The Best Bangkok Famous Landmarks and Must Do's
With over 20 million tourists pouring into its bustling streets every year, Bangkok has earned a permanent position in the top tier of most-visited cities on the planet, alongside Paris, New York, Hong Kong and London. And with good reason, too. A superb blend of the ancient and modern, this sprawling megalopolis has stacks of must-sees for the incurable bucket-lister to tick off, from fairytale temples and palaces to futuristic mega-malls and sky-high observation platforms and cocktail bars. Check out our whistle-stop guide to some of Bangkok’s most famous landmarks and must do's, including:
- The Royal Palace
- Wat Arun temple
- Bang Kachao
- King Power Mahanakhon Skywalk
- Jim Thompson House
- Damnoen Saduak floating market
- The National Museum of Bangkok
- ICONSIAM shopping complex
The Best Bangkok Famous Landmarks and Must Do's
There’s no point beating around the bush, so let’s get straight to the main event. We’re talking the absolute must-sees; the essential attractions; the Bangkok big kahunas. Even if you only have a couple of days in town, make sure you put the Royal Palace complex right at the top of your list. Like most royal residences around the world, Bangkok’s premier attraction is a riot of golden statues, opulent interiors and grand pavilions. But the scene-stealing fairytale spires of its many buildings are what really sets it apart. So set your camera phone to stun and grab some effortless snaps to make your social feeds pop.
Bangkok also isn’t short of a temple or two. You’ll want to tick off the ‘big three’: that’d be Wat Phra Kaew (in the palace grounds), Wat Pho and Wat Arun, the latter of which you’ll recognize as the iconic extraterrestrial-looking landmark on the banks of the Chao Phraya river. Book a sunset dinner cruise to see its show-stopping porcelain-encrusted prangs lit up against technicolor skies of bruised purple, flaming orange and flamingo pink.
There are further gems to be found among the glass-and-steel jungle of skyscrapers that jockeys for position alongside Bangkok’s historic temples and palaces. Briefly the city’s tallest building (and still top three for now, though possibly not by the time you’re reading this), the mighty King Power Mahanakhon towers 1,000 feet over the city streets, its blocky facade looking like an unfinished game of Tetris. Whiz up to the 78th floor in its super-speed escalator for views down through the transparent glass Skywalk – an experience that’s all but guaranteed to leave you with sweaty palms.
Other unnatural highs around these parts include the Moon Bar atop the luxury Banyan Tree hotel. Catch fine evening views from the open-top bar 61 floors up, while sipping a Vertigo Sunset cocktail, the bar’s signature punch of tropical fruit juices shot through with Malibu. Or board one of the 42 gondolas of the Asiatique Sky observation wheel for a slightly less panic-inducing climb to 60 feet, with superb views across the broad Chao Phraya river.
Of the many galleries and museums in Bangkok, the National Museum should be top of your must-see list for its fine collection of Asian Buddhist arts, including the largest showcase of Thai art in the country. Jim Thompson House runs it a close second though. Step inside this series of traditional 19th-century houses to experience the Thai Silk King’s eclectic collection of Southeast Asian art, including Buddha statues, Chinese pottery, Thai paintings and more.
The Best Bangkok Markets and Shopping Must-Dos
If there are two things Bangkok does well – and we mean really well – it’s malls and markets. Take advantage of the city’s VAT refund scheme on luxury goods and treat yourself to that new iPhone or Fendi handbag you’ve been promising yourself. Just look for the ‘VAT refund for tourists’ signs in shop windows and fill your boots. You’ll find it throughout the epic ICONSIAM shopping and entertainment complex, one of the biggest malls in Asia with somewhere in the ballpark of 700 shops and 100 restaurants (plus a floating market, a heritage museum and an IMAX cinema). And there are also great VAT (and other) discounts to be had in the centralwOrld and Central Village malls.
Hit up Chatuchak for the city’s weekend market extraordinaire, where you can stock up on everything from vintage fashions to antique cutlery, rare Thai pressings of classic vinyl records, and plants for your garden. This sprawling complex breaks its thousand-odd stalls into around 30, um, bite-size sections to make it easier to navigate, although you should still expect to get hopelessly lost in its labyrinthine lanes more than once.
It’s a day trip to reach the legendary Damnoen Saduak floating market southwest of Bangkok. Here, locals hawk unique handcrafts, colorful clothing, delectable Thai food and more from traditional wooden boats. Join them on the water on a boat ride that allows you to take in the picture-perfect scenery, all bustling market stalls and traditional stilt houses. And make sure to work your way through the rainbow of tropical fruits and street food here, from the divisive durian with its prickly shell to must-try mango sticky rice, spicy boat noodles and crispy duck. Shuttle bus and private tours provide the most convenient ways to get to this historic floating market, while tuk tuk tours of Bangkok are also a great way to get under the skin of Thailand’s foodie culture without leaving the city.
The Best Natural Attractions in Bangkok
There’s no denying it: Bangkok is more concrete jungle than actual jungle. But that’s not to say there aren’t natural treasures to be found in and around it, if you know where to look. Chief among these is Lumpini Park, perhaps the city’s best-known green space. It’s here, in the hazy heat of the mornings, that you’ll find joggers treading its running paths and pensioners staying spry with a gentle spot of Tai Chi on the manicured lawns, while water monitor lizards bask by the lakeside. It’s a Bangkok landmark that everyone should visit at least once.
But if it’s a tropical retreat that feels a million miles from the noisy city streets (and isn’t), make for Bang Kachao, the city’s green lung that sits tucked in a wide loop of the Chao Phraya river. Take a longtail boat across the water and you’ll soon be exploring an astonishing (and skyscraper-free) jungle inside the city. Cycle or stroll the elevated walkways and explore tranquil canal paths, dense mangrove forests and lush green foliage that’s alive with colorful (and often noisy!) birdlife. Don’t miss the epic Sri Nakhon Khuean Khan Park and Botanical Gardens here, where the bounty of natural attractions includes picturesque ponds and lakes, as well as thousands of vibrant plant and flower species.
A day trip down to the warm tropical waters around Pattaya, where an underwater wonderland teeming with technicolor sea creatures awaits the intrepid snorkeler or scuba diver, is also well worthwhile. Expect to spot friendly clown fish, spooky bat fish, hawksbill turtles and vibrant stingrays moving gracefully around the coral reefs and abandoned shipwrecks.