Discover the parts of the Thai capital the locals like to keep for themselves.
Bangkok might be one of the most visited cities on earth, but with the right insider know-how, it’s easy to dodge the tourist crowds. From legendary street food stalls to hidden speakeasies—we uncover where in-the-know locals eat, drink, shop and party…
These three neighborhoods show you a totally different side of the Thai capital…
This neighborhood is a two-for-one deal: come for the clamorous markets, gilded temples and gritty Old-World atmosphere, stay for the cutting edge cocktail bars and inventive food concepts that have recently popped up in its historical shophouses. To experience the district in its full glory, arrive right after sunset. This is when Yaowarat Road turns into a gigantic neon-lit food court (seek out Nai Ek for peppery noodle soup and T&K for a seafood feast) and Bangkok’s creative crowd starts filling up bars, such as Rabbit Hill for Hong Kong-brewed craft beers, or Jing Jing for boozy ice cream. The cluster of new establishments around Soi Nana street is also popular: Teens of Thailand has some of the city’s best gin and tonics; Ba Hao brings a touch of 1920s Shanghai; and TEP Bar pays homage to traditional Thai culture.
Glitzy bars and restaurants might pop up around the city at breakneck speed, but this trendy neighborhood remains the undisputed epicenter of Bangkok’s cosmopolitan appeal. Also known as Sukhumvit Soi 55, Thonglor and its adjoining alleys are peppered with contemporary Thai restaurants (Soul Food Mahanakorn, Supanniga Eating Room), fine-dining darlings (Canvas, Bo.Lan) and award-winning cocktail bars (Rabbit Hole, Just A Drink Maybe and J. Boroski Mixology). If you’re short on time, head to concrete-clad The Commons on Soi 17, a community mall housing outposts from some of the city’s most exciting restaurants and retail players.
A stroll around Ari’s leafy lanes is the perfect antidote to the frenetic streets down-town. Located in the north of the city, this largely residential district lures savvy travelers with its quaint cafés and sleek restaurants. Visit Salt for European comfort food; TacoChela, where Danish craft beer meets Mexican grub; or Phed Phed for ferociously fiery Isaan cuisine.
Where to eat
Bangkok’s food scene is best explored through its sidewalk stalls and roadside restaurants. These five are local favorites.
Khao Gaeng Jake Puey, Chinatown
This photogenic stall just off Chinatown’s main thoroughfare is always packed, and for good reason. Grab a seat on one of the red chairs and order the Kaeng Kari, a yellow coconut curry, topped with sweet pork ribs and Chinese sausage.
Yaowarat Road, Pom Prap Sattru Phai District, Bangkok 10100, Thailand
+66 2 222 5229
Muslim Restaurant, Nana
People come here for the food as much as for the Old World ambiance, because the interior of this legendary Islamic Thai restaurant hasn’t changed since its opening in the 1940s. Served only on Mondays, their fragrant Mutton Biryani is worth a week-day trip alone. As is their crispy Roti Mataba, a delicious pocket of beef and spices.
1217-9 New Road, Bangkok 10500, Thailand
+66 2 234 1876
Soi Polo, Silom
While you’ll find a full range of Isaan classics at this friendly sit-down joint, it’s their Gai Tod (fried chicken) that has locals salivating at the mere mention of it. Crispy on the outside, tender on the inside and loaded with heaps of fried garlic.
137/1-2 Soi Polo, Th Withayu, Lumphini, Bangkok
Thip Samai, Phra Nakorn
The fiery woks at Thip Samai only serve one dish, but they do it exceedingly well. Expect to see queues of people lining up for their iconic Pad Thai; a smoky noodle stir-fry made with eggs, tofu, prawns and an assortment of toppings (chili, peanuts, bean sprouts) that can be added to your liking.
313/315 Maha Chai Rd, Pranakorn, Bangkok 10200, Thailand
Kor Panich, Phraeng Bhuthorn
Have you really been to Bangkok if you haven’t tried its signature dessert? Khao Niaow Mamuang (mango sticky rice) can be found in malls and restaurants around the city, but Kor Panich remains the go-to shop for those in the know. Pick one of the fresh mangoes on display and ask the staff to slice it up and pack it with sweet sticky rice and coconut milk.
431-433 Thanon Tanao, San Chao Pho Sua, Phra Nakhon, Bangkok 10200, Thailand
Night life king Pin Sanya Souvanna Phouma shares his top choices for a night out in the big mango.
What does a perfect night out in Bangkok look like?
It starts at El Mercado in the bustling Sukhumvit district, an al-fresco affair with fantastic Mediterranean food that’s made for sharing. Order some bubbles, fresh seafood and cheese and you’re off to a great start. Next, hit up Thaipioka for fruity cocktails in a pared-down setting. Their Longan Carré (longan bourbon, cognac, vermouth, chartreuse, and bitters) is especially great. Then jump in a cab to the Sino-chic Sing Sing Theater to dance until the wee hours of the morning.
What’s Bangkok’s most underrated nightlife district?
Quiet Suan Phlu and its surrounding streets are packed with quaint little bars and restaurants. It was put on the map by Smalls—a funky low-key hangout where you can brush shoulders with the city’s top chefs and the occasional Hollywood celebrity passing through town—but recent months have seen a slew of new spots pop up: Cactus (mid-century modern rooftop hangout), Cagette (French deli) and Saawaan (Thai fine dining) are all worth the trip. You can drink one cocktail in Bangkok.
Where do you go and what do you order?
I’d head to Iron Balls Gin Parlour for their signature gin ’n’ tonic, made from Iron Balls Gin and Fentimans Light Tonic. It’s a perfect way to beat the Bangkok heat, and the gin couldn’t be more local: it’s distilled right here in the city.
Discover these (and other) hidden gems when you book your stay at Waldorf Astoria Bangkok