The Grand Palace, temples, markets and glitzy shopping malls are all must-sees in the fascinating Thai capital.
However, venture off the tourist track in Bangkok and it will surprise and delight you with hundreds of hidden surprises.
Here are ten top things to do in Bangkok that many tourists miss.
Explore the city streets at night by bicycle
Once you’ve ticked off the temples during the day, gain a greater appreciation of their splendour, and have them almost entirely to yourself, on a guided bike tour at night with Grasshopper Adventures. Starting just before sunset, head down side streets and back alleys through old Bangkok. Cross the Chao Phraya river by ferry and return by bridge, having enjoyed Wat Arun (Temple of Dawn), and Wat Pho (Temple of the Reclining Buddha), majestically illuminated and silent, but for the knowledgeable commentary from your guide. Stop by the famous flower market, where multitudes of stunning bouquets fill entire city blocks!
Experience Muay Thai ringside
Connect with the raw and ancient art of Thai kickboxing at Rajadamnern Stadium. You can usually buy tickets at the door, but to be sure of a seat, book online through the stadium’s website. Book a ringside seat and you’ll be right in the thick of things. Lean muscle, sweat and incredible fitness are on display as each boxer angles for a win before their five two-minute rounds are complete.
Try Tai Chi in Benchasiri Park
This amazing park is located smack bang in the middle of Sukhumvit, with easy access from Phrom Phong BTS Station. Wander around the lake and enjoy the sculptures by Thai artists or relax on the lawns under the trees. Work up a sweat on the running track or work out in Bangkok’s version of Muscle Beach. Join in volleyball and basketball matches in the early evening or try Tai Chi. There’s something here for everyone.
Enjoy a traditional Thai massage
OK, so there are hundreds of massage businesses lining the streets of Bangkok, and with good reason. A traditional Thai massage is undoubtedly one of the most amazing things to do in Bangkok. Similar to Shiatsu, Thai massage is a pressure and stretching technique that provides a surprising level of relaxation and rejuvenation. First, your feet are washed and dried, before your masseuse starts at the feet and ends at the scalp.
For slightly more than prices on the street, try Ruen Nuad, 42 Thanon Convent. You’ll be booking your next visit on the way out!
Eat lunch with the locals
Lunchtime buzzes in Bangkok as food vendors set up on the sidewalks, offering something to tempt all tastes. Find the longest queue and you can be pretty certain it will be good. Soups and noodles are whipped up in a flash, as woks sizzle over open flames. Ask and the chef will allow you to taste test as they cook, so that lunch is perfectly spiced. You can also find omelettes, crepes and even whole fish grilled to perfection.
Watch the sun set from a sky bar
Visit one of Bangkok’s popular rooftop ‘sky bars’ to watch the sun set and the city light up. Sixty-one floors up, Moon Bar on top of the Banyan Tree Hotel captivates guests and it’s easy to see why. This is the perfect spot for a pre-dinner cocktail or two, while Vertigo restaurant serves dinner under the stars. Check the website for dress regulations.
Raise a toast at a pop-up bar
While the city’s rooftop bars offer upmarket glamour and drink prices to match, pop-up street bars are a great way to enjoy icy-cold beers and cocktails at a fraction of the cost. On the corner of Sukhumvit Road and Soi 22 (in front of the Holiday Inn) a bar complete with bar stools, tables and chairs pops up most nights. If not, you’ll certainly find another option close by.
Try Thai concept dining
Bangkok’s concept dining experiences are not to be missed and Karmakamet Diner at Sukhumvit 24 is a fragrant oasis hidden behind the Emporium shopping mall. It’s absolutely perfect for brunch. The aromas of essential oils welcome you into a chic dining space. Brunch favourites include white asparagus with Parma ham or poached duck eggs with homemade gravlax on a delicious ratatouille. Browse in the shop on the way out for aromatic oils and candles.
Step back in time at Ayutthaya
Located 76 kilometres north of Bangkok, Ayutthaya was founded in 1350 and was the capital of Siam for more than four centuries. If you have the time, take a couple of days to explore the many wats and chedis that mark the countryside, once home to ‘Anna and the King’. In the evening, the setting sun transforms the landscape. Temples become your private playground as you fill your camera with images of the majestic ruins.
Travel up by road and return via the Chao Phraya river, enjoying the hustle and bustle of passing river craft, while temples, golden Buddhas and stilt homes slip by. Oriental Escape offers an overnight itinerary, with the services of a private driver and guide.
In mid April, Thais celebrate Songkran (New Year) by painting their faces white with talc and enjoying a giant water fight! In Bangkok, head for Silom Road to join the party. Eye goggles and plastic protection for your phone are essential. Be warned: you will get wet!
Do you have any suggestions to add to our list of ten top things to do in Bangkok? We would love to hear from you. Please leave a comment below.
Additional images: Bigstock
About the writer
As a travel blogger and photographer, Neil Brook travels the world looking to meet interesting people, taste great food and find different angles from which to cover his adventures. He is privileged to have lived in Australia, the Philippines, Japan, Singapore and London. Currently living in Bangkok, Neil splits his time between Thailand and London. He would be in heaven joining the Bizarre Foods team, having tried horse meat tartare in Tokyo, lobster sashimi in Manila and the perfect ceviche in Havana. More a traveller than a tourist, he prefers to mix it with the locals, learn their history and culture and walk the backstreets to uncover hidden gems worthy of praise on the global stage or quiet moments of private reflection.