Not going to lie – I still love a good guidebook. Especially when it’s coming from a creative angle or written by people I know in IRL. Both of which are true for the books covering Bangkok below.
Especially when it comes to such a big, multi-layered destination as Bangkok, I go straight to a guidebook or local lifestyle outlet (for Bangkok, BK Magazine is incredible…) to learn what to do, where to go and where to eat. Blog posts from people who have spent a few days in the city just don’t cut it.
The Bangkok guides below are some of the best around…and still just scratch the surface of what the Big Mango has to offer!
The links in the titles and cover images take you directly to where you can buy the books on Amazon.
Coming from Monocle, you’d be forgiven for thinking this is just the hipster’s guide to Bangkok, but this travel book is so much more. From great walks to the best record shops (ok, yeah it’s bit hipstery) you won’t get the ultimate guide to the glorious chaos that is Bangkok, but you’ll get a well-curated selection of the city’s finest. There’s a big emphasis on design, both in how the guide itself is presented as well as in the destinations, restaurants and hotels selected to be featured.
If you want to kick it up a notch in terms of design, then may I present you with Bangkok: A Creative’s Guide. If the minimalist color-block cover of the city map isn’t enough to sway you, rest assured the inside is stuffed full of wanderlust-worthy hotels, to-die-for dining and stories that dive deeper into how historical roots and modern tastemakers come together to make the magic that is Bangkok. From the publishers of Design Anthology magazine and organized by neighborhood, it’s not your average guidebook and definitely geared for the younger creative classes. (It also has small sections for Chiang Mai and Phuket.)
Arriving with lots of fanfare, the first Michelin Guide for Bangkok was published in 2018 and the 2019 guide has kept up with the tire brand’s well-known reputation for vetting food and dining. Bangkok is such an incredible city for food and with so many places to check out, guides like these are a godsend to cut out the clutter. Contrary to popular belief, it’s not all fine-dining in here and Michelin made waves by inducting a beloved street stall with one star. If you want to know what fuels Bangkokians, you need to know what they love to eat. This book does a great job of both informing you of that and convincing you to book your next flight ASAP. (Fun fact: Michelin will be rolling out recommendations for Chiang Mai as well starting with their 2020 guide.)
Researched and written by an American expat living in Thailand, and one of my friends, Frommer’s is another excellent choice from the travel guide section. The author of this latest edition also wrote the first Bangkok Michelin Guide, so you know the restaurant suggestions are on point. With detailed reviews for accommodation of all ranges and advice that reads like it comes from your best-traveled best friend, Frommer’s is a great guide to Thailand with tons of quality tips and insights about Bangkok.
A whole guide dedicated just to Bangkok…if you’re spending more than a couple days in the city (and you should), the Lonely Planet city guide to Bangkok is super useful. Having begun writing for Lonely Planet in Chiang Mai last year, I can vouch that they expect a lot of their contributors! That’s good news for you and whether you’re on the hunt for a new lunch spot, where to go for nighttime bar-hopping or want to learn more background info on Asia’s City of Angels, this guide is a great buy.
Simply another classic guidebook.
When first glancing at a map you might get the impression that Bangkok has a sensible grid system of numbered roads. This would be a very, very mistaken impression. The capital is really not that walkable due to its size, traffic, and constant heat and humidity – the city is a maze to navigate, easy to get lost in and has you tripping with sweat in less than five minutes of stepping outside. That said, I still think walking is the best way to explore a place and you never know when you might find something amazing around the corner. Not your average guidebook, 22 Walks in Bangkok invites you to lean into the experience and discover the city’s hidden gems. With deeply researched histories, it’s a great way to acquaint yourself with the city’s backstory as much as its backroads.
Looking for more books about Thailand? Check out this post about the country’s history, culture and design or find the best Thai cooking books here.
Hey! I'm Alana and I've spent nearly the past decade living in Chiang Mai, Thailand, working as a writer and photographer. I started Paper Planes as a place to share local insight, special places, and how to travel well through a range of experiences — from hostels to high-end hotels, street meat to multi-course meals.
New places are always calling my name...
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