Fill your days with art
Published/Last edited or updated: 31st August, 2017
The Thai capital’s fluid art scene can be tough to crack, with no single art district where you can easily hop from one exhibition to the next. Galleries, museums and creative hubs are scattered all over the city and travelling between them can be a chore. With this in mind, we’ve strung the best of Bangkok’s art venues into five manageable itineraries.
The term “art walk” is used loosely here: most of these itineraries require some use of the metro and, given Bangkok’s typically stifling heat, you may want to employ taxis, tuk tuks, motorbike taxis or public boats for some stretches. Hours vary at the galleries, but Thursday to Saturday from 11:00 to 19:00 is generally prime time for exhibition viewing.
Before you dive in, check out Bangkok galleries worth a look-see for details on individual galleries, and Bangkok 101 for current exhibition listings. Also grab a copy of the indispensable Bangkok Art Map (available at most galleries). At the end of the itineraries we’ve added suggestions for food, nightlife and rooms geared towards creative types in each area. Enjoy.
The closest that Bangkok comes to a clearly defined art district is a stretch of Charoen Krung Road and its sois (side lanes) starting in Bang Rak near Silom Road and running north to Talad Noi on the southern edge of Chinatown. If you don’t mind walking three kilometres, this is the only itinerary that can be covered entirely on foot. A few galleries feature contemporary art and you’ll find a major design hub, but the area is best known for antique Asian art.
If starting at Saphan Taksin BTS Station, head southeast out of the station, cross Charoen Krung Road and go right (south) to grab a coffee and peep the small gallery at Bridge Art Space—it will be on the left at the foot of the “ghost tower.” Alternately, start at Oriental river ferry pier and walk straight east. Either way, keep north up Charoen Krung Road while staying on the left (west) side of the street.
Hang a left into Soi 38 and pop into OP Place to check out antique art at the galleries in this classy hall built by the French a century ago. Then leave through the back (north) exit and turn left (north) down a narrow lane. This will take you to the tree-draped OP Garden, home to Serindia Gallery and its exhibitions featuring contemporary Asia-based artists. You could then cut west down Soi 36 to check out the crumbling old Customs Building along the riverfront, or head back east to Charoen Krung and continue north.
Just after Soi 34, the Grand Postal Building is impossible to miss on the left thanks to its Brutalist architectural style from the mid 20th century. It houses TCDC, a large-scale design hub. After checking out the gallery and enjoying a view from the rooftop terrace, continue north and turn left down Soi 30. Just before this street bends at the Portuguese Embassy, wander into a dead-end lane to view exquisite Asian artifacts at Fifty Years Gallery along with sleek furniture designs at P.Tendercool. Across the lane is Warehouse 30, an artsy cluster of shops and cafes set in a restored pre-war warehouse.
Instead of returning to Charoen Krung, continue north up Soi 30 to Si Phraya Pier and catch the ferry over to Khlong San Pier on the west bank of the Chao Phraya River. Walk straight into Khlong San Market, turn right (north) down the alley before the main road and after 100 metres you’ll hit The Jam Factory, another hard-to-define art hub with a contemporary gallery, library and coffee shop.
Back track to the pier and take the ferry back across and then hang an immediate left (north) to walk past the Royal Orchid Sheraton. You’ll then arrive at River City, a shopping centre filled with antique art galleries and a few worthwhile contemporary galleries. Worth seeking out are 333 Bababa and Kalyani, both of which focus on contemporary art from Vietnam, Burma and other countries in the region.
Exit River City to the south and head east down Soi Si Phraya, and then tuck into a small cluster of alleys on the left (north) to find Speedy Grandma, an artist-run gallery that might, depending on the exhibition, be the highlight of this whole walk. Then step back out to Charoen Krung, turn left (north) and left again down Soi 24 just after the canal bridge; this will take you to Soy Sauce Factory, another edgy gallery with a happening bar and cafe.
Continuing north on Charoen Krung, by now you’ll be wading into Chinatown and the towering spire of Wat Traimit will soon appear ahead. Turn right (east) when you reach it, then left (north) on Soi Sukhon and left again at the end—cross the street and you’ll hit Soi Nana on the right. The art highlight here is Cho Why, an artist-run space hosting frequent events and exhibitions in a venerable shophouse. Even if there’s nothing going on at Cho Why, a clutch of artsy bars make this street an ideal place to end your walk.
Taking you from the cultural mix of lower Silom to the upscale Sathorn business district, this itinerary vies with Ratchadamri to Sukumvit for the best spread of contemporary art galleries in Bangkok. The stretch along Silom is fun to walk, but don’t skip out on the further-flung Sathorn galleries that often exhibit some of the more challenging art in the city. Expect around three kilometres on foot plus a final couple of stretches by taxi.
Start by walking east from the far western end of Silom Road, a 10-minute walk north of Saphan Taksin BTS Station, and hang a right (south) into Soi 21 to check out Number 1 Gallery, which hosts exhibitions by emerging Thai artists in an old wooden house. After grabbing a coffee at Hearth, turn back to Silom, go right (east) and enter the Jewellery Trade Centre. Take the escalator up to the fourth floor, where the fledgling “Silom Galleria” is home to compelling Southeast Asian contemporary art at Thavibu.
Back on Silom, continue east and pop across the road before turning left (north) up Soi 20. At the northern end of this multi-cultural lane stands the Neilson Hays Library, which is worth a look for the Colonial-period building and the art featured in both Rotunda Gallery and Garden Gallery Cafe. Afterwards, back track to Silom, cross the road and walk south down Pan Road—you can’t miss it thanks to Sri Maha Mariamman Hindu Temple at the corner. A short distance in on the left sits Kathmandu Gallery, a walk-in curiosity cabinet with photo exhibitions held on the second flood.
Continuing east again on Silom, go right (south) into Soi 9, turning west just after the Chinese cemetery and then south at Bunker Restaurant. Look for a sign on the left leading you to H Gallery, one of Bangkok’s premier contemporary galleries set in a century-old former schoolhouse. Then step south to Sathorn Road, taking the pedestrian bridge to the south side of this major thoroughfare, and take a taxi or motorbike taxi to Sathorn 11 Art Space to view works by talented young artists at the far southern end of Sathorn Soi 11.
From here, take a taxi to Naradhiwas Soi 22, or walk east on Sathorn 11 Trok 9 and take the BRT (Bus Rapid Transit) two stops to Thanon Chan Station, which is a short walk from the N22 art hub. This creative collective hosts Gallery VER and two other galleries that often feature experimental art exhibitions alongside studio space and a cafe. Finally, grab a taxi to Sathorn Soi 1 to end the day at another innovative gallery: Bangkok CityCity.
This itinerary runs from the upscale Ratchaprasong shopping district down into the expat and high society enclaves off Sukhumvit Road, with stops at several of the finest contemporary galleries in Bangkok. We walked the first five galleries (Nova to Sombat Permpoon), but you could grab a taxi for any number of stretches.
Take the BTS Silom Line to Ratchadamri Station, exit to the southeast and stroll down Mahatlek Luang Soi 3 for a look at Nova Contemporary, a sleek gallery often featuring international artists in the Baan Somthavil building. Then walk north up Ratchadamri Road and dip into the Golden Plaza shopping centre to see if Tang Gallery on the third floor is exhibiting works by established Chinese artists.
Continue north before turning right (east) on Phloen Chit Road, stopping for a moment to soak in the spiritually charged scene at the Erawan Shrine. Walk east and pass Chit Lom BTS Station, and then turn right (south) down Soi Tonson, a narrow lane following a canal draped in pine-like trees. After a few hundred metres you’ll reach 100 Tonson, a stalwart of Bangkok’s art scene and the only gallery from Thailand to ever participate in the prestigious Art Basel international art fair.
Head back up to Phloen Chit Road and turn right, stepping past Phloen Chit BTS Station before hanging a right (south) down Soi Ruam Rudee. From here you could take a motorbike taxi or walk the 800 metres down to Ruam Rudee Soi 2. To hit Kalwit Studio and Gallery, a homely affair usually featuring works by young Thai artists or the owner himself. It makes for a refreshing balance to the pricey art typically exhibited at 100 Tonson.
Make your way back north to Phloen Chit and turn right (east) again, and then cross the road using a pedestrian bridge that will drop you at the start of Sukhumvit Soi 1. Stroll a short distance north to find Sombat Permpoon, one of the oldest and largest commercial galleries in Thailand. Afterwards, head back to Phloen Chit BTS Station and take the skytrain a few stops east to Phrom Phong Station, exiting to the northeast at Sukhumvit Soi 39.
We huffed the 1.5 kilometres from here up to Subhashok The Arts Centre, another of Bangkok’s leading contemporary galleries on Soi Phon Si, though you might want to take a cab or motorbike taxi. After glimpsing the multiple exhibitions typically on display here, walk south down Soi Phon Si and hang a right (east) on Soi Phrom Chit; after 200 metres you’ll arrive at La Lanta Fine Art, one of the city’s most interesting small galleries.
Head back south to Sukhumvit and make your way to the BTS; both Asok and Phrom Phong stations are within walking distance. If it’s not yet 16:00 you could kill some time at Terminal 21. Otherwise take the skytrain a little further east to Thong Lo Station, exit to the northeast and walk over to Soi 51 to check out the often-daring exhibitions and performances at WTF Gallery and Cafe, which also happens to serve top-notch cocktails.
This northern Bangkok segment is the least cohesive of the four itineraries, taking you through various neighbourhoods and relying heavily on the skytrain. But it includes major forces in the Thai art world, even if going light on small indie galleries. Unlike the other walks that mainly include free galleries, expect to pay a total of 550 baht to hit the museums on this stretch.
Take the BTS all the way to the northernmost station, Mo Chit, and catch a taxi up to Bangkok’s single most impressive contemporary art venue: MOCA. Expect to lose a few hours gazing at works by modern Thailand’s most eminent artistic talents at this privately owned five-storey museum.
Take a taxi back south, perhaps with a detour to check out the hole-in-the-wall galleries at Chatuchak Market if you’re here on a weekend. Returning to the skytrain at Mo Chit, cruise south and get off at Ari Station, exiting on to Soi Ari to the northwest. Walk a few hundred metres west and down Ari Soi 5 you’ll reach Numthong, a gallery focusing on contemporary works by emerging Thai artists.
Back to the skytrain, keep south before hopping off again at Ratchathewi, leaving the station to the northeast and hanging a right (east) on Phaya Thai Road. A few more steps will take you to Suan Pakkard Palace on the right; step inside to view stunning bronze-age pottery, beadwork and other artefacts excavated at Ban Chiang along with a range of antiquities in a beautiful teakwood house.
Continue south for one more stop to Siam Station and exit to the southwest to take a stroll through Siam Square—keep your eyes peeled for a bunch of compelling street art down alleys and on buildings. Walk west and you’ll bump into the sprawling skywalk above the Pathumwan intersection, which connects directly to one of Bangkok’s largest art venues: BACC. After spending an hour or two in the galleries, artsy shops and cafes at this multi-floor art centre, leave to the south and stroll west on Rama I Road with National Stadium BTS Station above you.
A right (north) on Soi Kasem San 2 leads straight to Jim Thompson’s House, featuring a museum of Asian artefacts in teak houses beside contemporary exhibitions at the eponymous gallery. If this popular tourist attraction feels too manufactured for you, pop across the canal to watch silk weavers at work in one of the generations-old shops of Baan Krua Nua
Note that if these itineraries don’t leave you satisfied, you could also go for an art-heavy exploration of historic Rattanakosin and Thonburi.
David Luekens first came to Thailand in 2005 when Thai friends from his former home of Burlington, Vermont led him on a life-changing trip. Based in Thailand since 2011, he spends much of his time eating in Bangkok street markets and island hopping the Andaman Sea.
These tours are provided by Travelfish partner GetYourGuide.
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