As the capital of Thailand, and the most highly populated city in the country, Bangkok is a haven for the worldly adventurer. Every year, tourists from all corners of the globe visit the city to experience its stunning sights, sounds, and flavours. The city has something for everyone. Whether you’re planning on absorbing some traditional Thai heritage and culture, sampling some local cuisine, or experiencing the thriving and vibrant nightlife, Bangkok is a hugely diverse and endlessly appealing destination.
However it’s precisely this diversity that makes choosing a place to stay in Bangkok tricky. The city is vast, and split it into a number of distinct areas or ‘zones’, each of which offers a very different experience. Knowing which areas provide the best opportunities is the key, so here are some of the best areas for all types of travellers:
Khao San Road (and surrounding areas)
Every year Bangkok attracts swathes of tourists, and a large number of these are backpackers. Thailand is a perfect destination for global adventurers and digital nomads, and due to its relative affordability, it’s one of the most popular spots for people on ‘gap years’ or as one of many stop-offs during a long-term travelling adventure.
If you fit into this category, then arguably the best place to settle down for the duration of your stay is in or around Khao San. Recognisable as the opening setting of the movie ‘The Beach’, Khao San Road is a bustling and thriving street and night market, which plays host to some of the most budget-friendly and memorable experiences in the city.
With great and cheap Thai street food on every corner, thriving pubs and nightlife, and a real sense of community, it’s the perfect spot for those looking for maximum bang for their buck. With everything you could need on hand and at a hugely competitive price, it’s little surprise that this area has become one of the most instantly recognisable parts of the city to travellers in Southeast Asia.
Bangkok might be a backpackers paradise, but the city isn’t just suitable for those on a thrifty budget. Bangkok is also the setting of some of the most enviable luxury experiences in Asia, and indeed anywhere in the world. For those looking to indulge in some of the very finest things during their stay, then the Riverside is undoubtedly the best setting.
The Riverside area is utterly beautiful, with picturesque views, and some of the most historical and authentic sights to be seen. A glance at the sunset over the Bangkok Riverside is enough to understand why this part of the city has attracted some of the finest 5 star hotels. Even high-end property investment clubs have chosen this area as the perfect spot, offering the super-wealthy access to some of the most exceptional (and enviable) luxury homes in all of Bangkok.
With proximity to some of the most unique and enjoyable things to do in Bangkok, such as ferry rides on the Chao Phraya River, and some of the most exceptional examples of Thai history and culture, it’s easy to see why the Riverside area is so popular. It might be more expensive, but for those looking for the most standout and high-end taste of what Bangkok has to offer, this is the place to stay.
Bangkok is a city of balance. It provides visitors with a chance to explore some of the most authentic traditional Thai culture, whilst simultaneously hosting some of the most vibrant modern city life in the world. For those looking for something a little more modern, the Sukhumvit area is possibly the best bet.
Particularly popular among Western expats, Sukhumvit is a modern melting pot of global cultures. It might be somewhat lacking the bucolic charm of the riverside, and less immersive in terms of history, but Sukhumvit is well-connected to the rest of Bangkok – it’s the perfect hub from which to experience the dense variety of experience the city has to offer.
With plenty of clubs, shopping malls, and upmarket restaurants, Sukhumvit is the ideal spot for the modern and cosmopolitan global explorer. It’s not a tourist trap, and instead caters to the tastes of people from all over the world, and it’s a great place to stay for a taste of home as you explore the magic of Bangkok.
If the rural traditions and historic attractions of Bangkok aren’t a priority, and you prefer your holidays modern and convenient, then Siam may be the best choice. Bangkok has some truly outstanding shopping destinations, and for the very best retail therapy in the city, Siam is the place to be.
Central World, Siam Center, and MBK are just some of the sprawling megaplexes in which you can while away an afternoon (or an entire week) by indulging in some shopping, but it’s not just the malls that make Siam attractive. With modern cinemas, one of the world’s biggest aquariums, and even a Madam Tussauds, a stay in Siam is far from uneventful.
If you thrive in amidst the hustle and bustle of modern city living, then this is possibly one of the best ways to see Bangkok. Siam is busy, full of people, and endlessly vibrant. For a taste of modern Thailand, Siam is the clear choice.
For a breathtaking stay in one of the most awe-inspiring sights in the city of Bangkok, Ratanakosin is something truly special. Set on the East Coast of the river, Ratanakosin is technically an artificial island that physically embodies the rich history and cultural heritage of Thailand. The island is the ceremonial and royal centre of the city – created by Rama 1 in 1782, as he developed his new capital, this is truly a regal place to stay.
If you appreciate a bit of peace and tranquility, and want to experience Bangkok at its most authentic, Ratanakosin is ideal. The evenings here are quiet, and offer a pleasant contrast to the loud nightlife that can be found elsewhere in Bangkok. With views across the river of the stunning Temple of Dawn (particularly exceptional at night), Ratanakosin is romantic and idyllic.
The ‘island’ is home to the Grand Palace and Wat Phra Keo (the royal temple, and a sight to behold) and during a stay in this part of Bangkok you’ll be immersed in the immense and sublime architecture from this era of Thai history. With proximity to the National Museum, (another must-see) Ratanakosin is the perfect place to stay to experience the true beating heart of the sprawling city.
Bangkok has a long and vibrant history, particularly when it comes to its relationship and association with China. Chinatown is the living, breathing, representation of a time long passed, and it’s one of the most unique and memorable places to experience in Bangkok. For a taste of something a little different – but equally special – Chinatown is the perfect place to stay.
As one of the oldest parts of Bangkok (first established by Chinese settlers), Chinatown is awash with exciting and authentic sights, smells, and sounds. Some of the very best street food in the city can be found here, and the architecture of the winding narrow streets harkens back to a time long since forgotten in other parts of the world.
With some of the most exciting markets in the city to browse as you explore Chinatown’s winding streets, along with some of the cheapest accommodation to be found in the city, this is a great bargain for those looking to build some great memories. Proximity to Bangkok Railway Station also means that if you’re on a backpacking tour, Chinatown is the perfect place to stay for the last leg of your time here.
Bangkok is one of the most unforgettable places to stay in Thailand, and arguably the entire world. While in some destinations, choosing where to stay is fairly clear-cut, one of the best things about Bangkok is that where you decide to stay has a very real impact on your experience (not in the sense that if you pick the wrong place, you won’t have a good time, but more that each area offers a distinct and uniquely wonderful impression of the city)
Bangkok is a thriving hub for the global community. From business people to backpackers, and foodies to funlovers, Bangkok has something for every kind of adventurer. The list here is by no means exhaustive, and the city has countless places to choose from, but hopefully this article provides a bit of inspiration for your next Thai adventure!