Bangkok is a bustling metropolis where old meets new; where centuries-old temples contrast against towering skyscrapers, with markets, eateries and slices of greenery nestled in between.
The city has long been a popular tourist destination, and there are plenty of sights to explore for visitors with any length of stay. Here's a list of some must-see attractions in Bangkok that you don't want to miss.
Located about 100 kilometers southwest of Bangkok, the Damnoen Saduak Floating Market is one of the oldest and most popular floating markets in Thailand, which makes for a quintessential day trip from the capital city. It's a great opportunity to see how locals buy and sell goods throughout their daily lives — from fruits and vegetables to clothes and souvenirs.
The Damnoen Saduak is also often combined with a visit to the Maeklong Railway market.
Located in the heart of the city, the Grand Palace is one of Bangkok's most iconic landmarks. Built in 1782, the palace has been the home of the royal family for more than two centuries (from King Rama I to King Rama V) — these days, it is used more for ceremonial purposes, yet still stands as a symbol of Thai grandeur while providing an eye-opening contrast to some of the suburban Bangkok streets.
The Palace is divided into two main sections: the Temple of the Emerald Buddha and the royal residence. It's also home to some of the most extraordinary religious architecture in Southeast Asia, with beautiful murals and sculptures throughout.
Located in the Samut Songkhram province, about an hour's drive southwest of Bangkok, this unique market is set along a stretch of railway tracks – one which welcomes working trains to this day. That means, several times a day, vendors must quickly pack up their goods and move from the tracks while the train narrowly passes by — a rare sight that's become somewhat of a local phenomenon and gained international Instagram fame.
Train aside, the stalls sell everything from fresh local fruits and veggies to handmade clothes, homewares and souvenirs in the Maeklong Railway market.
One of the newest Bangkok attractions, the Mahanakhon SkyWalk rises a whopping 314 meters above the ground on the 76th floor of the King Power MahaNakhon building — making it officially Thailand's tallest observation deck.
Equipped with high-tech telescopes that allow you to look closer at what's below, the deck offers stunning 360-degree views of the city, plus a clear-bottomed Mahanakhon Glass Tray experience for those brave enough to take a step out and look straight down.
It's also home to a chic rooftop bar (Sky Beach) and restaurant (Ojo Bangkok) that serves up top-notch cocktails with even better vistas.
Truly enormous, at 15 meters tall and 46 meters long, Wat Pho's Reclining Buddha is one of the most iconic cultural attractions in Bangkok. The statue depicts the Buddha entering final nirvana and is set against a backdrop of detailed murals that tell stories from Buddhist mythology.
The temple itself — which is one of Bangkok's oldest — dates back to the 17th century and covers 80,000 square meters, making it one of the largest in the city.
A major landmark in Bangkok, Baiyoke Sky Hotel is one of Thailand's top 5 tallest buildings — standing at 304 meters high. Besides being a luxurious hotel, the building has a rotating observation deck on the 84th floor and also boasts several dining options and sky bars.
Also known as 'The Temple of Dawn', this imposing Buddhist temple on the west bank of the Chao Phraya River offers stunning views from the terrace of its main tower — which, at over 80 meters tall, was the highest point in the city before the modern skyscrapers came along. Wat Arun's main spire is also decored with millions of tiny pieces of colorful tiles and ceramics, making for an impressive destination for history, architecture and art fans alike.
Dating back to the 13th century, this temple's claim to fame is the world's largest gold Buddha statue — weighing an impressive 5.5 tonnes! Standing 10 feet tall, the statue was built with over 80% pure gold, which makes it worth tens of millions of dollars by today's standards.
Besides the main attraction, the Wat Traimit also has an impressive interpretive center on the second floor that tells the story of the Chinese community in Bangkok, while the third-floor museum sheds light on the history of the Golden Buddha itself.
A district full of surprises, Thonburi is a place to explore Bangkok's off-the-beaten-track attractions. This historical area of the city has khlongs (canals in Thai) aplenty, plus several Buddhist temples, including Wat Arun and the underrated Wat Kalayanamit.
The Klong Lat Mayom Floating Market, the Santa Cruz Cathedral and the Bangkok Forensic Museum make up some of its top-level attractions. With so much to see, many visitors opt for a guided tour of the area.
Dubbed the Thai Silk King, Jim Thompson's influence on the country's silk industry is huge – the American businessman helped revive Thai silk production in the 1950s. Jim Thompson's house is now a museum, where you can learn all about the history of the trade and Thompson himself.
On the same compound also sits the Jim Thompson Art Center, which organizes several local and international artwork exhibitions each year.
Found in the Dusit District, Wat Benchamabophit is considered one of the city's most beautiful Buddhist temples. Its nickname, the Marble Temple, comes from the fact that its structures are largely built from white Italian marble.
Dating back to 1899, Wat Ben also has a peaceful garden area, making it one of the more tranquil Bangkok tourist attractions.