Over the past few decades, Bangkok has blossomed into one of Asia’s premier cosmopolitan destinations. The expansive Thai capital has it all - world-class shopping and nightlife, exotic cuisine and a rich history and culture. In order to see all of Bangkok’s best sights, be prepared to hop on the city’s modern transit system. Air-conditioned, fast and affordable, the combined skytrain (BTS) and subway (MRT) systems service a majority of metropolitan Bangkok. For many of the city’s older cultural sights, taking a trip on an iconic tuk-tuk is the best and most authentic way to go. Here are the best things to see in Bangkok:
1 The Grand Palace
The Grand Palace is Bangkok’s crown jewel. Sitting along the banks of the Chao Phraya River, the entire palace complex spans over 2 million square feet. Construction of the palace began in the late 1700s and has remained intact over the centuries. The complex shows off distinctive architectural features native to the Thai culture as well as incredible murals and statues from local folklore. In the center of the palace is Wat Phra Kaew, known in English as the Temple of the Emerald Buddha. Steeped in history, the temple contains a green Buddha sculpture which dates back several centuries.
When visiting the Grand Palace, keep in mind that long trousers and sleeves are required. The easiest way to get to the palace is either by river taxi or by tuk-tuk.
2 Chatuchak Weekend Market and or Tor Kor Market
Bangkok’s largest weekend market is popular with both tourists and locals. Located on the outskirts of metropolitan Bangkok along the Mo Chit BTS or Kamphaeng Phet MRT stop, the expansive market is the perfect place to pick up souvenirs for friends and family. Visitors will also find great traditional Thai street food, handmade textiles, pottery, wood carving and more. Fully open on weekends only, visitors can easily spend a day at Chatuchak browsing through the hundreds of stalls and shops.
Adjacent to Chatuchak is the Or Tor Kor Market, which features some of Thailand’s freshest and most exotic produce and food. A culinary experience all in itself Or Tor Kor has been featured numerous times on television due to its low-priced, high-quality authentic Thai food.
3 Baiyoke II Tower
Thailand’s tallest building stands 304 meters above the ground. Open to the public, visitors can stop by the 77th-floor observation deck to witness unparalleled views of Bangkok. There is also an 83rd-floor bar and restaurant in addition to a 360-degree revolving deck on the 84th floor.
4 Siam Paragon and Siam Ocean World
The Siam Paragon is a luxury shopping mall located right in the heart of Bangkok. Featuring the best brands from Europe and the Americas, it’s a shopper’s paradise. When purchasing anything at a shopping facility in Bangkok, make sure to collect and save the receipt. Tourists can reclaim VAT expenses and the airport.
The mall is divided into a food court, cinema, shopping facilities and Siam Ocean World on the basement level. Siam Ocean World is the largest aquarium in Southeast Asia and is a great place to take children. Catering to English-speaking tourists, visitors can take behind-the-scenes tours of the aquarium and take boat rides within the exhibits.
5 Wat Arun
Perhaps Thailand’s most revered Buddhist temple, The Temple of Dawn is located on the west bank of the Chao Phraya River. The temple has been in existence since Ayutthaya stood as the kingdom’s capital and held the Emerald Buddha before the Grand Palace was completed. Visitors can enter the temple after paying a modest 50 baht entrance fee. Inside, the Wat mixes 17th and 18th-century Thai architecture with ornately adorned interiors and murals.
Thailand and Bangkok in particular features a thriving Chinese community, which has been present in the region since the 1700s. Bangkok’s Chinatown dates back to this time and is still a busy and vital neighborhood to this day. Featuring a complex network of side streets and alleys, it’s naturally the best place to sample Chinese food, which numerous Chinese restaurants open late into the night.
7 Khao San Road
This infamous stretch of road near central Bangkok is popular with backpackers due to the high density of hostels and low-cost hotel accommodation. During the day there is a small Wat, market and a few other attractions available to visit, but at night the neighborhood comes alive. For those seeking the ultimate Bangkok nightlife experience, Khao San Road is a must-visit spot.