One of the world’s most (in)famous urban travel destinations, Thailand’s buzzing capital city of Bangkok is a must-see for any traveler roaming around Southeast Asia. Diving into the array of fun things to do in Bangkok reveals a kaleidoscope of attractions, from sacred temples to bustling night markets. Whether you want to step into Thailand’s royal history at the Grand Palace or marvel at iconic landmarks like Wat Pho, plan the ultimate holiday in the Thai capital with this complete tourist attractions guide!
Best places to visit in Bangkok
Witness the opulence of the former royal residence at the Grand Palace
Start your Bangkok sightseeing adventure by stepping into the Grand Palace. Located near the eastern banks of the Chao Phraya River, this massive palace complex houses several halls, temples, and museums begging to be explored. If you’ve only got 24 hours in Bangkok, the Grand Palace is the perfect spot to launch your itinerary.
Wander through Wat Phra Kaew, the highlight of the Grand Palace and the most sacred Buddhist temple in Thailand. Visit Wat Phra Kaew to revere the mesmerizing Emerald Buddha, a venerated statue with clothing changed by the king himself. Each corner you turn in the temple complex reveals intricate designs and shimmering mosaics. Keep on the lookout for the Phra Rabiang, a collection of murals depicting the epic Ramakien saga.
There are plenty of other historic buildings to check out around the Grand Palace, too. Admire the seamless blend of Thai and European architecture at the Chakri Maha Prasat Hall. Step into the Queen Sirikit Museum of Textiles to see unique Thai fabrics, textiles, and handicrafts. Marvel at interesting military artifacts and archeological finds at the Wat Phra Kaew Museum, located near the Doi Kham cafe (not within the temple complex of the same name).
Remember to dress appropriately when visiting the Grand Palace. Exposed shoulders and legs are not allowed. (If you don’t have appropriate clothing, there are several stalls outside the gates to “rent” pants and shawls.)
PRO TIP: As the Grand Palace is one of the most popular destinations in Bangkok, arrive early to beat the tourist crowds—and the heat!
Stare up at the giant Reclining Buddha inside the Main Hall at Wat Pho
Dive into spiritual serenity and Thai culture in the heart of bustling Bangkok at Wat Pho. Even in a city jammed with temples and ancient sites, Wat Pho is special and is a must-see destination for first-time visitors; it is, after all, Bangkok’s most visited temple!
Stride alongside the Reclining Buddha, the main attraction at Wat Pho. This awe-inspiring Buddha statue stretches 46 meters long and is covered in gold leaf, with its feet adorned with intricate mother-of-pearl inlays. Each pearl inlay illustrates a different Buddhist symbol. Before leaving the viharn building, tinkle coins into the temple’s 108 bronze bowls to bring good fortune.
Back outside, wander amid the maze of chedis shimmering in vibrant colors and glinting tiles. They’re not just for show, either; these stupa-like structures enshrine the ashes of Thai royals and Buddhist relics.
Feeling adventurous? Roll up your sleeves and join the locals in a traditional Thai massage. Wat Pho is often hailed as the birthplace of this healing art and is still home to one of the country’s first massage schools. For a small fee, you can let Thai massage students practice while letting you release all your holiday stress.
While Wat Pho is a popular spot, most tourists don’t take the time to explore the entire complex. If you’re planning a longer itinerary, for example, three days in Bangkok rather than only one or two, be sure to take your visit to this fascinating destination at a more languid pace.
PRO TIP: Stay for the evening chants if you can. Listening to the monks’ voices resonating through the air against the backdrop of the illuminated temple is pure magic. Ready for a journey of both history and harmony?
Cross the river to visit the iconic Wat Arun complex
After visiting Wat Pho, head to the nearby Tah Tian ferry terminal for a quick ride across the Chao Phraya River to Wat Arun. Rising majestically from the western riverbank, Bangkok’s iconic “Temple of Dawn” is the city’s second-most visited temple. As its name implies, Wat Arun is at its most magical as the first rays of the sunrise emerge from under the city.
Kick off your Wat Arun adventure by climbing the temple’s steep, narrow steps. As you ascend, admire the intricate carvings and porcelain tiles full of Buddhist imagery. At the summit, you’ll be rewarded with a panoramic view of Bangkok’s skyline and Chao Phraya River.
Marvel at the temple’s prangs (spires). Cloaked in broken seashells and porcelain once used as ballast by trading ships, they’re a testament to Wat Arun’s riverside heritage.
PRO TIP: Hop on an evening riverboat cruise to savor Wat Arun’s beauty from the water. As you float by, watch the temple glow, reflecting the fiery oranges of the sunset.
Take a day cruise or dinner cruise on the Chao Phraya River
Embark on a journey through the heart of Bangkok with a boat ride along the Chao Phraya River. Winding through the city center, the Chao Phraya River is the city’s lifeblood, both as a means of local transportation and as a historic trade route for teak and silk.
As you glide along the Chao Phraya River, an interesting contrast unfolds. Gleaming temples like Wat Arun and the Grand Palace juxtapose modern skyscrapers alongside traditional stilted buildings clinging to the banks. Bustling markets like Pak Khlong Talat (Flower Market) and modern shopping malls like ICONSIAM also brush the river’s edge.
Savor delectable Thai cuisine and enjoy traditional entertainment onboard an evening dinner boat tour. As night falls, witness the riverbanks illuminated with reflections of the city’s golden spires and neon lights.
Depending on the duration of your Thailand itinerary, you may have time to take a long Chao Phraya River day trip. Riverboat day tours can take you several dozen kilometers up and down the river, including some that visit floating markets outside of the city.
Lose yourself in the alleys of Chatuchak Weekend Market
With malls and markets spread throughout the city, Bangkok is a fantastic place to go shopping. If your trip falls on a weekend, be sure to venture into the Chatuchak Weekend Market. Located in the suburb of Chatuchak, this massive market is a whirlwind of over 15,000 stalls spread across 35 acres.
From the moment you step into the Chatuchak Weekend Market, a maze of alleys lined with shops unfolds. Shop for unique finds like silky Thai fabrics, intricate handicrafts, handcrafted souvenirs, and handmade jewelry. Discover rare antiques, local artists showcasing their masterpieces, and even a corner with exotic plants and pets. If you’re all about getting bargains, be sure to flex your haggling muscles and get a great deal on that perfect item!
As you navigate the lanes, you’ll also stumble upon live music performances, adding a rhythmic backdrop to your shopping spree. And if you’re all about bargains, flex those haggling muscles and snag that coveted item for a steal!
Hunger pangs? Dive into a gastronomic adventure at Chatuchak Weekend Market. Get a taste of traditional street food dishes like spicy som tam (papaya salad), bite into juicy grilled meats, or cool off with coconut ice cream.
PRO TIP: Be sure to bring along a bottle of water to stay hydrated and wear comfortable shoes. With so much to explore, you could be on your feet for hours!
Browse endless market stalls on Khao San Road
Want to experience the legendary chaos of Bangkok? Jump into the city’s bustling energy headfirst at Khao San Road, Bangkok’s legendary backpacker haven. Although this stretch is just over 400 meters long, it’s one of the city’s most famous spots for tourists. (And one of its most divisive.)
Stroll the lively street and get lured into quirky shops selling everything from handmade jewelry to vintage vinyl records. On a quest for unique souvenirs? From funky t-shirts to intricate Thai crafts, you’ll find at all along Khao San Road.
Built up an appetite roaming around central Bangkok? The multitude of restaurants and street food stalls along Khao San Road beckon. Indulge in local delicacies like pad thai or deep-fried spring rolls. Or, if you’re feeling extra adventurous, chow down on crispy scorpions or insects, making sure to capture it on camera for your Instagram feed.
If you thought this area was crazy by day, by night, Khao San Road transforms into an even wilder beast. Groove to the beats of makeshift bars, with live music echoing and DJs spinning tracks till the wee hours. Join fellow travelers over a cold Singha beer, swapping your holiday tales.
For a slice of serenity amid the chaos, duck into a tucked-away massage parlor. Let skilled masseurs knead away your vacation stress as the nightlife drones on in the distance.
EDITOR'S RECOMMENDATION: Although it’s one of Bangkok’s most popular places to visit for backpackers, Khao San Road won’t appeal to everyone. In fact, it was my own personal least favorite place I encountered in the country. If you’re looking for something a tad more mature, nearby Soi Rambuttri is a great choice. You’ll still find a ton of cool shops, cafes, restaurants, and bars here for delicious food & drinks without the turn-it-up-to-11 noise.
Marvel at priceless Asian art at the Jim Thompson House Museum
Need a break from the busy streets? Unravel the mystery of Jim Thompson House Museum, a tranquil oasis nestled amidst Bangkok’s bustling heart. The home was built in 1959 on Saen Saeb Canal by Jim Thompson, an American businessman and architect. With its stunning traditional Thai architecture, the historic house is one of the area’s standout landmarks.
Begin your exploration by tracing the footsteps of Jim Thompson, the man credited with revitalizing Thailand’s silk industry. Admire the beautifully preserved traditional Thai house, showcasing Thompson’s keen architectural eye.
Inside Jim Thompson House Museum, marvel at his eclectic collection of artwork and artifacts. Sift through exquisite Thai paintings, rare blue-and-white porcelain, and ancient Buddha statues, each harkening back to old-world Siam.
At the exterior, amble through the lush gardens, bursting with tropical plants and ponds. If you’ve built up an appetite or need some refreshments, there’s a restaurant, cafe, and bar on-site, too. Sip a cocktail at the sophisticated O.S.S. Bar, enjoy a coffee at the Silk Cafe, or chow down on some Thai tapas at Jim’s Terrace.
PRO TIP: Dive deeper into Thompson’s story with a guided tour. The tour not only unveils the history of the art & artifacts but also touches upon the disappearance of Jim Thompson in 1967, a mystery that remains unsolved to this day.
Shop ‘til you drop on Yaowarat Road in Chinatown
Dig into the heart of Bangkok’s Chinatown with a journey down Yaowarat Road, the neighborhood’s vibrant main artery. Walking along the bustling street, you’ll filter past shops selling electronics, clothes, antiques, perfume, kitchenware, herbs—and nearly everything else under the sun.
Daylight sparks open a blaze of shops and vendors. Scour the sidewalks of Yaowarat Road for everything from gold jewelry to traditional Chinese medicines. On your shopping adventure, look out for intricate temples, such as the Wat Traimit, with its solid gold Buddha.
But it’s at night that Yaowarat Road truly dazzles. Neon signs light up the skies, pointing you toward eateries and street food stalls that have ladled out delicacies for generations. Relish in bowls of peppery bird’s nest soup, crispy duck, ba mee (wonton noodles), and grilled squid skewers.
PRO TIP: After finishing a meal, don’t miss the street-side dessert stalls! Indulge in sweet street food treats like bua loy, colorful Thai rice balls in warm coconut milk, or sesame-filled Chinese pastries.
Squeeze in some big-brand shopping at Siam Paragon
Still hankering to discover the city’s shopping scene? Located in Phatum Wan, Siam Paragon is one of Bangkok’s most popular shopping malls, offering a variety of international and local brands.
With over 250 stores, ranging from luxury fashion labels to independent businesses, there’s something for every kind of shopper at Siam Paragon. Visitors can also find an impressive selection of cinemas, restaurants, cafes, and entertainment options, such as an indoor theme park and bowling alley.
In addition to shopping, you can visit the mall’s large aquarium, where you can explore the underwater world and view over 30,000 marine fish from around the globe.
Enjoy a meal and sip cocktails above the city at the Red Sky Restaurant
Looking to elevate your Thai dining experiences? Get way above the city and enjoy a meal at the Red Sky Restaurant. This top-notch eatery is situated atop the Centara Grand at Central World. From the 55th floor, you’ll enjoy awesome views of the city while enjoying a fancy dining experience.
Red Sky Restaurant offers a chic vibe with light-toned woods, mirrored panels, and cool LED lighting. For a fun night on the town, groove to live music by international DJs or chill in the outdoor seating areas for some laid-back dining.
The menu at Red Sky is all about European dishes with a touch of Asian flavors, like black-ink risotto, spaghetti lobster felicetti, and juicy wagyu beef with Madeira sauce.
Don’t miss out on their rooftop bar, where you can sip signature cocktails using local spirits and ingredients like lemongrass, chili, and pandan leaves.
Where to stay in Bangkok for sightseeing
In a city as big as the Thai capital, there’s no doubt that choosing where to stay in Bangkok can be a challenge. For most travelers, the most popular places to stay include the area around the infamous Khao San Road, Silom, Sukhumvit, and the area around the riverside. Here are a few ideas to start your accommodations search…
- Amara Bangkok Hotel: This 4-star boutique hotel, located in Silom, features superb city views, spacious modern rooms, and a host of awesome amenities, including a rooftop pool and fitness center.
- Novotel Bangkok Sukhumvit 20: A fantastic mid-range hotel that charms guests with stylish rooms that deliver incredible vistas of the Bangkok cityscape. Besides the stunning rooftop lounge, you’ll love the neighborhood, which is chock-loaded with excellent shopping and dining options.
- W Bangkok Hotel: One of the city’s finest luxury hotels, this 5-star gem delivers everything you need for the perfect Bangkok accommodations experience, including Thai massages, an outdoor pool, and a handful of on-site bars & restaurants.