Where is The Best Floating Market Bangkok has to offer?

You have heard that seeing a floating market in Bangkok is a must, but are they just big tourist traps or do they still offer an authentic Thai experience? Today Bangkok local Stephen Christopher shares his thoughts on the best floating markets in Bangkok so you can decide for yourself.

Bangkok is well-known as a shopper’s paradise, with markets being huge draw cards. There are wet markets, dry markets, weekend and night markets. However, one style of market has been operating in Thailand for centuries, and that is the floating market.

Sadly, they’re a dying breed, and where there used to be hundreds, there are now less than twenty. When visiting Bangkok, an excursion to a floating market is something you must add to your itinerary.

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So which one should you visit? I’ll get to that shortly; I’ve broken it down to the three most famous and then three that are still used by locals.

Before that, here’s a brief look at the history of floating markets and what you can expect today.

Why are there Floating Markets in Bangkok?

Back in the day, before roads were built, the Chao Phraya River was the main artery of Thailand, and trade of anything and everything was conducted on the river. Farmers would bring their produce down to the river, load it into a small boat and sell it to others travelling up and down the river.

Many people lived in houses right on the river, and their only mode of transport was a boat. They conducted all business in the middle of the river, boat to boat. This activity earned Bangkok the nickname ‘the Venice of the East.’

USMC Archives from Quantico, USA, CC BY 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons

The Chao Phraya River has many tributaries (called Khlongs). People lived along the river banks and travelled to the main river to conduct business.

When 20th-century development arrived in Thailand and roads were built, some of these Khlongs were filled in and turned into roads.

Gradually, the river became less popular as a place to conduct business as people began to live and work inland. Land-based markets opened in place of floating markets, and the industry changed forever.

However, like many things in Thailand, they’re not lost forever. There are still some floating markets left, and that’s what I’ll tell you about now.

What are Floating Markets like Today?

These days, floating markets are geared more toward tourists, and sadly some of them are pure tourist traps, but there are some that locals still visit.

To get a glimpse of how life was conducted in ancient times, a trip to a floating market is the perfect way to immerse yourself in a time long gone.

Damnoen Saduak Floating Market, Ratchaburi
A typical day at Damnoen Saduak Floating Market, Ratchaburi

Now, I need to prepare you. These days, the floating markets in Bangkok aren’t like you’ve seen in movies and pictures. You can still be in a boat on the river, but the market stalls are actually mostly on the riverbanks.

Almost all of them are still riverside and require access by boat, but the shops aren’t actually in boats on the river; they’re on solid ground.

The good news is that one still exists! Damnoen Saduak floating market is the only traditional one left, and I’m going to cover that next.

These days, most floating markets are tourist traps, but as a unique experience that gives you a sense of life hundreds of years ago, they’re something you should visit at least once in your life. The first three in my list are the most popular floating markets and the ones whose pictures you’ve seen in tourist publications and online.

Damnoen Saduak Floating Market

Damnoen Saduak is the only floating market left that operates as tourists expect, and for that reason alone, it is a must-see.

Locals selling fruit, food and souvenirs at Damnoen Saduak

You can travel up the river by boat and purchase all kinds of food, drinks, souvenirs, or Thai produce from boat sellers. It’s a fun experience and well worth spending a few hours there.

As it’s one of the most famous floating markets in Bangkok, it gets extremely crowded, so prepare for traffic congestion on the river. My advice is just to sit back, literally, and soak it all in.

What You Need to Know

Damnoen Saduak floating market is actually 100km southwest of Bangkok and is best to do as a half-day tour. See our recommendations below.

When: It’s open every day of the year, except for some Thai public holidays, between 8am and 12pm.
Where:Damnoen Saduak District, Ratchaburi (map)
How: 100km southwest of Bangkok book at tour or private driver to visit.

Amphawa Floating Market Bangkok

The second most popular floating market near Bangkok is the Amphawa Floating Market. It’s an afternoon market and smaller than the Damnoen Saduak Floating Market. Unlike Damnoen Saduak, almost all the boats are moored on the side of the river.

Amphawa Floating Market opens in the late afternoon

You can still travel in a long-tail boat and purchase items, but it isn’t the same experience as you’ve seen in pictures.

It’s about an hour and 80km southwest of Bangkok in the Samut Songkram province, and it has accommodation nearby for those wanting to make it an overnight trip (highly recommended).

If you time your visit with the crescent moon, you may be lucky enough to see fireflies on the river.

What You Need To Know

When: Unlike the other floating markets, Amphawa Floating Market is a nighttime experience. Open Friday to Sunday (excluding holidays) from 4 pm to 9 pm.
Where: Amphawa, Amphawa District, Samut Songkhram 75110, Thailand (map)
How: 85km from central Bangkok a taxi or a tour is the only way to reach the market.

You can book a private driver to take you to Amphawa with Get Your Guide if you prefer not to have to arrange one on arrival. You book now and pay later and can cancel up to 24 hours before, which is perfect if your plans change.

Taling Chan Floating Market

One of the most popular floating markets in Bangkok is Taling Chan Floating Market, and that’s because it’s actually located near the city centre. It’s in Thonburi, on the west bank of the Chao Phraya River and is easily accessible by the Chao Phraya Express Boat.

Talin Chan floating market, Bangkok, Thailand,

However, it’s very small and only has a few boats, so it might disappoint if you are looking for the full authentic experience. It’s ideal if you only have a very short amount of time in Bangkok but still want to visit a floating market concept.

Taling Chan floating market

What You Need to Know

When: Taling Chan Floating Market is open on weekends from 730am until around 5pm.
Where: 333 Chak Phra Rd, Khlong Chak Phra, Taling Chan, Bangkok 10170, Thailand (map)
How: Bus 79 from CentralWorld will take about an hour and you have a 15-minute walk from the nearest stop. It’s 25 minutes by taxi or Grab.

You can include Taling Chan market in this Chao Phraya River on a traditional long-tail boat ride

There are some floating markets that locals visit. For those living nearby, it’s a convenient way to get fresh produce at local prices. Don’t worry, as a tourist, you’re welcome to visit, and it’s actually encouraged. So here are three small floating markets, less touristy and with a more traditional feel.

Bang Nam Phueng Floating Market

Perhaps the most beautiful location for a floating market has to be Bang Krachao Island. Nicknamed the ‘Green Lung of Bangkok, ‘ this 16 square kilometres man-made island in the middle of the Chao Phraya River delivers much-needed oxygen to the concrete jungle of Bangkok city.

Ride the ferry to the island and then rent a bike to explore.

The Bang Nam Phueng Floating Market is easily accessible from the Bangkok city centre via ferry from Khlong Toei pier. After that, rent a bicycle and explore the island and the market. There are some lovely restaurants there by the Khlong where you can try some traditional Thai food.

While not a traditional floating market, it’s a market by the river, and locals in boats do come up to the shops along the bank to buy things.

What You Need to Know

When: The market is open most weekends from 8am to around 4pm. Try to get there early before the crowds.
Where: 98 Bang Nam Phueng, Phra Pradaeng District, Samut Prakan 10130, Thailand (map)
How: Only 23km from the centre of Bangkok, Grab is easiest but you can take a small boat from the Khlong Toei Pier and rent a bicycle on arrival.

Want someone else to make all the arrangements? There is a 6 hour tour to Bang Kachai and this floating market available on Get Your Guide.

Tha Kha Floating Market

A popular floating market that locals love to visit is the Tha Kha Floating Market in the Samut Songkhram Province.

Since COVID-19, it has become a lot smaller, and I wouldn’t recommend you travel here if it’s the only floating market you’ll visit, or you may be disappointed. Most of the produce here is local food, fruit and vegetables, and cane sugar.

Conveniently, Tha Kha Floating Market is only 10km away from Amphawa, so if you get the timing right, you can visit them both on one trip.

You can even hire a boat and paddle around the village and the fruit orchards.

What You Need to Know

When: The opening times are a little confusing. It’s open for 5 days in a row, but that changes with the phases of the moon. The good news is that it’s now also open on weekends from 6 am to 2pm.
Where: Tha Kha, Amphawa District, Samut Songkhram 75110, Thailand (map)
How: 80km a grab or private driver is your best option.

This half-day tour includes a stop at Tha Kha and a chance to learn about the traditional Thai lifestyle and culture from your guide.

Bang Phli Floating Market

Just south of Bangkok, in the Samut Prakan province, is Thailand’s oldest floating market, known as Bang Phli Floating Market.

Bang Phli floating market in Samut Prakan.

Originally called Sirisophon Market, it’s been there for almost 200 years and is the only building that survived a fire and remains in its original condition. To see a market that’s been unchanged for years, this is the one to see.

Once again, it’s not a traditional floating market as it’s a market by the river, but you get there by boat, and it’s well worth the visit for a chance to step into Thailand of yesteryear.

What You Need to Know

When: Unlike the other floating markets in Bangkok, it’s open every day from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., except for holidays.
Where: JP36+89P ตลาดโบราณบางพลี Tambon Bang Phli Yai, Bang Phli District, Samut Prakan 10540, Thailand (map)
How: You can get here by catching a boat from behind the Big C shopping centre at Bang Phli.

There are dozens of day tours to Damnoen Saduak Market and some of these combine with a visit to the nearby railway market. This makes sense and that’s what we did the first time we visited. Tours to other floating markets are not as common, but you will find some private tours to the Amphawa Floating Market.

Most of these tours have a very similar itinerary. The tours are almost all 6-7 hours and allow 1.5 hours for travel each way, leaving you with 3-4 hours for the markets.

Bangkok: Damnoen Saduak Market and Maeklong Railway Market tours

All these tours depart Bangkok in the morning, usually between 7-8am. The first stop is usually at the railway market as this needs to be timed with the train arrival. You only stay a short time here and then move on to the floating market.

A river boat ride is usually included and you will have enough time here to enjoy lunch and some shopping.

The main difference is the mode of travel, local transport, mini van, private air-conditioned vehicle. You choose the level of comfort you are happy to pay for.

Some of the cheaper tours include stops at sugar markets or other “tourist” shopping experiences. I would pay a little extra to avoid these and have more time at the destination.

So which tour would I choose?

I would not choose a day tour to the Damnoen Saduak market that included Ayutthaya as it really cuts into your time in Ayutthaya and is not in the same direction of travel, so it just doesn’t make sense to me.

It makes a little more sense to combine Kanchanaburi and this market tour, but it would still not be my choice unless I was staying in Kanchanaburi for 3 days or more as there is so much to see there.

Want something different? See the full range of floating market tours here.

Depending on which market you visit, you can buy a wide range of items, from souvenirs to locally crafted items and fresh produce, like locally harvested tropical fruit. However, the most popular items at floating markets are food and drink.

This is your opportunity to try Thai food that you may not have had the chance to eat in Bangkok. And I encourage you to do just that. It’s one of the reasons you’re in Thailand, right?

And as you’re riverside, you can’t pass up the opportunity to eat fresh seafood.

Fresh river prawns, salt crusted grilled fish, mango sticky rice, pork satay, BBQ grilled chicken, Thai noodles and almost any other street food you’ve heard of can be found at one or more floating market in Bangkok.

None of the floating markets in Bangkok have an entry fee. You may need to pay if you choose to travel by one of the many wooden boats into the heart of the market, but it’ll be a small fee.

The bulk of the funds you’ll need are for the transportation to and from Bangkok to the markets, but again, it’s not a huge amount of money.

Can I ask you one favour, though? Please support the locals at whichever market you visit by buying something from them, whether it’s fresh fruit or a souvenir. This is their livelihood, and sure, they’re mostly there for you, but please support them as much as you can.

It makes me so sad to see tourists visiting one of these floating markets and taking photos with the locals, but not spending any money. So please be a traveller who cares about your footprint and supports the local community.

Be Sure to Visit one of the Floating Markets in Bangkok

A trip to Bangkok isn’t complete without visiting one of the few remaining floating markets nearby.

  • To get the full authentic experience, you must visit Damnoen Saduak Floating Market. Be prepared for crowds, but it’s worth it.
  • For an overnight experience, Amphawa Floating Market is your next best option.
  • And if you don’t have the time to leave Bangkok, Taling Chan Floating Market is the one for you.
  • To experience a more local floating market, the Bang Nam Phueng Floating Market on Bang Krachao Island is a must.
  • If you are going to see Amphawa Floating Market, combine it with Tha Kha for a double market experience.
  • If Thailand of the past is your interest, then the Bang Phli Floating Market in Samut Prakan is your best option.

Enjoy your visit to one of the floating markets in Bangkok.

Want more markets? Check out our guide to Bangkok’s best night markets. Heading to Phuket, this guide to Phuket’s island’s markets is a must read. For some of the best markets in all of Thailand, Chiang Mai markets will not disappoint.

About the author: Stephen left Australia in 2016 with a one-way ticket to Thailand
and hasn’t been back since. Seven years later, he’s “living the ex-pat dream”, married and settled down; he and his partner travel across Thailand competing in half-marathon running events and sampling coffee at cafes.