Where to stay in Bangkok

Paul Gray

written by
Paul Gray

updated 05.06.2024

Bangkok is vast. There’s a population of 11 million people within its 1500 square kilometres and towering high-rise buildings of up to 304m high. It’s a modern metropolis with frenetic markets, traditional temples and brilliant nightlife. But where should you base yourself? Whatever kind of trip you’re planning, here’s the lowdown on where to stay in Bangkok.

The information in this article is inspired by The Rough Guide to Bangkok, your essential guide for visiting Bangkok.

Ratanakosin: where to stay in Bangkok's old town

Ratanakosin is an area on the left bank of the Chao Phraya. Here a string of boutique hotels enjoys dreamy views across the river’s bustle and colour to the Temple of Dawn on the opposite shore, whose corncob towers are prettily floodlit at night. This area is where to stay in Bangkok for the capital’s three major sights – the Grand Palace, Wat Pho and the National Museum – are just a stroll away.

You can jump on a river bus to explore the rest of the city in a novel way, too. It’s a quiet, traditional neighbourhood where the shutters come down after dark. For something to eat and drink, you’re probably going to want to nip up to Banglamphu or down to Chinatown.

Find more accommodation options to stay in Bangkok's old town

On this tailor-made trip to Bangkok Culture, you will visit Thailand’s urban capital for a fabulous cultural experience. Explore Bangkok’s wonderfully ornate wats, learn about history at the stunning Grand Palace, tour the eccentric floating market and get a taste of Siam Thai culture.

Grand Palace in Bangkok, Thailand © Mazur Travel/Shutterstock

Ratanakosin area is where to stay in Bangkok for the Old Town charm © Mazur Travel/Shutterstock

Banglamphu: the best area to stay for a buzzing vibe

The former backpackers-only ghetto of Banglamphu has grown up a lot in recent years. The crash pads with paper-thin walls and shared bathrooms haven’t disappeared, but nowadays you can also choose stylish hotels with rooftop pools, elegantly converted traditional houses and smart, modern hostels.

And the buzz on the streets is still there. Fashion stalls, trendy bars and clubs bring out young Thais from all over the city, as well as world travellers. On top of all that, there’s a great neighbourhood of old-fashioned shophouse restaurants to the south of Democracy Monument. The big-ticket sights of Ratanakosin are within walking distance, too.

Visit Thailand’s must-see capital Bangkok with its evocative markets, glitzy malls, Buddhist philosophy and traditional reserve. Discover its fabulously rich culture, and great nightlife and have lashings of fun.

Phra Sumen Fort at the Phra Athit Road in Banglamphu © Shutterstock

Phra Sumen Fort at the Phra Athit Road in Banglamphu © Shutterstock

Khao San Road: where to stay in Bangkok on a budget

Banglamphu’s primary attraction is the legendary Thanon Khao San, a tiny sliver of a road no more than 400m long, which was built over a canal in 1892 and is now established as a favourite place where to stay in Bangkok for the backpackers in Southeast Asia. Crammed with guest houses and restaurants serving yoghurt shakes and muesli, its sidewalks lined with tattooists and hair braiders, it’s a lively, high-energy place that’s fun to visit even if you’re not staying here.

Though ultra-budget-conscious world travellers are still Khao San’s main customers, Banglamphu attracts higher-spending sophisticates to its growing number of stylish restaurants and lively bars and clubs. At night, young Thais gather here to browse the fashion stalls and pavement displays and squash into the trendy bars and clubs that have made Khao San one of the city’s most happening places to party.

Find more accommodation options to stay near Khao San Road

The world’s most fascinating streets: Khao San road in Bangkok, Thailand.

Khao San Road in Bangkok © Shutterstock

Chinatown: best place to stay for street food

It’s chaotic, noisy and dirty, but for some people, Chinatown fulfils their every dream of a Bladerunneresque Asian city. Endless gloomy alleyways unfurl like serpentine department stores, hawking everything from fabrics to flowers, from pots and pans to ginseng roots. The range of hotels is limited, but it's a great place where to stay in Bangkok for street food - restaurant tables sprawl onto the pavements 24/7.

There’s even an enclave of authentic Indian eateries in Pahurat. Long-distance trains and the urban subway line stop at Hualamphong station for ease of access – or a hasty departure.

Find more accommodation options to stay in Chinatown

The gate to chinatown in Yaowarat at night, Bangkok © Shutterstock

The gate to chinatown in Yaowarat at night, Bangkok © Shutterstock

Siam Square: where to stay in Bangkok for high-end shopping

In the boutiques and booths of Siam Square, young designers hope to make it big selling street gear to the capital’s students and teenagers. If they get their break, they’ll rent a space in one of the huge malls that march eastwards along the adjacent Rama I Rd. Here, they’ll have to compete with the best local labels and international brands like Gucci and Chanel.

The malls also harbour branches of some of the city’s best restaurants. Accommodation in the surrounding area runs the gamut from designer hostels and upscale guesthouses (in the mini-ghetto of Soi Kasem San I) to luxury hotels. In a city that’s notorious for its traffic jams, where cars crawl along at an average of 4km per hour, this area has the best transport connections.

The Skytrain’s only two lines both pass through Siam Square, ready to whisk you to the bars and clubs of Sukhumvit, the river or the Weekend Market, Bangkok’s ultimate shopping experience with 8000 stalls.

Find more accommodation options to stay in Siam Square

Siam Center, Bangkok © Shutterstock

Siam Center, Bangkok © Shutterstock

Bangrak: best neighbourhood for luxury hotels

This area south of Rama IV Road shelters some of the best hotels where to stay in Bangkok, and on the planet. The Mandarin Oriental and the Peninsula are both consistently voted among the world’s top ten. These and a clutch of other high-end places on the banks of the Chao Phraya offer superb standards of service and excellent spas, restaurants and swimming pools in their riverside gardens.

They also have their own shuttle boats to ferry guests up and down the river. A boat trip is a lovely way to start a day’s exploration or return to your bed at night, gliding through the bright city lights. Public Express Boats will help you to get more out of the Chao Phraya, while the Skytrain arrows north from the river through the city centre.

Old town road in Bangrak, Charoenkrung road, Thailand © Shutterstock

Old town road in Bangrak, Charoenkrung road, Thailand © Shutterstock

Sukhumvit: the best area to stay in Bangkok for dining & clubbing

High-rise buildings and the overhead Skytrain line trap the traffic fumes and noise on Sukhumvit Road, which runs eastwards from the city centre all the way to the Cambodian border. Fortunately, many of Sukhumvit’s numbered side roads are refreshingly quiet, even leafy, and it’s here you’ll find where to stay in Bangkok for pubs and clubs.

Soi 11, “hi-so” Soi 55 and Soi 63 (a bit more studenty) are the main hubs; look out, especially for the wacky, high-concept bars of Ashley Sutton, design guru of the moment (Iron Fairies, Clouds etc). Meanwhile, the girlie bars on Soi Nana and Soi Cowboy are looking almost retro these days, not to mention out of date.

Find more accommodation options to stay in Sukhumvit

Sukhumvit road center of business in Bangkok city downtown Thailand © Shutterstock

Sukhumvit road center of business in Bangkok city downtown Thailand © Shutterstock

Silom Area: best neighbourhood for families

The area south of Thanon Rama I is dominated by Thailand’s most prestigious centre of higher learning, Chulalongkorn University, and the green expanse of Lumphini Park. Thanon Rama IV (in Thai “Thanon Phra Ram Sii”) then marks another change of character: downtown proper, centring around the high-rise, American-style boulevard of Thanon Silom, the heart of the financial district, extends from here to the river.

Alongside the smoked-glass banks and offices, and opposite Convent Road, the site of Bangkok’s Carmelite nunnery, lies the dark heart of Bangkok nightlife, Patpong. Further west along Thanon Silom from Patpong, in a still-thriving South Indian enclave lies the colourful landmark of the Maha Uma Devi Temple.

Here you’ll find the only place in Bangkok where you might be able to eke out an architectural walk, though it’s hardly compelling. Incongruous churches and “colonial” buildings.

Find more accommodation options to stay in Silom

Silom Area in Bangkok © Shutterstock

Silom Area in Bangkok © Shutterstock

Pratunam: the best market area

Pratunam is a bustling shopping district located in the heart of Bangkok. It is where to stay in Bangkok for its bustling markets, street food stalls and inexpensive fashion boutiques. Pratunam is especially popular with travellers seeking budget shopping opportunities.

Ten minutes walk north of the Erawan Shrine and extending northwest from the corner of Rajaprarop and Phetchaburi roads, Pratunam Market is famous for its low-cost, low-quality casual clothes. The vast, dark warren of stalls is becoming touristy near the hotels on its north side, but there are still bargains to be had elsewhere, especially along the market’s western side.

Find more accommodation options to stay in Pratunam

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Bangkok road traffic in Pratunam © Shutterstock

Bangkok road traffic in Pratunam © Shutterstock

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Top image © f11photo/Shutterstock

Paul Gray

written by
Paul Gray

updated 05.06.2024

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