Running next to Khao San Road, Phra Athit is a collection of quaint shophouses from the turn of the last century. Many elements of this iconic street combine to create a unique community, shaped by the river pier, picturesque riverside park, ancient fort, and close proximity to the Old City and Khao San Road, the backpacking heartland of Bangkok. There are many cute cafes, cool bars and interesting local restaurants in this area serving an eclectic and vibrant mix of arty students, ex-pats and tourists weary of the Khao San experience and searching for something more authentic. Phra Atit Road is also a hub of live music – pop, rock and jazz – with some of the friendliest crowds in Bangkok.
Dickinson’s Culture Cafe
Dickinson’s Culture Cafe is one of the coolest establishments on Phra Atit Road, doubling as a café and a bar throughout the day. There are baked goodies and coffee on offer during the day, and at night, it becomes a beacon for bass lovers, with DJs spinning house, drum’n’bass and dupstep to a crowd of Thai hipsters and knowledgeable tourists. There is a happy hour from 17:00 to 22:00 with two-for-one cocktail buckets (350 baht) and cheap Chang Export beer. The retro styled mishmash of furniture gives Dickinson’s an easy going charm, akin to the owner’s nightclub, Club Culture.
- Opening Hours: 12:00 – 01:00 (open from 17:00 on weekends)
- Address: 64 Phra Athit Road
Escapade Burgers and Shakes
The majority of Escapade is taken up by a long bar offering the best cocktails in the Old City, with an award winning mixologist creating custom blends. They also offer a limited but mouthwatering range of burgers, with the Angus beef burger being a popular option at only 180 baht. From the outside, this tiny burger bar looks like a house built for an eel, so the interior of this shophouse surprises with so much style in such an ultra narrow place. There is plenty of interesting artwork haphazardly displayed on the charcoal grey walls and a small garden area out back. A chalk board promotes running specials. When the craving for a juicy burger hits, instead of heading over to one of the fast-food chains on Khao San Road, check out the bespoke burgers at Escapade – they are so superior it’s beyond comparison.
- Opening Hours: 12:00 – 24:00 (closed on Monday)
- Address: 112 Phra Athit Road (opposite Santichaiprakan Park)
With an ornate European facade leading into a modern room with brushed concrete floors and a bar stocking premium beers like Hoegaarden and Duvel, Good Story is a chic cafe and restaurant, perfect for daytime lounging on their plush sofas, or in the evening, listening to some live music while sampling their tasty Thai menu. It’s a nice spot for an energising iced coffee throughout the day but gets busiest around evening time.
- Opening Hours: 11:00 – 01:00
- Address: 72 Phra Artit Road (opposite Riva Surya Hotel)
Bohemian hang out for night owls who want more from a live band than simple pop music covers, Jazz Happens is perhaps the most famous bar on Phra Atit Road. It was set up by a group of lecturers from the nearby Silapakorn University to provide their students somewhere to play and listen to quality jazz music. This cheap and cheerful bar and offers a more personal experience than the bigger jazz clubs scattered around Bangkok. The bar opens from around 19:00 but its starts to get busy around 22:00 when the band will be in full swing. There is a simple menu and seating outside.
- Opening Hours: 18:30 – 01:00
- Address: 62 Phra Athit Road
- Tel: +66 (0)2 282 9934, +66 (0)84 450 0505
Khun Deng Guay Jub Yuan
One of the most enjoyable elements of Phra Atit Road is the fact that it still feels like a genuine Thai neighbourhood, and this is best experienced at the always-busy local restaurant called Khun Deng Guay Jub Yuan – roughly translated to Mrs Red’s Flat Noodles. It’s rare to find such an eclectic mix of customers with office ladies sitting next to tattooed backpackers, but it’s a testament to the rich pork soup and firm white noodles that the queue is out the door around peak times. The price is also a firm favourite, as you can get a bowl of noodle soup and a drink for only 50 baht. Khun Deng Guay Jub Yuan Restaurant is hot, hectic, and a great experience for anyone who wants to eat a genuine lunch in Bangkok.
- Opening Hours: 11:00 – 22:00 (closed on Sunday)
- Address: Phra Athit Road (opposite the pier, on the corner of Soi Chanasongkhram that joins to Soi Ramburttri)
Whoever said first impressions count had obviously never been to Phra Atit Road because the most run-down restaurant on the whole strip is also one of the most delicious. Roti Mataba has a reputation that spans the whole of Bangkok, and yet the hand painted sign, well worn kitchen and absolute lack of style make it seem like a place to avoid. Thankfully, this well-established shophouse continues to prosper thanks to word of mouth praise from all the inquisitive souls who step inside to order delicious curries and flavoured roti bread, including mataba (fried and folded roti bread with filling inside). There is limited seating upstairs and a few tables and stools on the pavement outside, but if you are only having a rotis, take your rich, flavoured bread to the park over the road and enjoy your snack with the Chao Phraya River flowing in the background.
- Opening Hours: 09:00 – 22:00 (closed on Monday)
- Address: 136 Phra Athit Road (opposite Phra Sumen Fort)
Veggie Veggie by Namo Nammom Farm
As the name suggests, Veggie Veggie is the place to come when you’re in the mood for something nutritious and delicious. They offer a page full of salads with meat and vegetarian options, and a range of dressings. Portions are mountainous; the chicken salad with Japanese vinaigrette (salad dressings are served in a separate bowl) is a real belly filler, and at 100 baht it helps you to keep a healthy budget too. There are pictures showing the rows of fresh produce grown at their farm, and each salad comes with a range of colours, tastes and flavours: pumpkin, corn, onion and many different kinds of lettuce leaves. Veggie Veggie also produces its own range of juices; lemongrass and butterfly pea juice is popular and a uniquely Thai. The basic, café style interior is clean – almost too clean – and there’s not much in the way of ambiance here, but if it’s a salad you want, this is the place to come.
- Opening Hours: 09:00 – 18:00
- Location: Phra Athit Road, opposite United Nations Industrial Development office, on the way to Chakrabongse Road
Santichaiprakan Park and Phra Sumen Fort
The iconic fort and quaint park surrounding it is a beautiful area in which to relax, soak up the atmosphere, and enjoy the river vistas of the Chao Phraya River in the background. Many tourists like to spread out on the lawn in the shade of a tree while local children run and play and old ladies stop to chat about the weather on one of the many benches. As if the variety of cafes, bars and restaurants wasn’t enough, Santichaiprakan Park and Phra Sumen Fort on Phra Atit Road offer another major draw to those who grow weary of the concrete jungle and want to feel some grass underfoot. Phra Sumen Fort also makes a great setting for photographers, and it is one of only two remaining forts that were built to protect the Grand Palace nearby.
Phra Atit Pier (N13)
One of the perceived problems about staying in Bangkok’s Old City district is the lack of a skytrain or subway, but that is forgetting the most ancient of public transport systems that already winds its way through the centre of the Banglampoo: the mighty Chao Praya River. From dawn until way past dusk, there are a mass of boats and ferries ploughing their way up and down this stretch of the river, linking Phra Atit with other areas of the city. Heading downstream to link up with Saphan Taksin BTS Station costs just 15 baht on the local ferry, or 40 baht on the Tourist Express boat (150 baht for an all day pass), which comes with a tour guide pointing out all the many attractions that line the river on both sides. With the wind blowing in your face and not a red light in sight, this is the clever way to travel around the city.
By far my favourite place to stay on Pra Athit Road, and indeed in this area, is Riva Surya Boutique Hotel. Only minutes from the pier, it backs on to the river and offers a fabulous view of Bangkok’s most famous waterway. The rooms are spacious but cosy with generous balconies, free Wi-Fi and comfortable seating on the wooden balconies. The hotel has a modern Thai vibe and great amenities including a riverside pool and small but well-equipped gym. Even if you are not staying here, check out Babble and Rum, Riva Surya’s bar and restaurant. With an open, first-floor bar and casual ground-floor day beds where you can watch the boats go by, it is the perfect place for cocktails and a light bite to eat, including a delicious river prawn and pomelo salad. Read More...
- Address: 23 Phra Arthit Road
- Tel: +66 (0) 2633 5000