Bangkok is a city of many wonders, from its towering Buddhist temples to bustling markets. These streets are always a full-on sensory overload, but that’s exactly what makes it such a luxurious destination to travel – the intense and exciting collection of sights, smells and sounds that makes Krungthep (as it’s called in Thai) what it is, and fuels nicknames like the Big Mango and the City of Angels.
by Wanida Tardivel & Luxury Society Asia Team
For tourists, the city is a lot of fun to explore, but also totally overwhelming. What should you see and do on just a limited timeframe? That’s why we’ve put together a list of the 10 attractions you can’t miss while touring Bangkok:
- Grand Palace
No trip to Krungthep is complete without a sightseeing excursion at the royal family’s famous residence. From 1782 to 1925, the King of Siam and his court were based at the Grand Palace but now it’s more of a tourist attraction, only sometimes hosting to ceremonial events. The Grand Palace is a stunning example of Thai history and architecture. Gold statues and intricate stone detailing on facades and in throne halls that is simply exquisite. It’s also the home of the important Buddhist site, Wat Phra Keo or Temple of the Emerald Buddha.
- Temple of the Reclining Buddha (Wat Pho)
The Reclining Buddha at Wat Pho is one of the most recognizable symbols of Thailand. Just try fitting as much of this 46-metre long, solid gold structure as you can into Instagram’s photo square! Wat Pho has the most Buddha images of anywhere in Thailand, and it was one of the country’s earliest centers for public education on the religion. Today the temple is also known for its famous massage school, where people from far and wide come to learn ancient techniques of the trade.
- Pak Khlong Talad (Flower Market)
One of Bangkok’s most beautiful attractions is the flower market Pak Khlong Talad. Every morning, the market is overflowing with everything from roses to forget-me-nots on sale, sold in bouquets that can go up to 50 or a 100 pieces. The market is open 24 hours, but there’s not much to see later in the day. It’s best to go before the sun rises at 3 or 4 a.m. (you’ll be sleepy, but a traditional Thai coffee will help!). That’s when the action happens, and you can see wholesalers dropping off truckloads of flowers and retailers arriving for first pickings on the best blooms.
- Temple of Dawn (Wat Arun)
Like Bangkok’s flower market, the best time to catch this attraction is at the crack of dawn as the name suggests. Located on the west bank of the Chao Phraya River, the Temple of Dawn is dazzling from a distance. But up close, it’s easier to see the complex detailing of its colorful spires, comprised of tiny pieces of glass and Chinese porcelain that sparkle on the water grandiosely as the sun rises. Wat Arun is an important site of Buddhist worship, and you’ll see many Thais coming here throughout the day to light candles, incense and pray.
- Jim Thompson House
This is a museum dedicated to the American entrepreneur Jim Thompson, who was a pioneer the now world-renowned Thai silk industry. His former home, a charming teak Thai-style house, is filled with exhibits that tell the interesting story of his life and achievements in the Land of Smiles. Guests can browse through Thompson’s impressive collection of both Buddhist and secular art, and there are demonstrations of silk spooling and weaving here as well. By the way, Thompson’s death in 1967 is shrouded in a mystery – he went for a walk through the jungle on holiday in Malaysia, and never returned.
- The Golden Mount (Wat Saket)
This temple with a 58-metre, glistening golden chedi is well known to Thai tourists, and a great discovery for foreigners. In the late 18th century, Wat Saket was a crematorium for Bangkok’s plague victims. Today it has a much lighter atmosphere as a Buddhist pilgrimage site, hosting a big temple fair every November during the Loy Krathong festival. It’s a truly Thai experience that not many tourists get to explore, filled with amusement park rides, carnival games and all the best Thai street food. There’s still a cemetery at the base of the Golden Mount. You can climb 300 steps up the chedi to reveal a fantastic view of the city.
- Chao Phraya River
“The River of Kings” as King Rama I named it, tells a lot about the history of Bangkok and its development into the swarming metropolis we know it as today. Chao Phraya is like the life vein of Bangkok, connecting all kinds of destinations with just a ferry ride: luxury hotels, temples (like Wat Arun, for example), the Flower Market or the trendy bar street of Phra Arthit road. Thousands of people use the ferry as a mode of public transportation every day, but tourists can also rent a long-tail boat or attend a river or boat cruise for a more intimate and convenient Chao Phraya experience.
- Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA)
With six floors and over 800 art pieces, MOCA is the most comprehensive collection of modern painting and sculptures the country has to offer. It’s also Thailand’s largest privately funded museum, showcasing the person treasures of billionaire mogul and museum founder Boonchai Bencharongkul. Only two years old, MOCA is a fantastically modern building. Walking around here is a great opportunity to learn about Thai art and its evolution over the years, and there are a few international works that can be seen here as well.
- Ananta Samakhom Throne Hall
This white marble palace is a spectacle of neo-Renaissance architecture, ordered by King Rama V and designed in 1907 by Italian architects. It was once home to Thai parliament, but is now used only from time to time for state council meetings and royal occasions. Ananta Samkhom Throne Hall is regularly to the public as a museum, with permanent exhibitions on Thai culture and history. As it’s a royal property, guests must abide by a strict, non-casual dress code (no flip flops, shorts, T-shirts or sleeveless shirts allowed).
- Asiatique The Riverfront
This night bazaar, open-air mall and “living museum” is a fantastic way to spend an evening in Bangkok with family and friends. There are over 1,500 boutiques to shop at, not to mention restaurants, amusement park rides and more. Retro examples of tramcars and pushcarts make for great photo ops as well. The atmosphere at Asiatique is more relaxed than the overcrowded Chatuchak market, especially since it only starts at 5 p.m. when the sweltering sun is already on its way out. There are also nightly cabaret performances and Thai puppet shows to take in as well.