Bangkok is one of the most captivating and exotic cities in the world. A cosmopolitan center in the heart of Southeast, Bangkok is absolutely brimming with things to do and legendary places to eat.
From glitzy new skyscrapers and urban mall areas to historic temples and workaday markets, everyone will find plenty of things to do in Bangkok.
For many travelers, Bangkok is their first taste of an Asian city. Whilst the heavy traffic, pollution, and humidity might deter some tourists, Bangkok has many treasures. It is a great city to explore with or without children.
A visit to Bangkok is definitely worth planning into any Thailand vacation. Combine a trip to Bangkok with a week exploring some islands and you have the perfect family-friendly 10 day Thailand itinerary.
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10 Unmissable Things to do in Bangkok
1. Wat Phra Kaew and the Grand Palace
The premier tourist attraction in Bangkok must be the mesmerizing complex that houses both the golden domes Wat Phra Kaew and the lavish Grand Palace, a former Royal residence.
Set aside at least half a day to explore this expansive collection of statues, murals, and classic Thai architecture. Tourists mingle on the grounds with thousands of devote pilgrims. Join the queues and peek inside The Temple of the Emerald Buddha to see the 66cm Buddha carved entirely from jade.
Like all temples, Wat Phra Kaew has a strict dress code. Your shoulders, knees, and calves should be covered. Don’t worry though if you’re wearing shorts as you can hire sarongs at the entrance.
2. Wat Pho
Although not as busy, Wat Pho is just as captivating as Wat Pra Kaew. This huge compound houses Bangkok’s largest reclining Buddha (46 meters long), terrifying giant stone statues alongside colossal galleries of golden Buddhas.
Wat Pho is not only the oldest but also the largest temple complex in the capital. In Wat Pho alone there are over one thousand Buddha images. Many of the religious images here were recovered by a former king from abandoned temples across Thailand. You can easily get lost here and spend a couple of hours exploring the temple. It is best to go early in the morning or at dusk, the cooler temperatures will make sightseeing a lot more pleasant.
If you get tired of being on your feet in Wat Pho, there are air-conditioned massage pavilions on site where you can go and experience a traditional Thai massage in the unique surroundings.
3. Jim Thompson House
The luxurious home of wealthy American silk exporter and Bangkok residence, Jim Thompson. The gorgeous wooden house and stunning tropical gardens have been turned into an appealing museum since Thompson’s untimely and bizarre disappearance in the Malaysian jungle in 1967.
As well as learning about Thompson’s textiles empire (there are several shops dotted around Bangkok), the house is also filled with exquisite Asian antiques and fabulous artwork. The house is open every day from 9 am – 6 pm. You will need to take a guided tour around the property (the tour guides are wonderful!) It costs 200 baht per adult and no reservations are needed. Children under 10 are welcome (and free) if entering if a paying adult.
4. Lumphini Park
In the middle of a city as hectic and bustling as Bangkok finding a small refreshing pocket of green can be a blessing. Lumphini Park is the perfect place to take some time out of your busy sightseeing schedule and relax. Wander through the tree-lined paths and around the lake enjoying the shade and peacefulness.
The best time to visit Lumphini Park is at dusk when the locals come out to play. In the cooler evening temperatures, watch the open-air dance classes, badminton games and get a real taste of everyday life in Bangkok.
Arriving in Bangkok from Europe or America, a wander into any local market will overwhelm you with the sights, sounds and tastes of the Orient. In most markets, you can buy anything from live chickens (not for the faint-hearted), mountains of plastic souvenirs and rip-off merchandise for every brand imaginable. The markets are often surrounded by cheap eateries making it easy to get a good meal locally.
One of the best markets to visit is the Chatuchak Weekend Market (9am -6pm Sat-Sun). Chatuchak is one of the largest markets in the world and can easily suck you in for a whole day. There are dozens of other local markets around the city. So pop your head in and experience Thai life to the full.
6. Floating Markets
Continuing on the theme of ‘markets’, Bangkok is world-renown for its famous floating markets. These are literally markets set on the river. Boats are laden with produce and the sellers row the boat over to potential customers. The best way to experience a floating market is by being on the water yourself. It is easy to book a tour via your hotel or hostel. It is also possible to hire a boat once you get to the market.
Some of the most popular floating markets are Damnoen Saduak, Amphawa, Taling Chan and Bang Nam Pheung floating market. None of the floating markets are in the heart of Bangkok so you will need to allocate at least half a day for the experience.
7. River Cruises
A great way to take in the majesty of Bangkok whilst not throwing yourself into the middle of the hustle and bustle is to take a river cruise on Chao Phraya River. You can sail along whilst admiring the golden domes of Bangkok, crazy traffic and towering skyscrapers from your comfortable seat.
There are various types of cruises you can take from luxurious dinner cruises to hopping on a cheap ferry boat with the locals depending on your budget.
8. Khao San Road
The urban backpacker center of Southeast Asia. Khao San Road is brash, tacky and very crowded but the atmosphere here is a key part of any SE Asia trip. People-watch from the bar tables sprawled across the pavements, treat yourself to a cheap and cheerful outdoor foot rub and battle your way through the touts.
If you’re lucky enough to be in Bangkok during the Thai New Year festival (Songkran) in April, make sure that you head down the Khao San Road. It is the ultimate place to go in the city to get drenched by drunken party-goers with super-soakers and water balloons. It does sound a little scary but it’s usually quite family-friendly during the day. Nighttime, however, is another matter!
9. Tuk Tuk rides
The essential Bangkok experience is perhaps one of the cheapest (if you barter well). The tuk-tuks of Bangkok are famous throughout the world. These vehicles are the ultimate way to experience Bangkok. That said, you’re outside in the midst of Bangkok’s traffic jams. Right at exhaust pipe level. With only a little rail between you and crazy traffic hurtling towards you. It might be a classic way to get around Bangkok but it’s certainly not the safest or cleanest.
If you decide to do at least one journey by tuk-tuk, you may want to pick a shorter journey. Also, be careful when bartering with the drivers. Many tuk-tuk drivers participate in scams designed to drop off you off at stores where they might earn a commission. Stick to your guns and hold on tight!
10. Finally… eating
Thailand is celebrated throughout the world for its delicious creamy curries, spicy noodle dishes and of course, sticky mango rice. Crossing a world city with foodie central means that you are just as likely to eat a delicious and memorable meal on a sidewalk as in a five-star restaurant. It’s really up to you (and your budget where you decide to eat). Make use of online recommendations and your guidebook and you’re sure to find some great hole-in-the-wall type places serving amazing cuisine.
Street food stands are everywhere. Choose one with a sizzling hot wok and a long line and you’re probably in for a treat. The hot oil in the wok will hopefully kill off any nasties. If Thai food is a personal favorite of yours, there’s no better way to experience it than participating in a Thai cooking class. These hands-on cookery classes are extremely popular and a great way to meet locals and other tourists.
So that’s just a quick snapshot of all the things that there are to do in Bangkok. Limiting a list to ten items is hardly doing Bangkok justice but like most cities, you would need a lifetime to really explore and get to the heart of the city.
Guest Author Bio
Kirsty is a British family travel blogger currently living in sunny Malaysia. She has traveled to over 100 countries including over 25 with her two young children. Her blog focuses on honest family travel with a twist of feminism exploring women’s history, rights, and stories around the world. Find her at World for a Girl. Follow her adventures on social media on Facebook.