Top Things To Do In Bangkok: The First Time Tourist Guide

Beautiful, intriguing, chaotic, exotic.

Bangkok is one of the most exciting cities in the world and is brimming with wonders and things to do for tourists, expats and locals alike.

Here, we’ve compiled a guide to the Bangkok places of interest that showcase the best of the city’s history and present identity: a tourist’s guide to the Big Mango, if you will.

It’s unlikely you’ll be able to see everything on this list during your time here, so take some time to pick and choose these Bangkok things to do that most interest you.

Let’s take it away…

Top Things To Do In Bangkok

The Grand Palace

grand palace bangkok

This spectacular, glittering complex is a must see for anyone visiting Bangkok.

For 150 years the palace was home to the Thai royal family, and has been at the heart of old Bangkok since the city was founded by King Rama I in 1782.

Everywhere you look there are colourfully carved demons and gods, inlaid with sparkling glass or enrobed in gold leaf.

The vast complex is bursting with examples of intricate Thai traditional architecture, and it’s home to Wat Phra Kaew — the Temple of the Emerald Buddha — making it Thailand’s most sacred site. This small jade Buddha image wreathed in gold is believed to bring good fortune to whoever possesses it and over the centuries it has been the cause of many wars.

There are numerous other elaborate buildings including Phra Mondop which is covered in glass mosaics and holds the sacred scriptures, Prasat Phra Debidorn which contains life-size statues of the first eight kings of the Chakri dynasty, plus the more modern Royal Reception Halls built in an Italian Renaissance style.

The Grand Palace is located in the Old City (Rattanakosin) on Na Phra Lan Road, and is open daily from 8:30 am to 3:30 pm daily.

Wat Pho

bangkok places of interest

Just a short walk away from the Wat Phra Kaew and the Grand Palace complex, the immense golden reclining Buddha at Wat Pho is nearly as famous as his emerald cousin.

At 15 metres tall and 46 metres long, this gargantuan Buddha is undeniably impressive, and his 5 metre long feet are decorated with delicate mother-of-pearl illustrations of auspicious ‘laksanas’ (characteristics) of the Buddha based around a central chakra.

Wat Pho is one of the Bangkok’s oldest and largest temple complexes, and the rambling grounds cover eight hectares.

Elsewhere on the site you’ll find the largest collection of Buddha images in Thailand, including four chapels containing around four hundred gilded seated and standing Buddha images, arranged in long glowing golden lines. Richly painted murals depict vibrant religious and mythological scenes.

bangkok points of interest

There’s another very good reason for coming to Wat Pho, as it is considered to be the first higher center of learning when it comes to Thai massage and healing.

It’s the perfect place to recline like the Buddha and be invigorated with a therapeutic massage to get you recharged and ready to continue exploring Bangkok’s best sites.

Due to their proximity, it’s a good idea to combine a visit to Wat Pho with a visit to the Grand Palace. Wat Pho is located on Maharat Road in the Old City and is open every day from 8 am to 5 pm.

Wat Arun

wat arun bangkok

By Kosin Sukhum (CC BY-SA 4.0 licence)

Wat Arun (otherwise known as The Temple of the Dawn) is perhaps the most easily distinguishable landmark on the banks of the Chao Phraya River — particularly at sunset when the light strikes the glittering towers just right.

In 1768 the temple was named by King Taksin for the Indian god of dawn (Aruna) in honour of the founding of a new capital kingdom, and was originally the site where the sacred Emerald Buddha was kept.

The design of the temple is distinctly different from most others. It features four smaller towers — one at each corner — dedicated to the wind god Phra Phai, and an impressive 80 metre high central spire which symbolizes the legendary Mount Meru, center of the Buddhist universe.

Each tower is decorated with mosaics made from shards of porcelain and seashell to make them sparkle and gleam in the sunlight.

At night Wat Arun is best admired from across the river, when it is lit up in gently blushing shades of neon. If visiting by day, the temple is open from 8 am to 5:30 pm. Take a ferry to Tha Tien Pier where the shuttle service will take you across the river.

Khao San Road

bangkok things to do

By Robert Brands (CC BY-ND 2.0 licence)

Infamous Khao San Road is an almost compulsory rite of passage for backpackers and travellers visiting Bangkok for the first time, and the place has grown so popular that its attractions have now spilled out into the neighbouring streets.

There’s cheap accommodation to be found here and it’s a popular area with backpackers, but the biggest appeal is the party atmosphere and the cheap drinks and food. It’s also easy to meet people and make new friends.

However there is much more to the Khao San Road than just hedonistic revelry.

Market stalls sell clothes at rock bottom prices, you can get a massage or have your hair braided, or even get a tattoo as a souvenir of your trip (probably best to do your research before you do, however!).

In recent years some more stylish boutiques have opened up on the strip, selling some beautiful hand crafted designer items including clothes and jewellery.

Food ranges from streetside pad Thai to pizza and burgers at some of the cheapest prices in the city. And yes, there is a lady who sells a variety of cooked insects here too if you’re feeling like tucking into something crunchy.

Not far from the river, Khao San Road is easily accessed by boat and is only a short walk from Tha Athit pier.

Chao Phraya River

things to do in bangkok

By Nik Cyclist (CC BY 2.0 licence)

No visit to Bangkok is complete without taking a boat on the magnificent Chao Phraya River.

Winding its way through the heart of the old city, this wide waterway has always played a significant role within Bangkok.

To this day it is still a major thoroughfare for transportation of goods in barges and long tail boats, as well as being a convenient and refreshing way of getting around some of the city’s major locations.

Chao Phraya express boats are a cheap and fun way to get to and from main tourist attractions like Wat Pho and Wat Arun, as well as a fantastic opportunity to enjoy the spectacular skyline views of skyscrapers, quaint temples, and stylish hotels.

Escape the humid, crowded city streets and experience the fresh river breeze on a romantic candlelit dinner cruise, or take an interesting and informative tour on an authentic rice barge to learn about the Thai way of life on the water. Alternatively take a pew in one of the many chic bars on the riverside and watch the sun dip slowly below the horizon reflected in the water.

There are various ferries and tourist boats serving different parts of the river, with the Chao Phraya express boat services stopping frequently at each pier. Boats run from 6 am to 7:30 pm and tickets typically cost around 10 – 30 THB.

There are plenty of day and night time cruises to choose from as well, although you generally need to book these in advance.

It’s a fun and extremely affordable way of adventuring on the River of Kings.

Chatuchak Weekend Market

top things to do in bangkok

By JJ Harrison (CC BY-SA 3.0 licence)

Also known as JJ Market, Chatuchak Weekend Market is one of the biggest open air markets in the world, and it offers a highly memorable shopping experience not to be missed.

Over eight thousand stalls are crammed into the 35 acre site, selling everything from puppies to antiques.

It is notoriously easy to get lost in the throng of Chatuchak, but it is somewhat organised and there are maps available to help you navigate your way around.

Antiques and handicrafts, pets and pet accessories, homewares and decor, lots of clothing — both vintage and new — plants and gardening equipment, and original art are just some of the treasures to be found here.

There are plenty of stall holders selling fresh fruit juices and other refreshments to keep your energy levels up too — the coconut ice cream is particularly good.

Allow at least a whole morning for your visit to Chatuchak Weekend Market. It’s open on Saturdays and Sundays from 9 am to 6 pm, and is partially open on Friday evenings from 6 pm to midnight.

To get here take the BTS Skytrain to Mo Chit station and follow the crowds.

Talad Rod Fai Night Market

A trip to Talad Rod Fai Night Market with have you rubbing shoulders with some of Bangkok’s coolest cats. This eclectic night market that still bears the name given by its originalĀ location on the side of an abandoned railway track is hipster heaven.

If antiques and vintage items are your passion, you’ll love this authentic open air night market. It’s particularly excellent if you’re into vintage clothing and homewares, as there is a huge selection on offer.

The vibe here is totally chilled with more than a hint of bohemian – people come here as much for the atmosphere as to browse the stalls.

Trendy pop up bars serving cocktails provide liquid refreshment, and cool restaurants and street stalls dish up tasty bites. Local bands come and show off their skills too, adding even more entertainment factor and with everything combined a visit to Talad Rod Fai Night Market makes for an superb and unique evening out.

Rod Fai Market is located on Srinakarin Soi 51, just behind Seacon Square Shopping Mall. Take the BTS Skytrain to stop On Nut and grab a taxi from there.

Alternatively, there’s the Rod Fai 2 market in more accessible Ratchada. It’s slightly smaller than the original, but just as vibrant — you’ll find it next to the National Cultural Centre MRT and it’s open between 14:00 to 00:00 Thursday to Sunday.

Asiatique Night Market

things to do in bangkok

By chee.hong (CC BY 2.0 licence)

One of Bangkok’s newest and shiniest night markets is Asiatique The Riverfront — and it’s much more than just somewhere to shop, it’s a complete night out.

Housed in an old warehouse complex that has been completely revamped to create a hip, stylish new mall on the water’s edge, it boasts hundreds ofĀ stores and boutiques selling everything including the latest Thai designer fashions, handicrafts, homewares, jewellery, and electrical goods.

More upscale than your average Bangkok night market, the prices at Asiatique are generally a little higher, but it’s still possible to get a bargain.

When you’ve worked up enough of an appetite you can dine in style at one of Asiatique’s 40 odd restaurants, or have a thirst-quencher at one of the bars. There’s a huge choice of cuisines on offer, from Japanese and Italian to KFC.

For even more entertainment take in an extravagant ladyboy show from the Calypso Bangkok Theater, or a traditional puppet performance at the Joe Louis Puppet Theater. Alternatively, you can take a ride on Asiatique’s answer to the London Eye, a big wheel that gives impressive views of the river as it snakes through the city.

Asiatique The Riverfront is open from 5 pm to 12 am every day. It’s located at Chareonkrung Soi 74-76, which is a little off the beaten track and is best accessed by boat — there’s a free shuttle boat from Saphan Taksin Pier.

Jim Thompson House

things to do in bangkok

By Deror_avi (CC BY-SA 3.0 licence)

An architectural gem, Jim Thompson House consists of a complex of six traditional Thai-style teak houses surrounded by lush gardens filled with plants and flowers.

American born Jim Thompson fell in love with the city of Bangkok after the war, and decided to make it his home, accumulating a large collection of South East Asian arts and crafts.

When he mysteriously disappeared in the 1960s, his home and his collections were discovered and his home was turned into a museum for all to enjoy.

A trained architect, Jim Thompson’s sophisticated taste and excellent eye shine through in the many stylish, carefully curated works of art on display.

Decorative wall hangings, stone carvings, silk paintings, and delicate porcelain are just some of the items to be enjoyed here. The house itself is beautiful too, with richly carved wooden detailing and rich, warm colours.

Jim Thompson House is situated on Soi Kasemsan 2, opposite the National Stadium. Guided tours are available from 9 am to 5 pm, Monday to Sunday.

Lumpini Park

cheap things to do in bangkok

By Terence Ong (CC BY 2.5 licence)

Thailand’s cities are not well known for their parks, and in Bangkok there is very little in the way of green space.

One exception to that is Lumpini Park, a sizable 182 acre leafy sanctuary right in the middle of Bangkok’s beating heart. The park was created in the 1920s, and since then it has become one of the locals’ favourite hang outs to escape the city heat.

It’s also home to some large monitor lizards that laze by edge of the park’s large lake, soaking up the sun. Thankfully the metre long beasts are friendly and usually quite docile.

lumpini park lizards

By istolethetv (CC BY 2.0 licence)

And the lizards aren’t the only wildlife you’ll find in the park. The flora consists mainly of trees, but there are nevertheless attractive displays of shrubs and flowers which attract many different bird species.

The park is a great place to people watch too. Locals love to come and relax and picnic in the shade, go running, take part in a dance class, or make the most of the free outdoor fitness machines. For a truly tranquil experience hire a swan boat to take out on the lake.

Lumpini Park is between Rama 4, Ratchadamri, Sarasin and Witthayu Roads. It’s open from 5 am to 8 pm.

Kamthieng House

bangkok points of interest

A little leafy oasis hidden away from the hustle and bustle of the busy streets of Sukhumvit, Kamthieng House is a charming museum that is a pleasure to visit.

Run by the Siam Society, the museum space is in fact a 160 year old traditional Thai teak house — the perfect setting for the exhibits centered around traditional rural life in the Lanna Kingdom from the 13th to the 18th centuries.

Visitors here get to learn about a typical householdā€™s daily routine, plus learn about how they would worship to their various spirits. There’s an excellent showcase of exhibits including weaving looms, baskets, beds, farming tools and equipment including a rice granary, which all give fascinating insight into what daily life would have been like hundreds of years ago.

An additional bonus are the lush, green gardens surrounding the museum. They make for a very cool and relaxing spot to take a quick break from the crowds.

Kamthieng House Museum is open from 9 am to 5 pm Tuesday to Saturday. It’s located right in one of the busiest areas of Sukhumvit at 131 Thanon Asok Montri, Sukhumvit Soi 21 nearby Terminal 21 shopping mall.

Siam

shopping malls in bangkok

Siam Paragon. By Mark Fischer (CC BY-SA 2.0 licence)

Siam Square is one of the most famous shopping destinations in Bangkok, and it’s popular with tourists and the local in-crowd who come here to hang out in style.

It’s home to a mixture of chic boutiques, street markets and shiny malls. Boutiques feature original clothing and accessories hand made by local designers, and vintage items. Music shops sell retro vinyl and the latest indie and international tunes.

Siam’s massive malls include glitzy Siam Paragon, which has around 250 stores selling mainly international high fashion brands, and also features a luxury sixteen screen cinema, a vast aquarium and a wide selection of restaurants.

Nearby Siam Center is where many of the local design boutiques are located, and Siam Discovery is a sophisticated shopping space appealing to the well heeled and discerning shopper.

If you start to feel all shopped out, take a breather in the green space of Siam Park hidden away at the heart of the square. The best way to explore this shopping paradise is by taking a BTS Skytrain to either Chit Lom or Siam and then follow your nose.

Temple of the Golden Mount

bangkok things to do

By Preecha.MJ (CC BY-SA 4.0 licence)

Wat Saket (also known as the Temple of the Golden Mount) is another of Bangkok’s places of interest. Situated just outside the boundary of the old city, this temple’s defining feature is its 80 meter high hill with huge gilded roof which was built early in the nineteenth century during the reign of King Rama III to mark the entrance to the city.

It’s a gentle climb of 318 steps in order to reach the stupa on top of Golden Mount , and the panoramic views out across the city are magnificent.

In recent years the top of the mount has been reinforced with concrete to prevent it from falling down, but the base is still mainly brick and plaster, with numerous shrines to departed people dotted eerily amongst the ruins.

The Golden Mount is also the location for an annual temple fair held every November, when the temple is transformed with multicolored lanterns and flags, and a magical candlelight procession weaves its way up the mount in the early evening hours.

Wat Saket is open daily from 9 am to 5 pm and is located 500 meters east of the Victory Monument in the center of Thanon Ratchadamnoen Klang off Ratchadamnoen Klang Road.

Chinatown

things to do in bangkok

By Mr.Sayompoo Setabhrahmana (CC BY-SA 4.0 licence)

Widely considered to be one of the best Chinatowns in the world, Bangkok’s chaotic and exotic Chinatown is a popular attraction — particularly for foodies who come to sample some of the best food in town.

The place literally buzzes with energy, and it’s easy to lose yourself among the many delicious distractions in the winding streets and alleys. Be prepared to get caught up in the crowds — this place gets busy.

Some of Bangkok’s best restaurants selling Chinese delicacies such as roast suckling pig can be found here, but the area is also renowned for its street food.

At dusk the main thoroughfare of Yaowarat Road bursts into life with street vendors selling delights such as oyster omelets, grilled meats and steaming noodles.

Just off Yaowarat Road is Sampeng Lane, a narrow street which is made narrower still by the stalls on either side packed with every kind of goods you can imagine, from sunglasses to fairy lights.

It can get pretty claustrophobic but it’s also a lot of fun and a great place to pick up a bargain.

The entrance to Chinatown is marked by an impressive, elaborately carved gateway at the eastern end of Yaowarat Road. The area is open from very early until very late.

Bangkok Flower Market

things to do in thailand

By Jen Hunter (CC BY 2.0 licence)

Prepare yourself to be dazzled by displays of vivid colour at Bangkok Flower Market (Pak Klong Talad).

It’s a short distance from here to Wat Pho, so it’s well worth checking out while you’re in the area. The streets are lined with shops bursting with beautifully woven garlands of colourful blooms, huge bouquets of orchids and roses (this is a wholesale market, so flowers are mostly sold in bunches of fifty or more) and baskets for Buddhist ceremonies.

Recently, a crackdown has seen many of the streetside vendors either move inside or to a new location so it’s not quite as chaotic as it once was. There’s still plenty going on here though and it’s a huge draw for locals and tourists alike.

The market is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and it is very popular and can be busy even in the wee hours before dawn.

Prices are extremely cheap, and flowers are delivered here from all over Thailand, as well as being imported from overseas. The floral variety is incredible, and it’s a great place to visit even if you don’t have the occasion to buy any flowers.

Bangkok Flower Market is located on Chak Phet Road, Memorial Bridge. A good way to get there is to take a Chao Phraya Express boat to stop 7, Rajinee.

Lebua Sky Bar

One of the world’s most impressive bars — and certainly one of the highest — Lebua Sky Bar oozes glamour and sophistication.

High up among the clouds on the 64th floor of the State Tower building in Bangkok’s business district (820 feet to be precise), the panoramic views from this rooftop are simply out of this world, transforming the hustle and bustle below into a glittering, serene fairytale scene.

The main focus is the circular central bar which softly pulses through various different shades of neon, it’s here that the highly trained team of mixologists work their magic to create innovative (but expensive) cocktails. The bar is also situated right next to the highly acclaimed Sirocco restaurant under the tower’s striking golden roofed pavilion.

Drinks are definitely more expensive than elsewhere in the city, but the prices are worth it just for the chance to experience the stunning view.

A strict dress code applies, so make the effort to dress smartly if you don’t want to be turned away at the door. Our advice is to get to the Lebua Sky Bar early to beat the crowds and get a sunset view. It’s open from 6 pm to 1 am every day, and is situated at 1055 Silom Road, Bangrak.

Thailand National Museum

top things to do in bangkok

By Shoestring at wts wikivoyage (CC BY-SA 4.0 licence)

The collections of Thai art, artifacts and treasures at the Thailand National Museum are simply astounding.

These abundant works are accommodated in the former grounds of Wang Na Palace, which was constructed in 1782 and was previously home to Thai Viceroys before being converted to a museum by Rama V in 1874.

The exhibits are divided into different areas; the history wing details Thailand’s prehistory, before taking you on a journey through the early kingdoms and Ayutthaya, and then finishing with the modern Thai kingdom established in Bangkok. It showcases many sculptures, ancient scriptures and other valuable artifacts.

The decorative arts and ethnological collections include Thai and south east Asian handicrafts such as traditional musical instruments, masks ceramics, clothing and textiles, puppets, woodcarving, regalia and weaponry.

The ornate royal ceremonial chariots which were used almost exclusively for funeral processions and cremations are another highlight.

Not far from the Grand Palace, the Thailand National Museum is situated at 4 Na Phrothat Road, and is open from 9 am to 4 pm Wednesday to Sunday.

Khlong Toey Market

bangkok places of interest

By Kounosu (CC BY-SA 3.0 licence)

There are many food markets in Bangkok, but Khlong Toey wet market is among the biggest and the best.

Brightly coloured fruits and vegetables, huge bowls of intensely aromatic spices, fresh fish and meats are all enticing to the appetite, and even if you’re not interested in buying the produce, the different textures and hues make for some fantastic photo opportunities.

Almost everything here is sold wholesale, so if you are wanting to buy it’s possible to get an extremely cheap price here.

Exploring this atmospheric market can take a couple of hours, and because of its popularity with locals — including local restaurant owners who come here to buy their raw produce — it can get very busy.

There are plenty of treats to snack on too while you are looking around, including Thai sweets and steamed dumplings.

Khlong Toey Market opens at 2 am and is open throughout the day up until around 6 pm. It’s located in Khlong Toey and is easy to find by taking the MRT subway to Khlong Toey station, it’s a short ten minute walk from there.

Siriraj Medical Museum

things to do in bangkok

(By Bobby under Licence CC BY 2.0)

Creepy, weird, and endlessly fascinating, the Siriraj Medical Museum has earned the nickname ‘The Museum of Death’.

It’s sure that a visit here is not for the faint hearted. Pickled babies with genetic disorders, the bodies of accident victims, dissected adults and children, dead murderers, bodies displaying all kinds of hideous deformities and even the dried body of a famous madman who was known to eat the livers of children are all displayed here.

It’s chilling, disturbing and bizarre, but also quite educational and certainly unforgettable.

If you’re brave enough to make a visit to Siriraj Medical Museum, you’ll find it on the second floor of the Adulyadejvikrom Buliding at Siriraj Hospital, the oldest hospital and medical school in Thailand.

It’s open Monday to Saturday from 9 am to 4 pm. It’s best to get there by riverboat to Pranok Pier.

Thailand Creative and Design Center

A post shared by Mr. Winn (@mrwinn) on


The Thailand Creative and Design Center is something for art and design lovers on our list of Bangkok things to do.

Designed by an award-winning design firm, this ultra hip creative space with lofty ceilings and gleaming glass is part of a government-backed initiative which offers an important and unique space for the brightest and best of Bangkok’s entrepreneurs and designers to showcase their latest designs, projects and inventions.

With over eighteen thousand video, film and multimedia resources on the subject of design, the center’s design library is the largest in Asia. It’s a great place to come and hang out with young, vibrant, innovative Thais.

The top floor of the 9000 metre square space is dedicated to a creative co-working space, and features a landscaped rooftop garden.

If you’d like to visit the TCDC you’ll find it at 1160 Charoen Krung Road, Bangrak. It’s open from 10 am to 9 pm Tuesday to Sunday.

Erawan Shrine

top things to do in bangkok

By Colin Tsoi (CC BY-ND 2.0 licence)

The backdrop for the catastrophic bomb blast in August 2015 which killed at least 20 people and wounded over 123, Erawan Shrine is still one of Bangkok’s busiest and most sacred shrines.

Originally built to assuage unhappy land spirits who were causing havoc on the building site of a new hotel, the shrine has since become a major site of pilgrimage for locals and people from all over Asia — particularly East Asia and China — who come to make meritĀ and give offerings and wishes every day from dawn till dusk.

The site is important for both Buddhists and Hindus, as it contains an elaborate gold leafed statue of Phra Phrom — the four-faced Thai representation of the Hindu god of creation, Brahma.

The streets surrounding Erawan Shrine are lined with stalls selling trinkets, fresh fruit, incense and other produce to be given as offerings.

Free traditional dance and music performances take place regularly here, as performances are also frequently commissioned as offerings.

Erawan shrine can be found at the busy Ratchaprasong intersection near Siam, and is open from 6:00 am to11:00 pm every day.

Soi Cowboy

things to do in bangkok

By Wry2010 (CC BY-SA 2.0 licence)

If you’re up for an electric night like no other, the pink neon kingdom of Soi Cowboy could be just what you’re looking for.

This is perhaps the most light hearted of the city’s red light districts. Whilst prostitution is technically illegal in Bangkok, it is ever present in Soi Cowboy, so be prepared to be subjected to the charms of the many girls and ladyboys that work here. The area is a huge lure for sex tourists and many expats.

Gogo bars feature sexy dance performances, and if you like what you see you can ‘bar fine’ a girl: after the initial ‘fine’ is paid customers must then negotiate with the lady in question a further price for her time.

However if like many tourists you just want to come to see Soi Cowboy for the fun and to experience the unique atmosphere, it’s well worth a visit.

Soi Cowboy is situated not far from Sukhumvit Road near the Terminal 21 shopping mall — the closest public transport is BTS Skytrain Asoke station. As you would imagine the bars and clubs stay open reasonably late.


What are your top Bangkok things to do?

Comments

comments