Bangkok’s reputation as a noisy, traffic-plagued, sleazy capital might be a turn off to most visitors. However, a closer look at this charming city can quickly change your mind and bring it closer to your heart, like it did to many who have come to love Bangkok.
Being a city that blends the old and new, Bangkok offers a wide range of activities from the historical to the naughty.
There is no lack of good things to do in Bangkok. There are literally hundreds of activities to choose from and it is not easy to settle with just ten.
You can take as many as you can, but don’t miss out on these 10 best things to do in Bangkok, which offer the best value for the best experience in the Thailand capital.
1. VISIT THE GRAND PALACE
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The Grand Palace was once the home of the Kings of Siam. Built in 1782, this vast complex of buildings is infused with classical Thai architecture at its finest. After the relocation of the royal family to other residence in 1925, the palace serves the nation as a venue for official events like royal ceremonies and state functions.
Among various magnificent buildings within the walls of the Grand Palace, Wat Phra Kaew or Temple of the Emerald Buddha is a must see. The 66-centimeter-high Buddha statue carved from solid jade is a real gem of this royal temple.
The Grand Palace is a true gift that Bangkok has to offer to fans of architecture and history.
The stunning palace gives us a chance to marvel at buildings reflecting the change of traditional Thai architecture through various reigns of Thai Kings. Take this opportunity to explore exquisite collection of art masterpieces, golden figures and wall paintings in the palace.
Make sure that you are dressed properly to be allowed into the temple and various parts of the palace. Just save your shorts, slippers and revealing tops for use at other Bangkok’s places.
2. EXPLORE FLOATING MARKETS
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Floating markets once were trading places where people of the Venice of the East sold goods directly from their boats.
The best feature of a floating market is rows of small wooden boats centered around a river or canal. Those boats capture our hearts with the beauty of all the colorful tropical fruits and vegetables stocked to the brim.
These days, the surviving floating markets mainly function as a culture narrator, telling locals and travelers the charm of lives on Bangkok’s canals.
This is your chance to get a glimpse into the local ways of farming economies of the bygone era. The activity will give you fascinating insights into Thai culture.
And what better way to have a unique Southeast Asia experience than sitting on a boat and sampling a lot of delicious dishes, sweets and fruits in a quirky environment.
Best floating markets to visit
Take a guided boat tour to Damnoen Saduak (100km away from Bangkok) or Amphawa (90km away) to experience the most vibrant floating markets Bangkok has to offer.
If you don’t have ample time to travel far away then make your way to Taling Chan or Khlong Lat Mayom floating markets. Taling Chan is located only 12 km from downtown Bangkok and a couple of kilometers away from it will take you to Khlong Lat Mayom.
3. VISIT TEMPLES
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In a city with more than 400 temples like Bangkok, there must be something to explore.
Known as the land of golden temples, Thailand showcases many magnificently gilded wats. The large number of temples in Bangkok makes the city dotted with twinkling rooftop landscapes.
Those Buddhist temples are a unique part of the city, keeping the soul of Buddhist traditions.
Explore the famous temples with their awe-inspiring architecture is a great way to experience the culture of Thailand firsthand. Come and marvel at the glittering decoration.
Best temples to visit
There are hundreds of temples all around Bangkok, and the most famous ones are Wat Pra Kaew, Wat Arun, and Wat Pho.
Wat Pra Kaew, located within the Grand Palace, is the most visited temple in Thailand capital. Don’t miss out on seeing its Emerald Buddha.
Wat Pho is also referred to as ‘The Temple of the Reclining Buddha’. The 43 meter long Buddha image is covered with gold leaf, and there are exquisite mother-of-pearl decorations on its long feet.
Another of the iconic temples of Bangkok is Wat Arun, often called ‘Temple of Dawn.” The temple carries a distinctive shape of a central khmer style tower surrounded by four smaller towers.
4. TAKE A BOAT TRIP ALONG CHAO PHRAYA RIVER
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Chao Phraya River is an urban river that gently flows through the heart of Bangkok. Along its winding 21km water way through the city’s most bustling areas, there are more than 20 active piers. This makes up a lively picture with darting back and forth river ferries and boats.
Each pier is a gateway to many dazzling city attractions. Get off at Central Pier to enjoy the vibrancy of Silom and Sathorn roads or hop out at Rachawongs to join the daily food festival at Chinatown.
The best way to indulge in the beauty of Chao Phraya River and life along the river is by renting a private boat. Travel at your own speeds and slow down for any sights that catch your interest.
Cruising along Chao Phraya River is a relaxing way to view Bangkok from a different angle. The exhibition of calm and chaotic, modern and traditional sights along the river will bring you surprising insights into the city culture.
Many Bangkok attractions like the Grand Palace, Wat Arun and National Museum live their lives on the river’s banks, so a boat trip gives sightseers a bonus of watching those gems.
Where to rent a long tail boat
Available for hiring, long tail boats can be gotten at many major piers like Sathorn Central Pier and Tha Chang Pier. Cruising on a private boat means you can tailor your journey to your needs.
5. SHOP AT NIGHT MARKETS
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Night markets are among Bangkok’s top crowd drawers. The combination of shopping, dining, entertainment, and nightlife is simply too hard to resist even for long-time residents.
Through the years, night markets continue to sprout all over Bangkok. While old favorites have established a reputation and a loyal following, newer ones continue to challenge, providing more options for the most avid marketgoers.
Bangkok night markets give a good bargain. It is a one-stop haven for those who are out to shop, eat, drink, or be entertained without shelling out too much cash.
Exploring Bangkok’s night markets is also a fun way to learn about Thai culture. Just sit at one of the food stalls and observe the locals while enjoying Thai food paired with a local beer or Thai iced tea. This surely beats going to the mall!
Best night markets to visit in Bangkok
Talad Rot Fai, also known as Train Market, in Srinakarin is the all time favorite night market in Bangkok. It is popular for vintage goods and memorabilia though more regular night market merchandise, such as clothing and accessories, are also available.
For the best weekend market, check out Chatuchak Friday Night Market. Make sure to bring enough cash to make the most of your shopping spree since this market has a very wide selection and huge volume of merchandise. Don’t forget to try out the tasty street food!
Patpong Night Market is arguably the most well-known night market in Bangkok. Perhaps this is due to its proximity to the city’s notorious red light district. Stalls at this market usually sell souvenirs and knockoff items. Try your bargaining skills here since pricing at Patpong normally starts higher than in other night markets.
6. EXPLORE BANGKOK HOT SPOTS
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When talking about Bangkok, images of hot girls in skimpy clothes often come to mind. Indeed, Bangkok’s after dark entertainment scene has become an attraction by itself that some people even fly out to this Southeast Asian city just to watch the amazing night shows.
While there are many places to visit in Bangkok at night, the hot spots compete with the night markets in drawing the biggest crowds especially among tourists and expats. Bangkok bar trademarks include sexy girls, ladyboys, and live shows.
To enjoy an adult only nightlife or even just to satisfy your curiosity! Hearing about it is different from actually going there and witnessing Bangkok’s night club scene firsthand.
Watch the interesting interactions with fruits and other stuff like ping pong balls, candlesticks, and razor blades.
Top red light districts in Bangkok
Soi Cowboy is the most popular among foreign visitors. Perhaps this is because there are less scams at Soi Cowboy. Drinks also cost less here and pricing is often straightforward with no hidden or extra charges.
Nana Plaza is a 3-storey square-shaped entertainment center that was converted from a mall. The bars here are racier than the other districts’ and there are more bars dedicated to ladyboys.
Patpong is the most world-renowned red light district in Bangkok that has almost become synonymous with the industry itself. Just be careful when you come here though because it is also known for bar scams, higher prices, and extra charges.
7. ENJOY NIGHTLIFE AT KHAO SAN ROAD
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Khao San Road is known as a backpacker’s haven, though nowadays, it attracts a wider variety of visitors who simply want to have clean, nighttime fun in Bangkok.
The street is located one block from the Chao Praya River. Khao San means milled rice and the street is named as such reflecting its role as a rice trading hub.
Khao San Road is lined with bars, cafes, restaurants, shops and hotels. The whole area comes to life after dark when night owls come out to have a good time at this never sleep street.
Khao San Road became popular with the backpacker crowd because of its affordable options. Perhaps this is also the reason why it attracts more visitors these days.
Aside from its lively bars and clubs, Khao San Road is the best place to visit if you want to enjoy delicious food, drink local beer, try out exotic delicacies and shop for budget things.
Best night spots to enjoy in Khao San Road
The Club may have the least creative name but the free entry more than makes up for it. There is no strict dress code at this club so you may go in your most comfortable clothes and dance the night away to the mix of some of Bangkok’s best DJs.
Brick Bar has live bands playing mostly Thai indie, ska, and reggae. To get the best at Brick Bar, go early and choose a table near the stage. Entry is free on weeknights and costs 300 baht ($8.66) on weekends.
Street food may not be the best on Khao San Road but it is a good place to try out exotic delicacies. Gulp down a bottle of beer before taking a bite of crispy fried scorpions or cockroaches! For better tasting and more normal foods, walk towards nearby Soi Rambuttri.
8. INDULGE IN THAI MASSAGE AND SPA
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Thai massage has become world famous that a visit to this Southeast Asian country is not complete without some pampering.
This method combines acupressure, Ayurvedic principles and yogic stretches.
Massages in Bangkok varies from the affordable local massage to the luxurious pampering at an upscale spa. The choice is yours!
You can’t leave Bangkok without a good old Thai pampering. Getting a Thai massage is the most affordable way to relax the mind and body and to rejuvenate yourself after a tiring day of shopping and sightseeing.
Thai massages are readily available anywhere in Bangkok and you can be assured of an authentic Thai massage even at the lowest rates. After a one-hour session, you will surely be up on your feet and ready for more shopping and exploration of Bangkok!
Best places to enjoy a Thai massage
Local massage shops abound in Bangkok and it’s hard to choose just one. All of them give a good value for your money at 200 baht ($5.77) per hour on average. For best recommendations, ask your hotel’s staff or local friends.
Asia Herb Association has three branches in Bangkok. It offers a luxurious spa experience without burning a hole in your pocket. An hour of Thai massage costs 400 baht ($11.54).
Massage by the Blind is available at the massage shop that was put up by the Foundation for the Employment of the Blind in Bangkok. An hour of Thai massage here costs only 200 baht ($5.77).
9. EXPLORE THAI TRADITIONAL ARCHITECTURE, SILK AND ART AT JIM THOMPSON HOUSE
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Jim Thompson was known as the “Legendary American of Thailand”. He was an American serviceman who later built the world renowned Jim Thompson Thai Silk Company.
Being an architect and a fond collector of Asian art, he built his beautiful home in Bangkok and filled it with his collection of sculptures, paintings, porcelain, and other quirky artworks.
The whole complex is made up of six old Thai houses, collected from Ayutthaya and other parts of Thailand.
A visit to Jim Thompson House is like stepping back in time and seeing the world through Jim Thompson’s eyes.
There is no better place to appreciate traditional Thai architecture, history, and art in one location than at Jim Thompson house. As one dinner guest pointed out, Jim Thompson has collected the rare and “arranged them with faultless taste.”
Take a break from the chaos of downtown Bangkok and learn more about Thailand’s most beloved American while appreciating art in his home by the canal.
Guided tours are available daily and the last one is at 5:00 PM.
10. WATCH MUAY THAI
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Muay Thai, or the “art of eight limbs”, is the national sport of Thailand. It is a martial art that uses knees, elbows, shins and hands to strike the opponent.
The origins of Muay Thai is attributed to the famous Siamese fighter, Nai Khanomtom. As the story goes, he was captured during the battle between the Burmese of the Konbaung Dynasty and Siam. The Burmese allowed him to fight for his freedom which he successfully did so through his unique fighting style now known as Muay Thai.
More recently, the sport gained more popularity with the increased worldwide interest in mixed martial arts.
A trip to Bangkok is not complete without witnessing the country’s national sport.
A number of venues hold Muay Thai bouts regularly and the best arenas are found in Bangkok. They are often packed with locals and tourists alike whenever there is a match.
Best places to watch Muay Thai in Bangkok
Lumpinee Stadium is one of the most popular Muay Thai stadiums in Bangkok. Fight nights are held on Tuesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays. Tickets cost between 200 baht ($5.77) and 2,000 baht ($57.7).
Rajadamnern Stadium ranks second in size among the Muay Thai stadiums of Bangkok. Tickets at this stadium are priced higher at 500 baht ($14.43) to 2,000 baht ($57.7). Gambling is acceptable at this stadium.
Channel 7 Stadium is a smaller stadium that holds nationally broadcasted fights. Admission at this stadium is free.