03SEPTop 10 (Touristy and Instagram-worthy) Places in Bangkok
Thailand’s capital is a city of contrasts. It is filled with ornate shrines, breathtaking temples, lively local markets, vibrant nightlife, luxurious malls, and tuk tuk rides. Deciding on the top ten places to visit for our list was no walk in the park but we finally did it!
1. The Grand Palace and Wat Pra Kaew
A visit to Bangkok is not complete without a stop at the dazzling Grand Palace. Situated in the heart of the capital, it was the official residence of the Kings of Siam (later known as Thailand) for 150 years. The palace continues to be one of the most popular tourist attractions thanks to its beautiful architecture and intricate details. Within the grounds of the Grand Palace is Wat Pra Kaew, also known the Temple of the Emerald Buddha. It enshrines Phra Kaew Morakot, the Emerald Buddha – a sacred Buddha image that was carved from a single block of jade.
Note: « Emerald » in Thai means “deep green colour”, not the specific stone.
2. Mahanakhon Sky Walk Bangkok
Walking across one of the world’s largest glass tray floors, 310 meters above the 78th floor of King Power Mahanakhon, is not for the faint of heart. But, a bird’s-eye view of Bangkok’s gorgeous skyline makes it worth it. And it presents a unique photo-op (even for the non-Insta-crazies).
On your way down, drop by the 78th floor for Thailand’s highest outdoor observation area – a 360-degree observation deck whose peak is 314 meters above ground level. Take a chance to relax at Thailand’s highest Rooftop Bar while you’re at it. Or, enjoy the view of Bangkok from the indoor 360-degree observation deck instead.
Another highlight of the Mahanakhon Mall is its Multimedia Elevators. Known as Southeast Asia’s fastest elevators, they will take you from the 1st floor to the 74th within 50 seconds! The interior walls of the elevators are covered with digital screens that lead you on a mesmerizing journey on your way up and down.
3. Temple of Dawn (Wat Arun)
There are hundreds of temples all over Thailand but Wat Arun, locally known as Wat Chaeng, stands out thanks to its unique architecture. Also known as the Temple of Dawn, the temple takes its name from Aruna, the Indian God of Dawn. It presides majestically on the Thonburi side (west bank) of the Chao Phraya River. The sight is so iconic that it is commemorated on Thailand’s 10-baht coin.
Despite its name, the most spectacular view is actually at sunset, from the opposite side of the river. That is when the spires (prang) of Wat Arun make an impressive silhouette against the skyline.
The spires are the main attraction, with the main (middle) one 70 meters high. But what makes them so unique are the tiny coloured pieces of Chinese ceramic and fragments of porcelain embedded in an intricate pattern there.
Tip: Brave the steep climb and narrow steps to the top and you will be rewarded with breathtaking views of the Chao Phraya River, the Grand Palace, and Wat Pho.
4. Khao San Road
The backpacker haven known for its diverse population (both local and visitors), cheap food, and vibrant nightlife. While the area has gained a grubby reputation over the years, it has something for everyone.
For the Thrifty Shopaholics – The Thanon Khao San Market will spoil you for choice. Whether your poison ranges from chic t-shirts and trendy purses to homemade goods and quaint Buddha statues, Khao San has everything…just don’t ask about the authenticity of the “branded” goods.
Art and Culture Fans – Bangkok’s National Gallery is right beside Khao San Road. Housed in an old colonial building that was once the Thai Mint, the gallery boasts a main collection of pieces by national artists from as far back as the 17th century. Keep an eye out for their collection of old monochrome photographs of Bangkok and antique tapestries. A rotation of temporary exhibits that highlight the hardships and beauty of Thai life keeps things interesting here.
For the Party Lovers – From bars to clubs, every night is a party night here. However, the most anticipated party takes place during the Thai New Year aka Songkran. This is one party/mega water fight you shouldn’t miss out on if you’re in the area.
5. Temple of Golden Buddha in Chinatown – Wat Traimit
Home to the world’s largest solid gold Buddha statue, it is worth here to discover its hidden beauty and mystery. The mystery surrounding this statue is compounded by the fact that it was encased in a layer of plaster and stucco for hundreds of years. One of the main theories is that the monks covered it to protect it from an attack by the Burmese army. All the monks were killed in the attack, leaving the hidden treasure to be discovered when the statue was being relocated in 1957.
Also in the same building is the Golden Buddha museum and an interpretive center that showcases the history of the Chinese community in Bangkok.
6. Chatuchak Weekend Market
The Chatuchak Weekend Market, also known as JJ Market, is the largest market in Thailand. It consists of more than 15,000 stalls that are divided into 27 sections. (Note: Grab a map from one of the visitor centers located within the outer perimeter of the market as it is very easy to get lost here).
Tip: Go early to avoid the crowds and the heat.
7. Wat Pho – Temple of Reclining Buddha
Wat Pho is one of the best places to experience the cultural side of Thailand. One of the largest temple complexes in the city, many visit for its famed giant Reclining Buddha. It is 46 meters long! For those of you on the Imperial system – that’s at least 150 feet. There are also many nooks and crannies to explore. We recommend visiting Wat Pho after the Grand Palace as it takes at least an hour to take everything in. The two places are fairly close to each other (about a 10 minute walk).
The temple is regarded as Thailand’s first public university – teaching religion, science, literature, and traditional Thai medicine. This last one makes it a great place to get a Thai massage after all that exploring!
Tip: Wear slip-ons as you will need to take of your shoes before entering most of the buildings in the complex.
8. Moca – Museum of Contemporary Art Bangkok
A must for contemporary art lovers, MOCA’s five-storey structure features over 800 art pieces by many of Thailand’s top artists of the last century. This is the country’s largest collection of modern paintings and sculptures. The museum was established in 2012 by communications magnate Boonchai Bencharongkul with the purpose of exhibiting works from his private collection while providing Bangkok with a first-rate art museum.
9. Bangkok Flower Market
The Bangkok Flower Market may not be your typical tourist attraction but it would be time well spent (no matter how unholy the hour). The market is open all day and night, every day of the week, but it is busiest at midnight when fresh flowers are delivered. Stay long enough and you’ll encounter the professionals swooping in for first pick between 3am – 4am. Talk about the early bird getting the worm!
Look out for the Phuang Malai, a traditional Thai garland often presented for good luck. You may even see the skilled Thai artisans at work!
While well known for its inexpensive fresh flowers, you will also find stalls selling vegetables, fruits, herbs, and spices at Pak Khlong Talat (another name for the Bangkok Flower Market meaning market at the mouth of the canal).
10. Khlong Lat Mayom Floating Market
And of course, no trip to Bangkok is complete without a visit to one of their floating markets. Although, Klong Lat Mayom is more of a riverside market with a narrow canal and less boats than other floating markets. Nonetheless it is regarded as one of the best ones around. Just 20 kilometers from the city center, you’ll be able to experience Khlong Lat Mayom’s charming local culture. You’ll find a wide variety of good food as well – from Pad Thai to Kao Niew Mamuang (mango sticky rice). Locals tend to shop and eat here a lot so you know that it will be a good Thai experience.
You can even hop on a longtail boat to explore more of the Thonburi klongs. These traditional Thai water taxis will even take you to a temple or to visit a traditional Thai house.
Note: Khlong Lat Mayom is open every weekend and on most public holidays from 9am to 4pm.