Bangkok, known locally as Krung Thep or the Capital of Angels, is Thailand’s largest city and one of Southeast Asia’s biggest. Its streets are bustling with cars, motorbikes, street vendors and people, and its skyline is just as chaotic. Office towers and residential buildings soar hundreds of meters from the ground up and sprawl over this gigantic capital.
With no focused downtown, skyscrapers have sprung up in every direction creating a unique panorama. Unlike The Bund in Shanghai or Victoria Peak in Hong Kong, there is no natural point to view the city. So the best way to appreciate the view of this vast and flat city is to go up to the top floor of the high-rises.
There is no shortage of rooftop bars and restaurants in Bangkok from which to take in the incredible views and enjoy a great cocktail or fabulous meal. Some of the city’s best rooftop bars are distinctively different from one another and offer an entirely different vantage point of the city. From scintillating towers to luminous temples, we have chosen five of the best for you to put on your must-visit list.
We start off our list with perhaps the best-known and most popular rooftop bar in the city, Sky Bar, which was featured in the second film of the stagparty-gone-wrong comedy trilogy The Hangover. “I come here because I saw it in the movie,” said one guest. “It has been on my bucket list since I saw the movie,” said another.
The bar welcomes about 300 guests per night, more during the weekends and holidays. One of their signature drinks, called Hangovertini, was created specifically for the cast and crew of the film. The drink is still on the menu today and is the bar’s most popular drink.
Located on the 63rd floor of the Lebua Hotel at the State Tower (the fourthtallest building in Thailand), Sky Bar claims to be the world’s highest open-air rooftop bar at 247 meters above ground. The adjoining Sirocco is the world’s highest alfresco restaurant, which offers both à la carte and four- or sevencourse wine-pairing menus of Mediterranean cuisine. The restaurant is a good place to sit down and enjoy the sweeping views as there are no seating areas at Sky Bar, which can get crowded during sunset and after 10 P .M.
The bar and the restaurant offer a panoramic view of the city’s financial district and the curve of the Chao Phraya River. The illuminated bar changes color every 90 seconds, while the golden dome, and the grand staircase all add to the stunning view of the huge city and the river. Live jazz music is played nightly from 7.30 P .M to 12.30 A.M. The price of the drinks starts from $16.
This high-end bar observes and enforces a very strict dress-code policy. Staff will be checking and turning people away right at the elevator on the ground floor. So it would be wise to not wear any athletic or sports uniforms, torn clothing, slippers, sandals, or flip-flops. Men should also avoid sleeveless clothing, shorts, and open shoes.
Sky Bar is only a few minutes taxi ride from the city’s Chinatown and the gay entertainment district of Silom. It is also accessible via BTS Skytrain and river boats. It is seven-minute walk from the Saphan Taksin Station, ten from Surasak Station and seven from the Oriental Pier at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel.
Signature cocktail: Song High (peach purée, plymouth gin, limoncello, homemade lime syrup).
Popular cocktail: Hangovertini (Chivas 18, Martini Rosso, laphseng liqueur, homemade rosemary syrup–guava juice).
Open: Daily from 6 P .M.–1 A.M. Lebua at State Tower , 1055 Silom Road., Tel: 662-624-9999. www.lebua.com/sky-bar
The second bar on our list may not be as famous as the first, but it is almost as high and makes up for its lack of notoriety with its impressive view and convenient location. Red Sky is a rooftop bar and a restaurant that occupies the top floors of the Centara Grand hotel adjacent to Thailand’s largest mall, CentralWorld. It is only a few minutes’ walk from two of the nearest Skytrain stations: Siam and Chit Lom.
Red Sky offers views over much of the Bangkok skyline, with everything from the old town in the west to the business districts in the east and the south. It is surrounded by tall buildings and is very close to the Sukhumvit area, which is one of the most densely populated parts of the city with hundreds of condo towers and office buildings. It is also near many of the city’s famous shopping malls and hotels.
The bar is named after the color of the sky during sunset and, according to Nicolas Loreau, director of restaurants, it offers “…the best sunset view in the heart of the city.” Red Sky rooftop bar has “…the largest seating area compared to the other bars in the city, where the bar is just a small section in a restaurant,” Mr. Loreau said.
The bar section, which is on the 56th floor, can accommodate up to 150 people and is usually packed during sunset and around 9.30 P .M. to midnight. There are no advance reservations for the bar, and a smart-casual dress code applies, which means no flip-flops or sportswear.
There is a DJ playing lounge and house music nightly starting at 9 P .M. until midnight. The majority of the guests here are foreigners, including travelers and hotel guests. The bar is also frequented by local and international celebrities, diplomats, and foreign royalties.
Red Sky has an impressive eight meters-tall wine cellar with and an equally impressive wine list. Cocktails are priced at $11-$12. per drink. The bar is planning to open a new section one floor above the rooftop bar this fall. It will be an exclusive Champagne bar at the highest point of the building, which is Thailand’s sixth tallest.
Signature cocktail: Passion Fruit Martini (Super premium vodka, passion fruit, lychee, mint, and a foam cap).
Best-selling cocktail: Imperial Mojito (Havana seven years, lime juice, brown sugar, mint, and topped with Champagne). Mojitos are available in lychee, mango, pineapple, strawberry, and passion fruit flavor.
Open: Daily from 4 P .M.-1 A.M. Centara Grand at CentralWorld, 999/99 Rama I Road, Patumwan, Tel: 662-100-1234. www.centarahotelsresorts.com/redsky
MOON BAR & VERTIGO TOO
Moon Bar was Bangkok’s first rooftop bar and its success has paved the way for many more bars that have popped up throughout in the city over the past decade. Although not as high in elevation as the previous two, it offers unobscured views of the city without any nearby walls, roofs, or building structures.
Moon Bar is on the top floor of the 61-story Banyan Tree Hotel and has an adjoining alfresco restaurant called Vertigo. The newly launched Vertigo Too is one floor below and offers similar views but from a dimly lit and airconditioned bar. Both Moon Bar and Vertigo Too serve excellent drinks with prices range from $12-$17.
Hawaii-born Head Mixologist Mitchell Lum created his award-winning cocktail The Houle (HOW-ley) that won the Bacardi Legacy Thailand title and was the country’s representative to compete in the world stage. The Houle is the signature drink here and the most popular one as well, according to the self-taught mixologist who said that the drink is basically “Hawaii in a glass.”
The bars have limited drink menus with around ten to 15 cocktails listed. Mr. Lum explained that he wanted to focus on the quality of each drink instead of the number of drinks offered. However, there are secret cocktails that are not listed on the menu but can be requested from Mr. Lum and his mixologist team. They may suggest the secret drink based on the guest’s favorite type of drinks, alcohol, or food.
Although Moon Bar and Vertigo Too have similar drink menus, the vibe and atmosphere is very different. Soft music is played at Moon Bar while Vertigo Too offers live jazz sessions from 7 P .M. to 10 P .M. and a live DJ from 10 P .M. onward. Vertigo Too currently has ten DJs from Bangkok’s famous bars and nightclubs on rotation.
A world-class food and drinks selection and unparalleled view of the city are what make this venue stand out from other bars in the city, according to Lum. Due to limited seatings, it can get crowded at Moon Bar where reservations are not available. Guests are advised to come early during sunset and on holidays, and to observe a smart casual dress code.
Moon Bar is the closest venue on the list to the gay district of Silom. The closest subway station is Lumpini, which is about ten-minute walk to the hotel or 15-minute walk from the closest skytrain station, Sala Daeng, which is where the popular gay bars are located.
Signature Cocktail: The Haole (Bacardi Superior, white vermouth, lemon juice, pineapple syrup, ginger ale, all served with a big slice of fresh pineapple).
Open: Daily from 5 P .M.-1 A.M. Banyan Tree, 21/100 South Sathon Road, Sathon, Tel: 662-679-1200. www.banyantree.com
Situated on the top floor of the Fraser Suites in the night entertainment district of Nana, Above Eleven offers a New York–inspired rooftop bar experience in the heart of Bangkok. Rohit Sachdev , the founder of Above Eleven, had lived in New York for ten years and hung out in hotels like Paramount, Morgans, and Hudson. He said that after he saw the view on top of this building, he wanted to bring the New York experience and lifestyle to Bangkok.
The view from this rooftop bar on the 33rd floor features the city’s tall buildings that line Sukhumvit Road, which is one of the city’s main streets with dozens of malls and hundreds of hotels. It is within walking distance from famous nightclubs like Q Bar and Levels.
Mr. Sachdev says this bar is “unpretentious and unlike any other bars in the city.” The bar has a very relaxed dress code where everything is allowed, except flip-flops and tank tops. “This is a place to be yourself and everyone (all sexes, genders and races) is welcomed,” he told me, adding that the bar has the most affordable drinks at about $6-$10.
The bar shares the space with the restaurant, also called Above Eleven, the first Peruvian restaurant in Southeast Asia. The signature cocktail here is a variation on the national drink of Peru, called the Maracuya Sour. Above Eleven is the only bar on this list where reservations or seats can be made, but it usually fills up quickly.
The bar has Peruvian and Ecuadorian DJs playing every night from 9 P .M. to 2 A.M. There is also a special event on Wednesday nights when it is a salsa night, and on Thursday nights there is a live jazz sextet from 9 P .M. to midnight.
The bar’s central theme is “park on the roof” featuring purple-lit poles in a shape of trees and a section of the bar called Gramercy Park. One of the most interesting features of this bar is its bathrooms, which are hidden inside a hedge maze with a Woody Allen bench. Both gentlemen’s and ladies’ rooms have stunning views of the city, but the gents bathroom is special because the urinals faces the window with nothing obstructing the view of the city. The urinals here made BuzzFeed’s list of 22 Bathrooms You Need to Piss in Before You Die.
Signature cocktail: Maracuya Sour (pisco, passion fruit juice, sugar syrup, egg white, and Angostura bitters).
Open: Daily from 6 P .M.-2 A.M. 33F Fraser Suites Sukhumvit, Soi 11, Sukhumvit Road, Tel: 6683542-1111. www.aboveeleven.com
The final bar on our list may not be the first one that comes to mind when talking about rooftop bars in Bangkok. Unlike the others, it is not on top of a tall, modern building, but rather is on top of a four-story renovated shophouse in Bangkok’s old town district.
Sala Rattanakosin sits right on the banks of the Chao Phraya River next to the famous Grand Palace and Wat Pho, also known as the Temple of the Reclining Buddha. It is on the opposite side of the river from Wat Arun or the Temple of Dawn, another famous landmark in the city, which despite its name, is best viewed at dusk. This rooftop bar has the best viewing spot for the temple (the view is featured on Thailand’s ten-baht coin and a Thai tourism authority logo).
Sala Rattanakosin is a combination of a rooftop bar, a Thai restaurant, and a 15-room boutique hotel by the riverfront. Sala means pavilion and Rattanakosin refers to the historic center of the city and the current period in the history of the Kingdom where Bangkok is the capital city. Because of its location in the old part of town, it feels more local than the other bars on the list.
The drinks at this bar reinforce its authenticity with Thai herbs and spices flavoring the cocktails. The best example of this is Tom Yam Martini that features the ingredients found in Thai spicy soup like chili, lemongrass, and lime, which add a unique taste to this ordinary drink. The prices of the cocktails here range from $8-$10, and It also serves light snacks and western desserts with a Thai twist.
The bar has a simple design and décor with black, grey, and white featured as the main colors, which, according to Patcharin Juangthong, manager of public relations, gives more emphasis on the view. “We want Wat Arun to be the main star,” he said. The music at the bar is mainly lounge versions of contemporary hits, but there is no live music due to its “proximity to the residential areas.”
The guests at the bar are mostly foreign tourists and a younger crowd, while the restaurant is popular among locals. The rooftop bar will be packed during sunset between 5 P .M. to 7 P .M. and after 10 P .M. There are no reservations for the bar and it is advised that you come early to get the best seats for the view.
Guests are also encouraged to take the riverboat to the venue to get the full Bangkok old town experience. The boat ride from Saphan Taksin central pier to Tha Tian Pier costs around 40 bahts or just over a dollar. The bar is only three-minute walk from the pier through Tha Tian local market.
Signature cocktail: My Mai Tai (Bacardi, Captain Morgan, Blue Curacao, lime juice and grenadine topped with pineapple juice).
Popular cocktails: Tom Yam Martini (Pepe Lopez Silver, triple sec, and lime juice shaken with lemongrass, chili, and lime). Chao Phraya Gin Fizz (Bombay Sapphire with lime and lime juice topped with soda).
Open: Daily from 5 P .M. Sala Rattanakosin, 39 Maharat Road, Tha Tian, Bangkok. Tel: 66-2622-1388. www.salaresorts.com/rattanakosin