Selecting the best bars in Bangkok is a challenging task; it is a city known worldwide for its lively nightlife. Thousands of drinking venues lure millions of thirsty diners to the Thai capital throughout the year. Our list of the best bars in Bangkok is based on four factors: the quality of the drinks, the atmosphere, the location and their unique selling points. Our top picks are spread across all the city’s popular areas, including Khao San (popular with backpackers), Old Town, Sukhumvit Hotel and Shopping Paradise, Thong Lor and Ekkamai, and some wildcard tickets.
Maggie Choo’s is a dark and brooding basement with an unmistakably 1930s Shanghai vibe. The brainchild of famous designer Ashley Sutton, the bar features many fun accessories, including hanging paper umbrellas and terracotta warrior statues. The traditional Chinese costume swings casually back and forth on swings hanging from the ceiling. The entrance is very cool – walk down the steep steps into a small noodle shop whose much larger counter is hidden behind thick curtains. The private cabins are housed in the former East India Company bank vaults (complete with exposed brick and substantial metal doors). There is also a grand piano used for live performances. The cocktails are excellent if a bit pricey, and are often served almost ceremoniously with lots of dry ice, sides, and even cotton candy.
Havana Social Bangkok is a cool bar on Sukhumvit Soi 11 that takes the prohibition theme to a new level of authenticity. Think dim lighting, classic rum cocktails, exposed beams and crumbling plaster – the pre-1940s Cuba theme is meticulously well executed. The bar staff are smartly dressed and coiffed, as are the celebrities cool enough to find their way to this ‘secret’ bar. You will find a simulated retro phone booth. Go inside, dial the secret code, and a fake door will open at the back of the phone booth. It’s one of the most unusual bar entrances you’ll ever see in Bangkok.
The Bamboo Bar at Mandarin Oriental
Bamboo Bar Bangkok is an institution for live jazz music on the ground floor of the beautifully maintained Mandarin Oriental Bangkok Hotel. The bar is decked out in dark wood and marble, leather and wicker, with soft lighting and a mirrored ceiling, making it a popular spot for award-winning cocktails. This sophisticated place has always exuded a somewhat colonial charm of the late 19th century, but at the same time, it is vibrant and elegant.
Tuba Bar is a part thrift store, part unashamed hipster hangout in the affluent neighbourhood of Ekkamai. With its quirky decor, colossal cocktail menu and feel-good bohemian vibe, it quickly makes it onto any list of the best bars in Bangkok. The place offers a kaleidoscope of colours, furniture, and artwork, with erotic paintings lining the walls, mismatched vintage chairs, retro lighting, and quirky accessories scattered throughout, including a life-size Spiderman statue and a diving helmet from the 19th century. European brewers and ales will be particularly pleased thanks to some rare (at least for Bangkok) draft beers such as Boddingtons, Guinness and Paulaner, as well as an excellent selection of Belgian bottled beers. They also have a pool table and TV and serve decent Thai food.
Smalls Bar fell into Bangkok’s niche category of ex-pat neighbourhood bars when it opened in 2014. But as things change quickly in Bangkok, word of mouth, media attention and the fact that it’s on the same street, Smalls has become one of the biggest talked about bars in town. Occupying three floors of a converted 1960’s townhouse, Smalls is characterized by its dark and brooding atmosphere created by carefully chosen Parisian-inspired furnishings, soft lighting and a sophisticated, smooth jazzy soundtrack.