Bangkok is the mega city in the heart of Thailand that pulls in visitors from around the world with its many tastes and sites, colourful streets and golden temples. What surprises most people is that Bangkok is a world class city filled with 5-star hotels, luxurious pools and roof top bars between the SkyTrain that floats above the chaos of traffic.
But not to worry, Bangkok has plenty of budget options at the best Bangkok hostels and markets around the city. It brings together the old and the new world to create this wonderful mix that is so very Bangkok.
You’ll stop in this spectacular city at some point on your trip and you’ll need to know where to go in Bangkok. It is a great city to start your trip in as it introduces you to Thai culture with many comforts from home still close by.
I recommend a minimum of 2 days for sightseeing in Bangkok but if you can fit more into your Thailand itinerary then do! Since these things to do in Bangkok are definitely going to make you want to stay longer. I cover the top 10 things to do in Bangkok and more!
The Grand Palace is the most popular tourist site and is one of the best things to do in Bangkok. It was once home to the royal family and where the government did their work. It covers 214,000 sq. metres and you can easily spend half of a day here. The details on the buildings are absolutely mesmerizing and the amount of gold used is unbelievable. The buildings use traditional Thai architecture with influence from the French and Italian.
Beware of scams, only pay for entry once inside the grounds which will cost 500 baht. And wear clothes that cover up or you’ll be renting some!
Pro tip: Head over as early as possible as it gets crazy busy!
Wat Pho is home to the famous Reclining Buddha that lays at 15 metres tall and 46 metres long and is covered in gold leaf. It’s hard to picture its sheer size so a visit in person is a must. The entire complex is more than just the Reclining Buddha and you’ll want to spend some time roaming around in awe of the colourful and intricate details of the temples as Wat Pho is one of the places to visit in Bangkok.
Wat Pho also holds the largest collection of Buddha images in Thailand and has two areas where Thai massage is practiced inside the complex.
READ MORE: The 10 Best Tours in Bangkok You Need to Try
Named after Aruna, the God of Dawn, Wat Arun stands at 79 metres tall beside the Chao Phraya River and is one of the best Bangkok attractions. The tower is beautiful any time of day but gorgeous when you catch the ceramic and coloured porcelain tiles in the right light. The main tower is guarded by two giants that are a sight to see.
Chatuchak Weekend Market
Don’t even get me started on how much I love this place, it is one of the best markets ever and is one of the top Bangkok tourist attractions. I promise it won’t disappoint. If you happen to be in Bangkok during a weekend visit this market and its over 2000 stalls. You’ll find pretty much anything you want here from food to clothing, jewelry, souvenirs and everything in between. The best part is that you’ll find most things are local prices and not tourist.
Khao San Road
Khao San Road is the backpackers capital of the world and is one of the best places to visit in Bangkok, backpacker or not. Here you’ll find the street lined with street food vendors, clothing and souvenir shops, bars and more. In the surrounding area you’ll find local and international restaurants and plenty of massage parlors. The city comes alive at night as the bars pour out onto the street with dancers who have buckets (very strong and large drinks) in their hands. It’s popular for locals on the weekends as well.
This street caters mostly to tourists and expats but it’s famous for the scene that was filmed here from The Hangover II. The street is full of 40 or some go-go bars where you can find the exotic ping pong shows (look that up for yourself).
Pro tip: Please note that sex tourism in Thailand is very common and while Soi Cowboy is a popular tourist destination because of the Hangover II it is known to be ongoing here. Do your research and make an informed decision before visiting.
Bangkok is a very metropolitan city but Lumpini Park provides a nice green space for locals and visitors alike for relaxing. It’s named after Buddha’s birthplace in Nepal. Take a stroll through and watch the locals practice t’ai chi or aerobic classes. You can even rent paddle boats to ride across the artificial lake.
The Royal Elephant Museum
Something a little different in Bangkok, The Royal Elephant Museum has free entry when you purchase a ticket for the Grand Palace (100 baht if you didn’t). Elephants have played a large part in Thai culture and the museum explores the animal’s participation in ceremonies and beliefs.
Chao Phraya River
A trip to Bangkok is not complete without a boat ride down the Chao Phraya River. Many refer to Bangkok as the Venice of the East because of this river and the many canals that flow off of it. Plenty of locals still use this river to get to work daily. So use this as your mode of transportation to get to the sites one day and experience the diverse way of life in Bangkok from the luxurious hotels to the shacks along the river.
Experience a Floating Market
There are a number of floating markets around Bangkok where you get to sit in a small boat and ask your guide to bring you to different vendors around the water. Khlong Lat Mayom and Thaling Chan are two of the most popular ones and can be accessed by public transport. I personally recommend Damnoen Saduak Floating Market which you can make into a day trip!
Have a Thai Massage
There’s no better place to experience a Thai massage than in the land where it originated. Massages can be as simple as a half an hour foot massage or as much as a full body. Your best bet is to ask your accommodation where the best places are near you to get a massage. But there will be plenty throughout the city.
Eat a Scorpion
Try if you dare, scorpions can be found for sale from street food vendors on Khao San Road. They’re grilled with plenty of spices and are actually quite tasty! The legs and stinger are crunchy while the body is quite chewy. Or you can opt to pay 10 baht just to take a picture holding one.
Have a Drink at a Rooftop Bar
Bangkok is packed with rooftop bars and what’s better than watching the sun go down over a city with skyscrapers with a fancy drink in hand? Not much. Some of the best ones to check out are Vertigo and Moon Bar, Octave and Sky Bar. There are so many it’s best to do your research and find the one best suited for your budget, location and desired height.
READ MORE: 32 Tips for Backpacking Thailand
Jim Thompson House
Jim Thompson was an American spy in the 50’s that set up in Thailand. His house is built in the traditional Thai style and features the history of Thai silk, which is famous around the world. You’ll also have the chance to learn about the history of Jim Thompson himself who disappeared in the 60’s in Malaysia.
Shop, Shop and Shop Some More
Bangkok is a shopping lovers paradise. There are numerous markets and shopping malls throughout the city where you can take a break from Bangkok sightseeing. One of the most famous malls is Siam Paragon which is filled with over 250 stores, Southeast Asia’s largest aquarium, a multiplex cinema, an insane amount of restaurants and even some car showrooms. Other malls worth checking out are Central World (has a skating rink), Terminal 21 and Central Chitlom.
Watch Muay Thai
Muay Thai is a form of martial arts that is extremely popular in Thailand. It’s the national sport and the biggest and best fights happen in Bangkok. You can catch a fight at Lumpini or Ratchadamnoen stadiums where the locals get really into it. Bets are taken and the atmosphere gets intense but fun.
So many cities have Chinatowns but Bangkok’s is one of the best. Here the streets will come alive at nights with stalls packed in and serving some of the best seafood in the city. It’s a food lovers paradise and here you’ll find plenty of dishes that you won’t be able to find anywhere else in the city. And if you’re on the hunt for gold, Chinatown is the best place to find it.
Climb the Sathorn Unique Tower
One of the more interesting things to see in Bangkok, the Sathorn Unique Tower was being built but stopped when the financial crisis hit. Though I’ve never personally climbed this tower, I’ve met people who say the views are incredible. No one has done anything with it since the crisis and so it stands 49 stories high abandoned. The security guards at the bottom can easily be paid off and you can venture up.
These are just some of the top things to do in Bangkok. It’s a huge city and people who live here spend months exploring new areas. Use this as a guide for what to see in Bangkok and you’ll see the best tourist places in Bangkok and more.
Best Places to Stay in Bangkok
Read my detailed guide on Bangkok accommodation for hostels.