Bangkok is a huge city with plenty of things to do.
The city has a number of temples, roaring nightlife, food to die for and extravagant shopping malls but getting a better understanding of what living in this urban jungle is really like is what makes people fall in love with the place.
Although it will be a lot of fun to do all, we recommend choosing a few of our favourites and then hop on to one of Thailand’s paradise islands or explore the more cultural part in the north of Thailand.
It’s easy to want to spend more time in Bangkok, but we wouldn’t recommend doing this if you have to sacrifice time elsewhere in Thailand.
To make sure you get the most out of Bangkok, we’ve shared our favourite things to do in this vibrant city:
#1 Taste Bangkok’s famous and delicious street food
Thai culture is strongly tied to food, so if you really want to understand life in Bangkok, open up your tastebuds to all it has to offer.
Practically every street you go down in Bangkok will have several food stalls, making your options endless! Lucky for us food lovers, the prices are low so you can sample a whole host of foods from Pad Thai, Som Tam (papaya salad) to Kluay Tod (deep-fried bananas).
A delicious Pad Thai starts from 30THB ($1), but expect to pay at least double at tourist hubs like Khao San Road.
Don’t know what food to choose? One of the best ways to explore Bangkok’s food scene is on a food tour. You’ll get the chance to visit locally recommended places, learn about the dishes and make new friends along the way.
We highly recommend the Best Eats Food Tour by tuk tuk for 1,850 baht ($59.89). The price may be high for a backpacker budget but trust us, after receiving your last drink at the rooftop bar, you realise it was worth it! You get 7 delicious food and drink tastings in between exploring the city with a knowledgeable guide, all whilst in a tuk tuk!
If you’d prefer to do it by yourself, China Town is the place to go! There are hundreds of stalls serving out-of-this-world food. Just remember to not fill yourself up in the first place you try!
#2 Exploring Bangkok’s temples, history and culture
Something Bangkok certainly isn’t short of is spectacular sites and temples.
To make it easier to decide which temples are a need to visit, we shared our top picks that can easily be visited in one day:
The Grand Palace – one of Bangkok’s most famous landmarks, you can easily see why. This palace complex celebrates the remarkable craftsmanship of the Thai people through the stunning intricacy and detail of the buildings. (Admission 500 baht)
Wat Wat Phra Kaew – located within the grounds of the Grand Palace, it is also known as the Temple of the Emerald Buddha. The temple is regarded as one of the most sacred temples in Thailand.
Wat Pho – the home of the famous Reclining Buddha standing 15m tall and 46m long! The whole statue is covered in gold leaf and can easily leave you speechless. (Admission 100 baht)
Wat Arun – almost directly opposite Wat Pho, across the river, the temple’s central spire offers a breathtaking view of the city and the Chao Phraya River below. The stairs up are quite steep but the reward outweighs the effort! (Admission 50 baht)
Whilst visiting these temples make sure to dress conservatively. The outfit you wore on Khao San Road last night will not be acceptable, no matter how good you looked! Stick at least to shorts or skirts that cover your knees and tops that cover your shoulders.
#3 Party all night long on Khao San Road
By day Khao San Road can be mistaken for any other Walking Street in Thailand. Come nighttime, the street truly comes alive!
As the sun begins to set, the gentle hustle and bustle of street vendors selling Chang shirts and elephant pants is joined by live music and deep base from the bars and clubs that line the street.
Before you hit the bars, you can line your stomachs with some quick street food like Pad Thai, or be brave and try a dried scorpion. Bangkok really does have it all!
And once you’re full, take a seat at one of the streetside massage parlors and enjoy a 30 minute foot massage for just 100 baht! An added bonus, most of the time the staff will treat you to a Chang beer to get the party started.
As the night progresses, the road is replaced by a sea of people dancing, singing and having the time of their lives! The madness that frequents Khao San Road is what gives it the famous party reputation it’s known for throughout the world.
Top-Tip: When exploring Khao San Road, take the little side road in the middle of the street to Soi Rambuttri, the more relaxed version of Khao San. Running parallel to the famous street, you will find even more restaurants with live-bands and massage parlours.
#4 Dress to impress in a rooftop bar
Sitting in a rooftop bar overlooking the flickering lights of Bangkok seems to be a new phenomenon that’s swept the city. They’re a completely different world to the crazy bars down below on Khao San Road.
To enjoy a cocktail in most of Bangkok’s many rooftop bars you will need to dress to impress, so put on your fanciest clothes and indulge in luxury for the night! Just keep in mind a lot of these bars can make considerable dents in your wallet.
A bike tour is a great alternative if you’re fed up of walking around everywhere, and you get to do it with a local guide who can share all of the city’s secrets with you!
The agility of a bike means you get to explore the tight alleyways and hidden streets that are too often missed from a taxi window or seat of a tuk-tuk.
Bangkok offers lots of different bike tours, from temple tours to night time adventures. Klook offers a range of bike tours starting already from 510 baht ($17).
#6 Shop until you drop at one of Bangkok’s many malls
Surprisingly, Bangkok’s shopping malls provide a great insight into a lot of the residents’ lives. These malls offer an air conditioned haven which many locals use to escape the heat, making them a hub of activity. The malls are more than just a place to shop, you can see movies, enjoy a meal in the food court, grab a drink at a bar or even go bowling!
For those looking for high-end designer brands then Siam Paragon’s 250+ shops are the place for you.
If you prefer cheaper copies rather than the real thing, the MBK Centre has everything from clothes, electronics, movies to computer software.
And even if you loathe shopping, Terminal 21 is still worth a visit due to its creative and just plain brilliant interior. The airport themed mall features famous regions around the world including Tokyo city and London’s Carnaby Street.
#7 Take a day trip to Kanchanaburi
A visit to the city of Kanchanaburi, north-west of Bangkok, is a sombre and educational experience that shouldn’t be missed.
The city’s history is intertwined with the devastation caused by World War II, retelling the story of the Death Railway through the Kanchanaburi War Cemetery and Jeath War Museum.
The Death Railway is a 415km long railroad connecting Bangkok and Rangoon in Myanmar. The Japanese used forced labour in the form of 180,000 South-East Asian civilians and 60,000 allied prisoners of war to construct the railway. Many of whom died due to mistreatment, starvation and accidents. The day can be very emotional but it’s important for us all to learn from history as not to repeat it.
You can visit Kanchanaburi independently, taking a 2.5 hour train costing 100 baht or join a guided tour such as the Kanchanaburi Day Tour by AK Travel on Klook for 12.2620 baht ($401,85).
#8 Climb Bangkok’s Ghost Tower
Something you might not have expected to be doing in the centre of Bangkok is climbing an abandoned 49 story skyscraper. It’s definitely one way to keep your travel stories interesting!
After Thailand was hit with a financial crisis in the 90s, Sathorn Unique Tower was abandoned and no more work has been done on it since. Instead it has attracted adventurous travellers who wish to climb to the top and explore the skeleton of the building which now boasts some amazing graffiti.
However, it’s definitely not for the faint hearted as firstly there A LOT of steps, but it’s also pretty dangerous. You really have to watch your step as there’s big holes in the floor, rusty nails, collapsing walls and some pretty big drops if you get too close to the edge!
As a heads up, you’ll be expected to pay an entrance fee of 200 baht to climb to the top.
More Urban exploring: Airplane Graveyard
On a similar vibe to the ghost building, the airplane graveyard features derelict plane bodies that have become both a business and home for three Thai families. The planes offer the opportunity to inspect a plane like you’ve never been able to before.
Being a family run business, they tend to make the rules up as they go. They decide on how long you can look around for and how much you’ll pay. Entrance fees tend to range from 200-800 baht and sometimes they don’t let you in at all! We would love to hear about your experience if you’ve visited here!
#9 Get lost in Chatuchak Weekend Market
First thing to know when you enter Chatuchak Weekend Market is that you’re probably going to get lost! It’s the largest market in Thailand and has over 15,000 stalls so we’d be majorly impressed if you didn’t. For those of us who don’t have great navigational skills, you can get a free map from an information kiosk to help you out.
Think of something you want to buy. Got it? You can probably find it at Chatuchak Market. It sells everything – jewelry, designer clothes, fake designer clothes, tech, food – the list just goes on and on! It’s a must visit whilst in Bangkok.
As the name suggests, the market is open on weekends; Friday 6pm-midnight, Saturday and Sunday 9am-6pm.
#10 Explore architecture and antiques at the Jim Thompson House Museum
Welcoming over 300,000 visitors a year, the Jim Thompson House attracts visitors wanting to admire exquisite antiques and find out more about the man who mysteriously disappeared in Malaysia.
Jim Thompson was an American Intelligence Agent who became famous for reviving the Thai Silk industry and is now known for the stunning 6 traditional Thai teak houses he built. All of which are laden with tapestries, sculptures and paintings that share the tales of Thailand’s history.
Located in the Bangkok centre, the garden of this museum are the perfect way to escape from the hustle and bustle of Bangkok. The friendly guides also do a great job of providing an insight into the history of the magical buildings. These tours are included in the 200 baht entrance.
#11 Get a glimpse of the city on a boat trip
More than just another mode of transport, a boat ride along the Chao Phraya River gives you a wonderful insight into the city’s daily activity occurring along the banks of the river.
The journey is fascinating as you watch residents making their daily commute to work, admire delicate temples and observe as glamorous hotels transition into wooden shacks.
You can choose to embark on a guided river cruise, where you can enjoy lunch as you learn about the sights you pass. Or if you’re on a budget, go it alone! For just 20 baht you can hop on a water taxi at central pier and ride all the way to the end with Google as your tour guide.
#12 Relax and refresh with a Thai massage
Did you even go to Thailand if you didn’t utilise the amazingly cheap Thai massages? It’s the perfect way to rejuvenate your body after a long flight or busy day sightseeing.
There’s a whole host of massages to pick from; aromatherapy and oil massages, facials, foot massages and reflexology. You won’t struggle to find a spa or salon offering one of these, but you’ll want to make sure it’s a high-quality place. To avoid any awkward interactions, we would avoid any offering ‘happy endings’!
Prices for an hour massage tend to range between 250-500 baht.