Bangkok, the capital city of Thailand. It is a huge, busy, overwhelming city. Many travelers find it difficult to get their bearings and quickly continue to other destinations like the beaches & islands in the south, or the mountains of Chiang Mai in the north.
However, with a little bit of guidance, it is easy to navigate & quite simple to spend 3 days or more in Bangkok!
The Perfect Bangkok Itinerary
Bangkok is a polarizing destination, there’s no arguing that!
Those who’ve taken the time to understand it and explore what it has to offer will wholeheartedly recommend it to other travellers. Those who haven’t or were perhaps scared off by the city’s chaotic character almost always recommend getting out as soon as humanly possible. But Bangkok has a lot to offer the traveler who will put in the time to get to know her.
In this quick guide, I’m going to give you a simple yet actionable itinerary for spending an adventure packed 3 days in Bangkok!
This whole article in fact, is dedicated to exploring just city itself. Even then, it’s only just going to scratch the surface. I’ve written a separate guide on places near Bangkok, which is perfect if you’re looking for some inspiration for a few easy day trips from the city too.
Day 1 – Temple Hopping in Bangkok’s Old Quarter
Bangkok’s Old Quarter is located in the district called Phra Nahkon. This too is where you will find Khao Sarn Road, but hear me out, there’s also plenty more to discover in the area than just the backpacker ghetto. Phra Nakhon is characterized by its old Chinese shophouses, narrow roads, slow-moving traffic jams, and its many temples spread out across the district.
Temples are open just about every day in Thailand & when they’re closed, it’s most likely a scam. On your first day in Bangkok I recommend spending time exploring the temples around the city’s Old Quarter, preferably on a weekday, saving your weekends for the markets instead.
Kick off your morning by visiting Wat Benchamophit, otherwise known as the Marble Temple. This beautiful white temple is located just outside Phra Nakhon in the Dusit district. One of my favorite things about Wat Benchamophit are the hundreds of small bells surrounding the inner courtyard which ring in the wind, it’s a mesmerizing place to just sit and wonder for a while. It is free to access the outer grounds of Wat Benchamophit, and entry into the inner grounds is just 20 THB (USD 1), so not a bad deal at all.
Next, you can continue to Wat Bowon Niwet. This temple is located in the heart of Phra Nakhon, and just a short walking distance from Khao Sarn Road. Wat Bowon Niwet is one of the oldest and most prestigious temples in Bangkok, though it doesn’t receive half the attention it deserves. The temple grounds are small and quiet. Inside the temple, you will find an impressive large golden Buddha statue and beautiful old paintings on the walls. The temple is frequented by locals who come to pray, so be respectful, keep quiet, and dress appropriately. Entry to Wat Bowon Niwet is free.
After Wat Bowon Niwet, we move onto the more well-known temples. Wat Pho is more commonly known as the Temple of the Reclining Buddha. This temple is busy all day, every day. Despite the crowds, the visit to Wat Pho is definitely worth it. Inside the main temple will find a huge 46-meter-long golden Buddha statue lying down on its side. You may only spend 15-20 minutes inside the temple, but it’s a sight you won’t quickly forget. Entry to Wat Pho is 100 THB (USD 3).
From the reclining Buddha, take a short walk down the road, then hop on the ferry that crosses the Chao Praya river. Here you will find wat Arun, commonly referred to as the Temple of Dawn. Wat Arun is probably the most iconic temple to visit in Bangkok. From afar the main stupa appears white, but up close it is covered in thousands of small pieces of porcelain carefully arranged into patterns. I suggest visiting in the late afternoon, around 5pm, when the crowds start to lessen and the temple glows with the warm afternoon light.
For the best view of Wat Arun, go back across the river just before sunset. Head up to the rooftop bar called Eagle Nest where you can grab a cold beer and watch the sun set over the temple and the Chao Praya River. It’s a stunning scene to watch. A note of warning, the rooftop bar tends to fill up early, and advance bookings are not possible, so you may want to arrive early to secure a spot.
Day 2 – Exploring the Markets
I highly suggest that you plan to spend at least one Saturday or Sunday in Bangkok. The markets truly come to life on weekends in a way that you just won’t experience during the week.
Now you could spend your whole day exploring the popular Chatuchak Weekend Market, but I’ve got a better plan for you. Get up early and make your way across to the island in Bangkok known as Bang Krachao. Yes, you heard right, and island in Bangkok! Exploring Bang Krachao is one of my favourite things to do in Bangkok.
There is a small local market on Bang Krachao called the Ban Nam Pheung Floating Market. The name is a little misleading, as the market is not actually directly on the water but surrounded by canals. Nevertheless, this is one of the most authentic weekend markets you will find in Bangkok.
Take note, this is a morning market which is almost finished by 1pm, so go early!
If you want to experience one of the biggest markets in Bangkok, then you should still head over to the Chatuchak Weekend Market. It’s big, it’s busy, and it’s fun. To get here you want to catch the BTS Skytrain to Mor Chit, or the MRT Underground to Chatuchak.
The Chatuchak Weekend Market is open from morning until late afternoon. I suggest arriving around midday and exploring aimlessly for a few hours. You will find a huge range of goods for sale, divided into different sections throughout the market. A few things I suggest looking out for are the seconds clothing from the textile factories in Cambodia, handmade art from local Thai artists, Benjarong Ceramics in the central building, and the Viva 8 bar for great tunes cold beer and Spanish Paella in the afternoon.
After the day time markets finish up, the night markets come to life. The night markets and night life in Bangkok are a totally different experience yet again. Think live music bars, cheap beer, and good Thai street food. You have a few options for partying it up at a night market in Bangkok. You could stay put in Chatuchak and take a short walk over to the nearby Chatuchak JJ Market, however, my preferred spot is Rot Fai Ratchada (Ratchada Train Market).
Rot Fai Ratchada is a huge night market located behind the Esplanade Shopping Centre on Ratchadapisek Road.
You will find a massive range of food stalls under colorful little tents where you can buy just about anything from Korean chicken to deep-fried insects. There is a lively bar section at either end of the market which stays busy until late at night. It is one of the best places to have a big night out in Bangkok. Rot Fai Ratchada is open from 5pm to about 1am from Thursday through to Sunday.
Day 3 – Explore the Chao Praya River
So far you will have already crossed the Chao Praya River at least twice. Once when visiting Bang Krachao and once when visiting Wat Arun. On your third day in Bangkok, you will get to explore the area along the river a bit more.
Start the day by exploring the street art in the small alleyways along the Chao Praya River. The best place to start is walking Saphan Taksin BTS station up to the main road called Charoen Krung. There are a number of alleys to explore with impressive street murals, however, a few notable locations are; Charoen Krung Soi 28, 30 and 32. The walk from Saphan Taksin to take in all these three murals will take about 1 hour.
Charoen Krung road is itself a nice place to explore too. Like Phra Nakhon, it is one of Bangkok’s older districts. You will find lots of old shophouses, small local markets, cafes, and temples. I love wandering around this area just taking in the entire local Bangkok experience.
You can board the Chao Praya Express ferry midway up Charoen Krung Road at the Marine Department Ferry Pier. The ferry will take you two stations north to the Pak Khlong Flower Market which is another Bangkok sight not to be missed. This huge undercover market supplies flowers to just about every hotel in Bangkok. While the busiest time of the day is the very early hours of the morning, the market is open all day, 24 hours long. Any time of the day is a good time to visit.
After exploring the Pak Khlong Flower market, you can continue north along the river again on the Chao Praya Express to the Wang Lang market. This is located on the opposite side of the Chao Praya river in the Siriraj district. Wang Lang Market is one of the best places in Bangkok to find good street food. The tiny alleys are crammed with street vendors selling all sorts of tasty snacks. I highly suggest dropping in even if only briefly.
Of course, a trip to Bangkok would not be complete without trying the street food. One of the best places to eat great street food is Chinatown, located back near Saphan Taksin where you started the day. Chinatown is locally referred to as Yaowarat, as it is located on Yaowarat Road. From afternoon until late at night you will find lots of traditional Thai, and Chinese-Thai style dishes available. One of the most iconic dishes here is called Kuay Jab which is a dish of rice noodles n a clear soup with pieces of crispy pork. It’s just incredible. After dinner, be sure to wrap up the night with a tasty mango sticky rice too!
Tips for the perfect Bangkok Itinerary
In order to get the most out of your time in Bangkok follow these few simple tips:
- Get a map! A good map is a must. We cant have you spend your 3 days in Bangkok wandering aimlessly! Our favorite map is The Groovy Map to Bangkok. The map is accurate, durable, and also contains Skytrain & MRT routes. Is it a travel guide or a map?! We dont know but we love it!
- Bring sunscreen! As if the solar rays weren’t harsh enough, Bangkok’s buildings and reflections intensify everything and you’ll burn faster here than laying on some sandy beach in the south! But if you are headed to the beaches please use a reef safe sunscreen, we liked the NewDerm Spray On Stuff.
- Clothes for temples! For entry into any of the religious temples and the Kings Palace you’ll need to wear long trousers (these temple pants were a hit) and a top/ t-shirt that covers your shoulders. We recommend getting something light and breathable that packs down small.
- Don’t Forget Your Camera! Bangkok, like all of Thailand, is chock full of amazing sights. Don’t leave it up to your wimpy phone camera to bring back memories. Make sure you pack a travel camera or at least an action camera with you!
Where to Stay While Exploring Bangkok
At Adventographer we recommend staying somewhere in old Bangkok by the river (see map below). This puts you walking distance to the sights and sounds of Bangkok, keeps you close to transit options and saves a few dollars compared to the swanky hotels of new Bangkok!
During our 4 visits to this city we’ve stayed in all manor of accommodations. From the sleepless nights we spent at the D&D Inn right on Khao San Rd (bring earplugs) which is great for those looking to party the night away to the much more upscale spots along the river.
On our last trip we stayed at the highly recommended Navalai River Resort which seems an entirely different world from the hustle and bustle of Khao San but is only a 5 minute walk away. The views out over the Chao Praya River, rooftop pool and great riverside patio (conveniently also next to the ferry dock) for some evening drinks makes it somewhere we’ll return to!
3 Days in Bangkok: too long or not enough?
All too often I hear people say that one day in Bangkok is enough.
“Get out of the city, go to the islands” they say!
The islands are great, but the truth is, these people just haven’t given Bangkok a chance. Sure, it’s busy, the traffic moves slowly and the roads are a bit gritty. But Bangkok has a culture that you need to immerse yourself in and experience first-hand to love.
By following this guide and spending at least 3 days in Bangkok you will start to discover the culture of this metropolis. Before you know it you will have used all your days and only scratched the surface of Bangkok’s attractions. Realizing that you just need to come back again to see more.
Let us know what you loved most about Bangkok by dropping a comment below or reaching out on any of our social channels! We love hearing about your favorite spots!
I would not want to miss the Jim Thompson house…