Think of Bangkok and you probably picture a sprawling Asian mega city that’s more suited to backpackers and partygoers than families and kids. But it’s a hugely engaging and surprisingly family-friendly city. And with plenty of modes of transport and the centre of a nation that adores children, Bangkok represents an ideal stopover destination for families.
One of the main reasons that we like Bangkok so much is that it effortlessly allows us to blend a relaxing family break with a more adventurous and cultured experience. If you pick a hotel with a pool, you can spend half a day exploring the city and the other half lapping up the sunshine while your kids splash about.
With average annual temperatures of 28 degrees C (84F) and average daily sunshine topping out at 7 hours, it’s a consistent destination, which rewards the inquisitive. Here, we take a look at some of the more child-friendly attractions for families.
- Bangkok is hot and humid, so make sure you travel everywhere with bottles of water handy
- Boats and trains in Bangkok are so simple to use, however don’t forget about Uber. Incredibly cheap and reliable, you can get from one side of the city to the other for $5. Traffic allowing of course
- Buying tickets online or booking through your hotel can often get you discounts
- May to October is rainy season with September generally Bangkok’s wettest month
Child-friendly things to do in Bangkok
Siam Ocean World
Located in the basement of the Siam Paragon shopping mall, this is Bangkok’s Sea Life Centre, the largest of its kind in Asia and a great half day visit for your family. This is a really slick attraction, with large glass tanks and glass walk-through tunnels featuring sharks, rays, turtles and of course, Nemo and Dory. It’s air conditioned and you can venture through the different zones at your own pace.
Thankfully, it doesn’t get too crowded and while you may have to wait your turn to press your nose up against one of the tanks, you’ll never feel too claustrophobic. As it’s located in a shopping mall, you’ve got a good opportunity to get food and refreshments before or after your visit.
- Cost: Children under the age of three are free. Children 3-11 are 350 Baht, adults are 390 Baht
- Tickets: You can purchase tickets on the door, or if you book 24-hours in advance online here you can get as much as a 30% discount
- How to get there: To get to Siam Paragon shopping mall, get the BTS SkyTrain to Siam Station and use exit 5 to take you to Siam Ocean World
- More information: www.sealifebangkok.com
Chao Phraya River and Canal Boat rides
The River of Kings isn’t the prettiest or cleanest but its intrigue and access to major tourist spots in Bangkok make it a must for families. Plenty of boats travel up and down the Chao Phraya with regular hop-on, hop-off tourist boats available that don’t cost much for a day ticket.
You can also book private tours on smaller boats, which take you along the canal networks behind the main river, allowing you to see how the locals live.
- Cost: 150 Baht for an all day travel ticket on the tourist boat. Private hire costs vary, expect to pay in the region of 500-800 Baht for a two hour trip
- Tickets: Purchase them at the piers or on the boat, make sure you have change handy. Book private boats at piers or from your hotel.
- How to get there: The tourist boat stops at 8 different piers.
- More information: Visit the Tourist Boat website.
Zooming in and out of traffic around the backstreets of Bangkok make Tuk-Tuks one of the quickest form of transport in the city. They’re also hands down the most fun. Our three year old boy absolutely loved zipping around one of these. Be prepared to haggle with the driver and note that their English isn’t always as good as cab drivers, so it always helps to have your destination written down.
Jim Thompson House
Perhaps not an obvious choice, as Jim Thompson and his silk doesn’t scream child-friendly. He was an American living in Thailand and who helped to reinvigorate the Thai silk industry in the 1950s and 1960s. However his house is a tranquil oasis in a city of noise, cars and sky-rise buildings.
The house is a wonderfully preserved collection of six wooden buildings, built in traditional Thai style and with all of the original antiques and art on display. Your entry ticket gives you a timed guided tour of the house and grounds, which takes about 45 minutes and then you’re free to wander about.
If the tour of the house starts doesn’t interest your little ones, then the demonstrations on how silk is made will. You can witness skilled craftsmen using silkworm cocoons to spin out thread – and if your child is lucky enough, they’re given a cocoon to take home with them.
One final note is that the hosts and guides are excellent with children. Before our timed tour, our son was in awe of their origami making skills and was delighted when he was given a number of these as gifts. If the older kids are lucky enough, they’re given quick lessons to fold their own paper art.
- Cost: 150 Baht for adults, 100 Baht if you’re under 22
- Tickets: You can buy these on the door, no need to book in advance
- How to get there: Located in central Bangkok and not far from Siam Ocean World (see above). Closest stop on the BTS is National Stadium
- More information: www.jimthompsonhouse.com
There are a number of floating markets around Bangkok although note that in some cases the definition of ‘floating’ is relatively loose; some are better and busier than others.
Ranging from 30 minutes to an almost two hour drive away from Bangkok, these represent half or full day trips. If you book a private tour, expect a trip in a canal boat to arrive at the market in style, which is a lot of fun if your kids are the right age.
Don’t be fooled into thinking that these markets have been around for centuries as some are actually quite new, however that doesn’t necessarily make them any less authentic. As an example, Khlong Lat Mayom is one of the newest floating markets, located quite close to the centre of Bangkok, but rarely visited by tourists. Its canal is very narrow, meaning only a few boats can pull up to sell their goods so most of the market stalls are on dry land.
Despite this, the market is bustling and with things you might actually want to buy. Fresh fruit and vegetable stands as well as snacks and street food reign over touristy gifts.
At the other end of the scale is Damnoen Saduak, perhaps the most well known and therefore busiest of the floating markets. It’s probably a bit too busy if you’re going with kids and therefore perhaps a little daunting, so one to avoid.
- Cost: Variable, depending if you book a private tour or go it alone. Expect to pay anywhere between 250 – 750 Baht for an organised trip
- Tickets: Widely available and can be booked in most hotels
- How to get there: Some can be reached by cab, however most private tours use minibuses
In the heart of Bangkok sits Lumphini Park, a peaceful green space built in the 1920s on what was Royal property. Escaping the noise, traffic and relentlessness of the city can be difficult, so Lumphini is a welcome destination for locals and travellers.
Dogs aren’t allowed in the park and the open spaces, artificial lake with boating and monitor lizards make this a great place to visit with children.
- Cost: It’s free to enter, although you have to pay for boats and access to the exercise yard
- Tickets: n/a
- How to get there: Silom or Lumphini MRT Stations will take you direct to the park
This is a relatively new attraction in Bangkok, situated right on the Chao Phraya river and just south of the Saphan Taksin BTS station. Opening at 5pm, Asiatique offers shopping, restaurants, entertainment and big wheel, with views across the city.
The shopping here is focused on fashion and gadgets although offers a range of souvenirs and the usual delights that Thai markets have to offer. Many of the small boutiques are run by young locals selling independent collections of art, clothes, jewellery and gifts.
There’s a mix of street food-style vendors and larger restaurants with AirCon, many of which are child-friendly with a good selection of food from kid’s menus.
The big wheel is a big attraction and at the base are other rides and opportunities for older kids to have fun. With a free shuttle boat operating from Thaksin Pier, Asiatique is an ideal evening out for families.
- Cost: Free
- Tickets: N/A
- How to get there: Get the free shuttle boat from Thaksin Pier
- More information: http://www.asiatique-sky.com
Big wheel at Asiatique