The world is slowly getting back to pre-pandemic travel norms and international tourism is picking up pace again. It is time to start planning the Thailand trip that you have been postponing for quite some time now. And, if you are wondering, “where should I eat/play/stay in Bangkok?” we have got you covered. By Lisa Gries
If you are one of those travellers who are not about touristy things and want to truly experience the essence of the country with lesser mainstream list of recommendations. This is the cheat sheet you need.
Balancing cool points with cultural points, read on for our list of the best Bangkok restaurants, the best Bangkok bars, and the all-round must-see places when visiting Bangkok. All boast a sense of character and distinct personality, and offer the visiting traveller something different and special. We’ve tried to keep the list as budget-friendly and insider-recommended as possible, with plenty of ‘grammability to suit.
The best Bangkok restaurants, bars, and other cool places to visit
Thai food, but make it fun
One of the first things most people want to experience when they come to Thailand is Thai food. The biggest name in the game that comes to mind here is Jay Fai, which now accepts walk-ins and is still relatively easy to get in to (as compared to pre-Covid). It’s Michelin-starred street food with an authentic taste to suit.
For more contemporary places, Sri Trat is a great restaurant to explore lesser-mainstream Thai cuisine in a charming setting. If you’re one for views, try Rongros on the river, overlooking Wat Arun, the temple of dawn. A big meat eater? 100 Mahaseth is a must-try for Thai meats and Isaan specialities, with the added bonus of a dope new Thai-inspired cocktail bar located on top called Mahaniyom.
If finer dining is preferred, check out Phra Nakhon at Capella. It isn’t as ‘famous’ as many of the other Thai restaurants in Bangkok just yet, but it comes highly recommended and boasts a river view. Also in Charoenkrung, Aksorn by the famous Chef David Thompson is also a hidden gem spotlighting ancient Thai recipes. Of course, if you can get a table, Sorn is one of the most impressive Thai dining experiences you could get.
For a more private and unpretentious meal, try Kate’s Place Supper Club for a cosy chef’s table experience and an inspired seasonal Thai menu. Advanced booking is required.
Breakfast and cafe vibes
Bangkok does brunch really, really well, and is not shy of a good coffee shop. There’s a reason why we do a monthly round-up of new cafes and best Bangkok restaurants after all.
If you are on a workation, maybe you are looking for Bangkok cafes that can balance work and play. We love Sarnies for this, especially for their sourdough and coffee, but also for their relaxed vibe. The Charoenkrung branch is especially worth checking out for its rustic design. Toby’s has long been a brunch favourite, and just opened a branch at Noble Play in Phloenchit, combining a working space with an art space, amongst its usual cafe facilities. At Siri House is where you’ll find a big brunch crowd, and it is also a trendy spot to go from day to night, with your laptop or without. There’s a pool, a bar, a bookshop, and plenty of good energy and crowd.
For more unique structures, afternoon tea at The House on Sathorn comes highly recommended. The yellow house on Sathorn road stands out for its exterior, and offers a nice escape from buzzing city life. Nearby, there’s also the brunching Bangkokian’s favourite, Luka, located on Pan Road, and just a stroll away from the Hindu temple and beautiful Neilson Hays Library. The Mustang Blu is also an interesting building for tea, located in the Old Town, and boasting a riveting history and story. Further on in China Town, you could try Chinese desserts at Ba Hao Tian Mi for something uniquely Asian. Adventurous palate? Try Indian breakfast or brunch at HERE, helmed by one of Asia’s best female chefs, Garima Arora.
Lastly, if a sweet tooth is among your friend group, definitely take them to Kad Kokoa (or the newly-opened 31 Degrees Cacao Bistro by Kad Kokoa) and have them try some sumptuous local Thai chocolates.
Where to drink in Bangkok depends heavily on budget and location — are you more of a bucket on Khaosan crew or a Cristal at the Waldorf Astoria crew? — but here’s a general pick of the mix.
No trip to Bangkok these days is complete without a bar-hopping tour of Soi Nana-Chinatown. The area is growing year after year into the biggest must-visit hipster and cool cat haven. Start at the cult-favourite Teens of Thailand (Thailand’s first proper gin bar), and work your way across to Ba Hao, Asia Today, Tep Bar, Tax, and more — all less than a minute walking distance of one another. For post-drinking munchies, Chinatown and Yaowarat Road are just a few minutes walking distance away, and offer many late night street food options.
Bangkok boasts quite a few speakeasies, such as Find The Locker Room, Rabbit Hole, or the new Opium located in a stunning heritage building atop fine dining Chinese restaurant Potong. Each may present a bit of a challenge to find, but each will woo you once inside. For a hotel bar, we also highly recommend Lennon’s. There’s a sense of speakeasy, but it is also located atop the Rosewood Bangkok. The bar featuring an endless amount of vinyl records is very much a music bar, and also has a cute chocolate buffet to pair with your cocktails.
If you’re up for both food and drink, Zuma’s night brunch on select weekends is also worth checking out. Located within The St. Regis hotel, it’s a more glitzy affair, serving up various Japanese dishes alongside free-flow sake. A chic young crowd can normally be found here. Similarly but a lot more casually, theCOMMONS Thonglor is also a fun communal space to wine and dine in a very millennial and laid-back setting. The community space has several well-known dining outlets, and bottles of wine or beer can be easily purchased to enjoy in the open space. Just across the street, you’ll also find Beam nightclub, for when dancing is in order.
Other attractions and activities
Beyond the big tourist attractions that range from temples to JJ market, keep a list of other locations and activities handy for your guests.
Bangkok’s art scene is really worth showing off about, and the Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) is definitely an interesting (albeit slightly far out) museum to visit. Closer to central Bangkok, head to the riverside and check out the ever-changing exhibitions at River City, or the lesser-known ATT19 gallery. You could also stroll along Warehouse 30, or check out Woof Pack in Sathorn (and maybe have Guss Damn Good ice cream downstairs, while you’re there). You could follow this up with a walk through Lumpini Park nearby, and go Komodo dragon spotting.
Another big thing in Bangkok is wellness. Isn’t this a weekly massage a ritual every Bangkokian loves? Make a day of it and hang out at Yunomori Onsen on Sathorn Soi 10 for a full-day Japanese spa experience, or Panpuri Wellness at Gaysorn tower for a Thai spa brand offering a similar service. The latter even offers newly-legal cannabis treatments. Let’s Relax has branches all over town and comes highly recommended by locals, and the new branch at Mahanakhon cube offers something city-snazzy in terms of interiors, too. Healthland is the go-to for many, and is also the most budget-friendly.
As for activities, have your guests tried rock climbing at Racquet Club? Biking on Bang Krachao? Garden yoga and sound bath at Patom Organic Living? Or indoor skating at Jump Master Skate Haus? Plenty of workshops take place every week in Bangkok too, so keep an eye out for our event calendar, and all our other guides to the good life.
This story first appeared on Lifestyle Asia Bangkok