The Rattanakosin area, commonly called the Old Town, is tucked in a bend in the Chao Phraya River and encompasses some of the city’s most revered cultural landmarks. But beyond the Grand Palace and Wat Pho, there are also some excellent restaurants and beautiful riverside bars.
Queen Sirikit Museum of Textiles
Start your walking tour from Prachan Pier (Tha Prachan in Thai), nearby you’ll find the historic National Museum (4 Na Phra Tha Rd., 02-224-1333), home to some of the most impressive art and antiques in the country. In addition to historic pieces from the Dvaravati Srivijaya to Sukhothai and Ayutthaya periods, the museum features regional art like Indian Gandhara, Chinese weapons, ancient ceramics and musical instruments. At the other end of Sanam Luang is the most-visited landmark in Thailand, Grand Palace and Wat Phra Kaew (open daily 8:30am-4:30pm. Entry B350). Construction on the royal residence of the first king of the current Chakri Dynasty began in 1762, and the complex is split into three zones: the Outer Court, where you’ll find Wat Phra Kaew and the Emerald Buddha, Thailand’s most sacred Buddha image; the Middle Court, which contains the Dusit Maha Prasat and Chakri Maha Prasat buildings; and the Inner Court, former residence of the royal consorts. Be sure to get there early before the day is too hot. Beware, touts will tell you the palace is closed for a national holiday. Ignore them! On the same grounds, you’ll also find the Queen Sirikit Museum of Textiles (Na Phra Lan Rd., Phra Borom Maha Ratchawang, 02-255-9430), which tells the story of how HM Queen Sirikit has helped turn Thai silk from a simple local handicraft into a key export and an icon of Thailand. Highlights include the Queen’s personal dresses and ornate costumes by leading international designers.
Behind the Grand Palace, on the bank of the Chao Phraya River, is the four-year-old Nagaraphirom Park. What was once a row of shop-houses and several other old buildings is now a breathable green space with views of the Grand Palace. Relax among trees and lotus ponds while enjoying a great view of the Temple of Dawn before you continue on your walk. Next, pay your respects to the 43-meter-long reclining Buddha at Wat Pho (open daily 8am-5pm), whose three-meter-tall feet are inlaid with mother of pearl displaying 108 Buddhist symbols. In a beautiful colonial-style building nearby, Museum Siam (4 Sanam Chai Rd., 02-225-2777. Open Tue-Sun 10am-6pm) is one of Bangkok’s best museums, portraying the history of Thai communities through multimedia installations and interactive exhibitions. The venue also hosts an interesting lineup of rotating exhibitions.
Temple of Dawn
After exploring Thailand’s heritage, take a break at Supanniga x Roots (see Highlight) and enjoy Thai food with great views of the Temple of Dawn (Wat Arun). This stylish riverside venue boasts a small number of guestrooms but half of the building is dedicated to wining and dining. There’s also a rooftop bar—the perfect place for sipping cocktails. If you’re in the mood for more drinks, head to The Deck (Arun Residence, 36-38 Maharaj Rd. 02-221-9158), a charming outdoor venue just a short walk from Sala Rattanakosin. Set in a five-room boutique hotel, The Deck offers a delightful atmosphere to enjoy another drink or two, and also has a sophisticated Thai food menu. Finish your Old Town tour with a night visit to Pak Klong Talad (open 24 hours), Bangkok’s largest flower market. Flowers from not only Thailand but around the world arrive here each day to be distributed to hotels, restaurants and small retailers. If you’ve still got some energy left, go mingle with backpackers from all over the world on the notorious Khao San Road, or head to the local drinking street of choice, Phra Athit (see below), which is just around the corner. Our top address there is Rarb (49 Phra Athit Rd., 081-406-3773), which specializes in Northeastern bar snacks and cocktails.
Phra Athit Hot Spots
Khaosan Road is world famous among backpackers. But just around the corner, Phra Athit Road is where the local cool kids go to knock back coffee, craft beers and cocktails. Here are our favorite spots.
This craft beer newbie focuses on Asian brews, mainly from Thailand, Japan and Korea. There are always 4-6 taps on offer, with a beer tasting set that allows you to sample the whole bunch. Don’t miss the photogenic Tea Beer that comes with an ice tea popsicle. Head there early to take advantage of the 2-for-1 happy hour from 5-8pm daily.
76/1 Phra Athit Rd., 086-085-5550. Open Tue-Sun 5pm-midnight
One of the neighborhood’s more charming recent openings highlights serious tea and coffee. The signature Latte Bua Milk gets a local kick from house-infused lotus syrup, while the owner imports the 1872 Chopper Tea from Singapore. A selection of cakes and brownies are on rotation at the counter.
Phra Athit Rd., 082-599-0959. Open daily Tue-Sun 10am-8pm
Amid sprayed zinc sheets and bare concrete, this bar dishes out customized cocktails and Isaan-inspired food. The single-page handwritten menu lists roughly 10 items that highlight secondary cuts of meat, with dishes like larb (a minty minced-meat salad from Northeast Thailand), deep-fried beef skirt and stewed pig cartilage with rotating vegetables. Meanwhile, mixologist Karn Liangsrisuk rolls out a rotating list of drinks with local touches.
49 Phra Athit Rd., 081-406-3773. Open Tue-Sun 5pm-midnight
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