Bangkok Riverside Attractions
What to See in Riverside
A visit to Bangkok would not be complete without exploring the riverside for a taste of life in the Thai capital long before mobile phones, cable TV and microwave popcorn became all the buzz. Day or night, the riverside provides plentiful picture-perfect photo opportunities with its many historical landmarks and hidden charms.
The Chao Phraya is also the star attraction in the city during important events like Songkran (the Thai New Year, celebrated in April), the annual Loy Krathong Festival in November, and the very rare Royal Barge Procession - the most recent one held in June 2006 to celebrate the Diamond Jubilee of Thailand's King Bhumibol Adulyadej. On New Year's Eve, riverside hotels take turns to outdo each other with spectacular fireworks that light up the sky well into the new year.
A day spent at Bangkok's riverside is like taking a journey back into time. Many of Bangkok's most famous attractions are located along the river banks, the likes of the Temple of Dawn (Wat Arun), the splendid Grand Palace and the Temple of the Emerald Buddha (Wat Phra Kaew), as well as Wat Pho, Bangkok's oldest temple.
Most Popular in Riverside
River of Kings
Bangkok became the capital of Thailand in the tumultuous years following the Burmese sacking of the former Siamese capital of Ayutthaya in 1767. Originally established on the western bank of the Chao Phraya River (known as Thonburi), the capital was later moved to the eastern side (Old City or Rattanakosin). As a result, the Thonburi side is much less developed. A series of 'khlongs' (canals) branch off into local neighborhoods where communities still live above the water, and where life takes place on the waterline. On the other side, too, many of the 'khlongs' that formerly formed a major transportation network still exist - the reason Bangkok was dubbed 'The Venice of the East' by early explorers. Even today it is still possible to catch a water taxi from the center of the city to the riverside.
Flowing south from the highlands on the country's northern border to the Gulf of Thailand near Bangkok, the Chao Phraya River - or 'River of Kings' - is some 365 km (225 miles) long and is Thailand's principal river. Throughout many centuries is has been both the country's and city's lifeblood, used for transportation, agriculture and providing in the day-to-day needs and livelihood of the people living along the water's edge. There are several islands in the Chao Phraya too, most notably Ko Kret, home to the minority Mon community who are renowned for their pottery skills, and believed to have been the first inhabitants of the Bangkok area.
During the day, the riverside offers plentiful exciting exploration opportunities and, by night, a romantic dinner cruise along the river with its many beautifully illuminated historical highlights rates among one of the most memorable experiences you can possibly have in Bangkok.
All Attractions in Riverside
Asiatique has successfully combined two of the most popular shopping experiences in the city: a night bazaar and a mall. Ten minutes downriver from Saphan Taksin BTS station this once-bustling international trade port has been transformed, with over 1,500 boutiques and 40 restaurants housed under a huge replica warehouse complex. Open from 17:00, spending an evening here is no problem: you’ll have good fun browsing the boutiques, picking up gifts or something for yourself; you are guaranteed to find something you would like to eat and if this isn’t enough entertainment, shows are performed nightly: Calypso ladyboy cabaret and soon, a classic Thai puppets performance. Read More...
- Opening Hours: 17:00 - midnight
- Address: Chareonkrung Soi 74-76
- How to get there: The easiest and fastest way to get there is via boat. Take the BTS to Saphan Taksin and jump on the free shuttle at the end of the pier. It only takes ten minutes, and the boat runs until 23:00. Taxis are not recommended as the traffic can be terrible in this area.
Located in Bangrak, this is Bangkok's principal Roman Catholic cathedral and the main church of the Archdiocese of Bangkok, which dates back to 1662. It was built between 1910 and 1918 to replace an earlier church on the same spot, and repaired after sustaining severe damage during World War II. Pope John Paul II visited the church during his trip in 1984.
An impressive tall structure, it has a striking, almost luminescent red brick facade that contrasts pleasingly with surrounding buildings. The beautiful interior is classic Romanesque, with round arches, looming ceilings covered in rich rococo and stained glass. Murals on the walls of the nave at the end depict biblical scenes. There's a choir here, and although open everyday, mass on Sundays is especially popular (at 6am, 7:30am, 8:30am, 10am and 5pm).
- BTS: Saphan Taksin
- Address: 23 Oriental Lane, Charoenkrung Road
- How to get there: Either take a taxi or embark the Chao Phraya Express Boat to Oriental Pier (N1).
The Chao Phraya River is Bangkok’s main artery of life, and the best way to see it is to get on it – literally - by booking a private cruise! The river is at its prettiest after the sunsets over the city, with the iconic Wat Arun and Grand Palace both illuminated brilliantly over the water. As well as passing glistening temples, majestic skyscrapers will tower overhead and a steady stream of aquatic-traffic will greet you from every direction.
Whilst there are many river cruises to choose from, we have hand-picked two of the finest available in Bangkok. The first, Aspara Dinner Cruise by Banyan Tree, offers a delightfully romantic setting and choice of a six-course set dinner which you can enjoy as you peacefully drift past all of the famous landmarks on the river. Our second choice, the River Star Princess Cruise, is more of a casual affair, with a dinner buffet, live dancing and music and much more mingling between passengers. Both are great value for money too, and you can see our great rates below. Read More...
If your vision of a museum is a pretty display of artistic or cultural artifacts, then perhaps the Bangkok Forensic Museum is not for you. Located inside the Siriraj Hospital on the west bank of the Chao Phraya river, this sinister exhibition is more for the morbid or for travellers searching for something extremely unusual. The hospital actually features six distinct museums within two separate buildings, but only three of them seem to be of interest - obviously the creepiest ones: The pathology, anatomic forensic museums. All good fun... Read More...
- Opening Hours: Mon - Sat 09:00 - 16:00
- Price Range: 40 baht - free for children under 120 cm (not sure you should take kids there, though)
- How to get there: Take the river shuttle near the Grand Palace. Catch the boat at Chang Pier or Prajan Pier, disembark just across the river at Pranok Pier, it's fairly simple. The ride only costs three baht.
King Rama I Monument
Otherwise known as King Puttayodfa, this double life-size monument to King Rama I was built to mark the city's 150th anniversary in 1932, along with the Puttayodfa Memorial Bridge next to which it sits. It was designed by HRH Prince Naris, and architect Silpa Bhirasri sculpted it in bronze. Born on March 20, 1736, King Rama I was the first king in the Chakri Dynasty which continues to this day. He ascended to the throne on April 6, 1782, and died 27 years later.
- Location: Foot of Phra Phutta Yodfa Bridge (The Memorial Bridge), Bangkok side
Even if you haven’t come to Bangkok to take home an antique stone elephant or some modern art from the northern tribes of Thailand, OP Place (Oriental Plaza) is still a fantastic place to visit. This shopping centre is more like an art gallery or museum than a department store with 50 boutiques displaying a host of fantastic pieces to admire, or if you are lucky, take home. As well as fine arts shops there are also some well-known tailors and jewellers. OP Place has a reputation for luxury and all antiques have been issued with certificates from Thailand’s Fine Arts Department, so you can shop without worry. Read More...
- Opening Hours: 10:30 – 18:30 Daily (some stores close on Sundays)
- BTS: Saphan Taksin
- Address: 30/1 Soi Charoen Krung 38 (behind the Oriental Hotel)
- Tel: +66 (0) 2 266 0186
One of Bangkok's least-known rooftops is actually a great one, offering some of the best panoramas in town of the Chao Phraya River. Located on the fifth floor of the well-known Rivercity shopping complex, the rooftop is both a large Thai barbecue restaurant and the cozy venue of the 'Balco Bar. Not only the views are amazing, but the Thai barbecue itself is a fun and unusual experience for travellers wanting to discover a favourite Thai weekend dinner spot! Read More...
- Opening Hours: Bar B Q 11:00 - 23:00, Balco Bar 18:30 - midnight (closed Mondays)
- Address: Charoen Krung Soi 30 (next to the Royal Orchid Sheraton Hotel)
- Tel: +66 (0) 2 237 0077-8
- How to get there: Get on the BTS to Saphan Taksin Station. There's a free shuttle boat service to Rivercity available at Sathorn Pier everyday from 10:00 to 20:00
Once upon a time in Bangkok the Chao Phraya River and its tributaries were the most important avenue of communication, boats the main mode of transport for all, even royalty. Here you can discover eight of the country's most unique and stunning - the Royal Barges reserved for auspicious ceremonies and state occasions like the very rare Royal Barge Procession.
Each is carved from huge pieces of teak with prows carved into mythical creatures, gilded in gold and intricately decorated with tiny shimmering pieces of glass. Rowed by up to 50 specially trained oarsmen, the boats leave their dry dock at festival times and important state occasions for these spectacular processions along the river. Read More...
- Opening Hours: 09:00 - 17:00 Daily
- Address: Khlong Bangkok Noi (near Thonburi side, not far from Phra Pin Klao Bridge)
- Tel: +66 (0) 2 424 0004
If there is one must-see sight that no visit to Bangkok would be complete without, it's the dazzling, spectacular Grand Palace, undoubtedly the city's most famous landmark. Built in 1782 - and for 150 years the home of the Thai King, the Royal court and the administrative seat of government - the Grand Palace of Bangkok is a grand old dame indeed, that continues to have visitors in awe with its beautiful architecture and intricate detail, all of which is a proud salute to the creativity and craftsmanship of Thai people. Within its walls were also the Thai war ministry, state departments, and even the mint. Today, the complex remains the spiritual heart of the Thai Kingdom. Read More...
- Opening Hours: 08:30 - 15:30 Daily
- Location: Na Phra Lan Road, Old City (Rattanakosin)
- Price Range: Tickets sold from 08:30 - 15:30 and cost 400 baht! One ticket includes entry to Vimanmek Palace and Abhisek Dusit Throne Hall.
Bangkok’s vast series of canals (khlongs) that once were part of the city’s main form of transport now act as a major tourist attraction in the city, whilst also still serving local commuters to get around the city.
You can jump on one of the commuter boats and make your own way around, although this can be a bit of a daunting experience to someone new to Bangkok, as the khlong routes are often confusing and the boasts can get packed. For a more tranquil, but equally rewarding experience, you can try a private khlong cruise, which will whisk you past secluded streets, makeshift waterside homes, untouched temples and quaint old markets without a foreign visitor in sight. Find out more about these tours below. Read More...
Wat Arun, locally known as Wat Chaeng, is situated on the west (Thonburi) bank of the Chao Phraya River. It is believed that after fighting his way out of Ayutthaya, which was besieged by a Burmese army at the time, King Taksin arrived at this temple just as dawn was breaking.
He later had the temple renovated and renamed it Wat Chaeng, the Temple of the Dawn. During his reign (Thonburi Period), Wat Chaeng was the chief temple, and it once enshrined the Emerald Buddha and another important Buddha image, the Phra Bang, both of which had been removed from Vientiane. Read More...
- Opening Hours: 08:00 -17:30
- Location: Located on the west side of Chao Praya River (opposite Tha Thien Pier)
- Price Range: 50 Baht
Despite dominating the western bank of the Chao Phraya River with its giant temple structure, Wat Kalayanamit is often overlooked by tourists, city guides, and even locals. The nearby Wat Arun is much more famous and acts as a magnet, drawing the crowds away from some of the other nearby Thonburi attractions and temples. If you want a more tranquil, less touristy alternative, head to Wat Kalayanamit, a temple particularly famous for its enormous seated golden Buddha inside the main building.
Getting to Wat Kalayanamit in Thonburi is easy: in fact, it even has its own pier. Take a ferry there from the opposite side at Ratchinee Pier or hop on one of the many the Chao Phraya express boats that make their way up and down the river every day (and ask for ‘Wat Kala-yan-amit’.)
- Opening Hours: 06:00 - 21:00
Wat Phra Kaew or the Temple of the Emerald Buddha (officially known as Wat Phra Sri Rattana Satsadaram) is regarded as the most important Buddhist temple in Thailand. Located in the historic centre of Bangkok, within the grounds of the Grand Palace, it enshrines Phra Kaew Morakot (the Emerald Buddha), the highly revered Buddha image meticulously carved from a single block of jade. Read More...
- Opening Hours: 08:30 - 15:30
- Location: Na Phralan, Phra Nakorn (inside Grand Palace complex), Old City (Rattanakosin)
- Dress Code: no short pants or short skirts, not sleeveless tshirts. Sarong are for rent at the entrance but better dress appropriately to avoid the queue.
- Price Range: 400 Baht!