Things to Do in Bangkok
Bangkok’s glittering Grand Palace is one of the most popular attractions in the Thai capital. Built in 1782, this sprawling 54-acre (21.8-hectare) complex served as the royal court and administrative seat of Thailand for 150 years. Today, while it continues to host royal Thai functions, the palace also impresses swathes of visitors with its intricate golden-spired architecture and cultural history.
Every great city has a river, and Bangkok’s is the Chao Phraya (Mae Nam Chao Phraya). Alive with traditional long-tail boats, passenger ferries, and cargo boats, the Chao Phraya River is the lifeblood of the city. It winds past both ancient temples and modern high-rises, offering a unique, local perspective on the Thai capital.
Easily one of Bangkok’s most visually striking landmarks, the Temple of the Dawn (Wat Arun) towers over the Chao Phraya River. Its colorfully decorated spires are the star features—the temple’s central prang stands 260 feet (79 meters) tall and is intricately decorated with tiny pieces of colored glass and Chinese porcelain.
The iconic Bridge on the River Kwai is part of the world’s collective historical memory. The site of many POW’s deaths during World War II, it is now the site of the JEATH War Museum and is close to the Kanchanaburi War Cemetery.
One of the oldest, largest, and most revered temple complexes in Bangkok, the Temple of the Reclining Buddha (Wat Pho) is a must-see for all visitors to the Thai capital. The central attraction of the temple complex is its namesake statue—the gold leaf covered reclining Buddha—but don't let it distract you from the site's other treasures, including its 95 pagodas, carved narrative panels, and opulent main altar.
Few markets couple ephemeral wares—fresh fruits, fish, foods, and colorful flower bouquets—with culture, chaos, and tradition like the Damnoen Saduak Floating Market. One of the largest and last remaining floating markets in Thailand, this authentic market has entranced travelers and photographers the world over with its vivid scenes of vendors offering goods from long-tailed boats on the sleepy green Damnoen Saduak canal.
In a city and country known for its colorful markets, none stands out so vividly as Pak Klong Talad Flower Market (Pak Khlong Talat). Stalls feature local and imported fresh-cut flowers piled high: delicate orchids, bunches of colorful carnations, fragrant roses, lilies, forget-me-nots, and more. Vendors also sell flower arrangements and hand-strung garlands.
With its heady smorgasbord of street food, gold merchants, wooden shophouses, and ancient Chinese temples, there’s never a dull moment in Bangkok’s Chinatown, also known as Yaowarat. Exploring the bustlingsois (side streets) of the city’s oldest district is a must on any trip to the Thai capital.
Home to the world's largest gold Buddha statue, the Temple of the Golden Buddha (Wat Traimit) is a prominent stop on Bangkok’s temple trail. Measuring nine feet (three meters) tall and weighing more than five tons (4,535 kilograms), the Buddha attracts floods of visitors who come to marvel at its size and gleaming golden surface.
The spectacularly ornamented Temple of the Emerald Buddha (Wat Phra Kaew) is one of the most important Buddhist temples in Thailand. Located within the Grand Palace in Bangkok’s Old City, a site highlight is a sacred pre–15th-century statue of the Buddha in a seated meditation pose carved from a single block of jade.
More Things to Do in Bangkok
The energetic Asiatique The Riverfront—part open-air night bazaar, part shopping mall—combines the city’s old traditions and modern commercial energy. Located at the former East Asiatic Company trade docks, the complex contains more than 1,500 shops and boutiques, about 40 restaurants, and several entertainment venues.
Standing nearly 90 feet tall, the Giant Swing is located in front of Wat Suthat in the heart of Bangkok. The teak archway, originally used in religious ceremonies, was constructed toward the end of the 18th century, during the reign of King Rama I. It has since undergone several renovations.
The Maeklong Railway Market is one of the more unusual markets in Thailand. Selling vegetables, fruit, and other food items, it looks like any other market on the streets of Thailand—until a passenger train goes roaring through the middle of it. When the siren calls, the stalls scatter and make way.
The weekend-only Chatuchak Market is a one-stop shopping spot in the Thai capital, with stands selling everything from street food to blue jeans, and silk scarves to beauty products. If you can’t find it at the sprawling Bangkok market, it probably doesn’t exist.
The Baiyoke Sky Tower is the second-tallest building in Bangkok. It houses a large hotel, viewing platform, restaurants and bars, shops, and a revolving deck. The sweeping views of Bangkok are impressive, especially at night, and will help you get your bearings in the Thai capital.
Sukhumvit Road is the longest boulevard in Thailand (with the Skytrain running along most of its length), and the surrounding neighborhood has become the city’s makeshift international zone, with expats and well-off Thais living on the small side streets, called sois, that intersect it. It’s a neighborhood where choices are endless. Luxury hotels stand beside budget accommodations, and the food scene from five star to street stand is top notch.
What Sukhumvit lacks in tourist attractions it makes up for in its buzzing shopping and nightlife scene. By day air-conditioned shopping malls offer just about anything under the sun and sumptuous days spas promise relaxation. By night the neighborhood comes alive with some of Bangkok’s top nightclubs (and a few notorious red light districts).
The Temple of the Golden Mount, or Wat Saket, is a low hill with a pointed golden temple (chedi). It’s built on the site of a earlier, failed temple building that turned to rubble and became a hill. Wat Saket was once the highest point in Bangkok. Visit today for great views of Bangkok and to see its Buddha relic.
As a city with many waterways and canals, Bangkok boasts a number of floating markets, including the small Taling Chan Floating Market. Visit for a less crowded, more local experience than at some of the larger markets. Go to check out the range of vegetables, fruit, meat, fish, plants, crafts, souvenirs, and ready-to-eat food on sale.
Wat Benchamabophit—or the Marble Temple—is a Buddhist temple in the Dusit area of Bangkok made from Italian marble. Enter the working temple to take in its ornate features, including typical Thai curved roofs and glittering decorations.
The Bang Pa-In Royal Palace is situated 60 kilometers from Bangkok and just a few kilometers from Ayutthaya. Originally built in the 17th century by King Prasat Thong of Ayutthaya, it was later destroyed by the Burmese and left abandoned for almost a century.
During the reign of King Mongkut (Rama IV) in the 1850s, part of the palace was restored, but most of the site seen today is down to his predecessor, King Chulalongkorn (Rama V), who restored and expanded the entire grounds. Today the palace is still used by the Thai royal family as a summer residence.
The iconic buildings scattered across the complex each feature their own unique architectural style. For example, the Wehat Chamroon Palace was built using traditional Chinese materials and designs, while the Aisawan Tippaya Asna Pavilion, set in the middle of a lake, is typically Thai. Other buildings are clearly European in architectural style.
Thailand is full of royal palaces and striking religious temples. But one of Bangkok’s most memorable highlights is the National Museum of Royal Barges. This popular destination houses a fleet of ornately decorated, sleek and slender ships that were once the main mode of transportation for the royal family.
Travelers can examine the religious symbols that decorate the king’s personal barge and get up close with to the hand-carved Buddhas and pristine dugouts of these unique vessels. The largest ship stretches from 45 meters in length and takes 50 men to propel it through the city’s winding water channels. Travelers who visit the Royal Barges National Museum in October and November may even get to see the boats set sail during the famous cloth-giving ceremony.
Head to Khao San Road to immerse yourself in the heart of Bangkok’s budget backpacker scene. Explore a road packed with budget and mid-range hotels, bars and nightclubs, travel company offices, markets, and other tourist facilities. It’s a convenient place to base yourself while staying in Bangkok, or to head for a meal and nightlife.
This bustling local gem is the largest fresh food market in Bangkok, with stalls selling produce straight from rural farms, raw meat and seafood direct from the nearby fishing port. Khlong Toei Market (also written Khlong Toey Market) is particularly crowded in early mornings, when locals arrive in search of the best fare but despite long lines the vibe is still pretty relaxed.
While travelers can find random items like batteries and electronics, the real draw here is food. Come prepared to sample fruits and vegetables straight from market shelves, or to tuck into steaming hot plates of green curry at one of the mom and pop breakfast and lunch stalls.
A giant and legendary shopping mall located just off Siam Square, the MBK Center (Ma Boon Khrong Center) attracts both locals and tourists looking to fulfill their shopping needs. Boasting eight floors crammed with 2,000 shops and a range of stalls, this sleek glass complex sells everything from bargain clothing to affordable electronics.
In addition to retail outlets, MBK has two expansive food courts—one on the sixth floor serving local Thai food and an international one on the floor below. MBK is particularly well-known for its range of cheap electronic items, with the fourth floor dedicated to cell phones, cameras, games consoles, MP3 players and more.
The top floor of this huge mall features an extensive entertainment center, with a multi-screen cinema, karaoke facilities and a games arcade. There’s also the 3D Trick Art Museum, a fun family attraction that both younger and older kids can enjoy. For a unique way to visit the MBK Center and other malls in the area, take a Bangkok city tour that incorporates trips to many of the capital’s major sights via several different modes of public transport.
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