Bangkok, Thailand’s capital, is a large city known for ornate shrines and vibrant street life. The boat-filled Chao Phraya River feeds its network of canals, flowing past the Rattanakosin royal district, home to opulent Grand Palace and its sacred Wat Phra Kaew Temple. Nearby is Wat Pho Temple with an enormous reclining Buddha and, on the opposite shore, Wat Arun Temple with its steep steps and Khmer-style spire.
Top 10 things to do in Bangkok
- Grand Palace & Wat Prakeaw
- Wat Arun (the Temple of Dawn)
- Floating markets
- Chinatown (Yaowarat)
- Wat Pho
- Chao Phraya River & Waterways
- Chatuchak Weekend Market
- Bangkok National Museum
- Khoa San Road
- Jim Thompson's House
If there is one must-see sight that no visit to Bangkok would be complete without, it's the dazzling, spectacular Grand Palace, undoubtedly the city's most famous landmark. Built in 1782 - and for 150 years the home of the Thai King, the Royal court and the administrative seat of government - the Grand Palace of Bangkok is a grand old dame indeed, that continues to have visitors in awe with its beautiful architecture and intricate detail, all of which is a proud salute to the creativity and craftsmanship of Thai people. Within its walls were also the Thai war ministry, state departments, and even the mint. Today, the complex remains the spiritual heart of the Thai Kingdom.
A strict dress code applies. The Grand Palace with The Temple of the Emerald Buddha is Thailand's most sacred site. Visitors must be properly dressed before being allowed entry to the temple. Men must wear long pants and shirts with sleeves (no tank tops. If you're wearing sandals or flip-flops you must wear socks (in other words, no bare feet.) Women must be similarly modestly dressed. No see-through clothes, bare shoulders, etc. If you show up at the front gate improperly dressed, there is a booth near the entrance that can provide clothes to cover you up properly (a deposit is required).
Opening Hours: Daily 08:30 - 15:30
Location: Na Phra Lan Road, Old City (Rattanakosin)
Price Range: Tickets sold from 8:30 - 15:30 and cost 500 baht!
One ticket includes entry to Vimanmek Palace and Abhisek Dusit Throne Hall
Wat Arun (the Temple of Dawn)
Wat Arun, locally known as Wat Chaeng, is situated on the west (Thonburi) bank of the Chao Phraya River. It is easily one of the most stunning temples in Bangkok, not only because of its riverside location, but also because the design is very different to the other temples you can visit in Bangkok. Wat Arun (or temple of the dawn) is partly made up of colorfully decorated spires and stands majestically over the water. Wat Arun is almost directly opposite Wat Pho, so it is very easy to get to. From Sapphan Taksin boat pier you can take a river boat that stops at pier 8. From here a small shuttle boat takes you from one side of the river to the other for only 3 baht. Entry to the temple is 100 baht. The temple is open daily from 08:30 to 17:30.
The pioneer of all floating markets, Damnoen Saduak continues to offer an authentic experience despite its increasingly touristy atmosphere. Imagine dozens of wooden row boats floating by, each laden to the brim with farm-fresh fruits, vegetables or flowers. Food vendors fill their vessels with cauldrons and charcoal grills, ready to whip up a bowl of ‘boat noodle’ or seafood skewers upon request.
Bangkok’s Chinatown is a popular tourist attraction and a food haven for new generation gourmands who flock here after sunset to explore the vibrant street-side cuisine. At day time, it’s no less busy, as hordes of shoppers descend upon this 1-km strip and adjacent Charoenkrung Road to get a day’s worth of staple, trade gold, or pay a visit to one of the Chinese temples. Packed with market stalls, street-side restaurants and a dense concentration of gold shops, Chinatown is an experience not to miss. The energy that oozes from its endless rows of wooden shop-houses is plain contagious – it will keep you wanting to come back for more. Plan your visit during major festivals, like Chinese New Year, and you will see Bangkok Chinatown at its best.
A visit to Wat Pho is a must for any traveler to Bangkok, it is the home to the Reclining Buddha which stands at fifteen meters tall and forty six meters long, the feet alone are measured at over five meters. The whole statue is covered in gold leaf and looks incredible when you get up close. Inside the temple there are 108 bowls and on the way in to the temple you can buy coins for the bowls. The history behind this is that Buddha completed 108 positive actions on his way to becoming perfect. While you are at the temple you can also stop for a while to receive a traditional Thai Massage.
Chao Phraya River
The Chao Phraya River meanders its way right through the heart of Bangkok and adds to the charm and appeal of this bustling metropolis. Getting out on the water offers a break from the crowds and the heat, making a trip along the river a popular thing to do in Bangkok. River ferries dart back and forth between hotels and landmarks so even if you just take a quick trip from one side to the other it’s a nice experience. The best way to see this Bangkok attraction though is on a river cruise or by renting a boat and travelling at your own speeds. Longboats can be rented from a couple of different piers and the price includes a driver so you don’t have to worry about finding your way around. Ask him to take you to the canals as this is a wonderful thing to do in Bangkok that many visitors to the city don’t get to see. There are guided river cruises as well if you want to learn all about the river while cruising on it. Dinner cruises are the perfect end to a day and allow you to see the city from a different perspective as the sun goes down and the temples and palaces are lit up.
Chatuchak Weekend Market
Among the many things to do in Bangkok, shopping is always a popular pastime both for tourists and for locals. There are countless markets and shopping malls, but none come close to beating the experience you’ll find at the Chatuchak Weekend Market. It’s a mammoth market and one of the top attractions in Bangkok, with somewhere in the region of 15,000 different stalls and about 200,000 visitors each day that it’s open. As the name suggests this is primarily a weekend market, open Saturday and Sunday, though one section, called Jatujak Plaza is open throughout the week too.
There’s no point in trying to list what you can buy at the market because the fact is you can buy just about anything and the goods are all affordably priced. Of course, you should haggle over prices anyway and get a little more off what the vendor first quotes you as this is the expected thing to do in Bangkok!
Come early to beat some of the crowds and to beat the heat – with so many people wandering around the stalls the market does get very hot and uncomfortable, and you don’t want this to ruin your visit. If you’re okay with the crowds stay for the day and enjoy some great food from the multitude of food carts.
Bangkok National Museum
When deciding what to do in Bangkok you’ll discover there are countless museums of different sizes and different subjects all across the city but if you want a general overview of Thai art and history, be sure to visit the Bangkok National Museum.
This is the largest museum in Southeast Asia so you should set aside several hours at least for visiting this particular Bangkok attraction. It’s recommended for anyone who’d like to learn more about the intricate history of Thailand. Starting in pavilion one you’ll see some very nice exhibits that begin to summarize the country’s history. The rest of the museum is set over numerous buildings, some with more to offer, and some with better exhibits than others. Parts of the museum have benefited from refurbishment, while others would still benefit from more work, but overall the insight you’ll gain from visiting will help you have a better understanding of the local culture and more of an appreciation for the many things to do in Bangkok.
Opening Hours: 09:00 - 16:00 (Wednesday - Sunday)
Location: Na Phrothat Road, near the Grand Palace
Khoa San Road
It’s only a short street but Khao San Road is probably the best known street in the city, making a visit to the backpacker’s paradise one of the top things to do in Bangkok. You could call it a tourist trap, but if you’re wondering what to do in Bangkok one evening, this is a great place to try. It’s friendly and has a fun and laid back atmosphere thanks to the welcoming locals and the worldly tourists. If you wanted cheap, backpacker accommodation you would come here, and you’d also come here to pick up many of the buses that leave for other parts of Thailand each day.
But if you’re not staying in a cheap hostel in the heart of this Bangkok attraction, what does Khao San Road offer? During the day you can buy cheap goods from the stores that line the street; anything from pirated CDs to handicrafts to essential backpacker items. Come evening and this short street is packed with people looking for a fun night out. Music blasts from the shops and bars and there are ample places to grab some authentic Thai food. Try a cheap foot massage after a day of sightseeing or watch one of the far-out shows and entertainment offerings. Even if you just have a short visit to see what all the fuss is about this Bangkok attraction really is one to experience.
Wat Trimit, Temple of the Golden Buddha
Sheer luck (or lack thereof) makes this attraction special. During the 1950s, the East Asiatic Company purchased the land around the temple. A condition of the sale was the removal of a plaster statue of Buddha, but the statue proved too heavy for the crane being used. The cable parted and the figure was dropped, being left overnight where it fell. It happened to be in the rainy season, and when next morning some monks walked past, they noticed a glint of gold shining through the plaster. The coating was removed, revealing a 3.5 m Buddha cast from 5.5 tons of solid gold.
All attempts to trace the origin of this priceless statue have so far failed, but it is assumed to date from the Sukhothai period, when marauding invaders threatened the country and its treasures, and it became common practice to conceal valuable Buddha figures beneath a coating of plaster. No one knows how it came to Bangkok, but here it stands available for the admiration of visitors from all over the world.
Wat Suthat, adjacent to the Great Swing, is one of the oldest and most beautiful of Bangkok's Buddhist temples. Three kings had a hand in its construction: it was begun soon after the coronation of Rama I (founder of the Chakri dynasty) in 1782, continued by Rama II, and completed ten years later by Rama III. Apart from its delightful architecture, the temple boasts some exceptionally interesting wall paintings. Wat Suthat is less popular than some of the other temple complexes in the city, so you'll enjoy a more peaceful and intimate experience here.
Hours: 8:30am-9:00pm daily
Admission: 20 baht
Location: Bamrung Muang Road, Sao Chingcha, Phra Nakhon
Jim Thompson House
The Jim Thompson House is a museum in central Bangkok, Thailand, housing the art collection of American businessman and architect Jim Thompson, the museum designer and former owner. Built in 1959, the museum spans one rectangular "rai" of land (approximately half an acre or 2023.43 meters). It is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Thailand; sporting vibrant jungle foliage in the heart of the city.
Following his moving to Bangkok and the establishment of the Thai Silk Company Limited in 1948, Thompson also became a major collector of Southeast Asian art, which at the time, was not well-known internationally. Attracted by the subtlety of their craftsmanship and expression, he built a large collection of historical Buddhist statues and traditional Thai paintings made of wood, cloth, and paper that depicted the life of Buddha and the legend of Vessantara Jataka. He collected secular art not only from Thailand but from Burma, Cambodia, and Laos, frequently travelling to those countries on buying trips. His collection also consisted of white and blue porcelain from China, which made its way into Thailand around the 16th and 17th centuries.
In 1958, he began what was to be the pinnacle of his architectural achievement, a new home to live in and to showcase his art collection. The museum was planned to consist of a complex combination of six traditional Thai-styled houses, primarily constructed of wood, and various old Thai structures that were collected from all parts of Thailand in the 1950s and 1960s. His home sits on a klong (canal) across from Bangkrua, where his weavers were then located. Most of the 19th-century houses were dismantled and moved from Ayutthaya, but the largest, a weaver's house (now the living room), came from Bangkrua.