Whether you’re visiting Bangkok for the first time or are already familiar with the Thai capital, there is no shortage of things to see and do in the Big Mango. Spending 48 hours in Bangkok gives you enough time to see the main attractions or discover new ones. As tempting as it can be when you’re in Bangkok, don’t try to cram too much sightseeing in. Make allowances for the heat and humidity and try to schedule the outdoor sightseeing for the morning or late afternoon if possible. If you are staying in the Thai capital for two days, check out the ideas in this itinerary for how to spend 48 hours in Bangkok.
Get up early and enjoy an early al-fresco breakfast at your hotel or nearby street stalls. If you want to start the way the locals do, khao tom is a popular morning dish. This comforting and filling rice soup will set you up for the day ahead. Enjoy whatever Thai fresh fruit is in season and if you have a sweet tooth look for Thai-style doughnuts known as pa thong ko which are delicious served with coffee or hot soy milk
If you are visiting Bangkok for the first time, morning is a good time to head to the city’s most popular attraction, the Grand Palace. Depending on where you are staying in the city, taking the boat along the Chao Phraya River is all part of the experience. And even if you’ve been to the Grand Palace before, a cruise along the river is still a lovely way to start the day and reacquaint yourself with Bangkok.
As an alternative to the Grand Palace, head to the Museum of Siam or enjoy the peace and shade in the leafy surroundings of Saranrom Royal Garden. Wherever you decide to visit, be sure to keep hydrated throughout the day and carry a reusable water bottle with you.
Another of Bangkok’s star attractions, Wat Pho and the giant Reclining Buddha, is adjacent to the Grand Palace complex. Wat Pho is regarded as the home of traditional Thai massage and receiving a massage here is an opportunity to rejuvenate yourself and the ideal way to soothe away any aches or pains.
After your visit to Wat Pho, take the opportunity to cool off and relax with an iced coffee or a bite to eat at any of the nearby coffee shops or small restaurants. Recommended options include Elefin and Vivi the Coffee Place with its lovely views across the river to Wat Arun. On the same soi (street) as Vivi you will also find the White Mouse Cafe which has historic royal connections and is owned by the same family from Chakrabongse Villas.
Make the short ferry ride across the Chao Phraya River to one of the city’s iconic landmarks, Wat Arun. If the heat is starting to take its toll, seek out the cooling interior of one Bangkok’s newest and most impressive shopping centres. From Wat Arun jump on the express boat downriver to IconSiam to enjoy the air-conditioning of this impressive riverside shopping mall. Head straight to the excellent food court area and replica floating market where dishes from every region of Thailand can be found. Alternatively, take the ferry back across the river to explore more of the Rattanakosin Old Town area. Lunch at any of the local eateries (Chote Chitr is a good choice) in and around Phraeng Phutton Road where the old shophouses have been restored in their heritage colours. After a satisfying lunch, continue on foot to enjoy the views from the top of Loha Prasat and the nearby Golden Mount.
Travel back to your hotel to enjoy time by the pool and some time relaxing before preparing yourself for the evening.
As an alternative to visiting Wat Pho in the daytime, pay a visit at night. The grounds of Wat Pho are free to enter in the evening and although you can’t actually enter any of the buildings, the illuminated chedis and buildings take on a whole new atmosphere with more cats around than people. Taking a nighttime tour with a specialist company like Expique is a great way to end the day. Travel on a tuk-tuk tour to visit local markets, sample popular Thai dishes and soak up the sights and sounds of Bangkok at night. If you would prefer to travel independently, take the Metro to Wat Mangkon MRT station in the heart of Chinatown. The elaborately decorated underground station is an attraction in its own right and ideally located for exploring the vibrant Chinatown area with its colourful array of restaurants and hawker stalls.
Get on your bike and explore the hidden alleyways in Chinatown and across the river in the Thonburi district. If you like the idea, but you’re not sure about cycling, opt for a walking tour or hop on a longtail boat to explore the klongs (canals) and experience another side to Bangkok. Check out the tours available from Co Van Kessel and Grasshopper Adventures.
If the weather is rainy or you’re finding it just a little too hot for comfort, spend some time inside at the enjoyable Bangkok Art and Culture Museum. Handily located adjacent to the Skytrain and a number of shopping malls, it’s a great spot to spend an hour or two before crossing over to the MBK mall for good value food and shopping. You are also handily placed for Jim Thompson’s House and a walk in the opposite direction along the elevated Skywalk to pay your respects at the Erawan Shrine.
Indulge yourself with an afternoon tea with a Thai twist in the elegant and historic surroundings of the Authors Lounge at the Mandarin Oriental. For another memorable experience, admire the views and dine at Mahanakhon, the tallest building in Thailand or treat yourself to food and drinks at the nearby The House on Sathorn.
If you’re travelling to or from the central pier near Saphan Taksin Skytrain station, make the short walk to Wat Yannawa and admire one of the city’s more unusual temples with a shrine hall shaped like a boat.
Or finish off your stay in Bangkok in style at one of the city’s many rooftop venues. Note that dress restrictions apply at some locations so check in advance with the venue. Popular choices for rooftop bars and restaurants with a view include Vertigo at the Banyan Tree, Red Sky at Centara and the Mahanakhon Skybar. For fabulous sunset views over Lumpini Park, head to the laid-back Park Society at So/Bangkok. The Eagle’s Nest at Sala Arun and the adjacent Sala Rattanakosin are both good choices and although they might not be the tallest buildings in Bangkok, the evening views are hard to beat. Look across to Wat Arun on one side and turn around to see the illuminated spires of the Grand Palace and Wat Pho.
When to visit Bangkok
Bangkok can take some getting used to. For a first visit, consider a couple of days here at the end of your trip instead of the start. That gives you more time to acclimatise to the Thai heat and get over any initial jet lag to really appreciate what the city has to offer. Check out this article for more advice on the best time to visit Thailand and for tips for each month.
Getting around Bangkok
The Bangkok Skytrain (BTS) and Bangkok Metro (MRT) are handy for getting around the city. Carriages are modern, clean, and air-conditioned. However, trains are extra busy during morning and evening rush hours and there can be long queues at ticket machines and counters. If you’re planning to use the BTS or MRT a lot during your time in Bangkok, consider buying a day pass.
Taxis in Bangkok are inexpensive and plentiful. In theory, all taxis should use the meter, but in tourist areas or if the driver thinks he may encounter heavy traffic on the way, some may offer a flat fare at a higher price than what the meter would be. You can politely refuse and wave the next one down. As an alternative, you can ask your hotel to call a cab for you or use the Grab app on your smartphone.
The standard buses in Bangkok aren’t ideal for first-time visitors, but there is a hop-on hop-off tourist bus that may be of interest.
Bangkok’s waterways can be a handy and fun way to explore some of the main attractions in the city. Chao Phraya Express Boats run frequent services and there are signs in English to assist you. The central pier is called Sathorn and located just outside Saphan Taksin BTS station. In addition to the standard boats, first-time visitors to Bangkok may be interested in the special tourist boats which come with a number of added perks compared to the standard commuter boats.
The canal boats are another way to explore parts of the city with one of the most convenient stops located a short walk from the Golden Mount. Please note these are commuter services and the boats won’t hang around when it comes to passengers getting on or off. There is also a separate tourist service using more modern boats. Although fares are higher than the commuter boats, they are safer, travel more slowly and have English-speaking staff to assist you.
Food and drink in Bangkok
Food is at the heart of Thai culture and trying street food is all part of the Bangkok experience. But it is understandable for first-time visitors to Thailand to be apprehensive about where to eat and what to order. Going on a small group tour is a fun and safe way to sample Thai street food and learn more about local dishes.
To take some of the guesswork out of where and what to eat, take a look at the Bangkok Michelin guide for inspiration. The guide covers a range of eateries ranging from simple street food stalls to high-society restaurants. Popular restaurants to look out for in and around the Bangkok Old Town area include:
- Chote Chitr
- Krua Apsorn
- Jay Fai
- Supatra River House
- Methavalai Sorndaeng
And for more Bangkok insider tips, check out the YouTube channel of British expat and Thai food aficionado, Gary Butler (aka The Roaming Cook).
Chinatown is a haven for foodies and a good location to head to in the evening and simply wander around and see what takes your fancy. If you’re staying in the Silom area, Suan Plu is worth seeking out with the consistently good Uncle John restaurant for fabulous food and Smalls and Junker Bar for drinks. And if you’re staying in the Sukhumvit area, take the opportunity to visit Cabbages and Condoms restaurant for tasty Thai food and some unique condom-themed decorations.