Thailand’s capital, Bangkok, is a feast for the senses. The smells, sounds and tastes you’ll come across will make you feel alive. Bangkok is always on my itinerary when I visit Southeast Asia, and no two visits are ever the same. A bustling city with ancient temples and grand shopping malls, you’ll never get bored here. Here’s a list of the 10 best things to do in Bangkok on your next visit – some are obvious, some not so much.
1. Eat Street Food
Street food is a way of life for residents of Bangkok, and it isn’t something tourists should be afraid of. Vendors are as common as restaurants throughout the city, and you can get everything from fresh fruit to a full meal without breaking your wallet. One can eat very well in Bangkok thanks to the variety of street food choices. Some vendors will only have take away options, whilst others will have a few tables and chairs set up for their customers. Make sure you grab a freshly cooked Pad Thai or spicy soup when you visit the Thai capital, they are a must have!
Insider Tip: Book a street food tour with a professional guide to find all the hidden culinary gems of Bangkok.
2. Go to the Cinema
Bangkok’s many cinemas offer a luxurious experience for a fraction of the price you’ll pay at home. A plus for international visitors is that the majority of the films are shown in English. One thing you’ll definitely find unique about visiting a cinema in Bangkok is what happens before the film. After the ads and previews, all cinema patrons will stand for the King’s Song. It is imperative that everyone in the theatre does this, including tourists. The Thai people have an enormous amount of love for their King and Royal Family, and it can be punishable by law if they are disrespected.
3. Ride the BTS
One of the most comfortable public transport options I’ve experienced throughout my travels in Southeast Asia is Bangkok’s BTS Skytrain network. The BTS connects the city incredibly well and it’s fast, frequent and has the most amazing air conditioning! I think I’ve ridden it in the past just to escape the heat. Taking a ride on the BTS is actually one of the best things to do in Bangkok on TripAdvisor!
4. Get a Thai Massage
The city is flooded with massage parlors, from cheap and cheerful to high end spas at the best luxury hotels in Bangkok. A Thai massage is as painful as it is enjoyable, and it’s an experience I recommend everyone to try at least once. Rather than using oils, a Thai massage is a series of stretching and body manipulation techniques. Be prepared to get close with your therapist. An average Thai massage in Bangkok will cost you around 200 THB (~6USD).
5. Relax/Workout in Lumphini Park
If the sounds of the tuk-tuks and the air pollution are getting to you, then get yourself to Lumphini Park. Seriously, this place is a breath of fresh air compared to the hustle and bustle of the busy city. A public park with an abundance of grassed areas, trees, shade and wildlife, it’s the perfect place to head to if you’re needing to find some zen. You’ll see plenty of running clubs, Tai chi enthusiasts and school groups while you’re here, but be on the lookout for the monitor lizards that roam freely!
There’s also some pretty cool free gym equipment on offer to promote a healthy lifestyle, but my favourite is the old school muscle/body building gym. For 50 THB, you can do a workout with some of the heaviest, but oldest pieces of gym equipment you’ve ever seen.
6. Have a Sunset Drink at a Sky Bar
Bangkok’s sky bar scene is thriving. There are some fabulous places across the city to enjoy a drink while watching the sunset over the concrete jungle. If you’re staying at any of the best hostels in Bangkok, the staff will be sure to point you in the right direction. By far the most famous would be Sky Bar at the Lebua Hotel. Thanks to the movie The Hangover 2, this bar is on every tourist’s list of the best things to do in Bangkok. Take a full wallet and dress appropriately, as drinks are pricey and you can’t get in wearing your beach attire. Other bars I’ve been to and can recommend are Cloud 47, Octave Rooftop Lounge at the Marriott Hotel and Scarlett Wine Bar at the Pullman G Hotel.
7. Take a Boat Ride on the Chao Phraya River
Bangkok is known as the Venice of the East, and the busy Chao Phraya River serves as a lifeline to the city and to the rest of the country. Small canals link the city and surrounding areas, and taking a long tail boat ride throughout this water maze is a great experience when in Bangkok. You’ll see children playing, old men fishing and women doing their weekly laundry all on the banks of the Chao Phraya River. You can also get to the Grand Palace, Wat Arun and the temple of the reclining Buddha via a Chao Phraya River boat.
8. Do Something a Little Quirky
Bangkok has some awesome urban adventure activities that you’ll be surprised exist. Fancy a visit to a medical museum, an old prison or maybe a plane graveyard? Bangkok has all of these weird and wonderful ‘things to do’ alongside their notable attractions.
The Siriraj Medical Museum is as educational as it is morbid. There’s a mummified serial killer, a graphic display on the 2004 tsunami and a whole range of medical experiments and research that you’ll need to see to believe. Located at Siriraj Hospital, this museum isn’t for those with weak stomachs.
The Bangkok Corrections Museum is spread over three original cell blocks, with each cell displaying a different form of torture that prisoners had to endure. It’s hard to imagine people actually lived in these tiny cells, although I’m sure some deserved to be! The museum also includes information on the prisoners’ daily life and has a display on Thailand’s current form of capital punishment – the lethal injection.
Bangkok’s plane graveyard is located east of the city, and I navigated my way there via a long tail boat. Randomly located on a vacant block of land on a busy road, a few retired aircrafts (including a Boeing 747) have been laid to rest here. It’s not an official tourist attraction, and the locked land has been occupied by a family who you’ll need to negotiate with (think money) to be able to come in. Once inside though, you can freely (at your own risk) climb into the fuselage and even into the cockpit of the abandoned aircraft.
9. Visit the Chatuchak Weekend Market
Where you can buy anything and everything, the Chatuchak Weekend Market is a great place to get your ‘haggle’ on. With over 8,000 stalls, you’re sure to find that souvenir you’ve been needing for your family and friends back home. Located 25 – 30 minutes from the centre of town via the BTS system, the market is easily accessible for tourists. My advice, bring sunscreen and be prepared to get hot! There’s a lot of outdoor space at the market, and the indoor areas can get a little close for comfort. A must-try is fresh coconut ice cream with a range of toppings.
10. Go Temple Hopping
I couldn’t write a Bangkok post without including the temples. Two must-visits are the Grand Palace and Wat Pho.
The Grand Palace complex is breathtaking. The detail, colours and workmanship make this a truly amazing sight to see. The only downside is that it’s very crowded and can be very hot. A strict dress code applies, so be sure to follow the rules to enable a swift entry. Despite the crowds, if you have a good eye you can still get some incredible photos without another person in them.
Nearby the Grand Palace you can visit Wat Pho – the temple of the reclining Buddha. A sight that will amaze you, a 46m long gold plated reclining Buddha. Wat Pho also houses the most Buddha images in the whole of Thailand.
To learn more about Buddhism and the fascinating history of the temples I recommend you book a guided tour with a local guide.
Insider Tip: If you have time for a day trip, make sure to visit the ancient Ayutthaya Temples north of Bangkok. They are by far the most impressive temples in Thailand and you don’t want to miss them.
Where to Stay in Bangkok
Here are our top recommendations of hostels and hotels in Bangkok. All are centrally located, highly rated and have excellent facilities.
- Best Hostel: Once Again Hostel
- Best Budget Hotel: Better Bed
- Best Mid-Range Hotel: Tints of Blue Hotel
- Best Luxury Hotel: Eastin Grand Hotel Sathorn
Don’t forget to also take a look at Airbnb. They have many accommodation options available in Bangkok, and many of them are cheaper than your average hotel. For recommendations, take a look at our list of the best Bangkok Airbnbs.
Learn More About Bangkok/Thailand
- Lonely Planet Thailand Travel Guide: Ultimate travel guide with relevant and up-to-date advice on what to see and do in Thailand.
- Bangkok: Recipes and Stories from the Heart of Thailand: Lovely cookbook with delicious Thai recipes and stories from Thailand.
- Lonely Planet Thai Phrasebook & Dictionary: Handy passport to culturally enriching travels with the most relevant and useful Thai phrases and vocabulary for all your travel needs.
- Thailand – Culture Smart!: The Essential Guide to Customs & Culture: Provides essential information on attitudes, beliefs and behavior in Thailand, ensuring that you arrive there aware of basic manners, common courtesies, and sensitive issues.
- Very Thai: Everyday Popular Culture: Full of savvy insights into the impromptu creativity behind the exotic image of Thainess.
I could probably suggest another 10 best things to do in Bangkok, but start with some of the above and I know you’ll fall in love with the city just as much as I have. Oh, and don’t forget to check out my tips for your first trip to Bangkok.
If you want to learn more about Bangkok and its attractions, make sure to also check out our list of the best tours in Bangkok worth paying for and our Bangkok itinerary. Bangkok is also a great base to explore other parts of Thailand, for some day trip suggestions check out our article on the best day trips from Bangkok.