[UPDATED 8 Sep 2019]
Pratunam, Chatuchak and Siam - these places immediately come to mind when you're talking about Bangkok. But do you find yourself visiting the same old spots every time you're in the Thai capital? Do you wish to go off the beaten path and explore a new neighbourhood without the hordes of tourists?
Well, we know just one place that you'll love - Charoenkrung! Also known as Bangkok's "creative district", Charoenkrung is located along the banks of the Chao Phraya River and it's an eclectic mix of art galleries, cafes, shopping spots and more. Believe it or not, there's also a vibrant Muslim community here too - so finding halal food and mosques isn't a problem ? To help you get around this district, we've prepared an all-in-one guide to uncovering Charoenkrung!
P.S. Heading to Bangkok? Let us help you plan your trip! Check out our handy 4D3N Muslim-friendly itinerary to Bangkok ☺️
1. Instagrammable spots
Yes, we know. Your vacation just won't be complete without some photos for the 'gram!
Street art at Charoenkrung's alleys
Lucky for you, Charoenkrung's alleys (soi) are filled with street art. Who knew you could find street art in Bangkok, right?
Well, thanks to the Bukruk Urban Arts Festival which was held in 2016, artists from all over the world left their mark on some of the walls around Charoenkrung. Head to Charoenkrung Soi 28, 30 and 32, and strike a pose with the interesting artworks ? Our favourite has got to be the carved wall art by Portuguese artist Vhils (left) which shows faces of the local community.
Location: Charoenkrung Soi 28, 30 & 32
If you prefer a more minimalist backdrop, head over to Warehouse 30, one of Bangkok's newest hangout and shopping spots. This space is made up of WWII-era warehouses which were abandoned and now refurbished into shops, art spaces, galleries and cafes. With its chic industrial vibes, you can pose with its iconic red gates or stand in the middle of its corridors for that perfect shot ?
Location: 48-58 Charoenkrung Soi 30
Thailand Creative & Design Center (TCDC)
Credit: @muhami.co on Instagram
As its name suggests, TCDC is a design learning resource centre for creatives and here's where you can admire works by budding artists. The building once used to be Bangkok's Grand Postal Office. While the inside has been refurbished with sleek and modern architecture, the exterior has been well-preserved for around 80 years.
Credit: @gustoniya on Instagram
Make sure you head over to the design library or rooftop to snap the best photos! Oh, and did we mention the rooftop has a pretty great view of Bangkok's skyline too? ?
Location: 1160 Charoenkrung Rd
Opening hours: 10am - 9pm (closed on Monday)
#HHWT Tip: Want to travel like a local in Bangkok? Check out our list of insider tips that every Muslim traveller needs to conquer the Thai capital!
2. Variety of shopping options
It isn't a trip to Bangkok if you're not going to shop till you drop! Time to give Pratunam, Siam Square or Chatuchak a break and explore the shopping options at Charoenkrung instead. The best part is, there are options for every budget so you don't have to worry ☺️
P.S. Looking for the best shopping spots in Bangkok? We've got you covered with our list of top night markets you have to visit!
We'll start with Thailand's biggest riverside and one of the newest fancy malls in Bangkok - ICONSIAM. This mall gained lots of interest when it first opened in November 2018 and it's not hard to see why! Other than over 1000 stores spread over 2 malls, ICONSIAM also has an indoor floating market, a museum and Southeast Asia's tallest fountain show ?
Credit: @yngmary on Instagram
You can also find all the international brands here, from luxury ones to favourite fashion brands like H&M. Not to mention a 7-storey Takashimaya, Thailand's first Apple store and Southeast Asia's first Nike Kicks Lounge where you can customize the designs for your Nike shoes! There's definitely something for everyone at ICONSIAM.
Location: 299, Charoen Nakhon Rd
Opening hours: 10am -10pm daily
Klong San Market
If you think that ICONSIAM's shops are going to burn a hole in your wallet, then Klong San Market will be the exact opposite - the things here are perfect for those of you on a budget!
Credit: Royal Orchid Sheraton Hotel & Towers on Facebook
Here's where the locals come to shop so you'll be able to catch a glimpse of their daily lives. The best part is, you can find cheap clothes and accessories here from just 100 THB ? Take your pick from trendy clothes to t-shirts, handbags, shoes, cosmetics and more. You can also find some local snacks here!
Location: Klong San Pier, Charoen Nakhon Rd
Opening hours: 7am - 1opm daily
The Knack Market
Opened only on the last weekend of every month, consider yourself lucky if you can catch this market!
Exuding hipster and laid back vibes, The Knack Market is the place to go if you're looking for original crafts by local designers. While it's on a much smaller scale than most night markets, what you find here will probably be one of a kind!
Other than shopping, you can also enjoy some live music here - perfect for a chill night out ?
Location: 41/1-5 The Jam Factory, Charoen Nakhon Rd
Opening hours: Last weekend of every month, 4pm - 9pm
Besides being an Instagrammable spot, you can also do some shopping at Warehouse 30. Get your fix of vintage fashion here or look for independent fashion labels. Or you can find some unique souvenirs and classic items like old vinyl records too ?
Location: 48-58 Charoenkrung Soi 30
BONUS: Asiatique The Riverfront
Located further away from the main Charoenkrung district, we can't resist adding Asiatique to the list! Shopping here is unique as it combines the experience of shopping in both a night bazaar and shopping mall. With 1,500 stalls sprawled over 4 zones, you can find almost anything here from cheap fashion accessories to high-end local designer brands and electronics.
Credit: Asiatique The Riverfront on Facebook
With its European-like decor and red bricks, the ambience at Asiatique feels different from other markets too. Many restaurants here have alfresco areas too so you can have a taste of waterfront dining.
Location: 2194, Charoenkrung Rd
Opening hours: 4pm - 12am daily
3. Vibrant arts scene
Charoenkrung's vibrant arts scene is the reason why it's dubbed the "creative district" of Bangkok, so it'll be a waste not to check it out! Other than TCDC and Warehouse 30 which we mentioned earlier, here are more places you can go to check out the arts scene:
The Jam Factory
Similar to Warehouse 30, The Jam Factory has a creative space, cafe, bookshop in what used to be an old factory. Here, you can check out the gallery of renowned Thai artist Duangrit Bunnag which showcases the works of young artists.
Credit: @maying1023 on Instagram
The Jam Factory also hosts flea markets like The Knack Market and live performances which are held in its spacious outdoor area.
Location: 41/1-5, Charoen Nakhon Rd
Opening hours: 10am - 8pm daily
Institute of Islamic Art
Who would have thought that you could find a spot for Islamic arts in Bangkok? Established in 2017 and run by Muslim artists and non-Muslim scholars, here's where you can admire Arabic calligraphy and learn more about Islamic history.
Credit: @fangsquare on Instagram
It's fascinating to watch the artists practise their craft and you can even have your name written in Arabic calligraphy! The institute also holds workshops, exhibitions and lectures from time to time and they are open to the public too.
Location: 29, Charoenkrung Soi 36
Opening hours: 10am - 6pm, Mon - Fri
Looking for something off the grid? Then head to the independent galleries around Charoenkrung. These spaces are where you can really see the dedication of local artists and their creativity. Check out Speedy Grandma to see the works of emerging local and international talents which range from photography, comic strips illustrations and graphic designs.
Credit: @goodmorningmint on Instagram
Another gallery - Soy Sauce Factory - used to be an actual soy sauce factory in Bangkok's Chinatown. Focusing mainly on photography exhibitions, Soy Sauce Factory's exhibitions rotate every 3 to 4 weeks so you can always expect something new!
Location: 672/52 Charoen Krung Rd
Opening hours: Fri-Sun, 1pm-6pm, Wed-Thur, 1pm-7pm, closed on Mon and Tue
Soy Sauce Factory
Location: 89 Yotha Rd, Khwaeng Talat Noi, Khet Samphanthawong
Opening hours: Mon-Sat, 10am-7pm
4. Halal food galore
No need to go hungry while you're exploring Charoenkrung! With a large and vibrant Muslim community, (we'll get to that later?) you can find halal restaurants, street food and Muslim-friendly snacks here.
P.S. If you're looking for the best halal local food in Bangkok, we've got you covered with our ultimate Bangkok halal food guide!
One of the eateries you can't miss in Charoenkrung is the legendary Muslim Restaurant, which has been around for 70 years! It specialises in Thai-Muslim cuisine which is a mish-mash of Thai, Indian and Malay flavours.
On our trip to Bangkok last year, we really enjoyed the Beef Satay (THB 80) and their Mutton Biryani (THB 180). While the food here is not typically Thai and looks more like something you'd find back home, we'd still recommend heading here simply for its nostalgic vibe ☺️
Halal status: Muslim-owned
Location: 1354-1356, Charoenkrung Rd
Opening hours: 6.30am-5.30pm daily
Street food outside Haroon Mosque
For a truly local experience, head over to the street stalls outside Haroon Mosque to satisfy your cravings for Thai food. There are around 5-6 stalls here selling pad thai, kway teow noodle soup, rice with dishes, Thai rotee and more ?
All the stalls here are owned by Muslim vendors but we still recommend that you dine at your own discretion!
Location: Charoenkrung Soi 36 (there's a large gate with a sign reading Haroon Mosque, the stalls are located after the gate)
Opening hours: varies by stall but most stalls close at around 2-3pm, so do head here early!
Muslim-friendly Thai snacks
After treating yourself to a scrumptious meal, we're pretty sure you'd still have some space left for dessert. Take a walk down Charoenkrung Rd from Saphan Taksin BTS Station and you'd be greeted with a number of Thai dessert stalls. One of our favourites is Sor Boonprakob at Charoenkrung Soi 44 which is know for their mango sticky rice. It's creamy, salty and sweet all at once ?
Legend has it that locals have been queuing up for their sticky rice since the reign of King Chulalongkorn! The shop also sells other rice-based and tapioca-based desserts. Walk further down the street and you'll find a lady sitting outside Meng Meng Pawnshop who sells egg sponge cakes (kanom kai). We tried it and it tasted very much like kuih bahulu!
#HHWT Tip: If you're getting the mango sticky rice from Sor Boonprakob, make sure you arrive early as it usually gets sold out by 12pm!
Location: along Charoenkrung Rd from Saphan Taksin BTS Station
Opening hours: Sor Boonprakob (5am - 6pm daily), Egg Sponge Cakes (12pm - 7pm daily)
5. Large local Muslim community
One of the amazing things about Charoenkrung is that it's a mix of everything. Here's where tradition meets modernity, and cultures converge. You can find Chinese and Buddhist temples, churches and mosques here too. Did you know that the district is also home to a large Muslim population? One of the things that you must do while in Charoenkrung is to interact with the local Muslim community!
We'd recommend heading to one of Bangkok's oldest and most beautiful mosques - Haroon Mosque. The mosque was built in 1837 by Haroon Bafadel whose father was an Indonesian-Arab trader from South Borneo and you can still find remnants of Javanese architecture in the mosque today ?
We visited the mosque during our trip last year, and we loved that the area surrounding the mosque was bustling with street food vendors, which makes it easy to mingle with local Muslims. We chatted with some locals and that's how we found out that the mosque has been standing for almost 200 years!
Credit: Oldtown Hostel Bangkok on Facebook
What's interesting about the Muslims here is that many of them look different from the average Thais. That’s because many Muslims here have a mix of ancestry – Thai, Malay, Middle Eastern, Indian and even Chinese – but all of them call Bangkok home. It’s really fascinating to see how Islam cuts across racial boundaries ❤️
6. Different ways to explore Charoenkrung
As Charoenkrung is located slightly away from the main touristy areas on Bangkok, it is only served by 1 BTS Station - Saphan Taksin - but that's what makes exploring it such a fun experience!
With the hot and humid weather in Bangkok, you might put off walking as public transport is convenient and taxis are pretty affordable too. But did we mention that Charoenkrung Rd is also the oldest paved road in Bangkok? So, exploring the area on foot will enable you to really immerse yourself in the daily lives of the locals and learn about the heritage of the district!
Whether you sign up for a walking tour or follow an online guide, you'll be able to explore the back alleys of Charoenkrung and uncover a different side of Bangkok which many travellers usually don't get to see. Local tour companies like Expique and Co Van Kessel organise walking tours regularly and the best part is, you'd be able to learn more about Charoenkrung's history from a local guide ☺️ If you're feeling more adventurous, you can go on a walking tour by yourself by using this guide!
#HHWT Tip: Do start your walking tour in the morning when it's less hot!
Go on a bike tour
Here's something you don't normally get to do in Bangkok - go on a bike tour! While most of the bike tours bring you beyond Charoenkrung, they start from the district itself. Bike tours are perfect if you're looking for a leg workout and a cultural immersion. There are various tours you can sign up for - from visiting temples to going around Bangkok's Chinatown (near Charoenkrung). You can even opt for a bike+boat combo tour or go on a night tour ?
On our trip to Bangkok last August, we signed up for a sunset bike tour on Klook and we got to explore the Thonburi district of Bangkok (opposite Charoenkrung). The tour started from the Royal Orchid Sheraton in Charoenkrung and brought us to temples, churches, local markets and iconic monuments like the Grand Palace, Wat Arun (temple of dawn) and Wat Pho (temple of reclining Buddha). It was a really eye-opening experience!
P.S. For more bike tours, you can also check out Go Bangkok or Co Van Kessel.
Take a boat with locals
Most travellers tend to overlook this mode of transportation while in Bangkok but the truth is, Bangkok is made up of many rivers and canals. The landmarks in Charoenkrung district and its surrounds are located along both sides of the Chao Phraya River so, the cross-river ferry service is one of the most widely used transport services by locals.
Costing just THB 4.50, you can take the boat from Si Phraya Pier and alight at Klong San Pier. Chances are you'll be one of the only few foreigners on the ferry and this gives you a chance to mingle with the locals! This is also the ferry to take if you're visiting Klong San Market, ICONSIAM, The Knack Market and The Jam Factory.
Another way of experiencing this is by going on the Chao Phraya Express Boat Service. The service makes pit stops along the Chao Phraya River and you can check out the routes on their website!
7. Hipster cafes
Bangkok has seen a booming cafe scene in recent years and Charoenkrung has seen its fair share of hipster cafes too. Here are some places to hang out at in the district.
Disclaimer: None of the cafes listed below are halal-certified or Muslim-owned and they only serve drinks and dessert. However, we strongly advise you to check with the staff if their desserts or drinks contain alcohol or animal derivatives and visit them at your own discretion!
Located in an old shophouse space which has been tastefully refurbished, Homu is one of the newest cafes to open in Charoenkrung and specialises in traditional Japanese desserts.
Its vintage exterior with blue-painted doors and wooden decor is a hotspot for the 'gram but that's what makes the cafe stand out as well ? Look out for little trinkets in the store which are mostly handmade!
Credit: @throughgather on Instagram
Step into the cafe and it's a walk down memory lane, with rattan chairs, bare brick walls, wooden furnishings and warm lighting, creating the perfect ambience. Enjoy a lovely afternoon here sipping on their signature floral tea or try their desserts like warabi mochi.
#HHWT Tip: While traditional Japanese desserts are usually plant-based, we still advise you to check with the staff if their desserts contain alcohol or animal derivatives.
Location: 32, Charoenkrung Soi 44
Opening hours: 8am-6pm daily
Bridge Cafe & Art Space
A cafe and art space in one place? Consider us sold! With its high ceiling and whitewashed brick walls adorned with artworks by local artists, chilling out at Bridge with a cuppa is an experience like no other ? You can get your fix of coffee, smoothies or organic teas here!
Credit: @marattaya on Instagram
The furniture at this cafe is also tastefully arranged so it doesn't disrupt the art gallery vibe of the cafe. While you're at Bridge, don't forget to check out its charming rooftop which has a view of the Chao Phraya River!
Location: Charoenkrung Soi 51
Opening hours: 11am - 8pm (closed on Tuesdays)
a Coffee Roaster byli-bra-ry
Located within the Warehouse 30 compound, this well-known coffee chain serves one of the best coffees in town. We love how the cafe has an open concept. Set within the industrial interior of Warehouse 30, the baristas make their handcrafted drinks in the middle of the room, and customers will sit around them ☺️
Watching the baristas put in their heart and soul into making your drinks is an experience in itself! Not to mention that the coffee here is aromatic and just what you need for a pick-me-up.
Location: 48-58 Charoenkrung Soi 30
Opening hours: 10.30am - 8.30pm
We hope we've piqued your interest to explore this lesser-known side of Bangkok! Bet you didn't know that this charming district of Charoenkrung has everything you needed for your Bangkok trip - from Insta-worthy spots to awesome shopping places, yummy local food and more ? Time to call your travel buddies and plan that repeat trip to Bangkok!