Like many vacations, you run around trying to see as much as possible during your time away. If you take some time to slow down and get out of your beautiful Bangkok hotel, this Thai city will reward you with a deeper understanding of the people and culture found here. Here are some top travel tips for exploring Bangkok and making sure you don’t waste a minute.
Exploring Bangkok: Palaces
Many of the palaces that once resided in Bangkok have been lost to history. Some were destroyed by people, others were overtaken by nature. The most popular palaces among tourists are the Grand Palace and Dusit Palace. Another common destination on a Bangkok palace tour is Dusit Palace.
The Royal Palace (Grand Palace)
The most visited site in Bangkok is The Royal Palace. Built in 1782, this served as the home of the king and the administrative seat of government for more than 150 years. Today, this structure is the spiritual heart of Thailand. People come here from all over the world to see the intricate architectural details, and look in awe of the craftsmanship and beauty created by the Thai people.
While the king stopped living in this palace around the beginning of the 20th century, the Emerald Buddha still resides here. Within the complex, you’ll find several buildings to explore. One of the most popular is Wat Phra Kaew (Temple of the Emerald Buddha). This is a destination at the top of every travel itinerary for Bangkok.
Travel tip! It’s important to note that you will need to be dressed appropriately when visiting the Royal Palace. This includes covering your arms, legs, and feet. You cannot wear sandals, shorts above your knees, or sleeveless shirts. If you are not dressed appropriately, there is a clothing rental service available.
Travel tip! Some guide books mention free English tours, but this service is no longer being offered. Instead, you will need to hire a tour guide when you arrive at the palace. Entering the palace grounds will cost you 400 baht (convert here), and renting clothing will require another 200 baht security deposit. All of these purchases should be made at the main gate for the palace.
The European style buildings that make up Dusit Palace were built between 1897 and 1901, commissioned under King Rama V and completed by King Rama VI. This complex includes sixteen mansions and residential halls that you can explore. A complete trip to Dusit Palace will take at least half a day.
Part of the Dusit Palace complex, and focal point for modern royal celebrations, Ananta Samakhom Throne Hall is open to the public from 9:30 – 16:00 Tuesday through Sunday. Guided tours of the decore and architecture of the throne hall are provided every half hour and photography is not permitted inside the hall.
Travel tip! Additionally, the same dress code described for other royal and religious building is enforced here as well. The cost to enter the hall is 50 baht (convert here).
Exploring Bangkok: Outdoors
When the culture and architecture of Bangkok make you long for something more familiar, there are many outdoor spaces and amusement parks for you to enjoy.
Looking for a place to connect with nature during your visit to Thailand? Lumphini Park is the answer. You’ll find more than 2.5 km of trails and a man-made lake with boat rentals available. Travel tip! It’s important to note there is a smoking ban throughout the park and dogs are not allowed. Additionally, bikes are only permitted between the hours of 10:00 until 15:00. There are music festivals in the park on Sundays in February through April.
Siam Park City and Safari World
Siam Park City is the perfect spot for adventure-seeking families with numerous roller coasters and the largest water park in Asia. Safari World is has a animal park, marine park, jungle cruise, dolphin show, and much more.
Rama IX Park
Escape Bangkok’s intense afternoon hear with a visit to one of the cities museums. Recover from the heat of the day while learning more about the history, customs, and local culture in the museums’ carefully curated displays. You’ll find a botanical garden, Roman garden, international garden, lotus garden, and many other garden varieties. Each space is uniquely manicured with exquisite style and beautiful plants. Additionally, there is a multipurpose area used for festivals and sports activities throughout the year. Open daily from 5:00 until 18:00.
Exploring Bangkok: Museums
While the museums tend to be packed with tourists during the middle of the day, those interested in something more than air conditioning can beat the lines by arriving early in the morning.
Bangkok National Museum
Close to the Grand Palace and Wat Phra Kaew, the Bangkok National Museum offers a grand collection of artifacts from past members of the royal family. These relics are carefully curated into three areas that connect with Thai history-and they have very good English descriptions.
Bangkok Art and Culture Centre
If you’re to explore the cultural side of the city, head over to the Bangkok Art and Culture Centre. There are various exhibitions throughout the year and a wide range of performances as well. Music, cinema, performance, literature, and photography are all showcased here. The gallery is open from 10:00 until 21:00. While you can bring your camera, it cannot be used on the 7th through 9th floors. Additionally, no flash photography is allowed.
Siriraj Medical Museum
The first western medical centre in Thailand was Siriraj Hospital, which opened in the late 19th century. Over the past 120 years, this teaching hospital has trained doctors and nurses throughout southeast Asia. Additionally, a large collection of medial equipment, tools, clinical specimens, anatomical notes, archives, and important artifacts has been gathered by the hospital. Today, those items are on exhibit at the Siriraj Medical Museum. The museum is open from 10:00 until 17:00 Wednesday through Monday, and the admission fee is 200 baht.
Other Popular Places and Activities
Cultural gems are found in the streets and along the waterways throughout Bangkok. When you want to experience the real Bangkok hiding just below the surface, this is where your exploration begins.
If you’re looking for an authentic Bangkok experience right out of the movies, visit Damnoen Saduak. This is the location most used by Hollywood and offers the quintessential tourist experience of a floating market. The floating market mainly exists today as a way to draw in tourists. However, you can still find a more traditional floating market experience by visiting Bang Ku Wiang Market. Here, you’ll find monks out for their daily alms round in the early morning and a wide range of farm-fresh produce being offered.
The most popular red-light district in Bangkok is Soi Cowboy. Here, you can find more than 40 bars and night clubs lining the 150 meter-long street. The district got its name from a nightlife columnist commenting on an airman that opened the first bar there in 1977. As a tall African-American wearing a cowboy hat, T. G. Edwards stood out, and Soi Cowboy was born.
Rooftop Sunset Lounge
There are countless rooftop sunset lounges throughout Bangkok. Today, the entertainment has moved out of clubs and onto the rooftops of hotels, restaurants, and apartment buildings throughout the city. Here are 5 of the best rooftop bars in Bangkok.