We started our 2 week trip through Thailand last July with 4 days in Bangkok. I found that this was just the right amount of time for a first-time visit: not to short that we had to keep running from one place to the other, but also not to long to make us bored (although in my opinion it’s hard to get bored in Bangkok!).
I’m sharing our exact Bangkok 4 days itinerary, which allowed us to visit all the main sites at our own pace, and still have time to relax and just enjoy the city of angels (fun fact: the Thai name for Bangkok is Krung Thep, which translates into city of angels and is an abbreviation of its official and full ceremonial names, the last one being the longest place name in the world: Krung Thep Maha Nakorn Arun Rattanakosin Mahinthara Ayutthaya Mahidol Pop Noppharat Ratchathani Burirom Udomratchawiwet Makhasathan Amon Phiman Awatan Sathit Sakkathattiya Witsanukam Prasit).
So without further ado here’s what to do in Bangkok in 4 days for first-time visitors:
Explore Wat Phra Kaew and the Grand Palace
Wat Phra Kae, or Temple of the Emerald Buddha, and the Grand Palace are Bangkok’s biggest tourist attraction.
The stunning Wat Phra Kae is Thailand’s most sacred site and a pilgrimage destination for Buddhists. Its primary attraction is the ordination hall, which houses the famous Emerald Buddha.
Right next to the temple is the Grand Palace, the former residence of the King of Thailand. Most of the buildings here are not open to the public, but you can still admire them from the outside. The most impressive is Chakri Mahaprasat, the Grand Palace Hall.
The entrance ticket includes both the Grand Palace and the Temple of the Emerald Buddha. You can also hire audio guides at the ticket kiosk. Ignore offers from anyone outside trying to make you pay for a guided tour.
Remember to cover your shoulders and legs before entering the precinct. This is valid for both men and women. If you show up unprepared you can always buy or rent a sarong or even some trousers in the vicinities.
Admire the Reclining Buddha at Wat Pho
Just a short walk from the Grand Palace, you find Wat Pho and its famous Reclining Buddha. This extraordinary statue of Buddha’s death and nirvana is the largest in Bangkok: 46 meters long and 15 meters high.
The biggest collection of Budha images in Thailand is also here: nothing less than 394 gilded Buddha images, some of which truly remarkable.
Wat Pho also houses Thailand’s first university – the national headquarters for the teaching of traditional Thai medicine, including two massage pavilions, where you can relax while enjoying a Thai massage.
Take a tuk-tuk ride
Nothing compares to the experience of taking a tuk-tuk ride in Bangkok’s chaotic traffic. Tuk-tuks in Bangkok are very touristy and therefore more expensive than taxis, but it’s an experience worth having at least once.
A word of advice though. There’s a well-known scam in Bangkok involving tuk-tuk drivers that goes something like this: a tuk-tuk driver spots a tourist or a group of tourists looking lost and immediately stops to offer help and directions. Then he offers to take you to visit three or four temples around town for a ridiculously cheap price, usually around 20 Thai baths. Excited you say yes, and he then takes you to a gem store or a tailor instead, because there’s a “great promotion only today”. Once there, you’re coerced to buy overpriced jewelry, or suits that will (not) get delivered to your home address.
Sometimes these scams involve more than one person. A friendly stranger approaches you on the street, when you’re having a pause or looking at your city map, and asks where you’re going. He then informs you that the temple you want to visit is closed today because there’s a special ceremony going on only for Thais, and suggests you go see other temples instead. If you agree, he will then get you a tuk-tuk, whose driver will tell you about this “great promotion only today”. Well, you already know the rest of the story.
Both approaches actually happened to us, but because we already knew about these scams we always said no.
As a rule of thumb never accept any help from friendly strangers, or get a tuk-tuk or a taxi right outside your hotel or a major tourist attraction. Always walk a little further.
When getting a taxi, never accept a flat rate, not even at the airport. Always ask the driver to turn on the taximeter. If he refuses or says that it’s broken, just get another one.
Enjoy the crazy vibe at Khao San Road
For your first night in Bangkok, have dinner at Madame Musur Bar & Restaurant, a cozy and cool place with delicious northern Thai food, located near Khao San Road.
After dinner explore the nightlife at Khao San Road. Famous worldwide for its backpacker hostels, cheap restaurants, street food, neon lights and loud music, Khao San Road is as unique as wild. Where else can you get a foot massage on the street, while sipping a cocktail and enjoying the crazy party vibe?
Cruise the Chao Phraya River
Chao Praya is the largest river in Thailand and one of Bangkok’s main transportation arteries, meaning that it’s also one of the easiest and most pleasant ways of exploring the city of angels.
A day ticket for the tourist boat allows you to hop on and off as many times as you want between the old city and the business district.
Some sites easily accessible by boat and worth visiting are:
Wat Arun or Temple of Dawn is part of Bangkok’s skyline and one of its most exquisite temples.
Getting lost in Bangkok’s Chinatown is one of those experiences you need to have at least once in your lifetime.
Packed with market stalls, street-side food, gold shops, Chinese temples, people, cars, and motorcycles, Bangkok’s Chinatown is fascinating and overwhelming, colorful, and incredibly loud.
Enjoy the street food or find refuge from the heat and chaos at the Chinatown Hotel restaurant for a peaceful lunch.
For another side of Bangkok, explore the business district of Silom, with its many banks and financial institutions, office buildings, 5-star hotels and restaurants.
Go shopping at the malls
No Bangkok 4 days itinerary is complete without a peek at its most luxurious side. And there’s no better place to see the modern and posh side of Bangkok than the malls.
From street markets to upscale shopping centers, Bangkok is a shopping mecca, with options for all lifestyles and budgets.
Most malls are located in the Siam and Sukhumvit districts. My favorites are Central World (the largest mall in Thailand), Central Embassy (an ultra-luxury lifestyle mall with a futuristic design), and Terminal 21 (conceived as a 21st century airport, with each floor representing a different city in the world).
Relax at Lumpini Park
Lumpini Park is the biggest green area in Bangkok, a world away from the frenetic rhythm of the city.
The park has a big artificial lake with paddleboats, from which you can admire Bangkok’s skyline.
The best time to visit Lumpini Park is in the early morning or in the evening, when the temperatures are a bit cooler. Trust me on this: we visited the park in the mid-afternoon and it was not a good idea!
Indulge in luxury at Wireless Road
From Lumpini Park, continue your exploration of posh Bangkok through the classy Wireless Road.
If Lumpini Park is Bangkok’s Central Park, Wireless Road is Bangkok’s 5th Avenue.
Home to luxury hotels and spas, high-end shops, embassies, and top restaurants, Wireless Road is also one of the greener streets in the city.
Have a drink at the highest open-air bar in the world
End your day on a high note with dinner at Mazzaro Boutique and Restaurant, in Silom. I truly can’t recommend this place enough: with a great decor and atmosphere, delicious food, and a reasonable price, this was one of the best meals we had during our two weeks in Thailand.
For after-dinner drinks, head to Sky Bar, just a short 2-minute walk from Mazzaro.
Located on the 64th floor of the Lebua State Tower, the second tallest building in Thailand, Sky Bar is the highest open-air bar in the world. It’s also one of the world’s most famous rooftop bars due to its appearance in The Hangover II (make sure to try the Hangovertini, a cocktail especially created for the cast of the movie).
The bar offers a spectacular view over Bangkok and the Chao Phraya Rive in an exclusive and sophisticated atmosphere. Of course all this comes with an expensive price, but it’s well worth it.
Be aware that there’s a smart casual dress code, with no shorts or open shoes allowed for men.
Admire the views from the Golden Mount
We saved the best to the last day of our Bangkok 4 days itinerary. Wat Saket, or Golden Mount, was our favorite temple in Bangkok, not so much for the temple itself, but for the breathtaking 360-degree view over the city.
Take your time to climb up the 300 steps to the Golden Mount. I promise you’ll be well rewarded.
The temple houses a Buddha relic and is a place of worship and pilgrimage, especially in November, when there’s an annual week-long temple fair.
There’s also a café, if you need to make a pause on your way up.
Enjoy a riverside dinner
For your last night in Bangkok, treat yourself with a riverside dinner overlooking Chao Phraya.
While there’s certainly many options for fine dining in Bangkok, if you’d like to enjoy a dinner by the river without breaking the bank, The Garden at Riva Surya Hotel is a great choice.
We had dinner here once and loved it: good food, superior service and elegant ambiance, a great view over the Chao Phraya River, and a chilled-out vibe. And all of this for a very reasonable price.
Where to stay in Bangkok:
We stayed at New Siam Riverside for our 5 nights in Bangkok. The best thing about this hotel is its great location right in the heart of the old city, close to all the major tourist attractions and nightlife. Our room was spacious, with AC, safe box, and a comfy bed. The hotel has also a swimming pool and a nice terrace overlooking the river, where breakfast was served every morning. Breakfast was buffet – food was ok but not great. Staff was friendly and helpful. All in all, this is a good budget hotel with a great location.
If you don’t mind paying a little more for extra comfort and elegance, Riva Surya might just be the right place for you. We stayed right next door and visited their restaurant one night for dinner (see above), and really liked what we saw. Riva Surya offers a great location in the old city and on the riverside, with all the luxury of a 4 star boutique hotel.
If this is your first time in Thailand, this Bangkok 4 days itinerary will give you a great introduction to the city and the country, while allowing you enough time to enjoy the Thai capital in all its contrasts. If you’re continuing you’re journey through Thailand, check out my Thailand 2-week itinerary for first-timers for more inspiration.
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Have you been to Bangkok? Are you planning your first-time visit to the city of angels? What would you add to this Bangkok 4 days itinerary? Share in the comments section below.
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