Bangkok is the capital city of Thailand, with over 8 million residents within city limits, and 14 million within the Bangkok Metropolitan Region. Handpicked as the "World's Best City" for four consecutive years by Travel and Leisure Magazine, Bangkok is a top destination for travelers from around the world. The city’s tourist attractions, such as the Grand Palace, temples, and markets, speak of a well-preserved history and culture.
Top Things to do in Bangkok: Visit the City's Top Attractions
The number nine is considered the most lucky in Thai culture, so here are nine attractions for your next trip to Bangkok, locally called Krung Thep, which translates into "City of Angels."
1. Grand Palace
Krung Thep is abbreviation of the official name King Rama I gave the nation's relocated capital in 1782. If you want to see where these royals made history, then the Grand Palace is a good place to start. Located in the heart of Bangkok, the palace sits across the Chao Praya River. The crowds can be a little overwhelming on the weekends, so weekday visits in the early morning or late afternoon are options to consider. There's a dress code for visitors that consists of slacks for males and ankle-length skirts for women, but if you forget, clothing is available for rent.
2. Wat Pho
Wat Pho is also a popular tourist destination to consider after or before you visit the Grand Palace. This Buddhist Temple complex is located directly south of the Grand Palace. It is the national headquarters for the teaching and preservation of traditional Thai medicine, including Thai massage, according to Lonely Planet. For an entrance fee of 100B, you'll get to see the city's largest reclining Buddha as well as the largest collection of Buddha images in the country.
3. Wat Phra Kaew
Another popular temple in Bangkok is Wat Phra Kaew, which is considered the most sacred of all temples in Thailand. The entrance fee is 500B, a bit higher than Wat Pho, but you’ll get access to a free tour, an up-close view of the intricate carvings of temple architecture, and the chance to see the Emerald Buddha, which is considered the palladium of the King of Thailand.
4. Khaosan Road
Khaosan Road is a backpacker's paradise that is less than a mile North of the Grand Palace and Wat Phra Kaew. It is a short street where travelers can find anything from cheap, "mattress in a box" style lodgings to 3-star accommodations. Khaosan translates into "milled rice,” and was named so because the street used to be a part of Bangkok's traditional rice market. Now, the area is home to transportation services to Thailand's major tourist sites, travel agents who can help you visit neighboring countries like Laos and Vietnam, and clusters of shops where you can purchase necessities or frivolities.
5. Lumpini Lake
If you've ever associated paddleboats with Southeast Asia, then Lumpini Lake is where you can rent your own. The lake is part of Lumpini Park, a rare recreational area in the inner city. It was named after the birthplace of Buddha, and has been a sanctum for city-dwellers since the 1920s. It’s where you can stroll through the pathways and find hidden niches. Or participate in Buddhist dharma activities the last Sunday of every month. Or do a little bird watching of the 30 plus different species. And if you get hungry, you can stop by the weekend fresh market where vendors sell everything from deep fried turnips to wheatgrass juice.
6. Siam Paragon
Siam Paragon is a popular destination for shoppers because it’s one of the best shopping centers to buy luxury goods, according to Bangkok.com. Stores include name brands like Gucci, Dior, and Zara. Specialty stores also sell knick-knacks and Thai traditional art. Siam Paragon also houses a movie theater complex, car showrooms, and both foreign and local eateries. The Royal Paragon Hall also holds concerts, exhibitions, and events throughout the year.
7. The Bangkok National Museum
The Bangkok National Museum has the largest collection of Thai art and artifacts, according to Bangkok.com. The museum is located on the former grounds of Wang Na Palace, less than a ten-minute walk from the Grand Palace. It was opened by King Rama V to display relics from his reign. Now, exhibits showcase Thai history from the Neolithic times. The museum is open from 9AM to 4PM five days a week excluding Mondays and Tuesdays.
8. Chatuchak Market
Travelers who prefer markets to malls might like Chatuchak Market. The Lonely Planet calls it Bangkok's biggest and baddest, with late night vendors, local hipsters, and specialty goods. It is also known as the JJ market, and has 27 sections of over 8,000 stalls. This weekend market could easily take up a whole day of sightseeing, but it’s best enjoyed around 10 AM, when the sun and the crowds aren’t out in full force. There’s a daily vegetable, plant, and flower market, and a few vendors open shop on weekday mornings.
9. The Vimanmek Mansion
The Vimanmek Mansion is a former royal palace made entirely of gold teak. It’s in the Dusit Palace complex, which is a compound of royal residences in the city. Whether you’re visiting the mansion or the Dusit palace, the complex contains a rich history that is evident in the art and artifacts on display. Dusit Palace offers free entry for vistors who have gone to the Grand Palace, so be sure to save your tickets on hand. The Vimanmek Mansion was the first permanent residence in Dusit Garden, and displays King Rama V’s photographs, personal art, and handicrafts.
Where to Stay in Bangkok
27 million foreign tourists visited Thailand in 2015, according to a report by the Thai Embassy. In 2014, 16.89 million overnight foreign travellers stayed in Bangkok, according to Statistica.com. Finding a place to stay can be tricky, but the number of available accommodations continues to grow.
Sukhumvit Road, Bangkok’s Main Street, is a central location for convenient access to and from popular tourist attractions. Booking a place just off the main road may seem cheaper, but but beware that side streets can run extremely long, so just one soi (a side street that runs off a major street) could be anywhere from a five minute to twenty-five minute walk.
The Siam Square area is also popular because of its proximity to Bangkok's shops. The Thong Lo area offers lodging options in a less touristy environment. This area, also called Soi 55, feels more like a neighborhood.
You can get around Bangkok on the Skytrain (BTS), underground rail systems (MRT), river taxis, regular taxis, or express boats. The Bangkok Skytrain provides easy access to a number of popular tourist attractions including the major shopping malls, Chatuchak Weekend Market, and all Sukhumvit Road attractions. Service runs from 6:30 AM to midnight, and peak hours are from 7 AM – 9AM to 4 PM to 7 PM. The MRT, or Mass Rapid Transit System, has 18 stations from Hua Lamphong in the south to Bang Sue in the north. Trains come and go every 5-7 minutes, and also connect to the major tourist attractions. Taxis are available 24 hours a day, and the fare usually starts at 35 baht for the first two kilometers, and increases 2 baht at a time per kilometer. The different color of taxis doesn’t matter, and available taxis display a glowing red vacant sign.
This article was written by Hanna Choi.