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30 Best things to see & do in Bangkok

  • Bangkok, Central Thailand, Thailand

Last updated: 15 June, 2024
Expert travel writer: Chris Schalkx
  • Bangkok, Central Thailand, Thailand

Close look at the roofs of the palace

Bucket List Experience

Grand Palace

The former seat of power of Siamese kings, the glittering Grand Palace complex is one of Thailand’s big tourism draw cards.

Constructed in 1782, the complex includes halls, pavilions and temples set around open lawns, gardens and courtyards – it was the home of Thai kings for 150 years and is still considered their spiritual and ceremonial base. While the King no longer lives here, it’s still used for ceremonies.

Decorated in shimmering mosaics and vivid murals, the buildings are incredible, especially the temple of Wat Phra Kaew.

Adult price: £11

Good for age: 13+

  • Bangkok, Central Thailand, Thailand

Bangkok’s Temples & Shrines

Bucket List Experience

Bangkok’s Temples & Shrines

With their golden roofs and incense-swirled spires, Bangkok’s 400-or-so wats (temples) aren’t just a pretty backdrop for box-ticking tourists, but a cornerstone of Thai society. Thais from all walks of life come here to make merit and ask Buddhist deities for good for-tune at work or in their relationships, while many young men stay as temporary monks as a rite of passage towards adulthood.

The city’s oldest temples, such as the 16th century Wat Pho, bedazzle with their jewel-studded opulence, but more recent builds, such as Wat Samphran with a giant dragon coiling around its tower, are equally impressive.

Good for age: 13+

  • Bangkok, Central Thailand, Thailand

Exterior of ancient temple

Bucket List Experience

Ayutthaya Historical Park

Before Bangkok – or Krung Thep – became Thailand’s (then Siam) capital in 1782, Ayutthaya was the Kingdom’s centre of power. As one of the world’s most cosmopolitan cities of that time, it drew in merchants from all corners of the globe and grew into a vast empire of grand palaces and gilded temples. That abruptly ended when the Burmese ransacked the city in 1767 and reduced its splendours to rubble.

Today, it stands as a ruined shell of its former past, littered with bricks, dilapidated shrines and crumbling Buddha statues consumed by nature. But wander around these ruins, and you’ll only need a pinch of imagination to envision just how splendid this city once was.

Adult price: £3

Good for age: 13+

  • Bangkok, Central Thailand, Thailand

Exterior of the house, surrounded by lush greenery

Bucket List Experience

Jim Thompson’s House

The Jim Thompson House is the former home of the eponymous American entrepreneur who founded the Jim Thompson Thai Silk Company and played a pivotal role in reviving the industry.

Thompson mysteriously disappeared in the jungles of Malaysia in 1967 and left behind this landmark complex of six traditional Thai-style houses.

Now a museum, the site is in fine condition, with much of Thompson’s extensive art and antiques collection on display throughout, making it one of Bangkok’s must-do attractions.

Make sure you stop by the shop – there are plenty of pretty things on offer, from Jim Thompson silk to beautiful handmade souvenirs.

Adult price: £4

Good for age: 13+

  • Bangkok, Central Thailand, Thailand

A plate of delicious fresh Thai food

Bucket List Experience

Bangkok’s best food & drink

As the epicentre of one of the world’s most beloved cuisines, Bangkok is an excellent grazing ground for Thai food from every corner of the country. There’s creamy massaman curry and tom kha kai (chicken coconut soup), of course, which you can find everywhere from dingy street food carts to Michelin-rated restaurants.

But Bangkok is also an excellent place to hunt down hyper-local dishes you won’t find on the menu of your hometown Thai joint.

Seek out southern Thai cuisine for its ferociously fiery curries and ample use of fresh seafood. Opt for eastern fare, where shrimp paste and regional herbs create umami-rich and earthy flavours. Or follow your nose to kitchens dishing up northern Thai classics such as khao soi curry soup and nam prik chilli dips.

Good for age: 18+

Duration: -

  • Bangkok, Central Thailand, Thailand

Long tail boat cruising through temples

Bucket List Experience

Boat tours of Bangkok

A trip down the Chao Phraya River or Bangkok’s many khlongs (canals) is the best way to get under the city’s skin. Seen from the water, a wholly different Bangkok reveals itself: kids dive-bombing from rickety bridges, elderly ladies doing laundry, and croc-sized monitor lizards lazing in the sun.

One of the most enjoyable (and cheapest) boat rides is the public San Saeb Express, which connects the gleaming city centre to Bangkok’s historical heart, passing by stilted shanties and glittering temples along the way.

On the other end of the spectrum are the snazzy dinner cruise lines, such as Suppaniga Cruise, which combine fabulous Thai food with spectacular sunset views of Rattanakosin’s riverside temples.

Adult price: £3

Good for age: 4+

Duration: 30+ minutes

Wat Pho

  • Bangkok, Central Thailand, Thailand

Head of giant reclining Buddha

Experience

A colossal gold reclining Buddha with auspicious symbols on the soles of his feet is the main attraction at Wat Pho. The temple complex is also home to Thailand’s largest collection of glittering gold Buddha images.

Adult price: £2

Good for age: 13+

  • Kanchanaburi, Central Thailand, Thailand

Built during the Japanese occupation of Thailand in World War II, the Burma-Siam train track – better known as the Death Railway – represents a dark chapter of the country’s past.

More than 100.000 prisoners of war and civilian laborers lost their lives due to hunger and exhaustion, making this one of the deadliest construction projects in modern history.

These days, most visitors come to pay their respects at the iron railway bridge made famous by the eponymous 1957 movie Bridge on the River Kwai (though few know it was filmed in Sri Lanka).

But unless you’re a history buff, the bridge itself isn’t all that interesting. Instead, board one of the rickety trains still cruising the tracks several times a day to get a much better feel of the intense suffering this project has caused.

Good for age: 13+

  • Bangkok, Central Thailand, Thailand

Items ready to be purchased in a market

Bucket List Experience

Bangkok’s best shopping

With its gleaming mega-malls and ramshackle riverside markets, Bangkok makes it dangerously easy to part with a whole lot of baht.

World-class shopping malls like CentralWorld and ICONSIAM house boutiques from almost every brand under the sun, while young Thai designers hawk indie fashion labels and funky home goods from stamp-sized boutiques around Pratunam and Siam Square.

And when these clock out, a slew of night markets pop up as neon-lit treasure troves with handicrafts and vintage clothes to paw through until well after midnight.

Good for age: 18+

Duration: 1+ hours

  • Bangkok, Central Thailand, Thailand

There are few better ways to witness Thailand’s from its wild side than at a Thai kickboxing (or Muay Thai) match. There will be sweat, there will be blood, and the crowd will be positively bonkers. But even if you can’t tell a push kick from a round kick, the whooping and hollering around the ring is wildly contagious.

This national sport finds it origins in the battlefields of ancient Siam, but has since grown into a testosterone- and beer-soaked gambling night for the mainly male fraternity. Evenings usually consist of 9 fights, each of which is made up of five three-minute rounds. Headlining fights take place later in the night, and are usually reserved for the 7th, 8th, and 9th match.

The out-of-the-way New Lumpinee Boxing Stadium is the sanctum sanctorum of this national sport and welcomes the biggest stars, but the mid-century Rjadamnern Boxing Stadium near Rattanakosin is a much more accessible and an equally enthralling venue.

Adult price: £11

Good for age: 13+

Duration: 3.5 hrs

When: Mon, Wed, Thur, Sun