Chances are you’ve been to Bangkok before—after all, it is the most popular tourist destination in the world. You’ve probably seen the main temples, cruised along the Chao Phraya River, enjoyed some cheap massages and eaten the best pad Thai of your life at a local market, but there’s more to this city than cheap and cheerful, and a lot more to explore besides the obvious tourist traps.
Despite the series of recent hardships it has endured, the Thai capital shows a dynamism and modernity that is intoxicating, and increasingly nodding towards a new level of sophistication.
Sure, backpackers can still be found stumbling down Khao San Road in search of cheap beers—but for those inclined towards the more indulgent, the options are countless. Say hello to sophisticated bars elevating the art of mixology, award-winning restaurants, a booming art scene and opulent spa havens.
Click through the map below for our top rated Bangkok hotspots, and get our detailed 48-hour itinerary below:
48 hours in Bangkok
4.00pm: Touchdown and check in
The recently opened Park Hyatt—the first Park Hyatt in the country—is where you’ll want to stay. The property is located near the capital’s business districts of Ploenchit and Chidlom, which bustle with quality eateries, luxury stores and upscale offices.
The complex hosting the hotel is infinity-shaped and boasts a façade made of more than 300,000 aluminium shingles inspired by the motifs of the city’s many temples, making it an architectural marvel and a distinctive new presence on the city’s skyline.
But it’s the interior by star designers Yabu Pushelberg that’ll have you reaching for Instagram: showing a delicate grey-on-cream colour scheme, hidden nooks and striking contemporary art throughout, this place is a study in sleek. There’s a spa with crystal-steam rooms, a rooftop terrace with panoramic views of the capital and a saltwater infinity pool overlooking the lights of the city.
All of the 222 rooms feature huge marble bathrooms, plush beds and state-of-the-art video and sound systems, though you wouldn’t expect anything less from the Hyatt. Besides the obvious luxury fixtures, it’s the service—relaxed but attentive—and the overall ambience—unpretentious, and friendly—that make the property.
Park Hyatt Bangkok, 88 (Central Embassy), Wireless Road, Lumpini, Pathumwan, +66 2 012 1234, bangkok.hyatt.com
7pm: Have a Thai feast
When it first opened in London, Nahm was the first Thai restaurant in the world to earn a Michelin star. The ranking hasn’t made it to Bangkok yet, but David Thompson’s dining concept at Como Hotel is equally amazing in its local iteration. It serves out-of-this-world amazing Thai cuisine—a must-try for any Bangkok visitor.
Nahm, 27 S Sathorn Rd, Khwaeng Thung Maha Mek, Khet Sathon, Krung Thep Maha Nakhon, +66 2 625 3333, comohotels.com
10pm: Take in the city skyline
Bangkok knows how to do sky-high rooftop bars, and heading to one on your first night is the best way to kick off the weekend. The latest to see and be seen is Alfresco 64. Perched 800 feet in the air on the 64 floor of the Tower Club at Lebua, it is the highest outdoor whisky bar in the world, and grants breathtaking aerial views of the city skyline and the Chao Phraya River.
Alfresco 64, 1055 Silom Road, Bangrak, Bangkok, +66 2624-9555, lebua.com.alfresco-64
7am: Play in Lumpini Park
Shady paths, lush lawns and a convivial atmosphere: Lumpini Park is a rare and beloved green public space in the city. Visit before 7am (or around sunset, if you had one too many whisky sours at Alfresco 64) and watch people do tai-chi and aerobics, or rent a paddleboat on the artificial lake. Then go back to your hotel for breakfast, a swim and some sunbathing. Recharged? Good. The day’s ahead is looking pretty packed.
139/4 Thanon Witthayu, Khwaeng Lumphini, Khet Pathum Wan, Krung Thep Maha Nakhon
11am: Visit Erawan Shrine
One of Bangkok’s most popular shrines despite its relatively small size, the site honours the four-faced Braham God Than Tao Mahaprom. Built in the 1950s, it is a symbol of faith for thousands, and an interesting testament of the importance of religion (both Buddhist and Hindu) in modern Thai society.
Lumphini, Pathum Wan, Bangkok 10260
1pm: Lunch at a polished Thai food market
A hipster version of a Thai street market, Eathai is a huge new food court in the basement of Central Embassy, the complex hosting the Park Hyatt. Different cooking stations are divided into northern, southern, Isan (northeastern Thai) and vegetarian cusine, and boasts every local food and Thai regional cuisine you could dream of. Grab a tray and pick and choose between som tam (spicy papaya salad) and khao soi gai (a rich coconut soup with egg noodles and chicken), yam jae (spicy salad with grass noodles and vegetables) and massaman curry.
Eathai, 1031 Phloen Chit Rd, Khwaeng Lumphini, Khet Pathum Wan, Krung Thep Maha Nakhon 10330, +66 2 160 5940, centralembassy.com
3pm: Check out the local art scene at Bangkok CityCity Gallery
Perhaps Bangkok’s hippest art space, this is one of a few purposely built commercial art galleries in the city. It was conceived by art collector and street culture filmmaker Akapol ‘Op’ Sudasna and his partner Supamas Phahulo as a white canvas both inside and out, and displays contemporary artworks by local artists.
Bangkok CityCity Gallery, 13/3 Sathorn 1 South Sathorn Rd. Thung Maha Mek Sathorn 10120, +66 83 087 2725, bangkokcitycity.com
5pm: Spa time
A trip to Bangkok wouldn’t be complete without a spa experience. For Thai-inspired, luxury service try Devarana Spa. Spacious rooms, tent-like rest areas, plush sofas and flawless facilities make for an ultra-soothing setting. Need we say more?
Devarana Spa, 946 Rama IV Road, Silom, Bangrak 10500, Silom, Bangrak, +66 2 636 3596, devaranaspa.com
8pm: Fusion dining at Gaa
Opened earlier this year by Noma-trained chef Garima Arora, Gaa is the new restaurant everyone is talking about. Two seasonal tasting menus are made mostly of ingredients found along the strip of land from Northeast India to Bangkok, blending modern techniques with traditional cooking methods. Top tip: skip the wine and opt for the juice-pairing packages instead, which include freshly pressed juices and house-made kombucha.
Gaa, 68/3 Khwaeng Lumphini, Khet Pathum Wan, Krung Thep Maha Nakhon 10330, +66 91 419 2424, gaabk.com
10pm: Party down in Chinatown
You might not think of Chinatown as a destination for discerned drinkers, and yet this area of Bangkok counts some of the most interesting bars in town: Tep Bar puts a Thai spin on well concocted libations using local (and potent) local spirits, Ba Hao is Chinese-themed both in its striking interiors and drink menu, and 16-seater Teens of Thailand has earned a cult following for its gin infusions made from whatever the owners find from neighbouring Chinatown stores.
Chinatown Bangkok, 6 Yaowarat Rd, Samphanthawong
10am: Stop by Jim Thompson House
The former residence of the eponymous American silk entrepreneur and art collector offers an oh-so charming glimpse into Bangkok’s mid-20th century history, both in terms of the complex’s architecture and Thompson’s stunning Asian art pieces and possessions, on display in the main house.
Jim Thompson House, Rama I Rd, Khwaeng Wang Mai, Khet Pathum Wan, Krung Thep Maha Nakhon 10330, +66 2 216 7368, jimthompsonhouse.com
12pm: Lunch at 80/20
Don’t be fooled by the (really neat) retro feel of this place: 80/20 delivers some of the most forward-thinking fare in town. As the name references, 80 percent of the ingredients are locally sourced, whether produced in-house or purchased from wet markets. Fusion best describes the cuisine: expect lots of creative experimentations and a focus on bold, innovative flavours that play with Thai traditions.
80/20 Restaurant, 1054, 1052 Charoen Krung Rd, Bang Rak, Bangkok 10500, +66 2 639 1135
3pm: Art & coffee with a light bite
Four thousand square metres of abandoned World War II-era warehouses compose Warehouse 30, a recently opened creative and retail hub. From a co-working space to indie boutiques, cafes, art spaces, juice bars and hip dining options, this is Bangkok’s latest hot spot. Stroll around, grab a coffee and browse the wares on offer.
5pm: Back to the airport
Bid adieu to Bangkok and head home with an evening flight from the airport.
See also: An Epic 6-Day Heli-Adventure In Bhutan
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