Bangkok’s Old Town Offers Art, Culture, Shopping, and Plenty of Great Food

Bangkok’s Nang Loeng Market was recently named one of the World’s Best Restaurants by Travel + Leisure and Food & Wine. The streets surrounding the market offer a slice of real Bangkok — but the shopping, cocktail bars, and skyscrapers are never far away.

A couple prays at the Wat Saket temple, better known as ""Golden Mount"", in Bangkok
Photo: Jewel Samad/AFP/Getty Images

Nang Loeng Market is a must-visit in Bangkok — but the immediate sois (that’s Thai for streets) surrounding the market are dotted with unremarkable government buildings, so venture further afield once you’ve had your fill.

Many of the city’s first roads were built in this part of the city, known as Old Town, which most locals recognize as real Bangkok. Head southwest on these original roads (the pocked and busted sidewalks are a testament to their age) where Thai-Chinese temples, early 20th-century shophouses and lotus vendors chatting with young monks are common snapshots.

The city’s art scene makes for a fantastic day of gallery hopping. One of the best in this part of town is the Queen’s Gallery, which showcases rising Thai talents and more established names within a striking five-story, Brutalist-style structure. In addition to promoting bimonthly gallery nights, a passionate group of locals is pushing for more awareness of Thai and Asian artists. Their self-guided gallery tour kicks off in the creative district, which is a ten-minute taxi ride from the market.

The Queen's Gallery, Bangkok
Austin Bush/Lonely Planet Images/Getty Images

Climbing the 300-plus steps up Wat Saket, known as the Golden Mount, is ambitious in the Bangkok heat, but the payoff is sweeping views of the Grand Palace and Chinatown. Those who prefer paying tribute to the gods of commercialism rather than Buddhism will delight in the quality and craftsmanship of the master jewelers and gemologists at S.J. International; keep an eye out for pieces by Kavant & Sharart which have a more contemporary aesthetic.

By this point, anyone following the frenetic eating schedule of the locals will be ready for another meal. Enter Krua Apsorn on Sam Sen Road, where stir-fried mussels with basil (hoi malang pad chaa) delight and the crab omelette outpaces nearby Jay Fai of Michelin and Netflix fame.

Alternatively, grab a colorful taxi to Lebua at State Tower. Skip the crowds and selfies at SkyBar and beeline for the bubbles and views at Pink Bar, home to the city’s largest collection of champagne by the glass and Perrier-Jouët’s first-ever private label. Next door is Chef’s Table, the new home of Michelin-lauded chef Vincent Thierry, who left the three-star Caprice in Hong Kong in 2018. In a sleek setting with expert wine pairings, Thierry combines Europe’s best imports with regional gems, like butter from Khao Yai.

Related: Hipsters Are Taking Over This Bangkok Neighborhood — and You're Going to Want to Try Their Cocktails

Need one more drink? (The answer is almost always yes in the hedonistic Thai capital.) Catch one of the famous late-night jazz sets at Saxophone Pub or let the Swedish owners of Tropic City craft you a potent tiki concoction.

Siam Bangkok Hotel
Courtesy of The Siam Bangkok

The area immediately surrounding the market where your day began isn’t great for hotels — unless you’re outfitted with a giant backpack and elephant-print pants. Instead, take a short taxi ride to The Siam, an intimate Art Deco hotel on the Chao Phraya River with impeccable service.

Read about Nang Loeng Market and the rest of the World’s Best Restaurants here.

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