One night in Bangkok has been setting the tone for many Bangkok travelers, but let’s be honest – you will definitely want more than one night the city is awesome and not short of great things to do, see and of course, eat! And once you have crossed the regular Bangkok sightseeing off your list – the Grand Palace, Wat Pho, the Emerald Buddha – you may be interested in some more unusual things to do in Bangkok.
Whether you are looking for things to do in Bangkok in 3 days or only have one day, here is how you can make the most of your visit and how I – a self-proclaimed Bangkok-addict – would spend my time.
And if you need some practical tips for your Bangkok stay and how to get around, you can jump ahead here.
A Bangkok Itinerary
A tour of Nang Loeng with HiveSters
I love a guided tour if it is well done, especially if said tour will feed me. HiveSters hits the brief perfectly because the founders, sisters Achi and Mint, have created something truly unique. Each tour takes you into a local community, introduces sustainable businesses as well as old Thai traditions to visitors. Authenticity is the key to their tours and have I mentioned that they are yummy too?
Nang Loeng is one of the disappearing communities in Bangkok that has been around for over 200 years. HiveSters strives to connect travelers with Thai traditions and those people living here, curating authentic experiences instead of mass tourism and cookie-cutter tours. This project is aptly called APPEAR.
For me, that includes eating everything at the Nang Loeng market – the first non-floating market in the city. Pe’ Deng (Pe’ = Big sister) the leader of the Nang Loeng community shows us around but anybody can come to the market. You will find an array of local delicacies and snacks, all homemade of course. I definitely recommend coming hungry!
All around the market hall, you will find stalls in little alleys and I strongly recommend following your nose inside, the food you will find here is some of the best I have had in Thailand. Even if you are not doing the tour, I highly recommend you come here for a meal – my favorite is the savory crispy pancake filled with tofu, shredded coconut and beansprouts which you eat with pickles and chilli. It is delicious and for 40 baht one of the cheapest meals you will find. The stall is in a tiny alley next to 314 Nakhon Sawan Road, outside of the market.
Turns out I am much better at eating than dancing. Even Aunty Kanya, one of the last remaining stars of Thai dance, couldn’t make me look graceful. But I gave her credit for trying and for allowing me a glimpse into her life and her past. During our tour, we met her at her local temple where she not only showed me the grave of her mother who was a dancer like her and once upon a time consort to the king of Cambodia but also Mitr Chaibancha’s resting place. He was something like the Thai Elvis Prestley and from her community. I could tell by her giggle and the garlands around his grave that a few girls, regardless of age, must have had or may still have a crush on him.
It was one of those interactions that we as travelers always thrive to have but are so hard to come by. How do you meet people like Aunty Kanya when you arrive in a foreign country, how do you listen to their stories without knowing the language, how do you forge a connection if you don’t leave your tour bus and just look at everything from the outside? I was grateful for my wonderful guide, Yin, who made it possible for me to get a look at the real Bangkok – the old, the new and an Elvis who still makes old women blush.
Keen for some other Bangkok activities? Check out these posts:
Exploring Chinatown, Bangkok.
Railway Market & Floating Markets Tour.
A visit at the flower market Bangkok.
Getting pampered at HARNN
Finding a great massage is a must for any Bangkok itinerary and is easy and inexpensive. But as much as I like a 200 baht foot massage on the roadside on Khao San, sometimes it needs to be a bit fancier. If you need to be spoiled I recommend heading to HARNN. They deserve the title best spa in Bangkok and also have the best view. Honestly, the panorama alone is worth a visit. HARNN is another great example of a truly local experience thanks to the brand’s founder Vudhichai Harnphanich who created its signature soaps in 1999. Mind you, I don’t go there to buy soap but for hours of bliss.
Caturday Cat Cafe
I knew cat cafes existed but going to the Caturday Cat Cafe is like meeting Santa for cat lovers. You kinda know that he is real, you hope a whole lot but you are just not a hundred percent sure that such magic can truly exist until you meet him. Or in my case them. 30 of the fluffiest, prettiest (minus the horrible bows they make them wear), loveliest cats.
I had not been that happy in a long time as I was at Caturday and I was happy to realize I wouldn’t end up alone as a cat lady (which by the way I don’t consider an insult but rather something to aspire too!) – there were quite a few of us.
While some countries have gone a bit crazy and opened cafes with animals that by my definition shouldn’t be kept inside and petted (looking at you, baby kangaroo in Korea!) I think cats are alright. At least I hope so.* The cats looked healthy, every patron was reminded not to pick them up or bother sleeping cats, and the waitresses/cat-carers seemed to genuinely love their animals.
*If you know of any issues with cat cafes and why one shouldn’t support them for the welfare of cats, do let me know. I really love cats and I’d rather not go than support anything that would harm them. Thanks!
Sundowners – Rooftop Bars in Bangkok
If you are looking for the best things to do in Bangkok at night a drink at a rooftop bar is a must. After all, this is when the Hangover was still going well…
There is a huge amount of great rooftop bars and a visit should be part of your Bangkok itinerary but sometimes you just want a quick G&T, see the night sky, snap some pictures and be done with it. And more importantly, be allowed inside with old Havaianas if those are the only ‘decent’ shoes you have. Not a given in Bangkok’s rooftop bars…
For such a place head to the old town of Bangkok to the Printing House on Dinso Road. I don’t quite know why but the place is usually empty which is a pity really because the views are stunning, the waiters lovely, and they have a good happy hour – all you need from a rooftop bar in my books.
If you are looking for one of the Bangkok attractions for adults and you are not into seedy ping pong shows or the backpacker chaos that is Khao San Road (though I dare say it is a fun place to have a few beers), head to the Saffron Sky Garden (52nd Floor of the Banyan Tree Hotel, 21/100 South Sathon Road). It is a few floors below their infamous Moon Bar and while you can’t enjoy all of the night skies it is a lot less windy, less crowded and the view is just as stunning. And as the name implies it resembles a garden which makes for a green oasis and holiday feel. The dress code is not as strict as it is in the Moon Bar, but unfortunately, the prices are the same.
Dinner in Bangkok
Whenever I come to town I like to scout new contestants for the title of the best pad thai and great new restaurants in Bangkok. There is no shortcoming of restaurants, night markets, and delicious hole-in-the-wall eateries where you can get your fix of international or Thai food.
Chances are you are looking for some great street food and for that, I recommend checking the area you are staying at as the options are almost endless in Bangkok. Ask your hotel or guesthouse for a recommendation and don’t worry – street food in Bangkok is good, cheap, and usually safe to eat. Just make sure you go where the queues are long and you see the most locals!
Check out my favorite neighborhoods, Phra Nakhon and Chinatown, for endless options or find my favorite Pad Thai here:
If you are looking for some fancier options or a great place for a date I would recommend these restaurants in Bangkok:
Nahm – at COMO Hotel, 27 South Sathorn Road Tungmahamek
Nahm is a must eat in Bangkok and one of the best and most innovative Thai restaurants. They just got a new chef, Pim Techamuanvivit who is already doing really exciting things on a plate here. Especially noteworthy since she is one of Bangkok’s first female head chef of this caliber.
I personally haven’t been but if you stay in Silom I definitely would recommend you go here for a fancy dinner in Bangkok.
Gaggan – 68/1 Soi Langsuan Ploenchit Road, Lumpini
Gaggan is currently leading the Top 50 Restaurants in Asia list and rightfully so. The menu pays homage to chef Gaggan’s Indian heritage and while he has recently resigned the food is still an experience. Make sure to come hungry as you will be fed 25 courses which are small but filling in the long run. If you are a foodie and are looking for fun things to do in Bangkok make a reservation quickly because this is dinner theatre at its finest!
Bitterman – Saladaeng Soi 1, Silom
I came across Bitterman after a frantic search of googling for good pasta in Bangkok. I didn’t want noodles, I wanted pasta. What I found was Bitterman a lovely option for: first date, a group of friends, a solo traveler, an Instagram photoshoot.
And yes, I had all of the above there. The food is nice, the wine is inexpensive, the service is lovely but best of all is the beautiful jungle/greenhouse setting that offers a true oasis in the busiest part of Bangkok.
And if you need to a place to rest your head after an exciting day in Bangkok I got you covered too:
Practical Tips for your Bangkok Itinerary
Many international and regional/domestic airlines have direct flights to Bangkok and it is a great hub if you are connecting to other Southeast Asian destination.
I usually pick the cheapest flight and don’t mind some extra travel time and a layover but there is nothing nicer than having a direct connection as I had now. Upon my return to Germany, I was flying with Thai Airways from Bangkok to Frankfurt. It was my first time with them and an absolute pleasure. While we all love Business Blass I think the true value of an airline shows in its economy and Thai Airways was spot on.
I got lucky sitting right behind the business class and while that was a bit of a tease it also meant I had extra legroom. I had chosen a daytime flight which I loved because I always have a hard time sleeping on planes in any case and so I just enjoyed my time watching movies, working and eating – yes, on my flight from Bangkok to Frankfurt they served me two whole meals and while I am a bit weird and generally like airplane food, Thai Airways’ dishes were some of the best I have had.
Read more about flying with Thai Airways here:
Thai Airways Review – Not another business class review.
Bangkok has two airports, Suvarnabhumi Airport and Don Mueang. Both are international airports but Don Mueang is the one that covers most Air Asia flights and I dare say I have seen more of it than I like to admit over the last few months. It isn’t the greatest airport, to be honest.
If you have connecting flights within Bangkok make sure to check if it’s at the same airport. There is a shuttle to connect them both but it takes a minimum of 50 minutes, probably more with traffic. Do allocate for enough time if you are coming from overseas as you will need to go through immigration at your arrival airport.
Traveling to and from each airport you have a few choices depending on your budget. If you are flying from Suvarnabhumi Airport you can take the Airport Rail Link which connects you to either the BTS Skytrain or MRT.
I personally prefer to take a taxi since I am always traveling with a lot of luggage and the prices are not that bad. Both airports have taxi counters where you get in line and show them where you want to go before getting a driver allocated. Make sure you have your hotel address in Thai and a phone number so the driver can call if needed. You need to pay extra for highway tolls which makes it a little more pricey but a whole lot faster. Don’t worry though the driver will always ask you first! Make sure to have some smaller bills (50-baht and 100-baht notes) – I have yet to find a Bangkok taxi driver with change for a 1000-baht note.
If you are traveling to the airport I prefer Grab (Asia’s version of Uber). Especially at the end of a stay in Bangkok, it is great if you are low on cash as you can put your Grab on your credit card and you can even pre-order a car. I have tried this thrice and it worked twice – just make sure you check half an hour before your scheduled pick-up time that your driver has not canceled on you last minute.
Depending on which airport, which area in Bangkok you stay at and traffic you will pay between THB 400 and 600 for a taxi or Grab.
As a German, I can stay as a tourist without a visa for 30 days as can many other nationalities. While lines at immigration are usually quite long at both airports the process is simple. You will usually get your arrival/departure card on the plane, fill it in and hand it over to the immigration officer with your passport. Keep the departure card slip as you will need that when you leave.
Legally you will need proof of a return ticket and depending on the airline you may be asked for it before you even board the plane. Airlines do that because if you get refused by the country you are traveling to, they are in charge of taking you back to where you came from. To be honest, I rarely have a return ticket or can prove onward travel as my trips tend to be a bit more spontaneous these days and I never had an issue. But those are the legal requirements and if you don’t want to take the risk buy a roundtrip ticket, “rent” a ticket or purchase a cheap flight to a neighboring country beforehand.
Thailand’s currency is the Thai Baht – THB. You can find a current exchange rate here. I usually take out money from the ATM when I arrive at the airport. While most ATMs charge a fee of THB 200 I still think it works out cheaper than exchanging actual cash, something that is just not feasible for me.
Credit cards are accepted at most places except of course at small street food stalls and shops. If you go for a meal to a proper restaurant usually 10% service charge and 9% city tax are added to your bill.
Getting Around Bangkok
Depending on where you stay the BTS Skytrain or MRT are your best and fastest options to get around as traffic in Bangkok can get rather bad. Also, the German in me loves the order of traveling throughout Bangkok by train – there are allocated places for each compartment on the platform where you wait to get in, a free spot for people to get out, and everybody lines up nicely so there is no shoving and pushing.
You can buy a single ride at the station (the machines tell you exactly how much it will cost to the station you want to go) – swipe your card to get in but keep it as you will need to swipe it again when you get off. If you are planning to stay longer you can buy a rabbit card for the BTS or a smart card for the MRT which allow you to recharge and pay as you go.
In some areas like my beloved Phra Nakhon but also Khao San Road, there are no train stations, not yet at least. But you are very close to the Chao Phraya River and you can take the express boat to get around. This is not only super scenic, it is also ridiculously cheap. You can find routes and maps here.
Alternatively, you will need a taxi or a Grab. I prefer the latter as communicating with drivers is sometimes tricky if you don’t speak Thai (again have your destination written in Thai will help) so an app with a map makes the whole thing a lot easier. Great for short distances and to get around quickly in traffic – hire a Grab bike. There are also regular motorcycle taxis available in many parts of town but I do like the convenience of paying by card and getting a receipt.
If you want to travel around by tuk-tuk just know that they are a total tourist trap in Bangkok and thus quite pricey compared to even taxis. Besides, they are not very pleasant for long distances since they don’t have AC and you are stuck in traffic fumes.