Best Areas to stay in Bangkok first-time
Finding the best area to stay in Bangkok for a short break is not an easy task. The city is huge, bigger than London and twice the size of New York.
Without spending too many words, ultimately, understanding where to stay in Bangkok depends on the type of holiday you are planning to have.
For a first-time trip I suggest the Siam Square area, for families Sukhumvit Road is a fantastic option, for a romantic stay Riverside is the place to be, for backpackers and nightlife head straight to the Khao San Road area.
In this post, you will find a great comparative table of the best neighbourhoods to stay in Bangkok besides a full description of each area with things to do and places to visit.
The 6 best areas to stay in Bangkok
There are plenty of interesting neighbourhoods in Bangkok (50 districts), but, honestly, there are only a bunch of them worth staying in, unless you have a specific need, of course.
Following all my trips in the Thai capital I have organised a comparative table of the 6 best areas to stay in Bangkok, based on multiple factors. Swipe left or right on your mobile to see all the columns.
|Safety and Cleanliness
|Character of the Area
|Banglamphu and Khao San Road
|LOL Elephant Hostel
|Grande Centre Point
|Shopping malls, trendy
|Riverside – Chao Phraya
|Old City – Ko Ratanakosin
|Historic sites, less busy
|Riva Arun Bangkok
- Banglamphu and Khao San Road: This is the famous backpacker area. You will find plenty of nightlife options and budget accommodation. It’s a great location for the young generation, especially if you are after partying the whole night. It can be noisy. Look for a hotel off the beaten track.
- Sukhumvit Road: One of the most practical areas of Bangkok with many fantastic hotel options. It’s the closest area to the airport, with easy access to public transportation (the elevated metro follows the road), and lots of restaurants and shopping malls. It’s a great location for families and anyone looking for a good sleep with a pool facility
- Siam Square: It is the most central part of the city. You are next door to all the famous shopping malls. This is the place to be if you plan to spend your time between shops. There are a few great hotels in the area, more on the luxury side of the scale
- Bangkok Riverside, Chao Phraya: The most romantic area of Bangkok. This is where you will experience one of the most beautiful sunsets in the city. There are not many accommodations and they are mostly all boutique style, small with an absolutely gorgeous interior and retro style. You can sleep literally on the water in retro stilted houses
- Chinatown: I personally suggest adding Chinatown to the bucket list of places to see and experience. Lovely small lanes and a few marketplaces, especially the one at night. I would stay in Chinatown only if I have an early train from the main station (next door) otherwise it’s not really anything special.
- Ko Ratanakosin – Old City: This is the area of Bangkok with the highest concentration of amazing sites to visit, all within walking distance, with the Grand Palace on top of the list. If you are in the city for just two or three days and you want something close to the attractions without dealing with transportation then Ko Ratanakosin has to be
Sukhumvit Road – Best area to stay with family or short stay
- Best for: Families, Short stay (2 or 3 days), Close to the Airport
- Best hotels in the area: Grande Centre Point Hotel Terminal 21 and The Little Pig
- Diverse range of dining options
- Excellent public transport links
- Upscale shopping malls
- Can be expensive
- Heavy traffic at times
- Less traditional Thai feel
- Can be overwhelming for first-time visitors
Sukhumvit is actually the name of the road that will take you directly to the Gulf of Thailand, after a 20km drive that may take longer than expected though, as this is one of the busiest parts of the capital.
Sukhumvit is a famous exclusive residential area with expensive apartment blocks, luxurious shopping centres, spas, hospitals, restaurants and obviously plenty of hotels, including some of the best in the city,
It is an area popular with many travellers and surely one of the reasons is the proximity to the Sukhumvit BTS Skytrain stations that will take you everywhere in Bangkok (see Skytrain map here), as easy as that.
If you take the train during business hours you will notice lots of expats going to work. Sukhumvit Road is, in fact, popular with Western people living or staying long-term in Bangkok.
Here you will find the widest selection of the best places to stay in Bangkok, mostly in the $50-$250 range.
Sukhumvit Road is one of the best areas to stay in Bangkok with family because of the kids activities around and the easy access to many others with the Skytrain.
You will enjoy the interactive museums KidZania and the fantastical world of Pororo Aquapark.
The Benjasiri Park offers a green escape with playgrounds and paddle boats. Located near the Terminal 21 Shopping Centre, this park has also a jogging trail and an exercise loop which makes it great for some workout time in the early morning (just to fight the jetlag).
For a unique experience, hop on the Sky Train to Dinosaur Planet, an amusement park that takes you back to the prehistoric era.
You will also find a plethora of family-friendly restaurants and ice-cream parlours like the Terminal 21 Food Court, offering a wide range of cuisines, from Thai to Italian, ensuring there’s something for everyone, or Gelate, an artisanal ice-cream shop offering unique local flavours like Thai Tea and Mango Sticky Rice.
But it’s not all about kid’s activities. In fact, you can find in the Sukhumvit area one of my little gems, the Thailand Creative & Design Centre (TCDC).
There was a time when Thai labour was super cheap and manufacturers used to move to Thailand to produce. It’s not anymore the case. And the Thai government realised that, trying to push new initiatives like the TCDC, an incubator of new design innovations, which is recognised to be the next step for the Thailand global marketplace.
The centre is a showroom and also a shop for anything designed by Thai people. Probably the right place to buy some true original souvenirs.
On every trip I look for new gems, however, I always tend to go back to the Tuba cafe/restaurant for a few drinks. This is really the hipster place to be in Bangkok.
Placed in a second-hand furniture store, it offers drinks, food and the possibility to buy a few unique pieces to bring with you or send back home. They usually offer half-price drinks till 8 pm, with the right amount of alcohol (not washed out as in many spots in Khao San Road)
I definitely suggest Sukhumvit for a short stay (less than a week). It is so practical with transportation! Here are some of the handy stations:
- Ekkamai station is meters away from the Bangkok Bus Terminal (Eastern) where you can catch the bus to locations in the east of Thailand, such as Koh Chang.
- Nana station was, and still partially is the red area. Nowadays, however, it is also the place to go for pubs and drinks, especially after office hours, when the temperature cools off.
- Asok is right in the business district, where most of the international companies are located. This area has plenty of restaurants, although they are more dedicated to the new Thai middle class, which means more expensive than you would expect, being a tourist in Thailand, however far cheaper than home LOL
Best accommodations in the Sukhumvit area
The Grande Centre Point Hotel Terminal 21 has, first of all, a fantastic location, steps away from the BTS Metro station and with direct access to Terminal 21, one of the biggest shopping centres in Bangkok. Great service as expected and a fabulous swimming pool with a view of the city.
The Little Pig is a great economical option close to the Ekamai station. If you are planning to take an early bus to Cambodia or the eastern islands, like Koh Chang, you probably want to sleep near the Bangkok Bus Terminal (Eastern), just behind the Ekamai BTS station and The Little Pig is a great affordable place to be.
Banglamphu and Khao San Road – Great area for nightlife
- Best for: Nightlife, backpackers and flashpackers, travelling on a budget
- Best hotels in the area: LOL Elephant Hostel and Born Free Hostel
- Budget-friendly accommodations
- Vibrant nightlife
- Rich street food scene
- Close to historical sites
- Can be noisy and crowded
- Less authentic Thai experience
- Limited high-end dining options
- Not family-friendly
- Not well connected by public transportation
Banglamphu is the Bangkok as it used to be, an artistic district based on teak houses and magnificent backyards. This is one of the Bangkok areas that, although being central to the capital, has still vast zones dominated by trees.
Banglamphu is the district where you will experience more monks than any other area you stay or visit in Bangkok. Still lots of street markets where you can buy your local fruit and eat some glorious street food.
In the late 18th century the Royal Court was transferred from Ayutthaya to Bangkok and Banglamphu was the district where most of the farmers and merchants decided to move, making every lane and street an open-air 24/7 market.
With time Banglamphu has developed as a commercial area by day and an entertaining district by night, something that you can still notice when walking around.
The most famous Streer of Banglamphu is certainly Khao San Road, the backpacker enclave of Bangkok. This was the place where you could find the cheapest accommodations in the 80s and the 90s.
In the last 10 years, the full zone has opened to a different style of flashpack and boutique style hotel. You will certainly not be disappointed, whatever you are looking for
For most of the young generation, this is where to stay in Bangkok for the first time.
It’s a great busy area with plenty of restaurants and bars, besides being the place to be for nightlife, I mean party, party and again party till the early hours of the morning.
It is certainly one of the busiest areas of Bangkok with plenty of travellers around.
In saying that, on some side streets I found some lovely places to have a drink, juice and some fancy boutique accommodation at a great price. My tip here is to visit the area of Banglamphu and not just Khao San Rod.
The easiest way to arrive here is via khlong (the typical Bangkok canals), 15 minutes walk from the last stop called Phan Fa Lilat.
Alternatively, the closest BTS stations to Kho San Road are Siam, National Stadium and Ratchathewi. From there you would need a tuk-tuk.
From Khao San Road you can walk to some of the main Bangkok attractions like:
- Wat Saket and the Golden Mount: the huge Golden Mount was the only construction to be noticed on the Bangkok horizon….till the new buildings and high-rise apartments started construction. Today you can still walk through the winding steps and the tiny tombstones to the two viewpoints for a panoramic view of the central area of Bangkok.
- Mahakan Fort: The octagonal fort is on the way to the Golden Mount. The place should be visited more for its history than anything else. The council of Bangkok is trying to convert this area of 55 simple wooden houses around the fort into a residential area or a tourist park. Some of the old teak houses have been already demolished. It’s a step back in the past before it will all go, I fear.
- Wat Suthat: this temple has some amazing Buddha images and plenty of colourful murals to go through and enjoy in one of the most peaceful places in Bangkok. If you want to visit a Buddhist temple in Bangkok then make it the Wat Suthat.
- Democracy Monument: The monument is really the centre of attention for the big French-style boulevard called Ratchadamnoen Klang. The sculptures are a creation of the Italian artist Corrado Feroci. The Democracy Monument was made to commemorate the passage to a constitutional monarchy
- Phra Sumen Fort: Bangkok in the 18th century had 14 forts that were built with a wall all around the old city. Today there are only two still existing and that is why the Phra Sumen Fort is a popular site to visit to understand the origin of the Thai capital
Best accommodation in the Banglamphu area
Let me give you a great tip here: do not stay too close to the noisy Kho San Road otherwise you run the risk of not being able to sleep.
The LOL Elephant Hostel is by far my favourite place to stay in the area. It has a boutique vibe at a bargain price. So close to Khao San however so far from the hustle and bustle of the backpacker area.
The Born Free Hostel is one of the cheapest, but still reasonable in quality and service, alternatives in the area. Again on a side street, and it is a good alternative when on a budget
Siam Square – Best place to stay in Bangkok for shopping
- Best for: Shopping and Short stay
- Best hotels in the area: Siam Kempinski Hotel and VIE Hotel – MGallery
- Shopping paradise
- Trendy and modern atmosphere
- Good for short stays
- Easy access to public transport
- Can get very busy
- Limited cultural attractions
- Higher accommodation costs
- Not ideal for those seeking tranquillity
Siam Square is the shopping centre of Bangkok. Definitely well served by any kind of transportation system with the BTS train stopping here every 7 minutes or so.
Siam Square is an area with a never-ending lineup of super-malls offering all you need or anything you wish to have. Think of any brand and you will very likely find it here.
Shopping is the main reason for booking your accommodation around Siam Square, besides being well connected to the SkyTrain
Start your shopping day at Siam Square Mall, one of the first to open. Then head to Siam Paragon, the most exclusive centre, and finally make it to Mahboonkrong and Central World Plaza, the affordable choices.
But it’s not all about shopping in Siam Square. In fact, you will find here one of the most interesting and traditional places in Bangkok, the Jim Thompson House.
Jim was one of the first 007 residing in Bangkok at the start of the last century. Once retired, with a great passion for local architecture, he refurbished his traditional Thai house. Just beautiful.
Another interesting spot to visit is the Baan Krua Nhua community or “Muslim Family Village“, one of the oldest parts of the city, still inhabited by a Muslim community.
The area dates back to the 18th century and it was rewarded to the community by the Thai King for the help given in the wars. More Muslim immigrants moved to Baan Krua since, taking the silk-weaving traditions with them.
Today the community is based only on 30% Muslims, the remaining part is mainly immigrants from different areas of Thailand. This has not however altered the Muslim character.
Finally, you should visit Chulalongkorn University, the oldest and most prestigious university in Thailand. It’s a great place to explore and have a rest in the leafy garden, made of purple bougainvillaea and tropical trees.
The building is a mix of Thai and Italian architecture. There are also a few interesting museums and two art galleries: the Art Centre and Jamjuree.
Best hotels to stay in the Siam Square area
The Siam Kempinski Hotel is positioned just in the perfect place for any shopping addict, next to the Siam Paragon Mall. It is one of the most luxurious hotels in Bangkok with a park (not just a garden) within the premises and several swimming pools around. Free WiFi and private restaurants and spa centres. You can get lost here. There are some amazing deals online.
The Siam Kempinski Hotel is also so close to the Siam BTS Skytrain Station which makes it the perfect place to visit Bangkok.
The VIE Hotel – MGallery is a boutique-style choice in Bangkok. It’s not the average Joe accommodation with a well-thought design, down to the details in all the areas. If you are not sleeping here you can have a visit to the restaurant for dinner, expensive however really unique.
Bangkok Riverside – Best area to stay in Bangkok for romantic couples
- Best for: Couples and a romantic stay
- Best hotels in the area: The Peninsula Bangkok and Quarter Chaophraya
- Scenic and romantic
- High-quality restaurants
- Quieter atmosphere
- Unique boat transport options
- Limited shopping options
- Less convenient public transport
- Can be pricey
- Limited nightlife
Navigating the Chao Phraya River is super easy and, at the same time a beautiful experience. You may also add that is amazingly cheap.
I usually plan a visit either at sunrise, with the sun rising from the city or at sunset. In both cases, you can experience awesome colours.
If you are not staying/sleeping along the river you can grab the BTS metro and jump off at Saphan Taksin. From there you can take the boat at the central pier, just below the elevated metro station, direction of the Grand Palace.
Riverside is the most romantic place to stay in Bangkok or at least visit and experience. Booking the accommodation close to the water will take you back to the 18th century.
These are my favourite places in the area:
- Wat Arun (Temple of Dawn): an amazing Buddhist temple, my favourite temple on the other side of the river
- The Jam Factory: they defined themselves as “the idea, the place, the community”. What is it actually? It’s an office space for architects, an art gallery, a cafe, a fabulous restaurant and a bookstore too. Simply, it is a unique place to visit. Highly suggested.
- Speedy Grandma Gallery: it’s a bit of hit or miss, based on the exhibition. Have a look at the Facebook page and join any openings they may have during your stay. It’s a great way to mix with the local art community.
- Wat Kalayanamit: the quietest and most hidden, but still awesome, Buddhist temple
- The Grand Palace: a must-see on any first-time visit to Bangkok
- The Flower Market: amazing colours and perfumes
- One Pho Massage: right at Tha Tien stop, almost in front of the Grand Palace. Another stop that will help you to keep going through the day. I just loved my time there. And it’s really at a good price too. This is a real traditional massage
Best hotels to stay in the Chao Phraya area
The Peninsula Bangkok is one of the most amazing places to stay in Bangkok and surely the most romantic of all options. You will feel like a celebrity with a view of the water and the city skyline.
The Quarter Chaophraya is another great choice by the river, with a much bigger pool and a more modern style. The location is perfect, next to the riverboat stop that will take you straight to the Grand Palace.
All of the above accommodations are in the boutique or luxurious category and they come with a price tag. In saying that, they are all unique and you will remember them forever as a special stay in Bangkok.
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Ko Ratanakosin – Best area for first-time visitors
- Best for: First time visitors and history
- Best hotels in the area: Riva Arun Bangkok, Chakrabongse Villas and Royal ThaTien Village
- Rich in history and architecture
- Less crowded and touristy
- Ideal for first-time visitors
- Close to major temples and palaces
- Limited nightlife options
- Fewer modern amenities
- Not ideal for shopping
- Limited dining options
If it is true that a visit to Rome has to include the Vatican City then a visit to Bangkok should have Ko Ratanakosin on the bucket list.
Many of the city’s holy sites are located here. The area can be easily explored by foot and/or boat starting from the Grand Palace to finish in Wat Arun on the opposite side of the river.
Are you wondering why so many temples and sites are concentrated in Ko Ratanakosin?
In late 1800, Ayutthaya, the former capital of the Siamese country was overtaken and ravaged. Rama the First, King of Siam, decided to re-create the Ayutthaya glory in Bangkok.
In this area, you will find also some of the most luxurious hotels with an incredible view of the river. This is where you can probably have the best sunset in Bangkok
On the opposite riverside of Ko Ratanakosin, there is Thonburi, a residential area where you can experience the local life of the Thai people.
When in the area you will be spoiled by the choice of places to visit. Start off your exploration with the Grand Palace and the Temple of Emerald Buddha.
The Grand Palace in Bangkok is a stunning place that shows the beauty and history of Thailand. It has the Temple of the Emerald Buddha inside it, which holds a precious statue made from jade.
This special place lets visitors explore beautiful buildings and learn about Thailand’s royal past and spiritual traditions. The shiny rooftops and colourful wall paintings tell stories from old times, making a visit here like stepping into a rich, ancient world.
The Wat Pho is one of my favourite Bangkok temples. This is the oldest and largest temple in the Thai capital, with the longest Reclining Buddha and the biggest collection of Buddha images in the country. It is also said that it was the place of the first public school.
The National Museum is the largest museum of its kind in Southeast Asia. It is a great place to go deeper into the history and religion of Thailand. The building dates back to 1782, very imposing. And on hot days, it’s a beautiful place with air-conditioning.
The Saranrom Royal Garden is a great place to have a peaceful break and a picnic. The typical Victorian-style design may take you suddenly back to the UK or Australia.
Finally, Wat Mahathat is a completely unpretentious temple located in an area where the Grand Palace and the big wat rule. This is a lively temple visited mostly by locals where you can have a touch of real Thai life.
Best hotels in the Ko Ratanakosin area
The Riva Arun Bangkok is well-located opposite the Chao Phraya River. The view of Wat Arun is just magnificent and worth the price of this hotel. The open-air restaurant also faces the river making this hotel a perfect place for a stay and dinner.
The Chakrabongse Villas has a majestic location. You can walk to all of the sites of interest and take a 30-second ferry to Wat Arun. However, it is not just that. When you step in you suddenly forget you are in Bangkok. This is such a peaceful oasis immersed in a beautiful garden and a lovely swimming pool. The interior design is so Thai, you will definitely love it.
The Royal ThaTien Village is the option on the budget. The location is again fantastic, so close to all the main attractions. The hotel is in front of Wat Pho and next to a 7-Eleven. Just a 5-minute walk to Tha Tien pier from which you can cross the river with only 2 baht Wat Arun. 10-minute walk to the Royal Palace and Temple of the Emerald Buddha. Comfortable bed. Hot shower. The staff is extremely nice and available for any need.
Three great organised tours to join in Bangkok
- 2-hours tour on a rice barge: an easy and very affordable tour to see the main things Check availability and price
- Combined longboat and bike: it’s a 5-hour tour which includes lunch as well. It’s a great way to discover the city through the canals and the small lanes of Bangkok Book Longboat and bike tour
- Sunset longboat: it’s another 5-hour tour, only by the river, discovering the most iconic sites and ending at the flowers market Special deal for sunset cruise
Chinatown – Best area for a unique experience
I still remember my first time there. Oh boy, it was really intriguing.
I visited the area at night and there was so much street cooking around. I could not stop myself from eating…and eating…and again eating.
The architecture in the area is more Chinese than Thai. The roads have Chinese signs. Food is mainly Chinese….it really seems suddenly to be in a Chinese city.
The lanes can be very small. Add the fact that in the night they get packed with street markets. One word, beautiful!
I still remember I was there one night when someone improvised a street cinema with a very old if not antique, projector. Imagine a Bruce Lee movie and all the kids screaming at every scene. It will stay forever in my memory.
Chinatown is a must-visit once in Bangkok, definitely not to be missed. I love so much walking in this area. There is always a surprise, an opportunity for some photography in Bangkok
I would not suggest Chinatown for a first-time visit though, unless you have a train in the early morning from the Hualamphong Station, located in the southern part of Chinatown.
This is the main station of Bangkok, built over 100 years ago by Dutch architects and engineers. It is one of the first examples of Thai Art Deco that was later used in other buildings in the capital.
Yes, it can be very busy, as any central station, however, it is worth a visit to explore the vaulted iron roof and the neoclassical portico. And, if you are into street photography, this is a real heaven.
The Holy Rosary Church should be also on your bucket list. This church dates back to 1787 when the Portuguese seafarers were granted this area of Bangkok by the king of Siam, following the good ongoing business.
Over the years the Portuguese community dispersed and the church fell into disrepair. Luckily the Vietnamese and Cambodian Catholics adopted the Holy Rosary and maintained it through the years. It’s unique of its kind, especially being in the Thai capital.
Best hotels to stay in Chinatown
I always preferred to visit this area and I personally never slept in Chinatown. I was suggested by some local friends a real traditional option which I will soon check out, the Shanghai Mansion, a lovely boutique guest house.
How do you get around Bangkok?
Transportation may drive your hotel location. As an example, far cheaper transportation can be found outside the city centre however it may take hours to get into the core of Bangkok as traffic is notoriously an issue.
I usually use a local website called Transit Bangkok. They have a beautiful map with all the trains and metro stations. They include as well one of my favourite ways to move around, through the khlong (water canals).
Map of transportation in Bangkok, including the fascinating Khlong
I discovered this way a few years back and I can’t stop myself from using them, whenever possible. They are like a metro line, but much more fascinating. I am usually one of the rare tourists using these boats which is incredible considering how cheap, easy and romantic is this transportation.
Navigating the khlong, the most romantic transportation in Bangkok
Grab and Bolt offer quick service and you will not have to bargain on prices. So handy. My experience has been always good. However, it is not my favourite transportation as accidents happen.
The tuk-tuk is another alternative, especially in the central area of Bangkok, however, I would not consider it during the day as they can’t get through the traffic. They are great in the night.
As a last resort, you can take a taxi but it will take ages to go anywhere, because of the traffic congestion.
The closer you are to any of the SkyTrain stations the easier will be to move around and enjoy Bangkok. Unfortunately, it usually comes at a higher hotel price.
Tuk Tuk depot in the Si Phraya area
The last question you may have, especially if visiting for the first time, is how far is downtown Bangkok from the airport.
The Suvarnabhumi International Airport is around 30 minutes from the centre and the easiest way is to just take the train. You can always change to the Metro line at the ASOK Station. Keep in mind you need a 5-10 minute walk for that and there is no air-conditioning.
And how much does it cost for a taxi from Bangkok airport to the city, just in case the train goes too far away from the hotel? Budget in USD 30 or more.
These are the six macro areas I would suggest to anyone visiting this amazing city.
How long to stay in Bangkok?
For a first-timer, I usually suggest 4-5 days. You may want to add a visit to Ayutthaya, the old capital of the Kingdom of Siam.
On a repeated visit I suggest, even more, to settle down and enjoy everyday life, especially on the other side of the Chao Phraya.
Sometimes I take a boat on a khlong to an unknown destination and walk back towards the centre. When tired I can get a boat or a metro/bus back. Getting lost is always lovely in Bangkok.
If you are after some daily jogging try to book accommodation close to Lumpini Park, probably the biggest park in Central Bangkok.
Enjoy the city of angels!