The 3 best areas to stay
in Bangkok

The 3 best areas to stay
in Bangkok

I have not met one person yet that did not know how to feel about Bangkok. You either hate this giant Thai city for all its flaws and vices, or you fall in love with it. Probably for all its flaws and vices. Luckily, the latter happened to me. To increase your chances, here are the 3 best areas for you to stay in Bangkok, Thailand:

  • Favourhood N° 1 Bangkok Riverside

    Calm(er), with a breeze
    and a view

    Bangkok Riverside
  • Favourhood N° 2 Silom

    Der großbürgerliche,
    noble Bezirk

    Silom
  • Favourhood N° 3 Sukhumvit

    Lorem ipsum dolor,
    sit amet

    Sukhumvit
  • Maybe not

    The not so good,
    the bad and the ugly.

    Maybe not

The 3 best areas in Bangkok.

  • 1 Bangkok Riverside
  • 2 Silom
  • 3 Sukhumvit
  • Maybe not

Staying Riverside – Calm(er), with a breeze & a view


Every time I touch down at Bangkok Airport, every time I set foot on Thai ground, my mind goes through the same three stages:

Being irritated first by the friendliness and quiet softness of people, even at the airport. I felt it the first time I got here and it changed into pure joy and thankfulness to be back again the second time I visited Bangkok.

Being overwhelmed is the second stage by all the noises, the smells and the sheer volume of moving parts in this city. It happens the moment I hit traffic, right after leaving the airport. This feeling never goes away, not for me at least.

I sure hope the third stage is there to last as well: Calming down to a point where I start questioning the pace and directions I take in my normal life, while staring at the ballet of boats on the river. The River of Kings this shiny, sometimes smelly path, connecting north to south and you to your soul, if you are open to it.

You will get:

  • amazing sunsets
  • a timeout from traffic and noise (if you find the right spots)
  • surprised by how effective & amazing boatrides are
  • enough of visiting temples (by boat)

It's a weird thing when you think about it: What makes being „riverside“ special is not the river per se. Standing right next to it is not that amazing actually. But getting over it, looking across it, at the other side of whatever part of Bangkok you are is one of the truly mesmerizing things you can do in that overwhelming city.

So follow me. Release a fish or two into freedom for good karma, if you think you need some. Slow down, use one of the old-timey shuttle boats to cross the water instead of freezing in the A/C of the Sky Train. Relax and be cool sweating.

Get a daily pass for the ferry boats that will take you from one temple to the other & back to your riverside highrise apartment or luxury hotel quicker than anything else.

Use the time saved to find the Tuk-Tuk driver that looks least likely to get you killed in traffic. Be okay with yourself and the fact that you will pay too much for the ride. Cross a bridge at night. Enjoy the magic of a multicolored, flickering kaleidoscope of break lights, placed right in front of your face. Be a happy person for once.

Slow down & use one of the old-timey shuttle boats.

Crossing the River of Kings is one of the truly mesmerizing things you can do in Bangkok

Practical tip for staying Riverside

Saint-Germain-des-Pres itself is not full of sights and spectacular buildings, but it is right in the middle of most of them: Louvre, Centre Pompidou, Hôtel de Ville, Notre-Dame, Pont Neuf, Sainte Chapelle, Jardin du Luxembourg, Musée d'Orsay ... all of those are less then half a mile away. So use Saint-Germain as your base and walk as much as you can.

Le Marais – Jewish, gay and artsy


The first time I came to the Marais, I was stunned by how quiet it was.

"It's a jewish neighbourhood, you know?" The receptionist at my hotel was surprised I didn't know it was Shabbat. "Jews and models. The girls love it here because there's a hairdresser at every corner. And they don't get harrassed in the evening. You know ... everybody is gay here as well!"

Everybody is a bit different in the Marais. What was once a swamp that the temple knights turned into liveable space, is a fascinating piece of Paris today. A neighbourhood of different microcosms, overlaying each other. Nobody hides here. Nobody denies who they are. In the Marais, it's the people that define the atmosphere, instead of the architecture being the dominant factor.

You will get:

  • a vibrant neighbourhood
  • central location
  • great falafel
  • less tourists
  • a fancy haircut

Situated north of the Seine, the Marais is the big exception. The Right Bank is dominated by glorious palaces and the amazing megalomaniac works of Haussmann, the city planner that shaped Paris: Six-lane-streets, mile-long alleys and breathtaking views everywhere. Not in the Marais though. Narrow streets, small squares and colourful graffiti on the wall; that's more like it.

Apart from it's unique, friendly but not always polished atmosphere, there is one factor that makes the Marais so attractive: It's very central.

Things that are very near: the Seine Islands, Notre-Dame, Centre Pompidou and the Louvre. Things that are literally in the neighbourhood: City Hall, Picasso Museum and probably the most beautiful square of Paris: Place des Vosges.

Everybody is a bit different. Nobody hides in the Marais.

It's the people that define the atmosphere here.

Practical tip for Le Marais

To get a great overview over the city quickly, visit Centre Pompidou and simply buy a "View of Paris" ticket for the terrace on 5th floor. In contrast to other central viewpoints (such as Eiffel Tower, Notre-Dame and Arc de Triomphe), there are no waiting lines and overwhelming crowds usually.

Passy – Noble and green


If you live in the 16th Arrondissement you basically made it: into the high society of Paris, into the One-Percent, into an embassy or at least a gated community. "From the 16th" means that you are wealthy. Or hiding nuts in a park.

That’s because "Passy" – the actual name of the district – does not only consist of villas and roundabouts with fountains. Parks and sports facilities make up half of the Arrondissement's area, the biggest being "Bois de Boulogne". Not only is this one of the biggest city parks in the world, it's almost three times bigger than Central Park!

Between this enormous recreational area and the Seine lies a district, that has what the other two Favourhoods lack because they are in the center of the city: calmness and the vibe of a posh suburb. Passy consists of several formerly independent villages that nowadays are connected by one thing: noblesse.

You will get:

  • suburban quietness
  • a residential feeling
  • culture and noblesse
  • expensive cars behind security doors
  • bored if you want
    inner-city-buzz

That noblesse has different faces though: In the northern part of Passy, between the Triumphal Arch and the Seine, you will still get a big-city-feeling, although the area is already much less stressful than nearby Champs-Élysées. The streets are quiet and narrow, with little space between buildings. There is a sense of neighbourhood here that other parts of the city do not have.

Going further south, the character of the district changes: streets become wider, the area itself flatter and houses lower. In exchange, gardens appear, growing roses, magnolias and surveillance cameras. If you are a french pharma executive or arms dealer, that’s where you send your kids to private school.

Almost half of all parisian museums and embassies are in the 16th Arrondissement. Apart from that, the district is also home to "Stade Roland-Garros" (French Open, tennis) and the stadium "Parc des Princes" (Paris Saint-Germain, soccer).

Embassies, museums, parks & private schools.

If you live in Passy,
you basically made it

Practical tip for Passy

Get up on Arc de Triomphe shortly before sunset. If you are lucky, the sun will set behind the amazing skyline of "La Defense". But be clever and buy your ticket online before. Skipping the line at the ticket counter will save you a lot of time. Important info: to get to the Arch, do not cross the gigantic roundabout! Use the underground tunnels, even if it's challenging to find the right one.

Paris is one of those cities where you should really pay attention to the area you are staying in. The spectrum ranges from stunningly beautiful to plain scary:


  • Not as interesting: Districts with two-digit numbers. With the exception of the 16th and parts of the 17th, that are decent residential areas. Especially the outher districts in the north and east are not for visitors and considered a bit unsafe.

  • Avoid everything outside of the 20 Arrondissements. Especially the Banlieues in the north-east are not only far out but also unsafe.

  • Avoid areas around railway stations (Gare du Nord, Gare de l’Est) and big metro stations such as "Châtelet – Les Halles". Extremely hectic and attracting small crime.

  • Don't stay directly next to big sights. Montmartre: although some areas are pretty and romantic, the neighbourhood as a whole is unpleasently touristy and partly dominated by sex shops. Directly at Champs-Élysées: stressful during the day and dodgy at night.

Paris in under a minute

How Paris is structured:

  • There are 20 districts called "Arrondissements". The first of them is in the very center of the city. From there on, they are arranged in a clockwise outwardly moving spiral.

  • The river Seine divides Paris into left bank ("Rive Gauche") and right bank ("Rive Droite"). Both terms are used by Parisians to characterise their residents: left bank means artsy, bohemian and intellectual; right bank conservative, elegant and business-oriented.

  • The two islands in the Seine – "Île de la Cité" and "Île Saint-Louis" – are landmarks on their own. Many of the popular sights like Notre-Dame cathedral are located in this area.

  • On paper, Paris stops where the 20 districts end. Huge areas, that seem to be part of the city – like the notorious Banlieue suburbs and the impressive office district La Defense – are actually outside of the official borders.

How Paris is structured

  • There are 20 districts called "Arrondissements". The first of them is in the very center of the city. From there on, they are arranged in a clockwise outwardly moving spiral.
  • The river Seine divides Paris into left bank ("Rive Gauche") and right bank ("Rive Droite"). Both terms are used by Parisians to characterise their residents: left bank means artsy, bohemian and intellectual; right bank conservative, elegant and business-oriented.
  • The two islands in the Seine – "Île de la Cité" and "Île Saint-Louis" – are landmarks on their own. Many of the popular sights like Notre-Dame cathedral are located in this area.
  • On paper, Paris stops where the 20 districts end. Huge areas, that seem to be part of the city – like the notorious Banlieue suburbs and the impressive office district La Defense – are actually outside of the official borders.

Fast Facts

Airport to city

You will most probably arrive on one of the two big airports: Paris-Charles-de-Gaulle (Code CDG) or Paris-Orly (Code ORY).

  • A taxi ride from Paris-Charles-de-Gaulle (they also call it "Roissy", don't confuse it with "Orly"!) costs either 50 or 55 €, depending on which side of the river Seine you are going to. It's a fixed rate and will take you 35 to 45 minutes.

    The many direct busses get you to numerous places in central Paris (and also to the other airport) for between 11 and 21 € in about an hour. Here's a good overview.

    The RER trains (line B) are even less expansive. There are two stations at the airport, depending on which terminal you arrive. It takes the train around 30 minutes to get to the inner city stations. You can use the same 10 € ticket there to change to the Metro.

  • A taxi ride from Paris-Orly costs only 30 or 35 € and takes around 30 minutes to the city center.

    The cheapest way to get to the city from Orly is the tram line 7. It will connect you to the Metro line 7 in around 30 minutes for only 2 €.

    Somewhere inbetween taxi and tram in terms of prices are the numerous bus and railway lines. Get an overview here.

Safety

Paris had to deal with two safety challenges over the course of the last years: Riots in the suburbs ("Banlieues") and single terror attacks.

The riots are not a topic anymore but as a visitor you should avoid the Banlieues no matter what. You have much more to lose there than to discover. The area around the railway station Paris North ("Gare du Nord") has a bad reputation in terms of on-the-streets safety.

To counter the terror threat, Paris increased the presence of police and military in the city noticeably. So expect check points and waiting times around the bigger sights.

Getting around

  • With its 300+ stations the Paris Metro is one of the biggest subway systems in the world. On average there are only 500 m between stations. That means that you can basically get anywhere with it in the city, but it may take a while. Combine that with the fact that 4.2 million people use the metro every day and you can imagine it is not always a pleasant experience.
  • Walking might be the preferred way of getting around in a city as architecturally spectacular as Paris but do not underestimate the distances! The straight and wide boulevards with monumental buildings at the end might let you think you could go there in 5 minutes. You can’t most of the time.
  • In addition to the metro there are also the train lines (RER) that, in the end, you can use for the exact same purpose: covering big distances.
  • In regards of taxis, Paris is a quite typical european city: drivers are known to be more on the unfriendly side and often do not speak anything but their own language. Tourists might get a bit of an "extra tour" to increase the income of the driver, but over all prices are european average.
  • The preferable alternative in my opinion is Uber. There are plenty of Uber cars, so waiting times are short. The rates are usually a bit lower than with taxis and there is no language barrier because the driver sees where you need to go on the Sat-Nav. Extra tours and impoliteness is almost never a problem due to the rating system.
  • Unfortunately the car sharing program Car2Go is not available in Paris.

Opening hours

Shops in Paris are usually open monday to saturday between 9 am and 7 pm. On sundays and holidays they stay closed. Super markets are an exception, they often stay open until 9 pm and on sundays. Around Champs-Élysées you can go shopping basically all the time except from during the night.

The best time to travel

  • The best time to travel to Paris might be the months may, june and september – if you consider weather as the most important factor. It’s warm then, but not hot. Occasional rain can happen all year long in Paris anyway. The flip side of this months: lots of other visitors as well. Some locals even say during september Parisians are a bit more grumpy than usual because their summer vacation is over ;-)
  • Speaking of a lot of tourists: If you don’t mind them, you can also visit during the hotter summer months of july and august. A lot of the residents leave Paris during this time and some restaurants stay closed.
  • Be aware that during january, march, the beginning of july and in october there are fashion shows and trade fairs in Paris which makes it extremely hard to get hotel rooms for reasonable rates.

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