Bangkok has made it onto numerous best city lists around the world. Thailand’s capital is a buzzing metropolis and there are plenty of things to do in Bangkok all day long. From temples to skyscrapers, shopping malls and street food, this hub of Thai culture is fun to explore. The temples in Bangkok are also impressive. Here is a handy list of what to do in Bangkok.
Bangkok (the capital of Thailand) was established by the river in the 18th century after three other settlements were destroyed by wars with the Burmese. Many of Bangkok’s top sites are accessible along the river.
What to do in Bangkok
If it’s your first time in Bangkok make sure to put these classic Bangkok attractions on your to-visit list.
1- Visit The Grand Palace
Bangkok’s Grand Palace is a must-see tourist icon.
The magnificent palace has been home to Thai royalty for 150 years. Significantly, Thailand is the only Southeast Asian nation that wasn’t colonised by the French or the British.
You’ll be awed by the beauty and grandeur of the design.
To the Thai people, the Grand Palace is the spiritual heart of Thailand.
First-time visitor to Bangkok, photographer Heather Udy says:
The Grand Palace is probably Bangkok’s most famous landmark – so be prepared to be visiting with hordes of other tourists, but trust me, it is well worth it.
Built in 1782, it was home to the Thai King. The architecture is awe-inspiring and the intricate detail testament to the dedication and work that must have gone into building it.
The Palace complex is made up of several different buildings, one of the being Wat Phra Kaew or Temple of the Emerald Buddha.
The Emerald Buddha is made of green jasper (the emerald part refers only to the colour of it) and sits in the centre of the temple upon a large gold altar.
It is covered in a robe that gets changed three times per year by the Thai King, coinciding with the seasonal months (summer, winter and the rainy season) and is an important ritual in the Buddhist calendar.
2- Explore Wat Pho
Buddhism is at the heart of Thai culture, so a visit to Wat Pho (also known as Old City) should definitely be on your list.
Wat Pho, or the temple of the Reclining Buddha, is a peaceful place no matter how many visitors there are, due to its huge proportions.
This is not just another temple. It’s the largest temple complexes in Thailand. You’ll be awed by the golden Buddha status.
Its main drawcard, the giant reclining Buddha statue built in 1832, is the second largest Buddha in the world. The gold plated 46m-long Buddha is as long as a train carriage.
The exquisitely painted walls that surround the reclining Buddha are worth a second look.
The soles of the Buddha’s feet are 4.5m long and carved with symbols.
Wat Pho is also a great place to get a traditional Thai massage or an alternative traditional medical treatment. The temple complex has Bangkok’s original Thai Massage School and a herbal medicine centre.
The grounds are littered with gigantic stone figures from China representing snarling temple guardians and intriguing depictions of westerners (the first ones the Chinese encountered) wearing top hats. These giant figures came to the temple as ship ballast.
3- See Wat Arun
Temples in Bangkok are not just places of worship; they are also architectural marvels.
Wat Arun is a beautifully designed temple that rises majestically next to the Chao Phraya river.
Bangkok is a city that has developed along the Chao Phraya River.
The river in Bangkok is also the best way to explore to avoid the traffic jams.
The Express boats combined with the Sky trains will take you far and fast in comfort while you enjoy magnificent views of the river in Bangkok.
Aptly known as the Temple of Dawn, it’s one of the best places to visit at sunrise when the sun’s rays shine over the towering structure.
It’s also pretty amazing to visit the temple at night when the spires are bathed by the light of the moon. It’s such a peaceful and tranquil sight.
4- Cruise around the Floating Markets
It’s easy to see why Bangkok is called the Venice of the East.
There are canals right through the city which you can explore by ferry and taxi boat. Or you can also take a gentle stroll towards the canal paths and see how far these canals extend.
Near Bangkok, discover Khlong Lat Mayon for a charming off-the-beaten-track floating market away from the tourists.
Enjoy fresh fruit and food at Thailand’s famous floating markets.
The sight of a traffic jam of boats on the river is quintessentially Thai.
Vendors paddle past selling all sorts of fresh produce, such as tropical fruit, vegetables, coconut juice and an array of street food cooked on their boats.
5- Khao San Road
Khao San Road is where Thai heritage collides with western influences.
Along this wide road, there’s a mixture of shops and stores.
From traditional food, tropical fruit and other local products to department stores and sleek shops selling international luxury brands, Khao San is the place to shop, eat and soak up the Bangkok vibe.
6- Thon Buri Palace
We took a boat ride over the Chao Phraya River to Phra Racha Wang Derm (Thon Buri Palace). Crossing the river by boat is quite a treat in itself as it gives a different perspective and view to the cityscape.
Phra Racha Wang Derm is the former royal palace of King Taksin. In 1767, King Taksin reasserted rulership over most of Siam after the Burmese had attacked Ayuthaya (more about that further on).
The King established Thon Buri Palace on the west bank of the Chao Phraya river. The grounds are now the headquarters of the Royal Thai Navy.
7- Royal Barge Museum
Next on the list of what to see in Bangkok would be the Royal Barge Museum.
Here you will find eight historical royal barges on display, some which are more than 200 years old.
They are made from large pieces of teak, beautifully and intricately decorated and engraved with mythical creatures.
8- Visit Patravadi Theatre
Founded by a well-known Thai actress, Patravadi, the riverside complex is a hub for performing arts.
At Patravadi Theatre, there are also gift shops and restaurants.
Entertainment includes acrobats, avante-garde performances and festivals. And on weekends there’s a dinner theatre.
9- Visit Jim Thompson House
Jim Thompson is an icon who revived the Thai silk industry.
A lover of Southeast Asian culture and arts, Jim Thompson decorated and designed his house with art and antiquities that revolved around the East-meets-West theme.
Jim Thompson House is now a museum with six traditional Thai-style houses.
10- Have fun at Soi Cowboy
Looking for fun after dark? Soi Cowboy is a vibrant red light district worth a look.
The short street is packed with flashing neon lights, gogo bars and adult entertainment.
Several movies were filmed here and Hugh Grant visited Soi Cowboy in 2003 while filming Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason.
12- Bangkok Flower Market
Back to Bangkok, and one thing I had heard about was the incredible 24/7 flower market.
The flower market is the biggest wholesale fresh flower market in Bangkok, and yes, it is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week!
So matter what time you find yourself there, you will always be delighted with beautiful orchids, roses, marigolds, and pretty much any flower you can think of.
13- Museum of Floral Culture
Carrying on with the flower theme, last but certainly not least, I would highly recommend a visit to The Museum of Floral Culture.
It is the brainchild of internationally renowned Thai floral artist Sakul Intakul.
It has been created especially for lovers of flowers and those with an interest in Thai art and culture.
Located in the quiet residential area of the Dusit District, it offers a lovely retreat away from the busyness of the city.
You are able to do an exclusive tour which is conducted by Sakul Intakul himself, in which he will lead you through the exquisite collection of floral art throughout the museum, explaining the history behind it all.
Afterward, you are treated to a fragrant specialty tea such as Love Pekoe Rose Tea, or Fujian Jasmine Green Tea.
14- Go shopping at Tha Maharaj
Originally a group of unremarkable local shops, across the waters from Wat Pho, this site has been recently developed as a venue to commemorate river life.
Attractive architecture connects diverse eateries, trendy shops and a magnificent river-viewing promenade from where visitors can admire the river.
Whether it is for enjoying a drink at sunset when the buildings across the waters start to twinkle or just for seating in contemplation, locals and visitors alike mingle in harmony.
Tha Maharaj can be accessed by land, Chao Phraya Express Boat, Chao Phraya Tourist Boat, Ferry Crossing Boat, Long-Tail Boats and Private Boats.
A particularly good selection of juices is available and they come in jam-jars. The Kale and Pandan: green, refreshing and absolutely delicious, especially when it is very hot.
What to do near Bangkok
- Take a day trip from Bangkok to the Maeklong Railway market.
- Travel from Bangkok to Ayutthaya for a day tour that will impress history buffs.