Taking front-and-centre in the iconic Bangkok skyline, the Grand Palace is a must-see for all visitors to Bangkok. For lovers of art and architecture, this one’s for you: this sprawling palace and temple complex is an amazing example of ornate Thai architecture. Built in 1782, the palace was commissioned by then-king Rama I, who founded Thailand's Chakri Dynasty, and has been the home of the Thai royal family ever since. The Grand Palace is also known for being the home to the famous Jade Buddha, which is housed in Wat Phra Kaeo. You’ll be able to spot it for the two decadent demon statues guarding the temple entrance.
Take a trip around Chatuchak Market
One of the best ways to get a grip on the local culture is to live like the locals do. In Southeast Asia, this means shopping at the local markets. Luckily for you, Bangkok is home to the biggest weekend market in the world – Chatuchak Market. With over 8000 stalls sprawled over a massive 27 acres, this market attracts nearly 200,000 visitors every day. Wander through the maze-like arrangement of the market and discover everything from spices and fresh produce to art, antiques and fashion. The best part? You’ll pay local prices for most of the stuff you pick up. Get down here on a Saturday or Sunday for some awesome bargains and local culture.
Climb the Sathorn Unique Tower
What was once supposed to be one of the most luxurious apartment buildings in the city, the Sathorn Unique Tower is now one of the most infamous buildings in Bangkok. Originally planned as high-rise condominium complex, the construction of this building stopped during the 1997 Asian financial crisis when it was about 80 percent complete. The tower is now just another Bangkok's many derelict buildings, but if you’re looking for adventure, it’s one of the most interesting buildings to explore. Climb to the top of this unique building for incredible views of the city but do beware: not only is the tower littered with pot holes and graffiti, urban legend says that it’s also home to a ghost or two.
Explore the Bangkok nightlife
The Bangkok nightlife needs no introduction. The city’s reputation as being one of the best places to party in Southeast Asia has been attracting millions of young tourists for decades. The most popular spot for backpackers? Head straight for Khao San Road. This street is bursting with hole-in-the-wall bars, casual clubs that spill onto the streets, and food vendors waiting with 3am pick-me-up pad thai. To party like the locals do, Sukhumvit Road hosts most of the best clubs and bars that the city has to offer, including famous red-light districts of Soi Cowboy and Nana Plaza. If you’re looking for luxury, the Pratunam District’s got you covered: check out the Walk Bar at Centara Watergate Pavillion and the Rooftop Bar at Baiyoke Tower for fashion-vibes and amazing vistas of the city.
Visit Wat Pho to see the Reclining Buddha
One of the largest temple complexes in city, make sure you visit Wat Pho. Just a 10-minute walk from the Grand Palace, Wat Pho is famous for housing the giant reclining Buddha. This massive statue measures a whooping 46 metres in length, and is completely covered in gold leaf. Take some time to walk around the complex and marvel at the beauty of its many pagodas and stupas. But do come prepared: you’ll need to be dressed conservatively to enter some of the temples, so come with your knees and shoulders covered. Also, if you’ve been considering getting a traditional massage, now’s your chance: Wat Pho is considered one of the leading massage schools in Thailand, so once you’ve finished exploring, relax with a back rub.
Things to do in Bangkok
Water Festival (Songkran)
Waterfight, music & fun
One of the biggest evens on the Thai calendar, Songkran is a three-day packed with water fights and fun. This national Thai holiday is a time when all the misfortunes of the previous year are washed away with water – kind of like a Buddhist spiritual spring-cleaning. Falling between April 13 - 15, this is one festival to put on your bucket list.
Phi Ta Khon (Ghost Festival)
The Ghost Festival is held in mid-June in the Dan Sai Town in Loei Province, about 7 hours from Bangkok. Legend has it that the first time that the Phi Ta Khon party was thrown, it was so much fun that everyone wanted to attend – both living and the dead. Put on your ghost mask and get amongst this party.
Wing Kwai (Buffalo Racing)
For over 100 years, the Wing Kwai festival has brought thousands of tourists to the city of Chonburi, about an hour away from Bangkok.The buffalo racing is the main attraction, but there are plenty of carnival festivities and Muay Thai demonstrations to enjoy, too. Check it out in early October every year.
Lopburi Monkey Banquet
Culture & Food
Located 150 km north of Bangkok, Lopburi is best known for its hordes of monkeys. During November, the city goes all-out in celebrating their furry friends with the Lopburi Monkey Banquet. Four tonnes of fruits, vegetables and other treats are laid out for these critters. Catch a bus from Bangkok to join in on one of the most bizarre festivals in the country.
A celebration of the end of the rice harvest season, Loy Krathong is a time to thank the Water Goddess for a year’s worth of her abundant supply. Usually occurring in November, Loy Krathong sees the people of Bangkok gather around lakes, rivers and canals to release beautiful lotus shaped rafts, which are decorated with candles, incense and flowers, onto the water.
Top 5 Festivals in Bangkok
While it’s always a good idea to visit this bustling city, you’ll want to try to coordinate your trip to Bangkok with some of the colorful festivals that fills its calendars. Here are our picks for our five favorite festivals to hit up in Bangkok.
Bangkok National Museum
Located inside the 18th century Wang Na Palace, the Bangkok National Museum houses the largest collection of Thai art and artefacts in the country. Showcasing pieces from the Sukhotahai and Ayutthaya eras right through to the modern Thai Kingdom, here you’ll find a mixture of ancient sculptures, weapons, jewels, puppets and traditional musical instruments.
Siriraj Medical Museum
One of the most infamous museums in Bangkok, the Siriraj Medical Museum is packed with everything from the preserved corpses of babies affected by genetic disorders, to human testicles affected by elephantiasis and the bodies of serial killers. If you’ve got a weak stomach, you might want to give this one a miss.
Museum of Siam
Houses in yellow neoclassical building that was once the Ministry of Commerce, the Museum of Siam is an interactive museum that aims to tell the history and cultural identity of the people of Thailand. If you’re a fan of contemporary art, you’ll like how they’ve contrasted traditional artefacts with modern technology. This is not your traditional museum, which definitely makes it worth the visit.
Bangkok Folk Museum
Bangkok Folk Museum, or Bangkokian Museum, offers an insight into the lifestyles of the elite of Bangkok during WWII. Originally the home of the Suravadee family, the museum features the living quarters of the original family members, the home and clinic of Dr. Francis Christian, as well as an old Bangkokian kitchen.
Suan Pakkad Palace
The Suan Pakkad Palace was the former home of Prince Chumbhot Phong Paribatra and his wife. The couple chose to convert their private residence into a museum in 1952, which houses ancient Thai art, artefacts and antiquities. The Suan Pakkad – meaning “Cabbage Patch” in Thai – consists of eight traditional Thai houses, each of which house different exhibitions.
Top 5 Museums & Galleries in Bangkok
An ancient city with roots that run deep, of the best things to do in Bangkok is to spend some time soaking up all its history and culture. From learning about art history to medical abnormalities, here are our picks for our five favorite Bangkok museums.
One of the most delicious salads in Southeast Asia, don’t leave Thailand without tucking into some som tam. Known in the west as green papaya salad, this dish consists of strips of crunchy, unripe papaya that has been crushed in a mortar and pestle with tomato, long beans, chilli, lime and fish sauce. You’ll find dozens of vendors selling som tam at the Chatuchak Market.
Best eaten at Food stalls, Chatuchak Market
The most iconic Thai curry is gang keow wan, known to us Westerners as Thai Green Curry. Made with green curry paste, coconut milk, bamboo shoots, chicken, eggplant and the staple mix of Thai herbs (basil, lemongrass, galangal and lime leaves), you’ll be licking up every drop from a serve at Smooth Curry in the Pathum Wan District.
Best eaten at Smooth Curry, Witthayu Rd, Lumphini, Pathum Wan
Invented in the 1930s by a Chinese-Thai chef, pad thai is the dish that put Thailand on the culinary map. Made using thin rice noodles that are stir-friend with egg, tofu and shrimp, and seasoned with fish sauce, sugar, tamarind, vinegar and chilli, you can pick up a serve of this delicious dish almost anywhere in Bangkok.
Best eaten at 4 Khwaeng Khlong Toei, Khet Khlong Toei, Krung Thep Maha Nakhon
Tom Yum Goong
Sweet, sour and spicy all at the same time, tom yum goong is Thailand’s answer to laksa. This mouth-watering soup is filled with shrimp, mushrooms, tomatoes, lemongrass, galangal and kaffir lime leaves, and can be made with a coconut cream or tamarind base. While it’s not the prettiest place to eat, you can get one of the best bowls of tom yum goong from Soi Kraisi in Bangkok.
Best eaten at Soi Kraisi, Khwaeng Talat Yot, Khet Phra Nakhon
Kai Kon Pu (Crab Omlette)
Thai comfort food at its finest, kai kon pu is a creamy omelette made with huge chunks of crab meat, which is then piled onto delicious fried rice or oodles of pan-fried noodles. Nhong Rom Klong is famous for serving up this dish, but be warned: this place is always busy.
Best eaten at Nhong Rim Klong, 30 Ekkamai 21 Alley, Khwaeng Khlong Tan Nuea, Khet Watthana
Food in Bangkok
The Bangkok food scene is bursting with amazing restaurants, markets and street vendors waiting to take your taste buds on a spicy adventure. From the tangy som tam to the creamy kai kon pu, here are our picks for the top five foods to try in Bangkok.