Bangkok is an intoxicating experience for many reasons. Bangkok travel is a heady mix of oriental charm, fascinating sights, and mouth-watering aromas. It is best described as an onion whose skins peel away layer by layer to reveal new and exciting Bangkok travel secrets. All you need is the heart and courage of an explorer. Here treasures wait for you. Make sure you make the time to see them.
Come to Bangkok, see how your pulse races a million miles per minute in this fast, action-packed city!
Our Bangkok Destination Guide together with our Bangkok tour suggestions will tell you all you need to know about the best places to visit for Bangkok travel plans. You can also ask for suggestions from your Bangkok guesthouse or Bangkok hotel. For tips on how to get around Bangkok, read our Bangkok Transportation guide, or take a look at our Thailand Country Guide for general information about travelling in Thailand. Our job is to make your stay in Bangkok as enjoyable as possible. So we’ve taken some time to put together information about famous must-sees such as the Khao San Road, and we’ve also shared some insight about the recent political climate in Bangkok.
Things to see & do in Bangkok
Follow the links to the right or scroll further down the page for details on some of the many interesting highlights in Bangkok:
The Grand Palace in Bangkok Top
The spectacular Grand Palace is without doubt Bangkok’s most well known landmark, and your visit will not be complete without a visit to this site.
The Grand Palace, which was constructed in 1782, was the home of the Thai King and the royal court for 150 years. It was also the seat of government administration. Visitors flock to this monument and are awestruck by the intricacy and beauty of its architecture and adornments. In days gone by, the Grand Palace complex housed the Thai war ministry, state departments, and even the mint. It remains the spiritual core of the Thai Kingdom. Although the Thai Kings ceased to call the Grand Palace their home around the turn of the twentieth century, the palace complex is still used to celebrate ceremonial and auspicious events. Among its many impressive buildings is the Temple of the Emerald Buddha.
Bangkok Wat Phra Kaew (The Emerald Buddha) Top
Thailand’s most important Buddhist temple is in Bangkok. It is officially called Wat Phra Sri Rattana Satsadaram; in short, Wat Phra Kaew, which means ‘the Temple of the Emerald Buddha’. It is located within the walls of the Grand Palace which stands in the historic heart of the city. Wat Phra Kaew holds the treasured Emerald Buddha, which is held in high reverence and is carved from a single block of translucent green jade. The 15th century Emerald Buddha (Phra Putta Maha Mani Ratana Patimakorn) is depicted in the meditating posture and created in the style of the Lanna School of the north.
Only His Majesty the King is allowed anywhere near the Emerald Buddha, which sits upon an ornate raised platform. The icon is draped in a cloak that is changed three times in a year, according to the seasons. This changing of the cloak is a very significant ritual. It is believed to bring good fortune to the country in all seasons, and none else but the King may perform this ceremony. This temple with its delicate décor has a very peaceful atmosphere.
Work on this temple began in 1785 when King Buddha Yodfa Chulaloke (Rama I) abandoned his capital at Thonburi and made Bangkok his new capital. The Wat Phra Kaew is unique among temples as it does not have living quarters for monks; instead, it consists of elaborately embellished sacred buildings, statues, and pagodas. The main building in the centre, the ordination hall (‘ubosot’), houses the Emerald Buddha. Although small, this icon is the most revered by the Thai people.
Wat Phra Kaew also houses a model of Angkor Wat. It was created by the order of King Rama IV when Cambodia was under Siamese rule. King Rama V had it recast in plaster to commemorate the first centenary of the Royal City. Also a must-see here is the Balcony with its murals that tell the whole epic story of the Ramayana. The murals are described in verse on the stone columns of the Balcony. Characters from the Ramayana, the five-metre tall gate-keeping giants (‘Yaksa Tavarnbal’), guard each gate of the Balcony.
Khlongs of Thonburi Top
The western part of Bangkok is known as Thonburi, and it begins on the west banks of the Chao Phraya River. For a short time during the reign of King Taksin, Thonburi was the capital of Thailand. At this time the old capital of Ayutthaya had been ransacked by the Burmese. Eventually, in 1782, the capital was moved to the other side of the river by King Rama I, and named Bangkok (Krung Thep).
Thonburi has avoided the touch of modern progress because it was an independent province until 1972 when it became a part of Bangkok. Its man-made network of ‘khlongs’ - Khlong Mon and Khlong Bangkok Noi, still have their ramshackle charm. Thonburi’s proximity to the tidal Chao Phraya River has served to keep the area much less polluted than, say, the central city Khlong – Khlong Saen Saeb. Among the best sights here are the Royal Barges Museum and the Wat Arun temple.
Wat Arun in Bangkok (Temple of Dawn)Top
The Wat Arun temple, which the locals refer to as Wat Chaeng, is on the west (Thonburi) bank of the Chao Phraya River. It is called Temple of Dawn because the belief is that King Taksin arrived here at break of dawn after battling the Burmese siege of Ayutthaya. He had the temple renovated and gave it the new name of Wat Chaeng, the Temple of the Dawn.
Boat / Canal TripsTop
Bangkok’s water highways are a fun way to explore the city no matter what your age. There are various trips offered along the many meandering waterways of Bangkok. Travel on a quick trip lasting an hour or more or join in on a longer trip on something like the Mekhala River Cruise which takes in much of the waterway history, visiting palaces and ancient wats en-route.
The Ancient CityTop
“If man has no knowledge of the past, he is nothing but a vessel without a rudder on the high seas”, says Prapai Viriyahbhun, the sagacious founder of the Ancient City. This model replica of ancient Bangkok has been created in the precise shape of Thailand on the map and is set in 320 acres of beautifully landscaped gardens. The Ancient City lies on the outskirts of Bangkok and aims to remedy (as Prapai Viriyahbhun intended) “the moral deterioration of human society” and help mankind find the right way in a chaotic world. No one can tell whether this lofty aim has been fulfilled, but one thing is certain, the Ancient City preserves for future generations Thailand’s heritage, its delicate art, customs, and culture.
Here, there are scaled-down replicas of Thailand’s most historically significant monuments. Each one of the over 116 monuments is placed with geographical accuracy. You will see ‘chedis’, bell towers, pavilions, palaces, temples, halls, Buddha images, floating markets, and shrines, and much more. Many of these replicas are reconstructions of monuments and sites that no longer exist.
Thai massage is completely different from Western massage. Its aim is to promote internal health and muscular flexibility by manipulating the acupressure points on the body. Often, the massage starts at the feet and moves upwards. The masseur gently arranges your body in four different postures: face-down, face-up, side, and sitting position. This makes it easier for the masseur to perform a variety of massages.
A Thai massage will be quite a robust experience for you, as the masseur uses elbows, feet, knees, and forearms to massage you in different ways using varying amounts of pressure. You may even find yourself in the lap of the masseur for a deep body stretch. Thai massage is, in short, a much more intimate experience than the Western style massage and one you might want to try.
M.R. Kukrit’s HomeTop
Thailand’s Prime Minister, M.R. Kukrit Pramoj (1974 to 1975), and his elegant residence on Soi Suan Phlu, were often surrounded by journalists during politically troubled times. Today because of the Kukrit 80 Foundation, it is the public that flocks to the beautiful home of the intellectual leader.
This museum also serves to showcase M.R. Kukrit’s talent for politics as well as for poetry, writing and painting. He personally supervised the painstaking assembling of the five traditional teak houses on stilts that comprise his home. It took over 20 years to put them together. Each house is connected to the others and is packed with the art objects that he collected such as ceramics, precious furniture, and images of The Buddha. You will also come across his library with its diverse literary genres — from fiction to philosophy, a testament to his diverse interests, and a traditional pavilion where public functions were held. The tranquil gardens are bursting with exotic plants, flowers, and trees, but the bonsai-style trees, called ‘mai dat’ in Thai, are the most notable.
Jim Thompson HouseTop
Over 400 people visit the former home of Jim Thompson, a celebrated businessman who has been credited for revitalising the silk industry of Thailand. The building has been turned into a museum for Thai architecture and art. Built from teak, it is a beautiful place that showcases interesting art objects, stone sculptures, hair ornaments, and everyday items which were in use 40 years ago.
Jim Thompson disappeared mysteriously on March 26, 1967, in the Cameron Highlands of Malaysia, never to be seen again. His disappearance created a host of conspiracy theories.
The house, which stands beside one of the few remaining canals of Bangkok, was imported and assembled from six smaller houses. You can take a guided tour through the house and stop by at the coffee shop in the beautiful garden.
Wat Pho (Temple of Reclining Buddha)Top
You will find Wat Pho (the Temple of the Reclining Buddha), or Wat Phra Chetuphon, behind the Temple of the Emerald Buddha. It is the city’s largest temple and famous for its majestic 46-metre long statue of the reclining Buddha covered in gold leaf. The feet of the statue are 3 metres in length and embellished by mother-of-pearl graphics of the auspicious ‘laksanas’ (sacred characteristics) of the Buddha.