Ever since we made Bangkok our home 5 years ago, we have been asked numerous times: “What is the best area to stay in Bangkok?” With 50 districts and more than 1000 hotels to choose from, deciding on where to stay in Bangkok can be intimidating for first-timers. In this guide, we’re going to do our very best to help you decide.
Where to stay in Bangkok?
From a traveler’s perspective, Bangkok can be roughly split up into three different areas. Bordering the Chao Phraya river, you have the atmospheric ‘old town’, made up by districts such as Chinatown, Banglamphu and the Riverside. Here, Thai-Chinese aunties sweep the sidewalk in front of crumbling shophouses, locals queue up for legendary street food and you get a glimpse of the Bangkok of yesteryear.
Venture east, and the golden pagodas make room for glitzy high-rise buildings in the ‘downtown‘ area, made up by the various districts along the Sukhumvit BTS line (From Siam to Phra Khanong) and the central business district around Sathorn and Silom. This part of town has everything you’d expect from a modern Asian metropolis: an extensive public transport system, a multitude of trendy shopping malls and posh restaurants. However, wander around in the side-alleys and you’ll still discover plenty of local charm.
Then there are a few dozens of suburbs, and while some of them are worth checking out (such as Ari), we wouldn’t recommend these as a base for your city trip.
We have listed Bangkok’s most interesting areas below. For each area, we have also listed our favorite hotel recommendations. We believe that hotels can be so much more than just a place to rest your head. Hence, we have only selected hotels that we think contribute something to your overall trip experience, be it because of its incredible amount of charm, interesting backstory or well thought-out design. Note that if you book through the provided link, we’ll receive a small commission (at no extra cost for you) that helps us keep the site running!
Bustling Chinatown is Bangkok in its purest form: Congested roads, street food on every corner, and a cacophony of colours, scents and sounds. Stay here for an authentic experience, but be sure to stay away if you’re after peace and quiet, as this part of town never sleeps.
Most of the action is concentrated along Yaowarat, Chinatown’s main road lined with Chinese apothecaries, gold traders, dim sum joints and tea shops. Its side-alleys turn into a labyrinth of hidden wet markets, Chinese temples and hawkers peddling everything from imported toys to antique porcelain. When night falls, Yaowarat turns into a gigantic neon-lit food court, boasting some of the most legendary street food stands in town.
In recent years, Chinatown is going through a revival, with upscale restaurants and cocktail bars popping up like mushrooms throughout the area. Already dubbed “Bangkok’s answer to Brooklyn”, this part of town is destined to become more hot and happening than ever before.
Stay in Chinatown for: Legendary street food, bustling markets and a ‘real feel’ of Bangkok.
Our favorite hotels in Chinatown
Loy La Long Hotel
If you want to ‘do Bangkok’ the way they did it in the good ol’ days, then opt for a stay at the riverside. Overlooking the majestic Chao Phraya river, Bangkok’s riverside area is bustling with local activity. Here, decaying European historical buildings are the backdrop to street food vendors, posh antique shops and busy Bangkokians from all walks of life.
The area is steeped in history – from the culturally diverse Bang Rak district with its century-old shophouse restaurants lining the streets (Muslim Restaurant being one of our favourites) to the historical Islamic communities off Charoenkrung Road – it pays off to do some reading on beforehand.
The riverside is constantly changing, and where old communities disappear, new communities blossom. Efforts are being made to grow this part of town as a new creative hub, something that’s already being reflected in the abundance of small-scale galleries, colourful street art and the newly-opened TCDC Resource Centre and arts library.
Stay at the riverside for: Posh historical hotels, local eateries with cult-status and amazing views over the river.
Our favorite hotels at the Riverside
Banglamphu is mostly known for its backpacker valhalla around the infamous Khao San Road district and is by far the most ‘touristy’ area in the city. Don’t let that scare you off though, as there are still a plenty of spots that offer an authentic Bangkokian experience.
Venture away from the partying crowds, and you’ll discover the Bangkok you see pictured on postcards: gilded pagodas, buzzing tuk tuks and mythical statues. Banglamphu and nearby Rattanakosin are home to Bangkok’s major tourist attractions, making this area a convenient place to stay if you just want to tick off the tourist highlights.
Our advice: Don’t stay on Khao San Road itself (it’s rowdy, crowded and hotels are mostly soulless), but find a place in adjoining Phra Nakhon, Bangkok’s old district. Streets here are chock-full of old-town charm, and – despite its proximity to Khao San Road – surprisingly devoid of tourist crowds.
Do note that public transport options in this part of town are few and far in between. If you plan on exploring other parts of Bangkok, consider staying in an area downtown (such as the areas along the Sukhumvit BTS line)
Stay in Banglamphu for: Its proximity to Bangkok’s tourist highlights, an abundance of affordable nightlife options and the fact that it’s incredibly easy to meet other travelers.
Our favorite hotels in Banglamphu
Sathorn / Silom
A first glance at Sathorn and Silom makes it immediately clear: this is where money is being made. As the Central Business District of Bangkok, the area is characterised by the prevalence of corporate logos, foreign embassies and high-class hookers. Stressed-out office workers and street food hawkers occupy the sidewalks, while the roads are filled with a semi-permanent traffic jam.
Venture away from the main road, however, and you’ll discover that it’s not all about designer suits and shiny high rise buildings here. The quiet sois off Silom and Sathorn Road are filled with cozy cafes, contemporary art galleries and street food joints that have been in the running for decades. The relatively wide, tree-lined streets are perfect for long wanders around the neighbourhood where you’re sure to stumble upon some unexpected surprises, such as the hot pink building that houses Namsaah Bottling Trust restaurant or the gorgeous historical Neilson Hays Library.
Despite the cacophony of car horns by day, nights in Sathorn and Silom are fun-filled. Sathorn’s main nightlife drag is located in the expat enclave on soi 10 and 12, where French bartenders cater to the young and in-the-know. Silom’s nightlife is a bit more rowdy, attracting a somewhat “older” clientele (if you know you know…) to its girly bars and ping-pong shows. If neither of these tickle your fancy, simply look up and discover one of the many rooftop bars located in this area.
Stay in Sathorn / Silom for: High-end hotels, some of Bangkok’s best restaurants and a vibrant mix between East and West.
Our favorite hotels in Sathorn / Silom
Baan Pra Nond
Siam can be a sensory overload. You can throw a stone in any direction and you’ll be sure to hit at least 25 shopping tourists, ten university students, two Japanese dessert shops and a generic chain store. We’re not implying that that’s a bad thing, though – Siam is a fantastic place to see the ’youthful’ side of Bangkok, and can be seen as Bangkok’s answer to Tokyo’s Shinjuku or Taipei’s Ximending area.
Siam’s main points of interest are located around Siam Square, a maze of small alleyways connecting several malls, food courts and office buildings catering to locals and tourists alike. Here, you’ll find independently run designer boutiques, quirky eateries and one of our favourite cinemas in Bangkok: the 60’s Art Deco style Scala Cinema.
Across the road, the street is lined with shopping malls such as Siam Discovery (for your Hypebeast-worthy attire), Siam Centre (showcasing some of Thailands brightest creative talents) and Siam Paragon (for the high-class big spenders). Albeit touristy, the Bangkok Art & Culture Centre and the lush gardens of the Jim Thompson House are both worth a visit, too.
Stay in Siam for: Shopping, quirky cafes and easy access to public transport.
Our favorite hotels in Siam
The Siam Kempinski
Hua Chang Heritage Hotel
Chidlom / Phloen Chit
High-rise, hi-so and high end. These three words perfectly describe Phloen Chit and adjoining Chidlom in a nutshell. Home to Bangkok’s most prestigious addresses (such as the American Embassy), rents here are some of the highest in town, and this reflects on the kind of establishments you’ll find here.
Luxury apartment buildings, designer boutiques and posh lunchrooms cater to the well-heeled Thai socialites and gossiping expat mommies living in this area. Sidewalks are surprisingly clean for Bangkok standards, and street food options are few and far in between. The glitzy Central Embassy mall functions as the main commercial hub and boasts some of the most sophisticated boutiques in Bangkok.
Despite the lack of any ‘must-see’ tourist highlights, the proximity to Bangkok’s largest green space Lumpini Park and adjoining areas such as Silom and Asok make this ‘expat bubble’ a pleasant base to discover the city in style.
Stay in Chidlom / Phloen Chit for: High end shopping, western comforts and luxurious brand-name hotels.
Our favorite hotels in Chidlom / Phloen Chit
The Okura Prestige
Nana / Asok
Good guys go to heaven, bad guys end up in Nana. The sois between Sukhumvit Soi 1 and the Asok intersection are filled with soapy massage parlours, girly bars and tacky Irish pubs, attracting a “certain kind” of tourists and expats.
If you’re not visiting Bangkok for “certain purposes” (you know what we mean!), we’d advise against booking a hotel here. The area is seedy during the night, dreary during the day, and lacks any noteworthy hotels, restaurants or cafes. While definitely worth a quick visit (we love the Middle Eastern restaurants around soi 3 and Bangkok Koreatown in Sukhumvit Plaza), you’re better off spending the night in neighbouring Phrom Phong or Phloen Chit.
Stay in Nana / Asok for: Naughty nightlife, shopping malls and easy access to both the BTS and MRT system if you’re staying around the Asok intersection.
Our favorite hotels in Nana / Asok
Phrom Phong / Thonglor
Phrom Phong and adjoining Thonglor (also know as Sukhumvit Soi 55) are Sukhumvit’s prime residential areas. Between its modern condominium buildings and quaint townhouses, you’ll find dozens of restaurants, coffee shops, massage parlours and cocktail bars. This is a truly global part of town, where Thai hole-in-the-wall shops, French bakeries and Japanese ramen joints all hustle for your attention. Staying here will give you a good feel of Bangkok’s ‘everyday life’.
Thonglor is also home to Sukhumvit’s most upscale nightlife spots. With speakeasies charging up to 500 THB for well-crafted cocktails and restaurants that easily set you back 1000 THB for a dinner, it is no wonder that Lamborghini’s and Porsches are a common form of transportation here. The upscale community malls 72 Courtyard and The Commons give you a good idea of what Thonglor is all about (hip, young and with cash to splash), but don’t be put off by these prices – there are plenty of affordable spots around.
When booking a hotel here, double check the proximity to the BTS station. Sukhumvit’s sois run deep, and if you’re staying at the far end it can be a hot and sweaty walk to the nearest BTS station.
Stay in Phrom Phong / Thonglor for: Experiencing Bangkok’s diverse restaurant scene, great nightlife and a relatively central location.
Our favorite hotels in Phrom Phong / Thonglor
The Cabochon Hotel
Ekkamai / Phra Khanong
The area between the Ekkamai and Phra Khanong BTS stations are close enough to the city centre to access it within 10 minutes, yet far enough to feel like you’ve reached a much quieter part of town. Despite its proximity to glitzy Thonglor, Ekkamai and Phra Khanong feel much more down to earth. Independent vintage shops and small art galleries set the tone, and its large community of creative types ensure that there’s something interesting going on almost every night.
The further you move towards Phra Khanong, the more ‘local’ the street scenes get. Here, sidewalks are dotted with noodle soup stands, fruit vendors and mom & pop shops. Big parts of the area are occupied by bustling markets, of which Talad Phra Khanong, the biggest of the bunch, is home to a large Burmese community, bringing you some of the best Burmese food in all of Bangkok.
Stay in Ekkamai / Phra Khanong for: Interesting retailers, local markets and small-scale affordable boutique hotels.
Our favorite hotels in Ekkamai / Phra Khanong
The Mustang Nero
In bustling Pratunam, clothing rack after clothing rack lines the streets. This is Bangkok’s busiest trading area, where you’ll find a ludicrously big range of cheap clothing, knock-off designer handbags and pirated DVDs for sale in markets that sprawl from building to building.
Devoid of any noteworthy tourist attractions (except, perhaps, the street food bonanza around Victory Monument), Pratunam is a bit thin on charm. Its roads are congested, its malls are mediocre and it lacks the pleasant atmosphere you’ll find elsewhere in the city. If it’s cheap wholesale shopping you’re after, Pratunam is a great area to base yourself out of. If you’re visiting Bangkok for literally anything else, we’d advise you to find a hotel in a different area.
Stay in Pratunam for: Wholesale shopping, budget hotels and quick access to the Airport Rail Link system to Suvarnabhumi Airport.
Our favorite hotels in Pratunam
Pullman King Power
Leafy, laid-back Ari feels like a village in the city. With its tree-lined streets, little traffic, and abundance of coffee shops and food trucks it’s like an issue of Kinfolk magazine came to life. Ari is where Bangkok’s hipsters dream of moving to, and where Bangkok’s affluent old folks retire in spacious homes with lush gardens.
Ari lacks any tourist highlights, which is an absolute blessing. Top-notch coffee shops and restaurants are plentiful and rarely frequented by tourists, making it incredibly easy to feel ‘like a local’ during your stay. The area is also home to one of the most diverse street food areas in Bangkok with carts lining the streets during lunch and dinner.
Despite being located outside the city center, the BTS brings you pretty much anywhere downtown in under 20 minutes, and the Chatuchak Weekend Market is only two stops away.
Stay in Ari for: Cafe-hopping, meeting local creatives and if you think staying in the city is “too noisy”.
Our favorite hotels in Ari