Bangkok — never has a capital city been more vibrant, colourful and sensory. Sprawling from the banks of the Chao Phraya River, the Thai capital began life as a small trading port and has since become one of the world’s leading tourist cities, welcoming over eleven million international visitors each year.
But what is it about Bangkok that has so captured the imagination of travellers and backpackers over the last decade? The historic and spiritual sites of Erawan Shrine, Wat Phra Kaew Buddhist temple and the Grand Palace, or perhaps its astonishing street food, restaurants and nightlife? Maybe it’s the hodgepodge approach taken by Thailand’s 18th-century architects, or the handful of internationally-renowned cultural heritage centres, like Bangkok International Museum and the Royal Barge National Museum?
Regardless of what brings individual travellers to the city, Bangkok has a distinct atmosphere that promises to live long in the memory. Travel here as part of a luxury escorted tour with Scenic, and you’ll stay in the finest hotels in the heart of the city, allowing you to immerse fully in this exhilarating capital.
If you’re embarking on a trip to Thailand in the coming months, read our travel guide below for advice on what to see, where to eat and where to shop in Bangkok.
Once you’ve negotiated the beating heart of Bangkok for the first time, you’ll be struck by the scale of this rambling old city. The real beauty of Bangkok comes when accidentally stumbling across enriching sights and sounds as you navigate the bustling, vendor-lined streets — becoming ever more absorbed by the pace, vibrancy and colour of Thailand’s first city.
Of course, there are several not-to-be-missed experiences in Bangkok that should be pencilled into your itinerary, many of which are located in the city’s historic centre, Rattanakosin Island. Here, at the heart of Phra Nakhon District, you’ll find the Grand Palace, City Pillar Shrine, Wat Phra Kaew Buddhist temple, and the Bangkok National Museum, which is teeming with artefacts from Thailand’s long and colourful history.
After you’ve exhausted Rattanakosin’s cultural heritage sites, take a walk along Phra Nakhon’s exquisite waterfront. Featuring several instances of beautiful Thai architecture, including the majestic King Rama I Memorial Bridge; the riverfront was submitted for future UNESCO World Heritage status in 2005, thanks to its heritage and unique native beauty.
Alternatively, if you’d prefer to explore Bangkok’s art, culture and performance offering, make for the Bangkok Art & Culture Centre. This contemporary building houses a vast collection of works from many of Thailand’s most esteemed artists, and regularly hosts events relating to art, music, theatre, design, film and culture. The Art & Culture Centre sits directly opposite the Siam Discovery Centre and the MBK shopping mall, so it’s a great place to spend the day and find out more about Bangkok’s art and culture scene.
Street food, cafes and high-end restaurants — Bangkok has them all, and in abundance. Whatever your culinary tastes, you can expect palate-rousing flavours wherever you choose to dine in the Thai capital, with the city proving itself one of the world’s premier foodie destinations.
From Pad Thai to pork stew, wanton noodles to steamed buns; many of Bangkok’s most treasured culinary treats can be enjoyed at one of the thousands of food vendors which line the city streets. For the best street food in Bangkok, head to Chinatown, often considered the birthplace of street cuisine in the city. Here you’ll find a selection of authentic pavement vendors, including Jay Eng, who is said to make some of the finest satay sauce in all of Thailand.
If street food isn’t your thing, or you’re simply after somewhere more formal for an evening meal, Bangkok boasts no end of fine dining restaurants catering to different tastes and budgets.
For a combination of Asian meets Western cuisine, consider a visit to the Nami Teppanyaki Steakhouse at the JW Marriott Hotel. This contemporary eatery serves a delicious menu of Pan Asian dishes, as well as Western mains for those who prefer the familiar. We’d recommend the seafood platter, or the Australian Wagyu steak marinated in traditional Thai spices.
Alternatively, for a different but no less opulent dining experience in Bangkok, make for Le Normandie, an authentic French restaurant close to the Chao Phraya waterfront. With a menu to rival the best bistros of Paris, and some of the friendliest and most professional service staff in the city, Le Normandie offers delicious haute cuisine amid wonderfully romantic surroundings.
Bangkok’s retail offering is as varied as its gastronomy, with glittering shopping malls and bustling produce markets littering every neighbourhood of the city. Thailand’s unique culture transforms even the most humdrum retail outing into a fun and unforgettable experience, as local traders compete for your custom and friendly shopkeepers make you feel welcome and at home.
If, like us, you enjoy delving among the wares of local street markets, Bangkok’s Chatuchak Market is the place to go. This vast, covered marketplace boasts an extraordinary array of items, from handcrafted pottery and jewellery, to clothing and leather goods, making it the perfect place to pick up a gift for loved ones back home. Polite haggling is encouraged throughout the market, so don’t be afraid to pursue a better deal.
For those with a penchant for luxury goods and designer labels, The Emporium shopping mall houses a selection of notable brands, including Chanel, Dior, Hermes, Prada, Cartier, Louis Vuitton and Mont Blanc. A number of recognisable names from the high street have also found their way into this sophisticated retail plaza, including Zara, Diesel, Paul Smith and Guess.
One of the best and most charming retail experiences available in Bangkok, however, is the Pak Khlong Talad Flower Market. Of all Bangkok’s fresh produce market, this is the one to visit, with thousands of colourful, fragrant flowers on offer. Even if you’ve no intention of buying a bouquet, a visit to this unique marketplace is worth a couple of pages in your holiday photo album.
If Bangkok has ticked all your travel boxes, an escorted tour in Southeast Asia with Scenic is the perfect way to spend time in this unforgettable city. Our luxury tours transport you to the heart of Bangkok, as well as more of Asia’s best-loved destinations, helping you savour every minute spent in this incredible part of the world.
For more information on our luxury escorted tours in Asia, visit our dedicated touring page or call us on 0161 163 1950.