For many travelers, Bangkok is merely a stop-over for exploring Thailand’s more exotic beaches and islands.
However, this capital city is one of the best destinations in the country.
Should I visit Bangkok, Thailand?
From the historic royal temples to the vibrant street life scene, Bangkok is easily worth a trip to Thailand on its own. The history, the food, the markets, the mixture of natural wonders and modern, urban life, make Bangkok a unique destination that’s both affordable and luxurious.
If you’re wondering whether you should visit Bangkok, the answer is a resounding “yes.” Here are just a couple of reasons why you should add this unique Asian city to your travel bucket list.
Its Majestic Temples
Thailand is known for its ornate temples, and Bangkok is no exception.
The city is home to over 400 temples (or, as the Thai call them, Wats).
While some are individual buildings, others are sprawling complexes consisting of prayer halls, pavilions, and gardens.
Dating back more than 500 years, Wat Pho is one of the oldest temples in the city.
Besides being one of six royal temples, it’s also home to Thailand’s first public university.
However, its most impressive feature is the 150-foot structure long reclining gold Buddha.
It’s also worth visiting Wat Arun, which sits on the banks of the Phraya River.
With a 230-foot-tall spire made out of colorful Chinese porcelain, it’s unlike many other temples in the city.
It’s particularly stunning at night when the entire building is illuminated by glimmering gold lights.
Another noteworthy temple is Wat Phra Keaw in the Grand Palace.
It’s nicknamed the Emerald Temple after the sacred jade Buddha statue inside.
Because this Buddha is believed to be the protector of the country, it can only be touched by the King of Thailand.
Its Mouthwatering Cuisine
Thai food is one of the most popular cuisines in the world – and for a good reason.
With a mix of aromatic herbs, creamy coconut milk, and char-grilled meats, Thai food is world-renowned for its fresh and flavorful ingredients.
Street food is extremely popular in Bangkok because its fresh, cheap, and filling.
No matter the time of day, you can always grab a quick snack at a food stall or truck practically anywhere in the city.
Common street food dishes include hot and sour soup (tom yum goong), shrimp and mung bean noodles (goong ob woon sen), fried fish cakes (tod mun), or sticky rice (khao Tom Mud).
For a casual sit-down meal, go to one of the family-run shophouses.
They usually serve quick, traditional dishes like what you’d find at a street food stall but in a restaurant-like setting.
You can expect to find rice dishes, noodles, curries, and grilled meats on the menu.
Bangkok is also known for fine dining.
They can serve Thai food, although you’re more likely to find an establishment where the dishes are more modern or international.
As with any big city, Bangkok also has many recognizable western food chains, like McDonald’s, KFC, Subway, and Pizza Hut.
However, you can always eat that at home, so be adventurous and try the local Thai dishes instead!
Its Array of Markets
Whether you’re looking for fresh spices or handcrafted souvenirs, Bangkok has a market for every type of shopper.
Many of them pop up weekly in different parts of the city, while others have a more permanent address at a shopping center or market hall.
Chatuchak Market is one of the biggest, with over 15,000 stalls selling everything you can think of.
Clothes, plants, art, furniture, pets, and jewelry are just a few different items you can expect.
Despite only being open on Saturdays and Sundays, the market can attract upwards of 200,000 people each weekend.
If street food is your thing, then you’ll love the Bangkok night markets.
The Ratchada Train Market, Srinakarin Night Market, and the Chang Chui Plane Night Market are all excellent places to go if you want to sample traditional Thai snacks.
It’s also worth visiting one of the 17 floating markets in and around Bangkok.
These vendors have their own boats, which they row up and down the waterways selling different fresh fruits, vegetables, or hot dishes.
Its Vibrant Nightlife Scene
Bangkok has a lot to offer during the day.
But when the sun sets, the streets transform into a neon-lit party where you can eat, drink, and dance the night away.
Although many people argue that certain nightlife areas can be dark and seedy, it’s still worth seeing at least once during your trip.
Khao San Road is a backpacker’s paradise and one of the most touristy attractions in Bangkok.
Here, you’ll find street food vendors, pop-up stalls selling buckets (yes – buckets) of booze, and numerous dance clubs and bars.
The entire street is an outdoor party.
So while it may not be the most traditional neighborhood, it’s still worth a visit to experience colorful Thai nightlife.
If you’re looking for something more upscale, Bangkok also has plenty of rooftop bars.
In addition to handcrafted cocktails and world-class customer service, you’ll also be treated to some of the best views of the entire city.
Lebua Skybar, Vertigo, and Above Eleven are some of the most popular rooftop bars for locals and tourists.
Compared to many Western countries, Thailand is extremely affordable.
While some things in Bangkok may cost the same as they would back home (fancy restaurants, luxury hotels, international shopping brands), the city, in general, is still relatively cheap.
Lodging in Bangkok can cost as low as $10 a night for a hostel dorm or budget hotel.
But on average, you can expect to pay around $40 to $50 for a mid-range hotel or vacation rental.
Luxury hotels in Bangkok can be very pricy, ranging from $200 to $500 a night. Transportation is also quite affordable, with a taxi ride costing you anywhere from $2 to $5 to get around the city.
In Bangkok, you can easily eat for under $10 or $15 a day if you stick to casual restaurants or street food stalls.
Of course, that price will go up if you dine in an upscale restaurant. Drinks will also vary depending on the establishment.
You can expect to pay around $2 to $3 for a beer from a street vendor or open-air bar.
On the other hand, cocktails in a nice bar or restaurant can cost $10 or more.
It’s Home to the World’s Biggest Chinatown
No other city in the world can compete with the Chinatown in Bangkok.
It was founded in the late 1700s after Chinese immigrants fled their home country to escape poverty and famine.
In the 19th and 20th centuries, the neighborhood grew into a vibrant district full of theaters, nightclubs, and casinos, attracting more immigrants over the years.
The entire neighborhood is centered around Yaowarat Road, a nearly 1-mile-long street dotted with shops, cafes, and restaurants.
You can find some of the best seafood in the entire city (check out the Fai-Kaew Yao Wa-Rat food stall to try the famous stir-fry crab).
If seafood isn’t your thing, then you can pick one of the hundreds of street food stalls to try an array of classic Thai or Chinese-style dishes.
Chinatown is also home to two of Bangkok’s most popular temples – Wat Traimit and Wat Mangkon Kamalawat.
You can also visit Wat Chakrawatrachawat Woramahawihan, otherwise known as the Crocodile Temple
Here, you’ll find three live crocodiles lurking in the canals and ponds on the property.
Other attractions include the Yaowarat Chinatown Heritage Center and the Sampeng Lane wholesale market.
It’s Known for World-Class Massages
If you’re looking for a bit of rest and relaxation, then you’ve come to the right city.
Traditional Thai massage has been practiced for thousands of years.
It still plays a significant role in modern Thai medicine, as massage is believed to improve circulation and chronic pain relief.
Unlike western massages, the receiver remains fully clothed, and no oil or lotion is used.
Instead, the massage practitioner uses acupressure and rhythmic stretching to loosen up the muscles and joints.
The masseuse will guide your body and limbs into different positions while using their feet, knees, and elbows to trigger certain pressure points.
The Wat Pho temple in Bangkok is considered to be the birthplace of modern Thai massage.
It’s still a functioning university today, and practitioners can learn the art of massage as well as the history of traditional Thai medicine.
Although comparatively expensive, the massages offered at Wat Pho are some of the best in all of Thailand.
If you prefer a massage using oil or lotion, then you can visit a western-style spa instead.
Many hotels with upscale spa services will offer Swedish, deep tissue, or even hot stone massages.
Its Packed Social Calendar
No matter what hour of the day, there’s always something happening in Bangkok.
The capital is a melting pot of cultural festivals, musical events, and lively attractions that will keep you entertained throughout your entire stay.
One of the biggest festivals is Songkran, the Thai New Year, which usually takes place the second week of April.
In addition to street parties and parades, you’ll see large water fights where people play with water guns or dump buckets of water on each other.
It’s also worth visiting at the end of January/early February for Chinese New Year or November for the Loy Krathong lantern festival.
If you’re looking for live music, then you’ll also be spoiled for choice when it comes to concerts and performances
Catch a live jazz show at one of the city’s speakeasies, listen to the Bangkok Symphony Orchestra in Lumphini Park, or visit “Wonderfruit”, the Coachella of the East.
It’s a Mix of City and Nature
Although it’s a sprawling urban metropolis, Bangkok manages to seamlessly mix city with nature.
If you ever need a break from the towering high-rises and bustling streets, you can always escape to one of the many parks around the city.
Similar to Venice, Bangkok is known for its intricate canal system that flows through the city.
Although the waters aren’t the cleanest, you can still hire a boat to take you on a river cruise.
You’ll get to feel the fresh breeze while you soak in the majestic views of Bangkok by boat.
Lumpini Park is the largest green space in Bangkok and a great place to relax for a few hours.
In addition to the grassy fields and tree-covered forest, the park also contains an artificial lake where you can rent boats.
Although it’s a popular destination for cyclers and joggers, you’ll also find locals enjoying a nice mid-day picnic here with friends.
If you want to truly escape into nature, then visit Bang Krachao.
This isolated island on the Chao Praya River is referred to as the “Green Lung of Bangkok” due to the park’s lush forest (which recycles up to 6,000 tons of carbon dioxide each year).
There aren’t any cars, so you’ll be able to enjoy the pristine forest and winding canals in peace.
What is the best time to visit Bangkok?
Bangkok is a year-round destination with plenty to see and do every day of the week.
Therefore, there’s really no bad time to visit the city.
However, you might consider the weather when planning when to take your trip.
April to October is the rainiest and most humid time of the year, which can impact your trip if you’re doing many outdoor activities.
The weather from November to March is more pleasant, although flights and hotels can be more expensive since this is the high season for travel.
How many days do I need in Bangkok?
There is a lot to see in Bangkok, which means you could spend weeks here and still not see all the major sights or attractions.
However, most travelers spend four or five days in the city.
Remember, Bangkok can be chaotic and hot, and you don’t want to cram too much into your day.
A couple of days will give you time to hit the historical sights while also having opportunities to shop, dine, and explore the city.