Best Bangkok Riverside Hotels on the Chao Phraya River
The best Bangkok riverside hotels range from one of Bangkok’s oldest hotels, the opulent Mandarin Oriental, to the city’s most luxurious retreat, The Siam, and everything in between, from waterfront resorts with swimming pools to sleek boutique hotels offering spectacular temple views.
A stay at one of the best Bangkok riverside hotels is a must for first-time visitors to Thailand‘s capital as far as we’re concerned – or for that matter, repeat travellers seeking respite from the traffic chaos and car fumes of Sukhumvit Road and the bright lights and bustling streets of Silom. There are few things as restorative as a few days spent by the water.
The Chao Phraya River snakes through the heart of historic Bangkok. On the right bank is Bangkok’s Old Town, Rattanakosin Island, with its Grand Palace and gleaming pagodas, and atmospheric neighbourhoods of Chinatown and Bangrak, site of Bangkok’s first roads. To the north is the elegant royal neighbourhood of Dusit with its broad boulevards and leafy streets.
On the left bank is the laid-back residential area of Thonburi, home to the magnificent mosaic-tiled Wat Arun, a handsome Portuguese church, Chinese temples and mosques, two fascinating museums, quite lanes that are worth ambling, and the location of one of the most enjoyable things to do in Bangkok – a tour by long-tail boat along the khlongs or canals.
By day, the lively activity on the river is engrossing and the riverside neighbourhoods with their clear footpaths and quiet streets are so much more pleasurable to navigate than the broken, cluttered pavements of the busy downtown areas. Come sunset, there are few better places to be in Bangkok than on a rooftop bar or waterfront terrace sipping a drink as you savour the sunset over the Chao Phraya River.
Best Bangkok Riverside Hotels
Best Bangkok Riverside Hotels for the History
Mandarin Oriental Hotel
Boasting plush rooms with stupendous Chao Phraya River views, dedicated butlers on each floor, and the buzziest hotel lobby, dominated by breathtaking floral displays, the Mandarin Oriental Hotel is undoubtedly the best of the best Bangkok riverside hotels. Bangkok’s oldest hotel, the property is still fondly called ‘The Oriental’ by Thais, who book their weddings here years in advance. The Oriental began life in 1876 as more humble lodgings before being bought in 1881 by a Dutch businessman who hired an Italian architect to transform the property into the city’s most luxurious accommodations. Re-opening in 1887, The Oriental was like nothing Bangkok had seen before. Tsar Nicholas II of Russia was the first royal guest and writers such as Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Leo Tolstoy, Emile Zola, Thomas Hardy, Henry James, and Somerset Maugham followed, leading the original building to be name the Author’s Wing after the 10-storey Garden Tower was built in 1958. The Author’s Wing, pictured above, had a sumptuous remodelling in 2016 and now hosts a six-bedroom, 600 sqm Grand Royal Suite upstairs and downstairs an elegant lounge where you can still savour Bangkok’s most famous afternoon tea. Book one of the spacious corner rooms on a high floor of the Garden Tower for the most gobsmacking river vistas. Book a Thai cooking class at the Oriental Cooking School and dinner at 2-Michelin starred Le Normandie at the same time. While you’ll get to savour breakfast on the riverside every morning (don’t rush), we also recommend sundowners on the same terrace. The hotel is a 10-minute stroll or short taxi ride from the Saphan Thaksin ferry terminal and BTS Skytrain station above it.
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The best way to arrive at one of the best Bangkok riverside hotels is by long-tail boat from Saphan Taksin Pier to the private pier of Chakranbongse Villas. You’ll feel like royalty. Funny about that. This very special boutique property, set in lush tropical gardens, was built by Prince Chakrabongse in 1908 and his granddaughter Narisa Chakrabongse still lives on site in the beautiful main house. Surrounding her elegant home are lovely traditional teak Thai buildings that house seven different types of lodgings. We stayed in the spacious Chinese Suite, decorated with exquisite antique Chinese furniture, and with two double bedrooms, a living area, private terraces, and direct access to the lovely swimming pool. There’s also a waterfront Riverside Villa with a Thai-style teak apartment with modern facilities, including a kitchenette; a more traditional wooden house on stilts in the Ayutthaya style with a private veranda; and three B&B rooms. Bangkok’s star attractions, including the Grand Palace, are within walking distance, and staff can arrange private guided walks to the lesser-visited royal pagodas with a local expert and a wonderful tour of the Chao Phraya River and klongs (canals) by long-tail boat, which we highly recommend.
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Praya Palazzo is easily one of the best Bangkok riverside hotels and yet it remains something of a secret. Dating to 1923, when numerous Italian architects, such as Galileo Chini and Carlo Rigoli, were designing sumptuous mansions commissioned by King Rama V, Thai noble Praya Chollabhumipanish had his home built on the western bank of the Chao Phraya River in the popular Italian Palladio style of the times. His wife and ten children lived there happily until the mid 1940s when the main means of transport had well and truly shifted from the water to the road, and they moved to the Sukhumvit area. The building served as a Muslim foundation and two different schools, but had fallen into decay when it was bought by a professor, restored and reopened in 2009, initially as a restaurant called Praya Palazzo. This beautiful 17-room boutique hotel still serves wonderful Thai food, but it’s the high ceilinged rooms with polished wooden floors, furnished with antiques, that really make a stay here special. There’s a gorgeous swimming pool, lush frangipani-filled gardens, and a private boat to ferry you to and from Pier N13, from where you can walk to many of the key sights, including the Grand Palace and Temple of the Emerald Buddha. The Chao Phraya Express Boat Service stops here, providing an easy connection to Saphan Thaksin ferry terminal and the BTS Skytrain station.
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Best Bangkok Riverside Hotels for Luxury
For those who’ve stayed, The Siam, is the very best of the best Bangkok riverside hotels. The lavish boutique property in the royal Dusit district has a flamboyant Bill Bensley design, inspired by the Art Deco jazz age, informed by The Siam’s owners, the celebrity Sukosol hotelier family – matriarch Kamala is a jazz singer cum philanthropist, son Krissada is a rock star and actor, and his brother Kamol owns a music label. Antiques and curios, from the owners’ personal collection, such as gramophones, vintage books, retro posters, and travel trunks, decorate the public spaces and 39 rooms, including 28 suites and pool villas, of which the standout is Connie’s Cottage. The century-old traditional teak house was shipped from the old capital of Ayutthaya by the late Thai silk tycoon Jim Thompson and rebuilt in Bangkok for antique collector Connie Mangskau, who entertained the likes of Jacqueline Kennedy and Henry Ford in her atmospheric home. To make the most of The Siam’s serene location on the banks of the Chao Phraya, book a Riverview Suite, soak up the vistas from the waterfront infinity pool, reserve a window table at Chon Thai restaurant or (in dry weather) ask to dine right on the pier. Whatever you do, don’t miss cocktails and canapés on the Golden Naga, a refurbished golden teak rice barge that was used to transport rice down the river to the port. In addition to spa treatments and cooking classes, guests can sign up for some lessons in Thai kickboxing, Muay Thai, with a professional fighter, or get a sacred tattoo in the ancient Southeast Asian tradition of Sak Yant, in a specially consecrated space. A private speedboat shuttles guests between the hotel and Sathorn Central Pie near Saphan Taksin BTS station.
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Best Bangkok Riverside Hotels for Wat Arun Views
Breathtaking views of Wat Arun, the Temple of Dawn, from the beds through the floor to ceiling windows in the minimalist rooms, a gorgeous alfresco rooftop bar and ground floor terrace with even more gob-smacking vistas, and sublime Thai food (don’t miss the Massaman curry and crispy pork belly with tamarind sauce) in the superb restaurant of British Chef Tony Wrigley (also Sala Group’s Regional Executive Chef) easily make this one of the best Bangkok riverside hotels. A stay here is a must for architecture buffs – so much so that we were torn between listing it under ‘views’ or ‘design’ but the outlook is hands-down one of the most awesome on the Chao Phraya. Set within the concrete shells of a row of remodelled 19th century shophouses on the site of an early wholesale market in the historic Ta Tien community, the 17-room boutique hotel was something the old city hadn’t seen before when it opened in 2012. The original sets of Chinese shop-house folding wooden doors remain at the hotel entrance, there are raw concrete pillars and exposed brick walls, and pieces of Portuguese ceramic tiles can be spotted in the hallway floors. And yet the hotel has a very sleek contemporary look you couldn’t find elsewhere in this part of old town. It’s an easy wander from the hotel to Wat Po, the Temple of the Reclining Buddha, and some 90 pagodas but nothing beats the spectacle of sunset and the illumination of ceramic-tiled Wat Arun across the river from the rooftop bar.
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We remember way back when Arun Residence’s The Deck was the only restaurant to dine at on the Chao Phraya River in this part of the Old Town with both decent Thai food and breathtaking views looking directly onto Wat Arun. Bookings for the restaurant were required well in advance and even then, even after requesting a table as close as possible to the river, it could never be guaranteed. We recall several meals when we were seated as far away from the waterfront as possible, and spent the evening continually craning our neck to see the stupendous Temple of Dawn. Strangely enough we didn’t contemplate checking into this little hotel in a restored 19th century shop-house until years later when we were researching a Bangkok guidebook. The Old Town was for first-timers and if you’d been to the Thai capital numerous times you stayed in Thong Lor or somewhere off Sukhumvit – or so we believed in those days. We didn’t appreciate the charm of this little hotel, its comfy rooms with private balconies and sublime views, and the surrounding historic area until we’d lived in Bangkok. Don’t make the same mistake.
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