Bangkok is one of the most visited cities in the world. Thailand’s capital sees millions of visitors every year and it’s easy to see why. From the colourful markets to the beautiful temples and the buzzing nightlife, there’s something about the city that attracts almost any type of traveller.
The city has also become one of the main transport hubs in Asia. I’ve stopped there twice now on extended layovers between other countries. So, while you could easily spend a week, if not more, exploring the huge metropolis, here’s a quick Bangkok itinerary for 48 hours in the city.
I stopped in Bangkok for the first time on the way to Myanmar from Australia because it was cheaper than flying direct to Mandalay and I ended up extending the layover to a lengthy five days.
At first, I wasn’t thrilled with the idea of spending that much time in the city. I had previously dismissed it as being too tourist-oriented for me to enjoy, but it didn’t take long for Bangkok to change my mind. It left me pretty impressed and I found myself back there a year later on another extended layover. So, if you find yourself in the same situation as me and need to kill a couple of days in the city, here’s how you can see all the major sights in 48 hours.
What will this Bangkok itinerary cover?
This post certainly doesn’t include all the things to do in Bangkok. However, if you find yourself on a short stopover or just wanting to explore the city on a brief trip, then this itinerary will help you discover the best that the city has to offer in a short time.
For this two day Bangkok itinerary, I have concentrated on three aspects of the city that many travellers love; the temples, the markets and the nightlife. The first day outlined below is all about the city’s temples, while the second 24 hours is all about shopping at the local markets.
It’s a photographers dream, especially if you enjoy street photography. The markets and nightlife of Bangkok are incredibly interesting and I had a great time walking around with my camera. Thai people are also extremely friendly, but make sure you ask for their permission first before taking a photo.
You can cover all the main highlights in 48 hours, if you’re keen to get and explore.
How to get around Bangkok
I have to say that the city is huge. It can be quite overwhelming when you look at a city map of Bangkok. However, it’s not too difficult to get around and some of the attractions are quite close together.
Still, be prepared to walk a lot (I covered nearly 20km a day during my first trip there), although you can also jump in a tuk tuk or Grab (similar to Uber) for a short ride if you get tired. I recommend downloading the Grab app and using it for most of your transport. It works like Uber and is incredibly convenient.
Read next: 25 tips for travelling on a budget
Where to stay in Bangkok
It can be difficult to choose one area of the city to stay in on your visit with so many accommodation options available.
For many tourists, staying in and around Khao San Road is their first choice, especially for backpackers. However, as an alternative, I would recommend looking at the area that is across the canal just a few hundred metres to the north of Khao San Road. It’s much quieter but has plenty of hostels, guesthouses and local restaurants. It’s a really lovely area to stay and means you’re perfectly located for exploring the city. Here are a couple of recommendations in this area:
Born Free Hostel | This popular place is a beautiful hostel. It’s one of the cheapest options in the city for a dorm room and yet the reviews are consistently great. People come back again and again to stay here. They have 6, 10 and 12 bed dorms and great communal areas. Check the availability and latest prices here.
Roof View Place | This guesthouse is a great option if you’re travelling on a budget but would prefer your own room. They have simple, clean rooms starting from AU$20 per night. The staff are super friendly and they have free breakfast every day. Check their availability and latest prices here.
48-hour Bangkok Itinerary
In the morning on your first day you should head to the city’s top tourist attraction; the Grand Palace and the Temple of the Emerald Buddha (Wat Phra Kaew).
This can be an extremely busy place to visit with lengthy queues but heading there first thing in the morning can make it a little easier. This impressive complex is the former home of the King and royal family and includes over 100 buildings.
The highlight of a visit to the palace is the Temple of the Emerald Buddha. It’s considered as the most important temple in Thailand and is visited by pilgrims from all over the world. The jade Buddha figure is located inside a beautiful hall.
The Grand Palace
- Hours: Daily from 8:30 am to 3:30 pm
- Entrance price: 500 THB (AU$22)
- Estimated time needed: 2 hours
If you’re hungry for some lunch, the riverside area not far from the Grand Palace complex has plenty of options for all different budgets.
The Maharaj shopping complex on the riverside has some great restaurants and trendy cafes.
If you want to head further down south towards your next sightseeing stop, you can find a few good choices of restaurants near Wat Pho and the Tha Tian Boat Pier. AMA Restaurant gets good reviews or just down from there you can find The Sixth, another popular Thai restaurant. There’s plenty of choices in this area of the city.
Once you’ve had lunch, walk along the river past the Grand Palace to the Reclining Buddha (Wat Pho). This impressive golden statue depicts Buddha entering Nirvana (enlightenment) and is a huge 46m long statue. You can also wander around the courtyard and other chapels which are much quieter and worth a little extra time.
- Hours: 8 am to 6:30 pm
- Entrance price: 200 THB (AU$9)
- Estimated time: 1 hour
From Wat Pho, walk the short 200m towards the river edge and Tha Tien Boat Pier. From here, you can easily jump on one of the frequent ferries that take you across to the other side of the river. The price for the boat is just 4 THB (AU$0.20) for the short ride. The ferry should drop you directly across to where you’ll find the Temple of the Dawn (Wat Arun).
This impressive temple complex is stunning. The highlight is the central, 80m high temple tower that has become one of the most iconic landmarks in the city. It’s one of the most beautifully designed temples and is pretty busy throughout the day. It’s become sort-of Insta-famous, and when I was there a year ago there were some barriers put in place to stop people from climbing all over the higher steps. Still, it’s definitely worth seeing.
- Hours: 8 am to 6 pm
- Entrance price: 200 THB (AU$9)
- Estimated time: 1 hour
Take the ferry back across the river. From here, you have one more temple to finish off your day. From the riverside, it’s just over 3km to the Golden Mountain Temple (Wat Saket), so you can either walk or take a tuk tuk or Grab ride (similar to Uber).
At the temple, you have to walk up over 300 steps to reach the top. The reward is an incredible panoramic view of the entire city. It used to be the highest point in the city before the tall skyscrapers took hold, but it still offers one of the best views of the city skyline. It’s best at sunset, which is why you should leave it for the end of the day on your Bangkok itinerary, if you can.
- Hours: 7:30 am to 7 pm
- Entrance price: 50 THB (AU$2.50)
- Estimated time: 1-2 hours
You’ve probably had enough of seeing temples at the end of the day, but the good news is you’ve seen some of the city’s best.
From Wat Saket, you can finish your day off by heading to the infamous Khao San Road. It’s a 1.5km walk or a short Grab ride away from the temple. It’s all things cringey, intoxicating and crowded and has an infamous reputation for being the leading tourist strip and backpacker hub in all of Asia. BUT, you can find some good food, bars and market stalls along the busy street and it’s worth a stroll at night when it comes to life just to check out what all the fuss is about.
For cheap eats, you can find plenty of food carts on Khao San Road, particularly congregated at the eastern end. There are some incredibly delicious curries and pad Thai carts that are worth sitting down to eat on the sidewalk.
You’ll also find plenty of sticky rice pudding and coconut ice cream vendors walking up and down the road for dessert.
If you’re not nursing a hangover from a late night on Khao San Road, you should get up early to start your day of markets and shopping.
The first market you should head for is the Flower Market. This bustling market operates 24 hours 7 days a week and is a very colourful place to explore with flowers, fruit and vegetables lining the stalls and surrounding streets. It’s an absolute dream for keen photographers with so much to capture.
I’ve heard it’s most lively in the early morning (I’m talking like 1-3am), but it’s worth heading there between 7-10am when it’s equally as good. It’s very much a local market, and although you’ll see other tourists around, the goods for sale are directed at local sellers which makes it a nice, less touristy experience.
- Hours: 24/7
- Entrance price: Free
- Estimated time: 2 hours
If you’re lucky to be in Bangkok on a weekend, then you’ll want to head to Chatuchak Market. You can jump on the metro at the Sanam Chai station near the Flower Market and get off at the Kamphaeng Phet station.
The Chatuchak Weekend Market is considered one of the largest open-air markets in the world. It has over 15, 000 stalls offering almost everything that you can think of. It’s the best place to pick up an entire new wardrobe, buy an array of souvenirs and taste some incredible street food. You can easily spend the entire day here, so it’s up to you how much time you dedicate to a visit.
Chatuchak Weekend Market
- Hours: Saturday and Sunday 9 am to 6 pm
- Entrance price: Free
- Estimated time: 2 hours – all day
If you’re not around on a weekend or you’ve had enough of Chatuchak Market earlier rather than later, then you should head to Sampeng Lane Market. This is an open-air market in the Chinatown district and is packed with plenty of souvenirs, clothing, toys, fabric and street snacks. It’s a lively place that runs down a skinny laneway and sprawls over adjoining lanes too. It’s less tourist oriented than Chatuchak which is a nice change.
Sampeng Lane Market
- Hours: Daily from 8 am to 5 pm
- Entrance price: Free
- Estimated time: 2-3 hours
If it’s not yet sundown, then you can jump on the metro line at Wat Mangkon station in Chinatown and ride a few stops to Si Lom station. This is where you can find Lumphini Park, a huge urban park with plenty of lawn, lakes and playgrounds. It’s a popular place to relax and wander around away from the busy traffic and noises of the city.
Once the sun sets though, you’ll want to head back to Chinatown for the last stop on your Bangkok itinerary.
To end your day of market hopping, you have to head to the night market on Yaowarat Road. Running parallel to the Sampeng Laneway, it is the main thoroughfare in the Chinatown district. This road comes to life at night with a vibrant food market. The entire road’s sidewalks are taken over by vendors who spill onto the street and set up makeshift restaurants.
You can find every sort of Asian delicacy on Yaowarat Road, from pad Thai to shark fin soup and things you’ve probably never seen before in your life. They also have Thai desserts and ice cream if you can still fit it in.
There are no official times for this market, but it generally starts as soon as the sun sets and runs until late.
You might also want to read
If you’re planning a Thailand trip, then you might also want to check out:
If you’re planning on heading over to Myanmar, then you might want to read:
- 10 things you need to know about travelling to Myanmar
- Magical Bagan: Exploring the land of ancient temples