Best Things To Do In Bangkok, Thailand: Bangkok, Southeast Asia has many attractions that are ideal day trips, providing a break from the hectic pace of city life.
It also attractions that will give you a more varied taste of this fascinating part of the country. Here are some of the best things to do in Bangkok:
- 1 Best Things To Do In Bangkok
- 2 Best Temples To Visit In Bangkok
- 3 Best Parks To Visit In Bangkok
Best Things To Do In Bangkok
The Grand Palace and Wat Phra Kaew
The Grand Palace Complex in Bangkok is definitely the foremost tourist attraction in the city and no stay here would be complete without a visit to this city’s most impressive architectural attraction.
The palace sits on the banks of the Chao Phraya River, and the highlight of the tour is the chance to see the temple of the Chao Phraya River the Emerald Buddha.
Other attractions within the temple complex include the central Throne Hall and a room on the second floor which is a shrine for the ashes of previous Kings of Thailand.
The Grand Palace itself is a walled complex of several palaces, all of which are highly decorated with colorful tiles and ceramics.
The temple has been a symbol of the Thai Royal Family, though the family does not reside there, and just uses the palace for ceremonial occasions.
You can get to the Palace by Skytrain to Taksin Station then a Chao Phraya River Express Boat to Tha Chang Want Luang Pier, from which is just a short walk to the palace.
There is a strict dress code for visitors to the Grand Palace – prohibited items of clothing including shorts, short skirts, tight trousers, see-through or sleeveless tops, or flip flops/sandals without ankle/heel straps.
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Vimanmek Palace, a stunning example of 19th-century Thai architecture, is the largest construction in the world made entirely from golden teak.
Located close to the residence of the current royal family, it is set amongst carefully manicured lawns and contains 81 rooms, 31 of which are full of exhibits and are open to the public.
Visitors are not allowed to wander freely through the palace but instead must join a guided tour, which is available every half hour.
The main highlights of the palace include exhibits such as the oldest typewriter in the world with Thai characters and the first indoor bathroom in the country!
The dress code is as at the Grand Palace, and if you have purchased a ticket to the Grand Palace, this will also be valid at the Vimanmek Palace on the same day.
Chao Phraya River
It is not often that a river forms one of the main tourist attractions of a city but in the case of Bangkok an exception can be made.
The Chao Phraya River bisects Bangkok and is the lifeblood of the city, providing a home and livelihood for many of its inhabitants, as well as being the most important river in the country.
Gain some of the best views of the city from the river on board a cruise – numerous tourist vessels are ploughing up and downstream with popular stops being the Grand Palace Network and the Temple of Dawn.
Numerous restaurant boats offer moonlight cruises including dinner – a very popular tourist excursion.
For something a bit different, cruise up the river on board a converted rice barge to the ancient capital of Ayutthaya.
Not for nothing is Bangkok called the “Venice of the East” and the Chao Phraya River has an extensive network of canals – explore these by traditional long-tailed boats and see the local floating markets.
Travelling further out of the city, you pass through tranquil rural areas, where villagers cultivate vegetables, fruit, and flowers, particularly orchids, that are then sent to market in the city.
Alongside the canals are temples, with their resident saffron-robed monks, as well as Thai women in boats selling drinks and snacks to passing tourist boats.
A perennial favourite with visitors to Bangkok is a trip to the floating markets, one of the favourite markets in the world.
Take a long-tailed boat along the narrow canals of the Chao Phraya River and see the local merchants selling their wares from their laden canoes – fruit and vegetable, flowers and sweets, as well as tourist ware is on sale.
The markets within the city are worth a look but for an even more colourful and authentic floating market experience take a trip out to the Damnoen Saduak Floating market. Chatuchak weekend market is another favourite for visitors.
You can travel from Bangkok to the market by bus but it is easier to join an organized tour.
Jim Thompson’s House
Jim Thompson is synonymous with Thailand and Bangkok in particular – he was an American who moved to Bangkok after the Second World War and made his home in the city.
He was an avid collector of Thai arts and crafts and Asian art in general, and he was responsible for the revival of the silk industry in Thailand after the war.
Much admired by the Thai people for what he had done to one of their traditional industries, Jim Thompson was rewarded for his work with the royal award of The Order of the White Elephant.
His home in Bangkok is a fantastically well-preserved traditional Thai style teak house, similar in style to the Vimanmet Teak Mansion.
It houses a wonderful display of South East Asian art, as well as being an excellent example of Thai architecture in itself.
The hose is located on the Mahanak Canal, across the river from Ban Khrua village where Jim Thompson’s silk weavers lived and worked.
To get to the house, take the Skytrain to National Stadium Station, or there are also numerous buses. You can only visit the house on a guided tour, and these depart regularly throughout the day.
The National Museum
The National Museum in Bangkok is home to a massive collection of Asian artefacts dating all the way back to the Neolithic period.
Artefacts include examples of secular and religious art, pre-historic finds such as Neolithic tools and bronze objects. Also on display in the teak pavilion are the belongings of the Thai royal family.
Quite apart from the exhibits, the Museum is worth a visit from the point of view of the architecture of the building – build in traditional Thai style, it is a fascinating construction.
The museum is on the other side of Sanam Luang from the Royal Palace, and the best way is to take the Skytrain to Taksin Station and then board a Chao Phraya River Express boat to the Tha Prachan Pier.
Royal Barge National Museum
On the Thonburi side of the Chao Phraya River is the Royal Barge National Museum, which houses preserved royal barges, no longer used by the royal family due to their age.
There are eight long narrowboats on display, though the full fleet numbers 52 vessels in total, and each is ornately decorated with gilt and is quite amazing in size – each boat would need around 60 rowers.
There is a carved figure on the bow of each boat and this signifies which member of the royal family would have been carried in the boat. The most important is the Suphanahong, built-in 1911 and 46m long which was used exclusively by the King of Thailand.
To get to the museum, take the Chao Phraya Ferry across the river to Bangkok Noi Train Station Pier.
Traditional Thai Houses
There are a few other examples of traditional Thai architecture to be found in the city, and a couple of the best examples are Ban Kham Thieng and the Suan Pakkad Palace Museum.
Unlike some of the fancier examples of traditional Thai homes, this was home to a worker and showcases the simplicity of the rural lifestyle in the north of the country in the 19th Century.
Displays inside the house include traditional tools used by northern farmers and by rice field fishermen. The latter example is an altogether grander affair – it was formerly the home of Princess Chumphot, who was an avid collector of Thai art.
The palace museum comprises several traditional wooden houses which were brought to Bangkok from a variety of towns and villages around the country, and they are all set within one of the most picturesque gardens in Bangkok.
Siam Ocean World
One of Bangkok’s attractions, Siam Ocean World is the biggest aquarium in South East Asia and is located near Siam Station in downtown Bangkok..
It is home to more than 30,000 marine creatures, including sharks and penguins, and has a 360-degree panoramic oceanarium.
Dusit Zoo, in the Dusit district of the city, is home to over 3000 creatures and is one of Bangkok’s most popular wildlife attractions.
Highlights include the children’s zoo, the reptile and amphibians centre, and an amusement park.
Just 47 miles north of Bangkok lies one of the city’s predecessors as the capital of Thailand, Ayuthaya, which was the capital of the ancient kingdom of Siam for 400 years until it was destroyed in 1767.
Here you can see some spectacular temples, some of which are still intact, some are ruins. This is a truly stunning place and was made a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.
The best way of getting to Ayuthaya is by boat, though there are also buses and trains making the journey, as you get to witness life on the water en route.
Ko Kret, a tiny island community, whose proximity to the city is barely evident – there are no roads at all on the island and most of the islanders make their livelihood from pottery or working on the fruit and flower plantations.
From Bangkok, take the highway and then a ferry from Pak kret Pier. You can also take a weekend excursion to Ko Kret from Sathorn Pier on board the Chao Phraya Express Boat.
Best Temples To Visit In Bangkok
Bangkok is home to around 400 temples, and although the most famous and most visited have been mentioned above, there are plenty of others with individual characteristics which make them well worth a visit. Just a few are listed below:
There are numerous Buddhist temples to explore in Bangkok, but after the Temple of the Emerald Buddha, the most famous, most visited and perhaps the most interesting is Wat Pho, or the temple of the reclining Buddha.
The temple also has the honour of being both the oldest and the largest temple in the whole city and its main attraction is of course the 150ft long and 49ft high gold plated reclining Buddha, which is inlaid with mother of pearl.
Apart from this obvious attraction, the temple also is a centre for medical science, meditation, and traditional massage training.
If you are interested in learning more about traditional Thai medicine, or in receiving treatment, then visit the pavilion within the temple, where at the end of the day practitioners of various traditional treatments dispense herbal remedies.
For a nominal charge, you can also have a traditional Thai massage here. As with the Grand Palace, there is a strict dress code.
Wat Arun (The Temple of Dawn)
On the western shores of the Chao Phaya River lies the Wat Arun, or the Temple of Dawn, which is a 17th-century temple with a 79m high tower, decorated with colourful ceramic tiles.
The tower is best viewed from a distance, ideally from the river, to gain a view of the colours to best effect.
The Emerald Buddha was originally housed here before it was moved to the Wat Phra Kaeo at the Grand Palace in 1785. The temple is lit up by a spectacular sound at the light show each evening between October and May.
Known in English as the Marble Temple, Wat Benchamabophit was constructed during the reign of King Rama V and is architecturally stunning.
Clad in Carrara marble, the temple is ornately decorated inside with lacquer and gold, and in the courtyard, there is an impressive collection of bronze images of Buddha.
It is best to visit this temple early in the morning when local people offer alms to the resident monks, who do not venture out of the temple confines. At sunset also, the main doors of the temple are bathed in light, which is a beautiful sight.
Wat Suthat Thep Wararam
Located right in the centre of old Bangkok on Rattanakosin Island, this temple was commissioned by the founder of the city, King Rama I, in 1807.
It is also here that you can see the Giant Swing, and proclaimed a national historic site in 1949, which is one of the iconic symbols of the city.
Here, up until the 1930s, an annual Brahmin religious ceremony was held to pay homage to Shiva but was then discontinued due to the high fatality rate.
This Wat Traimit temple, close to Bangkok Railway Station, houses the famous Golden Buddha, the 3m high buddha statue which is made of over five tonnes of gold.
The statue was moved from its original location in the 1930s at which point it was covered in plaster and no one knew that it was in fact made of solid 18-carat gold.
Best Parks To Visit In Bangkok
Originally an open field in the centre of the city belonging to the royal family, King Rama VI donated it to the people of Bangkok in 1927 making it the first public park in the country, named after the birthplace of Buddha.
Covering 58 hectares, this park is an oasis in the centre of the city, and has plenty of attractions – there are two lakes, a library, lush green lawns, and it is also a popular place for jogging or a spot of tai chi.
During December and January, the park also plays host to free concerts. The park is open daily from 5am till 8pm and is best accessed by Skytrain to Saladaeng Station followed by the subway to Lumphini Station.
Khao Yai National Park
For a breath of fresh air, leave the city behind you and head for the Khao Yai National park, the oldest, one of the best parks to visit in Bangkok, and the most protected nature reserve in all of Thailand.
Made up of over 1300 square miles of jungle, grassland, and protected forest, the national park is home to a wide variety of flora and fauna, including wild elephants, gibbons, and birds.
There are numerous walking trails making this the ideal getaway, providing a refreshing break from the city, yet within easy distance for a day trip.
King Rama IX Park
This 200-acre park is one of Thailand’s most significant botanical gardens and is divided into six zones
- the first is the Garden of the Great King, symbolizing the majesty of the King;
- the second is a botanical garden, which specializes in research;
- the third is a reservoir, which symbolizes the efforts made by the King to improve Bangkok’s flooding problems;
- the fourth area is an open garden featuring miniature replicas of Thailand’s landscape;
- the fifth is an open field which is used for festivals and other entertainment; and
- the sixth and final zone is an area of wetlands and jungle that is home to fish and waterbirds.
There are also several other miniature international gardens.
Queen Sirikit Park
This 80-acre site near Chatuchak Weekend Market incorporates a botanic garden, the Children Discovery Museum, a flower garden, and a forest park.
Close to the Grand Palace, this park was previously the royal garden of the palace of the same name.
There is a marble monument in the garden which is dedicated to the Queen and Prince who died in a boating accident during the reign of King Rama V.
This is a park with a difference – set in the grounds of the former prison near Wat Suthat
The park features the Corrections Museum which showcases various instruments of punishment, as well as charting the history of punishment in Thailand.
Rose Garden Cultural Centre
Just 20 miles southwest of Bangkok and a popular half-day excursion from the city lies the Rose Garden Cultural Centre, which incorporates a typical Thai village
It has some beautifully landscaped gardens and various displays of Thai cultural activities including dancing, sword fighting, elephants at work, and Thai boxing.