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Bangkok City Guide, Tours & Things to Do, Thailand

Only got a couple of days to get to know a new city? Our Big Five City Guides can help. We break each destination down into culture, history, dining, shopping and relaxation must-sees and dos.
10 Nov, 2022
Bangkok city guide
Bangkok city guide: Grand Palace

After a tumultuous few years politically, the death of a much-loved monarch, and the pandemic, Bangkok is back!

The Thai capital has long been popular with Australian travellers, and that looks set to continue as travel confidence returns. Foodies, fashionistas, history buffs, and culture vultures are all well catered for in this sprawling metropolis of just over ten million people.

This Bangkok city guide is packed with ideas for things to see and do. Enjoy your visit.

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Thailand Tours, Activities & Attractions

Bangkok for history lovers

Bangkok’s early history as a trading port is inextricably tied to the course of the Chao Phraya River.

The river functioned as the gateway to the city for centuries, and many of Bangkok’s most historic landmarks (including the Grand Palace) and oldest neighbourhoods can be found along the banks of this winding waterway. Book a dinner cruise and watch the reflected light from glittering temples and monuments dance on the surface of the water. Most cruises include a buffet of traditional dishes, and live entertainment.

The city has a mind-blowing array of Buddhist temples and historical monuments to explore. Must-sees include Wat Pho (which houses the Temple of the Reclining Buddha), the Grand Palace’s Wat Phra Kaew (the Temple of the Emerald Buddha), and gorgeous Wat Arun (Temple of the Dawn).

Bangkok city guide
Bangkok city guide: Wat Pho. Image: Pixabay

The fabulously ornate Grand Palace is the city’s top tourist attraction. Construction of the palace began in the late 1700s and was completed a century later. While the royal family hasn’t resided here for several decades, the complex is a fascinating showcase of Thai royal history. It’s open daily.

Top cultural activities in Bangkok

Bangkok is a city of many distinct cultural enclaves.

Head out and explore utilising the MRT (Bangkok Metro) and BTS Sky Train. The bus boats that traverse the city’s khlongs (canals) are also a great (and very local) way to travel.

Key areas to check out include the Old City around the Grand Palace (including famous Khao San Road); the historic riverfront; Ratchaprasong, Siam and Sukhumvit — the central shopping destination of choice for many visitors (and home to top hotels, restaurants and mega shopping malls); financial hub Silom — also home to the Patpong Night Market and some of the city’s most colourful nightlife; and Chinatown — with its jumbled landscape of neon signs, bustling streets, eclectic eateries and traditional shops.

Bangkok city guide
Bangkok city guide: Lumpini Park

A stroll through Lumphini Park in the city’s south-east reveals another very local slice of Bangkok life. It’s a leafy escape from the relentless traffic.

Bangkok offers so many amazing and inexpensive ways to connect with Thai history and culture with the help of a local guide. Consider activities like a cooking class, a traditional dance class, or even a Thai kickboxing lesson!

Great places to eat in Bangkok

There’s certainly no shortage of amazing culinary experiences on offer in Bangkok.

The choice of places to eat is vast, but here are a couple of tried and tested recommendations. If you’re looking for a special spot to celebrate — the Marriott Sukhumvit’s Octave Rooftop Lounge and District Grill Room and Bar may fit the bill. Start with a cocktail or two up on the rooftop. The building is far enough down Sukhumvit Road to give you a great view back towards the city centre. Head downstairs for a sumptuous steak or seafood dinner, served in an edgy, contemporary setting.

Bangkok city guide
Bangkok city guide: Marriott Sukhumvit Octave Rooftop Lounge

For something a bit more boutique, book a table at the wonderful Issaya Siamese Club in Thung Maha Mek. It offers an innovative menu, served with great aplomb in a beautifully restored 19th century villa. Request a downstairs table.

Bangkok city guide
Image: Issaya Siamese Club

Where to shop in Bangkok

Bangkok has transformed shopping into an art form.

However, it’s generally fairly pricey to shop for authentic designer labels. While you may not want to blow your entire holiday budget at Prada or Versace, a visit to the high-end Central Embassy ‘lifestyle mall’ still comes highly recommended — if only for the people watching opportunities. The mall itself is very snazzy. It’s like wandering around inside a giant spacecraft. Head up to level five for a bite to eat or a restorative latte.

Bangkok city guide
Bangkok city guide: Shop up a storm at the Chatuchak Weekend Market.

At the opposite end of the retail scale, it’s well worth heading out to the heaving Chatuchak Weekend Market in the city’s north. Eight thousand stalls offer everything from souvenirs and second-hand fashion to homewares, antiques and original artworks. When you first arrive the market will seem completely overwhelming, but it’s actually fairly easy to navigate. There’s one main central circuit, with branches that lead off to a network of lanes and alleys. There are maps available that outline where to find what.

For a local take on doing the weekly shop, book a day trip to the famous Damnoen Saduak floating markets — located 1.5 hours’ drive west of the city.

Bangkok city guide
Bangkok city guide: Damnoen Saduak floating markets. Image: Bigstock

Ways to relax in Bangkok

Sore feet are a part of life for visitors to the Thai capital.

For some respite, head for the Renaissance Hotel Bangkok’s tranquil Quan Spa in the heart of the Ratchaprasong shopping and dining district. It’s the perfect place to rest, revive and rejuvenate. Quan means to be caressed by water and the spa offers an indoor pool to do just that, along with a myriad of soothing treatments.

While you’re trekking around Bangkok’s temples, take some time out at Wat Pho to visit the Wat Pho Thai Traditional Massage School. The school opened back in 1955. It’s possible to enrol in a Thai massage course yourself, or simply enjoy a great value massage from one of the students.

Bangkok city guide
Bangkok city guide: Book a massage at Wat Pho’s massage school. Image: Bigstock

Where to stay in Bangkok

Intercontinental Bangkok

The fabulous Intercontinental Hotel in Ratchaprasong is the perfect location for leisure or business travellers. The guest rooms are contemporary in style and beautifully finished. Check out the pillow menu available in all rooms, which includes an Igusa pillow stuffed with Igusa grass from Japan.

Bangkok city guide
Image: Intercontinental Bangkok
Mandarin Oriental Bangkok

There are few hotels these days like the Mandarin Oriental Bangkok. For almost 140 years, this riverside property has hosted the who’s who of visitors to the city, including royalty and rock stars. The guest rooms are magnificent, with plush furnishings, a sitting area, well-appointed executive desk and a luxurious marble bathroom. There are lots of small details that make the experience even more impressive, including the embossed notepaper and complimentary boxed body lotion from the hotel spa.

Bangkok city guide
Image: Mandarin Oriental Bangkok
St Regis Bangkok

One could very easily get used to life at the St Regis Bangkok. Located on Rajadamri Road in the heart of the central business district, the St Regis offers chic surroundings and an elegant sophistication. It’s all based on the traditions established in the early 1900s by the Astor family at the famous St Regis New York.

Bangkok city guide
Image: St Regis Bangkok

The butler service is a time-honored tradition at St Regis properties the world over. The concept was introduced by John Jacob Astor IV, who sought to redefine the concept of hotel service at the St Regis New York. Every guest room has access to the 24-hour butler service, which includes complimentary pressing of two items per day.

Two traditions that you shouldn’t miss during your stay are the Siam Mary and the champagne sabring. It’s said that the Bloody Mary was invented at the King Cole Bar at the St Regis New York, and today every St Regis Hotel serves up their own take on perhaps the world’s most famous cocktail. The St Regis Bangkok’s Siam Mary is a pretty fiery concoction, so be warned.

Bangkok city guide
Image: St Regis Bangkok

Finally, watch out for flying champagne corks at sunset. The St Regis Bangkok has revived the art of champagne sabring (another fine tradition originally established by the St Regis New York), which happens each night in the bar as the sun goes down.

For more inspiration, visit

Browse our range of Bangkok tours and experiences here.

Do you have any tips to add to our Bangkok city guide? We would love to hear from you. Please leave a comment below.

Additional images: Bigstock

Adam Ford

About the writer

Adam Ford is editor of Top Oz Tours and Travel Ideas, and a travel TV presenter, writer, blogger, and photographer. He has travelled extensively through Europe, Asia, North America, Africa, and the Middle East. Adam worked as a travel consultant for a number of years with Flight Centre before taking up the opportunity to travel the world himself as host of the TV series Tour the World on Network Ten. He loves to experience everything a new destination has to offer and is equally at home in a five-star Palazzo in Pisa or a home-stay in Hanoi.





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