15 Great Things to Do in Bangkok, Thailand

The Thai capital of Bangkok is a city of contrasts, where ancient crafts and cutting-edge art are both celebrated. Here, you’ll find a modern city moving at a dizzying pace and an ancient culture rooted in its waterways, markets, and temples. With these things to do in Bangkok, explore the city’s varied aspects, from sprawling markets and traditional cuisine, to an award-winning contemporary restaurant and aeries atop the city’s tallest skyscrapers.

71 Soi Uthong Nai
European influences are very much in evidence at Dusit Palace Park. Inspired by his first trip to Europe in 1897, King Chulalongkorn (Rama V) transformed these styles into a uniquely Thai expression. The neoclassical Ananta Samakhom Throne Hall (now permanently closed) was commissioned by the king in 1907, built by Italian architects, and completed during the reign of King Rama VI. The walls and seven domes are adorned with paintings depicting the history of the Chakri dynasty, and the “Arts of the Kingdom” exhibition is filled with a dazzling collection of priceless treasures and objets d’art. The Vimanmek Mansion, the first permanent residence on the palace grounds, is said to be the world’s largest golden-teak building.
4 ซอย ประสาทสุข
It’s worth planning a visit to this contemporary art gallery in a striking Bauhaus mansion with a 6,400-square-foot sculpture garden in central Bangkok. Opened by French diplomat Jeremy Opitresco and restaurateur Frederic Meyer, YenakArt presents thoughtfully curated monthly and bimonthly contemporary exhibitions spanning all sorts of genres, themes, and media from emerging and established Thai artists and international artists with a close connection to Thailand. It’s become one of the local art community’s de facto hubs, holding private dinners for artists, high-end collectors, and others on the art circuit. Occasional open houses led by prominent exhibiting artists provide a chance to rub elbows with local movers and shakers.
139/4 Witthayu Road
In a city where gold-spired temples are much more ubiquitous than green space, Lumphini Park is a veritable oasis in the heart of Bangkok. Established by King Rama VI in the 1920s and completed after his death, the 142-acre chunk of tropical greenery is a treasured spot. One of the few parks of any size in central Bangkok, Lumphini is well used: In the morning, tai chi practicers arrive, while in the early evening, joggers monopolize the main path that runs around its perimeter. Even so, there’s ample room to get away from the crowds here. More than 30 species of birds flit among the park’s giant trees, and monitor lizards and turtles inhabit its waterways. Other attractions within the park include a public library, a youth sports center, and swan paddleboats in the man-made lake.
64 Sukhumvit 31 Yaek 4, Khwaeng Khlong Tan Nuea, Khet Watthana, Krung Thep Maha Nakhon 10110, Thailand
The unofficial world capital of massage, Bangkok has no shortage of choice venues for kneading, pummeling, and pampering. Nonetheless, some places stand out above others. A case in point is the Oasis Spa, which offers one of the most idyllic spa experiences in the Thai capital. Hidden away down a quiet soi (small street) in the Sukhumvit area, the spa’s cool white buildings have 12 treatment rooms with louvered wooden doors and are surrounded by lush greenery, lotus ponds, and water features. The meditative atmosphere is the perfect setting for a range of treatments that include signature massages, body scrubs, facials, and hydrotherapy.
Yaowarat Rd, Krung Thep Maha Nakhon, Thailand
The true nature of old Bangkok can’t be sampled at its busy malls and modern shopping districts, but in enclaves such as this timeless thoroughfare in Chinatown. A narrow pedestrian lane, Trok Issaranuphap links two of the area’s main streets, Yaowarat Road and Charoen Krung Road, with Sampeng Lane, another pedestrian-only street filled with small department stores. It’s a portal to the traditional side of the city, especially for those who want to sample street food, as it is filled with stalls and vendors purveying tasty Chinese/Thai snacks and meals such as roast pork and duck and dumplings. The alley’s wet market is a great place to purchase fruit and vegetables. Other attractions include traditional-medicine shops, fortune tellers, and stalls selling assorted bric-a-brac.
Black Pig is one of the most creative tattoo parlors in the capital. Known for its bold and classic styles, the parlor, which collaborates regularly with guest designers and artists, is run in part by Luke Satoru, an expat New Yorker and a founding member of the Bukruk urban arts festival. Visitors seeking other styles can drop by the studio in Charoen Krung, one of Bangkok’s hippest neighborhoods, to discuss their favored designs with the resident team of experts.
238 SOI SAINAMTHIP 2 SUKHUMVIT 22 ROAD KLONGTOEY BANGKOK 10110 THAILAND, แขวง คลองเตย เขต คลองเตย กรุงเทพมหานคร 10110, Thailand
One of Bangkok’s most forward-thinking art institutions is named after founder and director Piyatat Hemmatat’s grandmother, who once owned the building, and you’ll find a suitably homey atmosphere here—in large part because it shares the space with Gastro 1/6, a charming garden café that serves one of the best breakfasts in the city among Instagram-friendly greenery and mismatched furniture. But more serious appreciation of the visual medium is on offer inside: Hemmatat is a respected photo essayist, and the RMA focuses on documentary images by emerging, local, and international figures such as Cattleya Jaruthavee, Teddy Spha Palasthira, and Nipon Intarit. Located on a leafy side street, the venue also hosts workshops, talks, screenings, and even ukulele recitals that are all open to visitors.
Bangkok Yai, Bangkok, Thailand
Experience the khlongs, or canals, of the “Venice of the East” on a longtail boat and you’ll get a special look into the heart of Bangkok. Most of Bangkok’s waterways were dug in the 18th and 19th centuries, and while some have been filled in and paved over, there are still an amazing number to explore. Several of them, such as Khlong Saen Saeb, go through the center of the city, and the Khlong Bangkok Yai, on the western side of the Chao Phraya, cuts through one of the oldest parts of town. Many tours leave from the central piers on the river and are no more than a couple of hours long.

1871 Rama IV Rd, Khwaeng Pathum Wan, Khet Pathum Wan, Krung Thep Maha Nakhon 10330, Thailand
With its wild, lush wetlands, Thailand is home to numerous species of snakes: pythons, cobras, and kraits, to name just three. While many of the country’s snake farms are not what you would call prime examples of animal rights at work, the Queen Saovabha Memorial Institute is way more ethical than most. Two hundred species of snakes, including king cobras, are on display, and there’s a facility that produces anti-venom as well as an animal toxin clinic for treating people bitten by other poisonous critters. Visitors can also attend snake-handling performances in the outdoor amphitheater and observe the snake milking process at daily public demonstrations.
Kamphaeng Phet 3 Rd, Khwaeng Lat Yao, Khet Chatuchak, Krung Thep Maha Nakhon 10900, Thailand
The mother of unique Bangkok retail experiences is undoubtedly Chatuchak Weekend Market, Thailand’s largest outdoor bazaar. Known as Jatujak or simply JJ, it has 15,000 stalls spread over 35 acres and sells almost everything under the sun. This is the place to buy a Beatles cushion or shop for a new pet cobra or a hand-carved Buddha icon. With 200,000 people descending on the market every weekend, it’s best to come early, and perseverance can uncover a veritable treasure trove of collectibles ranging from beautiful ceramics and handicrafts to exquisite jewelry.
499 Kamphaeng Phet 6 Rd, Chatuchak, Khet Chatuchak, Krung Thep Maha Nakhon 10900, Thailand
MOCA (the Museum of Contemporary Art) makes a worthy detour from the center of Bangkok. The museum, which opened in 2012, is the brainchild of art-loving telecommunications billionaire Boonchai Bencharongkul, who envisaged it as the Thai equivalent of New York’s MOMA, with more than 800 modern Thai artworks and sculptures spread out over five levels. One of the showstoppers is the triptych The Three Kingdoms: Heaven, Middle Earth, and Hell, by Sompop Butraj, Panya Wijinthanasan, and Prateep Kochabua, depicting the three states of Buddhism.
ถนน บริพัตร Khwaeng Ban Bat, Khet Pom Prap Sattru Phai, Krung Thep Maha Nakhon 10100, Thailand
In a metropolis where the topography rarely deviates from pancake flat, the Golden Mount—a 260-foot-high mound crowned with a golden stupa—stands out, with more than 300 steps to reach the top. The hill was originally commissioned by King Rama III in the 19th century, and the views from the peak are among the best of the Old City. The stupa at the top contains a relic of the Buddha that was brought over from India. The lower temple, Wat Saket, is one of Bangkok’s oldest, dating to the Ayutthaya period (1351–1767), and the grounds were used as a cemetery.
114 Naradhiwat Rajanagarindra Rd, Khwaeng Silom, Khet Bang Rak, Krung Thep Maha Nakhon 10500, Thailand
Already a landmark on the Bangkok skyline, the 77-story MahaNakhon tower was designed by the Dutch firm OMA and opened at the end of 2016. The mixed-use tower encompasses the Bangkok Edition Hotel, nearly 50 floors of the super-luxury Ritz-Carlton Residences, and the MahaNakhon Observation Deck, offering tourists 360-degree views of Bangkok from its top four floors. At the base of the tower, the MahaNakhon Cube is home to markets and restaurants such as Dean & DeLuca and L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon.
A residential alley in the Sathorn area of Bangkok is the setting for Sathorn 11 Art Space, a hip spot that provides an outlet for the work of aspiring local artists as well as a residency program. The co-owners see themselves as a social enterprise, encouraging the development of Thai art. The gallery has four upstairs ateliers that are given rent-free for up to three months to Thai artists who can’t afford their own studios or materials. Exhibitions and art gatherings for the community, collectors, and art lovers are also held here.

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