When visiting Thailand for the first time you may be initially overwhelmed when it comes to all the things you can do in Bangkok. Luckily, I’ve put together the following guide of hotspots, activities, and must-see destinations that every tourist should know about when exploring the city.
Bangkok has become one of the most visited cities on Earth, and for plenty of good reasons. Whether you’re into shopping for unique items, wanting to sample Thailand’s world-famous food dishes, or would simply like to immerse yourself in a diverse cultural landscape like no other, this city is for you.
The 40 Best Things to Do in Bangkok
1. See History at The Grand Palace
Once home to many of Thailand’s previous kings for over 150 years, the Grand Palace is now a popular destination for both foreigners and locals alike.
It offers stunning architecture and the famous Emerald Buddha statue to admire, and you’ll also likely see many locals here paying a religious visit to any of the multiple temples on the property.
While visiting the Grand Palace is normally a casual affair, you’ll also want to respect cultural norms while here by dressing conservatively and removing your shoes if entering any areas of worship.
Recommended tour: City Highlights Temple and Market Walking Tour
2. Visit an Authentic Chinatown
Bangkok’s Chinatown district separates itself from others around the world by its authenticity, which is likely the first thing you’ll notice when visiting. It’s one of the oldest Chinatowns and has had little intervention over the years from Western influences
Whether it’s dim sum or wonton soup you’re hungry for, you’ll find a wide variety of dishes in the many local restaurants and street-stall vendors here that rival those found in China.
Also, products like crafts and clothing can be bought quite cheap here, and the whole area takes things up a notch during Chinese New Year festivities with parades and gatherings throughout the streets.
3. Climb a Prang at Wat Arun
Another Buddhist temple worth a visit is Wat Arun, which is also known as the “Temple of Dawn,” where you’ll find some of the most impressive traditional architecture in Thailand.
The highlight of visiting this temple is its large prang, which is a vertical spire structure that has steep steps that can be climbed for amazing views of the city.
This structure and many of the buildings here are adorned with colorful porcelain shards, which, along with the temple’s location directly along the Chao Phraya River in the Thonburi district, makes for a beautiful sight when visiting at sunrise or sunset.
4. Visit the National Museum
As the largest museum in Thailand, the National Museum is perfect for visitors of all ages and offers plenty of interesting exhibits of ancient Thai artifacts and culturally significant artwork.
Located in the Phra Nakhon district of Bangkok, the museum itself comprises a set of buildings that are architecturally impressive, including Wang Na Palace, an 18th-century structure that once housed members of the royal family.
Whether you’re visiting to get a glimpse of preserved gold treasures, antique musical instruments, ancient weapons, or costumes that were once worn hundreds of years ago, all can be found in this museum.
5. Take in Views From Rooftop Bars
One thing that Southeast Asia does very well is its rooftop bar culture, and few cities come close to offering as many rooftop bars as Bangkok does.
These types of bars typically offer breathtaking views of the Bangkok skyline and a unique experience that comes with plenty of photo opportunities.
One of the most famous rooftop bars in the city is the Sky Bar at Lebua State Tower, which was featured in the movie The Hangover 2 and provides unparalleled panoramic views of the city from 820 feet up.
Some other great rooftop bars are: Vertigo, Octave Rooftop Bar, Hi-So Rooftop Bar, Above Eleven, Three-Sixty, CRU Champagne Bar, Cielo Rooftop Skybar, Zoom Skybar, or Millenium Hilton.
6. Go Shopping in CentralWorld
Malls can be easily found in Bangkok, though CentralWorld is one of the clear standouts with its sheer size as one of the top 10 largest shopping centers on Earth.
With almost 500 different stores available to shop from, virtually anything you’re looking for will likely be found here.
There’s also the Central Food Hall, which is a massive food court with cheap meals offered by most vendors, as well as a 15-screen SF World Cinema, both located on the 7th floor.
The mall itself is also centrally located, smack dab between the Siam and Chit Lom BTS stops, making it easy to get to.
7. Explore the Amulet Market
While walking around the city, you’ll likely notice many locals wearing amulets or trinkets, and many of these come from the famous Amulet Market.
Visiting this popular bazaar is one of the most unique things you can do in Bangkok, as it hosts a lot of stalls selling jewelry that many people wear for spiritual reasons, religious purposes, to ward off bad spirits, or simply as good luck charms.
If you want a unique look into Thai Buddhist culture, you’ll get that and more at this market, where it fuses with everything from Hinduism to local superstitions and folklore.
Simply walking through the corridors is an unforgettable experience, as you can take in the smells of incense while mingling with the locals and having discussions about amulets and talismans.
8. Celebrate the Night at RCA
Royal City Avenue, locally referred to as RCA, is a popular destination for party goers where most of the nightclubs, bars, and music venues are open all night.
Located in the Huai Khwang district and tucked away from the larger streets on its own soi, RCA Alley, this hotspot is quiet during the day but comes alive at night with clubs catering to every musical interest, such as techno, EDM, rock music, and hip hop.
Many of Thailand’s most famous music acts regularly play the venues found here, and the legendary Route 66 club has become a staple here as the biggest club on the block with its large terrace, three rooms, and wild events.
9. Day Tour to Ayutthaya
About 80 kilometers north of Bangkok is Ayutthaya, which is one of Thailand’s most famous historical and archaeological sites and dates back to 1350 AD.
This site is sure to impress anyone interested in learning about the country’s history, as it’s known for its ancient temples and ruins, many of which were affected during wartime when the Burmese invaded the city and destroyed many of the structures and statues here.
Because the park area where most historical sites are located is surrounded by rivers, you can take a boat tour to see the temples located in the riverbanks. Bicycles are also available for rent throughout the area if you’d prefer to explore on your own.
Recommended tour: From Bangkok: Ayutthaya Temples Small Group Tour with Lunch
10. Grab Dinner at Asiatique The Riverfront
With a giant glowing ferris wheel at its center, this riverfront complex is easy to spot on both sides of the Chao Phraya River.
Not only is Asiatique a perfect place to have dinner with its many diverse eating options, but it also offers live music acts, as well as clothing and other shopping opportunities.
Best of all, it’s one of the most unique atmospheres you’ll find in Bangkok, as it’s essentially a night market that was built throughout a renovated warehouse complex, blending traditional Thai elements with more modern, trendy ones.
11. See a Gold Buddha at Wat Traimit
Another famous temple found in Bangkok is Wat Traimit, which is located in the heart of the city’s Chinatown. This temple is known for its Buddha statue, which is the largest solid gold one in the world.
This Golden Buddha dates back to the Sukhothai period, which is regarded by locals as the era when Thailand was founded.
This statue has quite a story attached to it, as it was concealed in plaster to hide its gold composition for hundreds of years until its true nature was rediscovered when the plaster broke during a relocation in 1955.
For this reason, many locals and tourists alike flock to this temple to see this mystical statue and to admire the architecture found around the temple grounds.
12. Check Out the Red Light Districts
This city is also well-known for its many red light districts, such as Soi Cowboy, Nana Plaza, and Patpong.
These three locations all offer a wild atmosphere with adult entertainment in the form of open-air go-go and beer bars, as well as neon-lit signs that create a distinctive, gritty look on the streets and alleys that wind through each area
However, while many travelers include these locations on their “things to see in Bangkok” lists as a novelty experience, those with children will want to steer clear of these areas due to their adult nature.
13. Tour the Royal Dusit Palace
Bearing the name of the Dusit district where it’s located, Dusit Palace is one of the most historical royal complexes in Bangkok and has some exquisite European-styled architecture that was inspired by King Rama V’s first visit to Europe in the early 20th century.
While the palace itself has housed many of Thailand’s kings and royal families, nowadays it’s open for guided tours and has multiple buildings throughout its grounds that one can explore.
In the compounds of the Dusit Palace you can visit buildings such as th Vimanmek Mansion, the Abhisek Dusit Throne hall, the Amphorn Sathan Residential Hall, the Ananta Samakhom Throne Hall, or the Chitralada Royal Villa.
14. Take in Nature at Bang Krachao
At the southern end of the city, nestled within a large green patch of land is Bang Krachao, which is locally known as Bangkok’s “Green Lung.”
Surrounded by water on three sides, this forested area can be reached by boat or by car and offers plenty of walkways and bike paths for you to get away from the city and explore nature when you need to.
Natural mangrove forests and manicured gardens make up the bulk of the lush landscape found here, and on most days, you can easily spot various wildlife in this area, from birds in the nearby trees to monitor lizards swimming in the local ponds and canals.
15. See the Giant Swing at Wat Suthat
Wat Suthat Thepwararam, or simply Wat Suthat for short, is a 10-acre temple located near the Banglamphu neighborhood in Bangkok and is known for its famous Giant Swing, or “Sao Ching Cha” as the locals call it.
This swing, which is a red frame that’s 20 meters high, sits in front of the temple and was built in the 18th century.
You’ll also find a wide array of different statues to admire here, from hand-carved stone statues to golden Buddhas, as well as lots of unique architecture, well-manicured trees, and miniature pagodas.
16. Buy Souvenirs at Chatuchak Market
The Chatuchak Weekend Market, which locals simply refer to as “JJ Market,” is easily the most famous outdoor market for shopping in all of Thailand.
Sprawling across 35 acres, with thousands of vendors to choose from, you’ll find just about whatever you’re looking for in this market. Items like clothing, artwork, and woodwork items are often particularly cheap here.
You can spend half the day riding rented bicycles through the nearby Chatuchak Park and the other half walking through the market’s small sois and alleys and still not be able to cover everything found here.
17. Party All Night on Khao San Road
Located in the city’s historic Banglamphu district, Khao San Road has long been known as a jumping-off spot for tourists.
Many come here to plan their adventures around the country, to meet with other travelers, or to take part in the party-like atmosphere that occurs here nightly after the sun goes down.
Many cheap hotels, hostels, and guesthouses can be found in this area, and the streets are lined with bars, restaurants, and street stall vendors, who are all hoping to make your visit to this lively area a memorable one.
18. Have Fun at Dream World Bangkok
About a 40-minute drive just outside the city in Thanyaburi, Dream World Bangkok is the perfect theme park to spend a day with family or friends.
For adults and teens, there are plenty of adrenaline-inducing roller coasters located here, while smaller children will love the various children’s playgrounds and the ever popular Jurassic Adventure area.
There are also plenty of water-based rides if you don’t mind getting wet, and those who miss colder temperatures in Bangkok’s humid environment will love Snow Town, an artificial, snow-filled village with everything from sledding to a winter-themed market.
19. Find Deals at MBK Center
Just outside the BTS Skyline’s National Stadium stop sits MBK Center, a busy shopping mall that offers eight floors of vendors, from smaller stalls with budget-friendly souvenirs and clothing to high-end luxury jewelry shops, as well as one floor that’s dedicated almost entirely to cell phone services and repair.
In addition to the many good deals that can be found in this mall, there are also plenty of places to grab a meal here, with local Thai dishes offered in the mall’s food court and popular international fast food joints and restaurants on many of the floors.
20. Visit The Jim Thompson House
Not only is The Jim Thompson House in Central Bangkok a famous cultural landmark for the city, but it can also serve as a soothing getaway from all the hustle and bustle with its quiet atmosphere and peaceful outside gardens.
Now a museum, this house is known for its unique architecture and history, being originally a home to James H.W. Thompson, a famous Western businessman and architect.
Here you’ll be able to see the massive collection of Southeast Asian artwork that Thompson had collected while learning more about its history through the available daily guided tours, making it one of the more memorable places you’ll see in Bangkok.
21. Take in Panoramic Views at Wat Saket
If you’re looking for one-of-a-kind panoramic views of the city, you’ll definitely want to pay a visit to Wat Saket.
This temple, located in the Rattanakosin district, offers not only impressive Thai architecture and a serene environment but also Golden Mount, an artificial hill that has a 300-step winding staircase on it with a view at the top that makes the quick hike well worth it.
When looking for things to see in Bangkok, this location is less known to tourists, providing a unique experience not many can say they’ve had when visiting the city.
22. Buy Food at a Famous Floating Market
If you’ve ever seen a postcard with a floating market from Thailand, chances are it was the Damnoen Saduak market that you saw.
While the country has many similar markets where food, handmade crafts, and produce are sold on wooden boats along a river, this one is by far the most famous and largest.
While it’s located in the province of Ratchaburi, it’s close enough where you can take a shuttle or public bus there and still have enough time in the day to find more things to do in Bangkok once you return.
Recommended tour: Damnoen Saduak Market and Maeklong Railway Market
23. Exercise at Phutthamonthon Park
Just on the outskirts of Bangkok is Nakhon Pathom province, which is where you’ll find the beautifully tranquil Phutthamonthon Park.
Well-maintained as a state park and known for the giant 15.21-foot Buddha statue that sits within its center, this park spans across almost 1,000 acres of land, so you can spend at least an hour walking or jogging here on paved pathways that wind around lakes and canals without covering the same ground.
While the park is often used by spiritual groups, it’s normally open to everyone seven days a week, and although there are fewer vendors found here than in your typical Bangkok park, drinks and snacks are available, as are many public bathrooms.
24. Take the Kids to the Discovery Museum
If you’re traveling with kids, they’ll love the Children’s Discovery Museum located near the southern end of Chatuchak Park.
Part educational, part fun, this museum has many hands-on activities based on science, art, and technology available for kids to engage with, such as the outdoor exhibit about dinosaurs or the indoor one that focuses on space travel.
For kids with extra energy, there’s also a small water park outside, as well as an impressive playground with jungle gyms, slides, and safety netting throughout.
25. Get Wet During Songkran Festival
Thailand’s famous water festival, Songkran (Thai New Year), typically takes place from April 13th to April 15th in Bangkok, where hundreds of thousands of people flood into the streets both night and day to celebrate the festive occasion.
Picture massive water fights throughout the city, traditional ceremonies, and parades all happening simultaneously and you’ll have a good idea of how fun this particular celebration can be for all ages.
Some of the wildest hotspots you’ll find around the city include Khao San Road, Silom Road, and just outside the centralwOrld shopping complex.
26. See the Reclining Buddha at Wat Pho
Also known as Wat Phra Chetuphon, Wat Pho is one of Bangkok’s most famous Buddhist temples, and a big reason for this is because of its giant reclining Buddha statue.
As one of the most iconic statues seen in pictures from Thailand, this 46-meter statue is covered in gold leaf and can be viewed up close by anyone who visits the temple.
Also impressive is the classical architecture used throughout the temple, as well as the history of the temple itself, which you can learn about while strolling its grounds and exchanging smiles with the friendly resident monks.
27. Enjoy Art at River City Bangkok
Just as its name implies, River City Bangkok is located along the banks of the Chao Phraya River just south of Chinatown and offers an upscale environment for art lovers.
Whether you’re looking for high-end antiques or contemporary art, this five-story center caters to all with a mix of galleries, boutiques, and shops.
There are also regularly scheduled art auctions that take place here every month – perfect for those who are looking for unique things to see in Bangkok and would like to bring back a souvenir with a story attached to it.
28. Relax With a Traditional Thai Massage
When it comes to relaxing things you can do in Bangkok, nothing is more authentic than getting a traditional Thai massage.
Combining acupressure and stretching, this type of massage aims to help you reduce stress while improving flexibility, and if you’re looking for other types, whether it’s Thai oil massage, foot massage, aromatherapy massage, or hot stone massage, all these services can be easily found at affordable prices in most neighborhoods throughout the city.
29. Watch a Muay Thai Match
No visit to Thailand is complete without taking in a match of Muay Thai, the country’s national sport, and the Lumpinee Stadium or the Rajadamnern Stadium, the two main stadiums for Muay Thai, are the perfect places to do so.
Many legendary Muay Thai matches have taken place in these stadiums since its creation, and, along with getting an authentic, first-hand experience of the nation’s favorite pastime, you can also experience some genuine Luk Thung, Thai country music, which is generally played both before matches and during remissions.
Buy tickets online: Muay Thai Boxing Tickets at Rajadamnern Stadium
30. Walk on Glass at the Mahanakhon SkyWalk
Looking down at the city from on top of the King Power Mahanakhon building is a unique view every traveler should see in Bangkok at least once.
Located in the Silom/Sathorn area, this high-rise skyscraper features the famous SkyWalk, a group of glass panels on the roof of the building that allow you to walk directly on them, giving you stunning visuals of the streets below from a spectacular height
There’s also an indoor observatory on the 74th and 75th floors, which also provides excellent photo opportunities of the Bangkok skyline.
Entry ticket: Mahanakhon Skywalk Ticket
31. Feel Decadent at Siam Paragon
Known for its high-end luxury stores, Siam Paragon is easily the most upscale shopping mall you’ll come across in the city.
Here, you’ll find companies like Burberry, Dolce & Gabbana, Fendi, Gucci, and Louis Vuitton on the main floor, four more floors of shopping opportunities and food vendors above it, and a movie theater on the top floor.
Those looking for cosmetics will be right at home in this mall as well, with a significant portion of the building’s signature Paragon Department Store dedicated exclusively to beauty products.
32. Go Beneath the Water at SEA LIFE
While Thailand has no shortage of oceans and rivers for exploring marine life, you can do so without even leaving Bangkok by visiting SEA LIFE Bangkok Ocean World.
As one of Asia’s largest aquariums, it provides a diverse range of aquatic animals to see, from sharks to otters, and also has many interactive exhibits and educational programs available for children.
However, SEA LIFE’s main attraction is easily the Ocean Tunnel, a walkway that’s completely transparent on all sides, allowing you to take a stroll under the water with 360-degree views of all the marine life around you.
33. Find Hip Clubs in the Thong Lor District
If you’re looking for a “when in Rome” scenario and want to do as the locals do, be sure to spend a night or two in Bangkok’s Thong Lor district.
This area, which is often overlooked by foreign visitors, has only recently become quite popular with locals, and this is mainly because of its nightlife scene and trendy, upscale environment, which has flourished in recent years.
Many of the bars, clubs, and restaurants found here offer a vibrant party scene that’s distinctively more relaxed than many of the other party areas around the city, with a quieter neighborhood that sits between a small river and the BTS railway system.
34. See Monitor Lizards at Lumphini Park
With a picturesque lake and the backdrop of the bustling Sukhumvit area and its many high-rise buildings behind it, Lumphini Park is a scenic place to spend a morning or afternoon.
This well-maintained park offers jogging trails, rentable paddle boats, and courts for playing basketball or volleyball, as well as a large playground for kids.
It’s also well-known for the many monitor lizards that call its lake home, which can easily make any visit more exciting if you haven’t yet seen one in person yet.
35. Float a Basket Downstream During Loi Krathong
As Thailand’s most scenic festival, Loi Krathong is a time where locals pay their respects to Mae Khongkha, the Thai goddess of water.
However, it’s quite common for foreign visitors to participate as well, which usually means taking a krathong (a small basket filled with flowers or other items), lighting candles on it, and then setting it in the water so it can float downstream.
This makes for quite a sight when you see thousands of these illuminated baskets floating by in the night.
Chinese lanterns are also available to send off into the night sky if you prefer, and regardless of where you are in the city, you’ll others to celebrate it with as long as you’re near water.
36. Admire Architecture at Vimanmek Mansion
Located in Bangkok’s Dusit district, Vimanmek Mansion has been an architectural marvel since its creation in the 19th century, as it’s the largest teakwood mansion on Earth and was designed using both traditional Thai and European influences.
For this reason, and the fact that it was designed for royalty, it’s a significant cultural site that many tourists interested in Thailand’s history will love.
Not surprisingly, it’s been converted into a museum, which not only showcases many artifacts and artwork that has been preserved since the reign of King Rama V but also has a well-manicured garden area and tranquil ponds surrounding it.
37. Sightsee on the Chao Phraya River
Another thing every visitor should do in Bangkok is explore the local waterways for a few hours on any of the many boat tours offered.
The city has become known as “the Venice of Asia” because of the Chao Phraya River winding through the heart of it, and this gives you plenty of options to choose from when taking a tour.
For a quick and cheap tour, you can hop on any of the regular express boats that frequently stop at the many ports along the river, while sightseeing river cruises and traditional longtail boat taxis are also available at certain ports throughout the city.
Recommended tour: Chao Phraya River Hop-on Hop-off Boat
38. See the Famous Maeklong Railway Market
The Maeklong Railway Market, or “Talad Rom Hub” as the locals call it, is a unique market situated just outside the city in the province of Samut Songkhram.
While the food found here alone is worth the trip, it’s the market’s unique layout of being located directly on railroad tracks that brings most tourists here.
As a train approaches, which occurs frequently throughout the day, the vendors must quickly move their stalls off the tracks until it passes, at which point they reestablish their positions on the tracks again, all of which makes for a perfect video opportunity if you’re traveling with a camera.
39. Learn to Cook Thai with a Cooking Course
Thai cuisine is world-renowned, so it should be no surprise that many visitors take Thai cooking courses when looking for things to do in Bangkok.
Many cooking schools are available throughout the city, with some offering one-day courses if you’re only staying for a short time.
There are also many specialties covered, such as schools that are focused specifically on vegan Thai foods, and while most tourists take these courses for the knowledge and experience, cooking certifications are also available if you’d like a souvenir to take home with you.
Recommended cooking course: Hands-on Thai Cooking Class and Market Tour
40. Learn About Thailand at Museum Siam
If you’re looking for something educational to do in Bangkok or have young ones, you’ll love Museum Siam. This learning museum has many different exhibits, most of which are interactive ones that include multimedia presentations or hands-on activities.
Visitors to this museum can learn about Thailand’s history and heritage, as well as its culture and how its society has evolved over time. This museum uses its exhibits to tell a story and is located on Sanam Chai Road not too far from The Grand Palace.