Bangkok, Thailand’s capital, is one of the biggest and most popular cities in all of Southeast Asia. From old but majestic temples to modern skyscrapers and fancy shopping malls, there is something to do in Bangkok for every type of visitor. Be warned though, the traffic can be pretty crazy, and you’ll need some getting used to the hot and humid air in the city.
Without further ado, here are the top things to do in Bangkok.
Admire some of Bangkok’s beautiful temples
Temple hopping is without a doubt one of the most popular things to do in Bangkok. Visiting every temple will probably be overkill and take up too much of your time, so we’ve selected a couple that are definitely worth a visit.
Note that you have to dress appropriately when visiting temples, meaning your knees and shoulders should be covered. To our horror, we noticed that at some temples the rules aren’t as strict for men as women. Also remember to never point the soles of your feet to anyone, certainly not to Buddha.
Did you know? Wat means temple in Thai.
Wat Arun, or Temple of the Dawn, is a pretty unique temple situated on the banks of the Chao Phraya River. It’s made up of 1 huge prang (some kind of spire) surrounded by 4 smaller ones, all gorgeously decorated with tiny pieces of coloured glass and Chinese porcelain.
When we visited in September 2015 nearly all of the prangs were covered in scaffolding, hiding the beauty of Wat Arun. Excited to be seeing the temple without scaffolding when we visited again in July 2017 left us disappointed. We decided not to pay the 50 baht (~ $1.57 ~ €1.28) entrance fee and just wander around the surrounding grounds.
When the restoration works are over, hopefully you’ll be able to climb the central prang again and admire this gorgeous temple in all its beauty. Wat Arun is one of Thailand’s most famous landmarks for a reason!
Wat Pho is home to the famous Reclining Buddha. This golden statue is a whopping 46 meter (150 feet) long, and 15 meter (49 feet) high. Take off your shoes to enter the building and expect a queue of tourists waiting to take the perfect selfie.
When admiring this beautiful golden Buddha, you might hear a ringing sound. Those are the coins people are dropping in the 108 bowls on the other side of the statue, for good luck (and helping the monks renovate and preserve Wat Pho).
If there’s one temple you should see in Bangkok, it’s Wat Pho, in our opinion. Definitely worth the 100 baht (~ $3.14 ~ €2.56) entrance fee.
If you’re looking to combine a temple visit with a view, Wat Saket is for you. Also known as The Golden Mount Temple, it actually is a golden chedi (or stupa) on a low man-made hill. In order to get to the top, you’ll have to climb about 300 steps. Luckily, there’s free Singha drinking water waiting for you there.
A 20 baht (~ $0.63 ~ €0.51) entrance fee grants you access to steps circling around the hill towards the golden top.
This is the view you’ll be treated to if you make it to the top:
As most temples in Bangkok are golden, Brecht really looked forward to visiting Wat Ratchanatdaram, the odd temple of the bunch. Also known as Loha Prasat, meaning Metal Castle, this temple had metal spires instead of golden ones. Big was his disappointment when seeing they now painted the spires gold too, just like the rest of the temples.
It still is an impressive construction, with the 37 spires representing the 37 virtues toward enlightenment. Entrance to the grounds of Wat Ratchanatdaram is free, but to enter Loha Prasat itself, there’s a 20 baht (~ $0.63 ~ €0.51) entrance fee.
A visit to the Grand Palace is one of the most popular things to do in Bangkok, so be prepared for hordes of tourists. This palace complex used to be home to the King and a couple of government departments. Now it houses several institutions and is still used for royal ceremonies and state functions.
Wat Phra Kaew or the Temple of the Emerald Buddha is a part of the Grand Palace. It’s considered Thailand’s most sacred site, so be respectful when looking around.
The entrance fee for the Grand Palace is 500 baht (~ $16 ~ €13), significantly more than other temples in Bangkok. Although the buildings are quite impressive, with a stunning attention to detail, we’d recommend to skip this one and visit the 4 others we mentioned here instead.
How to get from one temple to the other
All of these temples are situated in an area of Bangkok that’s not as easily accessible by public transport as other parts of the city. Wat Arun, Wat Pho and the Grand Palace are all located along the Chao Phraya River though and the Chao Phraya Express Boat can take you from one to the other. You can take a touristy long tail boat as well, or the Chao Phraya Tourist Boat. Read more about it in our in-depth guide here.
Take a walk in a park
If you’re looking for a more relaxing (or possibly romantic) thing to do in Bangkok, we’d recommend wandering through some of its parks. Get away from the other tourists and the hustle and bustle of the city and breathe in some fresh air.
Benjakitti Park is actually more lake than park. The space that’s not taken in by water is nice and green with some flowers here and there. The asphalted track surrounding the lake attracts lots of cyclists and joggers. However, if you aren’t used to the hot and humid Bangkok air, even a walk will make you sweat.
It cools down a little at night though, when the park is supposed to be ideal for a romantic sunset walk. As the park is situated in between skyscrapers and large office buildings, you get a little bit of a Central Park feeling.
Lumpini Park is probably the most popular park in Bangkok. Large green lawns in between winding paths attract all kinds of recreational activities, from Tai Chi to aerobics. Lounging by the artificial lake wasn’t an option during our visit, as the grass was wet, even a little swampy. Instead, we rented a swan water bike for 40 baht (~ $1.26 ~ €1.03) for 30 minutes. We spotted quite a few water monitors (a pretty big kind of lizard) and a turtle in between reading and peddling.
Chatuchak Park is one of the oldest public parks in Bangkok. When crossing the green lawns, you can make a short stop at the Bangkok Butterfly Garden. Unfortunately there aren’t too many butterflies in there, so you’ll have to be patient and keep your eyes open if you want to spot one.
Wander around a market or two
With over 15,000 stalls and more than 200,000 people a weekend, Chatuchak Market is one of the world’s largest open air markets. You can buy almost everything here, from food and drinks, over decorations, clothing, toys, to plants. You name it, they probably sell it in one of the many stalls. We even stumbled upon some cute puppies and kittens in the pets section. You can easily wander around for hours and still discover new things around every corner.
Definitely try an iced lemon drink to stay refreshed while wandering this busy market in the Bangkok heat and sample some of the Thai favourites like Pad Thai, spring rolls, and coconut ice cream. My favourite toppings? Sticky rice and peanuts. Yum!
If you prefer soaking up the vibe at a less touristy market in Bangkok, we recommend paying a visit to the Flower Market, also known as Pak Khlong Talat. It’s the biggest wholesale and retail fresh flower market in Bangkok.
It’s said to best visit between 3:00 and 4:00 when truckloads of freshly cut flowers are being delivered. Although the Flower Market is most lively at night, we visited in the late afternoon. It was pretty quiet and lots of stalls were cleared and closed.
Apart from flowers you can buy vegetables, fruits and other food there too. We tried something we weren’t sure of what it was, but is was actually pretty good! Later we discovered it must have been a mussel omelet.
There’s no Skytrain (BTS) station in the neighbourhood, but it’s only a 10 minute walk from Wat Pho.
Visit the Jim Thompson House
The Jim Thompson House is supposed to be one of the top things to do in Bangkok. This Thai mansion belonged to Jim Thompson, an American entrepreneur who played a great role in the development of the Thai Silk Industry.
In 1967 Jim Thompson disappeared on a jungle walk in the Cameron Highlands in Malaysia. (Luckily we didn’t.) Nearly 10 years later a foundation was set up under his name, and his house and art collection are now officially registered as a national museum.
The entrance fee for the Jim Thompson House is 150 baht (~ $5 ~ €4) per person, which includes a 30 minute guided tour. Allow for about 1 to 1.5 hours to explore the grounds and take some photos.
Drink a cocktail in a rooftop bar
If you’re in a big city like Bangkok, finding a spot to watch it from above is always a good idea. Combine it with a cocktail and you have a lovely night out.
We enjoyed the view over Bangkok with a cocktail in hand at the Above Eleven Rooftop Bar. It’s not only a typically touristy thing to do in Bangkok, so you’ll be sharing the room with lots of locals as well. Do try to leave your touristy clothes in your ho(s)tel and dress casually chic or maybe they won’t let you up.
Every Wednesday ladies can drink a selection of cocktails, like a Margarita and a Mojito, at a a discounted price. Men on the other hand should definitely check out the toilet. Bet you haven’t had a view like this before when peeing.
For up-to-date information on events and discounts, we recommend checking the Above Eleven Facebook Page.
Geocaching is something we like to do in every place we visit. As there are over 200 geocaches spread throughout Bangkok, you’ll surely pass one or two while exploring the city. Just check the app every once in while or plan some caches beforehand, like Brecht sometimes does.
Tip: sort on favourite points to find the coolest and most fun geocaches.
Check out the huge Bangkok shopping malls
Looking for something to do in Bangkok to escape the hot and humid outside air? Check out the modern air-conditioned shopping malls and do some shopping or grab a movie. Most of them have arcade halls as well, and food courts where you can grab a (pretty cheap) bite.
Terminal 21 is one of those big fancy shopping malls. Every floor is a city, with fitting decorations. It has a pretty long escalator, spanning 3 floors, all the way from Paris to Istanbul. They have fancy toilets too and tons of delicious food at Pier 21.
Another one of those towering shopping malls we visited is Siam Paragon, probably the most popular one in Bangkok. It houses lots of international high-end fashion brands and Southeast Asia’s largest aquarium. We grabbed a movie there, at the impressive Paragon Cineplex. That cost us $7.78 (~ €6.35) per person, popcorn and drinks excluded.
MBK Center, or Ma Boon Khrong, is another shopping mall in Bangkok. It’s not as fancy as Siam Paragon, but it’s crazy popular with locals and tourists alike. Could it be because of the large arcade hall called City of Heroes on the top floor? The 4 of us had a lot of fun there for just 200 baht (~ $6 ~ €5) in total. We can highly recommend those dancing machines!
Play an Escape Room
Another fun air-conditioned activity to do in Bangkok is an escape room. You basically get locked in a room and have to find clues and solve puzzles to escape. There’s always a story or theme and a time limit, usually 1 hour. Depending on the room you book, you can play with 2 to 8 people.
There are several escape rooms in Bangkok, but we chose The Escape Hunt Experience, located next to the food court in the Interchange 21 shopping mall. They have 3 different rooms, which can be played with 2 to 5 players. Prices depend on the number of players.
We booked the room called “Lost in the City of Angels” online (walk-ins pay 10% more) for 4 players for 1960 baht. We were there 15 minutes beforehand to register and got a glass of water while waiting for our turn to play. It was a pretty cool room.
Not to brag, but we escaped in no less than 37 minutes and only used 1 hint, for which we received 1 T-shirt for the group. Afterwards we got tea and made a group photo with some of the Escape Hunt attributes. It was great fun!
For up-to-date pricing and information, check out The Escape Hunt Experience Bangkok website.
Check out Khao San Road
Another touristy thing to do in Bangkok is party at Khao San Road. Travellers from around the world flock to this street to buy Chang shirts, eat scorpions and party till dawn. Not really our scene, but we couldn’t help but walk through it at least once.
Go on a day trip to the Train Market and Floating Market
Visiting a floating market is a typically touristy thing to do in Bangkok and chances are you’ve heard about the train market as well. It’s that market where a train rolls right through it and vendors have to partly break up their stalls for it to be able to pass through.
As these markets are out of the city, it’s best to book a tour to visit them. We did the Weekend Floating Market Tour with Pandan Tour. It takes approximately 8.5 hours, during which you visit the Maeklong Railway Market, the touristy Damnoen Saduak Floating Market, and the authentic Amphawa Floating Market.
Wondering just how touristy and congested the Damnoen Saduak Floating Market gets? Just check out this timelapse:
As we booked for 4 people, it costs us 2,295 baht (~ $72 ~ €59) per person, samples, drinks, and lunch included. Our private tour guide was very friendly and knowledgeable. We had a lovely day!
Go on a day trip to Ayutthaya
The Historic City of Ayutthaya used to be the capital of the Siamese Kingdom. It was founded in 1350 and burned to the ground by the Burmese army in 1767. It was never rebuilt, and its remains, mostly prangs and gigantic monasteries, were declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1991.
As it’s located 80 km out of the city, a day trip to Ayutthaya is a popular thing to do in Bangkok. You can certainly visit a bunch of interesting sights in Ayutthaya in a day, but there’s enough to fill a couple of days as well.
We took a mini van from Bangkok to Ayutthaya, and a tuktuk to get around from Wat to Wat. This day trip of about 9 hours cost us 515 baht (~ $16 ~ €13) per person for transportation and entrance fees. Food, drinks and toilet visits are not included.
As you can see there are an abundance of things to do in Bangkok, and this is only the tip of the iceberg. If you ask me, your visit to Bangkok is complete if you’ve seen a couple of temples, visited a market or two, and checked out one of those fancy shopping malls. Of course you need to sample the delicious local cuisine as well, but we can fill a whole new post about that.
What are some of your favourite things to do in Bangkok? Did we miss out on anything? We’d love to read about your experience in the comments!
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