Bangkok is as chaotic as cities get, but pause and look closer and you’ll discover deep-rooted traditions and a radiant culture
Zip down the streets in a colourful, tassel-lined tuk-tuk, passing Starbucks and food stalls selling grilled pork skewers for breakfast. Once you reach your destination, you approach the entrance of the resplendent Grand Palace, a gilded masterpiece in the middle of a clamorous capital.
A city that feels alive day and night, Bangkok offers a lot more than your average stopover destination. Most travellers stop for a few days before heading on to Northern Thailand or to southern beaches like Koh Samui or Phuket – days that can easily be filled up with visiting beautiful temples, navigating night markets and sampling Bangkok’s famous food. Street food is a staple all over the city so you don’t need to look hard for authentic cuisine, and the recent introduction of the Michelin-guide has only cemented the city’s place on the culinary city hall of fame.
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- A shot of city life for a glimpse into modern Thai culture
- Combining as a stopover before heading onto Northern Thailand and southern beaches
- Great options for shopping in lively night markets and air-conditioned malls
- From street food to Michelin-starred restaurants, Bangkok is renowned for its foodie status
- Immerse yourself in tradition with Bangkok’s Grand Palace and temples.
Bangkok holiday highlights
Loud and energetic, Bangkok is modern Thailand at full capacity. Contemporary high-rise hotels with rooftop pools punctuate the skyline, and yet traditions remain as important and visible as ever, whether it’s Songkran (Thai New Year, which is celebrated with water fights on the street in the sweltering heat of April), traditional night markets and floating markets, or a sticker above a seat on the Skytrain designating priority seats for monks.
In this vibrant metropolis, you can spend the morning wandering between some of South-East Asia’s most beautiful temples and admiring Buddha statues made from jade and gold, both gargantuan and dainty in size. Then, clamber into a noisy tuk-tuk and flit across the city to Chinatown. It’s one of the city’s best spots to feast on Bangkok’s famous street food, where a few Baht rewards you with made-to-order favourites like pad Thai, best eaten immediately by the stall at a simple plastic-table-and-chair set up. World-class fine dining is easy to find, too – 17 of Bangkok’s restaurants, including U Sathorn's J'AIME by Jean-Michel Lorrain, were awarded Michelin stars for the first time in 2017.
Visitors usually begin their Thailand holiday in Bangkok, spending a few days in the city before heading onto explore more of the country including the cultural north and the swoon-worthy beaches and islands of the south.
Even getting around in Bangkok is an adventure, whether it’s in a brightly-lit taxi cab, the city’s signature tuk-tuks, by river taxi or aboard the air-conditioned and efficient BTS Skytrain. Bangkok’s main station is Hua Lamphong – a beautiful 100-year-old building shaped like an arc. The space-age Skytrain was built to relieve congestion on the city’s key thoroughfares, and the light-green Sukhumvit Line runs along high-rise Sukhumvit Road, through Siam and then on to the north of the city. The system’s dark-green Silom Line makes its way along Silom Road and on to the world-famous MBK shopping centre
Where is Bangkok?
North of the Gulf of Thailand, Bangkok sits on the Chao Phraya River. Its position in Central Thailand makes it ideal for multi-centre holidays in combination with popular destinations such as Northern Thailand and the glorious beaches of the south. From Bangkok, you can reach many destinations in little more than an hour’s flight; Chiang Mai takes 1¼ hours, and Phuket, Koh Samui and Krabi all take around an hour. Bangkok’s tropical climate means there are months of heavy rain and intense humidity; check our best time to visit guide to find out what the weather is like each month.