Bangkok can be a hot, hectic, and overwhelming city. It can also be a delight to explore, with golden temples, floating markets, luxurious shopping malls, and some of the best street food in Asia. Here are the best things to do in Bangkok if this is your first (or second!) time in the city.
1. Eat street food in Bangkok
Without a doubt, our favorite thing to do in Bangkok is to EAT.
Where do you get the best food in Bangkok? It’s up to you to find your “best place,” but the options for a great meal are almost endless in Bangkok.
The street food is wonderfully cheap ($1 to $2 per dish) and can be found throughout the city. Actually, it’s almost impossible to walk down a street in the center of town without bumping into a food stall.
We stayed in the Silom district of Bangkok so we didn’t have to go far to try the street food at Silom Soi 20. Our family of four could eat lunch for $6! And it was all soooooo good. Just writing this makes me want to travel back to Bangkok for the food.
See also: Food tour in Bangkok
2. Visit a Floating Market
For a colorful, exotic experience, visit a floating market. There are a bunch to try in Bangkok and some are more popular than others.
In downtown Bangkok, Khlong Lad Mayom and Taling Chan are the most popular. You can get here by public transportation. These markets are only held on Saturday and Sunday mornings.
For the iconic floating market experience, travel 100 km from Bangkok to Damnoen Saduak. This is where you will find a river full of wooden boats and people selling colorful flowers and foods.
3. Eat Scorpions on Khao San Road
Would you eat a scorpion? Did you know that’s even a thing you can do?
Regardless if you would dine on insects, Khao San Road is worth a quick visit. This short street is home to restaurants, bars, and backpacker hostels. And yes, it’s also home to one of Bangkok’s most adventurous street foods, fried scorpions.
If you have enough drinks at the bars on Khao San Road these scorpions become a little more enticing.
4. See Wat Arun at Sunset
A great way to end the day is to grab a table at a rooftop bar and watch the sunset over Wat Arun. We had drinks (and took these photos) at the Eagles Nest Bar but you can also have dinner at The Deck Restaurant at Arun Residence.
Bangkok’s Wat Arun literally translates to Temple of Dawn. This Buddhist temple shines brightly when struck by light from the sunrise. Despite its name, Wat Arun’s best view is said to come not during dawn, but during dusk.
5. Enjoy night market in the weekend
Bangkok is famous around the world for its surreal nightlife. The abundance of night markets goes to show that the city comes alive once the sun goes down. You’re unlikely to find a greater variety of goods anywhere else in the world; everything from cheap counterfeit clothing to expensive antique collectables is available down the busy streets. To accompany your late night shopping spree, you can grab a quick bite or even a full meal from the never-ending array of dining destinations. The icing on the cake? Nearly all the night markets have bars around every other corner so even if shopping isn’t your thing, you won’t have to be reluctant to visit.
6. Visit the Jim Thompson House
Jim Thompson was an American merchant and architect who helped revitalize the Thai silk industry in the 20th century. In the 1950’s, he constructed his Thai-style home in Bangkok and filled it with antiquities he collected from around the world. In 1967, while in Malaysia, Jim Thompson mysteriously disappeared.
The Jim Thompson House is now one of Bangkok’s most popular tourist attractions.
Hours: 9 am to 6 pm daily
Cost: 200 baht; under 22 years 100 baht
7. Go Shopping at Chatuchak Market
The Chatuchak Market is amazing. Every weekend, thousands of shops sprawling across 27 acres sell food, clothing, souvenirs, and home goods. Don’t just expect cheap clothing and gaudy souvenirs…you can buy beautiful jewelry, high quality hand-crafted goods, and fashionable clothing. Be prepared to barter and to have a good time.
8. Visit the Shopping Malls
Yes, you are reading this correctly. I am recommending a visit to a shopping mall.
Shopping malls in Bangkok are ultra-modern buildings filled with food courts and high-end shops. They are also a great place to escape the heat and crowds of the Bangkok city streets.
9. Get a Thai Massage
For less than $10, you can hire a Thai masseuse to bend your body in directions you never knew it could go. Just make sure you ask your masseuse to go easy on you the first time…this is probably not like any massage you have ever had.
I had my first Thai massage in Bangkok. This massage was not peaceful or relaxing; it was a wrestling match. For one hour my little lady bent me in all different ways, stretching my muscles all while doing deep tissue massage. She started with my feet, worked up my legs, then to my arms, finishing with my back. At times she was pressing so hard into my muscles I was trying to not make noise because of the pain. It felt like this tiny lady was going to rip me to pieces.
I never asked my masseuse to go easy on me but I should have. I ended up feeling sorer after the massage than before it, but even so, I’m really glad I had this experience.