Last Updated: 6/30/23 | June 30th, 2023
When people tell me they hate Bangkok and don’t find a lot of things to do there, I totally understand. It’s a love/hate city that most people aren’t a fan of on arrival.
In fact, when I first visited Bangkok in 2006, I despised the city and couldn’t wait to leave.
It wasn’t until I lived in Bangkok that I really fell in love with it.
A decade and a half later, Bangkok is still one of my favorite cities in the world.
It just takes a little time to get to know and love.
While the city may not have a lot of “tourist attractions” like Paris or London, that’s because Bangkok is a place to wander, eat, and imbibe. It is a city that reveals itself to people who get away from the temples, touts, and tourists and get into the local way of life. That’s where you find the beauty Bangkok has to offer.
That said, there are a lot of things to do and see in Bangkok. Cheap things, expensive things, unique things, and outdoor things. Bangkok has a bit of everything.
To help you plan your trip and make the most of your visit, below is my suggested itinerary for Bangkok. It will help you tackle this sprawling, hectic city in a way that gets you on and off the beaten track so you can peel back the onion that is Bangkok and discover why I love it so much.
Other Things to See and Do: Museum of Siam, Lake Taco, & more!
Bangkok Itinerary: Day One
The Grand Palace, Wat Pho, and Wat Arun
The first place you should visit in Bangkok is the Grand Palace (Royal Palace) and neighboring Wat Pho, home to the famous reclining Buddha and massage school. The Royal family doesn’t live in the palace (it’s only used for official state functions) and you can’t go into any of the buildings, but wandering the grounds and open temples is worth the visit. It’s beautiful and the craftsmanship in the architecture is amazing. Go first thing in the morning to avoid the crowds.
Afterward, wander down the street to Wat Pho and the famous reclining Buddha (as well as the famous Golden Buddha). It’s the largest reclining Buddha statue in the country at 46 meters (150 feet) long. The Wat Pho complex fills a city block so while seeing the statues doesn’t take long, you could spend a solid hour wandering the maze-like temple grounds.
Next, head across the river to Wat Arun (Temple of the Dawn). This is a gorgeous Buddhist temple on the Chao Phraya River opposite the Grand Palace. It has one main spire and four small ones and is so iconic that it’s on Thai money. From the top of the main spire, you get to see sweeping views of the city. It’s my favorite temple in Bangkok.
If you want a deep-dive into the temple and palace, take a guided tour with Get Your Guide. You’ll learn about the history of each temple and the palace from an expert local guide who can answer all your questions and provide a much more nuanced experience.
Note: When visiting these places, be sure to wear clothes that cover your legs and shoulders; it’s considered disrespectful to wear revealing clothes. That means no short skirts, no tank tops, nothing that shows your stomach, and no ripped pants.
The Grand Palace is located on Na Phra Lan Road; royalgrandpalace.th/en/home. Open daily from 8:30am-3:30pm. Admission is 500 THB.
Wat Pho is located on 2 Sanamchai Road, Grand Palace Subdistrict, +66 083-057-7100, watpho.com/en. Open daily from 8am–6:30pm. Admission is 200 THB.
Wat Arun is across the river at 158 Wang Doem Road, +66 2 891 2185. Open daily from 8am–6pm. Admission is 100 THB.
Take a River Cruise
Take a tour of the Chao Phraya River, a relaxing and beautiful experience that shouldn’t be skipped. Don’t take an overpriced tour, though (they cost around 2,200 THB). You can ride the water taxi up and down the river for under 16-35 THB. Start at the central pier, go to the end, and come back. Presto! Instant tour!
Tour More Temples
Bangkok has a lot of beautiful temples. Hire a tuk-tuk driver to take you around for the day to see the temples. This is often the cheapest and most efficient way to see the temples throughout Bangkok. My favorite temples are:
Wat Saket – The Golden Mount has an enormous, 100-meter-high, 500-meter wide chedi (mound-like structure containing Buddhist relics). This is one of my favorite temples in the city because of its beautiful golden temple and wonderful views of the city from its top. At the base of the mountain is an overgrown cemetery for 18th-century plague victims. Open daily from 9am-7pm. Admission to the temple is free while the chedi costs 50 THB.
Wat Benchamabophit – This temple is pictured on the back of the 5-baht coin. The white marble used to contrast the building was imported directly from Italy, and there is a unique blend of both Thai and European architecture and design. In the courtyard, there are 53 Buddha images representing every mudra (gesture) and style from Thai history. This makes it a good place to visually see how Buddha has been represented in Thailand over time. Open daily from 8:30am-5:30pm. Admission is 50 THB.
Just make sure your tuk-tuk driver doesn’t take you shopping along the way — drivers get kickbacks if they bring customers into certain shops. Ask your hotel/hostel staff for a reputable driver; they will likely know someone.
Visit Khao San Road
The backpacker capital of the world, this road (along with Soi Rambuttri) is a must visit! You’ll find endless bars, shops, street food, international restaurants, vendors, locals, and activities all day and all night. It’s also a popular spot on the weekend for Thais. I personally like the quieter Soi Rambuttri, but Khao San is an awesome place to sit outside and meet other travelers. It’s much more commercial than it used to be, but it’s still fun to explore!
Bangkok Itinerary: Day Two
Check out the Floating Market
You can enjoy a half-day visit to the floating markets around the city (Khlong Lat Mayom and Thaling Chan are the two most popular). It makes for a filling morning adventure and if you get there early you can avoid a lot of the crowds. Thaling Chan is the more touristy one so to avoid the hordes of tour groups, definitely get there early. They’re not the best place to shop, but they are great for people-watching and eating. Both markets can be visited by public transportation.
I love the chaos, the smells, and the little ladies cooking and selling you various treats as they paddle by you. (You never leave hungry.)
Chinatown in Bangkok is a culinary feast. You can go shopping here and buy lots of useless souvenirs, but what I love about this area is the food. On the chaotic vendor-lined streets, you’ll find a ton of vendors selling food you hardly see anywhere else in the city. This is a crowded and busy part of the city but one of my favorites. At night, the area is one of the best places in the city to get delicious seafood.
Visit the Malls
Okay, hear me out: Malls in Bangkok are more than just malls – they are social hubs (thanks in part to the air-conditioning) where people eat (mall food courts in Bangkok are delicious), drink at bars, see movies, sit at coffee shops, and even go bowling! A lot of life in the city happens in the malls and each has its own character.
Here’s a list of the best malls in the city:
- Terminal 21 (88 Sukhumvit Road 19, +66 2 108 0888, terminal21.co.th)
- MBK Center (444 Phayathai Road, mbk-center.co.th)
- Siam Paragon (991/1 Rama I Road, siamparagon.co.th)
- Emporium (622 Sukhumvit Road, emporium.co.th)
- CentralWorld (999/9 Rama I Road, centralworld.co.th)
Watch a Muay Thai Fight
Muay Thai (a combat sport involving striking and clinching) is everywhere in Thailand and Thais take it very seriously. Fighters train for years. Don’t bother seeing the tourist Muay Thai fights on any of the islands. Instead, spend a night seeing an authentic match with world-class fighters in Bangkok at Rajadamnern Stadium, which can hold up to 8,000 spectators. Fight nights are Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Sunday.
You can also catch fights at Lumpinee Boxing Stadium, which seats up to 5,000 people, on Tuesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays. Between the two stadiums, there are fights going on every night of the week.
1 Ratchadamnoen Nok Rd, +66 2 281 4205, rajadamnern-boxing-stadium.business.site. Tickets start at 1,500 THB.
Bangkok Itinerary: Day Three
Wander the Chatuchak Weekend Market
The weekend market is one of the best things in Bangkok. It’s the size of many football fields and quite crowded. You’ll find everything and anything from authentic designer clothes to their fake counterparts to phones to knockoff movies to pets to backpacks to kitchenware. There’s a big dining area with great, cheap food. Don’t miss coming here. With over 15,000 stalls, it really does have everything!
Kamphaeng Phet 2 Rd, +66 2 272 4813, chatuchakmarket.org. Open Saturday and Sunday, 9am-6pm.
Tour Jim Thompson’s House
Jim Thompson was an American spy and silk merchant in Thailand during the ’50s and ’60s who vanished mysteriously in 1967 while in Malaysia. Some say he was lost or killed while hiking while others say he disappeared himself (he was a spy, after all).
When he returned to private industry after the war, he almost single-handedly revitalized Thailand’s sinking silk industry. He made his home in the traditional Thai style, decorating it with beautiful teak wood and a surrounding garden. The tours feature a lot of history about Jim, the silk industry, and how and why Thais design their homes the way they do.
1 Khwaeng Wang Mai, +66 2 216 7368, jimthompsonhouse.com. Open daily from 10am-6pm. Admission is 200 THB.
Relax in Lumpini Park
Lumpini Park is Bangkok’s Central Park. This sizable green space spans over 140 acres and is well worth a visit if you’re a people watcher. At all hours of the day, you’ll find people playing sports, walking, biking, practicing tai chi, or just relaxing. In a city that lacks much green space, you’ll probably crave a little wildlife after navigating all the traffic and vendors in this concrete jungle. Grab a book, pack a lunch, and come and lounge in the shade and watch the afternoon go by. It’s a nice change of pace from the hectic flow of the rest of the city (it’s a no-smoking area too).
192 Wireless Rd, +66 2 252 7006. Open daily from 4:30am-10pm.
Hang with the Hipsters on Soi Nana
There are two areas in Bangkok called Soi Nana (one is a sex tourism hub), but the Soi Nana I’m referring to is a hip area for nightlife near the train station in Chinatown. This street is filled with tiny bars, cocktail lounges, and art exhibits in old-style Chinese homes left in their original style.
Some of the best bars are Pijiu (Chinese beer bar), Teens of Thailand (first gin bar in Thailand), Ba Hao (four-floor Chinese-inspired bar), El Chiringuito (Spanish tapas), and 23 Bar & gallery (bar in an art space). It’s incredibly popular with young Thais and one of the coolest new areas of Bangkok. Don’t miss it.
Bangkok Itinerary: Day Four
Visit the National Museum
Opened in 1874 and established by King Chulalongkorn (Rama V), this museum focuses on Thai culture, with highlights that include a large collection of musical instruments, recorded music, ornate royal funeral chariots, and impressive wooden carvings. The museum isn’t very big and the signs aren’t very detailed, but the artifacts are interesting to look at.
Na Phra That Alley, +66 2 224 1333, virtualmuseum.finearts.go.th/bangkoknationalmuseums/index.php/th. Open Wednesday-Sunday from 9am-4pm. Admission is 200 THB.
Take a Food Tour
Bangkok has an incredible food scene and is one of the best foodie destinations in the world. The best way to learn about the food culture (while devouring some samples) is on a food tour. Bangkok Food Tours has a variety of tasty tours where you can try everything from street food to exotic fruits. Tours start from 2,250 THB.
And for cooking classes, a half-day cooking class (including a market visit) costs around 1,300 THB.
Enjoy an event at the Bangkok Art and Culture Center
This contemporary arts center highlights and hosts art, music, theater, film, design, and cultural events in its exhibition and performance spaces. Opened in 2007, the BACC hosts cultural events in its exhibition and performance spaces. There is also an art library, cafe, gallery, craft shop, and book store here too. In a city that lacks a real art scene, this is an enriching place to see some local art. Check the website to see what’s going on during your visit.
939 Rama I Road, +66 2 214 6630-8, en.bacc.or.th. Open Tuesday-Sunday from 10am-9pm. Admission is free though events cost money. See the website for pricing and tickets.
Other Things to See and Do in Bangkok
Have more time in the city? Here are some other things to see and do in Bangkok:
Museum of Siam
This museum uses a variety of media to explore the origins of the Thais and their culture. Opened in 2007, there are displays, movies, and multimedia that cover culture, history, Buddhism, war, and the making of modern Thailand. It’s an interactive and educational little museum housed in an old 19th-century European-style building that not a lot of tourists visit.
4 Maha Rat Rd, +66 2 225 2777. Open Tuesday-Sunday from 10am-6pm. Admission is 300 THB.
Wakeboard at Lake Taco
If you want to get out of the city and have some adventure, head to the outskirts of Bangkok for some wakeboarding (riding on a short board while being pulled by a motorboat). This is a popular thing to do with expats and though I never did it, my friends always said it was a fun time. The lake is just 40 minutes away so it’s an easy activity to do whenever you need a break from the city.
thaiwakepark.com. A two-hour ticket starts at 850 THB.
Calypso Ladyboy Show
This ladyboy show is actually a good cabaret show that attracts a variety of visitors. It’s Bangkok’s version of Moulin Rouge. There’s glitz, glamour, and spectacle — everything you’d expect from a cabaret show in Bangkok. Calypso Cabaret, founded in 1988, is the best place to see a show in the city. Playhouse Cabaret and Golden Dome Cabaret are two other reputable venues that host fun performances as well.
2194 Charoenkrung 72-76 Road, Warehouse #3, +66 2 688 1415-7, calypsocabaret.com. Performances are at 7:30pm and 9:15pm and tickets start at 900 THB.
Day Trip to Ayutthaya
Ayutthaya (pronounced ah-you-tah-ya) was founded around 1350 and was the second capital of Thailand (it was the capital before it relocated to Bangkok). Unfortunately, the city was destroyed in 1767 by a Burmese attack and there are only ruins and a few temples and palaces still left standing.
A UNESCO World Heritage Site, it’s home to the summer palace and tons of breathtaking and unique temples. Since it’s so close to Bangkok, it’s a very popular day-trip destination for tours.
While lots of companies offer trips, it’s so easy to get to that I would simply go on your own by train. Train tickets cost 90-130 THB round-trip, with the journey taking 1.5 hours each way.
If you prefer a guided tour, Get Your Guide runs tours for just 1,300 THB.
Contrary to popular belief, there’s more to see and do in Bangkok than just temples, shopping, and traffic. It’s a city whose charm emerges slowly once you get off the beaten path.
While you can see the highlights in a couple of days, with four or five days you can start to peel back the layers of this chaotic city and start to see why Bangkok really is one of the best destinations in the world.
But don’t just take my word for it. Use this post as a guide and learn to love the city the way I did. I promise you won’t be disappointed!
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Book Your Trip to Bangkok: Logistical Tips and Tricks
Book Your Flight
Use Skyscanner to find a cheap flight. They are my two favorite search engines because they search websites and airlines around the globe so you always know no stone is left unturned!
Book Your Accommodation
You can book your hostel with Hostelworld as they have the biggest inventory and best deals. If you want to stay somewhere other than a hostel, use Booking.com as they consistently return the cheapest rates for guesthouses and cheap hotels. Two of my favorite places to stay are:
If you’re looking for more places to stay, here are my favorite hostels in Bangkok.
Or, if you’re wondering what part of town to stay in, here’s my neighborhood breakdown of Bangkok.
Don’t Forget Travel Insurance
Travel insurance will protect you against illness, injury, theft, and cancellations. It’s comprehensive protection in case anything goes wrong. I never go on a trip without it as I’ve had to use it many times in the past. My favorite companies that offer the best service and value are:
- Safety Wing (best for everyone)
- Insure My Trip (for those over 70)
- Medjet (for additional evacuation coverage)
Looking for the Best Companies to Save Money With?
Check out my resource page for the best companies to use when you travel. I list all the ones I use to save money when I’m on the road. They will save you money when you travel too.