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Bangkok is one of the biggest cities in Asia, one of the busiest and probably most fascinating in the world, with countless options for sightseeing, culture, history, shopping and leisure.
Considering the large number of attractions and opportunities for recreation, it is difficult to give a time recommendation for a visit. A three-day minimum would give you a chance to touch all of the various aspects, whereas 5 days would let you explore the main treasures of the city in a more relaxed way.
Maybe start your visit with a cruise on Chao Phraya River to breathe in the atmosphere of Bangkok and get a first impression and overview of what will be waiting for you the coming days. Then visit some of the numerous wats, a floating market in the early morning hours and go on a shopping tour.
If you only have time for one thing in Bangkok, this is it — if you haven’t visited the Grand Palace then you haven’t seen Bangkok! The spectacular Grand Palace, with its incredibly intricate details, fills tourists from all over the world with awe. Built in 1782 and being the home of the Thai king for 150 years as well as the royal court and the administrative seat of government, it’s a famous landmark in Bangkok.
The whole scene is dominated by Wat Phra Kaew with its splendid colors and gold and surrounding spotless white walls. Pass the two yaks at the gate and find yourself in the different world of the kingdom of Siam: fairy tales, magnificent buildings and detailed mosaic works.
You will be doused in the sanctity and beauty of the proud salute to the creativity and craftsmanship of Thai people and learn plenty about the history and religion of Bangkok. Maybe consider taking a guide to find out about the historical background of the manifold details of this site that remains the spiritual heart of the Thai Kingdom until this day.
Why you should visit: a royal court and an icon of Bangkok
Time needed: 2 hours
Entrance ticket: 500 baht
The best time to visit is in the morning so as to avoid tourist groups.
What to wear: long sleeves and long trousers (or a long dress for women), and shoes that are easy to take off because you will be required to have bare feet to enter the temples.
Locally known as Wat Chaeng, Wat Arun rests on the west bank of the Chao Phraya River, almost directly opposite the temple called Wat Pho. It stands majestically on the riverfront and forms a stunning sunset view when it is glowing in the light with its unique, intricate mosaic inlay design and spires.
Why you should visit: an icon in Bangkok and a unique design
Time needed: 30–40 minutes
Entrance ticket: 100 baht
Wat Pho, or Wat Phra Chetuphon, is located opposite the Grand Palace, at a walking distance of about 10 minutes. It is Bangkok’s oldest and largest temple complex, and another famous temple for you to cross off your to-do list if you are a first-time visitor. It houses a giant reclining Buddha that measures 46 meters in length and is covered in gold leaf.
Why you should visit: a famous landmark in Bangkok and a 46-meter-long golden Buddha
Bonus reason: Wat Pho has a traditional Thai massage school, which offers tourists a good foot massage after walking through the temple complex. It also offers week-long Thai massage courses.
Time needed: 30–40 minutes
Entrance ticket: 100 baht
Taking a cruise on the Chao Phraya River in Bangkok is a great way to see the city from a totally different perspective, not to mention it perfectly avoids the gridlocked traffic in the city. You can hop on a taxi boat with the commuting locals or, like many tourists do, you can book a night cruise and savor the gala of lights on both sides of the Chao Phraya River while you enjoy fine dining and wine on board.
Chatuchak Weekend Market is one of the biggest markets in the world, with more than 15,000 shops and booths in 27 sections on 35 acres surface. A visit there is a must-do for any tourist to Bangkok and will never get boring.
You will find a wide range of products, from traditional Thai handicrafts, clothing and small accessories, to different kinds of art and paintings, at reasonable prices. It is the right place to find souvenirs. Bargaining, of course, is a big part of the experience. It is a heaven for shopaholics, and what you cannot find there, you will probably not find anywhere.
Bangkok has a handful of famous food streets that attract tourists and locals to linger there until late at night. Just have a look around the streets to see bizarre-shaped snacks, fresh tropical fruit, strange insects, such as fried grasshoppers and spicy locusts, snakes, and even baby crocodiles. They have almost everything to surprise you — don’t be afraid to try anything!
Take a food tour through Bang Rak District and discover some of Bangkok’s small eateries. Taste curry puffs at a street food vendor; sip Thai iced tea or coffee at the Bang Rak Bazaar; bite into a sampling of tropical fruit at Bangkok’s second-oldest wet market; and try Chinese herbal drinks at a local Chinese grocery shop.
Try fried and roasted chicken noodles, topped with egg, followed by one of the Thai sweet, tempting desserts. You have the choice between street vendors and sit-down restaurants whenever you like. A street food tour in Bangkok is an amazing experience that will not leave your appetite for culture and treats unappeased.
Visiting Bangkok's lively and colorful floating markets is a unique Thailand experience. A floating market is located on a river or canal and is a place where local boat vendors trade. Their boats are piled high with tropical fruit, vegetables, flowers, ready-to-drink coconut juice, and local food cooked right on the boats. It’s a good place to take some awesome photos to take home with you.
Must-read tip: Many floating markets in Bangkok focus more on satisfying tourists rather than local trade. If you wish to visit one, pick an authentic one, such as Khlong Lat Mayom Floating Market. Although it’s very small with only about 10 boats floating around, it’s genuine and not like other markets that are crammed with tourists.
The best time to visit is in the early morning when the locals start trading as everything on the boats is fresh.
Khao San Road, known as the “backpacking center of the universe” and described in the movie The Beach, which starred Leonardo DiCaprio, is now a famous must-see street for tourists and a haven for backpackers. The whole street is filled with bars, hostels, travel agents, clubs, restaurants, massage parlors, and tattoo shops.
Tip: If you are just there to get an idea of the scenery from The Beach movie and are not really a fan of backpacking, then don’t stay there at night. This is because the hotel rooms are the same, if not worse, than the one Leonardo DiCaprio’s character had in the movie and the whole street goes off the rooftops after midnight.
No trip to Bangkok would be complete without taking a trip to Nana Plaza. Take a seat in any of the various bars in the plaza and just sit back and watch the girls ply their trade to many visiting tourists.
Tip: Just be aware of the “buy me a beer” tourist trap there. Learn more about How to Avoid Tourist Traps in Thailand.
This one doesn’t need much more of a description. Sitting in a colorful tuk tuk and chatting with the Thai driver about travel tips is the perfect way to dodge trucks, swerve along sidewalks, and avoid sitting in traffic in taxis.
Negotiate the price before you take a tuk tuk ride and be aware that some drivers may detour to try and sell products to you.
You don’t need to worry about the language barrier. The drivers know almost every place name in the city that tourists love to visit and they know the directions well. Read more about All You Need to Know about Tuk Tuks in Thailand.
Situated in the heart of Bangkok, Sathorn Unique Tower is a very famous unfinished skyscraper. Its construction was halted during the 1997 Asian financial crisis. With just a small payment to the security guards at the bottom, Sathorn Unique Tower has now become a trendy building for urban explorers. The view can be breathtaking when you reach the top and you can also see King Power Mahanakhon, which is currently the second highest building in Bangkok following ICONSIAM.
Sky Bar is the world’s highest open-air bar and the hosting place for the Hollywood movie The Hangover Part II. This 360-degree sweeping view rooftop bar is situated on the 63rd floor of State Tower. Its popularity has continued to soar each day since the movie was released and achieved great success. Tasting an exquisite cocktail at sunset and enjoying a commanding view of Bangkok – the City of Angels – is now on many tourists’ to-do lists.
Bangkok’s “green lung”, Bang Krachao, is a lush, smog-free oasis across the Chao Phraya River from Bangkok. It is protected by the government and is perfectly bike-friendly. It is an ideal place to get away from Bangkok’s urban craziness. The “green lung” is not short of unique cafés and hotels either.
One of the surprisingly relaxing things to do in Thailand is to have your feet nibbled by a group of tiny fish. It’s an iconic thing to do in Thailand. Particularly in Bangkok, you can find venues with tanks of fish offering such services, such as massage parlors, spa shops, or other shops in the streets. The fish will nibble away any impurities and dead skin from your feet as you soak them in a specially designed tank. It’s quite fun and kids love this activity! Read more about the Best 10 Massage Parlors and Spas in Bangkok.
Attending a Siam Niramit Show is the perfect way to explore the art and culture of ancient Thailand, whilst spending a wonderful and entertaining evening. Watch one of the world's largest and most colorful stage productions. More than 150 actors and dancers in glittering and aesthetic costumes, and breathtaking sceneries will take you into a long bygone world.
Let yourself be carried away into different periods in history and Thai beliefs, like the Law of Karma and the Mystical Forest of Himapaan, in a mind-blowing performance. Take a look into Siam Niramit’s replica Thai village and discover the original, rural Thai life or enjoy a traditional Thai massage in a tiny open-air house before the show starts.
If you pay a visit to Bangkok, a shopping tour through one of the city’s famous shopping malls is an activity you should not miss. If you want to pick a souvenir for yourself or for your family, find yourself a high-tech gadget or some latest fashion from Asia or around the world.
Bangkok's stunning and shiny malls are the right place to come to. And why not have dinner in one of the countless restaurants before, maybe, chilling out and watching a movie in one of the wide screen or luxury cinemas.
Among the large number of malls in Bangkok, we especially recommend Siam Paragon, the luxury mall with the Siam Ocean World aquarium and exotic cars on display. The Siam Center is outstanding for its unusual fashion from local designers, and Central World is Thailand’s biggest mall, a more youthful shopping experience with fashion boutiques, bookstores and high-tech shops.
Let Asia Highlights help you plan your trip to Bangkok. They will create the dream trip for you, following your individual wish list for activities, with a tailor-made itinerary you will remember. Of course, we will take care, all activities will be arranged in the most convenient and coordinated sequence. If you have any questions, please contact us by email.