Discover all the things to do in Bangkok, Thailand’s capitalby | October 17, 2023
Thailand is an Asian paradise, home to some of the world’s most beautiful beaches, lively cities and a special culture. But what is the capital of Thailand? Bangkok, a unique destination well worth visiting. You may also wonder: is Thailand safe? But don't worry: it is, and Bangkok is one of the safest areas for tourists.
Discover all you need to know about the things to do in Bangkok. But, before you travel, remember to apply online for the Thailand tourist visa.
Where is Bangkok?
Bangkok, the capital of Thailand, is located to the south of the country. Bathed by the Gulf of Thailand, it has a population of around 11.070.000 and an area of 1,569 km².
What is the name in Thai for Bangkok?
Bangkok in Thai is called Krung Thep Maha Nakhon. However, that’s not the full name: it’s actually “Krung Thep Mahanakhon Amon Rattanakosin Mahinthara Ayuthaya Mahadilok Phop Noppharat Ratchathani Burirom Udomratchaniwet Mahasathan Amon Piman Awatan Sathit Sakkathattiya Witsanukam Prasit”. Yes, really! According to the Guinness World Records, that’s the longest name ever for a place.
So, what does it mean? The name translates to: "Bangkok, the city of angels, the great city, the eternal residence of the king, the impregnable city, the city of divine beings, the grand capital of the world endowed with nine precious gems, the happy city, abounding in an enormous Royal Palace that resembles the heavenly abode where reigns the reincarnated god, a city given by Indra and built by Vishvakarman”.
If you don’t speak Thai, don’t worry: it’s okay to just call it Bangkok according to Thailand’s government.
Things to do in Bangkok, Thailand
The Grand Palace and Wat Phra Kaew
These two buildings are two of the top things to do in Bangkok. Thailand’s royalty lived in The Grand Palace until 1925, but the building is still used for official ceremonies hosted by the Thai State or royal family.
This big complex built in 1782 is not just a palace: you will find gardens, courtyards and many other buildings.
One of those Wat Phra Kaew, also known as the Temple of the Emerald Buddha, the most important Buddhist temple in Thailand.
Prepare to spend a couple of hours visiting all that you can inside the Grand Palace.
Wat Pho: the Temple of the Reclining Buddha
This temple houses one of Thailand’s most well-known attractions: the 15 meter tall and 46 meter long reclining Buddha, which is covered in gold leaf. It also has almost 400 other depictions of Buddha.
A fun fact is that this is the place where Thai massage was supposedly originated in, and it’s still being taught in Wat Pho to this day. This temple was also the first public university in Thailand. A place filled with history and definitely one of the things to do in Bangkok you can’t miss.
Chinatown (Yaowarat Road)
This area of Bangkok has the most authentic Chinese food in Thailand. Loved by tourists and foodies, it gets very busy at night (but it’s also crowded during the day, of course). It’s especially worth visiting during major festivals or holidays.
Enjoy a delicious meal or shop for trinkets in the many establishments that adorn Chinatown.
Also called the Temple of Dawn, Wat Arun is emblematic of Bangkok. It was built in the 19th century in glazed porcelain.
If you can, take the opportunity to examine it up close: it’s a beautiful sight that you will take home with you. It’s especially beautiful at sunset!
Wat Suthat Thepwararam Ratchaworamahawihan and the Giant Swing
Wat Suthat Thepwararam is one of the oldest Buddhist temples you will find in Bangkok. However, besides its religious importance, it’s more well-known because of its red, giant swing, with a height of over 21 meters.
It used to be featured in Brahmanic rituals in which the men would swing extremely high in the air and try to catch a bag of coins. This practice was abolished decades ago.
This Hindu shrine is free to access. Worshippers flock to offer gifts to a gilded statue of Phra Phrom (the name for the Hindu god Brahma in Thai culture).
Religious or not, visiting Erawan Shrine is part of the great things to do in Bangkok. It can take less than an hour and it’s a perfect way to experience other cultures and forms of worship.
Bangkok Art and Culture Center
A free attraction, the Bangkok Art and Culture Center (BACC) hosts many exhibitions in its ten floors. Here you will also find cafes, bookstores and craft shops.
If you would like to visit it, take into account that it’s closed on Mondays.
Enjoy Bangkok’s floating markets
Taling Chan is 12 km away from downtown Bangkok and it has a large market in land. Khlong Lat Mayom is not as crowded as other floating markets, so it’s a great choice! They are close to one another so you can explore both markets in the same day (morning is the best time to do it).
If they’re not for you, you can travel 100km to the floating market of Damnoen Saduak. Known for being featured in the James Bond movie “The Man with the Golden Gun”, it’s the ideal place to buy fruits, flowers and typical Thai food. Take into account that as Thailand’s most well-known floating market, it can be extremely crowded.
There are many other floating markets in the area and outside Bangkok. You just have to pick the one that best suits your interests and needs.
Take a stroll through Lumpini Park
Lumpini Park was the first public park and the largest in Bangkok. Locals usually choose this park for their outdoor exercise (especially for jogging and to practice Tai Chi).
You can rent paddle and rowing boats to enjoy its big lake whilst admiring the different little animals that surround it, one of the different things to do in Bangkok that you maybe weren’t expecting.
The park is home to different social initiatives. For example, there’s a library, a youth center and a club for elderly citizens, amongst others.
Things to do near Bangkok
Maeklong Railway Market
Almost 2 hours west of Bangkok you can find the Maeklong Railway Market. This is a Thai market just like any other… except for the fact that there’s a train line right down the middle of it, and actual trains go by all day long! You can get the best food and a fun spectacle at the same time.
It’s open every day so you can visit it whenever fits your trip best.
Amphawa Floating Market
Down the road from the Maeklong Railway Market sits the Amphawa Floating Market. Only open on the weekends, here you will be able to explore the different little boats selling food, fruits, souvenirs and so much more.
Erawan Falls National Park
This is one of the best things to do in Bangkok for nature lovers. It’s best to visit Erawan Falls National Park from April to October (the wet season), although sometimes it’s closed due to heavy rainfall.
It’s three hours away from Bangkok, but well worth the visit.
Go tubing at Wang Takhrai Waterfall
If you travel 2 hours away from Bangkok, you will be able to visit Wang Takhrai.
Even though it’s not a big and tall waterfall, the main attraction of the area is the rapids. Rent a tube in the park and have a blast cruising down the forest, one of the fun things to do in Bangkok.
A plus is that it’s possible to camp in the park for those who enjoy it.
Khao Yai National Park and Haew Suwat Waterfall
This was Thailand’s first national park. Khao Yai National Park is located a bit more than 2 hours away from Bangkok. Inside you will find the Haew Suwat Waterfall, an ideal place for a refreshing swim.
Also available for camping, in this Thai park you will also be able to enjoy several jungle hiking trails and, if you’re lucky, catch a glimpse of the park’s wildlife: elephants, bears, deer, monkeys and more.
Sunbathing on Koh Chang Island
This tropical island is located about 6 hours away from Bangkok, so it’s not ideal for a day trip. However, you can easily fit a short 2-day visit in your itinerary.
In Koh Chang you will be able to enjoy activities such as hiking, visiting waterfalls and mountain lookouts, snorkeling and scuba diving. It’s also a good starting point to visit other nearby islands, like Koh Wai or Koh Mak.
Lonely Beach is the best place to take part in Thailand’s nightlife inside the island.
Another island near Bangkok. A key difference? This one was made by men! Surrounded by the Chao Praya River, Koh Kret is home to people of the Mon ethnicity.
You can learn how to do clay pottery, or buy some beautiful artifacts, in the Pa Tum Pottery Factory.
Death Railway (Burma Railway)
A thing to do in Bangkok if you’re a history buff is visiting the Death Railway near Kanchanaburi.
During World War 2, the Japanese started to build a railway connecting Bangkok and Rangoon using their prisoners of war as slave labor, and also civilians. The terrible conditions under which they were forced to work cost the lives of many workers, including around 1.000 Japanese soldiers.
You can visit the Hellfire Pass museum to learn more about this time period.
Did you know that the movie “The Bridge on the River Kwai” was inspired by these events?
The Ancient City of Ayutthaya
Ayutthaya was the second capital of the Siamese Kingdom, present-day Thailand. Founded in 1350, it was designated a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.
Try to visit some of its temples, open every day. You can start with Wat Ratchaburana, Wat Phra Matathat and Wat Phra Si Sanphet.
The trip to Ayutthaya takes about two hours and it’s best to do it by renting a minivan.
Fun things to do in Bangkok
Taste Bangkok’s street food on a food tour
Did you know that Bangkok was named the best city in the world for street food? You can have breakfast, lunch and dinner on the street, so explore all the different vendors and pick your favorite dishes representing Thailand food.
Visit the observation deck in Baiyoke Sky
The Baiyoke Sky hotel is the tallest hotel in Thailand. Its most important attribute is that it has an observation deck where you will find some of the best views of Bangkok, even reaching the Gulf of Thailand.
It’s open from 10:00 to 22:00 and the ticket includes a drink at the hotel’s rooftop bar. Even if you’re not staying inside Baiyoke Sky, it’s worth visiting.
Explore the oceans at Sea Life Ocean World
The biggest aquarium in Southeast Asia, Sea Life Ocean World is a fun and educational thing to do in Bangkok for children and adults alike.
Learn about the sealife of Thailand, enjoy a 4D movie, stroll through the Shark Walk and feed the animals!
Explore the two parks of Safari World: one for the land, one for the sea. It opened its doors in 1988 and it’s a great way to learn about the area’s biodiversity.
Swim with the elephants
The Bangkok Elephant Care Sanctuary awaits those looking to interact with the big and fascinating elephants. You of course won’t get to ride them, but you can feed them and bathe with them.
Try fried scorpion on Khao San Road
Khao San Road is a popular spot in Bangkok located close to other important attractions and to many cheap lodgings, the reason why you will see many backpackers and tourists in the area. It used to be the city’s biggest rice market at the end of the 19th century.
Why is it one of the most visited areas of Bangkok city? Because of its street food and restaurants. Lovers of Thai food will be able to have all their favorite delicacies here, but a surprising one (and only for adventurous eaters) is fried scorpion. Do you dare try it?
If you find yourself in Bangkok in April, you will be able to enjoy the festival Songkran which takes place every year between the 13th and 15th of said month. This festival consists of a city-wide water battle! Prepare your water gun and join in the festivities.
It’s also very lively at nighttime, the place to go if you want to experience the Thai clubs.