Visiting Bangkok – A City Guide
With its colourful tuk-tuks, soaring skyscrapers and golden temples, Bangkok is a feast for the senses. The Thai capital’s exhilarating mix of neon-lit shops, colourful street markets and tranquil monastery courtyards remains a seamless and endlessly fascinating balance of old and new.
Bangkok: city layout and top attractions
Much of today’s Bangkok lies east of the Chao Phraya river, with Thonburi district to the west. Most major sights including the Lak Muang shrine are in central Rattanakosin, once a moated royal compound.
To the north, Banglamphu is a tourist hub where you'll find many of Bangkok’s most popular hotels, and Dusit is home to the royal family and the government. Beside the river, Yaowarat is also known as Chinatown.
Stretching east and south from the old city, modern Silom and Sukhumvit contain countless high-rise offices and many Bangkok hotels, while Siam Square is packed with shopping malls.
Start any city tour at the Grand Palace, built as a royal residence in the 18th century. Don’t miss the breathtaking Wat Phra Kaew, a 14th-century temple covered in gold that houses the Emerald Buddha. Across the river, the vertiginous pagoda at Wat Arun – the Temple of Dawn – is covered in glittering glass and porcelain.
The concierge recommends…
Eating Out in Bangkok
It’s hard not to eat well in Bangkok. Whether you order a simple noodle dish from a night market stall or a royal Thai banquet in an upscale air-conditioned restaurant, every meal will be freshly prepared using a very palatable blend of aromatic herbs and spices.
Thais love to eat outdoors. As evening begins, night market stalls fire up their woks all over the city, filling the air with mouthwatering smells. You’ll find no end of choice in the tourist district of Banglamphu. For sophisticated Bangkok regional specialities from renowned eateries, ranging from Thai-Chinese restaurants to typical street food vendors, visit the local’s favourite dining district of Chinatown.
Modern Sukhumvit and Silom are the places to head for more upscale restaurants, serving some of the world’s finest Thai food and global cuisines from French to Middle Eastern.
The chef recommends...
Shopping in Bangkok
Shopping is a popular pastime for both visitors and locals in Bangkok. There are countless markets where you can haggle over souvenirs, Thai gifts and handicrafts, and almost as many fixed-price shopping malls selling Western and Thai brands.
Small local stores and outdoor markets are dotted all across the city. You’ll find a high concentration of old-fashioned shops in Chinatown.
Sukhumvit’s glittering air-conditioned boutiques are the place to look for designer fashions, leather and silk. Modern shopping in Bangkok is focused on and around Siam Square. Among the many shopping malls here are Siam Paragon and CentralWorld, with almost 1,000 outlets between them.
Best night markets in Bangkok
Culture & Nightlife in Bangkok
As the nation’s cultural capital, Bangkok has many of Thailand’s finest museums and galleries. At night you can experience everything from contemporary theatre and classical Thai dancing to craft beer pubs, unique gastro bars and glitzy nightclubs where DJs pump out the latest dance beats.
For a general overview of Thailand’s culture and history, take a tour of the Bangkok National Museum, first opened in 1874 to showcase the country’s art treasures.
After dark, Khao San Road has many lively bars, some of which have live music. Patpong’s raunchy bars have a notorious reputation, while those looking for more civilised nocturnal diversions should try the exclusive clubs and cocktail bars of Silom and Sukhumvit.
Best nightlife in Bangkok
Leisure in Bangkok
While shopping and temple-spotting sit at the top of most to-do lists in Bangkok, there are plenty of other distractions. From a river trip to a stroll in the park, the city offers something for every taste.
Bangkok’s green lung, Lumpini Park is a relaxing place to enjoy a picnic or rent a boat on its central lake. Alternatively, you can unwind with a sunset cruise down the Chao Phraya river.
At SEA LIFE Bangkok you can ride a glass-bottomed boat through a shark tank and gaze up at turtles from an underwater tunnel.
Easy day trips from Bangkok