When I tell people two of my favorite cities in the world they are always surprised because one is Marrakech and the other one is Bangkok. For someone who spends a lot of time on a beach, underwater or trekking with stray kittens through a jungle Bangkok may seem a surprising answer but the truth is I am a big city girl at heart.
Bangkok and I had a slow start and only when convenience made me go, I fell deeply in love with the city. With that said, I have returned so many times and thought it was high time to write a comprehensive city guide with all my favorite spots where to stay in Bangkok. Sure, I won't be the first but I dare say that I have spent more time than the average non-expat in Bangkok and have explored some corners of the city in depth. As per usual you won't get an objective guide here but rather some very practical bias on where to stay in Bangkok, how to get around and most importantly - what to eat!
Where to stay in Bangkok - My favorite areas
I stumbled across Thonglor as I do with so many other places because I was looking for food. This hip and happening area along Soi Sukhumvit 55 is an absolute hipster and foodie area. It is not really a place for street food (I am sure it exists but wasn't as obvious to find as in many other parts of town) but the best place to stay in Bangkok if you want some cool and modern restaurants.
Where to stay in Thonglor
I stayed at the Akyra Thonglor which was the perfect choice for an intimate, modern city hotel in Bangkok. All the rooms are newly renovated and come in gorgeous jewel tones, they give you free water in glass bottles, and the wifi is great (always important for me!). Since Thonglor can get quite busy I appreciated that reception called me after check-in and offered to switch my room to a higher floor for more peace and quiet. An additional highlight is their miniature pillow menu you can choose your real pillows from. Such a cute idea!
At the top, you will find a small rooftop pool with stunning views over Bangkok, a gym (which needless to say I did not visit), and their restaurant Som Tam & Chardonnay. The concept of this restaurant is based on the founder's story who with the help of a friend brought together the concept of Thai food and fine wines, realizing how much they can complement each other. The menu now offers Thai and western dishes and has a special page dedicated to various Som Tam versions (Som Tam is a spicy green papaya salad) paired with white wines.
Best of all is the Akyra's location because you are right at Soi Sukhumvit 55 and in the heart of Thonglor. The hotel offers a free shuttle to the BTS station, otherwise, it is a 10-minute walk.
Best restaurants in Thonglor
Soul Food Mahanakorn - 56/10 Sukhumvit Soi 55 (Soi Thong Lor)
Wholesome ingredients, honest cooking, serious drinks - the motto of Soul Food Mahanakorn couldn't be closer to my heart. This place is great for people who want authentic Thai flavors but in a nice setting and with some great drinks or wine to go with.
Try the crab and lemongrass curry with rice noodles and actually, scratch that - rather take all your friends and order everything so you can eat the whole menu!
72 Courtyard - 72 Sukhumvit 55 5
72 Courtyard was the reason I first wanted to come to Thonglor as I was looking for baos. Unfortunately, the bao place had just closed but in its place, you will still find an ultra-cool courtyard community of hip and happening eateries here. Mind you, it wasn't as exciting as I first thought it would be (I do think any good place needs baos!) but the food at Lucky Fish wasn't half bad and I am still keen to come back for some fancy Mexican food at Touche Hombre.
theCOMMONS - 335 Soi Thonglor 17
Now, theCOMMONS is really as hip as it gets and you will find the coolest Bangkok expats, locals, and visitors alike here. There is bunting and bicycle parking and of course, craft beer and Instagrammable churros with different dips.
In addition, this market type food court has an excellent wine bar and many lovely food options from lobster rolls to steaks. I recommend 555 Soul Food, a fast food version of Soul Food Mahanakorn which makes excellent pulled pork burgers and lemonade.
Wie Immer Bangkok - Thong Lo 14 Alley
Needless to say, the name intrigued me. This is a lovely little cafe resembling a tiny greenhouse in a somewhat dingy looking side alley (I have a thing for dingy alleys just fyi).
The cafe offers cool drinks like charcoal latte and some very healthy options but fortunately also just really good coffee as well as yoga classes in their basement.
Thonglor has an array of Japanese restaurants and fake Nobu is right around the corner from Wie which was actually really good. There is also a bar called Iron Fairies next door which apparently is worth getting dolled up for.
I love Silom. Silom is where all the action is (or so it seems). It is loud and busy and not very pretty but Bangkok's heart seems to be beating just a little faster in its financial district. You are caught in between different worlds here because this area is home to the infamous Patpong Night Market but also Lumpini Park the Central Park of Bangkok.
Honestly, it is a bit rough but I really enjoyed my stay just off Sala Daeng which has its own BTS stop and is right at the corner of Silom Road.
Where to stay at in Silom
Silom has no shortcomings of some of the best luxury hotels in Bangkok including the Banyan Tree, SO Sofitel, and the W Hotel. However, I stayed at Silom Studios which was a great option if you are traveling on a budget and it is brand new. It is tucked away in yet another dark alley (not something I minded - I felt perfectly safe!) and within walking distance of Lumpini Park, a whole lot of shops, the BTS and many great food choices.
Right around the corner on Sala Daeng, you will find a tiny, hole in the wall coffee shop which makes great coffee that is a lot cheaper than Starbucks and even gives you a discount card (unfortunately I didn't fill mine before I left). As Silom Studios only offers instant coffee, this might be the place for all the coffee fanatics.
Best restaurants in Silom & Surroundings
Bitterman - Saladaeng Soi 1
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:
A 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 cheap, 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.
- 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.
Saffron Sky Garden
- 52nd Floor of the Banyan Tree Hotel, 21/100 South Sathon Road
Few bars and restaurants are as famous in Bangkok as Vertigo and the Moon Bar at the Banyan Tree Hotel. I, however, prefer the Saffron Sky Garden which is a few floors below. 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.
Somtum Der - 5/5 Saladaeng Road
When you ask around for the best restaurants in Silom, Somtum Der is always in the top 10 list. This somewhat unassuming little Thai restaurant is known for its northern Isan food and offers great authentic flavors at good prices.
I was so pleasantly surprised by Chinatown, Bangkok this time. It is not only one of the oldest parts of town, it has also preserved its heritage and culture rather well. By now I have been to Bangkok so many times that little surprises me; not the tuk-tuks, not the splendor of the temples and definitely not the fried scorpions on Khao San. But Chinatown was full of surprises and quirky things (at least to my German eyes) to discover and I loved just walking around.
The main road, Yaowarat Road, is a foodie's paradise and then there is Soi Nana. Not to be confused with Nana which has a very different vibe as this is known for strip clubs and evening entertainment while Soi Nana in Chinatown is understated and cool. As it is, my two favorite Airbnbs in Bangkok are located right here.
Where to stay in Chinatown, Bangkok
Ba Hao - 8 soi Nana
Bua and her husband Note have created a tiny haven of cool and style with their restaurant & Airbnb Ba Hao. There are only two rooms which combine stunning Thai architecture and retro interior and best of all - the top room has a huge glass wall overlooking the streets of Chinatown.
Downstairs there is a little communal living room with a comfy leather couch and of course, an Eames lounger. If you travel with a small group of friends this place would be perfect as you can have the entire house to yourself.
Downstairs is a tiny restaurant which offers modern Chinese dishes. Think pork belly with a bao bun and spicy duck wontons (portions are small enough so you can and should order both) washed down with local craft beer or cocktails. They even have a cocktail sommelier who will talk you through the options. Come early or reserve a table - this place gets busy.
Alternatively, there is the beautiful home of Pupe just down the road which is an old Chinese shophouse converted into an Airbnb. The house is full of beautiful old furniture and details that retell the history of the area and the former owners.
It is definitely not for someone who is looking for modern and sleek or someone who needs fancy hotel amenities or travels with a lot of luggage (I managed but just). It is the place for someone who appreciates design, history, and authenticity in an accommodation though.
Pupe has a few rooms and you can find the one I was staying at here.
Where to eat in Chinatown, Bangkok
El Chiringuito - soi Nana 221
Downstairs you will find El Chiringuito, a small tapas restaurant run by Pupe's husband. Perfect if you don't want to go far and are in the mood for something else than Chinese or Thai. And of course, they do have sangria!
Fi Keaw - soi Yaowarat 11
There is an almost endless array of seafood places on Yaowarat some with a line that literally goes around the block. I only tried Fi Keaw which came recommended to me and was not disappointed. It was full but there was no wait for a table and the seafood was as fresh as it gets.
While you are sitting on tiny plastic stools and cooking happens right in front of you on the street, prices here are definitely not your average street food budget. This is the perfect place to eat fresh fish and seafood in Bangkok and maybe even try something a little exotic. I had some giant prawns which were grilled and served with a spicy sort of chimichurri and absolutely delicious.
Hua Seng Hong - 371-373 Yaowarat Road
Being in Chinatown I had to eat dim sums. A quick Google search lead me to Hua Seng Hong - the Chinatown, Bangkok restaurant for dim sum. The place was incredibly crowded with locals and I was quickly put at a table with an older Chinese woman - I think it was the single girls' table.
I am still not quite sure how their system works as they do have menus in Chinese and English yet when I told them I wanted dim sums someone just brought a selection of bamboo baskets for me to chose from. I didn't care, sometimes you just go with the flow and eat as many dim sums as you can - they are delicious!
One thing that really bothered me about the Chinatown, Bangkok food was the sale of shark fin. While I do eat meat and fish, I am adamantly against eating something like shark fin and unfortunately, most restaurants and the Chinatown market, Bangkok do serve it. I will admit that I was too hungry to stick to my convictions and still ate there but be warned - eating in Chinatown is not for the sensible mind and stomach.
Last but not least, I will tell you all about my favorite area to stay in Bangkok. Let me be your Bangkok tour guide and show you around Khlong San: This area is the perfect mix for those who want to be close to Khao San Road, if you are on a budget and if you want to get a glimpse of real local life. Things to do in Bangkok in 3 days? This area is great because you can easily reach the old part of town and some of the most important sights and temples in Bangkok.
Expect lots of cats, great street food and making friends with the locals in this part of the city. There is no BTS or MRT so you will need to get around with taxis, walk or take the boat from the pier.
Where to stay in Phra Nakhon
There are some of the best hostels in Bangkok located in this part of town but my favorite is a little guesthouse called Baan Kachitpan - the best place to stay in Bangkok in my humble opinion. It is an old restored house in a tiny little community run by Jam and her lovely team and rather charming.
The rooms are light and airy, have aircon and great wifi and they have just started a Thai breakfast which is included in the price and really yummy as is their coffee. You have the choice between a few different room categories depending on your budget some with an en-suite, others with shared bathrooms as well as a triple room.
It is tucked away at the end of the alley of another small road and you won't be able to get a taxi to go there. The driver will drop you at the corner of Dinso Road and if it is your first time staying here someone will fetch you from there.
You can see all there rooms here, links will lead you to Airbnb:
In the vicinity, you will find some great food options. There is a little street food restaurant right at the corner of Dinso Road and Trok Slip, a great coffee lady and Krua Apsorn restaurant for those who want an authentic setting but not sit on the street. Some of my other favorite places and of course the best pad thai in Bangkok are also in walking distance.
Khao San & Rambuttri Road
From Baan Kachitpan it is a 5-minute walk to Khao San and Rambuttri Road. Just dare to cross the road by the Democracy Monument and you are there. Do yourself a favor and don't eat in any of the restaurants here. When it says best pad thai in town they are lying. Go and have some street food or a beer and a massage but don't come here expecting culinary delights.
If you are looking for places to visit near Bangkok and some cool things to do in town check out these posts:
Getting to Bangkok with Thai Airways
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 class 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 leg room. 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.
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 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 (there are machines that 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.