15 Best Cultural Things to Do in Bangkok

24 May 2024 | Bangkok, Highlights, Play, Thailand

Must-do activities and must-see attractions in the Thai Capital

Digital Nomad in Bangkok looking to make the most of your free time? You don’t need to be flush with cash to experience the best of the Thai Capital’s cultural offerings. This city is famous for night markets, nightlife, shopping, temples, street food, and much more – and you can get a taste of them all for next to nothing.

In this guide, we’ve put together the 15 best things to do in Bangkok for those who want to experience a little of everything. Visit these attractions and landmarks, and you’ll gain insights into every aspect of Thai culture, from its cuisine, art and architecture to its shopping, nightlife and entertainment.

Most insightful cultural attractions in Bangkok: Our roundup

From royal and religious icons like the Grand Palace to the city’s plethora of shopping malls, here are 15 of the best places to visit in Bangkok:

1. The Grand Palace and Wat Phra Kaew

Delve into the history of the Thai Monarchy by exploring the spectacular Grand Palace, which was consecrated as a royal residence in 1782, when the Thai Capital was relocated from Ayutthaya to Bangkok. While this grandiose structure was vacated as a royal home back in 1925, the Grand Palace remains one of the most iconic buildings in Thailand today.

Grand Palace, Bangkok

Inside the Grand Palace, you can explore various ceremonial and throne halls decorated with intricate art and artefacts. Notable buildings include The Royal Pantheon, the Golden Stupa and the Amarinda Hall, the original residence of King Rama I.

Adjacent to the Grand Palace is Wat Phra Kaew, otherwise known as the Temple of the Emerald Buddha. Widely regarded as Thailand’s most sacred temple, Wat Phra Kaew houses the iconic Emerald Buddha statue (made from jade), which dates back to the 12th or 13th century.

Wat Phra Kaew

Tickets for the Grand Palace, Wat Phra Kaew and the Queen Sirikit Museum of Textiles start at THB 500 per adult. Doors are open daily from 8:30 am to 3:30 pm.

2. Chatuchak Weekend Market

Also known as the JJ Market, the Chatuchak Weekend Market is home to over 15,000 market stalls in rows of shaded pavilions organised into 27 sections, which each section being dedicated to a product category. From ‘reinterpreted’ designer wears to live pets, just about everything is available at Chatuchak. There are also plenty of diners, street food stalls and bars for when you need to take a load off.

Chatuchak Weekend Market

As one of Asia’s largest open-air markets, Chatuchak attracts around 200,000 visitors every weekend. Be prepared to jostle with crowds. The market is practically empty through the week, though you can still hunt for bargains at the nearby JJ Mall.

There’s no admission fee at the Chatuchak Weekend Market. Just remember to bring plenty of spare baht to take advantage of the multitude of deals. The best time to visit the market is between 6 am and 6 pm on Saturday and Sunday.

3. Wat Pho

The main draw of Wat Pho is Thailand’s largest reclining Buddha sculpture, which measures an impressive 46 metres in length. Besides this huge gold-plated relic, the grounds of Wat Pho boast the nation’s biggest collection of Buddha images plus many intricate shrines and prayer halls. The landscaped gardens are home to more relics in the form of stupas and stone sculptures.

The Reclining Buddha at Wat Pho

Wat Pho isn’t just one of the most significant Buddhist temples in Thailand – it’s also considered to be the birthplace of the Thai massage, which is still taught at the onsite College of Traditional Medicine. Wat Pho was actually the nation’s first centre for public education. The complex has around 1,360 marble inscriptions on history, medicine and liberal arts.

Admission tickets to visit this storied landmark start at THB 300 per adult. The temple remains open daily from 8 am to 7:30 pm.

4. Chinatown

Bangkok has one of the world’s oldest and largest Chinatown districts. While exploring this historic neighbourhood, you’ll see delightfully chaotic streets filled with neon signs, ornamental lanterns, gold stores and street food galore, all while your senses are tickled by the aromas of jasmine tea and burning incense.

Chinatown Bangkok

The main thoroughfare in Chinatown is Yaowarat, a bustling destination for foodies, shopaholics and culture enthusiasts around the clock. It’s best to visit in the evening if you’re here for the food – keep in mind that many street food vendors are closed on Monday. For a few after-hours drinks, walk less than five minutes to Soi Nana, home to popular bars like Teens of Thailand, Ba Hao and TEP BAR.

Other than the cost of transport to get here, you don’t need to spend a penny to experience the hive of cultural activity in Chinatown. Food doesn’t need to cost much while you’re here either – a local street food staple such as tom yum or green curry costs just THB 60–150.

5. Wat Arun

One of the most celebrated temples in Thailand, Wat Arun dates back to at least 1656, though it’s most famous for its 19th-century Khmer-style, floral-patterned stupa, which reaches a height of 82 metres (according to most sources).

Wat Arun at night

Those who dare can climb the temple’s steep stairs. Towards the top, you’ll be rewarded with sprawling views of the surrounding temple complex backdropped by the Chao Praya River.

You can explore the grounds of Wat Arun between 8 am to 6 pm daily. Admission starts from THB 100 per person. At night, the temple is illuminated in a golden glow, which only adds to the place’s allure. Grab dinner at a restaurant across the river, such as Eat Sight Story Deck or Manee Thai Food, to soak up stunning views of the temple while enjoying a local delicacy.

6. Jim Thompson House Museum

What was once the home of American silk mogul Jim Thompson is now a museum that pays homage to his life, the Thai silk trade and traditional Thai architecture. This canal-side, teak-framed Thai abode was Thompson’s home for three decades, until he mysteriously disappeared while exploring the jungles of Malaysia in 1967. Prior to his disappearance, he was credited by Time magazine to have singlehandedly saved Thailand’s silk industry.

Jim Thompson House Museum exterior

Inside this fascinating house museum are exquisite rooms decorated with antiques and personal possessions that include rare Chinese porcelain, artefacts from Thailand, Myanmar and Cambodia, and an extensive art collection.

Besides Jim Thompson’s former home, there are five other teak-framed houses to explore, plus a tropical garden that’s reminiscent of a jungle complete with lotus ponds and tropical plants. While you’re here, you can stock up on premium Jim Thompson silks.

Jim Thompson House Museum Interior

Admission for adults over 22 years of age starts from THB 200. Visitors aged between ten and 21 years get in for just THB 100 – remember to bring your passport to prove your age. The museum is open every day from 10 am to 5 pm.

7. Khao San Road

Khao San Road is famously – or notoriously – the central hub for backpackers in Bangkok. Along this bustling road, bars and nightclubs roar until the early hours, converted VW vans sell snacks and bottled beers, and eclectic market stalls sell everything from counterfeit designer goods to grilled scorpions.

Khao San Road

If you’re visiting Bangkok for its party atmosphere, you’ll find lots of budget-friendly hostels and guesthouses as well as a few higher-end hotels along Khao San Road.

The surrounding neighbourhood of Banglamphu was once home to city’s aristocrats, so there’s plenty of historic and grand architecture around.

8. Lumphini Park and Benchakitti Park

Wondering how Bangkok’s locals like to make the most of the outdoors? Besides dining at the city’s countless street food stalls, many residents like to spend their free time in one of Bangkok’s few inner-city parks, with the now interconnected Lumphini Park and Benchakitti Park being two of the most popular.

Lumphini Park

Many of the Thai Capital’s greenspaces have been lost to towering condo developments, but Lumphini Park remains the size of 93 football fields, criss-crossed by walking paths, picnic spots, and vast swaths of fauna and flora. Popular activities range from jogging and cycling to tai chi and yoga. The park’s centrepiece is an artificial lake, where you’ll see locals and visitors alike paddling on swan-shaped boats.

After exploring Lumphini Park, you can stroll, run or cycle along the recently opened elevated Green Bridge, which stretches about a mile above the busy streets of Bangkok’s urban jungle to Benjakitti Park. Thanks to the expansion of Benjakitti Forest that completed in 2022, Benjakitti Park now occupies an impressive 72 hectares.

Benjakitti Park

Lumphini Park is open to visitors daily from 4:30 am to 10 pm while Benjakitti is open until 9 pm. There’s no admission fee at either park.

9. Asiatique: The Riverfront

Located on the site of a former docks on the banks of the Chao Praya River, Asiatique has grown to become an iconic cultural institution since its opening in 2012. This vast replica warehouse complex offers a unique shopping experience that combines a modern mall with a traditional bazaar. And on top of 1,500 boutiques, Asiatique is home to more than 40 restaurants.

Asiatique

Dining and shopping aside, Asiatique offers plenty in the way of culture and entertainment. From its pier, you can join boat tours and dinner cruises. Within the complex itself, you can watch the nightly Calypso Cabaret transgender show, Muay Thai fights and traditional puppet performances.

You can reach Asiatique by taking a ten-minute river ferry from just outside the Saphan Taksin BTS Skytrain station. The complex opens daily from 11 am to midnight. You don’t need to spend a penny to explore, but you should bring at least a few hundred baht for eating and bargain hunting.

10. Mahanakhon SkyWalk

The 78-floored, mirrored King Power Mahanakhon skyscraper boasts the highest observation deck in Bangkok. From a height of 310 metres, you can take in unobstructed, panoramic views of the Thai Capital in its entirety. There’s no better vantage point in the city for aspiring photographers.

Mahanakhon SkyWalk

While the 360-degree views are thrilling, nothing beats the exhilaration of stepping out onto the glass-floored balcony of the SkyWalk. The indoor observation deck offers a cheaper and slightly less intimidating viewing experience. You can also grab drinks from the rooftop bar before descending back to ground level.

The Mahanakhon SkyWalk is open from 10 am to 4 pm daily. Tickets usually start at around THB 850 per adult.

11. Ekkamai and Thong Lo

Ekkamai and Thong Lo are two adjacent, upscale neighbourhoods off Sukhumvit Road, known for their trendy nightlife venues, diverse restaurants, premium shopping destinations, local art galleries, and affluent locals. Ekkamai is slightly more relaxed than Thong Lo, but both neighbourhoods are bustling and boast their fair share of culture.

Ekkamai

Ekkamai and Thong Lo both have BTS Skytrain stations of the same name. The nightlife scene tends to start picking up around 9 pm and continues until at least 2 am.

12. W District

Located in Phra Khanong not far from the upscale Ekkamai and Thong Lo neighbourhoods is the W District. At this open-air food court, you’ll find cuisines from all over the world, including Thai, Western, Japanese and Mexican.

W District

This popular hangout spot attracts locals, expats and tourists alike. Simply wave your arm in the air to capture the attention of the waiting staff, and drinks will be brought to your table (you’ll need to order bites from the street food vendors in person).

13. Sathorn

Sathorn is one of Bangkok’s main business centres by day and entertainment hubs by night, where you’ll find high-end hotels, high-rise condos and embassies neighbouring restaurants, nightclubs and ‘entertainment’ venues, particularly in the Silom area.

Sathorn, Bangkok

Sathorn is home to a number of BTS Skytrain and MRT subway stations, the busiest being the BTS Sala Daeng station and the MRT Silom station.

14. Night Markets

Thailand is known the world-over for its night markets. Naturally, many of the largest night markets are hosted in Bangkok. One of our favourite night markets is The One Ratchada, where you can browse local handicrafts, clothes and antiques while exploring countless rows of colourful tents and busy stalls.

The One Ratchada night market in Bangkok

Towards the rear of The One Ratchada is a strip of bars and restaurants housed inside old shipping containers, a fantastic spot for drinks and bites at budget-friendly prices. Many venues host live entertainment.

The One Ratchada is open daily from 5 pm to midnight. Other famous night markets in Bangkok include the Srinagarindra Train Night Market (open Thursday to Sunday from 5 pm to 1 am), Patpong Night Market (open daily from 6 pm to 1 am) and the ChangChui Creative Park (open from 11 am to 11 pm).

15. Shopping Malls

No list of must see and do things in Bangkok would be complete without a mention of the city’s plethora of shopping malls, which cater to just about all budgets and preferences. If you’re looking for bargains, you might enjoy browsing the MBK Center, home to a combination of modern retail stores and traditional marketplaces.

MBK Center in Bangkok

One of the best-known luxury shopping malls in Bangkok is the Siam Paragon, which is around the corner from even more well-known shopping and cultural hubs like Siam Discovery and the Siam Center.

Other well-known malls in Bangkok include CentralWorld, ICONSIAM, Mega Bangna, Terminal 21… the list is virtually endless. According to Emporis, there are over 200 malls spread throughout Bangkok’s districts and neighbourhoods. Most malls stay open until 10 pm.

More experiences to add to your Bangkok to-do list

Above is a far from exhaustive list of the best things to do in Bangkok, but we hope we’ve given you enough variety to get to know the ins and outs of this melting pot of a city. If you’re visiting as a digital nomad, you might want to read about Bangkok’s best coworking spaces, where you can work remotely alongside a community of like-minded individuals. Looking for a place to stay? Check out the best hostels in Bangkok with facilities for work and leisure.

Do you have anything to add to this list? Which attractions do you think digital nomads should visit to enrich their understanding of Thailand’s vibrant culture? Do you have any money-saving tips for our community of globetrotters? Let us know in the comments below.

Josh Saunders

Josh Saunders

I've been writing my way through Europe, Asia and Oceania for just over a decade, providing SEO copywriting, editing and content strategy services to travel-industry clients ranging from startups through to Fortune 500 giants. Now, I'm on a mission to connect digital nomads with the world's best destinations for work and leisure.
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