With green spaces, colorful markets, and warm hospitality—there is so much more to Bangkok than meets the eye.
Bangkok is not your average beauty. She doesn’t have the chic panache of Paris or imperial charm of Kyoto. Bangkok is never going to make the list of Greenest Cities or be awarded the Most Relaxing Metropolis. The beauty of this frantic, bustling, ancient Asian capital instead exists in a million tiny moments—from fragrant blooms threaded onto prayer lanyards at the flower markets to the soft steam off a perfect, egg-encased Pad Thai at a street stall. Watching a sunset over Wat Arun can be life-affirming. The Chao Phraya River at dawn is a Rudyard Kipling scene of slowly puttering longtail boats, backdropped by the softest pink sky. This city is truly is one of the most beautiful places on Earth in the most unexpected ways. Bangkok, Thailand also has a brand new park this year, and her residents are celebrating newly open borders, welcoming back tourists once more. Here are 15 of its most beautiful places to explore.
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Wat Arun at Sunset
Bangkok is home to more than 400 temples (or “wats” as they are known in Thailand). Wat Arun is one of the most dramatic, on the western bank of the river. It dates to the early 1600s but was renamed in 1767. The name translates to “Temple of the Dawn,” but the most impressive view is at sunset. For the best view, head to the rooftop bar at the Sala Rattanakosin hotel.
Yowarat Road in Chinatown at Rush Hour
Frantic and frenzied, Bangkok can feel like a lot on your first visit. It’s best to take a deep breath and lean into the chaos. Grab one of the city’s famous tuk-tuks and take a late afternoon ride down Yowarat Road. This is the most congested, colorful street in the city, running directly through the heart of Chinatown. Hawker stalls, neon signs, honking pink taxis, and colorful characters abound. Hop out and get a bite to eat. It’s here you will also find some of the city’s best street food.
The Street Food Scene
While Bangkok might not win awards for well-kept streets, this is precisely one of the reasons to visit. The world’s most famous street food scene isn’t found in one neighborhood or a single location. Street vendors are everywhere, and the stage play of patrons, chefs, street cats, and boisterous groups at tiny plastic tables is a beautiful tapestry of life. Make sure to visit the soup stalls around Victory Monument, the throngs of options in Chinatown, and the vendors along the long Charoen Krung Road in the Bang Rak neighborhood for some of the city’s best, affordable, curbside bites.
Believe it or not, there are great green spaces in Bangkok. You will have to hunt for the smaller ones (Santichaiprakan Park near the river in Old Town is lovely), but Lumphini Park is honestly hard to miss. It’s located in the middle of the city, featuring a man-made lake with boat rentals, a beautiful pagoda, running trails, and thick groves of trees, and offers an easy escape from the frenzy of the surrounding business districts. This 140-acre block of forested land was donated by the King to the people in 1925.
INSIDER TIPFor a great view, head to the lobby of the 5-Star Sofitel SO/ Hotel, where the park stretches beyond floor-to-ceiling windows.
Thong-Lor At Night
Many visitors stay along the river in the oldest sections of the city. There’s plenty to do there, but if you love cocktails and nightlife, Bangkok shines best in Thong-Lor. The name of this up-market, hip neighborhood translates to “molten gold,” and it’s one of the trendiest spots for locals to spend an evening out. Acclaimed restaurants and craft cocktail joints are plentiful and at night, the traffic and club lights offer a slow-shutter photographic appeal.
The Pak Khlong Flower Market
First a floating market, then a fish market, Pak Khlong has been the city’s main flower market for more than six decades. The best time to wander these covered laneways of explosive color is right at dawn when vendors are busiest making stunning arrangements for the hotels and restaurants. Locals come to purchase phuang malai—good luck prayer garlands to hang in their cars and homes for the day—and in addition to being one of the prettiest places in the city, it also smells incredible.
The Shophouse Architecture
The classic Shophouse is one of the most common, most beloved architectural styles in Bangkok. Many have been transformed into restaurants, salons, boutiques, and offices. Smalls Bar, in the Sathorn neighborhood, is a premier example of creative restoration. Featuring three levels, including a whimsical rooftop with absinthe fountains, you can lounge for jazz sets on the first floor or dine on snacks at a small table on the front balcony, overlooking the street action.
Bangkok is known for its incredible bar and restaurant designs. One of the most striking spots is Havana Social—a craft rum bar, tucked down an alleyway. The secret entrance is through an old phone booth and once inside, you almost expect to find Ernest Hemingway conversing with a Cuban spy in one of the shady corners. Antique tile floors, vintage sofas, mottled walls, and Afro-Cuban live bands sweep you away to a 1920s Caribbean clubhouse.
The Siam Hotel
The city also excels at hotel design, and this urban, luxury resort, featuring 39 rooms and villas, is one of the most awarded for design and service. A gorgeous blend of Art Deco and historic Thai-style, it wows with marble corridors, reflection pools, soaking tubs, and 16th-century antiquities, as well as an awarded spa and a speedboat to take you wherever you need to go.
The Bangkok Treehouse in Bang Krachao
A short boat ride or a half-hour taxi to the western side of the river gets you to Bang Krachao—also known as Bangkok’s Green Lung. This is the largest protected green space in the city. The best hotel option in Bang Krachao is the Bangkok Treehouse, a fun, funky eco-focused resort with incredible design points, including sunbeds on the roofs of the cottages. If you can’t spend a night here, opt for a bike tour through Bang Krachao’s jungle via elevated concrete walkways.
Any Infinity Pool
This is one of the hottest capital cities on earth, with most days of the year clocking in at well above 85 degrees. Coming in close behind street food, the infinity pools of Bangkok might be the second-best reason to visit. There are hundreds of impressive infinity pools in the city and some are actual architectural marvels sprouting off the sides of buildings. Check out this one at the Okura Prestige. Wake up early, grab your swim trunks and your camera. The sunrises from these vantage points are some of the best in the world, and even if you aren’t staying at a hotel, many in the city offer a day pass to their sky-high blue spaces.
The Colorful Canal Life
Bangkok is often called The Venice of the East. At one time, the whole city was crisscrossed with canals or “khlongs,” as they are known in Thai. Today, there are a few remaining, and one of the most colorful to walk along is Khlong Bang Lamphu. It’s beset by old shophouses, where clothes wave in the breeze from second and third stories laundry lines, street cats meander in and out of cafes, and small bridges allow foot traffic to hop back and forth with ease.
The New Benjakitti Forest Park
Green initiatives have long been a hard-fought battle in this city, which boasts some seriously concerning pollution levels. There’s great news ahead! Work has already begun on one of Bangkok’s newest parks in the Asok neighborhood. Benjakitti Forest Park offers paths for walking, jogging, and some excellent bird and lizard watching, as well as water features, raised walkways, and a path connection to the existing Lumphini Park. Phase Two will finish in 2022.
Golden Mount Temple
Construction on this white and gold temple was finished by 1910, and a festival has been held here every November since the reign of King Rama V. Any time of year, you can take the circular pathway upwards from the base, passing monkeys, wild orchids, relics, statues, and tropical plants, alighting at the top to an incredibly serene scape of the city. Golden Mount Temple’s view gives you a birds-eye view of the red-tiled, gold-rimmed roofs of Bangkok’s royal quarter.
The Smiles of the Locals
Ranking as one of the world’s most visited cities and also as one of the friendliest, this capital is renowned for a warm welcome. Hospitality and smiles are as frequent as traffic jams and great meals here. Is a Thai smile the most beautiful thing you can see in Bangkok? Without a doubt.