One of the most bewitching traits of Bangkok is its variety. Stand along the Sukhumvit road and you can feel like a tiny bug among the long grass of its skyscrapers. But get to know its neighborhoods and suddenly, the best places to stay, play and eat are at your fingertips.

With a great public transport system, Thailand’s biggest city is easy to explore and travelers can often visit two – or even three – neighborhoods in a single day, depending on what you’re here to see or do. These are the best neighborhoods to visit in Bangkok.

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Tourists visiting the Wat Phra Kaew, Temple of the Emerald Buddha, and Grand Palace complex with the golden stupa rising in the background.
Arrive early to beat the crowds at Wat Phra Kaew in Bangkok, Thailand. ©Luciano Mortula - LGM/Shutterstock

Ko Ratanakosin & Thonburi

Best neighborhood for sightseeing

The birthplace of Bangkok, the artificial island of Ko Ratanakosin is where it all started more than 200 years ago. The remnants of this history – today Bangkok's biggest sights – draw just about every visitor to the city. The big-hitters, the Wat Phra Kaew and Grand Palace complex and Wat Pho, are a short walk from the Chao Phraya Express Boat piers at Chang Pier, Maharaj Pier and Tien Pier, and are within walking distance of each other, although the hot sun may make doing this a more demanding task than it appears. 

Alternatively, túk-túk vehicles (pronounced đúk đúk’) are a dime a dozen around here. If you're planning to visit several sights, it's a good idea to arrive early in the morning for the cooler weather and to avoid the crowds. Evening is best for photography, particularly if you're hoping for the classic sunset shot of Wat Arun.

Located across the river, neighbouring Thonburi has significantly less to offer in terms of sights, but is great for those who fancy urban exploration. The area is accessible via the river-crossing ferries at Phra Chan Pier. The two linked neighborhoods cover a relatively small area, and it's possible to tackle most if not all sights in one (hot and sweaty) day.

Thailand, Bangkok, portrait of smiling father and daughter on Khao San Road
The fabled Khao San Road in Bangkok, Thailand. Now family-friendly-ish. © Westend61/Getty Images


Best neighborhood for budget travelers

Antique shophouses, classic restaurants, ancient temples: Banglamphu is old Bangkok encapsulated in one leafy, breezy district. Best of all, most of it is affordable and walkable. If you've come for sights like The Golden Mount or the royal temple Wat Suthat, arrive early, while the heat is still tolerable and the touts are few. If you’re looking for the mystical Khao San Road, it’s better to arrive in the evening.

It's worth sticking around Banglamphu for lunch, as this is when the majority of the area's street stalls and shophouse restaurants are operating. And yes, the pàt tai from Thip Samai is good enough for that queue. Come evening, young locals flood the area in search of a cheap meal and a cold beer, giving the area an entirely different vibe, but there are enough restaurants and bars here that there's no need to consider another destination for the night. Cocktails at Brick Bar should be on your radar.

Despite being one of Bangkok's best areas for accommodation, particularly budget options, plus sights, eating and nightlife, Banglamphu is not very well linked up with the rest of the city by public transport networks. This means you’ll usually need a good chunk of the day here to explore. A good strategy is to approach the area via the river ferry at Phra Athit/Banglamphu Pier – most of the sights are within walking distance.

Tourists check out the hanging bags and hats at the stalls of Chatuchak Weekend Market in Bangkok, Thailand.
Bankok's huge Chatuchak Weekend Market is a must visit, but give yourself plenty of time to explore it all. ©artapartment/Shutterstock

Chatuchak District & Northern Bangkok

Best neighborhood for markets

There are several reasons to visit Chatuchak District and Northern Bangkok, but most people come for the markets – the northern suburbs are home to some of the city's best. Chatuchak Weekend Market draws tens of thousands of shoppers and is a hectic but must-do Bangkok experience. The buzzing Talat Rot Fai night market packs in copious amounts of eating, drinking and shopping for tourists and residents. The Nonthaburi Market is an expansive wet market that shows the area's provincial side, while the Chang Chui art park is a hipster magnet. 

Taking in the districts of Bang Sue, Phra Nakhon and Phaya Thai too, the other reason travelers come to the suburbs is the nightlife, and the RCA/Royal City Ave entertainment strip drawing thousands of weekend partiers. Northern Bangkok is also where you’ll find the hip, artistic and up-and-upcoming Ari area.

For the day markets, you'll want to arrive as early as possible. Set aside at least half a day for Chatuchak. Getting to Nonthaburi Market by boat from Sathorn/Central pier takes at least an hour; keep in mind that the market pretty much packs up by 9am. Most clubs and live-music venues, on the other hand, don't get going until 9pm and close at 2am.

The white gleaming modern interior design of Siam Discovery Shopping Mall in Bangkok spread across two levels of shops.
The Siam Discovery Shopping Mall is great for families. There's even a Madame Tussauds hidden inside. ©artapartment/Shutterstock

Siam Square, Pratunam, Phloen Chit & Ratchathewi

Best neighborhood for families

This is the de facto geographical and commercial center of modern Bangkok. Multistory malls, outdoor shopping precincts and never-ending markets leave no doubt that Siam Square, Pratunam and Phloen Chit combine to form Bangkok's main money-spending district. 

Huge malls, towering hotels, international fast-food chains and open-air shopping centers dominate this area, and if you're serious about shopping, set aside the better part of a day to burn your baht here. Try to arrive around 11am, when the crowds are minimal. Likewise, try to avoid Sundays when half of Bangkok seems to flock to the area's air-conditioned malls. If you're going to hit all the area's malls, it makes the most sense to start at National Stadium station and work your way east, taking advantage of the bridges, mall corridors and elevated walkways running beneath the BTS line that link the various shopping centers.

This is also the best place for families. As well as plenty of shopping and endless food options, there's a clutch of interesting sights for little ones too, such as the Bangkok Doll Factory & Museum and Siam Discovery, which has a branch of the famed Madame Tussauds wax museum.

Bangkok Chinatown gleaming in a glaze of neon as tuk-tuks and other traffic streams past at night.
Bangkok's frenetic, neon-glazed Chinatown is a must. ©da-kuk/Getty Images


Best neighbourhood for exploring

Although many generations removed from the motherland, Bangkok’s Chinatown could be a parallel-universe cousin of any Chinese city. The streets are crammed with bird's-nest restaurants, gaudy gold and jade shops, and flashing neon signs in Chinese characters. It’s Bangkok’s most hectic neighbourhood – just don’t forget your camera. 

The area's big sights – namely Wat Traimit (Golden Buddha) and the street markets – are worth visiting, but be sure to set aside enough time to do some map-free wandering among the hidden temples, crumbling shopfronts, pencil-thin alleys, and atmospheric market areas such as Talat Mai and Talat Noi.  

The neighbourhood buzzes with activity round the clock, but is at its best from dawn to dusk, particularly its photogenic fresh-food markets. There aren't too many interesting lunch options in the area, so eat between 7pm and 9pm instead. Dining alfresco at Nay Hong and the dozens of other decades-old street-food stalls are a must in this neighborhood.

The Bangkok skyline bathed in the tangerine glow of the sun with skyscrapers reaching for the sky as a panoramic view scans around the bend of the river Chao Phraya.
The Chao Phraya riverside is a stunner. Comes with a side of great fine dining as well. ©Prachanart/Getty Images

Chao Phraya riverside, Silom & Lumphini

Best neighborhood for fine dining

Cutting a gorge through a landscape dominated by high-rise condos, office blocks and hotels, the Chao Phraya River forms a watery backbone to these three linked neighborhoods. In the atmospheric riverside area, crumbling colonial buildings share estate space with luxe hotels and premium shopping malls. Heading inland, Silom – Bangkok's financial district – is frenetic and modern, and spans Sathorn, a more subdued embassy zone speckled with fabulous restaurants and bars. Lumphini, further east, is dominated by central Bangkok's largest green zone.

Silom and Lumphini are home to some of Bangkok's most popular restaurants, many of which are located on quiet alleys far from the mayhem. They span everything from no-frills street dining to high-end fusion experiences – there's something here to suit every pocket and palate. The riverside area, meanwhile, is ideal for classy dining at restaurants in luxury hotels.

The hottest ticket in the city is Michelin-starred Saawaan, one of the finest Thai restaurants in the world. But the deconstructionist cooking techniques used at Le Du – including some very inventive desserts – gives it a run for its money. Supanniga Eating Room, nahm and Le Cabanon will need to be booked in advance as well. Fortunately the post-dinner riverbank walk, winding along the Chao Phraya, is free.

View of the colourful neon signs of Soi Cowboy street in the red-light district of Nana.
The glare of Soi Cowboy greets many a curious traveler. ©Stephane Bidouze/Shutterstock

Thanon Sukhumvit

You'll probably spend more time on Thanon Sukhumvit eating, drinking and perhaps sleeping (there's a high concentration of hotels here), rather than sightseeing. Thanon Sukhumvit is also home to many of Bangkok’s recommended and reputable massage institutions, including Health Land and the Asia Herb Association.

Thankfully the BTS (Skytrain) runs along the length of Thanon Sukhumvit, making it a snap to reach just about anywhere around here. BTS stops are also a convenient way to define the street’s various vibes. Lower Sukhumvit, particularly the area around Nana BTS station, is a discombobulating mix of sexpats and tourists. Most head here for Soi Cowboy, the city's infamous sin strip of flashing neon and raunchy bars, but there are a number of better drinking holes on the surrounding streets which aren't geared towards physical indulgence.

Middle Sukhumvit, around BTS Asok/MRT Sukhumvit, is dominated by midrange hotels, upscale condos, international restaurants and businesses meant to appeal to both tourists and resident foreigners. Near BTS Phrom Phong is where you’ll find the well-concealed compounds of wealthy Thai residents and tidy Japanese enclaves – mixed with microcosms of sleaze shops. Upper Sukhumvit, extending southeast from BTS Ekkamai, feels much more provincial than the cosmopolitan grain of lower and middle Sukhumvit.

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