Widely regarded as one of the world’s most vibrant and diverse cities, Bangkok is an eclectic, if not sometimes chaotic blend of ancient-meets-modern with enough spoils in which any traveller can delight. There’s no limit to what you can do or discover in this Eastern City of Angels. Open your mind, unleash your appetite, and make the most of your time spent sightseeing. There are massage spas aplenty waiting for you when you’re through.
Bangkok Sightseeing Spots
No matter what your preference, no trip to Bangkok would be complete without these must-see landmarks.
The Grand Palace
Just off the banks of the river Chao Phraya, this ornately dazzling palace was built in 1782 and housed the Thai King and court for more than 150 years. It continues to be a very important landmark for the Thai people and Bangkok sightseeing. Today it is used for royal rituals, banquets and celebrations.
- Hours: 8:30 – 15:30
- Fee: 500 THB
- Know: Dress respectfully. You can rent some proper clothing for 200 THB at the entrance.
Also known as “The Temple of the Reclining Buddha”, Wat Pho is one of the largest temple complexes in the city. Aside from its incredible Buddha statue, the temple is home to the oldest public university in Thailand. Today it’s renowned for its training in traditional massage and medicine. Appointments aren’t required for massages, but it’s recommended to book a spot when you first arrive.
- Hours: 8:00 – 17:00
- Fee: 100 THB
- Know: You can hire an English-speaking guide for around 200-400 THB.
Situated on the Thonburi side of the Chao Phraya, Wat Arun’s towering spires offer an iconic Bangkok silhouette. Also known as “The Temple of the Dawn”, it is one of the few temples that predate the founding of Bangkok. The temple is stunning during sunset, but that will be the busiest time. The crowds are sparse in the early morning.
- Hours: 8:30 – 17:30
- Fee: Shuttle boat for 3 THB; entrance fee 100 THB.
- Know: Normally visitors can climb the tower, but it is currently closed for renovations, expected to be finished by the end of 2017.
Wat Saket and the Golden Mount
This historic temple is best-known for its Golden Mount (Phu Khao Thong), a man-made hill with a golden chedi on the hilltop. At the time of its construction, it was the tallest structure in Bangkok. The base of the Mount honours a darker part of Bangkok’s history, with a crematorium and burial ground for more than 60,000 people who fell victim to a plague in the late 18th century.
- Hours: 7:30 – 17:30
- Fee: 10 THB
- Know: Visit in mid-November to witness the temple’s biggest festival. You can see as pilgrims hike to the top of the Mount to pay respects to the Buddha’s relics.
The gold seated Buddha housed at Wait Traimit is the largest in the world, weighing in at five and a half tonnes. It wasn’t discovered until 1955 when a presumed plaster-cast statue was dropped in transit, chipping and revealing the gold underneath. The statue is believed to have been covered in plaster to dissuade thieves and looters, and over time it was simply forgotten.
- Hours: 8:00 – 17:00
- Fee: 100 THB
- Know: The temple is open every day, but its accompanying museum (with pieces of the original plaster) is closed on Mondays.
Revered for its incredible architecture, this temple is constructed of marble and classified as a “first class Royal Temple”, one of the most important in the country. Its grounds feature an original Bodhi tree imported from Bodhgaya in India, where the Buddha reached enlightenment and an active temple.
- Hours: 8:00 – 17:30
- Fee: 20 THB
- Know: Every day starting at 6:00, locals from outside the temple bring food offerings to the monks.
Market culture is a way of life in Bangkok. As a major hub of the South-East Asian economy both past and present, almost everything under the sun is traded daily in the city from its street corners to the riverbanks. Even if you’re not in the market for any goods, it’s a must to experience the graceful chaos of these lively bazaars.
Due to its extensive networks of canals, Bangkok developed heavily reliant on its waterways, earning it the nickname “The Venice of Asia”. For centuries, boats have been used for both local and regional trade. Over time riverside markets have sprung up so vendors could sell their goods and produce directly from their boats.
Today, many floating markets still exist all over Thailand. The vendors and famously very welcoming to tourists, offering everything from ready-to-drink coconuts, Thai silks, to the classic “Boat noodles” (a small, convenient portion of noodles typical to the ancient Thai merchant.)
Damnoen Saduak is by far the most well-known market, located an hour and a half from Bangkok. To escape the crowds, visit the more low-key Khlong Lat Mayom. Or try local favourites Amphawa and Taling Chan, a market famous for its fresh selection of roasted seafood.
Chatuchak Weekend Market
Also known as JJ Market, this 8,000-stall-strong venue claims to be one of the world’s largest markets. Offering goods ranging from antiques to pets to ceramics and furniture, you can indeed find anything you’re looking for here, given a little willpower. Of course, food and drinks are available aplenty.
- Hours: 6:00 – 18:00
- Know: Wednesday and Thursday are for plants & flowers only; Friday is the wholesale day; Saturday and Sunday are the main market days. Some stalls do not open until after 8:00.
A truly dazzling market, Pak Klong Talad is the biggest wholesale and retail fresh flower market in Bangkok. While a relatively tame trading post during the day, this market comes alive just before the sun comes up. Wholesalers cart through truckloads of freshly cut flowers in the glow of the dawning sun.
- Hours: 24-hours
- Know: Pak Klong Talad translates as “market at the mouth of the canal”, and it’s been an important trading area for more than 200 years. Fruit and vegetables are also sold en masse here.
Hidden pockets of culture
Boasting a population of 8.3 million, Bangkok attracts people from all over the world, identifying across a prism of cultures and religions. Pockets of diverse and energetic culture penetrate the city, each area offering its own tastes and treasures.
One of Bangkok’s most vibrant areas, Chinatown’s winding streets and alleyways is best explored by foot – and on an empty stomach. Known for its eclectic street-side cuisine, load up on oyster omelettes, rice soup with fish, fried crab or fresh dim sum. Lose hours meandering through the area’s many open-air shops and forgotten temples. Some highlights include Sampaeng Lane, Chinatown’s original main street, Wat Kanikaphon, a small temple founded by a former madam of a brothel, and Phahurat Market, home to an array of fabric and wedding stalls.
Housed in a former royal palace, the National Museum holds the country’s largest collection of artefacts. It offers an excellent insight organised into three areas consistent with the Kingdom’s tumultuous and vibrant history.
- Hours: Wednesday – Sunday from 9:00 – 16:00
- Fee: 200 THB (Free for Thai Nationals)
- Know: English language tours are available and free to join – scheduled to begin at 9:30 on Wednesday and Thursday. Guided tours in other languages can be arranged.
The Jim Thompson House
Jim Thompson was an American entrepreneur and founder of the Jim Thompson Thai Silk Company. He’s a man honoured by the Kingdom of Thailand for his impact on the silk industry, a true business legend during his 25-year tenure in Asia. Today, his house stands as a testament to a beautiful and traditional Thai-style home, housing his vast collection of art and antiques.
While admiring the exquisite architecture and Thompson’s innate attention to detail, you can unleash your inner conspiracy theorist: Thompson mysteriously disappeared while on holiday to Malaysia’s Cameron Highlands and was never heard from again.
- Hours: 9:00 – 18:00
- Entrance Fee: 150 THB
- Know: Guided tours are compulsory. Discounts are offered for students.
A few days pounding the pavement of the city can leave you craving some greenery. Bangkok offers access to all of the elements right at its doorstep. Take to the open fields, dirt pathways or deep blue sea just off the subway lines.
Bangkok’s own Central Park, Lumpini Park is right in the middle of it all, accessible by many public transport options. It offers rare open, green spaces, paths and trails totalling near 2.5 kilometres. There’s even an artificial lake complete with swan paddle boats.
The park features a number of commemorative statues, Bangkok’s first public library, and a youth centre. It also plays host to a variety of events from music festivals to chats with Buddhist monks. Over the weekend a food market pops up as well. Stalls rotate but expect everything from fresh seafood and fruits to trusty Pad Thai (Thai fried noodles) and Jim Joom (meat and vegetable hot pot).
- Hours: 4:30 – 21:00
- Know: Cycling is only permitted during the day between 10:00 – 15:00; no smoking or dogs are allowed.
The Green Lung
Bang Krachao, lovingly dubbed Bangkok’s Green Lung by the locals, is a government-protected oasis tucked within the urban jungle. Accessible by a quick boat ride across the Chao Phraya River, the peninsular district is most popular for excellent cycling. Tranquil and delightfully untamed, rent a bike or join a tour to cycle along elevated pathways alongside Thai homes characteristic of countryside living.
- Bicycle Rental: 80-100 THB
Sea Life Bangkok Ocean World
Bangkok may be land-locked, but you can still discover all that the underwater world has to offer – or at least nearly 30,000 of its creatures. Formerly Siam Ocean World, it’s the largest aquarium in Southeast Asia housing roughly 5 million litres of exhibit space. Featuring seven distinct zones, each to represent marine animals from different corners of the globe. The aquarium’s aim is to foster an appreciation and respect for the ocean environment through entertainment. Activities include daily feedings of sharks, penguins, otters, and lectures.
- Hours: 10:00 – 21:00
- Entrance Fee: 745 THB – 990 THB for adult
- Know: Buy tickets online to save. Prices listed are for tourists; ex-pats and Thai nationals are offered discounted rates. Last call for tickets is at 20:00.
The Arts & Nightlife
Bangkok’s sites don’t close-up at dusk, the party in this town rages on far after dark. Whether your taste calls for street-side rum-filled buckets, the company of Thailand’s finest artists or cocktails with the finest champagne, there’s the party for you. Read more in our ultimate guide to Bangkok nightlife.
Bangkok Art & Culture Center
The country’s premier arena for all things art, music, design, theatre and film, the BACC hosts regular exhibitions from Thai and International artists alike. The exhibits rotate and vary. In the past few years, features include New Asian Photography, Contemporary Japanese Crafts, the Young Thai Artist Award, and The Mekong River Art Project.
- Hours: 10:00 – 21:00; closed Mondays
- Entrance Fee: Free
Skybar at Lebua
Made famous for its fabulous cameo in the Hangover II, the Skybar at the Lebua Hotel towers 820 feet over the stunning Bangkok nightscape. Obviously, this is the place to make your time in Bangkok that much more glamorous. Make your way up to the 63rd floor to take in the view with its premiere Hangovertini – a blend of green tea liquor, apple juice, Martini Rosso and rosemary honey. Make it a Poptail by adding popsicle ice.
- Hours: 18:00 – 01:00
- Cocktail prices: Average about 300 – 600 THB
- Know: Dress to impress – no flip-flop/thong sandals allowed. No photos are allowed around the rooftop area, only at the bar.
Located in Sukhumvit, Nana Plaza claims to be the largest red-light district in the word. The neon-soaked complex features racy go-go and ladyboy bars, all crowded with larger-than-life personalities vying for your patronage. The environment can be overwhelming, but it’s all perfectly non-threatening.
Tourism is like a second language to a city like Bangkok, with guides available for every budget to bring you to all of the above locations and more. Whether you want to be taken around in-style or cruise the city at your own pace, the options are endless. Most hotels will help you organise something tailored to your liking. Choose from city-wide options like afternoon culinary tours with a Thai cooking class or have a professional lead you through the chaos of Chinatown and Little India. Or take a day trip to the ancient capital of Ayuthaya or the haunting WWII-era bridge over the river Kwai.
With endless DIY options or budget-friendly guided walks, to see the city by foot is to immerse yourself in its charm truly. Create your own tour in areas like Rattanakosin Island – home to the Grand Palace and its neighbouring temples, or meander the lost streets within forever-bustling Chinatown. Or join a group for theme-focused tours like Thai religious traditions, a fiery culinary excursion complete with a cooking class, or a journey through the city’s best markets.
Bangkok’s sprawling framework and far-flung sites make the city ideal to see by bike. Rentals are available citywide for as little as 50THB a day, or you can hire a guide for anything from a leisurely stroll along the Chao Phraya River or a mountain trek through the rustic outskirts – hitting all of the must-see hotspots along the way.
Cruise the Chao Phraya
Give your legs a rest and see the city in style along the Chao Phraya River. Wander on your own by taking the Chao Phraya Express Boat and stop off at piers throughout the city. The service operates over more than 21 kilometres and as a commute option for many local Thais, carry up to 40,000 passengers per day.
- Hours: 06:00 – 21:30
- Rates: Between 10 THB – 40 THB per trip
Several operators offer chartered boat cruises as well. With so many of Bangkok’s premier sites right off the riverside, it’s a perfect way to get a taste for the city on a hot day. Or treat yourself to a luxury dinner cruise along this ancient river, and see the city glow by night. Or create your own itinerary by booking your own private boat tour with a professional guide.
To discover the true Bangkok experience could take decades. The real beauty of this city lies in its diversity – its blend of people, cultures, cuisines, history, and religion, and all with a certain decadence. A truly expert host for its visitors, Bangkok is justly a jewel of Southeast Asia, with options to tailor all style and budgets.