Bangkok is a sprawling metropolis that, together with its suburban sister provinces, has a province of somewhere between 10 and 15 million people. It packs in plenty of treats for explorers, among them pockets of history, culture, greenery, and more.
But even those who live here their whole lives can struggle to see all that the vast Thai capital has to offer – so those on a short visit can only hope to scratch the surface. To help you on your way, these are some of our favourite neighbourhoods across Bangkok, whether we love them for visiting, exploring, or living in.
Often the Bangkok neighbourhood that visitors to Bangkok visit see, and the one in which they spend the most time, Bangkok’s old town of Rattanakosin island is packed with famous historical sights and attractions like the Grand Palace, Wat Pho, and Wat Arun. It’s an area that takes its ‘island’ name from the encirclement of the Chaophraya river and various canals around it, originally intended to protect the fortified city centre.
The district is home to boisterous spots like backpacker drinking and partying enclave Khaosan Road, but equally it’s somewhere to visit if you’re looking to take in peaceful, more traditional neighbourhoods, less changed by modern development than downtown areas like Sukhumvit and Silom. That’s in part thanks to the lack of connectivity to the likes of the BTS Skytrain and the MRT subway – on the flip side, that makes accessing the Rattanakosin and Banglamphu areas somewhat more difficult than elsewhere, though the Chaophraya Express river boat service is often the best way to go.
Covering an area that reaches to the border with Chinatown, Rattanakosin is also home to some of Bangkok’s finest street food, including some of the city’s longest-running vendors. Many of the staple Thai dishes on our list of Bangkok’s best street food can be found within the boundaries of Rattanakosin island, which also just about include Bangkok’s infamous 24-hour flower market Pak Khlong Talat. It’s a sight we take in on our Bangkok Night Lights tuk tuk tour, as well as being home to Expique’s new The Market Experience offering of market-based workshops and classes.
Previously the capital of Thailand and a city in its own right, Thonburi is a district that’s generally less seen by visitors, except perhaps for an obligatory paddle along some of its canals on a boat tour. The result is a much more laid-back, peaceful and authentic slice of Bangkok, with smiling locals who are an increasing rarity on the other side of the Chaophraya river in Bangkok proper.
Among our favourite parts of Thonburi is the Kudeejeen neighbourhood, a culturally rich area that was once inhabited by Portuguese settlers – their influence remains, and our Diversity and Harmony walking tour takes in spots including the Santa Cruz cathedral, and a well-hidden local café serving muffin-like snacks made to an old Portuguese recipe.
But the Thonburi area stretches much further, and includes popular spots like the Khlong Bang Luang artist’s village, and the outlying Wongwian Yai railway station. From here it’s possible to take the train to the now infamous Mae Klong ‘umbrella market’ – where vendors pull in their produce eight times a day to let a real passenger train pass through the middle of the market – or simply to take the pleasant, atmospheric (but hot!) walk alongside the railway tracks from Wongwian Yai down to Talat Phlu. Also on the Thonburi side of the river, though technically in its own district, Klong San market is one of our favourite Bangkok night markets.
Yaowarat, Bangkok’s Chinatown district, is among the most vibrant of the city’s neighbourhoods. And it’s not just during special occasions like Chinese New Year or the annual Vegetarian Festival that this area comes alive – it’s throbbing every day with fresh markets, gold shops on every corner, and plenty of hustle and bustle, while each evening it comes alive with food vendors who take over the streets and serve up the authentic food for which tourists travel from near and far.
On the fringes of Chinatown lays Hualamphong train station, Bangkok’s central rail terminal and a spot well worth visiting either as the starting point for a trip or simply to gaze as its imposing, European-influenced architecture. The Chinatown area is also home to plenty of Buddhist temples – including the likes of Wat Trimit, or the Temple of the Golden Buddha – and Chinese shrines.
These days, Yaowarat is also experiencing a resurgence, as trendy bars and restaurants pile into what is quickly becoming one of Bangkok’s hottest areas. Perhaps the centre of this developing action is on Soi Nana, on the outskirts of Chinatown, where a slew of bars are among our favourites in Bangkok, including for top-notch cocktails at Teens of Thailand and traditional Thai music at Tep. For a more local slice of the Yaowarat scene, our Tales of Talat Noi walking tour lets you discover one of Bangkok’s oldest Chinese communities.
How could we forget Sathorn, home to Expique HQ? Firmly in downtown Bangkok, this is one of the city’s most affluent, international and happening areas – and we love it. As well as leafy, European-feeling streets, and easy access to the green oasis of Lumpini Park, Sathorn is home to some of Bangkok’s best eating, drinking and partying action.
You’ll find a wide range of international cuisine here, including an especially high concentration of high-end restaurants serving top-notch grub easily worthy of any major capital. Sathorn is also the place to head for many of Bangkok’s infamous rooftop bars, like the Banyan Tree’s Moon Bar and Lebua’s Sirocco & Sky Bar (just on Sathorn’s border with Silom), as well as some of the Thai capital’s swankiest hotels. Other Sathorn cultural attractions include Lumpini boxing stadium, the Neilson-Hays library, and the Alliance Francaise.
At Expique, we’re experts at showing you the unique parts of Bangkok that most tours don’t take you to – and which you probably won’t discover on your own. Joining one of our tours or experiences (or having us create a custom tour for you) is a great way to make the most of your time in bangkok and ensure you leave with a memorable experience.
Are you visiting Bangkok? Take a look at our expert recommendations for:
Where are your favourite drinking holes in Bangkok? Let us know in the comments!
Photos by Expique; Chris Wotton; Aleksandr Zykof; Sirocco & Sky Bar
Want to explore more? Contact us about arranging to come on a custom adventure with Expique.