What is Bangkok famous for? The Grand Palace, tuk tuks, Pad Thai, floating markets, and Thai massage are just some of the things Bangkok is famous for, but the Thai capital offers so much more.
Bangkok is Thailand’s biggest urban centre and is home to 12.6 percent of the country’s population. It traces its roots to a small trading centre and port community during the Ayutthaya Kingdom in the 15th century. Today, Bangkok is a city of contrasts, easily combining the old and the new, the traditional and the modern. Sparkly temples, towering buildings, bustling open-air markets, glitzy shopping malls, contemporary museums, and some of the most unconventional activities and pieces of culture make Bangkok a fun and exciting destination.
Read on to learn about 30 things Bangkok is famous for!
Bangkok is famous for jaw-dropping temples, museums, and breathtaking landmarks
From magnificent temples and stunning royal palaces to eye-catching structures and informative museums that show Thailand’s rich history, art, and culture, Bangkok has it all. Here are some of the city’s famous spots that you must definitely include in your itinerary.
1. Grand Palace and Wat Pra Kaew
Undoubtedly the most famous and most glorified landmark in Bangkok, a visit to Thailand’s capital is incomplete without stopping by the Grand Palace. This dazzling and imposing structure was built in 1782 and was home to Thai Kings and the Royal Court for 150 years. While it is no longer used as the Thai monarchy’s residence, it is still often used for ceremonial events such as the coronation of King Maha Vajiralongkorn in May 2019.
The palace complex is both a spiritual and architectural wonder. One of the most impressive buildings within the complex is Wat Pra Kaew (Temple of the Emerald Buddha), which enshrines the small but famous 14th century Buddha image meticulously carved from a single block of emerald. Other buildings like the Phra Thinang Chakri Maha Prasat combine traditional Thai architecture and 19th century European styles. Intricate details, grand courtyards, tall gilded spires, and the rich history of this place leave visitors in awe.
Location: Na Phra Lan Rd, Phra Borom Maha Ratchawang, Phra Nakhon, Bangkok
2. Wat Arun (The Temple of Dawn)
Bangkok is famous for its temples and one of the most stunning temples in the city is Wat Arun. Located on the west (Thonburi) bank of the Chao Phraya River, its 70-metre high prang (spire) was constructed in the 19th century in ancient Khmer design, with its stupa showcasing elaborate floral patterns encrusted with tiny pieces of coloured glass and Chinese porcelain. This famous Buddhist temple also symbolises the birth of the Rattanokosin Period, as King Taksin established his new capital of Thonburi near the temple, following the fall of Ayutthaya.
Although named after the Hindu god of the rising sun, its best view is said to come during sunset, especially when seen from the opposite side of the bank. The temple also shines brightly at night, giving off a golden beam of light over the river. Visitors can also climb the staircase to the top of the spire for an amazing view of Bangkok’s skyline, but the steep stairway is not for the faint of heart.
Location: 158 Thanon Wang Doem, Wat Arun, Bangkok Yai, Bangkok
3. Wat Pho (Temple of the Reclining Buddha)
Wat Pho, one of the oldest and largest temples in Bangkok, is famous for housing the 46-metre long and 15-metre high Reclining Buddha. The impressive, gold plated Buddha with mother-of-pearl soles symbolises the passing of the Buddha into nirvana, the final state of enlightenment. Although this is a famous landmark and is located right behind the Grand Palace, there are fewer crowds here so visitors can enjoy a more relaxing experience as they admire the fascinating collection of murals, golden statues, and stupas glazed with porcelain spires.
Wat Pho was also the first public university in Thailand, specialising in religion, science, and literature. It is now home to the Wat Pho Thai Traditional Medical and Massage School, which offers Thai pharmacy, Thai medical practice, Thai midwifery, and Thai massage courses. A Thai traditional massage (nuat thai) at the school is not a bad way to end your Wat Pho tour.
Location: 2 Sanam Chai Rd, Phra Borom Maha Ratchawang, Phra Nakhon, Bangkok
4. Wat Saket (The Temple of the Golden Mount)
Also called the Golden Mount, Wat Saket is one of Bangkok’s oldest temple, dating back to the Ayutthaya period. The Golden Mount occupies an 80-metre tall manmade hill built during the reign of King Rama III. It features a 5.8-metre tall golden chedi, which can be reached by climbing 318 steps up the hill. The walkway and the top of the mount are both lined with prayer bells that Buddhists ring for good luck. Once the highest point in Bangkok, the top of the mount gives visitors beautiful panoramic views of Bangkok. When the wind blows and all the bells chime, you can’t help but feel a sense of calm.
Wat Saket was also once the capital’s crematorium for some 60,000 plague victims during the early Rattanakosin period. At the bottom of the hill is an old cemetery, giving off a rather spooky vibe.
Location: 344 Chakkraphatdi Phong, Ban Bat, Pom Prap Sattru Phai, Bangkok
5. Baiyoke Tower II
Bangkok is also famous for its skyscrapers. Formerly Thailand’s tallest building, the 84-storey Baiyoke Tower II is a domineering landmark in the Pratunam district. At 328 metres, it was completed in 1997 and is currently Bangkok’s 3rd tallest city. Its skywalk on the 77th floor features large viewing windows and a sweeping bird’s eye view of the city. But for even more impressive panoramas of Bangkok, climb up to the 84th floor which features a 360-degree revolving roof deck. Bangkok’s urban sprawl wows on a clear day, while the glittering lights of the city skyline is not to be missed at night. An entrance fee of about 400 baht includes a drink on the rooftop bar on the 83rd floor so you can sip a drink while taking in the lovely views of Bangkok.
Location: Soi Ratchaprarob 3, Phaya Thai, Ratchathewi, Bangkok
6. Democracy Monument
At the centre of Bangkok’s most politically charged thoroughfare sits a grand monument. The Democracy Monument in Ratchadamnoen Road is a large Western-style symbol erected in 1939 and designed by Italian immigrant Corrado Feroci (who later became a Thai citizen and changed his name to Silpa Bhirasi). As its name suggests, the monument symbolises Thailand’s transformation from being absolute to constitutional monarchy, marked by the June 1932 military coup.
It’s hard not to admire this work of art; it was an ambitious undertaking after all and was envisioned to be Bangkok’s version of the Arc de Triomphe. The four wing-like structures are each 24 meters high, signifying the June 24, the day when the new constitution was signed. There are also 75 cannonballs around the base to signify the year BE (Buddhist Era) 2475 (AD 1932). The monument now serves as a rallying point for democracy activists.
Location: Ratchadamnoen Avenue, Wat Bowon Niwet, Phra Nakhon, Bangkok
7. Dusit Palace
Inspired by King Chulalongkorn’s visit to Europe in 1897, the Dusit Palace is a spacious complex of palaces, royal mansions, and throne halls built in the early 20th century. With the number of residents growing in the Grand Palace, the King decided to have a new private residence built. Today, many of the palace buildings have been turned into museums, some of which are open to the public. The entrance fee to the Grand Palace includes admission to the Dusit complex.
There are over a dozen palaces, throne halls, and mansions in the complex but the most striking and most famous ones are the Ananta Samakhom Throne Hall, an impressive 2-storey and white-marble Italian Renaissance style reception hall that is now open to the public as a museum; the Vivanmek Royal Teak Museum, a royal mansion made entirely of teak wood; and the Royal Elephant National Museum that houses the old stables of the highly revered white elephants who are a symbol of power, wealth, and royalty for Thai monarchs.
Location: bounded by Th Ratchawithi, Th U Thong Nai & Th Nakhon Ratchasima, Dusit, Bangkok
8. Jim Thompson’s House
Bangkok is famous for its love for silk and in this house-slash-museum, you get a glimpse of silk’s rich history in Thailand. Built in 1959, Jim Thompson House is the Bangkok home and Asian art collection of the late James H.W. Thompson, also known as the “Thai Silk King”. Jim Thompson was an American businessman and architect who relocated to Thailand in the late 1940s. He was known as a central figure in the revival of the hand weaving of silk, a long-neglected cottage industry. He was also a major collector of Southeast Asian art, building a large collection of historical Buddhist statues, traditional Thai paintings, and secular art from Myanmar, Cambodia, and Laos.
Jim Thompson mysteriously disappeared in 1967 while on a visit to Malaysia, leaving a legacy behind — the thriving silk industry and his Thai-style teakwood house, a lasting reminder of his love for Thai culture.
Location: 6 Soi Kasemsan 2, Rama 1 Road, Bangkok
9. Queen’s Gallery
Established in 2003, Queen Sirikit Gallery or Queen’s Gallery is a museum for Thai visual arts. The Bangkok Bank Foundation has been holding an annual painting competition since 1974. In 2001, Queen Sirikit presided over the awarding ceremony and liked the entries. She realised the need for a permanent home for quality contemporary art by both new and unknown talents. This led to the opening of the royal-funded museum that exhibits five storeys of works of art by young and upcoming artists, paintings and sculptures by members of the royal family, and paintings by National Artists and contemporary masters.
Location: 101 Ratchadamnoen Klang Road, Borwonniwet, Phra Nakhon, Bangkok
10. Bangkok Art and Culture Centre (BACC)
The Bangkok Art and Culture Centre (BACC) in Siam Square is the city’s answer to its flourishing arts scene. It exhibits a wide range of contemporary art pieces, design, music, theatre and films, and gives a great insight into Thailand’s modern culture. The centre includes cafes, commercial art galleries, bookshops, craft shops, and an art library. Intended as a venue for cultural exchange, BACC hosts both local and international artists. The building’s architecture itself is innovative, its huge white curving facade and spiral walkways giving off a contemporary feel. Entrance is free.
Location: 939 Rama I Rd, Wangmai, Pathumwan, Bangkok
Bangkok is famous for its delectable cuisine
Food is very much a part of the Thai identity. Although mainly known for its strong, aromatic ingredients, Thai cuisine is so much more. The dining options in Bangkok offer everything for everyone, whether you’re into something sweet, savoury, or spicy.
11. Mango Sticky Rice (Khao Niao Ma Muang)
One of the most famous street foods in Thailand, and undoubtedly the most famous traditional Thai dessert, mango sticky rice is simply glutinous rice stacked with fresh, sweet mango and coconut milk. This Thai favorite is commonly served in street stalls as well as dine-in restaurants.
12. Thai Fried Noodles (Pad Thai)
One of the world’s most beloved noodle dishes, Pad Thai is made from stir-fried rice noodles with chicken, prawns, or beef, tofu, scrambled egg, bean sprouts, topped with crushed peanuts and a sauce made with tamarind juice, fish sauce, chili, and sugar. Considered as Thailand’s national noodle, pad thai is commonly served in street food stalls and most restaurants in Bangkok and all over the country.
13. Thai Hot & Sour Soup (Tom Yum)
Bangkok is also famous for tom yum. Featuring salty, sour, sweet, and spicy Thai spices and emitting a strong aroma, colour, and taste, having a bowl of tom yum is an experience for the senses. This rich, tangy soup is a blend of fragrant lemongrass, chili, galangal, lime leaves, shallots, lime juice, and fish sauce, and is usually cooked with huge, fresh prawns. Some variations also include coconut milk, which produces a creamier soup.
14. Thai Milk Tea (Cha Yen)
Thai milk tea, known locally as cha yen, is a drink made from strongly brewed Ceylon or Assam tea, milk, and sugar. This drink includes a large amount of dairy, often in the form of sweetened condensed milk and evaporated milk, and is served hot or cold. Food colouring is often added in the tea mix, giving the drink a distinct orange colour.
15. Fried Chicken (Gai Tod)
Who doesn’t love fried chicken? Thailand’s version, known locally as gai tod, is a popular street in Bangkok and all over the country. The chicken is marinated in a thin batter, giving it a light, crispy skin that is best topped with crispy fried garlic and dipped in chili sauce.
16. Fried Sweet Potato Balls (Khanom Kai Nok Krata)
Bangkok is famous for its street foods like khanom kai nok krata, a snack made of deep-fried puffy balls of sweet potato, flour, and sugar. The word ‘khanom’ means snack while ‘kai nok krata’ stands for quail eggs, which is about the same size as these fried balls. This well-loved Bangkok street food is light and crispy on the outside and airily soft and chewy on the inside.
17. Crispy Crepes (Khanom Bueang)
Khanom bueang are crispy crepes or pancakes that look a bit like tacos, usually topped with a white meringue-like cream, followed by sweet or salty toppings like shredded coconut, fried eggs, or chopped scallions. These bite-sized snacks date back from the Ayutthaya period.
Bangkok is known as shopping paradise
Bangkok is one of the most famous shopping destinations in the world. From sweaty markets to floating markets to air-conditioned shopping malls, shopaholics will not run out of options.
18. Chatuchak Weekend Market
Bangkok is famous for its markets and malls but if you have to visit just one market, it has to be Chatuchak. Home to more than 15,000 market stalls that are spread over more than 14 hectares, Chatuchak Weekend Market is the largest weekend market in the world. It was once only popular among wholesalers and traders but now it receives over 200,000 visitors every weekend. Also known as Jatujak or JJ Market, it is divided into 26 numbered sections selling everything and anything under the sun — antiques, arts, books, ceramics, clothing, home decor, plants, and even food. Prices aren’t the lowest in the country so prepare to haggle.
Location: Kamphaeng Phet 2 Rd, Chatuchak, Bangkok
19. Shopping Malls
Is shopping in crowded and sweaty markets not your thing? Bangkok is famous for its wide and varied selection of shopping malls that suit all kinds of lifestyles and budgets. These malls, some of which are the largest in the world, are also usually fully equipped with facilities like department stores, supermarkets, cinemas, games arcades, cinemas, and food courts that offer a diverse range of food choices.
Depending on what you’re looking for, there’s a Bangkok mall for you. If you’re after big, trendy malls, Icon Siam and CentralWorld are great options. For the fashionista, Siam Center. Siam Paragon, Central Embassy, and EmQuartier are best bets. For all things affordable, check out MBK Center. For unique shopping experiences, Terminal 21, Asiatique The Riverfront, and Gateway Ekamai are worth visiting.
20. Sampeng Lane, Chinatown
Bangkok is famous for having one of the oldest Chinatowns in the world. One of the oldest streets in Bangkok Chinatown is Soi Wanit 1, colloquially known as Sampeng Lane. This 230-year-old long, narrow, shophouse-lined backstreet offer a wide range of goods like silk sarongs, jewellery, clothing and shoes, home décor and appliances, toys, handicrafts, dried food, and fresh produce. It’s a cluttered, hectic, and definitely colourful part of Bangkok that is worth checking out if you can brave the crowds.
Location: Soi Wanit 1, Yaowarat, Samphanthawong, Bangkok
21. Floating markets
If you’re not a fan of frantic shopping, Bangkok’s famous floating markets is an alternative. To some extent, the shopping and dining options aren’t what makes floating markets worth trying. The charm lies in the slow, peaceful venture into Bangkok’s narrow waterways, checking out the goods and sampling seafood while riding a long-tail boat.
Bangkok has multiple floating markets, some touristy, some less so. Damnoen Saduak Floating Market is the “official” floating market in Bangkok, the largest and oldest in the city. It is always busy and vibrant with vendors peddling a variety of local produce and handicrafts, but it is also the most crowded. Amphawa Market is not as large but slowly becoming as busy as Damnoen. It is known for its fresh and delicious seafood. Other floating markets worth visiting are Taling Chan, Khlong Lat Mayom, Bang Nam Pheung, and Bang Phli Floating Market.
Bangkok is famous for its vibrant nightlife
Whether you’re up for rooftop cocktails, partying ‘til dawn, late night snacking, or you’d like to get acquainted with cultural shows, Bangkok after sundown will not let you down.
22. Rooftop bars
Fancy sipping a cocktail while admiring Bangkok’s captivating panoramic views? Lucky for you, Bangkok is famous for hosting several stylish open-air bars perfect for nightcaps.
The Sky Bar at Lebua State Tower is the world’s highest open-air bar and the most famous rooftop bar in Bangkok. It shot to fame after appearing the movie “The Hangover 2.” Located on the 63rd floor and offering amazing views of the Thai capital, Sky Bar is a great place for enjoying live jazz sessions and original cocktail choices.
Other famous rooftop bars include Vertigo and Moon Bar on the 61st floor of Banyan Tree Bangkok, known for its delicious food and quirky cocktails; Octave Rooftop and Lounge, which has the best 360-degree view of Bangkok; Zoom Skybar at Anantara Sathorn, one of the best spots for a relaxing night; and Above Eleven at Fraser Suites Hotel, known for excellent Peruvian cuisine and a diverse collection of cocktails.
23. Khao San Road
What used to be a major rice market (“khao san” translates as “milled rice”) is now a backpacker hotspot, thanks in part to the popular novel and movie “The Beach,” which described Khao San Road as “the centre of the backpacking universe.”
Nowhere in Bangkok is the mix of the east and the west more apparent than in this busy street in the Phra Nakhon district. Travellers from all over the world converge here to soak up the sights, smells, sounds, and the lively vibe. Out to party? Bars and clubs playing EDM tunes are plenty. Looking to shop? Street vendors selling everything from cheap clothing to kitsch souvenirs to knockoff goods are common. Hungry? You can easily find stalls selling Pad Thai, kebab, drinks, and even grilled bugs, if that’s your thing.
Location: Khao San, Talat Yot, Phra Nakhon, Bangkok
24. Red light district
Although Thailand does not condone sex tourism in any way, it is undeniable that the abundance of neon-lit adult bars is a huge part of Thailand’s vibrant history and culture, especially in Bangkok. The city’s most prominent red light districts include Soi Cowboy, Patpong, and Nana Plaza, all of which pack several gender-defying go-go bars, basement clubs, and even laidback, casual bars for the less adventurous. Raunchy shows, pole dances, live music, drag comedy, and plenty of drinks all add up to the lively character of these districts.
25. Live shows
Looking for something the whole family can enjoy? Bangkok is famous for its family-friendly entertainment activities, which include puppet shows, ladyboy cabaret, cultural theatre shows, and masked dance performances.
Siam Niramit is a spectacular, 90-minute production that showcases over 700 years of Thailand’s historical and spiritual heritage. Held in the colossal Ratchada Theatre, the show unfolds in the world’s highest stage (as certified by the Guinness Book of World Records) and features traditional Thai dance and music, cutting-edge audio and light effects, and hundreds of performers and artists.
Aside from shops and dining options, Asiatique: The Riverfront also hosts the Calypso Cabaret, a fabulous and dazzling burlesque style show with traditional style Kinaree dances by Bangkok’s beautiful and talented ladyboys. A traditional Thai puppet show also happens nightly at the Jo Louis Theatre at Asiatique.
For classic Thai masked dance, head to one of Thailand’s oldest theatres, the Sala Chalermkrung Khon Theatre. Watch “Hanuman Chankamhaeng,” an excerpt from the legendary Ramayana epic, that tells the story of the mischievous monkey Haruman, who tricked the gods into sending him back to Earth.
Bangkok is famous for its unique and fascinating culture
Thailand’s capital has so much more to offer than its beautiful sights, mouthwatering foods, shopping hotspots, and colourful nightlife. These distinct custom and traditions below are worth checking out in Bangkok for an even more unforgettable experience.
Language is the foundation of any culture and the Thai language is one of the most interesting ones in the world.
The name of the country’s capital is just one example of how special this language is. Bangkok’s full ceremonial name is Krungthepmahanakhon Amonrattanakosin Mahintharayutthaya Mahadilokphop Noppharatratchathaniburirom Udomratchaniwetmahasathan Amonphimanawatansathit Sakkathattiyawitsanukamprasit, shortened to Krung Thep Maha Nakhon or simply Krung Thep. This ceremonial name, composed of Pali and Sanskrit words, translates to “City of angels, great city of immortals, magnificent city of the nine gems, seat of the king, city of royal palaces, home of gods incarnate, erected by Vishvakarman at Indra’s behest.”
Thai is the only official and national language of Thailand. It is also the first language of the Thai people. It borrows from Pali, Sanskrit, Mon and Old Khmer. While most locals can speak a little bit of English, and different parts of the country use different dialects of the language, Thai is still the predominant language in Bangkok.
Download one of these apps to learn Thai before your trip to impress the locals by speaking their language.
27. Thai massage (Nuat Thai)
In a bustling metropolis like Bangkok, it’s fascinating that one of the most famous industries is one that focuses on relaxation and rejuvenation.
Thai massage, or nuat thai, is a traditional therapy system that combines acupressure, Ayurvedic principles, and yoga postures. The techniques used in a traditional Thai massage are quite different. Oils or lotions are traditionally not used and the recipient typically remains clothed during a treatment. Nuat thai is half massage, half stretching; you will be pulled, stretched, rocked, and compressed by the massage therapist who will use every part of his/her body, including thumbs, elbows, and knees, to stretch you. Unlike other types of massage, Thai massage is not gentle and for some, it may even feel unpleasant or painful. But it is definitely a unique experience and guaranteed to release tension in joints and muscles, best experienced after an exhausting day of exploring the city. Massage parlours are scattered all over Bangkok and some therapists are even stationed in street side stalls.
28. Thai Boxing (Muay Thai)
Muay Thai or Thai boxing is the most famous sport and cultural martial art in Thailand. This close-combat sport uses stand-up striking, throwing techniques, locks, the use of an opponent’s own momentum, and combines the use of fist, elbows, knees, and shins. It has been tested in competition and real-life situations for hundreds of years, and is known for being a powerful, efficient, and simple martial art.
Muay Thai gyms and fight camps are found all across Thailand. Bangkok Fight Lab in Prakanong, Legend Thai Boxing in Silom, and Petchyindee Academy in Lumphini are some of the famous training camps in Bangkok. The Muay Thai Live show in Asiatique is also worth seeing if you want to witness an exciting theatrical show combining entertaining performances with Muay Thai, but not experience it yourself.
29. Chao Phraya Express Boat
Bangkok is famous (or infamous) for having one of the world’s worst traffic jams. Fortunately, you don’t have to stick to land travel, especially if you’re touring the Rattanakosin and Thonburi side of the city.
Water ferries are a common sight in Bangkok, and the Chao Phraya Express Boat is the city’s biggest public water transportation provider. The boats have colour-coded flags, representing different routes. The blue flag represents the Tourist Boat, which services nine piers and takes commuters to Bangkok’s most famous tourist attractions. The journey starts from the Sathorn Pier and proceeds up the river, stopping at eight different piers before returning to Sathorn Pier on the same route. A tour guide’s recording is also played on board.
30. Auto Rickshaw (tuk tuk)
Last but not least, Bangkok is famous for its tuk tuk. The tuk tuk is an open-air three-wheeled motorcycle that was once Bangkok’s favourite way of getting around the city before the BTS skytrain and colourful taxis took over. Originating from the old-fashioned rickshaw, tuk tuks in Bangkok are colourful, often designed with lights and dangling trinkets, sometimes even blasting loud music. Fares vary depending on your destination, and being a tourist with limited knowledge and experience can certainly make you a target of scams, but it is undeniable that tuk tuks are unique cultural icons and riding one can make your trip more fun.
Next time you visit Bangkok, take this list with you and try to check off as much items as you possibly can.
What else is Bangkok famous for? If you have points to add to this list, share it in the comment box below!
Also Read: What Is Thailand Known And Famous For?