Things To Do In Bangkok For First-Timers: 20 Bucket List Experiences!

Things to Do in Bangkok for First-Timers: 20 Bucket List Experiences!

There's more to it than eating and shopping!

If you think Bangkok has nothing to offer but endless shopping and mouth-watering food stalls, then think again. There are plenty of things to do in Bangkok that many people still don’t know about. Visiting majestic temples, impressively diverse art exhibits, and entertaining cultural shows are just a few activities you can experience at Thailand’s lively capital. So, before you book your flights and pack your bags, read these must-do activities for your very first trip to the marvellous city of Bangkok! 

1. See the Reclining Buddha at the Temple of Wat Pho

Ever met Buddha? He’s a pretty chill guy! Pay a visit to the Temple of Wat Pho and catch him in his most optimal state—literally golden and relaxed as ever. You can only hope his no-fuss vibes rub off on you! Just remember: although the Reclining Buddha might influence you to let loose and destress, be respectful of your surroundings since the temple is an active place of worship.

Note: It costs ฿100 to enter the Temple.

2. See the amazing sights at the Grand Palace

It ain’t called the Grand Palace for nothing! Covered in gold and standing tall, the stately buildings and sculptures that comprise the palace grounds are simply astounding. Touring around the palace is a real treat even just to appreciate the interesting architecture, which features a motley of both French and Thai styles. 

Tip: Visit earlier on in the day to avoid the typical tourist crowds. 

3. Shop to your heart’s content at the Chatuchak Market

No matter how short or long your list of things to do in Bangkok is, there must always be a market on that list! Whatever your heart desires, Bangkok’s famous Chatuchak Market is bound to have it. Just picture endless stalls displaying all kinds of alluring trinkets and local handicrafts calling out for your attention. Whether you’re on the lookout for ethnic bags, cutlery, clothing, or more savoury street food, you’re bound to find your treasure here.

Tip: It’s easy commuting to Chatuchak market. If you’re going by MRT, make sure to take the Blue Line and get off at Kamphaengphet Station. Those who would like to use the BTS Skytrain can stop at Mo Chit Station. The market is open from 6pm-12mn on Fridays and 9am-6pm every Saturday and Sunday.

4. Cruise along the Chao Phraya River

One interesting element in Bangkok’s culture is the city’s dependence on the Chao Phraya River for transportation. Tourists are particularly charmed by water taxis. It seems compulsory to experience riding one while you’re in the city!

You should also book a romantic dinner cruise on Chao Phraya River and highlight it on your list of things to do in Bangkok. It’s an enchanting experience seeing the city magically light up at night, all the while indulging in a spectacular Thai feast. We’re telling you—life by the river couldn’t be better!

Notes:

  • A great option if you’re short on time but you’d like to see the sights and attractions Bangkok has to offer!
  • You’ll get to see the local, rustic side of Bangkok too. Catch locals with baskets teeming with produce and little children racing back home after a full day at school.
  • Buy something from the floating markets. It’s a real experience shopping across boats! 
  • If you’re using the boat to transport you to a specific location, just make sure to hop on the right one. Otherwise, it’s also great to get on one just for the thrill of seeing the riverfront.

5. Shop till you drop at Siam Paragon

Have you ever wanted to feel like one of the characters of the hit romantic comedy, Crazy Rich Asians? Step right into Siam Paragon and be instantly transported to the world of the rich and the richer. Conveniently located right outside BTS Station, Siam Paragon is a sanctuary for veteran shoppers who are on a mission to find the most luxurious high-end brands. For those of you who are looking for the sweet thrill of a transaction but need to stay within a budget, you’ll be happy to find that there are tons of outlets in Siam Paragon, too! 

Of course, shopping all day can definitely make you build up a hearty appetite! Good news—as is the trend in Bangkok, there’s no need to look far for a great place to eat. There’s a wide variety of restaurants around the complex that can guarantee you a full stomach and a pleasant cap to your full day of shopping.

6. Soak up some Thai history at the Bangkok National Museum

It’s always lucrative to take a ramble around any city’s national museum — learning firsthand about local history, culture, tradition, and beliefs is a privilege that can’t be discounted. Bangkok National Museum is no exception! One step inside and you’ll be pleased to find excellent exhibits with buildings dedicated to each one! If you’re an ardent supporter of the preservation of art, antique artefacts, and old-fashioned architecture, then you’ll appreciate perusing the museum.

Tip: While you’re there, try your best to catch a tour. They’ll probably have one in your own local language too!

7. Take a casual stroll around Lumpini Park

If you want some quality time away from endless shopping, frequenting temples, or gorging on exotic street food, then taking a walk around Lumpini Park is a good breather. Among the things to do in Bangkok, this is the most accessible activity where you can relax in green spaces, look out into a lake, kayak, and jog all in one place!

8. Have a cocktail at Vertigo and Moon Bar

Drinking sinfully good cocktails under a moonlit sky full of glistening stars sounds like a scene straight out of a rom-com. Talk to anyone who’s explored Bangkok’s bar scene, and they’ll enthusiastically tell you that the nightlife experience of your dreams could be a reality! Dubbed as one of the iconic bars in the city, Vertigo and Moon Bar boasts of a fantastic view, the most exquisitely addicting cocktails, and superb meals! However, take note that this bistro leans more on the classier side and its prices match the ambience. So if you’re planning on having a few drinks here on a happy-go-lucky night out in Bangkok, just be ready to splurge a little… or a lot. Go ahead and treat yo’self!

9. Blast your water guns at the Songkran Festival!

Experience the hype, energy, and craziness of Bangkok’s annual nationwide water fight! It’s intense, it’s outrageously fun, and it’s very, very wet. Usually taking place around 13-15 April, Songkran is the local Thai term for their traditional new year. According to their tradition, the sprinkling of water symbolises washing away the sins of the past. Seems like a purposeful (and outrageously fun) tradition to witness.

10. Indulge in the pleasures of Bangkok’s nightlife

Many words could be used to paint a colourful picture of Bangkok’s festive nightlife — glamorous, exotic, and provocative are just a few that come to mind. Yet nothing could prepare you for a night out in the spirited city that bursts into a new life at night. Notorious for its provocative pleasures and swanky bars, Bangkok is abundant with the most sinful delights that will keep anyone wildly stimulated.

Not too keen on booze and partying? All’s good — there are more ways than one to experience Bangkok at night. Also famous for their bustling night markets, Khao San Road is a foodie paradise 24/7. 

11. Catch a live Muay Thai Show at Asiatique

Image credit: Oriental Escape

Seeking some quality entertainment packed with expertly choreographed combat between trained martial artists? Then it’s an absolute must for you to catch a live Muay Thai Show at Asiatique! Watch the traditional martial art in action and marvel at the grace and agility involved in each form and style demonstrated by the performers. There’s also a segment in the show where you’ll be briefed about the fascinating history behind the Muay Thai warriors.

12. Enjoy watching a classic Bangkok Puppet Show

If you enjoyed playing with puppets in your childhood, then you’ll get a thrill out of watching the Thai version of the typical puppet shows you’re used to. In a traditional Bangkok Puppet Show, the highly trained puppeteers are also on stage, usually donned completely in black to ensure their inconspicuousness. The performers tell the audience traditional stories of Thai culture and history. It’s a unique and beautiful cultural experience that you can’t miss out on!

Also read: 9 Ethical Animal Sanctuaries That You Can Visit In Thailand

13. Pay a visit to the Jim Thompson House

Get your fill of the highest quality silk fabrics and merchandise at the Jim Thompson House. Once you get there, a guide will explain the history of Jim Thompson and the part he played in Thailand’s silk industry. Since Thomspon was an avid collector of beautiful, one-of-a-kind art pieces, you’ll find intricately designed sartorial pieces in the museum that you can buy and wear for yourself. If you start to feel a little parched, there’s also a restaurant where you can order refreshments to cool you down.

14. Be mesmerised by Wat Arun

Also referred to as the Temple of the Dawn, the breathtaking Wat Arun is draped in magnificence, daring any onlooker to behold its beauty. Shining resplendently in the sunlight, the dazzling temple stands proud and strong. The details of the temple and its tall spires are so amazingly intricate. If you’re hoping to take stunning photos by the temple, the best time to go is in the late afternoon so you can catch the golden hour. Just be wary of the crowds since many tourists similarly have this activity on their list of things to do in Bangkok!

Tip: If you don’t mind missing the peak golden hour, try visiting the temple early in the morning to avoid the crowds. You’ll find a peaceful and less touristy ambience, away from all the cameras and flocks of people trying to get the perfect photo.

15. Witness the locals worship their gods at the Erawan Shrine

Located in an extremely busy junction in the middle of multiple shopping complexes is the Erawan Shrine. Pious worshippers from around the city make their way to the shrine to pay respects to their gods. If you’d like to partake in their religious traditions, you can purchase and offer a garland or light a candle up at the shrine.

16. Fill your bellies at Bangkok’s very own Chinatown Market

Every destination has its own little Chinatown, but Bangkok’s is well worth paying a visit. Teeming with the delicious smell of freshly cooked street food, it’s more than enough to make your mouth water and keep you coming back for more! For those with more captious tastes, Bangkok’s Chinatown has stalls that serve Michelin star street food that might suit your preferences better. 

Note: If you’re on the hunt for gold, search no farther! Bangkok’s Chinatown reportedly has several establishments that sell gold.

17. Enjoy a snack at the Damnoen Saduak Floating Market

Among the things to do in Bangkok, visiting a floating market is non-negotiable. The unique experience of cruising along the river and purchasing products across boats is both strange and exciting — exactly how we envision travelling to be. If you want to experience the height of the frenzied market experience, then make sure to go in the early morning when the sales reach their peak. Damnoen Saduak is about an hour away from Bangkok; so if you’d rather not go through the inconvenience of commuting there, it’s best to book a tour. 

Tip: Damnoen Saduak is the most popular floating market in Bangkok, so there’s bound to be tons of tourists ordering whatever catches their eye. If you want the same one-of-a-kind experience but less crowds, you can also check out Khlong Lat Mayom floating market

18. Feel a tinge of nostalgia at the Talad Rot Fai Night Market

Seeking the old-fashioned touch of a vintage establishment? Embrace all the nostalgic feels as you scuttle through the crowded streets of the timeless Talad Rot Fai Night Market. Filled to the brim with endless arrays of highly coveted vintage collectables, Talad Rot Fai is a must-see for old souls. If you’d rather just fill your belly with delicious street food, Talad Rot Fai still offers a wide variety of cuisines that’ll surely make your mouth water in an instant!

19. Get a whiff of the most fragrant flowers at the Pak Khlong Flower Market

Have a blooming holiday and saunter around the lovely Pak Khlong Flower Market. Teeming with colourful, vibrant, and exotic flowers, Pak Khlong is a refreshing place for you to relax, unwind, and enjoy the beauty of nature. If you’re planning on cooking up a feast, you can also purchase fresh vegetables here at reasonable prices!

20. Challenge your senses at the Dialogue in the Dark Experience

Amazing how losing your vision can help you see life more clearly. Dialogue in the Dark is an “eye-opening” experience that forces you to navigate your way through typical everyday scenarios without your sense of sight. You’ll be guided by a blind local who will likely share stories with you about how it’s like being sightless in a world made to be seen. 

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Also read: Starting 2020, Thailand Will Start Giving Out Plastic Bags At Major Stores

Well, there you go — a lengthy list of things to do in Bangkok for first-timers. But let’s face it, Bangkok is so culturally rich that you might not be able to do all of these during your first visit. Ergo, this list is perfect for returning travellers too! Hope what I’ve written down for you is enough to convince you that Bangkok is so much more than just great shopping and eating (although that’s more than enough to satisfy us already!). Shoke dee!

About Author

Raya Esteban
Raya Esteban

Raya Esteban is a lifetime education advocate who currently works as a Montessori primary school teacher. With every chance she gets, Raya loves stringing words together to create compelling travel pieces for everyone to enjoy. A nature-lover and a curious wanderer, she enjoys hiking, diving, and exploring the phenomenal world around her. If she isn’t in the classroom, you’ll probably spot her at a beach or on top of a mountain soaking up the sun.

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