Bangkok is an incredible city with a very eclectic list of attractions. The Thai capital has many identities. A foodie city. A holy city. The City of Sin. Sampling all of them is a big ask, but Culture Trip has pulled together more than 20 attractions that squeeze out every last drop of Bangkok’s potential. Did you know – Culture Trip now does bookable, small-group trips? Pick from authentic, immersive Epic Trips, compact and action-packed Mini Trips and sparkling, expansive Sailing Trips.
Grand Palace and Wat Phra Kaew
The Grand Palace more than lives up to its name. The white exterior walls keep the priceless relics hidden from the public, but upon paying the entrance fee, visitors are treated to views of towering spires and stunning temples across the grounds. A second must-see inside the palace walls is Wat Phra Kaew, otherwise known as the Temple of the Emerald Buddha. Inside, a smallish emerald and gold-laden Buddha dons a cloak that the king changes with the passing of each season.
Nothing can quite prepare you for the jaw-dropping size of the Reclining Buddha, so try to act natural upon entry. Wat Pho, or the Temple of the Reclining Buddha, surrounds the 46-metre-long (151-foot-long), 15-metre-high (49-foot-high) statue that stares up at the ceiling in a gaze of enlightenment. Though the statue is the focal point of the temple grounds, visitors will also find colourful murals illustrating over 400 images of the Buddha, in addition to a traditional Thai massage school.
Chatuchak Weekend Market
Overwhelming to say the least, the Chatuchak Weekend Market is one of the biggest flea markets in the world where you can buy (almost) anything if you know where to look. Everything from rare art pieces and northern handicrafts to kitchenware and genitalia-shaped soap can be found in the nooks and crannies of this claustrophobic space. If crowds aren’t your thing, you should visit first thing in the morning when it’s easier to manoeuvre through the aisles. It’s not as hot, and you might even get a better deal as the first sale of the day is meant to bring good luck. Just remember, every price is merely a suggestion, so barter at will.
Recently renovated and reopened to the public at the end of 2017, Wat Arun, or the Temple of the Dawn, is a majestic white temple that sits on the western banks of the Chao Phraya River in the old capital of Thonburi. The temple is home to five towering prangs (towers), which are visible from the river and covered with vibrant porcelain and colourful ceramic tiles, many of which look like pieces of foliage. Like most major attractions, it’s best to go when it opens to avoid the crowds.
Jim Thompson House Museum
The Jim Thompson House Museum comprises six traditional Thai teak homes that once belonged to American entrepreneur Jim Thompson, who is credited with making Thai silk famous around the world. The museum showcases Thompson’s relics and unique art pieces that he collected from different parts of Thailand, and of course, Thai silk abounds. One of the most intriguing aspects of Thompson’s life is that he went missing in Malaysia back in 1967, never to be found again. Part of the museum explores the various theories about this unsolved mystery.
Just a short walk from Yaowarat Road on the southeast end of Chinatown is Wat Traimit, one of the most noteworthy temples in the capital. The stunning building, also known as the Temple of the Golden Buddha, is home to a 5.5-tonne Sukhothai-style Buddha statue made entirely of gold and dates to the 14th century. The Buddha might be worth a fortune, but the entrance fee to see it is not.
Khao San Road
Known as a haven for backpackers, Khao San Road is a kilometre-long street filled with countless bars, street-food vendors, chain restaurants and some of the cheapest hotels and hostels. Backpackers flock here to mix, mingle and party day and night as bar girls entice onlookers with happy-hour deals and buckets filled with beer. Drugs run rampant around this stretch, but getting caught in Bangkok comes with serious ramifications – stick to the booze.
Bangkok National Museum
Lovers of Thai art and culture can spend hours gawking at the treasures inside the Bangkok National Museum. Home to one of the most enticing Asian art collections, the museum also features Neolithic artefacts, religious works and regional crafts. A guided tour of the collections includes learning about court traditions and the religious history of the region that continues to influence artistic expression to this day.
Bangkok Art and Culture Centre
The Bangkok Art and Culture Centre is a must-see gallery for any art-loving traveller exploring the city. The building was meticulously designed to provide visitors with an amazing visual experience, as its winding shape is ideal for displaying art. The centre is also home to numerous cafés, restaurants, an art library, eco-friendly souvenir shops, a prayer room and more.
Wat Suthat is perhaps best known for the giant red swing that sits just outside its entrance. The 21-metre-tall (69-foot-tall) swing is made of teak wood and was brought to Bangkok from the province of Phrae. It was used during an old Brahman festival in which men flung themselves using the two side poles in hopes of reaching a bag of gold that hung at the top. The 19th-century temple is one of the oldest in the city.
Religious relics can be found along the many streets of Bangkok, and one of the most stunning of them all is the Erawan Shrine. It sits at one of the biggest and busiest intersections in the heart of the city, and Thais and tourists alike often flock to the site for prayer, traditional Thai dance and generally for any Buddhist holiday. Tragically, the shrine was partly destroyed during a terrorist bombing in 2015, but has since been restored to its original glory, albeit with a much heavier police presence.
Patpong Night Market
The Patpong Night Market is certainly the most notorious of all the markets in the capital, as strippers and go-go bars sit adjacent to a plethora of goods and souvenirs. Located in Silom, the incredibly popular market and surrounding streets attract tourists and residents looking for deals on counterfeit watches, belts, toys and gadgets. Amid the overabundance of Thai souvenir favourites, illicit bars pedalling their infamous ping-pong and snake shows – for which you can use your imagination – line the street.
Rod Fai Night Market Srinakarin
Well known for its antique zone, the Rod Fai Night Market is a vintage lover’s dream store, packed with classic cars, antique furniture and other relics of a bygone era. The market is a bit outside the city; to get there, take the BTS Skytrain to the On Nut station. From there, it’s a short 15-minute taxi ride.
ASIATIQUE The Riverfront
Located along the murky banks of the Chao Phraya River is ASIATIQUE The Riverfront, a trendy and unique market. Counter to other Bangkok markets, Asiatique is cleaner, more organised and completely devoid of counterfeit goods and street-side stalls. The market is chock-full of high-end bars and restaurants, fashionable boutiques and one of the wildest cabaret shows in Bangkok. There is also a 61-metre-tall (200-foot-tall) Ferris wheel equipped with 42 gondolas – it is a great way to see the city and river from incredible heights.
Bangkok is no stranger to seedy nightlife, and one of the liveliest areas to experience all things illicit is at Soi Cowboy. This street blinds you with neon lights advertising go-go bars, strip shows and generally anything else you could think of. The street itself is named after the man who opened up the first bar here and was known for wearing a cowboy hat, hence the name Soi Cowboy.
The Artist’s House in Thonburi is a unique attraction that sits right along the banks of one of Bangkok’s many khlongs (canals). It is a place where creative minds can gather, work, grab a coffee and watch a traditional Thai puppetry show, which takes place at 2pm on Wednesdays, Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. The Artist’s House is over 200 years old and is a great place to spend a quiet afternoon and witness brooding Thai teens spending time hanging out and getting away from the otherwise hectic city.
Bangkok is truly a shopper’s paradise. For lovers of all things fashion, there’s Siam Paragon, a bustling and gleaming shopping centre filled with high-end boutiques and major design labels. The building’s recognisable exterior is visible from the platform of the Sky Train, as gold pillars rise in a large glass entryway, beckoning shoppers to swipe their credit cards. Also, inside the megaplex is a giant aquarium, ultra-lux movie theatre and an ever-changing lot of exhibitions in art, design and fashion.
Coming in at a whopping 2.5 kilometres (1.5 miles) in length, the trail at Lumpini Park is a favourite stomping ground for joggers, skaters and cyclists. In addition to tackling the long path, the park is home to several sporadic aerobic classes that visitors are always welcome to join. For water enthusiasts, you can rent paddle boats for the day to slowly explore the lake that sits at the park’s core. With regularly scheduled events throughout the year, you never know what you are going to stumble on while visiting this massive green space in the heart of the city.
Built in 1891, Yaowarat Road is the 1.5-kilometre (0.9-mile) street that cuts through Bangkok’s thriving Chinatown. Here, visitors will discover some of the most delicious street food after the sun goes down. Beyond the food, Yaowarat is also home to Wat Traimit; Sampeng Lane, a claustrophobic labyrinthine market; and Wat Chakawat Ratchawat, otherwise known as The Crocodile Temple, where three giant crocs eagerly wait for their next meal.
Dubbed the green lung of Bangkok, Bang Krachao is an island located in the province of Phra Pradaeng just outside the city. What’s ideal about the island is that it lacks any urban trimmings and features an extensive park, small yet stunning temples, spirit houses, a floating market and extremely friendly residents. If you want to escape the confines of the city, this is one place where you’ll feel far away without really getting away.
Baiyoke Observation Deck
Set atop the Baiyoke Sky Hotel, one of the tallest hotels in the world, the Baiyoke observation deck soars 77 floors above Bangkok, while the revolving viewpoint is on the 84th floor, providing some of the most stellar views of the city. One of the best ways to experience it is to go for dinner at the Baiyoke Sky Restaurant, which serves up a scrumptious seafood buffet as the sun sets over the skyscrapers around the city.
Chao Phraya River
Bangkok has often been called the Venice of the East for its winding river and canals. A very cool way to experience the waterways is to take a riverboat cruise on a vintage rice barge. For 2.5 hours, you’ll get to explore Bangkok’s banks and see how local merchants move up and down the canals, selling food, trinkets and other things.
Muay Thai Show
Muay Thai, otherwise known as Thai boxing, has a long and violent history as one of Thailand’s biggest sports. This performance is an incredibly unique way to learn about the 300-year history while also watching an actual fight. The show takes place at ASIATIQUE in a 600-person stadium. It comprises an opening that explains the history through theatre, acrobatics and staged fighting and five real Thai boxing matches.
Art in Paradise Bangkok
Dubbed as Thailand’s largest 3D art museum, Art in Paradise is an interactive museum filled with 3D paintings in a wide range of styles. There are six permanent exhibits with varying concepts, such as riding a flying carpet or stairway to hell, where you can make yourself part of the painting and, of course, fill your Instagram feed with the results. There are 150 paintings in all that took nearly three months to complete, and visitors are encouraged to touch, play and get inside the 3D world.
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