There are certain cities around the world that evoke a sense of place before you even set foot in them. Paris is the city of light (or love, depending on who you ask) and Venice’s canals and legendary piazzas have long inspired lovers and the literati over the years. Bangkok however is not one of those cities. With a population of around 12 million, Bangkok’s frenetic energy can be overwhelming to the most seasoned of travelers.
While the Thai capital is difficult to define in any exacting terms or catchphrases, it’s a place that is and always will be in the words of the late Anthony Bourdain, “a city that is never boring,” an ideal that travelers have fully embraced over the years. With no shortage of things to do, from one of the city’s best BBQ joints and beer pong bars to an early morning canal ride along the Chao Phraya river, here’s where to spend the ultimate long weekend in Bangkok.
Where to Stay
Bangkok’s reputation for being a late-night party destination juxtaposed with its glittering temples and centuries-old palaces have long attracted traveler’s eager to partake in a piece of the action. And while there’s no shortage of accommodations ranging from über luxe to budget-friendly, here’s a look at some of the city’s best haunts.
For Business or Pleasure
The Waldorf Astoria Bangkok, which opened this summer, perfectly embodies Bangkok’s spirit by blending modernity and tradition. It’s set along Ratchadamri Boulevard in the heart of Bangkok’s fashionable shopping district with direct access to the Bangkok Transit SkyTrain (BTS). The property boasts six bars and restaurants, as well as a beautiful rooftop pool, destination spa, and plenty of conference rooms and meeting spaces. This is the perfect spot for business jetsetter’s looking for a luxurious oasis right in the heart of downtown.
For Groups, Dining, and Partying
There’s no hotel more synonymous with Bangkok than Lebua at State Tower. Hovering 65-stories above the city, the property’s renowned golden dome made its worldwide debut back in 2011 in The Hangover II. Today, Lebua is home to some of the city’s most notable drinking and dining outposts including the outstanding two-Michelin-starred Mezzaluna, as well as the world’s highest open air champagne bar and whiskey lounge. The hotel, an all-suites property each with its own balcony, is perfect for large groups, friends, and foodies eager to get out and explore the city by day and imbibe with trendy Thai’s, expats, and tourists by night.
How to Get Around Bangkok
Accessible by tuk tuk, Grab (Thailand’s version of Uber), and SkyTrain (BTS), Bangkok has never been easier to navigate. Wherever you go, be prepared to sit in traffic during peak business hours Monday-Friday.
What to Do in Bangkok
Museums & Markets
Jim Thompson’s House
A traditional teak-and-Thai-style home turned museum, Jim Thompson’s House is filled with priceless antiques, pottery, and curiosities. (Fun fact: Jim Thompson, founder of the eponymous silk company, is credited with reviving the dying local silk trade in Thailand.) After touring the house, stop by the Jim Thompson Silk Shop to pick up some beautiful (albeit pricey) handwoven garments and souvenirs for sale.
Patpong Night Market
Set in the heart of Silom near one of Bangkok’s designated red light districts, Patpong Night Market has become one of the city’s best places to pick up everything from knock-off Louis Vuitton to t-shirts, handicrafts to street food.
Set in one of the city’s most fashionable neighborhoods, Siam Square is where young, fashion-forward Thais and tourists come to find the latest trends.
Put your haggling skills to use at Pratunam market, one of the largest open-air clothes, shoes, and street food markets in town.
The world’s largest Chinatown and one of the oldest neighborhood’s in Bangkok, Chinatown was first inhabited by Chinese traders in 1782. Today, a walk along the narrow alleys and back alleys of Chinatown feels like stepping back in time and witnessing a bit of Bangkok’s past and present collide.
Nang Loeng Market
One of the oldest markets in Bangkok (if not all of SE Asia). Foodies head to Nang Loeng for the variety of local Thai, Chinese, and SE Asian-inspired dishes.
Pak Klong Talat (Flower Market)
Easily Bangkok’s most colorful, if not most fragrant market, Pat Klong Talat is an effervescent collection of stalls selling flowers and fresh produce. Open 24 hours a day, this is a great place to see the rich variety of locally grown Thai produce while wandering through the maze of stalls.
Temples & Palaces
With an estimated 2,000 wats (temples) in Bangkok alone, here are a few of the best places to wat-hop around town. It’s important to note when touring any religious site in Thailand that covering your shoulders and legs (below the knees) is mandatory. While some wats will have clothing available for purchase, it’s always best to be prepared.
Grand Palace Complex
Wat Phra Kaeo or the Grand Palace complex is easily Bangkok’s most visited attraction. Home to Emerald Buddha and the former royal residence, you could spend hours exploring the grounds here. Just be sure to get here early to beat the crowds.
One of the oldest wats in Bangkok, Wat Pho is home to Bangkok’s famous reclining Buddha, measuring in at 150 feet long.
Wat Saket or Golden Mount is a beautiful Buddhist Temple that sits on top of the Golden Mountain (Phu Khao Thong) inside the Wat Saket complex. As the name suggests, you’ll need to climb some 300 steps to get to the top, so don’t forget your walking shoes.
Accessible by river boat, Wat Arun is named after the Indian god of dawn, and is ornately covered in pieces of Chinese porcelain and beautiful mosaics.
Canal Tour – Hop on a long tail boat and head down the Chao Phraya river along Bangkok’s back channels and canals. It’s one of the best ways to see how local Bangkokian’s live today. There are several tour operators available, however it’s highly recommended to go early in the morning to beat the heat (and the bugs).
Muay Thai Fight – Rajadamnern Boxing Stadium was the first Muay Thai stadium built in Thailand—back in 1945—and is one of the best places to see the world’s best championship fighters in action. (Lumpinee and Rajadamnern are the two other major stadiums.). If you’re interested in taking your boxing game to the next level, check out one of the city’s many Muay Thai gyms and studios around the city.
Baan Krua – Bangkok’s ‘Textile District’ dates back to the end of the 18th century. Baan Krua—a canal-side neighborhood known for its historical silk-weaving traditions—was established by Cham Muslims who emigrated from Cambodia and Vietnam. The community flourished in the mid-20th century with the silk trade boom and today the Baan Krua community continues to operate several family-run silk factories that are involved in every step of production, from dying to weaving, using old wooden looms.
Lumphini Park – Considered Bangkok’s version of “Central Park,” Lumphini Park is the city’s largest public green space. It’s a great place to take a stroll or ride a bike. If you’re in the neighborhood, don’t miss a chance to watch locals perform Tai Chi every morning around sunrise.
Where to Eat and Drink in Bangkok
Boasting a wide-range of international cuisines, Bangkok is easily one of the world’s best eating cities. From the world’s only Michelin starred street cart to a trip to the top of The Hangover Hotel for some fine dining, these are the spots you don’t want to miss on your next trip to Bangkok.
Mezzaluna: Set on the 65th floor at Tower Club at Lebua, Mezzaluna is a two-Michelin-starred restaurant that combines French and Japanese cuisine. This is easily Bangkok’s fanciest, most romantic date-night digs.
Supanniga Dinner Cruise: This 40-seat dinner cruise along the Chao Phraya River features a six-course tasting dinner of authentic Thai cuisine.
Err Bangkok: Run by husband and wife team Bo and Dylan, this local Thai spot is known for their passion fruit cocktails and traditional Thai dishes all served up in a casual setting. If you’re looking for something a bit more upscale, the couple also owns Bo Lan (a hybrid of both owner’s names), which is consistently rated one of the best upscale Thai spots in town.
The Never Ending Summer: Set on the campus of The Jam Factory—formerly abandoned warehouses in Bangkok’s creative district—The Never Ending Summer is one of the city’s most exciting spots to try modern Thai cuisine in a convivial atmosphere.
Issaya Siamese Club: Set in a luscious garden, this elegantly restored 100-year-old villa is a romantic Thai restaurant.
Jay Fai: This tiny street-side haunt may not look like much, but step inside Jay Fai and you’ll be met with what’s considered the city’s best wok fried crab omelet and tom yum soup in town. Diners beware though, word is out about this Michelin starred street food spot, so get ready to queue up and wait.
Gaggan: One of Asia’s hottest restaurants at the moment, Gaggan has been rated one of the top 50 restaurants in the world for the last four years in a row—and for good reason. Set in a colonial-style, double-story timber, the menu is a mix of “progressive Indian” dishes that’s a journey of the senses from start to finish.
Smokin Pug: Bangkok’s barbecue scene has come a long way over the years, and it doesn’t get much better than Smokin’ Pug. Set along Langsuan Road, adjacent to Bangkok’s Lumphini Park, this is one of the city’s go-to spots for baby back ribs, pulled pork, and brisket.
Somtum Der: This Michelin-rated restaurant’s specialties include Som Tam (spicy Papaya Salad) as well as an epic tasting platter.
Suppaniya Eating Room: Afternoon tea is a must at this charming riverside locale, as is the home cooked pad Thai, Isan steak and Tom Yum Goong—a traditional hot and sour soup simmered and served to spicy perfection.
Silom Village: Set in the Silom Village complex, featuring nightly performances, this Thai dinner theater has been a BKK mainstay for years.
Yaowarat Street (Chinatown): Bangkok’s Chinatown, known locally as Yaowarat, is an absolute must for foodies and intrepid eaters alike. There’s a steady mix of culinary influences; get the dim sum, Peking duck, and freshly grilled seafood.
Bangkok has a reputation for being an all-night party town. From mega clubs and cabaret to a stroll down Khao San Road, these are a few standout spots for adrenaline seekers and party-goers alike.
Beer Belly: Tonglor Soi (street) is BKK’s unofficial party spot featuring two of the city’s best beer bars. The first is Beer Belly, which has jenga, beer pong and more than 20 beers on tap. Around the corner you’ll find Atomic Bangkok—a giant beer pong bar that hosts nightly tournaments and casual table games.
Teens of Thailand: Set along Soi Nana in Chinatown, TOT is a cozy gin-based cocktail bar serving good drinks and fresh beats to Thai hipsters and expats alike. Hot tip: If you want to keep the party going late-night, head directly next door to 23 Bar & Gallery where a local DJ spins some classic hits and Leos and Changs are $2 all night long.
Tep Bar: Another hidden gem set along Soi Nana, this local speakeasy can be tough to find if you don’t look closely. Once inside, you’ll be transported to a bygone era for their decadent tapas-style bites and selection of Thai-infused herbal liqueurs, rums, and whiskey drinks.
Maggie Choo’s: Set on Silom Road and inspired by 1950’s Shanghai nights, Maggie Choo’s is Bangkok’s perennially popular party spot offering swanky drinks and décor.
Alfresco 64: Alfresco 64 is the highest outdoor whisky bar in the world offering connoisseurs and jetsetters the ultimate whisky drinking experience up on the 64th floor of the Tower Club at Lebua.
Khao San Road: Backpackers have been flocking to Bangkok’s Khao San Road for years in search of cheap drinks and cheaper thrills. If you really want to see the street in action, make sure you head here late at night when street vendors and bars are in full swing.
Calypso Cabaret: Calypso is a Vegas-style Cabaret show featuring an eclectic mix of beautifully adorned lady boys singing everything from Elvis and En Vogue to Hava Nagila.
Day Trips from Bangkok
Considered to be Bangkok’s version of the Hamptons, Hua Hin is a chic beach resort town featuring dozens of trendy restaurants and beachside hotels, including Baba Beach Club (the Bangkokian version of Surf Lodge.) Accessible by car or train, it can take around three hours (depending on traffic) to get here, so plan accordingly. There are no shortage of beautiful places to stop along the way, including Tham Khao Luang, a Buddhist temple and cave with friendly wat monkeys just waiting to be fed.