How to Spend 48 Hours in Bangkok, According to a Travel Expert

Bangkok — a city of golden temple spires and neon lights, stilted houses and soaring skyscrapers — is the gateway to modern Thailand. Here, one of Travel + Leisure’s top travel advisors shares his guide to two days in the capital.

Bangkok cityscape. Bangkok night view in the business district.
Photo: Thatree Thitivongvaroon/Getty Images

Thailand is one of my favorite places in the world, and I've lost track of the number of times I've visited Bangkok over the decades. Bangkok's central location makes it an ideal launching point for exploring the rest of the country. From here, you can head north to see the Golden Triangle and Chiang Mai, trek through jungles in Thailand's national parks, or unwind on the white-sand beaches in the south.

Still, any trip to Thailand should begin with a thorough introduction to the capital. Here, I've composed a two-night itinerary that shares everything I love about the city, from its world-renowned street food to its sleepy canals.

Exterior of Wat Pho Temple.
Wat Pho Temple in Bangkok. Valletta Vittorio/AGF/Getty Images

Day One

I'll design your trip specifically for you, so where you stay depends entirely on your preferences. For young couples, I might suggest the Tower Club at lebua. The rooftop bar here — appropriately named Sky Bar — is one of the highest in the world, with a creative cocktail menu, and a birds-eye view of the city. For a classic choice, I recommend The Peninsula. For something brand-new, opt for the Capella, which opened in October 2020 on Chao Phraya River.

Once you've had time for a nap, the best welcome to Bangkok is a guided street-food tour. Most locals eat all their meals on the street. Traveling via tuk-tuk, your guide will help you navigate the city's bewildering array of dishes, many hidden behind huge lines or billows of fragrant smoke. Some favorites you can find include Kanom Thua Paep (a sweet mung bean dessert dumpling), Gui Chai (chive) dumplings, coconut ice cream, and hand pulled noodles. And be sure to try the Crab Omlette at the Michelin Starred stand Raan Jay Fai.

Hand picking up a satay from a plate at a Thai street food vendor
Enjoying satay at a Thai street food vendor. Carlina Teteris/Getty Images

Day Two

Bangkok is sprawling and it's easy to get lost, so I suggest a "city safari." Your guide will meet you at your hotel and take you to all the major highlights using the city's many forms of transport: longtail boats, water taxis, tuk-tuks, and even the sky train.

It's a private tour, so what you see is entirely up to you, but popular stops include Chinatown, the Grand Palace, local markets, Wat Pho Temple, and the reclining Buddha. You can also visit Khao San Road, a lively district packed with markets, restaurants, and bars that makes a good lunch stop.

View of the skyline from the The Capella Bangkok Verandah
View of the skyline from the The Capella Bangkok Verandah. Ekkapong Tantiponprasert/Courtesy of Capella Bangkok

For dinner, I suggest the seven-course tasting menu at Sra Bua by Kiin Kiin, a Michelin-starred eatery in the Siam Kempinski Hotel. The cavalcade of exquisitely prepared dishes offers a nice contrast to your street-food dinner the night before.

Afterwards, revel in Bangkok's nightlife. You might want to relax to some jazz at the Mandarin Oriental's Bamboo Bar, or go dancing on Royal City Avenue which is the epicenter of Bangkok's clubbing scene. The whole street is full of excellent bars and restaurants as well as two massive nightclubs called Route66 and Onyx that attract the crowds seven days per week. Or you can browse the night markets, which offer everything from original artwork and designer bags to kitschy souvenirs and secondhand books.

Interior of the Bamboo Bar at the Mandarin Oriental Bangkok
Interior of the Bamboo Bar at the Mandarin Oriental Bangkok. Courtesy of Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group

Day Three

Amid the megamalls and skyscrapers, it's hard to believe that there's a rustic heart to the city. However, Bangkok's small backwater canals, known as klongs, are the sleepy thoroughfares where locals carry out daily life.

On your last morning, I'll arrange for you to explore the canals in a classic Thai longtail boat. You'll travel on the Chao Phraya River, the River of Kings, and then meander through the quieter klongs in the Nonthaburi district, to the north of the city. Along the way, you'll pass stilted wooden houses, tiny noodle shops, local markets, and fruit orchards that wouldn't look out of place in a small farming village.

A longboat on the Chao Phraya river in front of Wat Arun in Bangkok City, Thailand
A longboat on the Chao Phraya river in front of Wat Arun in Bangkok. Pakin Songmor/Getty Images

Where To Stay

Tower Club at lebua: Sky-high luxury with a buzzy energy. Ideal for couples.

The Peninsula: Timeless elegance on the Chao Phraya River.

Capella Bangkok: A relative newcomer that was ranked the No. 2 city hotel in Asia in 2021 by Travel + Leisure readers.

Jack Tydeman is a member of Travel + Leisure's A-List of travel advisors and creates custom trips across Southeast Asia for Audley Travel. Contact him at 855-435-1622 or

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