is The Peninsula where you can guarantee superior treatment in a beautiful setting.

  • 5-star rating
  • 2.1 miles from Wat Arun
  • Outdoor pool, terrace and garden
  • On-site library
  • Massage and sauna
  • Spa and wellness center
  • Fitness center and tennis court
  • Bar and restaurant
  • Airport shuttle service
  • On-site shop and gift shop
  • Millennium Hilton Bangkok

ibis bangkok riverside

Millennium Hilton Bangkok

chatrium riverside bangkok

Boasting stunning views of the Chao Phraya River with every guest room, the Millennium Hilton Bangkok is the perfect place to sleep, relax and do business.

  • 5-star rating
  • 0.2 miles from River City Shopping Complex and Si Phraya Pier
  • 1.8 miles from Wat Arun
  • Outdoor pool, terrace and garden
  • Massage and sauna
  • Spa and wellness center
  • Bar and restaurant
  • Business facilities
  • Airport shuttle service

ibis bangkok riverside

Ibis Bangkok Riverside

bangkok riverside restaurants

Featuring wooden flooring and bright décor, all rooms at the Ibis Bangkok Riverside are ideally situated with views along the beautiful Chao Phraya River.

  • 3-star rating
  • 2.3 miles from Wat Arun
  • Outdoor pool, terrace and garden
  • Children’s playground
  • Massage
  • Bar and restaurant
  • Business facilities
  • Facilities for disabled guests
  • Free shuttle service

ibis bangkok riverside

Anantara Riverside Bangkok Resort

anantara bangkok riverside

With eleven restaurants and bars, sports and beauty facilities and so much more, you’ll never want to leave the Anantara Bangkok riverside hotel.

  • 5-star rating
  • Outdoor pool, terrace and garden
  • Kid’s club and playground
  • Bicycle rental
  • Hot tub, Jacuzzi, sauna and massage
  • Spa and wellness center
  • Tennis court and table tennis
  • 11 separate bars and restaurants
  • Business facilities
  • Airport shuttle and shuttle service
  • Barber and beauty shop
  • Facilities for disabled guests

ibis bangkok riverside

Shangri-La Bangkok

asiatique riverfront bangkok

Better known as one of the most luxurious and stylish hotels in the area, the Shangri-La Bangkok offers easy access to all local attractions and business districts.

  • 5-star rating
  • 2.3 miles from Wat Arun
  • Outdoor pool
  • Spa and wellness center
  • Massage and sauna
  • Fitness center and tennis court
  • Solarium
  • Bar and restaurant
  • Business facilities
  • Barber and beauty shop
  • Airport shuttle
  • Car hire
  • Facilities for disabled guests

ibis bangkok riverside


Phew — that’s our complete guide to Bangkok Riverside!

What are your top Chao Phraya River tips?

 

Featured image contains photo by Nik Cyclist (CC BY 2.0 licence)

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