As one of the hottest capitals in the world, Bangkok is full of must-see destinations and more temples than you ever thought possible. So, we’ve rounded up the very best sights for you to tick off, added some foodie recommendations and found you hotels to suit every budget.
What do I need to know about Bangkok?
- At over 9,000 kms away from the UK, Bangkok is seven hours ahead of GMT.
- Thailand’s currency is the Thai Baht, which is divided into 100 satang. For a rough conversion, 100 Bahts is about £2.50.
- Bangkok has two airports: Suvarnabhumi International Airport (BKK) for international flights and Don Muang for domestic and budget airlines.
- You’ll most likely be flying into Suvarnabhumi, for a quick convenient way into the city, catch the Airport Rail Link. It’s a 30-minute journey into downtown Bangkok (operating from 6am-midnight). Although it’s worth noting that if there are more than three in your party, a taxi will be more economical.
- There will be plenty of temples to visit so ensure you’re dressed appropriately. Avoid tight-fitting clothing and have options that cover your shoulders (and in some cases, your knees). Yes, it’s HOT but a long floaty number will keep you comfortable and conservative. Be prepared to take your shoes off when asked too.
When should I go?
- Bangkok’s weather is divided into three main seasons: hot (March to June) rainy (July to October) and cool (November to February).
- The ‘cool’ season is the most popular time to visit as temperatures average 28ºC (if only ‘cool’ had the same definition in the UK) and the weather remains dry.
- The optimum time to visit is late November and early December when the city has dried out after the rainy season but before the holiday crowds come calling.
- If you’re keen to join in with local festivities, visit in time for Thai New Year for the biggest water fight you’ve ever seen – 2020’s dates are 13-15 April.
Which bucket-list landmarks do I have to see?
You can’t visit Thailand without visiting a temple or three. Here are Bangkok’s top sights you absolutely have to tick off your list.
An emerald Buddha, demon guardians and gold everywhere – The Grand Palace is practically the pomp and splendour of Thailand. You could easily spend a day admiring the architecture, statues and museums that make up the King’s official residence. There’s even a model of Cambodia’s Angkor Wat to visit too. Just leave time for the famous Temple of the Emerald Buddha. This Buddha has three different costumes – one for each season – so keep an eye out for the changing ceremony completed by the King at the beginning of each season. The Palace is open daily from 8.30am-3.30pm and costs 500 bahts (£12.50) or it’s free if you’re a Thai citizen.
Also known as the Temple of the Dawn, Wat Arun is situated alongside the river and is best accessed by ferry (catch a boat across the Chao Phraya River from The Grand Palace). This temple is famous for its colourful prangs made out of intricate tiles and the mythical stone statues that guard them. For a specular view, head up one of the prangs just before sunset. Entrance is 50 bahts (£1.50) and the temple is open from 8am-5.30pm.
More famously known for what it contains – a rather impressive 46-metre-long gold-coated reclining Buddha – Wat Pho is home to the largest collection of Buddha images in Bangkok. The temple is also the birthplace of Thai massage, which is still practised in the grounds today. Although the massage prices are somewhat inflated – it’s like drinking a Singapore Sling in Raffles – it’s more expensive but totally worth it. Entrance is 200 bahts (£5) and Thai massages start at 480 bahts (£12).
With over 15,000 stalls and 200,000 visitors every weekend, Chatuchak Market is a mini city in itself. But don’t let that put you off. The maze-like market is in fact carefully ordered to help you get to where you want to go. For example, head to sections 2-4, 23-24 and 26-27 for food stalls, sections 2-6 have accessories and jewellery or visit sections 1 and 26 for antiques and collectibles. If you’re limited on time, section 2 is closest to the MRT train station and gives a great insight into the scale of the market. Open weekends only, from 9am-6pm, it’s free to enter, but be prepared to haggle.
If, after the temples and markets, you’d like to escape the bustle of the city, a visit to Lumpini Park should be on the cards. This green oasis is the oldest and largest of Bangkok’s open spaces and a haven for local wildlife. Take a stroll around the man-made lake or hire a paddle boat for 40 bahts an hour (£1). If you fancy a run, you’ll want to be up early before the heat gets too intense. Take the 2.5km fitness trail where you’ll find outdoor gym equipment dotted throughout the park. If you’re up at dawn, keep an eye out for the locals practising Tai Chi. The park is open from 5am-9pm and is free for all to enjoy.
This vibrant area of Bangkok is known as the backpacker’s side of town. After sunset, the party well and truly begins – the bars fill up and vendors selling snacks and trinkets fill the streets. It’s also home to the cheapest beer in the city, where a bottle of Singha can cost as little as 60 bahts (£1.20). Wander around the local market and visit the Ghost Tower – an abandoned incomplete skyscraper from the 1997 Asian Financial Crash. Illegal tours risk climbing inside, so stay firmly on the ground and look up at this derelict piece of architecture instead.
What lesser-known spots should I visit?
Are you ready to find the hidden spots of Thailand? These are the places that may require a little searching but the reward and your Insta feed will 100% thank you for it.
Often overlooked in favour of Bangkok’s more famous temples, Wat Suthat is a welcome escape from the crowded tourist hotspots. As one of the oldest temples in Bangkok, Wat Suthat was built under three different kings. Construction started under Rama I, continued under Rama II and was completed under Rama III. So, you’ll find an impressive mix of architecture and intricate wall paintings depicting previous lives of the Buddha surrounding the temples. Entrance is 100 bahts (£2.50) and is open 8.30am-9pm.
Wat Traimit, also known as the Temple of the Golden Buddha, is a lesser-known spot, that’s more of a surprise to the Thai people than it is to the tourists. During the 1950s, the land surrounding the temple was sold to the East Asiatic Company and part of this agreement was to remove a plaster Buddha statue. While attempting to lift the statue, however, one of the ropes broke, causing the statue to fall to the ground. The plaster was chipped, but on closer inspection, the chipped sections revealed a three-metre-tall solid gold Buddha – weighing 5.5 tonnes. Historians have dated the statue back to the 13th century and it’s between then and the 1950s that the statue was cast in plaster to conceal it and prevent it from being stolen. It’s rumoured to be worth over $250 million, but tourists can see this golden wonder for free. Open 9am-5pm.
On the outskirts of Bangkok, roughly an hour’s drive from the city, is another ‘city’ altogether. This open museum covers 320 acres and has been created in the same shape as Thailand – quite an impressive feat. Every corner of Thailand is represented here with over 100 monuments and buildings relocated or recreated to sit in the park. From temples and pagodas to grand bridges and dragons, you can almost explore the whole of Thailand’s architecture in a day. Thankfully, ticket prices (400 bahts/£10) include a hire bike to help you cover as much ground as possible. To get here from the city, take the Skytrain on the Sukhumvit Line to Bearing station and from there, hail a taxi to Ancient City. We’d recommend getting here early to see all that the Ancient City (sometimes known as Ancient Siam) has to offer. Open 9am–7pm everyday.
To the west of the city lies a 17-floor pink tower with – wait for it – a dragon wrapped around the outside. It’s the mystical sparkle your Insta feed needs. This is a working temple; so don’t expect the same facilities as The Grand Palace, and the iconic dragon belly isn’t always open, but if you’re lucky enough to arrive when it is, you’ll be able to climb the staircase inside the dragon to the top. This may not be the most beautiful temple in Thailand but it’s certainly one of the most unique. Oh, and don’t forget to explore the gardens, you’ll find stone animal statues hidden along the paths. As this one is a little bit out off the tourist trail, negotiate the price of a return taxi ride (and ask the driver to wait for you outside).
Which restaurants do I need to visit?
Regardless of how long your trip to Thailand is, it probably won’t be long enough to sample all the great food on offer. So to narrow down your options, we’ve found five excellent food spots.
Location: 1 6 Convent Road in Soi Pipat 2
This three-storey eatery (bar on the ground floor, restaurant above) has been serving Bangkok for over 20 years. The food is a fusion of Thai and western by New York chef Tim Butler and the menu is expertly divided into three generous offerings, for whether you’re a vegetarian, pescatarian or meat-eater. We’re eyeing up the unusual flavour combinations of the pappardelle spicy rabbit ragu with black olive and nduja pork – our mouths are already watering. Pop by for cocktails in the courtyard surrounded by bamboo trees or spoil yourself with a flavoursome dinner.
Location: 4 Soi Sri Aksorn, Chua Ploeng Road
Open: lunch 11.30am-3pm and dinner 6pm-1am. Reservations are recommended.
Located inside a 100-year-old house, the Issaya Siamese Club is a firm favourite among Thais, expats and travellers. The menu focuses on farm-to-table dining with seasonal specials picked up from the market – but it’s the setting that’s the real winner here. Situated within its own leafy grounds, tables are laid out in each room of this traditional Thai house to give an intimate family-style dining experience. So you’ll feel right at home.
Location: 899 Sukhumvit Road
Open: 9am-10pm weekdays and 7am-10pm weekends.
If you’re looking for your five-a-day fix, you’ve found the right place. Broccoli Revolution serves vegan cuisine with a focus on fresh vegetables and good quality ingredients. The vegan dishes on offer are inspired by countries across the globe. Our favourite? The Broccoli Chargrill Quinoa Burger with an added helping of smashed avo. And don’t miss the juice bar for some cold-pressed goodness.
Location: Yaowarat Road
As one of largest Chinatowns in the world and specialising in street food, Yaowarat Road is not to be missed. Find the luminous green stools of T&K Seafood for the best barbecued fish you can dream of. Or be prepared to queue at Kuay Jab Nai Huan who specialise in one dish and one dish only: rolled rice noodles with crispy pork belly served in clear soup. As with any street food, the stall with the biggest line (especially if that includes the locals) will nearly always be the best option. Join the line and enjoy the rewards.
Location: Siam Square Soi 6 and Phloen Chi Road
If you have room for a sweet snack, Japanese-inspired café Mori has cakes, ice cream and desserts in cutesy designs. Our recommendation? The Rainbow Crazy Milkshake. But this is not your usual milkshake my friend, oh no. Piled on top is a slice of cake, rainbow sprinkles, cream and a lollypop. Be prepared for that sugar high.
Where should I stay?
Now that you know what to do and where to eat, you’ll need to find a place to rest your head. Here are some of the best hotels in Bangkok to suit any budget.
Location: 488/800 BoBae Tower Damrongrak Road
The Prince Palace Hotel offers a range of rooms and suites to accommodate any group size – although you may not need all five bedrooms offered in the presidential suite. Plus, there’s multiple dining options, including the Shin Sen Sushi Bar, a spa, and a pool that sweeps around the outside of the hotel with views of the city skyline. If you do venture outside, you’ll be rewarded with a collection of markets and the Golden Mountain Temple. Rooms start from a very reasonable £34 a night.
Location: 16 Soi Sukhumvit 49
For a home-from-home experience, Adelphi Forty-Nine’s one-room apartments will offer you plenty of space to spread out in. These modern suites include fancy Japanese toilets (the ones that play music and squirt water) a separate lounge space with a fully equipped kitchen and your usual bathrobe and shampoo extras. Visit the seventh floor for the rooftop swimming pool and fitness centre – oh, and if you have any health concerns, there’s even a doctor on call 24/7 (for a fee). To keep yourself extra healthy, it’s just down the road from our favourite vegan restaurant Broccoli Revolution. Apartments start from £86 a night.
Location: 2 Sukhumvit Soi 19 (Wattana), Sukhumvit Road
With a name like Terminal 21, you’d be forgiven for thinking this hotel is situated near the airport. It’s not, but it is conveniently located next to the nine-storey shopping mall of the same name. Each of the five-star rooms has views over the city or the nearby Benjakiti Park. And you’ll be spoilt for choice with outdoor space too. From the rooftop infinity pool to the jogging track around the hotel, there’s even a pond and a mini golf driving range to take advantage of. Rooms start from £124 a night.
Location: 1091/343 New Petchburi Road
Even if you’ve got money on your mind, it’s amazing how far your pounds will stretch in Thailand. The four-star Eastin Hotel Makkasan offers simple comfortable rooms with excellent views over Bangkok for a bargain. There is, of course, an outdoor swimming pool on the tenth floor to escape to when the hustle and bustle of the city gets too much. You’ll be located close to transport links to take you into the city: your nearest ferry terminal is in Chitlom or it’s a 15-minute walk to Chit Lom on the BTS skytrain Sukhumvit Line. And for extra convenience, the hotel can arrange an airport transfer (for a fee). Rooms start at £40 a night.
Location: 65 Sukhumvit Soi 1, Klongtoey Nua
Set in beautiful lush grounds, Ariyasom Villa is a welcome escape from this hectic city. The original house was built by the current owner’s grandfather in 1940 before opening as a hotel in 2008. Each of the 24 rooms is individually decorated in 1940’s and 1950’s Thai-style with four-poster beds and teak wood floors. Breakfast, at the on-site vegetarian restaurant Na Aroon, is included in the room rate. If you can bear to escape this slice of paradise, catch the water ferry located just behind the hotel to Wat Arun and Wat Poh. Rooms start from £159 a night.
Now you know all there is to know about Bangkok, get started and book your flights below:
All flight and prices mentioned in this article are estimates of the cheapest prices based on Skyscanner’s flight search tools. These are subject to change and were correct at time of writing on 28 May 2019.