Anything-goes nightlife, a cacophony of sounds and sights, 24-hour street food stalls, century-old temples and humid sidewalks are what define Bangkok.
It’s easy to get overwhelmed, particularly as you weave precariously in and out of traffic aboard a motorcycle taxi, haggle your way through the markets, and try to figure out what you’re eating at the stalls (but do it anyway). Though Bangkok is known for its amazing street food—the city ranks #7 on the planet in our Culinary category—the capital’s administration announced in 2017 that it plans to sweep food vendors from renowned street hotspots Yaowarat (Chinatown) and Khao San Road to make room for pedestrians. But don’t worry, food stalls are legal in the markets so don’t skip a visit to Chatuchak, the biggest one.
The cool kids frequent Soi Nana, a quaint street nestled in the old part of Chinatown where some of the city’s artists have opened design studios like Cho Why, an exhibition space owned by an artist collective. Nearby is Teens of Thailand—ignore the cringey name and head inside to find a refined little bar where the always-changing cocktail menu focuses on gin. Bangkok also ranks high (#5) in our Shopping category and once you tire of haggling, head to the sixth floor of Central, an upscale department store, to stock up on traditional Thai merchandise like tableware, and decorative items, many of which are made by artisans in Chiang Mai. American expat Jim Thompson all but reinvented Thailand’s silk industry and you can shop for delicate accessories for your home at his Bangkok outlet. For something a bit edgier, head to Greyhound, a local label that makes modern and minimal clothes and accessories influenced by local graphic design and iconography.