My private clients are always surprised when I recommend that they stop in shopping malls as they explore Bangkok. “We aren’t shoppers,” some of them would be tell me, “so why are you suggesting it?”
It’s only when they get back from their trips that they understand my rationale. (And, expectedly, many of them used the air-conditioned detour from Bangkok’s oppressive heat to do some of the shopping they insisted didn’t interest them. But I digress!)
We’ve all got different reasons for wanting to know what the best malls in Bangkok are. Today, I’m simply laying out the facts.
Why Even Non-Shoppers Love Bangkok’s Malls
You don’t have to be on the hunt for retail therapy to find what you’re looking for in the best malls in Bangkok. Some of this is simply practical. As any Thai will tell you, malls are above all a place to go for free air-conditioning. The fact that most happen to be stylish, spacious and full of things you might need anyway is simply a bonus, one I’ve availed more times than I can count.
Another reason travelers (and locals) of all kinds love Bangkok’s malls? Well, I’ll explain more about this in a second, but let’s just say that it relates to food. Specifically, food courts. Now, I know what you’re thinking. Mall food courts—didn’t those go out with the 90s? Well, just as Thailand’s malls represent a new (and better) era in retail, so too do its mall food courts change the game.
The Best Malls in Bangkok
Opened in 2005, Siam Paragon is the mall that begun the transformation of Rama I Road in central Bangkok into a shopping powerhouse. It’s endured to this day, offering a wide range of shopping, dining and excitement (kids will love the Sea Life aquarium; adults will love the cinema) literally connect to BTS Siam Station. It’s connected to the slightly less impressive Siam Center and Siam Discovery malls, which have the same owners.
Next on the list of best malls in Bangkok is one of Siam Paragon’s neighbors: centralwOrld, which is similar to Paragon in terms of the overall experience it offers. Opened in its present form in 2007, its closeness to Paragon means that many travelers visit both on the same shopping trip. centralwOrld is home to Bangkok’s most unique Apple Store, and is the closest major mall to the Erawan Shrine and Ratchaprasong intersection.
The bad news? Since its construction on the site of the former British Embassy in the early 2010s, the ultra-luxe Central Embassy has taken on an unfortunate nickname among locals: “Central Empty.” The good news is that it stays in spite of this, likely buoyed by the enduring profitability of the Central Chidlom department store next door. I can’t afford most of what they sell here, though the Eathai and Open House food courts are right up my alley.
For a time, I wondered whether Icon Siam would ever rank among the best malls in Bangkok. And not because of what it offers—it’s the largest, most opulent mall in Bangkok, by bar, buoyed by a gorgeous riverside location with amazing views of the Bangkok skyline—but because how inconvenient it was. And still is. If you don’t go by car or taxi, you’ll either need to ride a boat from BTS Saphan Taksin Station, or the vestigial BTS Gold Line.
MBK Center, located caddy corner across Phaya Thai Road from Siam Discovery, will always hold a special place in my heart. It’s the first place I ever set foot in Bangkok a decade and a half ago, and where I bought my first-ever DSLR camera. In addition to this, it remains a formidable destination for shopping deals and is home to my favorite mall food court, where you can sample authentic Thai street food in air-conditioned comfort.
The Secret Weapon of Bangkok’s Best Shopping Malls
If you know Bangkok well, you might be surprised to see that I didn’t list the popular Terminal 21 mall, located near BTS Asok Station and MRT Sukhumvit Station. I almost did, however—and not because I’m terribly impressed by its shopping options. Rather, the Pier 21 food court on the 5th floor is probably the best local food court in Bangkok. And I explained in the MBK section why food courts are such a secret weapon for Thai malls.
Conversely, a lack of excellent food courts are why I declined to list popular malls like EmQuartier and Platinum Fashion Mall as being among the best malls in Bangkok. These places ares awesome for shopping, but you may find yourself underwhelmed if you get hungry. EmQuartier’s food court is both more expensive and less expensive than Siam Paragon’s; Platinum Fashion Mall’s is just a bit run-down.
Other FAQ About Malls in Bangkok
What is the most famous shopping mall in Bangkok?
The most famous shopping mall in Bangkok is probably either Siam Paragon or centralwOrld. Both are located a short walk from the city’s center station (Siam) and both boast grand construction, luxurious shops and a steady stream of happy shoppers from literally all over the world.
Is MBK shopping mall better than Platinum?
On the whole, I prefer MBK Center over Platinum Fashion Mall, simply because MBK offers a wider array of products and services, namely jewelry, pharmaceuticals and electronics. On the other hand, if you’re on the hunt for cheap clothes, no other mall in Bangkok compares to Platinum.
Does Bangkok have luxury shopping?
Bangkok has some of the most impressive luxury shopping centers in the entire world. With multiple locations of top brands like Gucci, Fendi, Prada and Louis Vuitton (to name just a few), you will have a very hard time running out of high-end options during your trip to Bangkok.
The Bottom Line
I hope this round-up of the best malls in Bangkok has helped you plan your trip, whether you’re a shopaholic, or simply want an escape from Bangkok’s heat. My favorite thing about Bangkok’s malls is that they’re so convenient—you can pop in for a minute (for an hour) without obstructing the rest of your sightseeing. Many travelers will stop for lunch at MBK en route from Jim Thompson House to Erawan Shrine, or cool off with a walk around CentralEmbassy after an exhilarating walk through Lumpini Park. Need personalized help putting your Thailand trip together? Consider hiring me to plan it!