10 things to do in Bangkok with kids
Why Bangkok is a great choice for a family visit
Bangkok is the perfect starting point for a family road trip through Thailand. It’s called the land of smiles for a reason. Thai are very friendly and love children, so lots of families choose Thailand as a travel destination. Bangkok is one of the most exciting places in Thailand to visit. But is the capital suitable for children? The Thai call Bangkok Krung Thep, which means City of Angels. That sounds innocent enough, but with its reputation for ladyboys and seedy bars, it may not seem like the obvious choice.
If you ask me, Bangkok is probably one of the most exciting cities in South East Asia. It is a melting pot of culture, amazing cuisine, dust, chaos and a vibrant nightlife. Full of Thai, backpackers and hippies. But it also offers plenty of fun filled attractions for kids and for the whole family to enjoy. Trust me, in Bangkok you’ll never experience a dull moment. With its ancient temples, rooftop restaurants, shopping malls and street food stalls it offers something for every member of your family.
My family and I didn’t want to spend our time in Bangkok wandering around the countless theme parks. Instead we opted to visit more cultural places that are fun for the whole family.
And for those of you who want to know more about those theme parks I just mentioned? Don’t worry, I’ll mention them at the end of this post.
But now it’s time to dive into all that Bangkok has to offer family travelers and present to you: the 10 things to do in Thailand with kids.
The Grand Palace
The Grand Palace is probably Bangkok’s most famous landmark. It’s known as the spiritual heart of Thailand and was the official Royal Palace until 1925. Even though kids probably won’t grasp the religious and cultural relevance of this enormous and gorgeous temple complex, they will absolutely enjoy seeing the golden and glittery roofs, the giant monkey gods, all the other mystical figures and the soldiers walking around on site. As you see on the picture, my son loved imitating the poses of the figures he saw everywhere he looked.
Tip: on the upper terrace you will find an impressive replica of Cambodia’s Angkor Wat temple complex. Take your kids there and let them look very closely. Small kittens usually hide inside of this model. It took us a few minutes and we found two really cute kittens.
The Reclining Buddha
Don’t skip a visit to the Wat Pho, the Temple of the Reclining Buddha. In the temple you’ll find a very relaxed 46 meter long golden buddha. Kids and their parents will be amazed by the sight of so much gold.
Dining in a family friendly rooftop restaurant
What could be more magical than visiting a rooftop restaurant in the early evening and showing your kids all the lights of this metropolitan city. There are lots of family friendly options. We choose the Baiyoke Tower II. The largest hotel in South East Asia. And the third tallest building in Bangkok. On the 78th floor you can eat seafood and international cuisine. They also offer entertainment aimed at families. Having dinner here means you also have free access to the observation deck on the 77th floor and the revolving view point on the 84th floor. I highly recommend this restaurant and the views you get.
Damnoen Saduak Floating Market
Years ago daily commerce was mostly conducted along the khlongs (canals) and rivers. Nowadays they still re-enact the recent history. But I have to say, most of what’s on offer is solely meant for the hordes of tourists. Still: what child doesn’t want to board a long-tail boat and check out all the hustle and bustle in the khlongs. If you’re looking for souvenirs, you’ll find lots of local handmade items, asides from all the factory made ones. And you can stop at a fruit stall and buy some fruits that you won’t find in your local supermarket, like rambutan, durian (extremely smelly, but delicious) and mangosteen.
The only negative thing I can say about this place is that they still offer elephant rides. Look in their eyes and you’ll immediately spot the sadness. I strongly believe that, while traveling, we should be extra cautious when someone offers you a “genuine” experience with a wild animal. Most of the times, animals suffer from abuse. It’s important to always respect animals, at home and while traveling.
A great way to see a city is by bike. And there are multiple tour operators that offer bike tours through the city. Most tours will show you Chinatown, off the beaten track local areas (as far as that’s possible in Bangkok), local markets and hidden temples. The most popular bike tour operator is Co van Kessel and as fellow Dutchies, who thoroughly enjoyed the 3 hour bike tour, we highly recommend his business.
Eating street food
Have you really been to Bangkok if you skipped the thousands of street food stalls without ordering a delicious meal or two? There’s a saying in Bangkok that translates to where there are people, there will be food. It goes without saying that food is important to the Thai. Lonely Planet even called Bangkok the best city to visit if you’re a food lover. You’ll find street food on every corner of the city. Of course, some streets offer better quality food than others. The kids will definitely find something to their liking, my guess is that they’ll love sticky rice with mango and satay gai. We enjoyed the street food we got in the Rangnam and Chinatown areas the most.
Tuk Tuk over taxi
You’ll find taxi’s on every corner of the city and apps like Grab will make it really easy for you to get transportation fast. Add the skytrain to the large list of option, kids will like to hop on that one as well, and all the other public transport options and you’ll conclude that you’ll get everywhere you want in Bangkok in no time with all the different mode of transportations. But your kids will definitely enjoy a tuk tuk ride. They are colorful, beautifully decorated by their owners and you won’t find them outside of Asia. But the most important thing: they go fast. We got into a race between some drivers. I have to say that as a mom I didn’t enjoy that to much, but my son was screaming from excitement and laughing out loud. Who needs a taxi, when you can ride a Tuk Tuk.
A khlong tour in a long-tail boat
If you skip a long-tail boat tour through the khlongs, or canals in English, than it can very well be that you’ll never know that Bangkok is very green and can be calm and relaxing. The west bank of Chao Phraya River is called Thonburi and it’s the only area that hasn’t been developing much yet. In fact, it’s still like it used to be with wooden houses built on the water. A great way to show your kids the real Bangkok. And to escape the honking of horns. You’ll also spot Wat Arun from the water, a lovely sight to see. Bring food for the catfish and feed them. They’re huge and impressive and your children will love feeding them. We ended our tour in Chinatown. That gave us a the opportunity to have another great meal straight from a street food stall.
Shop ’till you drop at a shopping mall
Bangkok is an absolute paradise for everyone who loves to shop ’till they drop. Thus, Bangkok’s many shopping malls attract shopaholics from all over the world. But even when you’re not a shopaholic, you and your kids will probably enjoy the experience. Most of the malls are larger than life and make your jaw drop. With lots of floors filled with electronica, toys, clothes, make-up and jewellery and lots and lots of food. Not just local cuisine, but also western options like pizza, fries and burgers. Another reason to go to a mall is the AC. We went to Bangkok in August and it was extremely hot, with not an ounce of wind. The airconditioning in the mall was a life saver at a moment when emotions were running high and tears were flowing rapidly. A little airconditioning, fries and a coke later and all was forgotten.
We went to the MBK Center. One of the older shopping malls in Bangkok and huge. After a few Thai meals our teen was craving western junk food. So it was KFC or McDonalds, the pic gives our choice away ;).
Nine tips down and one to go. I promised to close with a list of activities aimed at kids. So here we go.
10 (theme) parks to visit with kids
There are so many family friendly venues that you could fill an entire vacation without anyone in the family ever getting bored. Check out this list with 10 (theme) parks to visit in Bangkok, or near the city, with kids.
- Siam Amazing Park – an amusement and water park in one
- KidZania – an interactive city made for children 4-14
- Funarium – an indoor playground for the younger children in your family
- Children’s Discovery Museum Bangkok – an interactive museum
- Art In Paradise – the first 3D interactive trick-eye arts museum in Bangkok, also a hit with moms and dads
- Madame Tussauds – get a pic with your favorite celeb (in wax)
- Imaginia Playland – a children’s technology center with a range of activities from art to strategic thinking
- Harbor Land – Bangkok’s largest indoor playground
- Peppermint Bike Park – various courses ranging from challenging paths to beginner-friendly
- Lumphini park – a park with an outdoor playground, hire a pedal boat and spot huge monitor lizards near the water
Bangkok and animal cruelty
You may have noticed that I didn’t add any activities involving animals. That is because, sadly, Thailand isn’t exactly known for treating animals in a respectful manner. In most zoos you can pet animals like elephants, tigers and monkeys. There are live shows where all kinds of animals have to perform circus acts, some even with clothes on. And of course we all know about riding and/or bathing elephants. I can’t tell you what to do, but I can offer you my opinion. This is animal abuse and nobody should be able to get this close to animals, pet them, ride them or treat them like clowns. Clowns choose to perform for a living, an animal is forced to do so. This is why I won’t promote any activities involving animals.
I am far from perfect. In fact: the first time I visited Thailand in 2013 I made a huge mistake and rode an elephant and put a (probably drugged) python around my neck. Shortly after I saw a documentary about animal cruelty in Asia and did some research. I learned my lesson, taught my children the same lesson and wrote a blog post about animal cruelty where I write about the horrors these poor animals go through behind the scenes and in front of our camera’s. If you read only one other blog post from my hand, I hope it will be that one. Together we can put a stop to this cruelness, by not participating or paying for any of the mentioned activities.