Bangkok in 24 Hours: Your Speedy Bangkok Itinerary
Trying to see Bangkok in 24 hours is a travel feat of epic proportions, but I think, in general, you’d be shocked to see how much you can fit into one day in Bangkok.
Make no mistake, Bangkok is a large city by any standards with a population of over 8 million, so you cannot expect to see everything in Bangkok in 1 day, but that doesn’t mean you can’t try to get a feel for the city, and I promise with this article you’ll be able to do just that.
Bangkok, Thailand is an international flight hub, evidenced by the fact that I must have flown in and out of Bangkok a half dozen times on the conservative side of things. What this means is that often people land in Bangkok and debate whether whatever time they have for a layover is worth leaving the airport and exploring the city, and the answer is yes.
I’m a firm believer that with a little planning and conviction, you can do a number on a city. Take, for example, my wild attempt at seeing everything in Panama City during a 10 hour layover. Don’t judge me for how old that post is and how young I was - we live and we learn!
Anyway, my goal here is to give you a Bangkok itinerary that will allow you to land in Bangkok and get the most out of Bangkok in 24 hours! Let’s get started, and, as always, you can feel free to shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org if you’ve got further questions or you just want to share a picture from your 1 day in Bangkok! There are honestly so many things to do in Bangkok!
Where to Stay in Bangkok
NOTE: This post may contain some affiliate links. That means, simply, that I may get commissions from some of my recommendations. That being said, my opinions are fully my own.
Suffice to say that if you’ve only for 24 hours in Bangkok accommodation might not be at the top of your list, but my assumption is that you’ll want to rest your head at some point, even if it’s just for the night.
In fact, I’d actually argue that talking about where to stay in Bangkok is even more important, since you want to ensure that you’re situated in the right area to be able to tackle the sights and take in the feeling of the city.
Naturally, this is only my take on the best place to stay in Bangkok, but I’ll try to be objective and give you an overview of the best neighbourhoods to situate yourself.
The Best Area to Stay in Bangkok
Below, I’ll list what I feel are your best options for where to stay in Bangkok if you’ve only got one day in Bangkok, and you can see which area might be the best fit.
Sukhumvit: If you’ve got only one day in Bangkok, staying in Sukhumvit wouldn’t be a bad place to be situated since it’s one of the most happening areas. If you’re into the nightlife aspect of Bangkok, then this is a good place to be. It’s also a great area for shopping, and top-notch restaurants.
Siam: When I was in Bangkok, I stayed in Siam, and I enjoyed it there, but it’s mostly known as a shopping district that’s well connected to the rest of the city, so it’s probably not the best place to be if you’ve only got 24 hours in Bangkok unless you’re a hardcore shopper. You could do far worse than Siam though to be honest, and I don’t remember it being very difficult to get to and from Siam to the airport.
Silom: Silom is Bangkok’s “Wall Street” more or less, so it’s a more financial area that has solid nightlife, some quality restaurants, and is nice and safe, but it’s not ideal for people who are looking to go on a tourist frenzy in Bangkok. At the same time, it’s a pretty compact area, it’s not that expensive, and it isn’t that far from the action.
Riverside: When thinking about where to stay in Bangkok, or the best area to stay in Bangkok, you’ll need to consider Riverside, but just ensure you’ll got the money in the bank to do it. Riverside is a very desirable place to stay because it’s very close to the action as far as major sights are concerned, but there’s also a price-tag associated with being near Bangkok’s historic routes.
Old Town (Rattanakosin): You guessed it, the Old Town (Rattanakosin) is the headquarters of the Bangkok tourist mecca. You won’t get the shopping the likes of Siam, but you’ll be a stone’s throw away from the great sights of the city. The nightlife can leave a little something to be desired, but if you’re there to see as much as you can, then sleep before you’ve got to leave the next day, you could do worse than Bangkok’s Old Town!
Chinatown: Believe it or not, Chinatown is actually the oldest neighbourhood in the city, and the vibe there is pretty neat. It’s not necessarily a “tourist attraction,” but it’s also not terribly expensive, and it offers something unique and different. It’s a busy, hectic area that you can immerse yourself in but, again, you’ll need to consider whether this is the place you want to stay if you’re trying to cover Bangkok in one day.
Feel free to use this information, then do a search below and see what aligns with your budget.
What to Eat in Bangkok, if You’re Only in Bangkok for a Day
I’m an ambitious person, so I’m going to give you a rather exhaustive list of all that I would try to eat if I only had one day in Bangkok. I should warn you, however, that I’m roughly 6 foot 2, and I weigh just under 220 pounds, so what I might try to eat in 24 hours in Bangkok might not be suitable for the average person. My wife and family constantly remind me that I do not have a normal appetite, so there’s my disclaimer.
That being said, you only live once, so you ought to make the most of your 24 hours in Bangkok and just go for gold. My feeling is also that having a longer list merely gives people the chance to think about what they might like, so there’s no harm done either way.
Your average Thai food, especially if you’re just getting it on the street, is very inexpensive by the way, so your foodie adventure won’t break the bank if it’s a major part of your Bangkok itinerary.
My advice would be to order several dishes to share with someone else, so you can maximize the amount of food you’ll be able to try in your day in Bangkok.
The Dishes You Need to Try in Your 24 Hours in Bangkok
Tom Yum Goong - This is the quintessential Thai soup that you should try while you’re there. It’s basically a hot and sour soup that tends to be spicy, and I’d get it with shrimp which is the classic way.
Som Tam - A spicy papaya salad that has more flavours than you’ll ever be able to identify. This is the perfect dish to buy from a street vendor since it’s ubiquitous and they all do a decent job.
Pad See Ew - I eat this dish all the time living in Toronto, so you better eat it in Bangkok. Flat rice noodles, eggs, a meat of your choice (though usually chicken), and heavy on the soy.
Pad Thai - When people think about what to eat in Bangkok, I’m sure this is the first dish that comes to mind, but it’s not quite asGeo popular in Thailand as you’d think. That being said, you should eat some Pad Thai in Bangkok if only to decide if your favourite Thai place back home is doing it right.
Spring Rolls - Enough said, spring rolls are delicious, and that’s just indisputable.
Curries - There are four curry dishes that I feel like you should try if you’ve got 1 day in Bangkok. Firstly, I’d eat some Gaeng Keow Wan Gai which is a classic green curry and my favourite. I’d also try Panang, a classic Thai style curry, as well as Khao Soi, a coconut curry noodle soup. Massaman Curry also needs to be on your radar!
Pad Kra Pao - There’s so much going on with this dish which, roughly speaking, you can think of as basil chicken, but it’s worth the try because there are few dishes as flavourful.
Kai Med Ma Muang - One of the most famous and popular dishes in Thai cuisine - Chicken with cashew nuts. It’s a classic for a reason!
Khao Pad - This isn’t a dish I’d necessarily have if you’re only in Bangkok for 24 hours, but it’s simple fried rice, and if you’re in a rush, you can find it on the street across the city, and it does the trick.
Banana Pancakes - I know this seems like a random addition, but I can still recall munching on these bad boys when I was in Bangkok, and those memories are fond, my friend. Why not eat them breakfast before taking off the next day?
If you’re enjoying this post, you might also like my extremely popular post on how to tackle Tokyo in 3 days!
What to Pack for 24 Hours in Bangkok
The short answer is not much, but there are a few things that might be nice to have. Here’s what I wouldn’t mind having along with me.
A water bottle that makes tap water drinkable - These guys save money and just make life a whole lot easier. My guess is, if you’re in Bangkok for a day, it means you’ve been in Southeast Asia for a while or will be, so this will be useful.
A lightweight, easily packable rain coat - If you’re going during rainy season, then you just met your new best friend.
A daypack that doesn’t take up much room - I loved that I could put this in my luggage for long flights, then take it out in cities for the day.
Bangkok: Recipes and Stories from the Heart of Thailand - I’m not the dude who owns a million cookbooks, but I like this one because cooking these dishes allows you a much greater understanding of the city.
Lonely Planet Pocket Bangkok Guidebook - Now, obviously, this post will be enough to inform you for your visit, but, you know, just in case.
Things to do in Bangkok, Thailand (Bangkok in One Day)
As I mentioned before, there are challenges to tackling a city like Bangkok in a day, but if it’s a day you got, then let me tell you how to build the best Bangkok itinerary that you call. Even if you’ve got more than just 24 hours in Bangkok, I think this list will serve you pretty nicely anyhow because what I’m talking about, essentially, is what I feel you cannot miss when you’re thinking about things to do in Bangkok, Thailand.
Wander Through The Grand Palace
Bangkok’s Grand Palace is not just one building, but rather a multitude of incredibly impressive buildings in the heart of the city. The buildings all have their own appeal and history, and they’re all photogenic in their own right. The Phra Thinang Chakri Maha Prasat buildings, for example, showcase a mixture of both classic Thai architecture and European influence.
Construction began in the 18th century on a complex of buildings that quietly, yet assertively, convey the fact that Thailand indeed has a storied history which includes a fair bit of wealth.
Getting into the actual complex, we were confronted with a classic Bangkok scam - an individual wearing a "badge" of sorts claimed to be an officer and told us that the complex was closed for prayer, but we were welcome to accompany him on a three hour tour until it re-opened. We were well aware of the fact that Bangkok is saturated with scams and scammers, so we avoided that situation, but I imagine many give in - it sounds plausible enough. If you’re reading this, chances are you’re only in Bangkok for a day, so you don’t want to waste off a few precious hours by getting duped by this.
The Grand Palace is full of dazzling buildings and intricate carvings kept in immaculate condition, so don’t miss it.
Be in Awe at Wat Traimit
Wat Traimit houses the world's largest solid gold statue, and it looks every bit as magnificent as it sounds. For me, that fact alone makes it worth it in terms of including it in your 24 hour Bangkok itinerary.
This golden Buddha seems to have been forged sometime in the 13th or 14th century, and was actually plastered over to prevent it from being stolen (likely by Burmese invaders in the 18th century). In a funny turn of events, it appears the Thai rulers completely forgot that this enormous gold Buddha had been plastered over. The presence of the gold underneath was not found again until 1955 when it allegedly fell while being moved and part of the plaster fell off.
This story blows me away. Imagine if the largest gold statue in the world still lay dormant under plaster, its presence completely ignored.
If you’re already at Wat Traimit, think about just taking a brief stroll around Chinatown to get a feel for the hustle, bustle, and excitement in the area.
Ride the BTS Skytrain
The BTS Skytrain itself isn’t necessarily the attraction, though it is pleasant, it’s what you can see while riding it.
It’s an elevated rapid transit system which means you’re not worried about traffic, but you’re still getting those intimate views of the city. Riding the BTS Skytrain is likely something you’ll have to do out of necessity during your 24 hours in Bangkok, so I wouldn’t stress too much about checking this box, but just know that Bangkok is a notoriously traffic ridden city, and the BTS Skytrain is a perfect solution to that.
The system consists of 35 stations across two lines. When I was visiting, I literally was able to take the BTS Skytrain straight from the airport, then to the stop right near my hostel, Lub D Hostel, which I’d recommend.
Take a Deep Breath in Lumphini Park
Lumphini Park is special because it’s a bit of an oasis in an otherwise extraordinarily busy city. It’s 142 acres in size, and the citizens and visitors of Bangkok get good use out of the space, as roughly 10-15 thousand people roll through here each day.
When I think about building out an ideal Bangkok itinerary (even just for 24 hours in Bangkok), I want variance, so here lies another piece of the varied puzzle I’m trying to create. Lumphini Park is a good place to go for a walk, and just to notice how people go about their daily lives. I’d also argue that it’s a romantic spot to enjoy with a significant other or, at the very least, a heck of a lot more romantic than places like Khao San Road.
Again, when I’m including these places on my 24 hour Bangkok itinerary, I’m not suggesting that you spend an eternity here, but you might want to carve out an hour or even half an hour, to stroll by the lake in the first park in Bangkok.
Marvel at Wat Pho
Just south of The Grand Palace is Wat Pho, a Buddhist temple complex in the Phra Nakhon District in Bangkok. It’s also known as the Temple of the Reclining Buddha for reasons that will become rather apparent if you add a visit to Wat Pho to your Bangkok itinerary.
This temple, believe it or not, is considered the starting point of public education in Thailand, and it’s also revered as one of most important temples in Thailand, and possibly the most important. We owe a lot to this temple considering it’s also the birthplace of Thai massage.
With Wat Pho, the list goes on and on as to why you need to fit a visit into your one day in Bangkok. Realistically, Wat Pho will be at the top of every single “things to do in Bangkok, Thailand” list you could ever imagine, and since it’s not far from The Grand Palace, you really need to make the time to come here and relish its beauty.
Find Refuge at the Jim Thompson House
It’s technically in the heart of the city, but it feels worlds away, and Jim Thompson very much designed it that way.
It’s now a museum but formerly it was the house of Jim Thompson, an American businessman and architect. The house was built originally in 1959, but its allure has evidently endured, as it’s one of the most popular tourist attractions in all of Thailand.
He collected art, and initially built this house to house his fabulous art collection, but funny enough its the house itself which has been remembered as the most enduring piece of art. To add to the mystique of this site, Jim Thompson mysteriously disappeared in 1967, and there are no shortage of theories about it, though no answers.
When you’ve only got a short time in a city, it’s important that you see the sights that really make it unique and different from everywhere else, and all I can say is that there is only one Jim Thompson House. In light of that, you owe it to yourself to try to somehow fit this into your Bangkok itinerary as you try to see Bangkok in 24 hours.
If this post is up your alley, then you’ll surely appreciate my post on How to Spend 3 Weeks in Vietnam!
Find Time for Wat Phra Kaew
Now, firstly, I need to stipulate that Wat Phra Kaew is actually inside The Grand Palace complex, but I wanted to add it to the list in addition because it deserves that level of respect. I think it’s worth knowing heading in to The Grand Palace that you need to make time for Wat Phra Kaew, even though you’re just in Bangkok for 24 hours.
Taking a moment to appreciate Wat Phra Kaew isn’t just one of the top things to do in Bangkok, Thailand, it’s one of the top things to do in Thailand, period!
Wat Phra Kaew is thought to be the most sacred Buddhist temple in Thailand, and Thailand is a place that has no shortage of temples. That’s the reason I really wanted to separate this on your 24 hour Bangkok itinerary because you need to know just how important Wat Phra Kaew truly is.
Attend a Muay Thai Match
Muay Thai, especially live, is truly something to behold, and that’s why I’m recommending you fit it into your 24 hours in Bangkok. Naturally, this is more an activity that you can pursue after your day of sightseeing if you’re looking for an evening or night activity. Personally, If I was trying to cover Bangkok in 24 hours, I wouldn’t go to a Muay Thai show during the day, but that shouldn’t be a problem anyhow, as almost all matches take place at night.
Your best bet, is likely going to be heading to Rajadamnern Stadium, which is probably the most famous spot to see Muay Thai in Thailand, though there are some cool spots in Chiang Mai as well I know. You can take a peak at the website linked above and decide if that’s how you’d like to spend your night, or whether you’d rather do a little bar hopping.
Take in the Sights on Khao San Road
This is the famous road for partying in Bangkok and it's known world wide as a hub for all things debaucherous. I don’t think it’d be criminal, no pun intended, if you didn’t make it down to Khao San Road if you’re trying to cover Bangkok in 1 day, but it might be an interesting place to stop once if gets dark, but before you head back to your accommodation for the evening. I’m not even suggesting you take part in the festivities, but, for me, I always like to just know what these places are like.
When I went to Khao San Road, Bri and I combed the street and stopped off for beers in several establishments. We stopped everywhere from an underground jazz lounge to a rooftop rock bar while street vendors lined the road preying on hungry, drunken tourists.
Look, it’s a bit overpriced for what it is, but it has allure in the sense that it’s one of those places you want to say you’ve been, or at least I did.
Take it for what it is, but it isn’t a bad place to nab a beer if you’re in Bangkok for a day.
Appreciate the Bangkok Nightlife
The nightlife is Bangkok, Thailand is notorious, for better or worse. I’m not one to partake in the seedier elements of the Bangkok nightlife, but I did find that there were some intriguing bars and pubs that I would’t mind revisiting.
In light of that, I thought I’d rattle off a few spots that you might want to get a drink, if you’re one of those people that, like me, always look to round out a day of tourism by getting a greater understanding of the nightlife. I’ve always thought of diving into the nightlife as a valuable tool for understanding what a city and country are all about.
Here are some places that come to mind when I think about nightlife in Bangkok, Thailand:
WTF - The WTF doesn’t stand for what you think it might, so head on down to see what it does stand for. This place is all about making quality cocktails and adding a little bit of art to the mix. It’s located in Sukhumvit, so it’s relatively central as well.
Tuba Bar - Tuba is as bizarre, fun and eclectic as it comes, which is what makes it worth the stop when you’re thinking about things to do in Bangkok, Thailand. Go and see it for yourself, and you’ll see what I mean.
Smalls - A solid cocktail bar that’s cooler than cool, and not pretentious.
Brick Bar - .This is an excellent spot for live music, but all of Bangkok seems to know that as well, so get there early if you do decide to go.
Q&A Bar - Welcome to your new Bangkok speakeasy, and a well kept secret in Bangkok. This bar is fairly central, so see if you can fit this in on your way back to your Bangkok accommodation.
How to Do It All With Just One Day in Bangkok…
Trying to cover all of Bangkok in one day is an impossible task, but this article is meant to prove to you that you can still accomplish a lot with 24 hours in Bangkok. The trick is not to try to do it all.
One other thing to remember is that many of the sights that I’ve listed here are nice and close together. For example, it’s not going to be hard for you to visit The Grand Palace, see Wat Phra Kaew, then walk over to Wat Pho. That’s three off the list right there!
My other advice here is to, despite this post, look past just the “things to do in Bangkok, Thailand” mentality, and just try to soak it all in. Remember that you’re exploring the modern capital of a great empire, and let the rest of it fall into place.
I can only hope this was helpful for you, and as always feel free to comment below to let me know what you might add to the list, if you used the list and if it helped, or just your general thoughts on the city at large. Thanks for reading, and hope you come back soon.