For most people, Bangkok is the gateway into exploring the rest of Thailand and South East Asia. Bangkok is all a very popular stop over on round the world tickets, with plenty to stimulate the senses from street food to dance, to tuktuks and markets.
Do you want to enjoy the buzz of Bangkok without spending a baht? Check out our top free things to do in Bangkok and see what other Bangkok sites our consultants recommend!
Religion plays a leading role in everyday life in Thailand, so be sure to head to one of Bangkok’s 400 Buddhist temples. Havens of peace and tranquility amidst the urban mayhem, many of them are completely free to look around.
Some of Bangkok’s most important temples are scattered along the banks of the Chao Praya river. One of the most popular is Wat Arun, or ‘Temple of Dawn’. The temple’s distinctive white spires are visible long before you arrive at the temple, which is located on the river diagonally opposite the Grand Palace. It’s famous for its 79, central pagoda which is encrusted with millions of bits of smashed white porcelain painted with intricate patterns! It’s completely free to wander around the gardens and get a close up view of this unique landmark. If you want to have a look inside, there’s an admission fee of 20 Baht (less than 50p, so almost free!). The temple is open daily from 0730 to 1730.
Another very important riverside temple is Wat Ratchaburana, built by a Chinese merchant in the 15th Century and the walls are decorated with striking, artistic frescoes. The temple is open daily from 0600 to 1800 and admission is free. Some other significant temples with free entry are Wat Mahathat, Wat Indrahivan and Wat Bowon Niwet.
Located in the heart of downtown Bangkok, the Erawan Shrine houses one of Thailand’s most revered images, the glittering gold statue of four-faced Phra Phrom. This Thai representation of the Hindhu creation god Brahma attracts thousands of worshippers every day, who show their devotion by leaving incense, wooden elephants and garlands of flowers at the feet of the golden deity.
The shrine is undeniably touristy, but the daily spectacle of traditional Thai dance and music make it well worth a visit. You’re more than likely to see a performance by resident dance troupes, hired by worshippers to perform for Phra Phrom in the hope of seeing their prayers answered.
The Erawan Shrine is open daily from 0600 to 2400 and entry is free. You’ll find it on the corner of Ploenchit and Ratchadamri Road, in front of the Grand Hyatt Erawan Hotel.
Bangkok is an exciting, frenetic and unremittingly urban city. Amidst the jumping nightlife, lively street markets and racing tuk-tuk’s, Lumphini Park is an oasis of calm. The park encompasses tropical gardens and paved jogging paths with a lake where you can rent paddle boats and spot huge monitor lizards.
Head to the park at daybreak before the heat becomes oppressive, and join an early morning Tai Chi class, a great way to start the day! At 6pm every day, you can work up a sweat at free aerobics classes and there’s also also a basketball court if you fancy shooting some hoops. If you’re lucky, on late afternoons or evenings you might get to hear a local jazz outfit or even a classical orchestra perform, which makes for fine (and free!) entertainment.
The park is open daily from 0430 to 2100 and is a short walk from Lumphini and Silom MRT stations.
Bangkok has some fascinating museums and many of them are completely free to enter. If you’re keen to escape the heat of the day, here are a couple of our favourite, free museums in Bangkok:
Formerly the royal stable, this museum is dedicated to one of Thailand’s most honoured animals, the elephant.
Learn why elephants are so important to Thai society and why all white elephants are considered royal property. The museum is in the grounds of the Dusit Garden Palace and features pictures, artefacts and all sorts of elephant paraphernalia, as well as a full size model of a white elephant in ceremonial dress. It’s open daily from 0930 to 1600 and admission is free with a Grand Palace ticket, or there’s a nominal fee of 20 Baht (less than 50p) if you just want to look round the museum.
Surely one of Bangkok’s coolest museums, the Bangkokian Museum depicts typical bourgeois life in Bangkok during the mid-twentieth century, including World War II. This charming residence turned museum provides an interesting and authentic look back at Thai life during a period of history often overlooked in this country.
It’s tucked away on a quiet street off of the busy Charoen Krung Road and is open from 1000 to 1600, Wednesdays to Sundays only. Admission is completely free.
Bangkok is home to hundreds of bustling markets and browsing is always free!
Chatuchak Weekend Market, the largest outdoor market in Thailand, is an explosion of colour, noise and exotic aromas. Hosting more than 15,000 stalls, the goods are on sale here from all over Thailand, from antiques and handicrafts to trendy clothes, silk and delicious food. If you’re tempted to buy anything, there are some real bargains to be had as the majority of customers are Thai so tourist prices do not apply. The market is open on Saturdays and Sundays from 1000 to 1700 and is adjacent to the Kamphaengphet station of the MRT Bangkok Metro Blue Line.
Situated close to Chinatown, Pak Klong Talat is Bangkok’s largest flower market. It’s a kaleidoscope of vivid colours and the air is loaded with the fragrant scent of jasmine, orchid and rose. Its open 24 hours a day but try checking it out in the early hours when traders unloading their fresh-cut flowers en masse make for quite a spectacle.
Here are some of our favourite Singapore freebies - recommend any others in the comments below!
Jonny says: Take a tuk tuk – to no particular destination. Just take one!
Jackie says: Get the boat down the river to the Grand Palace, while you are there at back of the complex is a Thai massage school, one of the best massages I have ever had.
Sean says: Get a water taxi on a klong. The narrow bus boats speed through the back canals, showing domestic life and much quicker than the roads, and much less pollution than sitting on the back of a tuk tu.
Justine says: Chatuchak market - a bit of a long bus ride for Koh San Road but shedloads of bargains to spend your money on. I loved it!
Annie says: Go to the cinema and see how they sing the national anthem before the film. Also Take a tuk tuk ride just for the hell of it!
Sara says: Chilling out in Lumphini Park watching the monitor lizards creep around and lots of middle aged Thai’s doing Tai Chi(?). Also you should go to the China Town markets – lots of narrow stalls to squeeze through and some very strange things for sale. Street food in Khao San Road! 10 baht Pad Thai is always a winner!
David says: If you’re not scared of heights, I would recommend a visit to the Banyan tree’s vertigo and moon roof bar, amazing views of the city and good cocktails too!
Matt says: Have an evening drink at the roof bar in the Banyan Tree (even if not staying there) it gives a unique perspective of Bangkok. I could also be found reminiscing about my travelling days over a bucket of Sangthip in a bar on the Koh San Road.
Laura says: The chocolate bar in the Peninsula is AMAZING. I loved the Grand Palace – a must see for all visitors. The intricacy of the architecture is phenomenal and the Emerald Budha, one word WOW!
Chris says: My favourite time to visit Bangkok would have to be Songkran, the Thai New Year in mid April. They celebrate with an epic 4 day water festival and the biggest water fight ever where everyone is involved from 4 year olds to 80 year olds, locals and tourists. You feel like a kid again as you buy an arsenal of water guns and balloons, buckets filled with ice water and packets of flour. The atmosphere is amazing and very friendly but watch out when you are drinking and eating at night as the water fight never stops and carries on into the early hours. Head to Chaing Mai for a slightly more relaxed pace where there seems to be an unofficial curfew at sunset until the fun starts the next day.
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