The riverside in Bangkok is one of the most interesting areas of the city and perfect for exploring. You get a taste of “traditional” Bangkok as well as a view of some of the most stunning attractions the city has to offer. Plus, nothing beats a cruise down the Chao Phraya River checking out the sights of Bangkok from a different angle, like the famous Temple of Dawn (Wat Arun), the Grand Palace, and the amazing Temple of the Emerald Buddha (Wat Phra Kaew).
Here are our tips for what to see and do in the riverside in Bangkok:
1) Visit the Thonburi Side
The older city of Bangkok was originally set up on the western side of the river, called Thonburi, and was later shifted to the current location on the eastern side of the river. Thonburi is consequently much less developed than the other side, and there are many neighborhoods to explore that are formed of houses above the water, and many narrow canals (khlongs) that take you into a forgotten realm of this otherwise highly modern city. You can book a private boat to take you around.
Image via Prachanart Viriyaraks/ flickr
2) Enjoy a River Cruise
You can’t miss the experience of cruising down the Chao Phraya River by boat. The river is so huge and vibrant; there is always something to see. The river is most beautiful at sunset and as the lights come on all over the city. You can choose from many different cruises and enjoy a full meal and show onboard, a buffet meal and dancing, or a simple trip in a river taxi. Your choice!
3) Go to the Royal Barges Museum
These wonderful, historic barges that are displayed in the Royal Barges Museum – one of the most interesting places to visit in Bangkok – are carved from teak and fashioned into stunning shapes decorated with glass pieces. The barges are reserved for special state occasions and are on display in this museum, at Khlong Bangkok Noi close to the Phra Pin Klao Bridge.
4) Look at The Grand Palace
This is probably the must-see sight in Bangkok and the wonderful Grand Palace is on the riverside and was built in 1782. It is a beautiful display of architecture and is best seen from the river, and then from actually inside the building. It is in the Old City, on Na Phra Lan Road.
5) Visit Wat Arun…
Otherwise known as the Temple of the Dawn, this is one of the most famous temples in Bangkok and is located on the west bank of the river.
6) …And Wat Phra Kaew
This is the Temple of the Emerald Buddha and it is the most important Buddhist temple in the whole country. It is within the grounds of the Grand palace and houses the Emerald Buddha – a highly prestigious image.
Image via Travelbusy.com
7) Take a Trip to Asiatique
If you love to shop or you just love to wander around and check out interesting sights, Asiatique is your destination. Formed from an old trade port the Asiatique complex has over 1,500 shops plus restaurants, bars, and cafes. You can get to the shopping complex by taking the train from Saphan Taksin BTS. The experience is open from 5pm every night and lasts until midnight – you will easily fill the time here by browsing through the shops and getting something to eat. There are even live shows.
8) Check Out Assumption Cathedral
The beautiful Roman Catholic cathedral dates back to 1662 and is a lovely building with a Romanesque interior, and lots of murals and stained glass windows. The cathedral contrasts strikingly with the buildings around it and you can visit the church for mass or simply to take a look at the architecture. Assumption Cathedral is at 23 Oriental Lane on Charoenkrung Road and you can take an Express Boat to Oriental Pier in order to visit it.
9) Dare You Go to Bangkok Forensic Museum?
This might not be everyone’s idea of one of the great things to do in Bangkok but the Forensic Museum is certainly interesting – if you like the unusual, sinister, and scary. There are museum wings dedicated to pathology, to forensics, crime…. It’s pretty gory and morbid but it does attract its fair share of visitors.
10) See the King Rama I Monument
This monument was built in bronze to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the city and as a monument to King Rama I. It is located at the bottom of the Memorial Bridge (Phra Phutta Yodfa Bridge.)