Bangkok was my first introduction to Southeast Asia. And, boy, was it an introduction! Like many visitors to Thailand, I spent a weekend in Bangkok and absolutely cannot wait to visit again.
This was the perfect weekend in Bangkok itinerary for my first time in this vibrant and bustling city.
Bangkok is a cacophony of sights, sounds, and smells. It’s chaotic and polluted, but also luxurious and full of history. Bangkok can feel a bit gritty, and I understand why some travellers dislike it. But I loved the excitement and the busyness. Spending a weekend in Bangkok was just enough to get a taste of the city.
My first day in Bangkok ended with a heat-induced migraine and an aching throat from the scooter exhaust. I spent the night blowing black boogers out of my nose (ew), and revelling in the adventure of it all.
During my weekend in Bangkok, I stayed at the Barn and Bed hostel. It’s a capsule hotel, and the rooms were clean and pretty quiet. My capsule was small, but the location is perfect. The hostel is steps away from Phrom Phong train station. It’s also just down the street from some of Bangkok’s best malls. I would recommend staying there, especially if you are a solo traveller.
Here are some must-do activities for a weekend in Bangkok:
Shop your way through Chatuchak Weekend Market
Chatuchak Market is gigantic, with around 8000 stalls. It is totally overwhelming, and you’re bound to get lost (but that’s just part of the fun).
Vendors sell a huge range of products, such as clothes, housewares, antiques, souvenirs, and also so much food. It’s a dizzying experience to wander through the colourful stalls and immerse yourself in the scents, sounds, and the heat.
The market is open on Saturdays and Sundays, all day. It is into sections based on what vendors sell (maps are available). Some sections are also open on weekdays, but for the full experience, it’s best to come on a weekend.
Eat & Drink on Khaosan Road
Khaosan Road is Bangkok’s notorious backpacker’s area. It’s full of hostels, restaurants, nightlife, and street vendors (scorpion on a stick anyone?). And it’s absolutely chock-full of tourists. I’m not sure I’d want to visit Khaosan Road again, but it should be part of every first trip to Bangkok!
I remember sitting in a restaurant in Khaosan, people watching, eating curry, and sweating buckets (the spicy food and the humidity will do that to you). It was one of those, “wow, I’m really here” moments.
I’m a slow traveller, so these two activities took me the entire day (including visit to EmQuartier mall at night). If you’re from a cold climate (like my Canadian self), it’s a big shock to your body to be outside in the heat and sun all day. Make sure to bring water and remember to actually stop and drink it. Reapply sunscreen, wear a hat, and take some shade breaks. I did a poor job of the above and ended up with heat stroke and a wonderful sunburn. That’s the advice I wish I had before my first day in Bangkok!
Dress appropriately! Day two in Bangkok is going to be a temple day. This means:
- Cover your knees and shoulders (or bring something to cover up)
- Remember that these temples are religious sites and should be treated with respect
- Do some research on etiquette: Trip Savvy has a great guide on Thailand temple etiquette. It’s something you need to read before visiting
- Wear shoes that are easy to slip on and off (not essential, but it will make your life easier)
Take a river ferry
Many of Bangkok’s famous temples are along the Chao Phraya River. Ferries chug up and down the river daily, and give tourists a unique view of the city. The ferries are charming, loud, and your best option for temple hopping.
Marvel at the spires of Wat Arun
Wat Arun’s 70 meter tall main spire glitters over the Chao Phraya river. The gorgeous white temple is covered in intricate mosaics, which are made of broken bits of ceramic. Wat Arun is one of Bangkok’s most famous temples, and is one of the most visited sites in all of Thailand.
I went during the day, and it was amazing to see the mosaic details in the sunlight. I heard that the temple is also spectacular at night when it is all lit up.
Wander through Wat Pho
Wat Pho is famous for its giant gold reclining Buddha statue, which sits (well, lies) at 46 metres long and 15 metres high. The size of the statue is incredible, but what makes Wat Pho even more interesting is its history.
Wat Pho is one of the oldest temples in Thailand. The reclining Buddha was built in 1848 and is the largest Buddha in the country. The temple is one of the first public universities of Thailand, and is notable for being the centre of education for traditional Thai medicine and massage
Wat Pho came up on my radar because of the famous Buddha statue. I didn’t realize it also had a sprawling and ornate temple grounds. The temple grounds was equally as exciting to explore. It’s much larger than first meets the eye, and it’s easy to spend a couple hours wandering through. Wat Pho is very close to the Grand Palace, so if that’s on your itinerary, you can do them both in one day
Other activities to do in a weekend in Bangkok:
Visit the Grand Palace
We chose not to visit the Grand Palace because it’s a little pricey (500 baht/ ~$15 USD) and we were on a shoestring budget. I’m sure it’s worth the cost, but it just wasn’t in the cards for us. The Grand Palace is huge, and it is one of Bangkok’s top sites. Within the Palace, there are temples, courtyards, and gardens to explore.
Relax at the mall
Sweet, sweet air conditioning. We ended up at the mall at least once a day, just to cool off and grab a snack. Bangkok’s malls are huge, and you can find tons of international brands, local goods, or convincing brand-name knockoffs, depending on which mall you visit. It’s the best way to escape the heat and relax for a few hours.
I honestly think mall hopping through Bangkok was one of my favourite things we did. Malls are more than just malls here, they’re hubs of activity with restaurants, theatres, bowling alleys, rooftop gardens, and more. Some were so beautifully decorated that they felt like an attraction within themselves.
Visit the floating markets
I can’t wait to go back to Thailand and experience a floating market. It’s one of the unique experiences I missed on my first visit. Floating markets are on every must-do in Bangkok list. It seems like such a fun experience too float past vendors on a long-tail boat, eating and snacking your day away.
Wander around the Bangkok National Museum
Bangkok National Museum has Thailand’s largest number of Thai artefacts and art. It’s within walking distance from the Grand Palace, so these two spots are often done in the same day. The museum is constantly expanding, it’s a great one to visit to learn more about Thai arts and culture.
There’s so much to do in a weekend in Bangkok.
In fact, you really just can’t fit in all in one weekend. If you have the time, I’d recommend staying a little longer. This is one of my favourite lists for what to do in Bangkok.
Bangkok is beautiful and frenetic, and leaves an impression on all of its visitors. Whether you’re just passing through, or making a longer pit stop, a weekend in Bangkok is an experience you don’t want to miss.
Looking for some flight tips? Here’s a guide on how to survive a long haul flight.