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Top 5 bars in… Bangkok

Bangkok has shed its reputation as a city full of sleazy bars. A new mix of high-end drinking establishments, traditional pubs and rooftop pop-ups have taken over, and they collectively offer something for everyone. James Lawrence reports.

The view from Vertigo bar, perched on Banyan Tree hotel’s 61st floor

To the untrained eye, Bangkok’s bar scene could be nothing more than a tacky collection of underground sex bars frequented by gawping tourists, most notoriously in the area off Thanon Silom, known as Patpong.

Fortunately, nothing could be further from the truth – Bangkok’s nightlife has grown up in recent years to leave those neon dives behind, and now boasts a bar and cocktail scene that rivals Hong Kong and leaves most of South East Asia for dust.

The high-concept bars of Sukhumvit are just one example of this dramatic transformation, yet there is far more to Bangkok than lounge bars and chill-out vibes.

Modern Bangkok covers the entire spectrum, from English-style pubs where you can relax with a pint and the paper to chic watering holes – often housed inside ultra-luxe hotels – where the beautiful set go to be seen, not necessarily to imbibe.

The pop-up is another concept very much in vogue in Bangkok, taking note from the established cocktail markets. During the cool season, an evening at one of the pop- up beer gardens is a great way of soaking up the atmosphere, meeting fellow travellers and sampling local dishes.

Indeed, despite the abundance of superlative cocktail bars, many visitors associate this city with the kind of venues that don’t have an address. They exist just about everywhere in the city – think street- side plastic seating, exhaust fumes and hot, spicy nibbles that are devoured between toasts. Cheap, lively and intensely filling, these numerous pop-ups offer a fantastic way of getting to know the locals, and provide a nice juxtaposition to the expensive five-star haunts.

Bangkok is also one of the few metropolises where nobody seems to mind if you slap a bar on the roof of a skyscraper. Once the preserve of well-heeled tourists, today these numerous sky bars comprise a diverse spread, with options ranging from basic to formal. But what unites this ensemble is an unwavering emphasis on excellent service, bespoke cocktails and, of course, Instagramable views to die for.

There are many reasons to make Bangkok more than just a pit stop en route to Thailand’s tropical islands – its bar scene is certainly one of them.

Click through the following pages to discover the top five bars in Bangkok, Thailand.


Banyan Tree Bangkok, 21/100 South Sathon Road, Bangkok 10120
Perched on Banyan Tree hotel’s 61st floor, an area originally used as a helipad, Vertigo boasts four different stacked decks, ensuring that all tables enjoy an uninterrupted view of the city, regardless of where guests are sitting. Try signature drink Moon Romance, an enticing blend of melon-flavoured vodka, green crème de menthe, peach, and lime juice, served on a bed of dry ice.

Sky Bar

Lebua at State Tower, 1055 Silom Road, Bangkok 10500
Live jazz and an illuminated bar that changes colour every few seconds set the scene at the Sky Bar, which also boasts attentive service and unbeatable cocktails. My personal favourite is Sunset 63, a refreshing mix of Absolut 100 Vodka, Cointreau, pineapple and orange juice. Add to the mix spectacular views – not to mention respite from the humidity of the streets below thanks to the bar’s high altitude – and you have the perfect formula for escaping the heat and madness of this intoxicating city.

Above Eleven

Fraser Suites Sukhumvit, Sukhumvit Road, Soi 11, Bangkok 10110
A Peruvian-Japanese rooftop restaurant and bar overlooking the skyline of Bangkok, Above Eleven is inspired by the lack of green spaces in this megacity. It features a maze, structural metal trees, park furniture and faux grass-clad walls and decking.

Havana Social

Khlong Toei Nuea, Watthana, Bangkok 10110
One of the few leading cocktail bars not found at several hundred feet, Havana Social invokes the glory days of Cuba’s past, both in terms of its colonial décor and superb drinks list. Head bartender Davide Sambo is one of the great perfectionists and can turn his hand to any concoction you desire.

Bamboo Bar

Mandarin Oriental Hotel, 48 Oriental Avenue, Bangkok 10500
It is no surprise that Bangkok’s swankiest address also houses Bangkok’s most glamorous cocktail bar. The luxurious setting is complemented by the best live jazz the city has to offer, and a remarkable collection of spirits, which includes one of the largest collections of single malt Scotch whiskies in Thailand.

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