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Bangkok, Thailand’s capital, is a large city known for ornate shrines and vibrant street life. The boat-filled Chao Phraya River feeds its network of canals, flowing past the Rattanakosin royal district, home to opulent Grand Palace and its sacred Wat Phra Kaew Temple. Nearby is Wat Pho Temple with an enormous reclining Buddha and, on the opposite shore, Wat Arun Temple with its steep steps and Khmer-style spire.
In a city bursting to the seams with awe-inspiring temples, bustling local markets, vibrant nightlife and vast shopping complexes, deciding on which attractions should make the cut was no easy task, stirring up passionate debate amongst our team of Bangkok experts.
Alongside an overall selection of the 10 Best Attractions in Bangkok, we have also created some more niche lists, useful for all the families looking to occupy the kids, culture enthusiasts wanting to know the best temples to visit, and intrepid explorers yearning for their fix of unusual sights and off-the-beaten path attractions.
Bangkok's sights, attractions, and city life appeal to diverse groups of tourists. Royal palaces and temples as well as museums constitute its major historical and cultural tourist attractions. Shopping and dining experiences offer a range of choices and prices. The city is also famous for its nightlife. Although Bangkok's reputation for sex tourism is well established, it is downplayed by the government.
Bangkok, the centre of the Bangkok Metropolitan Area, has been the capital of Thailand since 1782, when the seat of government was moved across the Chao Phraya River from the Thonburi (west bank) side of the river. There are many palaces in the city, some still used by the Thai royal family, while others are now open to the public. A number have become government or academic buildings as well as museums.
Of the hundreds of Buddhist temples (or wats) in Bangkok, only a few are of much interest to tourists. When King Taksin led his troops out of Ayutthaya and into Thonburi in 1767 CE, they took refuge in Wat Arun. The most prominent feature is a tall chedi built in the 1820s that stands 85 meters (279 ft). It was tallest structure in Bangkok until modern skyscrapers were built a few decades ago.
Wat Pho, also known as the Temple of the Reclining Buddha or Wat Phra Chetuphon, is south of the Temple of the Emerald Buddha and the Grand Palace. It is Bangkok's largest temple and contains a huge reclining Buddha figure that is 46 metres (151 ft) long and is covered with gold leaf. The feet alone are 3 metres (10 ft) in size.
Wat Suthat is one of the oldest temples and the site of the Giant Swing, formerly used in an annual Brahman ceremony. A huge teak arch from which the swing was hung still stands in front of the temple.
Wat Saket, or the Golden Mount (Phu Khao Thong in Thai), houses relics of the Buddha in a 58-metre-high chedi surmounted by a golden cupola. Built by King Rama I just outside the new city's walls, the temple served as the main crematorium. In the century after its construction, some 60,000 plague victims were either cremated there or placed outside for vultures to devour