What to do in Bangkok, Tips from a Local
Bangkok is my favorite city in the world, I wouldn’t have spent 5 years living there otherwise.
You’re probably thinking, why the hell would you spend that long in Bangkok?
Let me tell you, there are so many amazing things to do in Bangkok that it’s impossible to get bored. You could easily spend two weeks here and only scratch the surface.
In this article, I will give you a huge list of my favorite attractions in Bangkok, along with awesome insider tips.
Temples in Bangkok
There are over 400 temples in Bangkok, that’s almost one for every day of the year. You can comfortably visit up 4 temples in one day which will take you around 4 to 6 hours in total.
I wrote a detailed article on 12 temples in Bangkok worth visiting. This includes the popular Wat Pho and Wat Arun, but also some lesser-known temples like Wat Benjamophit and Wat Bowon Niwet. There’s a map included so that you can easily plan your trip around town.
1. Wat Arun
Wat Arun is commonly referred to as the temple of dawn. You will most likely recognize the 86 meter tall spire overlooking the Chao Praya River in many photos of Bangkok. With ferries stopping right at the temple, and across the river from the temple, it is quite easy to get here. I have covered plenty more information in this detailed article such as Wat Arun’s opening hours, entry fees, and transport.
2. Wat Pho
Wat Pho is located literally right across the river from Wat Arun. You can get there by hopping on a very short ferry ride which takes just a couple of minutes. Wat Pho is most well-known for its huge Golden Buddha which lies down on its side, hence earning the name “the temple of the reclining Buddha.” I forewarn you that the crowds of tourists here are quite hectic in the middle of the day. Try to arrive really early to escape the madness.
Floating Markets in Bangkok
Exploring a floating market must be on your Bangkok bucket list. Floating markets are the pinnacle of Bangkok’s culture all compressed into a dense little area. You will amazing foods served out of small shops, crammed around the canals. The canals are teeming with little wooden boats offering fresh fruit, grilled seafood, or operating as tour boats.
Local tip! Most people head about 1.5 hours out of Bangkok to visit the Damnoen Saduak and Amphawa Floating Market but you don’t need to travel that far…
3. Khlong Lat Mayom Floating Market
Khlong Lat Mayom Floating Market is located in Bangkok’s outer district of Taling Chan. This is right along the border of the neighboring province called Nonthaburi. Not only is it super authentic, with loads of great food, but it is also quicker to get to!
For a full review of this market with directions by public transport, I highly recommend reading my article on the Khlong Lat Mayom Floating Market. I’ve also detailed a really great canal boat ride too.
4. Damnoen Saduak Floating Market
I’m including the Damnoen Saduak Floating Market because so many people want to know about it. However, I’d like to note that it is not actually in Bangkok but near Bangkok. It takes about 1.5 hours to reach this market by minivan in the nearby province of Ratchaburi. This market is open in the mornings and has some really busy canals with lots of small stalls on the water. If you are planning a trip here, then you should also read my article on these top attractions near Bangkok as you will find a few other nearby attractions like Amphawa Floating Market and the Maeklong Railway Market.
Street Food in Bangkok
The best food in Bangkok is street food. There’s so much of it around that you’d be crazy not to try it. Sure, there’s the thought of getting sick, but hygiene in Bangkok is actually a lot better than many other places around Southeast Asia.
5. Chinatown (Yarowat)
One of the most popular street food areas is Chinatown (locally known as Yarowat). There are hundreds of street food vendors lining the streets all night. You will find lots of traditional Thai dishes, but also lots of Chinese-Thai cuisine which is quite a different experience. The street food scene in Chinatown starts to live up in the late afternoon and carries on until around midnight.
6. Inner Suburbs
There isn’t much street food available in the city center anymore after the 2014 government crackdown, it really changed quite a lot of the city. However, you will still find small pockets of street food throughout the inner suburbs like Phrakonong, Onnut, and Victory Monument.
Here are a few great spots to visi (1) the small alleyway in Phrakanong called Pridi Banomyong Soi 3 (2) W-District also in Phrakanong, and (3) the side streets in Victory Monument near the BTS Station.
Some of my favorite street food dishes are somtam (papaya salad), pork larb (spicy minced pork), and pad thai. However, there are hundreds if not thousands more street food dishes to taste in Bangkok.
Rooftop Bars in Bangkok
Sunset from a level 50 rooftop bar with a half-price cocktail in hand. What more could you want? If this is your idea of a holiday in Bangkok, then I have your next destination covered.
Visiting up a rooftop bar in the early afternoon is one of my favorite things to do in Bangkok, as long as it’s not raining.
There are a few very popular rooftop bars around Bangkok such as Banyan Tree in Sala Daeng, Cielo in Phrakanong, or Long Table in Asoke. However, there are also some more local secrets with better drinks specials which I’ll get into next.
7. Octave Rooftop Bar
Octave is located on the top three levels (45, 46, 47th floors) of the Mariott Hotel on Sukhumvit Road 57. With its mainly expat crowd, it’s a little bit classy, but not richly pretentious. One of my favorite things about Octave is the 2-for-1 happy hour for cocktails. For drinks which are already reasonably priced, it can’t get much better than this! Oh, and did I mention the view from the rooftop at sunset is epic?
8. Above Eleven
For more of a party vibe than Octave, you might like to visit Above Eleven located on the top floors of Fraser Suites in Nana on Sukhumvit 11. Again, there is a lively crowd of both expats and local Thais. The first level of the rooftop bar has a lounge vibe with tables and chairs overlooking the city. There is a secret-ish upper level with a dancefloor that kicks on late into the night. And for the guys only, Above Eleven has toilets with the best view in all of Bangkok too!
Other Things to do in Bangkok
9. Explore a Fresh Market
Fresh markets are also commonly known as wet markets. They are a hive of authentic, non-touristy, activity. Fresh markets are a place where locals come to buy fresh meat, fish, fruit, spices, etc. It is essentially a decentralized supermarket, owned by locals, used by locals.
The best time to visit a fresh market is early in the morning. There will be lots of people buying their goods, and the food court will be busy, smashing out fresh plates of tasty Thai foods. It’s one of the cheapest places to eat in Bangkok, with a typical rice dish costing 40 to 50 THB (USD 1.50).
Here’s a short video I made in my local fresh market in Onnut. It’ll give you an idea of what to expect.
10. Visit an Island
I bet you had no idea there were islands in Bangkok. These islands obviously aren’t like the ones you will find in the south of Thailand with nice beaches and clear water. Bangkok’s islands are located in the Chao Praya River with little villages on them.
Bang Krachao (also known as the Lung of Bangkok) is located right in the middle of the city. There is a small floating market, lots of small farms, and a huge wetland park on the island. My detailed guide on Bang Krachao gives more details on how to get there.
Koh Kret is actually located just north of Bangkok, it takes about 45 minutes to get here. The island has a historic pottery village, where the locals still handcraft goods today. There is also great little microbrewery on the island. Check out my detailed guide on Koh Kret here.
11. Discover the Street Art Trail
There is a district in Bangkok with lots of amazing street art, most people just don’t know about it. The large wall murals are down a series of small alleyways tucked in between the Chao Praya River and Charoen Krung Road.
The best way of exploring is on foot. Walk from Saphan Taksin BTS Station up along Charoen Krung Road. Some specific alleys with street art include; Charoen Krung Soi 28, 30, and 32.
12. Relax in a Park
Bangkok is a huge and hectic city, so it is nice to slow down sometimes and just kick back in a park under a tree. Once you lay back on the grass between the trees you can completely forget about the madness of the city outside. There are some huge parks in Bangkok, so you can really escape the chaotic traffic and crowds of people.
Chatujak Park is probably the easiest to visit, it is walking distance from the Chatujak weekend market. Hire a bicycle here for just 50 THB and cycle a few laps around the park. There is an interesting butterfly arboretum worth visiting too.
Sri Nakhon Khuean Khan Park is by far the best in Bangkok. This huge wetland park is located on Bang Krachao island. When you enter, it feels like you are stepping into another world. You’ll just have to visit to experience it.
13. Ride a Tuk-Tuk Around Town
The “Tuk Tuk Mafia” as they are locally known. Sure, the fares are hugely variable, and quite often overpriced for tourists, but have you really experienced Bangkok without riding in the back of a tuk-tuk?
There is something so fascinating about hopping in a tuk-tuk in Bangkok’s Old Quarter. You get to see so much more of the surrounding area than if in a taxi. I suggest taking a tuk-tuk out of the peak hours, as traffic jams make for a hot and sticky ride. Expect to pay about 100 THB for a 2-kilometer tuk-tuk ride.
14. Get a Foot Massage
There are so many massage shops all around Bangkok to get you completely mellowed out. After one hour, your feet will feel like they are walking on clouds.
You could be a complete tourist and get a massage on Khao Sarn Road, but there is much better value around. For the best foot massage, head over to Onnut BTS Station. Take a short walk to Sukhumvit Soi 77/1 where you will find Takrai Hom (English translation means lemongrass). A one-hour foot massage is just 200 THB. For the best results, put your phone away and forget about the outside world.
15. Party at a Night Market
The vibe at a night market is so different than the weekend or floating markets. Night markets have lots of small food stores, some clothes shopping, and a large section of bars with live music. It’s really the best place to party like a local in Bangkok.
There are three major night markets in Bangkok worth visiting. Rot Fai Srinakarin is the largest with the most local vibe. Rot Fai Ratchada is easier to reach being right next to the MRT station. Chatujak JJ Market has the most foreigners as it is close to the popular weekend market.
Got any questions on what to do in Bangkok? Ask me in the comments section below and I will give you my personal tips.