Looking for what to do in Bangkok for a week? We spent 7 days backpacking in Thailand’s vivacious capital, which we split across three of the city’s famous districts. The aim of our trip was to capture the city from all angles, including the temples, the museums, the food, the markets, and – of course – a little bit of the nightlife. In this one week Bangkok itinerary for backpackers we share our tips and personal experiences on what to do in the city if you only have 7 days to experience the best of it.
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One week in Bangkok: at a glance
Short of time? Here’s a quick snapshot overview of our suggest itinerary for one week in Bangkok:
- Bangkok itinerary days 1–3: Khao San Road
- Take a bus or tuk-tuk ride to visit the famous Chatuchak Weekend Market.
- Check out the markets, nightlife and street food on the famous Khao San Road.
- See interactive exhibitions at the Museum of Siam.
- Visit the Grand Palace
- See the Reclining Buddha at Wat Pho
- Also consider visits to Chitralada Palace, Wat Benchamabophit and Paruskawan Palace
- Bangkok itinerary days 4–5: Silom
- Go shopping at the huge MBK Center and have lunch in the food court
- Visit the Bangkokian Museum (Bangkok folk museum)
- See the beautiful Wat Traimit
- Take a walking tour and eat street food in Chinatown
- Peruse the Silom night market
- Have a night out in Patpong
- Take a stroll in Lumphini Park
- Bangkok itinerary days 6–7: Sukhumvit
- Go shopping and try Thai street food in the food court at the Terminal 21 megamall
- Hang out at Banchasiri Park
- Have a drink at a rooftop bar
- Have a night out on Soi Cowboy
Bangkok itinerary 7 days: beginning at Khao San Road
We arrived a stone’s throw from Bangkok’s famous Khao San Road at 6am on a Saturday after a 17-hour journey from Koh Phi Phi. If you are arriving in similar style, check out our guide on how to take overnight buses like a pro!
Visit the huge Chatuchak Weekend Market
We were half expecting to find a few souls still standing from Friday night’s festivities, but the streets were deathly quiet on a Saturday morning. Unable to check into our hostel until the afternoon, we dropped our bags, and rather than waste the day we decided to take a trip to Chatuchak Market.
With over 15,000 stalls spread over 35 acres, Chatuchak is the world’s largest weekend market. It’s also some 10km away from Khao San Road on the other side of the city, so first we had to get there! Rather than take a pricey tuk-tuk or taxi, we opted for the local bus. Numbers 3 and 544, both air-conditioned, both went directly to the market gates for small change – we paid 17 baht each, which might have risen a little since.
Whiling away 3–4 hours in this enormous labyrinth of stalls, entertainers and food carts was not difficult. Vendors selling all sorts of trinkets from incense burners to magic cushions to vintage clothing vied for our attention. Once we decided to head to the hostel, it took us more than half an hour to find our way back out through the mayhem.
We found Chatuchak Weekend Market to be a fun and friendly experience. But if you are in any way nervous about visiting Bangkok’s markets on your own, you can take a Chatuchak Market private tour with a local guide. You will learn some haggling skills from an expert, so it may end up saving you money in the long run!
To find more authentic places to shop around the city, check out this guide to the best Bangkok markets.
Where to stay in Khao San Road
There is an incredible amount of choice when it comes to places to stay around Khao San Road. We stayed in a large and lively hostel which has sadly closed down following the pandemic. But whether you are looking for a budget hostel like us, or something more private and comfortable, there are dozens of options.
Staying in this area you are never far from a good place to eat or interesting things to see and do, no matter what time of day. Take a look at the map below to browse some options on booking.com:
Khao San Road nightlife: our first impressions
That night, after a much-needed afternoon nap, we went out in search of Khao San Road’s famous nightlife. It was very different to what we had anticipated! Our first experience of Thailand had been the raucous Bangla Walking Road at Patong Beach in Phuket, with its rows and rows of manic bars and locals touting special offers, and we were expecting something similar.
Khao San Road wasn’t on the same level of crazy. There were more market stalls than bars, lots of street food vendors, and the occasional expensive night club tucked away from the street. We ended up cruising to a couple of the bars on a parallel street, where we found live music and cheap beer.
The Museum of Siam: a maze of interactive exhibitions
We didn’t get properly up and running until the next day, with the benefit of a good night’s sleep. Keen to explore some of Thailand’s history and culture, we first headed to Bangkok National Museum, easily walkable from our hostel, but were disappointed to find that half the exhibitions were closed. Not wanting to pay the full fee for half the insights, we decided to leave it.
This turned out to be a blessing in disguise, as it gave us more time to spend at our next destination: the Museum of Siam. We’ve been to a lot of museums on our travels, and this one ranks right up there among the best.
For the 200-baht entrance fee (it’s 50 baht if you’re a student), we enjoyed three hours of fascinating exploration of Thai identity and culture, and would’ve spent longer if it wasn’t for our rumbling stomachs.
Organised into 14 different interactive room displays, the museum invites visitors to ‘decode Thainess’ by exploring various components of the nation’s identity, such as its food, traditions, dress, music, history and religion. By the time we worked our way through most of the puzzles and games, lunch was long overdue. We grabbed some tasty cheap local food at Baan Thatien nearby, and took a slow walk with the camera back towards the hostel.
Khao San Road at night: quirky street food and foot massage
Our plans for a quiet Sunday night in were soon disrupted when we got chatting to a British solo traveller called Sam, and headed out once again to Khao San Road. Brimming with Chang beer confidence and perhaps wanting to impress a new friend, we felt the time was right to try eating a scorpion. We picked up two for 100 bahts from a street vendor. How can I describe the flavour? It was a bit like a pork scratching thrice-charred to death on a BBQ.
If scorpions and other such charred exotic snacks don’t sound appetising to you, there are many more palatable forms of street food to be found around Khao San Road. We loved trying out pad thais, papaya salads and other local dishes from the stalls and little cafés along the street and the roads parallel to it.
One of the real surprises about Khao San Road was that it completely shut down at 1am, even on weekends. Once the bars started closing it was really difficult to find anywhere to keep the night going, but we had an idea. The massage parlours seemed to be still open. I can now attest that there is no better way to end a night out than with a half-hour, 150-baht foot massage.
A visit to the busy Grand Palace
After a slow-paced first day or so getting to know the area, it’s time to see some of the city’s most famous highlights, which are not far away from Khao San Road by foot. We found our way to the Grand Palace and Wat Pho to explore independently, but you can also take a city highlights temple and market walking tour that includes these and various other attractions with a local guide.
We were up and out early to try and beat the crowds to the Grand Palace, as we had heard how chaotic it can get. The tales were true, and our plan was a good one. Arriving at 9am we already found ourselves caught in a tidal wave of tourist traffic, but when we left a couple of hours later it was a lot worse.
The Grand Palace is touted as a must-see in Bangkok, and although it was a magnificent spectacle to behold, we did find that it was a little overcrowded – so definitely consider going earlier to avoid the worst of that. At 500 baht each, it was by some distance the most expensive single attraction we saw in Thailand, but it’s worth it to see the unique grandeur of the complex.
However, the crowds were so intense that we spent most of the time scrambling, jostling and trying to avoid being pushed over. Be aware that the dress code is super strict – Lisa wasn’t allowed to cover her shoulders with a sarong, so she had to pay extra to hire a cardigan.
A visit to Wat Pho (the reclining Buddha)
After our Grand Palace visit was over, we walked a few minutes down the road to visit Wat Pho, one of the city’s most celebrated temples. This turned out to be a much more enjoyable experience than the Grand Palace as it was much less crowded.
Don’t overlook this one when you’re working out what to do in Bangkok. The grounds and buildings were every bit as beautiful as the Grand Palace, but the volume of tourist traffic was far more bearable, and the entrance fee was much more reasonable at 100 baht each.
More places to visit near Khao San Road
Had we an extra day around Khao San Road, or taken it at a faster pace, we could have walked north from our hostel and visited some more of the city’s famous sites such as Chitralada Palace, Wat Benchamabophit and Paruskawan Palace. Or if we could muster the stomach for it, a short hop across the Chao Phraya River would have taken us to Siriraj Medical Museum. The problem with deciding what to do in Bangkok is that there’s so much choice! Time caught up with us, and it was time to move on to the next district.
Bangkok itinerary 7 days: a stay in Silom
The next leg of our one week Bangkok itinerary is a two-day stay in Silom. The neighbourhood of Silom is at the epicentre of Bangkok’s commercial history, once the home of Thailand’s first printing press, and today a thriving financial district. Backpackers are drawn by the bustling nightlife of Patpong and the proximity of Lumphini Park.
To get to Silom from Khao San Road we ordered a Grab taxi, which cost us 164 baht for the 7km journey. This was a convenient way to do it, but if you’re looking to save money you can take the bus. Or if you’re feeling really energetic you could walk it across the city! It’s possible in about 90 minutes, but we didn’t fancy it with our big backpacks.
Where we stayed in Silom
Our abode for two nights in Silom was Lub D hostel, conveniently situated close to Silom Road and a short walk from Patpong and Lumphini Park. It’s good value and is a nice clean space in an excellent location. As soon as you enter, a large wall painting illustrates what to do in Bangkok, and around the Silom area. The hostel bar sold food and beer, albeit a bit more expensive than we found around Khao San Road!
Check out accommodation in Silom on booking.com to browse more options.
Shopping and lunch at the MBK Center
A quick consultation with a local map showed that we were walkable distance from the MBK Center, one of the city’s legendary giant shopping malls. For a few weeks we had been keeping an eye out for deals on a new tablet or laptop to replace a broken one, and with over 2,000 outlets spread over eight floors, this place seemed a fair shout. It took us about 20 minutes to walk there from the hostel.
The entire fifth floor of the mall was dedicated to electronics, and it didn’t take long to find a bargain – we bought a tablet/laptop combo for 6,000 baht, about half what it would’ve cost back home.
On the next floor up, we found a huge food court – often a feature of the Asian megamalls – with a host of different Thai food options for super cheap prices. We paid 40 baht each for some seafood noodle soups.
Not fancying the walk back to the hostel after dark with our new gadget, we decided to take a metered taxi from the rank by the mall. This worked out even cheaper than taking a Grab.
A visit to the Bangkokian Museum (Bangkok folk museum)
We opted for a quiet night and allocated the next day for exploring the area and taking photos. We started with the Bangkokian Museum, just ten minutes’ walk from the hostel. The museum is the former home of a middle-upper-class Thai family, preserved to give insight into high society life in the city over a century ago.
Walking through the bedrooms, bathrooms and family living areas was like taking a step back in time to a forgotten place – quite a different experience to other museums we’ve encountered on our travels.
A walking tour in Bangkok’s Chinatown
We spent a great day walking aimlessly around Chinatown, something that rarely disappoints. It’s about a 45-minute walk from Silom, but there are some interesting spots along the way to see.
The route to it was perfect for a slow stroll, through lively backstreets, along the river, and past scatterings of street food stalls. We stopped on the way to marvel at the magnificent white and gold structure of Wat Traimit.
While we tried some tasty titbits from street stalls in Chinatown. There are lots of restaurants too – many seemed quite overpriced as it’s a bit of a tourist trap area. We ended up waiting until later given our tight backpackers’ budget, and found a cheap backstreet Thai café back near our hostel.
It’s possible to take a guided tour of Chinatown, which is great value and will give you some insights into the best street food spots as well as seeing the highlights of the district such as its magnificent temples.
Nightlife in Silom: night market and Patpong scene
That night we tried out the Patpong scene, and found something far more closely resembling the chaos of Bangla Walking Road back in Phuket. There is also some intrigue in the area as you can peruse the Silom night market to find a bargain.
We made a beeline for the main road that stretches through the Patpong nightlife scene. Bar staff hustled in the street to try and get us into their establishments, and women clad in very little tried to allure us into ping pong shows and other seedy entertainments.
Drinks were about twice the price of Khao San Road and we’d missed happy hour, but we stayed out for a few drinks to soak in the madness, grabbed a street food fix and headed back to the hostel. We had intended to call it a night, but we met a group of revelling backpackers in the hostel’s outside bar area, and ended up joining them for drinks and chats until 6am!
Could just one night in Bangkok go according to plan? The late night was a death knell for our intention to check out Lumphini Park in the morning. Maybe next time, eh?
Bangkok itinerary 7 days: ending in Sukhumvit
After our enjoyable two days in Silom we took another Grab, this time for 147 baht, and headed to our final Bangkok residence: Sukhumvit.
Sukhumvit doesn’t offer a lot in terms of historical or cultural attractions compared to our previous destinations; it’s more of a place to indulge in shopping, eating and drinking, and so might not be the obvious choice for backpackers on a budget. There are ways to work around it cheaply, though, and anyone who has seen The Hangover 2 may want to witness the nighttime scenes on the notorious Soi Cowboy.
Where to stay in Sukhumvit
We stayed at Revolution Hostel Asoke, our cheapest Bangkok stay yet and was a super welcoming place to stay. We couldn’t really fault the place: the beds were large and comfy, it had a cool little rooftop bar with great city views, and the bar sold breakfasts with names like “the Che-Guevara’. Fun!
For more options take a look at the Sukhumvit section of booking.com.
Finding good cheap food in Sukhumvit: Terminal 21
It was a lot harder to find budget food around Sukhumvit, and on the first night we bit the bullet and splashed out more than usual on a pizza from around the corner. The next day, however, we found a gem in yet another Bangkok megamall, Terminal 21.
On the fifth floor of the mall there were a whole bunch of restaurants with various (mainly western) themes, and fine-dining prices. By chance we decided to take the escalator one floor higher, where we found a giant local food court. There was barely a western tourist in sight. Busy stalls sold main dishes for as little as 25 baht; we got a plate of BBQ duck and pork with rice and veg for 35 baht each.
Exploring Sukhumvit, and rooftop bars!
Although Sukhumvit often tops lists of what to do in Bangkok, we found its general vibe a bit plastic, geared towards richer folk and nowhere near as interesting as the previous two districts we’d encountered. We walked along the main road to Benchasiri Park (otherwise known as Queen’s Park) and had a look around another mall, the Emporium. After a pleasant wander, we headed back to the hostel to chill on the rooftop with a beer.
There are more rooftop venues around Sukhumvit that are fun to try out. You can try RISE or Vanilla Sky rooftop bars for fun drinks and sweeping views of the district.
A night out in Sukhumvit
We couldn’t spend our last night in Bangkok without going out for a couple of beers, especially with it being a Friday. We thought we’d find out if Soi Cowboy was all it’s cracked up to be. We found a bar on the corner selling bottles of Singha for 80 baht all night, and holed ourselves up there watching the weird and wonderful Bangkok world go by.
Soi Cowboy is a narrow road with flashing neon signs protruding from both sides, and dancing girls beckoning groups of western men through shady-looking doors. We were perfectly content to sip our beers and chat to the friendly staff at our bar for a couple of hours. There were to be no 6am shenanigans this time: before midnight struck we called time on a great week and headed for bed.
What to do in Bangkok: map of attractions
If you want to use these ideas for one week in Bangkok to piece together your own itinerary, you can see the locations of the various sites and attractions we have mentioned on the map below:
Further reading on Thailand
Are you planning to travel Cambodia after Thailand? Check out this article on getting from Bangkok to Siem Reap, including all you need to know about the border crossing.
Check out our other articles on Thailand to inspire your trip:
- Savvy travelling: 15 tips for Thailand on a budget
- Things to do in Chiang Rai: a two-day cycling itinerary
- Chiang Mai trekking: adventure in the Thai jungle
- Tiger Cave and Dragon Crest: escaping the beach in Krabi
- Swimming with sharks: advanced scuba diving in Koh Phi Phi
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