Bangkok is a vibrant, 24-hour city with plenty of sites and attractions to explore well beyond a transit stay. Make the most of the sights by beginning with the opulent palaces and grand Buddhist temples. Or just enjoy the hectic street life, barter for bargains in the markets, and wander from snack to snack at the street stalls.
Getting to know Bangkok
The banks of the Chao Phraya river are home to Bangkok’s historic centre, Phra Nakhon, revolving around the Grand Palace and stunning temple complexes. With lavish gold statuary, jewel-like mosaics and distinctive Thai architecture, they’re a feast for the eyes. Wat Pho, the spectacular Temple of the Reclining Buddha houses a 45 metre long reclining Buddha. Wat Phra Keow with its shimmering golden spires and sacred Emerald Buddha is in the same district, as well as the imposing towers of Wat Arun.
Further up river is the Dusit district, which includes Dusit Palace, the current home to the Thai royal family. Vimanmek Mansion, a former palace, is now a museum of Thai heritage. The Dusit Zoo is also nearby.
In the Siam district of central Bangkok, look for Jim Thompson House, the former home of the American silk entrepreneur. Built in traditional Thai Style, it’s now a museum and art gallery.
A traditional Thai Home
Plenty of things to do
Bangkok may also be the world capital of shopping. If you don’t get your shopping fix from the shops, markets and shopping malls, you’ll find street vendors proffering wares on every street. Plus, Thailand’s incredible cuisine is one of the delights of any visit to the country. Like many locations in Asia, Bangkok’s street food is often as good or better than restaurant fare – and cheap!
Visitors get around metropolitan Bangkok by tuk-tuk. Water buses are a great way to escape traffic. They’re also an economical way to travel between some of the city’s best attractions. Stay aboard in the evening for a leisurely sightseeing tour along the Chao Phraya River.
Thailand celebrates festivals throughout the year. Celebrate Chinese New Year on the first new moon of the calendar year. Mid-April, Thailand shuts up shop for the Songkran water festival. The whole nation shuts up shop, holds a street party, and douses everyone with water, including tourists. Prepare to meet bucket loads and the odd hosing. Lastly, Thais celebrate the traditional Buddhist festival, Loy Krathong in November. Beautiful balloon lanterns fill the sky, and the locals float offerings on nearby rivers and lakes.
Bangkok travel facts
Read our Thailand traveller information guide for info on visas.
There are numerous flights to Bangkok daily from Australia’s international airports. The city has two international airports, Suvarnabhumi (BKK), and Don Mueang. Check your ticket to make sure you go to the correct one when departing on international or domestic flights.
Bangkok’s daytime temperatures are hot year round. Night time temperatures November to March are occasionally cool enough to need a jacket or sweater. Nights are hot the rest of the year. The rainy season lasts from May until October, with tropical heavy falls in May, September and October. The best months to visit are November to April when it’s driest and relatively cool.
Thailand’s capital is a bustling city crammed with sights and memorable Bangkok activities. Visit its opulent temples and palaces, dine on the best of spicy Thai cuisine and enjoy superlative shopping. Wherever you look you’ll find a multitude of new and exciting experiences.
Cultural Bangkok activities – glistening temples & palaces
Many of Bangkok’s top attractions are along the course of the Chao Phraya River in the centre of the city. Wat Pho is a spectacular temple that houses an impressive 45 meters long reclining Buddha. The lavish Wat Phra Keow temple complex has magnificent towers and golden chedi spires. It’s regarded as the most sacred temple in Thailand and houses the Emerald Buddha, a jade and gold statue believed to be the protector of the Thai kingdom. Wat Phra Keow adjoins Bangkok’s Grand Palace, which was the former residence of the king. Not to mention Wat Arun with its seventy-metre shell and porcelain encrusted tower.
Note that Thailand’s sacred temples and royal buildings have a dress code. Men must wear long trousers and sleeved shirts and women must don long skirts or a sarong. The major temples rent appropriate clothing to visitors who arrive unprepared.
The Dusit district is a little further up the river and includes the Dusit Zoo and the current royal palace. Within the precinct, the luxurious Vimanmek Mansion is a former palace which is now a museum of Thai culture and heritage. In contrast to its traditional teak architecture, the nearby Ananta Samakhom Throne Hall is a classically grand European style building.
The water bus on the Chao Phraya River is an inexpensive way to travel between many of the city’s major attractions. It’s also a welcome and cool reprieve from the hectic traffic. An evening cruise is particularly enjoyable at the end of a full day of Bangkok activities.
Jim Thompson House in central Bangkok was the former home of the American businessman, architect and silk entrepreneur. The traditional Thai building is now a major tourist attraction as a museum and art gallery. Thompson had six 19th century houses dismantled, shipped to Bangkok and reassembled to create it.
You’ll find street vendors on literally every street in Bangkok. Plus, the huge Chatuchak market in the city’s north has about 15,000 stalls selling everything from clothes to handcrafts. It’s one of the best known, however, there are many markets dotted all over the city. Certainly, the range of items for sale is huge, with masses of bargains. Many markets open at night, like the Ratchada market pictured above. Find it behind the Cultural Centre MRT Underground Station. Alternatively, head for the giant shopping centres like MBK and Central World if you prefer authentic branded goods and air conditioning.
Finally, there’s food, food everywhere in Thailand. You can eat just as well at street stalls as you can at restaurants for a fraction of the price. Bangkok is no exception. Seek out the places Thais themselves gravitate to for the best. Certainly, the areas of Saphan Thaksin and Bang Rak heading along Charoen Krung Road from the BTS Station are a street food institution. Or try the area around Victory Monument. Otherwise, splash out on air-conditioned ambience at Issaya Siamese Club.
Cosmopolitan Melbourne is an exciting hub for shopping, dining, sport and the best of Australia’s arts scene. It’s also just a day trip away from nature walks, wineries, and the beach hamlets along the Great Ocean Road.
The network of laneways, with their cafés, restaurants and boutiques give the CBD its distinctive character. Hosier Lane is particularly famous for its riotous street art. The Ian Potter Centre in nearby Federation Square is a branch of the National Gallery of Victoria (NGV). The stunning contemporary building houses the NGV’s Australian collection, including a significant collection of aboriginal art. The NGV International is about ten minutes walk away.
Also nearby is the Rod Laver Arena, home to the Australian Open tennis, as well as the Melbourne Cricket Ground. The beautiful parklands of Fitzroy Gardens and the Royal Botanic Gardens are wonderful spots to make the most of the city’s bicycle hire.
Food is a serious highlight in Melbourne with an incredible menu of authentic international cuisines throughout the city. Whether it’s fine dining at Movida or street food at Hanoi Hannah’s, the choices are diverse and delicious. In addition, Melburnians are justifiably proud of their nightlife and bars. Enjoy a cocktail at one of the city’s chic rooftop bars, or make the most of the vibrant live music scene.
Shopping is another highlight and visitors can indulge their passion and their love of food at Queen Victoria Market. Otherwise, wander the stylish suburbs of Fitzroy and Carlton for chic boutiques and stylish homewares.
Beyond the CBD
Top rated Melbourne Zoo is about 25 minutes by tram north of the CBD. Or catch a tram south to beachfront St Kilda. Stroll the breezy Esplanade, take a dip, or visit Luna Park and enjoy the rides.
Around Melbourne, take a drive into the magnificent Dandenong ranges for gorgeous nature walks. Perhaps take a trip to the charming towns and dramatic coastal views along the Great Ocean Road. The wineries of the Yarra Valley are also only an hour’s drive from the CBD.
Melbourne travel facts
The key to enjoying Melbourne is to be prepared for any weather. Wearing layers is advised seeing temperatures are known to fluctuate year round. Summer in Melbourne can be blisteringly hot, reaching the high thirties, but also drop to the low teens. Winter, from April to September, is reliably chilly with minimum temperatures in the single digits and daytime temperatures rarely climbing higher than the low teens.
Tullamarine Airport is about 30 minutes drive from the CBD with a choice of taxi or Sky Bus. Self-drivers need to be aware of toll roads and buy a pass. Tram travel within the CBD ‘city grid’ is free. Visitors need to pre-purchase a Myki smart-card to travel beyond. Trams on the same line share the same number regardless of the direction, so check its destination before you get on. That will be written on the front.
Melbourne is an affable cosmopolitan city with expansive parks and gardens and top class dining and shopping. It’s also the mecca of Australian Football, host to the Australian Open Tennis, and a thriving centre for the arts. Whatever your interests, there are fabulous Melbourne activities to suit.
Making the most of inner Melbourne activities
Melbourne’s top galleries, sporting venues and public gardens are within easy distance of the CBD. Not to mention the Melbourne Zoo. Nearby Carlton and Fitzroy are also popular for their excellent cafés, restaurants and bars, as well as unique shopping.
It’s easy to get around thanks to free tram travel within the city circle. Visitors also make the most of the city’s Bike Share Scheme, with bikes for hire for only $3 per day.
The Capital City Trail is a 29 kilometre circuit of well maintained and mostly flat bicycle paths that takes in some of the city’s top attractions. From Southbank, it passes the Melbourne Cricket Ground and Rod Laver Arena, home of the Australian Open Tennis. Winding around the Yarra River, it takes in the charming Collingwood Children’s Farm. From there the trail leads through Yarra Bend Park, and past the renowned dining hub of Lygon Street, Carlton. Originally known for its Italian cafés and restaurants, the area also has an array of international menu options. From there, stop at the top rated Melbourne Zoo to visit the gorillas, meerkats and other amazing animals. Perhaps take in the views from the Melbourne Star Observation Wheel, or visit the Melbourne Aquarium on the route back to the CBD.
Melbourne activities CBD and Southbank
Federation Square is a popular meeting place for Melburnians and the home of the ultra-modern Ian Potter Centre. The centre houses the Australian art collection of the National Gallery of Victoria (NGV), with an extensive collection of indigenous art. The remainder of the NGV collection is at the impressive NGV International on St Kilda Road, a short distance across the river.
From Federation Square it’s an easy walk to begin exploring Melbourne’s famous laneways, beginning with the chaotically vivid street art of Hosier Lane. Degraves Street, Centre Place and the historic Block Arcade and Royal Arcade are also worth seeking out for incredible dining and shops. It’s handy to carry a laneway map.
Southbank is the hub of entertainment in Melbourne and the location of Crown Casino. Otherwise, check the program of Hamer Hall for performances by the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra. Not far away is the Southbank Theatre and the Malthouse Theatre for lovers of the dramatic arts.
Shoppers gravitate to the Queen Victoria Markets near Docklands for an eclectic range of stores and traders and a foodie fix. The Rose Street Artists Market in stylish Fitzroy is open every weekend, selling artworks and wares from local artists and designers.
It’s worth heading out of the CBD to visit beachside St Kilda. It’s a six kilometres to visit its Esplanade, pier and the rides and amusements at Luna Park. Certainly look out for the delectable treats at its European cake shops. Brighton Beach, with its colourful bathing sheds, is further south.
Further afield, the Great Ocean Road is a stunning coastal drive to the south west of the city.The road begins at the town of Torquay, about 80 minutes drive from the CBD and travels through charming coastal communities. It’s about five hours drive one way to reach the Twelve Apostles and Port Campbell.
Otherwise, tipplers will love a day trip to the wineries of the beautiful Yarra Valley. Yarra Glen is only an hour’s drive from the city. Or take a drive to Mt Dandenong for a bush walk in the Dandenong Ranges National Park.
Gateway to the wonders of Western Australia, Perth is a relaxed city with an inviting Mediterranean climate. Graced with beautiful beaches and the glorious Swan River running through its heart, it’s heaven for those who love the outdoors – and especially those who love being on or in the water. It’s great sights and dining also make it a wonderful city to explore before venturing further afield.
Getting to know Perth
Central Perth has a number of attractions, including the Art Gallery of West Australia and the Crown Casino at Burswood. The Perth Mint is worth a visit for its gold museum and live gold pouring demonstrations. Adjacent to the CBD, the expansive King’s Park is a great place to wander and linger for a relaxing lunch or dinner. The park’s restaurant and café also have magnificent views of the city and Swan River.
Perth is certainly blessed with immaculate beaches. Popular Cottesloe (pictured at top) is just 15 minutes from the CBD and makes the perfect vantage point for sunset views after a swim or surf. Enjoy some ice-cream or fish and chips by the beach, or check out the stylish eateries and shops. Serious beach lovers might also head to Scarborough Beach or City Beach to the north. At any rate, there are countless spots to take a stroll or a refreshing dip.
The charming port of Fremantle is definitely worth a visit for its heritage listed buildings, historic attractions and excellent dining. The community is at its liveliest on weekends with the hum of the Fremantle markets and street performers competing for attention.
For a great range of dining choices around the CBD, head to the inner suburbs of Northbridge, Subiaco and Leederville. Northbridge is also the city’s premier bar and nightlife district.
Day tripping from Perth
Rottnest Island is a must do day-trip in summer for amazing swimming, photography and to meet the native wildlife. Ferries depart from the City or Fremantle or try a sailing tour.
The Swan Valley Food and Wine Trail is an easy day trip beginning only half an hour’s drive from the CBD. Relax and enjoy the many boutique wineries, gourmet eateries and art galleries along the way.
A number of National Parks are also within easy driving distance of the CBD including Yanchep National Park to the north.
Perth travel tips
Summer is the best time to visit. Summer days are warm to hot and dry, with day after day of blue sky.
Perth International Airport includes the domestic terminal and is 20-30 minutes drive from the CBD. Transport to and from the airport is available by airport bus, shuttle or taxi.
Travellers also arrive by the Indian Pacific train, which travels through Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide. From Sydney, the journey takes 3 days. The train crosses the vast Nullabor plain between Adelaide and Perth.
Perth has great public transport that includes buses, trains and ferries. Ferry services run from the city to Fremantle, and also to Rottnest Island. The CAT bus is a free service that runs during the daytime and some early evenings in the city centre, Fremantle and Joondalup.
Western Australia’s capital is one of Australia’s most beautiful cities. With the best in dining, urban street-life, stunning scenery and incredible range of outdoor attractions, there are so many ways to enjoy Perth. It’s the kind of city you might not want to leave.