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Opposed to the bright lights, fast pace and noise of some Asian megacities, Bangkok’s more relaxed tone, easily navigable public transport and keen-to-please residents make a gentler introduction into Southeast Asian life. Originally marking the map as a key trading post of the 15th-century Ayutthaya Kingdom, Bangkok is still very much a commercial hub. You can flit between world-class boutiques and local markets before browsing the stalls that line the streets. Spiking up between the malls and tower blocks are the gilded chedi (bell-shaped relic chambers) of the Buddhist temples and wats that provide places of solace throughout the city.

No matter how many times I visit Bangkok, there’s always something new to discover whether it’s finding a hidden temple down a side street or happening upon a new street-food delicacy.

Thailand specialist William

Things to see and do in Bangkok

Get an introduction to Thai food

As your likely first stop in Thailand, Bangkok is an ideal place to get acquainted with Thai food and gain the confidence to experiment throughout the rest of your trip. On a street food tour a local guide will take you to Bang Rak, one of Bangkok’s busiest districts. Diving first into a busy market, you’ll be able to smell some of the local spices and take a look at some of the exotically shaped fruits.

A Bangkok resident, your guide will take you to chosen haunts, ranging from street-side stalls to unassuming local restaurants, to sample local food highlights. Crispy prachak pet yang (roast duck) is a local speciality: stall holders keep their perfected recipes a closely guarded secret. Jao long luk (fishball noodles) are made fresh each morning from locally caught halibut. Dessert is likely to be fresh mango and sticky rice, available on almost every corner.

Take a city safari

Reclining Buddha, Wat PhoA city split into 50 districts, intersected by the Chao Phraya River, Bangkok is too vast to explore simply by foot. Accompanied by a local guide, you can cross the city using a range of public transport, taking in some of the key sites along the way. Starting off on the sky train helps you get your bearings and provides views across the city.

You’ll also join local transport users on a public taxi boat to visit the royal temple Wat Pho, which houses the Reclining Buddha and the ashes of King Rama I. A short walk away is the gilded Grand Palace, a conglomeration of temples, courtyards and gardens. By means of a tuk-tuk you dive into the backstreets to reach Soi Ban Batra, an enclave for artisans who handcraft alms bowls, used by monks to beg for donations.

Cruise through Bangkok’s hidden klongs on a private tour

Central Bangkok is a blur of motorbikes, tuk-tuks and taxis darting between the high-rise flats and offices. Across the west side of the river you’ll find a different pace of life. Stepping into a private longtail boat, you’ll sail through an intricate network of canals, known locally as klongs. Once known as the ‘Venice of the East’ by European traders, these waterways were the main means of transporting goods across the city.

The klongs are still very much in use, and you’ll pass heavily laden barges carrying fresh produce and building materials up and down the river. When Bangkok was a small trading town, its inhabitants built their houses on stilts attached to the banks of the klongs, some of which still stand. Cruising along the Klong Luang Canal, you see how it was cut around the 16th-century Wat Arun, a royal temple containing thousands of Buddha statues donated by pilgrims.

Cycle through Bangkok’s jungle

Flying into Bangkok, as you look down on the city you’ll see a lung-shaped patch of jungle formed by an oxbow in the Chao Phraya River. This is Bang Kra Jao, known by local inhabitants as Bangkok’s ‘green lung’. An oasis of mangroves, forest and waterways, it’s a stark contrast to the surrounding chequerboard of residential and financial districts. Hop on a local ferry from central Bangkok and you can explore the maze of boardwalks and riverside paths on a bicycle tour with a local guide.

Bang Kra Jao was originally settled by Mon refugees, a Burmese ethnic group fleeing persecution in the early 19th century. Their descendants still live here in stilted houses set among the mangroves: a local planning law protects any further building. As you cycle past banana and coconut trees, it’s worth stopping at one of the local temples. Crafted in miniature compared with their inner-city counterparts, they’re still flawlessly painted and topped with an intricately gilded pagoda.

Taste Thai home cooking

From her Bangkok kitchen, Angsana Anderson teaches Thai cooking using recipes from her family cookbook, which is added to by each generation. Joining Angsana for a morning, you can enjoy some home-cooked Thai food and see how dishes are created in homes across the country, as well as learning some new skills.

First visiting the market, you help to choose ingredients for your dishes. Under Angsana’s guidance, you then make a selection of main courses and sweet dishes (do mention if you have a particular dish in mind). You’ll pick up how to make a curry paste as well as the uses for unusual ingredients such as banana flowers and pomelos. Angsana’s wun maprao (coconut jelly made in a coconut shell) is an attractive-looking finale.

Explore Bangkok’s pastoral surroundings

One of the floating market's outside of BangkokDrive through Bangkok’s residential suburbs and industrial outskirts and you’ll quickly arrive in rural Thailand. With the help of a car and local driver, you can dip into Thailand’s more provincial way of life by visiting local markets and villages. After driving past fisheries and coconut plantations, you reach the Maeklong Railway Market, where fruit and vegetable stalls are neatly lined up alongside the train track. Every time a train approaches, vendors whip their stalls back to make way for the train before deftly moving them back into position.

Relaxing the pace, you can board a row boat to peruse the produce on offer at Tha Kha Floating Market. Locals paddle their longboats, piled high with fruits and vegetables, along the banks of the river. Some boats are fitted with tiny stoves to cook fresh omelets or noodles and, further down the river, you’ll find quieter pockets of traders selling straw bowls of grain and rice.

Experience Bangkok at night with a local resident

As darkness falls, Bangkok’s skyline lights up with neon signs, starkly lit night markets and exclusive hotel bars. Navigate the city with one of its inhabitants and you can discover some of its nocturnal highlights.

The evening begins in the Park Society Bar to watch the sunset from the outdoor mezzanine overlooking the city. From here it’s a short tuk-tuk ride to the business quarter of Silom.

In Silom, you immediately smell roast duck and wafts of lime and chili. Local vendors cook busily at their street-side stalls, preparing dishes of pad Thai and bowls of bamee moo daeng (noodles with barbecued pork) to appease the awaiting crowds. The nearby BTS sky train takes you to the Chao Phraya River to board a boat to finish the evening at the busy night market Asiatique.

Best time to visit Bangkok

It’s possible to visit Bangkok year round. There are three key seasons: December to March is cool with clear skies; April is hot and humid; May to November is the rainy season. December to March is the busiest time to travel, as the average temperature of 27°C (80°F) is at a comfortable level to explore the city. Don’t be put off from visiting in rainy season as showers are often brief and hotel prices are good value.

Temperature
Rainfall
Daylight

Festivals, events and seasonal reasons to visit

  • Bangkok’s Chinatown is decked in red lanterns and banners to welcome in the Chinese New Year. Usually falling in late January or February, it’s celebrated with dragon parades, firecrackers and street parties.
  • In mid-September, Bangkok hosts the International Festival of Dance & Music. This arts festival brings together some of Thailand’s top artists from genres as broad as opera and jazz, as well as performers from across the world.
  • Songkran, the Thai New Year, takes place from the 13th to 15th April each year. In temples across the city, scented water is poured over people to symbolize the washing away of sins and a new start for the coming year. As the festival takes place during Thailand’s hottest month, it tends to culminate in less spiritual, family-friendly public water-fights in the streets. Bring a water pistol and you’ll be welcomed to take part. 

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Audley Travel Specialist Alix

Start planning your tailor-made trip to Bangkok by contacting one of our Thailand specialists

Suggested itineraries featuring Bangkok

Our itineraries will give you suggestions for what is possible when you travel in Bangkok, and they showcase routes we know work particularly well. Treat them as inspiration, because your trip will be created uniquely by one of our specialists.

Map of Bangkok

Places & hotels on the map

    Places near Bangkok

    Our expert guides to exploring Bangkok

    Written by our specialists from their own experiences of visiting Bangkok, these guides will help you make the most of your time there. We share both our practical recommendations and the best ways to appreciate Bangkok at its best.

    • Detail of the Grand Palace, Bangkok

      Best of Bangkok: our what to do guide

      Thailand specialist, Charlotte highlights why Bangkok shouldn’t just be a transit destination. Spending three nights here will give you the opportunity to cook and taste Thai cuisine, experience its temples and markets, and weave through its canals on a Thai longtail boat.

    Accommodation choices for Bangkok

    We’ve selected a range of accommodation options for when you visit Bangkok. Our choices usually come recommended for their character, facilities and service or location. Our specialists always aim to suggest properties that match your preferences.

    • The Siam,Bangkok

      The Siam

      Deluxe

      Harking back to the decadence of the colonial era with Art Deco styling and museum-quality displays of Asian art and antiquities, The Siam is the kind of place where everything is designed with the greatest attention to detail.

    • Lebua, Bangkok

      Tower Club at Lebua

      First Class

      An all-suite hotel offering generously-sized rooms and some of the city's finest bars and restaurants, the Tower Club at lebua makes a very convenient city base. It's also a good option for families with two and three bedroom suites and an outdoor pool.

    • Grounds at the U Sathorn Hotel

      U Sathorn Bangkok

      First Class

      A resort-like setting in the heart of the city, French-colonial elegance and gourmet food make this small hotel a surprising find. With a tranquil location and generous pool, it makes a welcome retreat from the city chaos.

    • Ariyasom Villa, Bangkok

      Ariyasom Villa

      Medium

      Centrally located in Bangkok, Ariyasom Villa is set within charming tropical gardens and offers a quiet oasis in this lively city. Its location, along with its homely atmosphere, makes it the perfect place to relax after a long day spent exploring the city's vibrant streets and markets.

    • Pool at dusk, Riva Surya

      Riva Surya

      Medium

      Not far from Bangkok’s Khao San Road, the Riva Surya is a small boutique property with spacious rooms, contemporary design and a welcoming swimming pool on the banks of the Chao Phraya River.

    • Chatrium Hotel Riverside Bangkok, Bangkok

      Chatrium Hotel Riverside Bangkok

      First Class

      The Chatrium Riverside is an apartment-style hotel in an enviable position on the river front, with sweeping views over Bangkok and the Chao Phraya River.

    • Grande Centre Point Hotel,Bangkok

      Grande Centre Point Hotel

      Medium

      Comfortable rooms, wide ranging facilities and good value for money make this conveniently located hotel a good Bangkok base. Along with easy access to the city's major attractions you'll get a largo pool, spa and gym.

    • Junior Suite, AVANI Riverside Bangkok Hotel

      AVANI Riverside Bangkok Hotel

      First Class

      Set in a high-rise block and offering sweeping views of the river, the AVANI Riverside Bangkok Hotel offers good value for money. Along with a diverse choice of dining options it has a glorious rooftop infinity pool.

    • Eastern & Oriental Express, Singapore

      Eastern & Oriental Express

      Deluxe

      Recapturing the elegance and style of the Twenties and Thirties, the Eastern & Oriental Express is Asia's premier luxury train, traveling from Bangkok through the glorious, sweeping countryside of Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore.

    • Pool, Anantara Riverside Bangkok Resort

      Anantara Bangkok Riverside

      First Class

      One of Bangkok’s finest hotels where the facilities and service are second to none. Perfect for those who want to stay in central Bangkok but still enjoy a little peace and tranquility.

    • Pool, The Peninsula

      The Peninsula Hotel

      Deluxe

      The Peninsula hotels combine Eastern and Western hospitality to provide unmatched service and luxurious comfort.

    • Shangri La Hotel, Bangkok

      Shangri La Hotel

      Deluxe

      The Shangri La Hotel is a wonderful hotel in an excellent location with all the facilities you could ever ask for.

    • Siam Kempinski, Bangkok

      Siam Kempinski

      Deluxe

      A great option with stylish rooms and excellent facilities ideal for couples and families who want to be in the heart of the city close to some of the best shopping in Bangkok and the convenient sky-train system.

    • Spa at the Mandarin Oriental, Bangkok, Bangkok

      Mandarin Oriental

      Opulent

      Steeped in history, the Mandarin is a quiet, luxurious haven amidst the bustle and excitement of Bangkok. The river terrace is a perfect place for an evening meal.

    Ideas for experiencing Bangkok

    Our specialists seek out authentic ways to get to know the places that could feature in your trip. These activities reflect some of the experiences they've most enjoyed while visiting Bangkok, and which use the best local guides.

    • Bangkok, Thailand

      Street food walking tour of old Bangkok

      Bangkok

      You and your guide will walk through the narrow streets to experience many local sights with various food tastings along the way. Try things like ‘kafae boran’, a classic Thai coffee, or the popular Thai dessert, 'Khanom Thua Paep' (mung bean rice crepe).

    • Teak and porcelain can be seen throughout Jim Thompson's House in Bangkok

      The Silk Route of Jim Thompson

      Bangkok

      Jim Thompson's house is a real highlight of any trip to Bangkok. The house itself is beautifully decorated and preserved and provides a fascinating insight into the life of this mysterious man, who set up a huge empire trading in Thai silk before disappearing whilst walking in the Malaysian highlands in 1967.

    • Songkran ceremony for the Thai New Year

      Experience the Songkran Festival

      Bangkok

      The Songkran Festival celebrates the New Year. They are colorful and lively celebrations, with music, traditional dance and, of course, water, which symbolically cleanses the body from the sins of the previous year.

    • That Phanom Festival; Wat Phra That Phanom

      Witness chanting at Wat Pho

      Bangkok

      An early start will get you to Wat Pho in time to experience the monks early morning chanting ritual. Later you will visit the temple grounds and the famous 45 meter Reclining Buddha, and The Grand Palace, Thailand's most important landmark.

    • Bangkok, Thailand

      Wat Pho & The Grand Palace

      Bangkok

      An early start will get you to Wat Pho in time to experience the monks early morning chanting ritual and avoid the crowds who arrive later.

    • Getting off-the-beaten track in Bangkok is worlds away from the busy city

      Experience the secret garden of Bang Kra Jao by bicycle

      Bangkok

      Just across the Chao Praya River in Bangkok lies the city's secret garden — Bang Kra Jao. Only accessible by boat, you must cross the river on a small ferry to reach this beautiful area full of small villages, temples and tropical flora.