- Rated the best street food in the world
- Centered around the Chao Phraya River
- Terrible traffic but a great rail system
Metro population: 15.7 million (#18 in the world)
When To Visit: November-March if possible
Climate: Hot and mostly sunny year-round, with a wet season July-October and especially hot temperatures April-June
Thailand’s largest city, greater Bangkok contains nearly a quarter of the country’s population. Due to its popularity among tourists, it’s very easy for a foreigner to explore – you’ll find that many of the locals speak great English and that almost all signs have English translations. A few days in Bangkok will allow you to see gorgeous and historic temples, contemporary delights like rooftop bars and cat cafes, and a variety of neighborhoods with rich character.
Photo: Phayanthai Road from the SkyTrain
Where To Go in Bangkok
Bangkok City Center
River Taxi: The Chao Phraya River flows right through the center of Bangkok. It’s bustling with cargo and passenger boats and offers great views of the city. You can catch a river taxi at many points along the river – I suggest starting at the Saphan Taksin SkyTrain station and taking the orange flag boat (which is the most affordable option at only 14 baht) north to the Tha Chang stop which drops you off by several of the city’s most famous temples, including the Grand Palace. 14 baht
Grand Palace: Easily one of the most beautiful human-made places on Earth, the Grand Palace is one of Thailand’s most popular tourist destinations. The (steep by Thai standards but worth it) admission price allows you to walk through the grounds which are teeming with stunning architecture and enter the main temple. 500 baht admission
Wat Pho: Just a couple blocks south of the Grand Palace, Wat Pho is a large ornate temple that is famous for its gigantic Reclining Buddha statue. Take a walk around this super chill Buddha and explore the large grounds of this temple which has beautiful gardens, statues, and architecture. 100 baht admission
Wat Arun: Known as the Temple of Dawn, Wat Arun is located across the river from the Grand Palace and Wat Pho – you can hop on a super cheap 3 baht ferry to get there. This temple features a pyramid-like structure that you can climb up and get great views of the other temples, the river, and the city. There’s also beautiful gardens and open-air temples to explore. 100 baht admission
Khao San Road: This long block just north of the Grand Palace is Bangkok’s backpacker haven, with tons of hostels, hotels, restaurants, and bars. It’s a great area to meet fellow travelers and has a very lively, colorful vibe. Free
Bangkok’s Chinatown is quite possibly the best Chinatown in the world! It’s huge and covered with shops, food stands, restaurants, and ubiqutious red stores with solely gold jewelry. Try to find bamee, a popular Chinese-Thai yellow noodle dish.
Silom & Bang Rak
Lumpini Park: Known as “Bangkok’s lung,” this large park with tons of walking trails, a lake, and playgrounds is a popular spot for locals to hang out. Take a peaceful walk or rent a boat and go out onto the lake. Free admission. 40 baht boat rental.
Silom Soi 4: This block contains the highest concentration of gay bars in the city and is frequented heavily by tourists and expats. Free
Sathorn Unique Tower: You can’t enter this creepy partially constructed 49-floor tower, but you can get good views of it from the street below or from SkyBar (see Nightlife below). Free
Unicorn Cafe: Looking for your happy place? There’s art, books, stuffed animals, and food dedicated to unicorns at this colorful rainbow-themed cafe with dessert and appetizers. Free admission but you might want to purchase food.
Caturday Cat Cafe: There’s tons of friendly cats of all sizes, colors, and personalities roaming around in this adorable cat lovers’ heaven. The waitstaff is extremely friendly and the environment of the cafe is cute and lively. It’s a far cooler place than other similar cafes in Bangkok. Try their thai tea crepe cake (complete with dipping sauce). Free admission but you must purchase food or a drink.
Siam Mall: The largest mall in Thailand, this glamorous shopping area has vibrant architecture, top-notch food courts, and tons of bright hallways to explore. Free
Benjasiri Park: The park surrounds a large lake and there’s great views of skyscrapers in every direction. It’s usually bustling with locals running, doing fencing, getting in some pull-ups, or simply sitting on benches people-watching. Free
Lat Mayom Floating Market: The least touristy of the Bangkok area’s several floating markets, Lat Mayom is actually primarily located on solid ground – there’s just a few vendors in boats – but it is built right next to a canal and the structures have a very rustic, jungle-like feel so it’s a cool spot to grab some street food. Free
What To Eat In Bangkok
Bangkok restaurants and fast casual eateries popular with locals where you can get a full meal for under $15 (often under $10). I always highlight vegan or vegetarian options – cutting down on the amount of meat you eat is by far the #1 way you can reduce your environmental impact and contribute less to animal cruelty.
For a list of specific Thai dishes to try, please see my Thailand page.
Street Vendors: You can’t leave Bangkok without trying street food! To avoid getting sick, stick to vendors that other people are buying from (less popular vendors might leave food sitting out all day) and observe the vendor’s hygiene (if they touch food without gloves or after touching cash, move on to a different one). And in general, be sure to not consume any tap water or ice that may have come from tap water (always ask). Food stands are all over the city and there’s especially many in the Silom and Chinatown areas.
Muslim Restaurant: Need a break from Thai food? Enjoy a Thai twist on Indian cuisine at this casual spot. Their biryani is their most famous and tasty dish; it’s served with lentils and a few sauces. 340/6 Si Lom, Suriya Wong, Khet Bang Rak, Krung Thep Maha Nakhon 10500. +66 2 234 1876
Chote Chitr: Try crispy fried noodles (mee grorp) at this tiny hole-in-the-wall restaurant that also has great curries and Thai-style salads. 146 Th Phraeng Phuton, Banglamphu. +66 2 221 4082
Roti-Mataba Indian Restaurant: Have an order of mataba, a Malaysian style thin pancake stuffed with chicken, egg, and curry powder, at this casual and super tasty Southeast Asian-Indian fusion eatery. 136 Phra Atid Road Chana-Song Khram, Phra Nakhon Bangkok 10200. +66 2 282 2119
Ask a Local! Some of the best food in Bangkok is served at restaurants that don’t have English names and are impossible to find on the internet. Ask locals you meet for recommendations on non-touristy restaurants at which they enjoy eating.
7-11: This may seem like a ridiculous recommendation, but 7-11 will be your best friend in Thailand! They’re on almost every corner and are the cheapest place to buy water, snacks, and even quick meals.
Bangkok bars, lounges, and clubs that are popular with locals and meet one or more of these criteria: A) Unique, unlike anyplace you’ll find in another city B) Fun and lively, sure to be a good time C) Beautiful decor or view
Sky Bar: You may recognize this dome-shaped rooftop bar from The Hangover 2. It’s a striking modern space with sweeping views of the city that is actually the world’s highest open-air bar. Drinks are expensive by Thai standards, but you can probably get away with just walking around and savoring the view. The Dome at Lebua, 64th Floor, 42 Road, Bangrak, 1055 Silom Rd, Silom, Bang Rak, Bangkok 10500. +66 2 624 9999
DJ Station: One of the city’s most popular gay clubs, this two-level venue frequented mostly by tourists and expats has drag shows, cages for you to dance in, and popular Western music. 212/2 Si Lom, Khwaeng Suriya Wong, Khet Bang Rak, Krung Thep Maha Nakhon 10500. +66 2 266 4029
Telephone Bar: Queer or straight alike will have a great time at this casual restaurant/bar that has a karaoke room on its top floor. You and the other few tables take turns choosing songs and you sing from your table so it’s less intimidating than going on a stage. The karaoke is free, but a drink purchase is required. 114/11-13 ซอย, 166/4 Si Lom, Suriya Wong, Bang Rak, Bangkok 10500. +66 2 266 4029
Red Sky Bar: Much less famous than similarly named SkyBar, this rooftop bar extends 360° around the building and has just as epic views of Bangkok. It’s an amazing place to watch the sunset and there’s usually plenty of tables available. Centara Grand at CentralWorld 56F. +66 2 100 6255
Nearby Side Trips from Bangkok
Ayutthaya: This UENSCO World Heritage Center is the country’s former capital and preserves the ruins of a city dating back to 1350. You’ll find palaces, temples, statues, and more to explore in this peaceful place.
Chiang Mai: This small tranquil city in Thailand’s northern mountains has over 300 temples to explore and a remarkable town center surrounded by a moat. From Bangkok, you can take a ~$30 1-hour flight or a 12-15 hour overnight train for $9. Read more.
Sticky Waterfall: Just over an hour from Chiang Mai, accessible via songthaew, motorbike, or taxi. Mineral deposits make this remote and off-the-radar waterfall situated deep in a forest very easy to walk on and climb over – an unforgettable experience! Read more.