Thailand has quickly gained popularity among travellers. The increase in tourism can be attributed to its distinct culture, welcoming people, and delicious gastronomic efforts. Although, the main reason we all love this country is easily explained by the magnificent sights and sounds of the largest cities in Thailand.
In the south, Hat Yai rules unopposed with a triangle of great Buddha statues in the city. Meanwhile, Nakhon Ratchasima guards the country’s ancient past, while still getting on with modern life. The biggest cities in Thailand all have their distinctive charisma and, as visitors will attest, it’s worth being drawn in by it.
Bangkok tends to steal the thunder when it comes to Thai metropolises. Living in Bangkok’s shadow can’t be easy, but some of the other biggest cities Thailand has to offer like cool Nonthaburi seems to prove otherwise. And, serene Chiang Mai gazes down on the rest of the country from its lofty peak up north.
Keep reading to find out more about the most populous cities in Thailand.
Thailand’s Major Cities
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Thailand is mainly made up of rural areas, although the main cities make up about 45% of the urban population. These metropolises surround Bangkok and are important cities in Thailand as they drum up a large amount of capital through tourism and business.
The big cities in Thailand are:
- Bangkok (10,722,815 population)
- Nonthaburi (291,555 population)
- Nakhon Ratchasima (208,781 population)
- Chiang Mai (200,952 population)
- Hat Yai (191,696 population)
Bangkok: Largest City in Thailand
The main city in Thailand is home to around 10 million residents, making Bangkok the biggest city in Thailand and one of the most popular in the world. The Thai capital is a chaotic hub that’s also rich in history, art and fashion.
Bangkok is on the mainland, sitting neatly in central-southern Thailand. Most flights arrive in Bangkok but there are also buses to other locations in the country. To Chiang Mai, it’s about 11 hours by bus and 12 hours to Phuket.
Being one of the most populated cities in Thailand, it’s easy to get everything you need to travel around Thailand. It is also easily accessible allowing you to other cities near Bangkok.
There’s no shortage of things to do in this bustling city. Top of the list is a visit to the Grand Palace. The jewel tones of the spectacular buildings are offset by the dazzling white of the walls: it’s a visual marvel.
Inside, head to Wat Phra Kaew, home to a remarkable Emerald Buddha, cut from a single block of jade back in the 14th century. The two throne rooms and the Amarinda Hall are also highlights.
No visit here would be complete without some time at a floating market. Bangkok is a canal city. Vendors come on longboats piled high with fresh produce to sell and to cook into yummy meals.
There are many of these floating markets so it doesn’t matter which one you experience. Damnoen Saduak is the most famous, while Khlong Lat Mayom is more authentic with unusual fruits you’ve probably never seen.
Being the most populated city in Thailand, there’s no shortage of interesting people to meet and wonderful places to explore.
Where to Stay in Bangkok
Bangkok is one of the major cities in Thailand, so the selection of accommodation options can seem rather overwhelming. For this reason, we’ve narrowed down your options to include some of the best places to stay in the city.
1. Innspire Bangkok
Innspire Bangkok is a great place to stay, especially for digital nomads. It’s a great balance between shared and private spaces. Allowing you to socialise with other guests while still having a great deal of privacy.
Each room has a balcony overlooking the garden and courtyard. There’s a shared lounge, as well as a shared working space and access to free WiFi all over the hotel. Every room comes with air-conditioning and its own private bathroom.
Enjoy a continental breakfast at this conveniently located hotel each morning. You’ll find yourself walking distance from Thailand’s largest city’s main attractions.
2. Baan Wanglang Riverside, Bangkok
The beautiful location of the Baan Wanglang Riverside makes it an easy sell. It’s located within 50m of Wang Lang Pier and overlooks the lazily flowing river. Rooms have their own private balconies overlooking the river and have free WiFi access.
Each room has a flat-screen TV, as well as an en-suite bathroom. When you’re tired of staring at the same four walls, head to the rooftop bar and cafe to make the most of the stunning views, cocktails, and meals.
City tours can be arranged at the front desk, which takes a great deal of admin out of your travels.
3. Evergreen Place Siam
If you want to have your cake and eat it too, then the Evergreen Place Siam Hotel is the best place for you to stay in Bangkok. These modern rooms have air-conditioning, free WiFi, their own dining area, kitchenette, en-suite bathroom, and balcony with city views.
The hotel has a fully kitted-out gym that offers aerobics classes. They also have an outdoor pool and restaurant. If you’re feeling a little tense after a day exploring the city, head for a massage at the on-site spa or relax with a cafe latte at the hotel’s very own coffee shop.
Nonthaburi is a more chilled version of Bangkok. With over 290 000 people living there, it’s the second largest of the Thai cities.
This city is a slight distance to the northwest of Bangkok. These cities are so close that Nonthaburi is sometimes considered a suburb of Bangkok. It’s a 30 to 50-minute ride from Bangkok city centre and is one of the Thailand cities that is definitely worth a visit.
Although it’s just beside Bangkok, the city can hold its own with tourist attractions. In terms of temples, Nonthaburi has Wat Chaloem Phra Kiat, which is built in a beautiful riverside garden. It also has Wat Sangkhathan, which attracts tourists from around the world who come to meditate.
Koh Kret is an island that is home to very industrious Thais who produce stunning handcrafts, especially pottery. It’s also a good place just to stroll around as it’s covered in lush greenery.
The day and night markets are great places to experience a relaxed atmosphere and authentic Thai cuisine.
Where to Stay in Nonthaburi
Nonthaburi might not be the most popular tourist destination in Thailand, but it’s certainly worth seeing. Here’s where you should be staying when you visit.
1. Best Western Plus Wanda Grand Hotel
The Best Western Plus Grand Hotel offers its guest contemporary rooms with free WiFi access, a minibar, en-suite bathroom, and air conditioning.
Head to the pool for a little relaxation, or to the fitness centre to keep up with your health routine. For Thai and international cuisine, head to the on-site restaurant for a bite to eat.
2. Hop Inn Chaengwattana
If you’re looking for accommodation with free WiFi and private parking, the Hop Inn Chaengwattana is your best bet. Each room has a flat-screen TV and an en-suite bathroom. It’s a simple hotel, but great for those who plan on spending most of their time outside of the hotel.
3. Botanic Service Room @ Impact Muang Thong Thani
If you’re up for an aesthetically pleasing stay, then the Botanic Service Room is the place for you. Rooms include free WiFi, a kitchenette, an en-suite bathroom, and a garden view. The dining area and lounge are completely enclosed by glass and indoor plants hang all around the room.
If you’re looking for a stay that’s a little unique from the rest, this could be it.
Also known as Korat to Thais, Nakhon Ratchasima is both a province and city. The population is 174 332 and it’s a rapidly expanding hub for retail in the country.
If you’re looking for one of the greatest cities in Thailand to stay in, this is it. With so many rooms and hotels, Korat is an absolute gem, so it’ll be worth sticking around for a while.
Nakhon Ratchasima is situated north of Bangkok in the central-east of the country. It’s a 3 to 4-hour drive from Bangkok by car, though there are also regular public buses departing to this Thailand city.
Most of the area’s best sights lie outside of this city in Thailand. The showstopper is undoubtedly Phimai Historical Park. With a collection of ancient buildings, some as old as the 11th century, Phimai is a testament to the country’s rich heritage.
It’s one of the best sites in Thailand to view Khymer architecture. Cross the Naga Bridge, designed to take you from the world of humans to the world of the gods. Inside the city, one woman’s name dominates the monuments: Thao Suranaree. The strong, powerful consort who led the city to victory on the battlefield in her husband’s absence.
Her monument is near the city gate and provides a great photo opportunity. She and her husband also built nearby Wat Sala Noi, Nakhon Ratchasima’s premier temple.
Where to Stay in Nakhon Ratchasima
Nakhon Ratchasima is one of the big cities in Thailand that is certainly a great place to visit. There’s plenty of tourist attractions, and if you’re staying in the right location, they’ll be right on your doorstep.
1. Romyen Garden Place
If you’re looking for self-catering apartment-style accommodation, Romyen Garden Place offers privacy and style all wrapped up in one location. Each apartment has air conditioning, free WiFi, a kitchenette, and an en-suite bathroom.
On the property, you can make use of the fitness centre and shared lounge, as well as indulging in Thai, international and Japanese dishes at the on-site restaurant.
2. Triton Place
Triton Place offers rooms that are air-conditioned and a flat-screen TV. Each room has an en-suite bathroom and some of the rooms have a small seating area. Room service is available and on-site shops are there for your convenience.
3. Siri Hotel
Siri Hotel is located in the heart of the city, surrounded by excitement and energy. The hotel offers free WiFi as well as free parking. This makes it a great spot for those who plan on spending an extended period of time here.
The rooms are equipped with air-conditioning, a TV, refrigerator, and bathroom. There’s also a cafe and restaurant on the property serving a variety of different cuisines.
Chiang Mai is as idyllic as it gets. With 175 000 residents, however, it is the fourth largest of the cities in Thailand.
Chiang Mai’s way up in the north of Thailand, but there’s no challenge in terms of transport. Buses drive up from Bangkok, taking about 11 hours, while the train is slower at between 12 and 15 hours.
The first place to visit in Chiang Mai is Wat Phra That Doi Suthep, a temple on the mountainside. The 309 steps lead to an elegant example of northern Thai architecture. The temple is home to a shard of Buddha’s bone.
The grounds are a collection of rock gardens, verdant trees, and pretty monuments. A peaceful place to pause from the hustle and bustle. Try a meditation session at Doi Suthep Vipassana Meditation Centre. There’s also a proud monument to Chiang Mai’s union with Thailand on site.
Outside of the city, the Doi Inthanon National Park is a lovely day trip to make. There are waterfalls and hikes in the lush park. It’s also the location of two glittering stupas dedicated to the deceased king and his queen.
Back in Chiang Mai, San Kamphaeng Road is where you’ll find the trendiest cafes and shops. It’s sometimes called Handicraft Highway. That’s a true reflection of what you’ll see here: master craftsmen creating iconic silverware, pottery, and wood ornaments.
Where to Stay in Chiang Mai
Chiang Mai is by far one of the most popular cities in Thailand. Here’s a guide to some of the best places to stay in this city.
1. Lanna Thaphae Hotel
Lanna Thaphae Hotel features incredible views of the city. The hotel has a restaurant that serves delicious dishes. These can be delivered to your room if you’re feeling lazy. There’s free WiFi throughout the property keeping guests connected 24-7.
Each room has air-conditioning, a very basic kitchenette, and a bathroom, as well as ample cupboard space.
2. Le Meridien Chiang Mai
Located in Downtown Chiang Mai, Le Meridien Chiang Mai has a spa, four on-site dining options, and an outdoor pool. All the comforts you could wish for. The free parking also makes it a great option for those renting a vehicle during their stay.
The comfortable rooms have a flat-screen TV, minibar, en-suite bathroom, and hot tub. Guests can also make use of the on-site gym to stay fit during their time in Chiang Mai.
3. Celosia Chiang Mai
This comfortable stay offers allergy-free rooms, WiFi throughout the property, an outdoor swimming pool, and a beautiful garden. Guest rooms have air-conditioning, a flat-screen TV, an en-suite bathroom, and a terrace overlooking the garden area.
Celosia Chiang Mai serves a continental breakfast to their guests each morning, and tours can be organised from the front desk to ensure guests make the most of their travels.
Hat Yai’s population sits at about 157 000. It’s an urban hub of the south that’s both Western and Cantonese with gigantic malls and street markets.
Far south, Hat Yai’s close to the Malaysian border. As one of Thailand’s biggest cities, transport is easily accessible, you can take a bus from Bangkok. This takes around 12 hours and there are also trains running across the country.
Hat Yai has a cable car that takes visitors up the hills from the park, providing superb views that can compete with all of Thailand’s largest cities.
There’s also amazing temples in Hat Yai. Wat Hat Yai Nai hosts a massive 35m-long Reclining Buddha that’s considered the third largest of its type in the world. In gold and ivory shades, the Buddha smiles mischievously down at its visitors.
The second Buddha you must see is the Standing Buddha. Standing almost 20m high, the statue is cloaked in gold leaf and rises above the city majestically.
Another remarkable icon is the Laughing Buddha. It depicts the religious leader as an older, plumper figure, who is happily chuckling away. The complex is entered via the mouth of a large lion, something that’s best experienced in person.
To tend to your mortal needs, head over to Kim Yong Market. This is where you can browse a traditional Thai market and discover fresh fruit salads, hot chestnuts, and eyebrow-raising magic potions.
Where to Stay in Hat Yai
If there’s one thing you simply must do during your time in Hat Yai, it’s shopping. And while you’re shopping you’ll need a great place to stay.
1. Get Guesthouse
Get Guesthouse offers modern rooms in the heart of Downtown Hat Yai. Each room has free WiFi, an en-suite bathroom, as well as tea and coffee-making facilities. It’s located close to many of the main attractions in the area making it a great home base in Hat Yai.
2. Centara Hotel Hat Yai
Centara Hotel offers a glimpse into the lap of luxury with sweeping views of the city, a spa and an outdoor pool facility. The rooms are air-conditioned and contain a flat-screen TV, en-suite bathroom, as well as a personal safe.
Make use of the on-site gym or get a relaxing massage before heading to the restaurant for an indulgent meal. Centara Hotel has all the facilities you could ask for in central Hat Yai.
3. Red Planet Hat Yai
The Red Planet Hat Yai is located in the heart of the city and offers sophisticated yet cosy rooms. These rooms are air-conditioned and grant access to free WiFi.
This is a great option for those who want to be centrally located and relax a little during their stay. The on-site spa provides great massages to ensure you unwind during your time in Hat Yai.
Final Thoughts on The Biggest Cities in Thailand
Thailand’s not often considered a country of great cities and not many are heard of besides Chiang Mai and Bangkok. But if you look closer at the large cities in Thailand: with majestic Buddhas and exotic markets, these urban jungles are more than just the major Thailand cities.