We always seem to return to Bangkok, Thailand, whether it’s as a destination in its own right, or as part of a stopover during a longer journey. We first visited Bangkok with toddlers (age 1 and 3) and have returned with our boys time and time again, and each time we return, we find new things to do in Bangkok with kids; it’s that kind of city, with something always going on and everything changing around you.
Over recent years, lots of fantastic indoor play centres have popped up around the city. However, we don’t list them here as we know you aren’t visiting Bangkok with kids to sit in an airconditioned play centre.
Keep on reading for our top ten things to do in Bangkok with kids and hopefully you’ll grow to love it as much as we do.
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1. Visit the temples
Temple viewing is an essential part of any visit to Bangkok but it’s important to avoid the tropical disease known as ‘templed-out’. Children are known to suffer from it quite badly.
We’d suggest choosing a couple of temples and spending an hour or so at each, rather than racing around the city ticking off as many as you can.
Wat Arun, on the banks of the river is easy to reach and a gentle introduction to Thai temples and the stories contained within them. It’s served by a handy ferry terminal of the same name, which makes for an interesting journey and the kids will find a multitude of steps to climb, temples to visit, plus a couple of cafes serving drinks and ice-cream. You even get a mini-bottle of water on arrival.
If you have energy for one more, it makes sense to take on the Grand Palace but be prepared for larger crowds and higher prices. It’s very much worth the effort though, it’s the iconic temple in Bangkok and kids are guaranteed to be impressed.
Another option, which combines temples and something slightly different, is the Reclining Buddha at Wat Pho. The first glimpse of the gilded figure, resting almost 50m long is jaw-dropping and not something your kids will be expecting. Even the most jaded child has been known to utter ‘wow’ when they see it. They’ll also find 108 bowls to drop coins into which might bring them bring good fortune but will definitely keep them entertained.
2. Ride the river
Many great cities have a river running through them and Bangkok is no exception. Whilst no-one would claim it to be the cleanest waterway in the world, the Chao Phraya River, has served the city well over the years and is an excellent way to beat the heat and see the city from another angle.
If you’re staying in, or visiting, Khaosan Road, the ferry terminal at Phra Arthit is easy to access and makes for a handy jumping on point for destinations including Wat Arun. You’ll be offered the services of a more expensive tourist boat but we’d recommend using the regular commuter boat which, outside of the rush hour, provides a more authentic but equally comfortable option.
The boats have plenty of shade and tend to sit quite low in the water, giving you a fish-eye view of the river and the city around it. Going under the Rama VIII Bridge is quite the experience. For an even longer adventure, head north to the Nonthaburi ferry terminal and take the short walk to the famous markets.
3. Shop at Siam Park
It can sometimes feel like a new mall pops up in Bangkok every week and, whilst not the most authentic Thai experience, a visit to a mega-mall can be a real treat for kids (and parents as well).
We’re strong advocates of packing light for family trips and one way to achieve this is to leave toys and new clothes at home and buy them on the road. At malls like Siam Paragon and Siam Center, you’ll find toy stores, a LEGO store, bookshops and international brand clothing shops.
These malls are located right in the heart of the city and served by the Siam BTS station, making them easy places to access and an ideal oasis to retreat to when the temperature outside gets too high.
4. Eat noodles along Th Khao San
A true highlight of any visit to Thailand is the food and there’s few more interesting place to enjoy it than Khao San Road. It’s not always the most authentic place and you’ll see far more tourists than locals but we love pulling up a plastic chair, ordering a bowl of noodles and watching the backpacker fraternity come and go.
Our kids love noodles, and of course pad thai, and most restaurants are happy to make them extremely non-spicy if you ask. The prices are more expensive here than elsewhere in Thailand but it still only costs about THB100 for a bowl, meaning you’re free to let the kids experiment with different flavours and ingredients, safe in the knowledge it won’t break the budget.
Plus, we’ve always found the restaurants along here to be super-kids friendly, even though the drinks on offer may not look like it is. Staff are always great with the kids, there’s often a high chair for little ones, or perhaps a game for the older kids.
If Khaosan Road feels a bit too full-on (come 7:30pm the music ramps up significantly), decamp to adjacent Ram Buttri road, which runs parallel to Khaosan and slightly more relaxed.
5. Ride a tuk-tuk
If you’re looking for a fun 20 minutes that’ll really mark you out as a tourist, run the negotiating gauntlet of a tuk-tuk ride. The drivers are the ultimate hagglers and (we’re afraid it has to be said) are specifically trying to rip you off. But if you look past that and treat it as a once-in-a-trip experience, it can be worthwhile.
Be completely upfront at first that you just want to get from A to B because the notorious gem-tours are definitely to be avoided. It’s very likely you’ll be quoted THB1000 upwards initially but you might get them down to THB300 if you are patient and strong-willed. This is substantially more than an air-conditioned taxi, but lots more fun.
Once you set off, be prepared for some loud music (often with wildly inappropriate lyrics), bouncing wheels, funny looks from locals, and a lot of laughs. The drivers are usually friendly once the fare negotiations are out of the way and will get you to where you’re going at top speed.
6. Children’s Discovery Museum
As the name suggests, the Children’s Discovery Museum in Bangkok is a child-focused and interactive museum, focused on making your little ones think outside the box. There are lots of educational exhibits and hands-on activities that’ll interest your kids for a few hours, and the indoor space is a good chance to escape the heat.
It’s cleverly divided into different themed areas, with spaces devoted to science, nature, technology, and culture. It was nice to find a museum which had a large number of (working) interactive displays, a change from other museums we’ve visited which have a never-ending series of ‘under-maintenance’ signs.
7. Find the green spaces
Visiting a city as dense and crowded as Bangkok is exciting in itself, but kids always need some open green spaces to run around, burn off energy and hit the playground. It’s also nice for parents to take a seat on the grass and take a moment to breathe.
Chatachuk Park is one of the best parks in the city, with children’s play area, sports centre, shady jogging tracks, an abundance of trees, plus several cafes for refreshments. It’s especially nice to visit from about 5pm onwards, when the hottest part of the day has passed. The world-famous Chatachuk Weekend Market also takes place nearby, well worth a visit if you’re here at the weekend.
Elsewhere, Lumpini Park has similar activities to Chatachuk but you’ll also be able to rent a paddleboat, visit a Chinese Temple, or sample some street food from one of the many vendors who operate at the park.
8. Pororo Aquapark
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There are other waterparks on the outskirts of the city, but for the most interesting experience we’d recommend Pororo Aquapark on the rooftop of the CentralPlaza.
It’s the closest to the city centre and, with its rooftop location, you’ll get an iconic view of the city as you descend the water slides. It might be in slight need of modernisation and maintenance but we had a fun-filled day and had to drag the kids away when the rides started to close.
The park contains the usual array of waterslides, lazy rivers and swimming pools. You can add cash credit to your wristbands and use the money to buy lunch in the café or hire water rings.
It’s located quite close to the Si Iam monorail station which is a good option when you leave because traffic around here is some of the worst in the city.
9. Floating markets
Nothing perhaps exemplifies the contrast between old and new Bangkok as much as the floating markets which appear in multiple places around the city. Where they were once simply a way of life for local Thais, they’re now also a big tourist attraction, with many people visiting them each day.
If you catch the right one on the right day, it’s still an interesting and cultural experience. At other times, the markets can feel overwhelmed and overpriced, seemingly only existing to serve tourists.
Tha Kha floating market is a more ‘real’ example but (as a result) harder to access. There are plenty more nearer to the city but it can cost as much as THB2500 for a boat and you’ll often see more tourists than locals.
In spite of this, it can be a memorable morning’s excursion, and the kids will enjoy interacting with the shopkeepers who never fail to smile and give them a friendly wave.
One of our favourite areas of Bangkok, Chinatown is a lively and exciting district, where you’ll enjoy getting semi-lost in the side streets as you search out the best place to eat. Some areas of Bangkok feel extremely touristy but not so much here; even though it’s popular with tourists, it never feels anything less than authentic, with some of the best dumplings you’ll ever taste.
There is something for everyone here and the kids will love looking around and saying hello to the shopkeepers. Bangkok is a very friendly city but Chinatown locals seem particularly happy to see you.
Venture further into the crowds and try to find a suitable looking restaurant; the high-chair might be harder to find here but the trade-off is amazing food for the whole family. If no restaurant takes your fancy, grab some street food and join the locals eating on the move.
Where to stay with kids
Bangkok is one of the best cities in the world for accommodation, with everything available from uber-luxurious hotels, boutique lodges, chain hotels, budget guesthouses and backpacker dives.
As a family, we always end up back near Khaosan Road or Rambuttri though, partly due to nostalgia, but mainly for its combination of affordable accommodation, great eating options, good transport links, and traveller atmosphere. A lot of people can be quite dismissive of the area but ignore them if possible.
You’re never more than a few steps away from a restaurant, especially handy first thing in the morning when you want breakfast. Most budget hotels don’t offer breakfast in Bangkok and, if they do, it’s likely to be an overpriced collection of fruit and bread. Better to head for a restaurant and pick up a better deal.
With that in mind, we often stay in Lamphuhouse Bangkok (budget) or Rambuttri Village Plaza (mid-range with a pool); both are usually available at a great price and offer family rooms with ensuite bathrooms. They’re only a short walk to Khaosan or Rambutrri and handy for the ferry stop at Phra Arthit.
How to get around
The traffic in Bangkok is notorious and often listed as one of the worst in the world. The roads get regularly snagged up with traffic jams around rush-hour so a taxi is best used outside of these hours, or if you’re not going near one of the more busy areas. Annoyingly, after several years of using the meter, Bangkok taxi drivers seem to have reverted to refusing to use them again.
Thankfully, the e-hailing apps are now the big thing in Southeast Asia and Bangkok, as you’d expect, is at the forefront. We used the Grab app and it was incredible as always; giving us cheap fares, friendly drivers, no haggling, and no need to direct the driver. Try to install it before you arrive and use it from day one, it really is a game-changer.
Bangkok does have an excellent and comprehensive public transport system, with the MRT system linking many areas, especially in the ‘newer’ parts of the city. It’s handy if your destination is close to the stations, but less useful if you need to go somewhere further away. It doesn’t go very close to Khaosan Road area, for example, but is ideal for visiting the malls.
On the whole, we’d suggest using Grab taxis for the majority of your trips, perhaps using the MRT when the traffic is very bad, and you’re conveniently located for the stations. As we mentioned, save the tuk-tuks for one journey when you’re in the mood for some music!
Final thoughts on visiting Bangkok with kids
Bangkok is a huge city, devoted to fun and always giving visitors something new to experience. As a result, it’s impossible to tick everything off, even if you were here for a year. We’ve tried to pick out some highlights which give you and the kids a sample of what the city has to offer.
From food and drink, water parks, shopping malls and Chinatown, there is something here to give everyone a fantastic memory and, if you’re anything like us, you’ll soon be booking your next trip here to experience something new next time.
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