The best things to do in Bangkok tell the story of this fascinating city, which began as a small trading center and port community on the west bank of the Chao Phraya River some 200 years ago. Today, while the city is up to speed with modern times, the grandeur and glory of its illustrious past still prevail. Be it dazzling temples, spectacular palaces, a world-famous floating market or colorful Chinatown, each of these famous Bangkok places has an intriguing story to tell.

    What are the best things to do in Bangkok?

    The Grand Palace and Wat Prakaew command respect from all who have walked in their sacred grounds. Built in 1782, and served as the home of Thai Kings and the Royal court for 150 years, The Grand Palace continues to have visitors in awe with its beautiful architecture and intricate detail. Wat Pra Kaew enshrines Phra Kaew Morakot (the Emerald Buddha), a sacred Buddha image meticulously carved from a single block of emerald.

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    Location: Na Phra Lan Rd, Phra Borom Maha Ratchawang, Phra Nakhon, Bangkok 10200, Thailand

    Open: Daily from 8.30 am to 3.30 pm

    Phone: +66 (0)2 623 5500

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    Wat Pho

    Old Town

    There’s more to Wat Pho than its gigantic reclining Buddha and traditional Thai massage. This iconic temple harbors a fascinating collection of murals, inscriptions and sculptures that delve into various subjects, from warfare to astronomy to archeology. The vast temple complex also contains a landscaped garden with stone sculptures, stupas adorned with glazed porcelain, a souvenir shop, and the College of Traditional Medicine.

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    Location: 2 Sanam Chai Rd, Phra Borom Maha Ratchawang, Phra Nakhon, Bangkok 10200, Thailand

    Open: Daily from 8 am to 6.30 pm

    Phone: +66 (0)2 226 0335

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    Bangkok's Chinatown is a colorful, exotic and pleasingly chaotic area, packed with market stalls and probably the highest concentration of gold shops in the city. During major festivities like Chinese New Year and the Vegetarian Festival, the dynamism and spirit of celebration spread across town like wildfire, and if you happen to be around, don’t miss an opportunity to witness Chinatown Bangkok at its best. Read more

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    Location: Yaowarat Road, Samphanthawong, Bangkok 10100, Thailand

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    Sky Bar boasts sweeping views from the top of State Tower, one of Bangkok's tallest buildings. With its highly visible golden dome, the bar is tucked away in a corner of the award-winning, open-air Sirocco restaurant on the 64th floor. Sky Bar's counter is illuminated and changes color every few minutes.

    Sky Bar is where you'd find some of the best live jazz in Bangkok. Also located at the Dome is Distil, another place where everyone likes to be seen. Part DJ bar, part smoking lounge, and part restaurant, Distil serves fine single-malt Scotches like Macallan and Glenmorangie, accompanied by a small carafe of genuine Scottish water.

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    Location: Lebua at State Tower, 1055 Si Lom, Silom, Bang Rak, Bangkok 10500, Thailand

    Open: Daily from 4 pm to 1 am

    Phone: +66 (0)2 624 9555

    Once only popular among wholesalers and traders, Chatuchak Weekend Market has reached a landmark status as a must-visit place for tourists. Its sheer size and diverse collections of merchandise will bring any seasoned shoppers to their knees. The market is home to more than 8,000 market stalls. On a typical weekend, more than 200,000 visitors come here to sift through the goods on offer.

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    Location: Kamphaeng Phet 2 Rd, Chatuchak, Bangkok 10900, Thailand

    Open: Friday from 6 pm to midnight, Saturday–Sunday from 9 am to 6 pm

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    The impressive silhouette of Wat Arun’s towering spires is one of the most recognized in Southeast Asia. Constructed during the first half of the 19th century in the ancient Khmer style, the stupa showcasing ornate floral pattern is decked out in glazed porcelain. It's especially stunning up close. Apart from its beauty, Wat Arun symbolizes the birth of the Rattanakosin Period and the founding of the new capital after the fall of Ayutthaya.

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    Location: 158 Thanon Wang Doem, Wat Arun, Bangkok Yai, Bangkok 10600, Thailand

    Phone: +66 (0)2 891 2185

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    The pioneer of Bangkok floating markets, Damnoen Saduak continues to offer an authentic experience despite its increasingly touristy atmosphere. Imagine dozens of wooden row boats floating by, each laden to the brim with farm-fresh fruits, vegetables or flowers. Food vendors fill their vessels with cauldrons and charcoal broils, ready to whip up a bowl of ‘boat noodle’ or seafood skewers upon request. The market is around 100 km southwest of Bangkok.

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    Location: Damnoen Saduak, Damnoen Saduak District, Ratchaburi 70130, Thailand

    Open: Daily from 7 am to 5 pm

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    photo by Dennis Jarvis (CC BY-SA 2.0) modified

    Jim Thompson’s 3 decades of dedication to the revival of Thai silk, then a dying art, changed the industry forever. After he mysteriously disappeared into the jungles of Malaysia, he left a legacy behind, which is reflected through his vast collections of Thai art and antiques now on display at the Jim Thompson’s House and Museum. It's a lovely complex of 6 Thai-style teakwood houses that are preserved in their original glory.

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    Location: 6 Rama I Rd, Wang Mai, Pathumwan, Bangkok 10330, Thailand

    Open: Daily from 9 am to 6 pm

    Phone: +66 (0)2 216 7368

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    photo by Clay Gilliland (CC BY-SA 2.0) modified

    Asiatique: The Riverfront is a successful combination of 2 of Bangkok’s most popular shopping experiences: a night bazaar and a mall. You can find it 10 minutes downriver from the Saphan Taksin BTS Skytrain Station. Once a bustling international trade port, it has been transformed with over 1,500 boutiques and 40 restaurants housed inside a huge replica warehouse complex.

    An evening here presents you with good fun browsing the boutiques, picking up gifts or something for yourself. Shows are performed nightly – you can expect the Calypso ladyboy cabaret, as well as a Muay Thai show and a classic Thai puppets performance.

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    Location: 2194 Charoenkrung Road, Wat Phraya Krai, Bang Kho Laem, Bangkok 10120, Thailand

    Open: Daily from 4 pm to midnight

    Phone: +66 (0)92 246 0812

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    photo by chee.hong (CC BY 2.0) modified

    Vertigo at Banyan Tree is an open-air bar and restaurant located 61 floors above the bustling streets of Bangkok. Indulge in some of the world's finest champagne, exotic cocktails, wine-by-the-glass or non-alcoholic beverages in the bar area, or go all the way for a memorable dinner of seafood.

    Stylish, sophisticated, romantic, the magical atmosphere makes for a memorable evening, weather permitting. A telescope is available for star-gazing, and on most nights there is live jazz too. Due to its popularity, reservations are required for the restaurant.

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    Location: 61st Floor, Banyan Tree Bangkok, 21/100 South Sathon Road, Sathon, Bangkok 10120, Thailand

    Open: Daily from 5 pm to 1 am (dinner from 6 pm to 10.30 pm)

    Phone: +66 (0)2 679 1200

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    If Bangkok is a city where East greets West, then Khao San Road is the scene of their collision. With travelers from every corner of the modern world, sleek clubs playing sophisticated sounds, eclectic market stalls, converted VW cocktail bars, and foods tamed to suit the Western palate, this area is extremely popular with the backpacker crowd who use Bangkok as a hub to explore all of Thailand and Southeast Asia.

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    Location: Khao San, Talat Yot, Phra Nakhon, Bangkok 10200, Thailand

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    One of the most scenic areas, the Chao Phraya riverside reflects a constantly changing scene day and night: water-taxis and heavily laden rice barges chugging upstream, set against a backdrop of glittering temples and luxury hotels. The areas from Wat Arun to Phra Sumeru Fortress are home to some of the oldest settlements in Bangkok, particularly Bangkok Noi and its charming ambience of stilt houses flanking the complex waterways.

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    The floating markets of Bangkok are must-visits on any visit to the Thai capital. Among the few is Amphawa, one of the most popular floating market near Bangkok. It may not be as large as Damnoen Saduak, but it’s more authentic. It’s become such a magnet for Thai weekenders that food stalls have grown from the riverbanks and stretched far into the surrounding streets.

    The main draw is, of course, eating seafood grilled precariously on wooden boats moored around the famous central bridge, serving an appetizing array of huge prawns, shellfish and squid. The smell is simply irresistible and customers flock to each side of the river from noon until late in the evening.

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    photo by Kieron Wood (CC BY-SA 3.0) modified

    Lumpini Park, after the birthplace of the Lord Buddha in Nepal, is one of the largest parks in downtown Bangkok. It's as big as 93 soccer fields, housing numerous benches, walking paths, and picnic spots as well as various flora and fauna.

    Lumpini Park appeals to just about everyone – you'll often find the elderly practicing tai chi and couples lounging by the lakeside, along with 9-to-5 workers relaxing on benches or exercising in the evenings. This green space is often populated by families, especially on weekends.

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    Location: Rama IV Rd, Lumphini, Pathumwan, Bangkok 10330, Thailand

    Open: Daily from 4.30 am to 9 pm

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    Soi Rambuttri is Khao San's more attractive, well-behaved brother. This street gives you a taste of how Bangkok used to look before all the skyscrapers arrived. Leafy banyan trees shade the sidewalks and the vibe sways more towards local than backpacker despite a number of them now choosing to stay here rather than on the infamous Khao San Road.

    Soi Rambuttri has a great mix of guesthouses, restaurants, bars and street food stalls. Most of the shops are similar to those you find anywhere in the area selling the usual T-shirts, DVDs and other tourist trinkets. You can explore the entire horseshoe-shaped road on foot within 30 minutes.

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    Location: Soi Rambuttri, Talat Yot, Phra Nakhon, Bangkok 10200, Thailand

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    Bangkok museums are among the city’s finest cultural venues, where you can admire centuries-old artifacts of historical significance, Buddhist relics, and modern art pieces. Some are housed in buildings just as interesting as their contents. Bangkok’s many museums exhibit some of the most sublime and strangest collections of relics you can imagine, giving you a wonderful insight into Thailand's colorful culture and unique heritage.

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    You can find Bangkok temples spread throughout the city. The 3 most famous ones are Wat Pra Kaew, Wat Arun, and Wat Pho. Once you’ve seen them all, there are still many other temples worth visiting.

    Fortunately, many of the most famous temples in Bangkok are located near the Grand Palace, excellent for a day of fun exploration. With any temple visit, remember to not only to bring your camera but also to wear appropriate temple attire: long pants and clothing that covers your shoulders and proper shoes (no flip-flops).

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    Calypso Cabaret in Bangkok is an entertaining show that takes place every night at Asiatique: The Riverfront. Thailand's katoeys (ladyboys) are some of the most beautiful (and convincing) transvestites in the world, mostly accepted and embraced by a highly tolerant Thai society.

    The ladyboy cabaret show takes place within Warehouse 3, near Asiatique’s town square. Decorated with rainbow neon lights, the auditorium can accommodate up to 350 people per show. Tickets come with a free drink and it's possible to purchase a dinner and show package.

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    Location: Asiatique The Riverfront (Warehouse 3), 2194 Charoenkrung 72-76 Rd, Prayakrai, Bangkorlaem, Bangkok 10120, Thailand

    Open: Daily from 7.30 pm to 8.40 pm and from 9 pm to 10.10 pm

    Phone: +66 (0)2 688 1415

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    Phra Sumen Fort

    Fourteen forts were built during the reign of King Rama I to protect the borders of the Old City, but most have disappeared over the years. Only Phra Sumen Fort and Mahakhan Fort have managed to remain in Bangkok.

    This pale white concrete fort with battlements is nestled in the quiet Suan Santichaiparkran Park, which straddles the banks of the Chao Phraya River. You can get there by taxi or the Chao Phraya Express Boat (disembark at Phra Athit Pier).

    Location: Phra Athit Rd, Chana Songkhram, Phra Nakhon, Bangkok 10200, Thailand

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    photo by Supanut Arunoprayote (CC BY 4.0) modified

    Bangkok markets offer unique shopping experiences compared to the air-conditioned megamalls of the city. You’ll explore mazes with alleys after alleys of shops selling everything from one-off fashion accessories to knock-off and kitschy items. There are also markets dedicated to farm-fresh flowers and agricultural products like Pak Klong Talad, the biggest wholesale and retail fresh flower market in Bangkok.

    In all, they offer excellent bargains as well as a glimpse into the local life. For foodies, it’s a great opportunity to sample dishes you won't find in most restaurants. Must-visit markets in Bangkok include the Chatuchak Weekend Market, while the Patpong, Khlong Thom and Saphan Phut markets offer exciting shopping experiences after dark.

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    Thonburi is the old Bangkok capital situated on the western banks of the Chao Phraya River. Having stayed an independent province until it was merged into Bangkok in 1972, Thonburi has avoided much of the modern development seen elsewhere. Its manmade network of khlongs (canals), including Khlong Mon and Khlong Bangkok Noi, retains much of its ramshackle charm.

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    Location: Thonburi, Bangkok 10600, Thailand

    photo by David Broad (CC BY 3.0) modified

    Bangkok has a collection of beautiful parks where you can briefly escape from the big city’s skyscrapers, malls and traffic. Parks in Bangkok provide its residents with fresh air and lots of healthy outdoor activities in lush, landscaped areas.

    Some offer picturesque views of the downtown Bangkok skyline, with swathes of green and expansive lakes and with dedicated bicycle and jogging tracks. Most Bangkok parks come with additional sports facilities such as tennis courts, swimming pools and soccer fields. Bangkok’s most popular parks are usually close to a BTS Skytrain or MRT station, making them convenient spots for relaxation during your vacation.

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    At 304 meters tall, Baiyoke Tower II is one of Bangkok's (and Thailand's) tallest buildings. The 88-storey building has a public observatory deck on the 77th floor, while the top floor is an open-air, 360-degree revolving roof deck (an admission applies). Both venues offer a bird's-eye view of the sprawling Thai capital. Baiyoke Sky Hotel covers from the 22nd to the 74th floor.

    Taking in the Bangkok skyline from your hotel window is one thing, but watching it from the 84th-floor outdoor revolving deck is another experience entirely. Up at the top, the excitement, open space and the sense that you’re on top of one of Thailand’s tallest buildings make all the difference.

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    Location: Soi Ratchaprarob 3, Phaya Thai, Ratchathewi, Bangkok 10400, Thailand

    Open: Skywalk and observation deck: daily from 10 am to 10.30 pm

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    Siam Niramit is a spectacular show in Bangkok. With its rich history that reads like an epic novel, Thailand is undoubtedly one of the most intriguing Asian nations, replete with over 700 years of captivating culture, customs and traditions. But just how Thailand's spawning seven centuries are brilliantly captured into a 90-minute production, Siam Niramit has the answer.

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    Location: 19 Thiam Ruam Mit Road, Huai Khwang, Bangkok 10310, Thailand

    Phone: +66 (0)2 649 9222

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    Democracy Monument

    Circled by perpetual swarms of traffic, the Democracy Monument on Ratchadamnoen Road is a large western-style symbol of Thailand's adoption of democracy and liberty. Field Marshall Plaek Pibulsonggram commissioned it to commemorate the June 1932 military coup that led to the country's first democratic constitution in place of absolute rule.

    Location: Ratchadamnoen Avenue, Wat Bowon Niwet, Phra Nakhon, Bangkok 10200, Thailand

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    photo by Y.Thanongsak (CC BY-SA 4.0) modified

    Though Muay Thai seems like a violent sport, learning it properly can be a fun and worthwhile experience. One of the best places to go (if you want a comprehensive learning experience) is Muay Thai Institute in Rangsit, just 12 km northeast of Don Mueang International Airport. Even so, there are many Muay Thai gyms in central Bangkok if you just want to enjoy a few rounds of Thai kickboxing with an experienced motorcoach bus.

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    King Rama I Monument

    The monument of King Rama I, otherwise known as King Puttayodfa, is a double lifesize monument to the Thai royal that was built to mark the city's 150th anniversary in 1932. It was built along with the Puttayodfa Memorial Bridge next to which it sits.

    The monument was designed by HRH Prince Naris, and architect Silpa Bhirasri sculpted it in bronze. Born on March 20, 1736, King Rama I was the first king in the Chakri Dynasty which continues to this day. He ascended to the throne on April 6, 1782, and died 27 years later.

    Location: Prachathipok Rd, Wang Burapha Phirom, Phra Nakhon, Bangkok 10200, Thailand

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    Victory Monument

    Victory Monument in Bangkok marks a brief and relatively bloodless war that led to Thailand regaining disputed land on its borders with Indochina. It was built to commemorate the country's victory over French colonialists in Indochina. If you travel by Skytrain to Mo Chit (en route to Chatuchak Weekend Market), you'll catch the best view possible of this large military monument.

    Location: Thanon Phaya Thai, Ratchathewi, Bangkok 10400, Thailand

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    photo by ooohsnap (CC BY 2.0) modified

    Willy Thuan | Compulsive Traveler

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