Bangkok is a sprawling metropolis that attracts tens of millions of visitors from overseas every year – and that’s a number that just keeps on growing. Thailand’s capital is packed with attractions that keep on pulling in the masses and so, whatever your interest, you’re sure to find something here to keep you entertained during your stay. From headline sights such as glistening Buddhist temples including the Grand Palace, Wat Pho and Wat Arun, to skyscraper shopping centres and a dizzying array of authentic, easily accessible local Thai street food, the one thing you won’t be in Bangkok is bored. But in a city of Bangkok’s size, and one without a specifically defined centre, it can be hard to know where to lay your head. The area of Bangkok you choose to call home will depend on what you’re looking for most – our guide to the best areas to stay in Bangkok will guide you in the right direction.
This long, sprawling road is Thailand’s longest, running all the way to the border with neighbouring Cambodia – not that all of that is located within Bangkok, of course. The stretch of Sukhumvit Road that does run through the capital is long enough in itself, though, and is home to about as many foreign expats as it is shopping centres, hotels, restaurants, and bars. The eponymous BTS Skytrain line snakes through much of it, and the road itself can be broadly divided into three segments: lower Sukhumvit, from its beginning in embassy-rich Phloen Chit through to busy, shopping-heavy Asok; mid-Sukhumvit, covering the trendy and affluent, shopping- and nightlife-focussed Phrom Phong, Thonglor and Ekkamai; and upper Sukhumvit, which runs from Phra Khanong through the expat-heavy On Nut, fast-growing Punnawithi and Udomsuk (now a lot busier than just a few years ago when they were still up-and-coming), and into Bangkok’s eastern suburbs.
Why to stay in the Sukhumvit area of Bangkok:
For great shopping (Central Embassy, Terminal 21, EmQuartier, Emporium), countless restaurants and bars, a wide selection of hotels, and easy access to the Skytrain (as well as the MRT subway at Asok).
Business district by day, nightlife haven by night: while much of Bangkok can be said to never stop, Silom in particular is always on the go. The Silom area is easy to get into and out of, with numerous stations on both the BTS Skytrain and MRT subway; it’s also home to some of Bangkok’s best restaurants and bars, accommodation ranges from budget options to swanky five-star stays, and it borders the enormous Lumpini Park, Bangkok’s answer to Central Park. Silom is where you’ll find Patpong, one of Bangkok’s multiple red-light districts but also home to a popular night market that’s perfect for picking up cheap souvenirs. Just across the road is the Thai capital’s primary gay nightlife scene, in and around Silom soi 2 and soi 4.
Why to stay in the Silom area of Bangkok:
For some of Bangkok’s finest dining and drinking (check out perennially award-winning Eat Me and Vesper on Soi Convent and, for something more down to earth, the moo ping grilled pork street food vendor who sets up nightly for the clubbing crowd on the corner of Soi Convent and Silom Road), the best of the city’s notoriously raucous nightlife, and good access to both the Skytrain and subway.
Just along from Silom, the affluent neighbourhood of Sathorn is home to well-heeled Thais and expats, as well as a refined dining and bar scene. During the week, business is the order of the day around here, with headquarters of some of the world’s leading financial institutions in the area, but by dusk it’s Sathorn’s wide, leafy and relaxed back streets that take centre stage. Sip an aperitif at European-style Le Café des Stagiaires on Sathorn soi 12 before heading for dinner at heavyweights like Nahm, Supanniga Eating Room and Kai, then end the night dancing at legendary Maggie Choo’s, Latino-themed Revolucion or industry institution Smalls. Sathorn also boasts curious attractions like the abandoned Sathorn Unique tower – a magnet for urban explorers – and it has easy access to both the Skytrain and subway lines, as well as serving as a gateway to the Chaophraya River at Saphan Taksin. Accommodation here is first class, too: stay in style at the W Bangkok, or with views of Lumpini Park at the SO Sofitel.
Why to stay in the Sathorn area of Bangkok:
For unbeatably classy international drinking and dining, some of Bangkok’s best five-star hotels, and great public transport access for seeing the rest of the city.
If it’s your first time in Bangkok and you want to be as close as possible to some of the Thai capital’s primary tourist attractions, Banglamphu is the place to be. This old-town part of Bangkok, which sits on Rattanakosin island and is administratively part of Phra Nakhon district, holds plenty of Thai charm for return visitors, too – not to mention that it’s immensely popular among backpackers for its Khaosan Road area. Public transport can be a challenge compared to other parts of Bangkok (although the Chaophraya Express boat is always a good option), but it’s an affordable and accessible neighbourhood, there’s plenty of authentic Thai street food away from Khaosan Road itself, and charismatic local accommodation is easy to find.
Why to stay in the Banglamphu area of Bangkok:
For real traveller vibes, as well as unbeatably easy access (usually within walking distance) to attractions like the Grand Palace, Wat Pho (the Temple of the Reclining Buddha), and Wat Arun (the Temple of Dawn).
There’s still a trendy, studenty vibe to much of Siam, but much of the reason for staying here lays in its bounty of shopping opportunities. Some of Bangkok’s most famous shopping centres are located here in the Siam area, right at the crossroads of the BTS Skytrain’s Sukhumvit and Silom lines – which incidentally makes Siam a convenient and central place to stay when it comes to seeing the rest of the city, too. Shop at Siam Paragon, Siam Center, Siam Square One, and Central World, among others – you’re also only a short hop from the malls of the legendary Pratunam area, and from Central Chidlom and Central Embassy in Chitlom and Phloen Chit.
Why to stay in the Siam area of Bangkok:
Shopping, shopping, shopping, as well as easy access to the rest of Bangkok by public transport
Bangkok’s Chinatown, known locally as Yaowarat, is one of the world’s largest, and one of the most charming and charismatic parts of the city. There’s something here to please most types of traveller: explorers and photographers keen to discover its photogenic back alleys, foodies ready to chow down on the almighty variety of Thai street food on offer, and thrifty shoppers excited by the prospect of haggling with grandma vendors at bustling Sampeng Lane market. There’s a great cocktail scene on the likes of Soi Nana, too, and – as well as access to the MRT subway at Hualamphong (with more stations on the way), it makes a convenient base for a night before heading upcountry by mainline train at the same station.
Why to stay in the Chinatown area of Bangkok:
For photo opportunities galore, some of Bangkok’s most renowned street food, and the infectious hustle and bustle of this fabulously frenetic neighbourhood.
Chill out in pure luxury and enjoy unbeatable riverside vistas alongside Bangkok’s mighty Chaophraya. Snaking through various neighbourhoods on its journey through Thailand’s capital, the riverside is known for being home to some of Bangkok’s most prestigious, luxurious and awe-inspiring five-star hotels. Having said that, there are also lower-key and equally charming boutique spots like Loy La Long to rest your head – where you’ll literally be able to feel the water swishing beneath you – and local-feeling riverside bars like Jack’s that offer a different take on Bangkok. Head across the water to the Thonburi side and you can even partake in a spot of retail therapy at ICONSIAM, one of Bangkok’s newest and most prestigious shopping malls.
Why to stay in the riverside area of Bangkok:
For unbeatable views over the Chaophraya, world-class accommodation and dining possibilities, and easy access to river transport to get you to old-town Bangkok’s primary tourist attractions.
Photos by Vladimir E; Mike Benhken; Nonth!!!; David McKelvey; Hajime NAKANO; Marco Nürnberger; Bernard Spragg. NZ