If you travel to Thailand, you must dedicate at least a day to its capital city, Bangkok. Are you wondering how is it possible to explore the highlights of a city in just one day?
Whether you have a 12-hour layover or a day’s stopover before you head to the country’s islands, you can certainly go around and experience a lot of Bangkok in a day than you may think. Bangkok, unlike other glamorous capital cities like London, New York, or Paris, is not huge. It can at times take more than one visit to finally fall in love with the city. (Thankfully, it was love at sight with Bangkok in our case.)
When we visited Thailand in January 2020, it was a short four-day trip, which revolved around Bangkok and a day trip to Pattaya. Keeping in mind the factors such as time, distance, activities, and quality, we have come up with a curated one-day itinerary to see Bangkok.
Where to stay?
Considering you have just a day in Bangkok, we would recommend you to stay in Thailand’s backpacking or party capital – Khao San Road. We stayed at D&D Inn, which is situated right in the centre of Khao San Road. Once you enter the street, you will not miss the hotel. We can guarantee that you will have a comfortable and smooth stay.
Here’s how you can have a memorable day in Bangkok:
Khao San Road has tons of bars and small restaurants and a few open quite early in the morning. On our first day in Bangkok, we had breakfast at Khao San Center, a small bar/cafe adjacent to D&D Inn. The vibe and decors of those cafes just set in the mood. That’s the beauty of Khao San.
If you are looking to buy souvenirs, Khao San has a variety of stuff in its street market. We found better souvenirs at Soi Rambutteri, another party street, situated at a walkable distance from Khao San. These two are like twin party streets of Bangkok.
Since you have just a day in hand, don’t leave the city before taking a Thai massage. Both the streets have several parlours and a few also have an outdoor setup. While we did not opt for the outdoor massage, but it seemed fun: having a foot massage with a beer in the hand as you soak in the happy atmosphere around you.
China Town or Chatuchak Weekend Market
- Khao San Road to China Town – 3.5KM (Book a GrabCab)
- Khao San Road to Chatuchak – 13 KM (No bus/train directly connects the two. So, taking a taxi will save money and time.)
If shopping is your thing and you are in Bangkok on a weekend, you must next head to the famous Chatuchak market – one of the largest markets in the whole of Southeast Asia. The market runs from 9 AM to 6 PM on Saturday and Sunday, while it opens in the evening around 6 PM on Friday and shuts by midnight.
Since we were not in Bangkok for the weekend, we missed this. However, we have heard that the best way to go about the weekend market is to learn a bit of Thai, least a few words: you can ask a vendor, thao rai? (How much?) From artwork, clothes, accessories, food, and even massage, you’ll find hundreds of outlets, both big and small ones.
For whatsoever reason, you cannot visit the Chatuchak market, you may want to check out the China Town. Courtesy of the blend of Chinese and Thai cultures, this part of Bangkok has pretty interesting things with beautiful temples, artistic streets, and a variety of street food scenes (be prepared to smell some weird aromas) that can be a treat for a photographer.
Since both of us did not enjoy Thai food, we discovered a place that served the best food we had on our trip – Viva and Aviv the River along Bangkok’s riverfront.
Since it sits over the Chao Phraya River, the cool breeze is complimentary throughout your time there. It was a tad expensive when compared to the other places we had dined at so you could visit it during their happy hours that run from 4 PM to 8 PM.
Grand Palace, Wat Phra and Wat Pho
- China Town to Grand Palace – 2.7 KM (Book a Grab Cab)
- Chatuchak to Grand Palace – 13 KM (BTS Skytrain + Chao Phraya ferry or book a Grab Cab)
The Royal Grand Palace is an important landmark of the city and is most frequently visited by tourists as well as the locals for its impressive architecture and buildings. Within the palace’s compound, there are several other beautiful buildings including Wat Phra, which houses the huge statue of Emerald Buddha and is regarded as the most sacred Buddhist temple in Thailand.
Since these two are considered to be holy, you need to be careful with your outfit. Both men and women need to ensure their shoulders are covered and their lowers go well beyond their knees. Even if you wear sandals or chappals, wear socks because you cannot go barefoot in any form.
If you want to grab a quick bite, there is a small but notable restaurant within the Grand Palace’s compound. It’s near the entry gate of Wat Phra to be precise – The Sixth. Even though it’s a tiny place, its rustic and retro décor charms the tourists along with its amazing Thai food. Since it’s a small place and pretty famous, a possible waiting for table is common.
Entry Fee: 500 TBH per person
Timings: 8.30 PM to 3.30 PM (Mon-Sun)
After a good 10-minute walk, you’ll reach Wat Pho, another famous Buddhist temple in Thailand. The temple, which has a 46 m-long statue of reclining Buddha, is also the birthplace of Thai massage. It is still taught at the temple.
Entry Fee: 100 TBH
Timings: 8 AM to 6.30 PM (Mon-Sun)
It is one of the most stunning temples in the whole of Thailand. It sits on the Chao Phraya River and hence you need to take a ferry to get there. The ferry terminal is just opposite to Wat Phra and Grand Palace. It’ll cost us 3 THB and if you take the ferry between 4 and 5 PM, the view and weather are guaranteed to be amazing.
The outfit rule does not imply to Wat Arun even though many blog posts suggest so.
Entry Fee: 50 TBH per
Timings: 8 AM to 5.30 PM (Mon-Sun)
- Wat Arun to Asiatique – 7 KM
Imagine taking a ride on a gigantic Ferris wheel before heading to the crazy party streets. The aerial view of the glittering Bangkok city and the Chao Phraya River at night is a view to cherish for a very long time. If you want to experience a blend of shopping at a mall and a night bazaar, Asiatique is for you. It’s like a tiny village that houses the Ferris wheel along with several restaurants, street-food joints, and vendors selling a variety of stuff. It is also one of the stops of the renowned Chao Phraya River’s dinner cruises.
Ferris wheel’s price: 400 THB per adult
Timings: 4 PM to 12 AM (Mon-Sun)
- Asiatique to Jack’s Bar – 2.5 KM
One of the cheapest riverside bars in Bangkok, Jack’s Bar is a must-visit if you want to kickstart your evening at an old-school bar, a small den with plastic chairs but comes along with stunning views of the river and the skyscrapers around it.
The open-air shack is surrounded by a few five-star hotels like Shangri-La but Jack’s bar has made its own identity among travellers like us, who would surely visit the place if we return to Bangkok someday.
Party at Khao San and Soi Rambutteri
- Jack’s Bar to Khao San Road – 9 KM
After spending a couple of hours at Jack’s Bar, return to Khao San Road to join the party that usually goes on till 3 or 4 AM every single night in Bangkok. It is called the party capital of the world and not just Thailand for a reason! There are street vendors that sell chilled beers along with breezers and of course, water. The music gets louder with every hour passing and so does the crowd. The entire city is well lit but is not pretty enough and not even close to being a perfect place for a normal conversation.
If you get tired of the sound and crowd, you may walk to Soi Rambutteri, which is hardly a km away from Khao San. As soon as you enter Rambutteri, the ferry lights and decorations everywhere turn the vibe into a very happy one, if it was not already. If you enjoy pub/bar hopping, you’ll have a hell of a time at these places.
There are not many people we know who would say this – returning to Bangkok has a special place on our bucket list.