Bangkok can be a huge culture shock for first-time visitors. But like all the best relationships, the more time you spend together and get to know each other, the better it gets. Delve into the street food scene, explore the historic attractions in Old Bangkok and soak up the sights and sounds of a city where, no matter how many times you visit, you can always find something new to see and do. Our resident Thailand expert, Roy Cavanagh, takes us on a tour of Bangkok to share his favourite views of the Thai capital.
Although this list is presented in no particular order, if I had to plump for my favourite Bangkok view, this would be it. And not just the view from the top of the Golden Mount, but the experience that goes with it. For somebody who doesn’t consider themselves religious, there is something deeply spiritual about walking slowly up the 344 temple steps accompanied by the soothing sound of temple bells.
The Golden Mount might not be the tallest structure in Bangkok, but it offers one of the best 360-degree viewpoints in the whole city. Look west and you will see the historic buildings of the Rattanakosin area including the Grand Palace, Wat Pho and Wat Arun. Move your gaze around and Sao Chingcha (Giant Swing), Democracy Monument and Rama VIII Bridge come into focus. And to the east and south-east, the modern skyscrapers of Sukhumvit, Silom and beyond provide a vivid contrast to the low-rise buildings in Bangkok’s Old City.
A short stroll away from the Golden Mount brings another of Bangkok’s most underrated and less frequently visited viewpoints. Walking through the landscaped gardens in front of Wat Ratchanatdaram and Loha Prasat provides a serene contrast to the busy roads nearby. It might not be as high as the Golden Mount, but the cloistered corridors and compact rooftop area at Loha Prasat offer excellent views to go with the unique architecture of the ‘Metal Castle’.
If you’re serious about your food and visiting the Golden Mount or Loha Prasat, make the short walk to Raan Jay Fai, one of Bangkok’s most famous street-food restaurants. Jay Fai was awarded One Michelin Star in the inaugural Bangkok 2018 Michelin Guide. The wait to be served is often long, but while you wait you can admire the skill of the goggle-wearing owner, Supinya ‘Jay Fai’ Junsuta as she creates her signature wok-fried crab omelettes and other dishes in the open-sided kitchen. A few doors down is another of the Thai capital’s most celebrated restaurants, Thipsamai, famous for its pad Thai.
When it opened in 2016, the 314 metre high Mahanakhon building was the tallest building in Thailand. Although it has since lost that title, Mahanakhon is home to the highest observation deck in Bangkok and provides spectacular views over the city and, on a clear day, out towards the hills of Chonburi and the Gulf of Thailand. Views are impressive at any time of the day, but there is an added dimension to an early evening visit. Watch the sun slowly set over Bangkok and watch the city view transform as day turns to night.
Baiyoke Tower 2
At 304 metres high, Baiyoke Tower 2 is another great location to enjoy panoramic views of the Thai capital. Since Mahanakhon opened, the number of visitors to the Baiyoke Tower has declined, but it remains an excellent viewpoint and one worth visiting if you’re in the Pratunam area of the city.
Chao Phraya River
You haven’t really visited Bangkok if you don’t get to see the Chao Phraya River. And one of the best ways to take in the views is jumping on one of the frequent express boat services for the 30-minute journey from the central Sathon Pier north towards the Grand Palace area. On the way you’ll pass some of the city’s most prestigious hotels including Shangri-La, The Peninsula and Mandarin Oriental as well as Bangkok’s most impressive shopping mall, Iconsiam. You’ll also see some of the city’s historic landmarks like the Old Customs House, Santa Cruz Church and the Memorial Bridge. As the boat moves closer to the Banglamphu area, you’ll get wonderful views of Wat Arun on one side and across to the rooftops of Wat Pho and the Grand Palace on the opposite side.
Chao Phraya Sky Park
Opened in July 2020, the Chao Phraya Sky Park offers some of the best views of the river and cityscape. The site was previously occupied by a long abandoned electric rail line before being converted into an attractive open space. With access for disabled travellers, lots of greenery, and places to sit and admire the views, it is one of the city’s most underrated attractions.
Walking the Green Mile
The elevated walkway colloquially known as the ‘Green Mile’ connects Lumpini Park with Benjakitti Park. Although the views here are pleasant rather than spectacular, it is an enjoyable way to stroll between the two parks and provides a delightful contrast to the traffic-choked streets below. Along the way you’ll be able to observe a quieter side to the big city as you pass by local communities, children riding their bicycles, an occasional musician or two, and Instagrammers looking for that perfect shot. At the time of writing (November 2021), Benjakitti Forest Park is being developed and when completed will also link up via walkways to the Green Mile.
Whatever time of day you visit Lumphini Park there always seems to be something going on. From early morning tai chi through to early evening joggers, Bangkok’s first public park is a hub of activity. And amidst it all, there is the surreal sight of giant monitor lizards walking languidly across footpaths and lazing in the undergrowth.
There are lovely views from the park itself with the lake in the foreground framed by the office buildings and skyscrapers behind. For an aerial view overlooking Lumphini Park, head to the nearby So/ Bangkok Hotel and the excellent Park Society and Hi-So Bar for sundowners and nibbles.
The glittering rooftops of the Grand Palace provide one of Bangkok’s most iconic views. Standing outside the walled complex, you can get good views from Sanam Luang or in front of the City Pillar Shrine. But you really have to buy a ticket and go inside the complex to appreciate the elaborate architecture of the Grand Palace and the majesty of Wat Phra Kaew.
Vivi the Coffee Place
A coffee shop might not be an obvious contender for a must-visit location in Bangkok, but when I’m in the Thai capital, I’ll always try to make time for Vivi The Coffee Place. While the coffee is good, it’s the view and ambiance here that makes it special. Sit outside on the small terrace, slip slowly on a coffee and watch life on the Chao Phraya River with unobstructed views across to Wat Arun.
For another perspective of Wat Arun, visit the bijou rooftop bar, Eagle’s Nest. Located on top of the Sala Arun hotel, this is an excellent spot to watch the sunset and see Wat Arun illuminated as night falls.
While all the focus of most of the customers is on Wat Arun, don’t miss the atmospheric views at the back of the bar with the spires of Wat Pho and Wat Phra Kaew providing a colourful contrast to the shophouses all around.
When you’ve admired Wat Arun from the opposite side of the river, make the short ferry ride across the Chao Phraya and marvel at the intricacies of a design that uses countless fragments of ceramics and porcelain that shimmer in the sunlight. A staircase leads up part of the way to a platform where you can enjoy fine views across the river to the Grand Palace and Wat Pho.
Giant Buddha at Wat Paknam Phasi Charoen
If you visit Eagle’s Nest, you can see a giant Buddha statue in the distance on the other side of the river. The golden-coloured statue is located at Wat Paknam Phasi Charoen in an area well away from the main tourist trail. The temple itself has an interesting and controversial history, but the view of the statue is undeniably impressive as you approach from either the Skytrain or along the canal that leads to the temple.
Sky Bar at Lebua
When it comes to rooftop bars and restaurants, you are spoiled for choice in Bangkok. There are pros and cons to all of them with the likes of Vertigo and Moon Bar, Red Sky, ThreeSixty Bar at Millennium, and 342 Bar jostling for the title of best rooftop bar in Bangkok. My pick might not be the best in terms of value for money or service, but Sky Bar at Lebua does enjoy some of the most striking views from any rooftop bar in the Thai capital. With it’s gold-coloured dome, this distinctive landmark appeared in the 2011 movie, The Hangover Part II.
Aerial views of Bangkok
Depending on the flight path and your destination, domestic flights can sometimes serve up epic views of Bangkok from above. The Chao Phraya River and Bang Krachao — nicknamed the ‘Green Lung of Bangkok’ — are visible in the middle left of this shot.
Arriving at Bangkok airport
For anybody who loves Thailand, there is always a tinge of excitement as you begin the descent to Bangkok airport after a long-haul flight. Looking out of the window as you approach Suvarnabhumi airport can bring a smile to the tiredest of faces. Back in the days when I used to visit for short-lived holidays from the UK, I used to say that the arrival hall at the old Don Mueang airport was the best place in the world and the departure hall was the worst! And even after all these years and countless flights, I still get that same sense of inner peace when I arrive back in my adopted homeland.
We hope you enjoyed Roy’s selection of Bangkok views and maybe he’s given you some ideas for your next trip. Connect with us on Facebook and Instagram and share your own favourite Bangkok memories and photos.