Let’s start with the obvious. Bangkok is a BIG city. Even though we locals don’t think about it much, the size of our capital overwhelms us whenever it comes to mind! I can’t imagine having to choose even SOME of the amazing things you could do in a limited time, let alone all of them… (although now I do because I had to put together this list!) So I’ve listed below what I think are the best things to do in Bangkok.
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Things to Do in Bangkok
It’s rather easy to fall into tourist traps when visiting a new city. But the question is… which tourist spots can I skip? Which do I absolutely have to visit? Should I be saving time to do something else instead of getting stomped to death by other tourists?
In this list, I guarantee the perfect mix of touristy places you NEED to see and the slow travel-oriented places you should go to feel like a true local. Just a heads up, I’ve cut out most of the nightlife-style shopping streets you would see in most other list articles about Bangkok. Because the locals don’t ever go there, plus… shopping streets exist in every other country 😉
Ready? Let’s go!
Visit Wat Phra Kaew and The Grand Palace
First is, of course, Wat Phra Kaew, known internationally as The Temple of the Emerald Buddha. Not only is it one of the most Instagram-worthy spots you’ll ever see in Asia, but it’s also the most sacred temple in Thailand. It’s home to the Emerald Buddha statue, believed to influence the country’s prosperity.
Serving as the current royal chapel, no monks live inside the temple. They’ll only be invited in when important religious ceremonies are held for the royal family. As long as you’re dressed properly, the grounds are all yours to explore and take as many photos as you’d like.
To put it simply, you’ll need long skirts or pants that cover your knees. No ripped jeans. No flip-flops (sandals okay). And no tank tops. Refer to my Free E-Book for the most thorough dress code.
- Entrance Fee: 15 USD for foreigners
- Hours: 8:30 AM – 3:30 PM
- Address: Na Phra Lan Rd, Phra Borom Maha Ratchawang, Phra Nakhon, Bangkok 10200
See the Reclining Buddha at Wat Pho
Next on our local list of things to do in Bangkok is to see the Reclining Buddha, a 46-meter-long and 15-meter-high golden statue inside the sanctuary of Wat Pho. The sight alone is magnificent. If you’d like to get a little superstitious, you can also drop 108 coins into the monk bowls lined up around the statue for good luck.
You can also get the true UNESCO-listed traditional Thai massage here inside Wat Pho. Because guess what… Wat Pho was the FIRST medical school in the country, pioneering holistic Thai massage and still turning out the best masseurs every year.
As of later 2023, a small Thai Massage museum has also opened inside the temple grounds. Make sure to visit for some historical context and the significance of Thai Massage!
- Entrance Fee: 6 USD
- Hours: 8:30 PM – 6:30 PM
- Address: 2 Sanam Chai Rd, Phra Borom Maha Ratchawang, Phra Nakhon, Bangkok 10200
Get On a Water Taxi
Or should I say “water bus” since these boats hold so many people per ride? Forget the slow, fancy gondolas of Venice, these massive boats will take you along the Chao Praya river at top speed while the car drivers hang out in one of the world’s worst traffic congestion. Want a feel of a Thai person’s typical commute to work? This is it, my friend.
- Ticket Fee: 45 US cents per ride regardless of destination
- Location: Piers are located about every 5-10 minutes walk along both sides of the Chaopraya River.
Visit Wat Arun
Known as the most stunning dinner view from across the river, Wat Arun is another must-visit. Because why only see it from across the river when you can see it up close?
Before Bangkok became the capital city of Thailand in 1782, the capital city was Thonburi, another city right across the Chao Phraya River. And Wat Arun was its royal chapel. The same Emerald Buddha statue that lives in Wat Phra Kaew today used to be inside Wat Arun as well!
- Entrance Fee: 3 USD
- Hours: 8:30 PM – 5:30 PM
- Address: 158 Thanon Wang Doem, Wat Arun, Bangkok Yai, Bangkok 10600
If you’d like to take photos at Wat Arun in a Thai traditional dress, send a message to Sense of Thai on Instagram to book a time slot, then show up at their shop at your appointment time. You will get dressed, pay for the package, and then take a boat ride to meet your photographer at the temple.
Have Dinner by the River
If you haven’t guessed, the first 4 items on this list are designed to go together in one itinerary 😉 It’s not mandatory, though!
Having dinner by the Chao Phraya River is a real mood when in Bangkok. You absolutely cannot miss out on this one. I highly recommend booking a table at Sala Rattanakosin (which is also a boutique hotel you could stay at, follow the link below if you wish to wake up to the best river view every morning) since it’s directly across from Wat Arun and will give you the best view.
If you’re really interested in putting together a day out of these first 4 items, check out this Old Town Bangkok Itinerary I made. Hopefully, it can give you some inspiration!
Spend an Afternoon Inside ICONSIAM
The Ground Floor of it, to be precise.
The mall is ranked the 3rd largest mall in the world as of February 24, 2 spots ahead of Dubai Mall. It’s got 9 floors in total, not counting the parking basement levels. But the highlight for any visitor is its gigantic food paradise on the ground floor.
Not only is it packed with all kinds of Thai food and desserts from ALL regions of the country, but the entire floor is also decorated in the old-days floating market theme. It is a sight to behold… And more than a handful of tastes to enjoy!
- Hours: 10:00 AM – 10:00 PM
- Address: 299 Charoen Nakhon 5 Alley, Khlong Ton Sai, Khlong San, Bangkok 10600
Stroll Along 3 Blocks’ Worth of Shopping Malls
You read that right. We have 3 blocks of downtown lined with almost nothing else but shopping malls. ELEVEN of them, to be exact.
This is probably one of the most “local-like” things you could do… It’s a hot country. So, when the locals want to hang out, they escape the heat into malls!
Central World and Siam Center are my favorites. Central World is huge with all kinds of stores you can find. Siam Center is a bit small, but stylishly designed with a lot of interesting, off-the-beaten-path brands and some lovely coffee shops.
If you’re into high-designer brands, Central Embassy and Kaysorn Plaza are your go-to. If not, DO NOT go inside these two malls. They might just make you uncomfortable with how crisp and unrealistic everything feels, that’s my opinion.
- Address: Central World – 4 4/1-4/2 Rama I Rd, Pathum Wan, Bangkok 10330
- Address: Siam Center – 979 Rama I Rd, Pathum Wan, Bangkok 10330
Eat Some Fusion Mango and Sticky Rice
Did someone say Mango and Sticky Rice?!
I did! But not just the mango and the sticky rice… Here at Make Me Mango, you also get a bit of Mango Panna Cotta and a scoop of Mango Ice Cream to go with it. Also, you know how ripe mangos can sometimes taste too sour, or too sweet and soft? That’s never happening. Somehow, they only serve perfect ones!
I recommend visiting the Tha Tian branch, which is right next door to Wat Pho. How about you get your Wat Pho Thai Massage, then wrap it up with some divine desserts?
- Hours: 10:30 AM – 8:30 PM
- Address: 67 Maha Rat Rd, Phra Borom Maha Ratchawang, Phra Nakhon, Bangkok 10200
Splurge on Food Alongside the Locals at Wanglang Market
Despite my enjoying the famous Chatuchak Weekend Market from time to time… because all the foreigners are going there, let me treat you to something different.
No matter what country you’re in, “where there’s a college, there is good food” is unwaveringly true. And because it’s right next to the country’s number one medical school and hospital, the Wanglang Day Market is PACKED with the most authentic street food you can imagine, plus some really good restaurants.
You will also find some other types of stores as well, like fashion, mom-and-pop hardware stores, and even 7-Eleven. I ran into a high school kid busking when I was there. This market never fails to surprise.
- Hours: 9:00 AM – 6:00 PM
- Address: 112 13 Soi Wanglang, Siriraj, Bangkok Noi, Bangkok 10700
Damnoen Saduak Floating Market
Wondering why I haven’t mentioned the famous street food ONCE so far? That’s because I’m saving it for the right time. If you’re going to have authentic Thai street food and you have to choose between getting it on the streets versus on a canal, GO FOR THE CANAL OPTION.
Nestled in another city 1.5 hours from Bangkok, the Damnoen Saduak floating market screams “traditional lifestyle.” People commute around the market via canals, including merchants. Here, you can find all kinds of street food available on the streets of Bangkok, as well as fresh fruits and authentic boat noodles.
You can easily plan a morning or an afternoon to visit the floating market.
- Hours: 8:00 AM – 4:00 PM
- Address: 51 Damnoen Saduak, Damnoen Saduak District, Ratchaburi 70130
Take a day trip (or two) to Ayutthaya
A little over an hour north of Bangkok is the ancient capital city of Ayutthaya, also known as the Ayutthaya Historical Park. Standing grand and prosperous as a Southeast Asian power from 1351-1767, the city is now listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
As the city of boat noodles, top-notch smoked river prawns, and 16 historical sites, what’s not to love about Ayutthaya? Check out a 2-day itinerary I made here, or check out the 1-day tour options below.
Can I also just say… if you have maybe 2-3 days and a budget to spare while exploring Bangkok, take a 40-minute flight up to Sukhothai, Thailand’s first ancient capital city. It’s not any less important than Ayutthaya, and a less touristy version. Highly recommend!
Sanctuary of Truth and Snorkeling Day Tour
Thailand is just one of those places you’ll never run out of extremely ornate buildings to marvel at. The Sanctuary of Truth is another one I don’t think you should miss. Constructed ENTIRELY of wood, without even a single metal nail, you’ll witness the grandiose of traditional Thai woodwork here. The ornate carvings convey the concept of impermanence, which stands at the core of Buddhist teachings.
If you’ve seen the 3rd season’s opening of La Casa De Papel on Netflix, this building might be of particular interest to you!
Since the sanctuary is 2 hours from Bangkok, I advise making a day trip out of it by pairing it with a Pattaya City or snorkeling tour off the eastern coast. Check out some of the tour options below. Pattaya is also the most dangerous city in the country. If you do decide to go, stay with your tour group and the guide and avoid wandering off on your own.
- Entrance Fee: 15 USD
- Hours: 8:00 AM – 6:00 PM
- Address: 206/2 Moo 5, Pattaya-Naklua Rd, Bang Lamung District, Chon Buri 20150
Splurge On a Fancy Dinner at Sirocco Sky Bar
Dinner by the river, checked! What about dinner up in the sky?
If your answer to this question is “Hell yes!” then Sirocco Sky Bar is your best bet! Situated on the 63rd floor of one of the most prestigious luxury hotels in Bangkok, Sirocco promises a clear view of the night skyline and carefully curated fusion menus from prestigious Thai cuisine.
It’s also gotten some extra fame from The Hangover II if you were wondering why it looks a bit familiar…
- Hours: 6:00 PM to midnight
- Address: 64th Floor, State Tower Bangkok, 1055 Si Lom, Silom, Bangrak, Bangkok 10500
King Power Mahanakhon Sky Walk
One of the newest buildings on the Bangkok skyline, King Power Mahanakhon is now the tallest in the country. Explore the Sky Deck, the highest outdoor 360-degree observation deck, or seek your daily dose of thrill with the brand-new SkyRides, a flying VR experience.
The highest sky bar is also here if you’d like to sip some champagne while watching Wat Phra Kaew and Wat Pho from afar. Yup, almost all of Bangkok is visible from up there!
- Hours: 10:00 AM – 8:00 PM (Last admission 7:30 PM)
- Address: 114 Narathiwas Road, Silom, Bangrak, Bangkok 10500
Stop by Chong Nonsri Sky Walk for IG-worthy shots
A block from King Power Mahanakhon is what I consider the most stunning pedestrian bridge in Thailand. As a testament to this, I’ve randomly seen a theater commercial at an AMC in LA that was shot here… and my brain went “Wait, that’s Bangkok…” It was quite a cognitive dissonance, if I may say!
The Golden Mount, or Wat Saket, is a temple perched atop a hill in Bangkok, offering a panoramic view of the city. Visitors can ring gongs for luck, love, or wealth as they climb the stairs to the top. But considering how many things you have to check out in Bangkok, I think it’s only worth the time if you’re very interested in the Buddhist culture.
Chatuchak Market, or JJ Market, is a sprawling weekend market covering 27 acres and is renowned for its vast array of goods. From high-quality handcrafted items to fashionable clothing and delicious street food, the market is a treasure trove for shoppers, but apart from the vendors, you won’t find a lot of locals there. Just be aware of that.
Shopping malls in Bangkok are more than just shopping centers; they are modern social hubs. Not only do they offer a variety of high-end stores and food courts, but they also serve as cool retreats from the city’s hustle, bustle, and heat.
Unlike popular beliefs, Thai massage is more medicine than relaxation. It involves a combination of deep tissue massage and stretching, which can be quite intense but will cure anything you have. I recommend communicating with your masseuse about what problems you’re having and your comfort level.
Lumphini Park is Bangkok’s largest green space and offers a peaceful escape from the city’s fast pace. It’s a popular spot for locals and tourists alike for walking, jogging, and observing wildlife, including good old monitor lizards. The park provides a serene environment to experience a more tranquil side of Bangkok. I recommend visiting ONLY if you have extra time left.