Thailand is a nation of extremes. Thailand is a tropical paradise that is often associated with soft white beaches and sunny days, but it is also home to cosmopolitan cities, magnificent palaces, historic temples, hiking trails that lead into misty mountains, and some of the best shopping in Southeast Asia. Even if Bangkok is your first stop, it’s worthwhile to consider visiting other cities while using Bangkok as your home base to travel throughout the nation. Many locations are just waiting to be explored, from beachside Hua Hin to adventure-oriented Chiang Mai to beach getaways like Krabi and Phuket towns. Make travel arrangements using our list of Thailand’s top cities.
Top Cities in Thailand
Bangkok is a bustling city with a ton to offer visitors, where ancient temples coexist with modern skyscrapers made of glass and metal. Visitors to the Thai capital must visit Wat Phra Kaew, also known as the Temple of the Emerald Buddha, which is regarded as the most sacred temple in the nation. It is situated on the grounds of the Grand Palace, which served as the royal residence of Thailand’s Kings until 1925.
Today, the temple and palace complex is like a living museum where visitors can wander through the halls, pavilions, and courtyards of the richest royalty in the world while still witnessing royal ceremonies. Another must-see is Wat Pho, which houses a 46-meter-long gold-leafed reclining Buddha and is located just 10 minutes walk from the Grand Palace. Bangkok is the world’s largest outdoor weekend market, as well as the location of several large malls for those in the mood to shop. There are a lot of must-visit markets in Bangkok. One of which is the Chatuchak Weekend Market, which has over 8,000 market stalls selling everything from furniture and pet supplies to handicrafts and antiques, is the best place in the city to haggle for the lowest prices on souvenirs.
The historic city of Ayutthaya is one of the most well-liked day trips from Bangkok and is unquestionably worthwhile. The enormous complex of ruins, a 289-hectare UNESCO World Heritage Site, is situated on an island bordered by three rivers. From the time it was established in 1351 until the Burmese Army destroyed and burned it in 1767, Ayutthaya served as the capital of Thailand. The enormous temples and stucco towers that are still standing are still breathtaking, even though many of the structures were destroyed and numerous items were stolen over the years.
Wat Chaiwatthanaram, with its 35-meter-high prang and eight chapels resembling chedis at its center, is one of Ayutthaya’s most well-known temples. A smaller temple called Wat Mahathat is well known for having a Buddha statue’s head stuck in a tree root.
3. Chiang Mai
Chiang Mai, Thailand’s laid-back capital, is well-suited as a base for outdoor enthusiasts as it is surrounded by national parks, waterfalls, and mountains dotted with ancient temples, including Doi Inthanon, the country’s tallest mountain. Visitors can trek through the nearby hills and mountains to reach tribe villages while participating in the popular activity of “hill tribe trekking” here.
Chiang Mai is very vegetarian-friendly, won’t break the bank, and provides ethical options for getting back to nature. While many cities in Thailand provide elephant rides that are questionably ethical, Chiang Mai is home to several sanctuaries where rescued animals can be interacted with in their natural surroundings.
4. Hua Hin
Hua Hin has developed into a well-liked beach resort area over the past few decades. Families, couples, and people who want to access the sea without the craziness of the nightlife and the extremely crowded sands you’ll frequently find on the islands all prefer Hua Hin. There are a lot of best places to stay in Hua Hin. Due to its proximity to the capital, residents of Bangkok frequently travel here on the weekends, keeping the town busy all year long. Hua Hin is a well-liked golf destination from mid-December to mid-March during the dry season.
The city also has two themed shopping malls, a bustling night market, a sizable water park, and the royal teak Klai Kangwon Summer Palace, which was constructed with the ocean in mind. However, the 20-kilometer stretch of soft sand beach that extends to Khao Takiap Mountain is the main draw here. Suan Son beach, which is technically owned by the Thai Army but is still open to the public, is located on the other side of the rocky bay, which is home to a huge Buddha, a temple, and numerous monkeys that rule the area. Those seeking peace and solitude in the sun should visit this location.
Most visitors to Phuket Town are simply passing through on their way to one of the many nearby white sand beaches, but the town also deserves a visit for its stunning past, which is evident to anyone who strolls through the Old Town. Phuket Town, a fusion of Sino-Portuguese and 19th-century shophouses, is constantly buzzing with activity but hasn’t lost its old-world charm. Even though it only operates on weekends, Phuket Town Night Market is still the best place to shop in the area. Here, you can buy anything from electronics to clothing to souvenirs, in addition to some of Phuket’s best street food. And because of the Chinese/Cantonese influence in the region, there are a ton of different options available, including dim sum, roti, and colorful pastries as well as a refreshing papaya salad.
The raucous nightlife of Pattaya may be its most well-known feature, but the city has a lot more to offer in the way of water sports, a four-kilometer stretch of sandy beach, and numerous hiking opportunities, including the chance to ascend a huge golden staircase to the 18-meter-tall golden Buddha at Wat Phra Yai temple. Pratumnak Hill can also be hiked by visitors for a panoramic view of the bay and the ocean. Only two hours from Bangkok, Pattaya is a well-liked weekend getaway. Jomtien and Naklua beaches provide an opportunity to view the sunset in virtually complete seclusion, in contrast to the busy and noisy central Pattaya beach. The Sanctuary of Truth is a teak hall created as a center of art and faith and a breathtaking sight just north of Wongamat Beach for those seeking something different to see.
The “bridge over the River Kwai,” which was built by the Japanese during World War II with the assistance of POW labor, is most closely associated with the town of Kanchanaburi. The bridge was intended to be a crucial component of the infamous Burma railway, which would connect Thailand to Burma. During the bridge’s construction and reconstruction, which involved numerous bombings, more than 12,000 Allied prisoners perished. Even though the Burma railway was never completed, travelers can currently board a regular local train that passes over the bridge. It’s a quick ride that will be picturesque but gloomy.
8. Krabi Town
Krabi is much more than just a stopover; it is an authentic Thai market town only a few minutes from the world-famous Railay Beach with its fine white sands. Even if the breathtaking Ao Nang and Koh Phi Phi islands are calling your name, Krabi Town is deserving of a visit so that you can experience authentic Thai culture. A good place to get a feel for the town is the Krabi Riverside Walk, where the night market is held every day. Here, boats, elderly people practicing Tai Chi, and small food stalls coexist peacefully. Take a tuk-tuk here for an authentic Thai experience, then ascend the 1,237 steps to the large golden Buddha at Wat Tham Sua (Tiger Cave Temple), which is just three kilometers from the town center.
The ancient kingdom of Sukhothai is spread across 7,000 hectares, but the majority of the ruins, which include 193 temples and buildings, are contained within a 70-square-meter area. The biggest temple in this area is Wat Mahathat, which was built using a mandala to hold Buddha relics. The temple has eight stupas surrounding the large central one, 168 stucco statues, and a stunning hall with pillars that serves as a corridor. Wat Si Sawai, the park’s oldest temple, was built in the late 12th century and is renowned for its three intricately carved prangs that symbolize the Hindu trinity.
This area is filled with terraces, stucco works, and lotus lakes, making for the ideal day of exploring. Other large bronze and stone statues from the temples are on display at the Ramkhamhaeng National Museum, which is located inside the park itself, while many of the larger statues from the temples have been relocated to the National Museum in Bangkok.
There’s a good chance that you’ve never heard of the tiny town of Pai, and you’re not the only one. Pai, which is situated directly on the banks of the lovely Pai River, has grown to be a favorite among travelers and explorers who want to experience a different side of Thailand. Pai compensates for the lack of opulent hotels with swimming pools with breathtaking hills that are ideal for hiking, hot springs, and a variety of hill tribe villages, including Karen and Hmong villages, that you can visit.
One of the most popular city attractions is Santichon Village. It is made up of a collection of clay residences and stores that represent the way of life of the Yunan People, a Southern Chinese ethnic group with strong ties to the Pai region. In the village, which has more than 2,000 permanent residents, people grow tea, give tourists rides on donkeys, and hand-power a wooden Ferris wheel for those who are daring enough to ride it.