All Articles 3 perfect days in Bangkok

3 perfect days in Bangkok

Meagan Drillinger
By Meagan Drillinger26 Jan 2024 12 minutes read
Tourist taking photos at the Temple of the Emerald Buddha, Wat Phra Kaew, in Bangkok
Emerald Buddha, Wat Phra Kaew
Image: Noppawat Tom Charoensinphon/Getty Images

Welcome to Bangkok, a city of contrasts. The capital of Thailand is equal parts centuries-old tradition and steel-and-glass modernism: Spectacular temples and monuments sit alongside skyscrapers and international shopping malls.

Bangkok is also a city that can dazzle no matter the budget, from fabulous five-star luxury to backpacker-friendly holes-in-the-wall. Grab a plastic stool and feast on a heaping bowl of streetside noodles or put on a dinner jacket for a Michelin-starred meal. Pop down a small alley for one of the best foot rubs of your life or book a swanky spa treatment at one of the many luxury hotels in town. You can also mix and match and try a little bit of it all.

Bangkok was born around the snaking Chao Phraya River, which is still its main artery and life force. Stay in a hotel along the river for the most iconic views. Tip: You can’t go wrong with the Mandarin Oriental Bangkok, which is all about old-world glamour.

To help you make the most of your three days in Bangkok, we’ve put together the ultimate itinerary and used Tripadvisor reviews and ratings to narrow down our picks. It will definitely leave you craving more.


DAY ONE

Reclining Buddha at Wat Pho Temple, in Bangkok
Reclining Buddha
Image: OSTILL/Getty Images

MORNING: Riverside breakfast

The best way to get your bearings in Bangkok is to start alongside the Chao Phraya river. Assuming you chose the Mandarin Oriental Bangkok, book a riverside table for breakfast at The Verandah. The buffet at the hotel is spectacular, with any kind of food you can think of—Thai, Chinese (don’t miss the yum cha), Japanese, Indian, tons of dishes made to order (eggs Benedict, omelets, waffles, pancakes, crepes, French toast), cold cuts, cheese, even a ​​chocolate fountain.

Soak up the views of the river from your dry land perch because you’re about to get up close and personal with the Chao Phraya. After breakfast, stroll along Charoen Krung Road toward the Central Pier, also known as Sathorn Pier. You'll be walking in the footsteps of history, as Charoen Krung is one of the oldest thoroughfares in Bangkok—the first paved road in the city. Today the neighborhood that has sprung up around Charoen Krung is a buzzing hive of restaurants, bars, shops, and galleries.

Travelers say: “One of the best breakfast place in Bangkok and all day dine in to experience an authentic Thai food by the river, they have got one of the best Krapao Neua (Fried minced beef with Thai Basil) which is definitely a must to try if you are nearby.”—@262sarawutd

AFTERNOON: Bangkok, hop-on, hop-off style

From Sathorn Pier, you will embark on one of the most fascinating hop-on, hop-off tours of Bangkok. Rest assured this will be anything but cheesy and you will feel like a true local. Choose the public ferry, noted by the orange flag, which will make stops all along both sides of the river at various points of interest. You’ll be able to get off at each stop and spend as long as you like exploring the historic monuments and temples. When you’re ready to go, simply walk back to whatever ferry station you got off at, and hop back on the next ferry.

Take a northbound ferry to your first stop, Tha Chang (a.k.a. pier No. 9). Tha Chang is the perfect starting point from which to explore some of Bangkok’s most notable historic monuments and temples. Note: All temples and monuments in Thailand require a dress code. Shoulders must be covered for both men and women, and long pants or long skirts are required.

If you do one monument today, let it be The Grand Palace. The grounds are massive and absolutely breathtaking, with temple after temple plastered with mosaics, adorned with statues, and bathed in brilliant purples, reds, and golds. You are walking on the grounds of the former home of the monarch, after all.

But what The Grand Palace is truly known for is the Temple of the Emerald Buddha (Was Phra Kaew), Thailand's most important Buddhist temple. The Buddha itself is tiny—just 26 inches tall—and carved from green jade. Still, it is the most important icon in Thailand, only able to be touched by the king himself. You cannot help but feel humbled looking at this national symbol of spirituality, especially with hundreds of devout onlookers praying in front of it.

From the Grand Palace, it is about a 10-minute walk to Wat Pho Temple (the Temple of the Reclining Buddha). You can also take the ferry one stop south to Tha Tien Pier. This 16th-century temple is home to one of the largest reclining Buddhas in the world. The gleaming, gold leaf statue is a staggering 150 feet long and 50 feet high. You can also explore Wat Pho’s other chapels, which all have Buddha images, spectacular art and architecture, and plenty of burning incense.

If you’re feeling hungry (and by now you’re probably famished), duck into the intimate The Sixth restaurant. The pocket-sized eatery is strewn with knickknacks and mismatched furniture, and serves some of the best Thai food as well as (interestingly enough) fresh pasta.

After lunch you can quickly jump on a cross-river ferry from Tha Tien over to Wat Arun pier for a peek at the magnificent, pearly white Wat Arun (or Temple of the Dawn). This is an ornately designed tower built in the Khmer style. From its steps, you’ll have spectacular views out over the river and of Bangkok.

FOOD TOUR OPTIONS

EVENING: Street food and non-stop nightlife

After a quick refresh at your hotel, it’s time to take a taxi over to the legendary Khaosan Road. This world-famous thoroughfare becomes pedestrian-friendly at night when vendors and street food stalls spill out into the street. If you’ve come to Bangkok to experience its raucous bar scene, Khaosan Road is definitely a good place to start.

Khaosan Road has a slew of restaurants, but try pulling up a plastic chair at one of the many street vendors. Yada Kitchen is a fan favorite. It’s a simple street set-up with little more than an electric hot plate, a walk, and a collection of folding tables and plastic chairs. Crunchy, salty, tangy, and full of flavor, the street food in Bangkok is some of the most famous in the world. Sink your teeth into a swirling scene of deep-fried spring rolls, fried chicken, fried roti, pad Thai, and, of course, mango sticky rice.

End the evening with the sultry sounds of blues at Adhere the 13th, a small live music bar located on Samsen Road, just a quick walk from Khaosan Road.

Worthy detours along the way

DAY TWO

Tour boats on the canal at Khlong Lat Mayom floating market, in Bangkok
Khlong Lat Mayom
Image: deniscostille/Getty Images

MORNING: A floating breakfast

This morning will open your eyes to a new perspective of Bangkok. Years ago, Bangkok was a city built around canals and most residents would move around by long tail boat. While modern Bangkok is a sprawling city of skyscrapers, luxury malls, and parks, remnants of its watery past still exist in the local klongs, or canals, where floating markets are still a part of everyday life.

Today you’ll kick off your morning with a visit to one of Bangkok’s most famous floating markets, Khlong Lat Mayom. Take a moment to appreciate the historic canals and the sputtering long-tail boats that zip back and forth. This is a glimpse into Bangkok’s past, as not much has changed in recent decades. Hopefully, you’ve come hungry because Khlong Lat Mayom is one of the best places to eat. You’ll be overwhelmed by options, but take comfort in knowing you cannot go wrong. It’s all good here, so pick a few different spots to try.

Seafood lovers will be in heaven, with heaping plates of barbecue shrimp or scallops, while noodle lovers will bask in the sheer volume of pad Thai. You’ll be able to wander alongside the khlongs across a series of boardwalks, unless you want to hop in a long tail boat to see more from the water.

A direct taxi is often the most convenient way to get to the market, and a round-trip fare from Charoen Krung Road should not cost more than $15.

Travelers say: “There are several floating markets in Bangkok, but I recommend this place because of its location and well-organized. Beautiful old-day atmosphere.”—@ThaiTrav.com

AFTERNOON: Shop ‘til you drop

Bangkok culture may be centuries old, but so much of modern-day Bangkok is centered around the luxury shopping mall—and in Bangkok, they are unlike anywhere else in the world. The malls here are full-on amusement experiences, with multiple floors, restaurants, boutiques, designer labels, and most importantly, air conditioning.

Make your way over to Siam, Bangkok’s top shopping and entertainment district. Here you’ll find the city’s big five big shopping centers: CentralWorld, Siam Paragon, Siam Center, Siam Discovery, and MBK shopping mall. Ultimately, these malls are pretty similar, but if you’re into marine life, you’ll love Siam Paragon, which is home to Sea Life Ocean World, the largest aquarium in Southeast Asia. Siam Discovery has a Madame Tussauds. And MBK shopping mall is the oldest mall in Bangkok, featuring more than 2,000 stores.

You can break for lunch at one of the many impressive food courts within any of these shopping supercenters, but MBK’s is one of the best in Bangkok, offering street food prices with an indoor dining experience. There’s a dizzying array of cuisines, from Thai and Indian, and even vegetarian options. The Paragon Food Hall in Siam Paragon is equally overwhelming, but it has more of a balance between vendors and sit-down restaurants. Siam Center's Food Republic is much more upscale than the other two, with only sit-down restaurants.

SHOPPING TOUR OPTIONS

  • On this small-group shopping trip, a guide will take you to two of Bangkok’s most unusual markets: the Maeklong Railway Market (set on a working train track) and the Damnoen Saduak Floating Market. You’ll also learn about market etiquette, so you can shop with confidence.
  • Explore Bangkok by Night: This tour will take you by tuk-tuk to night markets and temples with some street food stops along the way.
  • Whether you want to go shopping in Chatuchak Market—which has more than 15,000 stalls—or see Bangkok’s best temples, this private guided tour can customize a day trip and help you navigate the sprawling city by public transit or taxi.

EVENING: Muay Thai and dim sum

Muay Thai is a specialized type of boxing indigenous to Thailand. Much more than a sport, it’s almost a religion for Thai fighters, who often train for an entire lifetime. Watching a Muay Thai boxing match is one of the coolest things to do in Bangkok, and is far more authentic than the matches you’ll see down in the islands. You can find a fight any night of the week in Bangkok. Rajadamnern Stadium holds fights Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Sunday. Lumpinee Boxing Stadium hosts fights Tuesday, Friday, and Saturday.

Before the match, fuel up in Bangkok’s Chinatown. Flanking either end of Yaowarat Road, it’s one of the largest Chinatowns in the world. Marvel at the sea of dangling red lanterns, the neon, and the sheer cacophony of languages and street noise—it’s a kaleidoscope for the senses. Chinatown has a dizzying array of street food and seafood restaurants, but Laoteng restaurant is not to be missed for its amazon dim sum.

Worthy detours along the way

DAY THREE

Dinner at Le Normandie by Alain Roux, in Bangkok
Le Normandie by Alain Roux
Image: Management/Tripadvisor

MORNING: A walk in the park

After zipping all across Bangkok, today your morning can start at a snail’s pace—you earned it. After a leisurely breakfast (room service overlooking the river, perhaps?), grab a taxi or the BTS Skytrain over to Lumpini Park, Bangkok’s most famous green space. Lumpini was King Rama VI’s private garden prior to 1925. After that it was donated as a gift to the public and became the first public park in the city. Today the sprawling park is one of the most popular areas for locals and visitors, who come from the meandering walking paths or the swan-shaped boats that you can rent for a paddle along the lake.

Travelers say: “We wanted a place to go for a run that was not on city streets and so we took a taxi to this park we had read about. It was probably one of the best experiences I had in Bangkok. There were literally hundreds of residents running around the park. I mean it was so many people that it was like being in a race. But it was really cool to see how exercise is part of everyday life for people there. Oh, and there are some giant river monitor lizards in the park.”—@ScottRoby

AFTERNOON: Art, culture, and coffee

Bangkok’s museums and galleries are just as important as its temples, restaurants, and nightlife. The best introduction to Bangkok’s cultural scene is the Bangkok Art & Cultural Centre. The circular, Guggenheim-esque building is one of the largest houses of contemporary art in the country.

While you’re in this part of town, take a quick peek at the Jim Thompson House. This spectacular traditional teak house is hidden in lush tropical foliage. Now a museum, this was the former home of businessman Jim Thompson, the man known for bringing Thai silk to the rest of the world. It’s a good museum to visit if you’re interested in the history of Thai silk and its influence on the rest of the world. From an architectural standpoint, the house is beautiful, and it’s neat to find this traditional-style home hidden among the skyscrapers of central Bangkok.

If you need a little pick me up, hop a quick taxi over to Luka Cafe, a charming shophouse that has been reinvented by four siblings into a cozy cafe and coffee shop. Tip: Don’t skip the carrot cake or Mama’s Chocolate Babka.

CULTURAL TOUR OPTIONS

  • Bangkok is full of beautiful temples, and this tour visits three of the best—Wat Traimit, Wat Pho, and Wat Arun—plus other city sights like markets and neighborhoods.
  • On this Bangkok Instagram Tour, a private guide will take you to some of Bangkok’s most photogenic locations—Wat Benchamabophit Temple, Loha Prasat, Pak Khlong Talat flower market—and help you capture the best shots for your social media feed.
  • Take a detour outside Bangkok with a small group tour to Ayutthaya, Thailand’s former capital city and a UNESCO World Heritage Site that's famous for its impressive temple ruins.

EVENING: Dinner with the stars

Your final day in Bangkok ends as your journey began—by the Chao Phraya River. After a rest and a refresh at your hotel—consider a Thai massage at Mandarin Oriental’s spa—it’s time for one of the most unforgettable dinners for your final night. Bangkok has more than 30 Michelin-starred restaurants, but one of its best is located just a few steps from your bedroom.

At the Mandarin Oriental hotel, Le Normandie by Alain Roux is a French restaurant that has set the bar for fine dining in Thailand since 1958. Perched on the top floor of the Garden Wing (which is part of the original hotel building), Le Normandie by Alain Roux has dazzling views over the Chao Phraya: A table by the window is a must. The menu is a tribute to exquisite French techniques, and you have not lived until you have tried the perfectly roasted Challans Duck, carved tableside. Note that elegant attire is required, including jackets for men during dinner.

Worthy detours along the way

Know Before You Go


Bangkok is a bustling metropolis year-round, but the best time to visit is from November to February. During these months, the weather is cooler and more pleasant, making it ideal for exploring the city. The hot season runs from March to June, with April being the hottest month. The rainy season spans from July to October, with occasional heavy downpours, but they usually pass quickly.



Bangkok’s temples and cultural sites are open daily, but the weekend markets like Chatuchak are best visited on Saturdays and Sundays for the full experience. Museums generally close one day a week, often on Mondays, so it’s best to check hours in advance.



Bangkok’s mealtimes can be flexible, with street food available almost any time of the day. Traditional meal hours are similar to Western standards, but many restaurants, especially in tourist areas, serve food throughout the day. Some local shops may close in the afternoon, but malls and global chains typically stay open.



Charoenkrung: This historic district along the Chao Phraya River is perfect for hotels with stunning views and easy access to Bangkok’s historical landmarks. The Mandarin Oriental Bangkok is one of the most luxurious hotels in the city, combining elegant Thai style, exquisite service, sumptuously decorated rooms, and fine dining venues like Le Normandie. Set in lush gardens, the Shangri-La Hotel, Bangkok offers a tranquil escape. Capella Bangkok combines panoramic river views and a refined ambiance.

Dusit: Known for its royal and political significance, the Dusit district is a blend of historical elegance and serenity. The Siam offers a unique luxury experience with art deco-inspired design and private pool villas. Another exquisite option is the Anantara Siam Bangkok Hotel, which mixes traditional Thai elegance with lush gardens and a luxurious spa.

Sukhumvit: Known for its modern skyscrapers, luxury hotels, and vibrant nightlife, Sukhumvit is the place for an upscale experience in the heart of Bangkok. Plus, it’s well-connected by the BTS Skytrain, making it easy to explore other parts of the city. The Bangkok Marriott Marquis Queen’s Park has elegant rooms and a range of dining options. A trendy and affordable option, Aloft Bangkok is popular among younger travelers, thanks to its lively W XYZ Bar and Re:mix Lounge.

Sathorn: This district is a mix of commercial buzz and tranquil residential areas, making it ideal for both business and leisure travelers. The Sukhothai Bangkok is a peaceful retreat with a renowned spa and wellness center.

Rattanakosin: Also known as Bangkok’s Old Town, this is the place for travelers who want to immerse themselves in the city’s rich history. With its traditional Thai architecture, Baan Tuk Din is an excellent choice for culture enthusiasts.



Public transit: Bangkok’s Skytrain and underground MRT metro system are the most efficient ways to navigate the city, connecting major shopping, entertainment, and business areas.

Tuk-tuks and taxis: Tuk-tuks are a fun, though sometimes pricier, way to get around short distances. Taxis are plentiful and affordable—just make sure the meter is on when you get in the taxi.

By boat: The Chao Phraya River Express and canal boats are a scenic way to travel and avoid traffic, especially useful for reaching the old city and temples.

Airport transfers: Suvarnabhumi Airport is well-connected to the city via the Airport Rail Link, taxis, and airport transfer services. Don Mueang Airport, serving domestic and low-cost carriers, is accessible by taxis and buses.


Meagan Drillinger
Meagan Drillinger is a freelance writer with an insatiable curiosity to go everywhere she’s never been before. She has been a Mexico expert for more than a decade and spends half of the year living and traveling around Mexico. Her work has appeared in Travel + Leisure, AFAR, Planetware, Business Insider, Forbes, and more. You can usually find her in the Delta lounge before a flight.