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Last updated on April 20, 2023 by Wandering our World

When it comes to Asian city breaks, the bustling metropolises of Bangkok and Seoul are hard to beat. As two of the most vibrant and happening cities in Asia, these two urban giants are packed with cultural landmarks, vibrant nightlife, superb shopping, and undeniably delicious cuisine.

However despite those general similarities, Bangkok and Seoul are also very different…

Bangkok, also known colloquially by the shortened version of its official ceremonial name, Krung Thep, has been Thailand’s capital since the late 18th century.

Its mix of bustling nightlife, historic temples, sprawling megamalls, and spicy cuisine make Bangkok a hit among many kinds of travellers, and it seldom disappoints as a city break destination.

Seoul, officially known as Seoul Special City, is the long-standing capital of South Korea and offers an intriguing blend of the old and the new.

Seoul is less chaotic than Bangkok, and the nightlife is not as famous, but with five UNESCO World Heritage Sites alongside more modern architectural marvels, there are plenty of stunning sites to enjoy in between shopping and snacking on delicious street food.

But which one is right for you?

That’s where we come in! Here we’ll compare and contrast the charms of Bangkok and Seoul to help you decide where to go for your next Asian city adventure.

So read on to find out which city offers the best shopping, day trips, cultural highlights, and, all too importantly, which one has the best food…


  1. Which Is Better For Nightlife?
  2. Which Is Better For Food?
  3. Which Is Best For Cultural Attractions?
  4. Which Is Best For Day Trips?
  5. Which Is Best For Shopping?
  6. Which Is Easier To Get To?
  7. Which Is Easier To Get Around?
  8. What Time Of Year Is Best?
  9. Our Final Thoughts
An infographic pitting Bangkok vs Seoul and showing some of the key differences that will be discovered later in the article.

Which Is Better For Nightlife?

Bangkok and Seoul are both exciting cities that offer a wide and eclectic range of nightlife options for tourists. Although Bangkok tends to have the more wild nightlife scene and attracts young people from around the world.

In Bangkok, the Khao San Road area is popular with backpackers and younger crowds, offering a bustling scene of street food stalls, live music venues, and bars that stay open late into the night.

The Patpong area is another famous spot for nightlife, with a variety of go-go bars, nightclubs, and markets that offer an eclectic mix of entertainment options.

And the Thong Lor area, known as Bangkok’s hippest district, has a superb range of clubs and bars where you can dance the night away.

Seoul’s nightlife can also be lively, with a range of experiences catering to different interests and preferences.

The Hongdae district is popular among younger crowds and students, with a variety of nightclubs, bars, and live music venues that offer a more alternative vibe.

Gangnam is also a popular nightlife destination, with a mix of trendy bars, high-end nightclubs, and upscale lounges.

And for a more traditional Korean experience, you can visit a “soju tent” or “pojangmacha,” which are street stalls that serve Korean-style snacks and drinks.

Both Bangkok and Seoul also offer superb rooftop bars, offering spectacular views of the cityscape while you enjoy a drink or a bite to eat.

Some popular rooftop bars in Bangkok include Sky Bar and Vertigo, while Seoul has several rooftop bars, including The Griffin and the Seoul Sky Observatory. Be prepared for reasonably high prices and it’s best to arrive well before sunset to get a good table.

Bangkok cityscape. Bangkok night view in the business district. at twilight

Which Is Better For Food?

If sampling new and delicious foods is high on your vacation agenda, you will not be disappointed in the offerings in either Bangkok or Seoul.

And those who like their food hot, will especially enjoy Bangkok as Thailand is famous for its spicy dishes!

As two major capital cities with around 10 million people calling each of them home, you can rest assured there will be no shortage of restaurant and food options.

Both cities have a full and extensive range of eateries, with everything from high-end fine dining to myriad fast-food outlets and everything in between.

But if you want the full flavour of these multicultural cities, you should definitely check out the plethora of superb street food options dotted around these cities.

Here are a few street-food dishes to try in each city. They are a good representation of how food differs in each city too:

Young man tourist eating Typical Korean street food on a walking street of Seoul. Spicy fast food simply found at local Korean martket, Soul Korea.

Bangkok: The Food

Khao Moo Daeng (Thai red pork and rice) is a much-loved dish in Thailand, and throughout Bangkok, you can see long lines of people queuing up in the mornings at their favorite stall.

A big queue is usually a good sign, and often these stalls sell out by 11 a.m. The dish includes a portion of rice topped with barbecued pork, some crispy pork belly, some sausage, half an egg and some fresh coriander and spring onions.

Kai Jeaow Pu (crab omelettes) are another favorite Thai staple, and there’s one particular place to go for these that’s quite special.

Raan Jay Fai in the Phra Nakhon district is famed in Bangkok for being the sole street food vendor with a Michelin star. The restaurant recently featured in the Netflix original series Street Food and is a must-visit for any serious foodie in Bangkok.

Som Tam (spicy papaya salad) stalls are ubiquitous within Bangkok, and indeed, throughout Thailand.

The salad is made using narrow strips of green papaya with roasted peanuts, beans, tomatoes, and a tangy sauce that is usually made with ingredients like garlic, chili peppers, fish sauce, sugar, and lime or tamarind juice. Tasty!

If you don’t have much tolerance for spicy food, asking for it to be pet nid noi (a little bit spicy) is the way to go…

Family enjoy eating food on street food restaurant with crowd of people at Yaowarat road, Bangkok

Seoul: The Food

Gimbap is made from cooked rice and vegetables, fish, and meat, rolled up in dried sheets of seaweed, and served in bite-sized slices.

There are many variations on the theme, with cheese, spicy squid, kimchi, luncheon meat, pork cutlet, pepper, and spicy tuna all popular choices, and it’s a great snack food when you’re on the go.

Bindae-tteok is a type of buchimgae (Korean pancake) made from mung beans. Vegetables and meat are added, and it’s then pan-fried into a round, flat pancake shape and served.

KFC (Korean fried chicken) is a little different from the KFC you may have first been thinking of.

Korean fried chicken is usually coated in a spicy and sticky glaze rather than crispy buttermilk batter. You can find KFC stalls throughout Seoul, and it’s a great late-night snack on the way home.

Young woman tourist eating Typical Korean street food on a walking street of Seoul. Spicy fast food simply found at local Korean martket, Soul Korea.

Which Is Best For Cultural Attractions?

With their rich histories, both Bangkok and Seoul are full of cultural attractions to visit and explore and they’re hard to separate in that respect.

Whether you are drawn to Bangkok’s historic temples and palaces or Seoul’s ancient shrines and fortresses, there are plenty of cultural experiences in both of these amazing destinations.

Here’s our pick of three not-to-be-missed attractions in each city, by seeing the highlights you’ll be able to work out which city could suit you the most:

Bangkok: The Cultural Highlights

The Grand Palace, which has been the official residence of the Kings of Thailand since 1782, is one of the most visited attractions in Bangkok.

Located close to the river near Khao San Road, the Grand Palace is made up several buildings and pavilions that are located around picturesque greenery and courtyards. It is divided into several quarters, with the on-site Temple of the Emerald Buddha being a particular favorite among tourists.

Wat Pho is a historic Buddhist temple complex in the Phra Nakhon District of Bangkok and is located on Rattanakosin Island, to the south of the Grand Palace.

Known to tourists as the Temple of the Reclining Buddha, its official name is Wat Phra Chetuphon Wimon Mangkhalaram Rajwaramahawihan. The more commonly used name, Wat Pho, is a contraction of its older name, Wat Photaram.

At Wat Arun, also known as the Temple of Dawn, the first light of the morning reflects off the surface of the temple with pearly iridescence, yet, ironically, many prefer to visit as the sun sets behind the temple in the evening.

The temple has been around since the 17th century, but the distinctive spire that’s its particularly known for was built in the early 19th century.

A view of Bangkok

Seoul: The Cultural Highlights

Changdeokgung, “The Palace of Prospering Virtue,” also known as Changdeokgung Palace or Changdeok Palace, is set within a large park in the Jongno District of Seoul.

It is one of the “Five Grand Palaces” built by the kings of the Joseon dynasty (1392–1897) and was added to the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1997 as an “outstanding example of Far Eastern palace architecture and garden design.”

Hwaseong Fortress is a fortification surrounding the center of Suwon, which is the capital and largest city of Gyeonggi-do, the province that encircles Seoul.

Built between 1794 and 1796 by King Jeongjo of the Joseon dynasty to house and honor the remains of his father, Prince Sado, the fortress is a huge set of buildings that even include sluice-gates over the Suwoncheon, Suwon’s main tributary, which flows directly through the middle of the fortress!

Jongmyo is a Confucian shrine dedicated to the perpetuation of memorial services for the deceased kings and queens of the country’s Joseon Dynasty. The Jongmyo Shrine was added to the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1995 and was built in 1394 at the order of King Taejo.

Japanese invaders burned down the original shrine during the Seven Years War (1592–98), and a new complex was constructed in 1601 that is still standing to this day.

Cherry blossoms in spring, Seoul in Korea.

Which Is Best For Day Trips?

While there’s plenty of history and culture to uncover within these two cities, they are both also surrounded by interesting locations that you can visit on a day trip out of the city centers.

Bangkok: Day Trips

Historic City of Ayutthaya: This ancient city was once the capital of Thailand and is home to impressive ruins of temples and palaces that offer a glimpse into the country’s rich history.

The ruins of the former capital are a UNESCO World Heritage Site, with remnants of palaces, temples, and Buddha statues to explore. Ayutthaya is about an hour by road from Bangkok, or you can cruise up the Chao Praya River for a more special approach.

Kanchanaburi: Best known as the location of the Bridge on the River Kwai and the Death Railway, the town features a memorial and two museums to commemorate the dead.

The Thai-Burma Railway was built by prisoners of war during World War II under the supervision of occupying Japanese soldiers during the war.

The bridge was also built by POWs and immortalized in the eponymous 1957 Alec Guiness war movie.

Panorama views of Bridge on River Kwai Kanchanaburi Thailand where British and Australian prisoners of war where held by the Japanese.

Seoul: Day Trips

The Demilitarized Zone (DMZ): The city of Paju is thirty kilometers northwest of Seoul and is easily accessible by a one-hour train journey from Yongsan Station.

The Joint Security Area (JSA) at Panmunjeom may be an unlikely tourist destination, but it marks the infamous Military Demarcation Line that separates South Korea from North Korea.

Soldiers from both sides often stand just a few meters away from each other, looking directly at one another from their respective sides with the blue-painted UN buildings.

Busan: South Korea’s second city may look like a long way to travel for a day trip at first glance at a map, but superb high-speed trains run from Seoul to Busan, connecting the two cities in as little as two and a half hours!

An early start can see you exploring this southern city before catching an evening train back to the capital.

Empty Korean Demilitarized Zone (DMZ), North Korea and South Korea

Which Is Best For Shopping?

Seoul and Bangkok are both renowned for their incredible shopping scenes, offering a range of options for tourists and locals looking to indulge in some retail therapy.

In Seoul, the Myeong-dong district is a must-visit for shopping, with a plethora of street vendors, department stores, and luxury boutiques.

The Gangnam district, made popular by the YouTube sensation “Gangnam Style,” is also popular for its high-end shopping malls and designer stores.

For a more traditional shopping experience, tourists can visit the Namdaemun Market, which dates back to the 15th century and offers a wide range of goods at affordable prices.

In Bangkok, tourists can explore the vibrant and bustling Chatuchak Weekend Market, which is one of the largest markets in the world, with over 15,000 stalls selling everything from clothing and accessories to antiques and souvenirs.

The Siam Paragon shopping mall is another popular destination for high-end shopping, featuring luxury brands and designer stores, and is close by many other megamalls.

For a more unique Thai shopping experience, you can visit the famed floating markets, such as Damnoen Saduak or Amphawa, where vendors sell their goods from boats on the canals.

All in all, we’d say for a more classic, ‘Western’ style shopping experience head to Seoul. But for a more culturally immersive, chaotic, yet unique shopping experience, head to Bangkok.

Looking out over downtown Seoul and the Han River.

Where To Stay According To Your Budget


Budget: If you intend to spend more time in Bangkok’s air-conditioned megamalls than in its temples and palaces, a stay at the Mövenpick Hotel on Sukhumvit Soi 15 (‘soi’ is Thai for a sidestreet) will put you in an ideal location, with the major malls only a ten-minute walk away.

Sukhumvit Road is well-connected to the city’s public transport systems, and you can move around the city quite easily from here too. See photos and rates here!

Luxury: The plush Centara Grand at Centralworld also boasts an impressive and convenient location. This hotel sits atop Centralworld shopping mall, and the upmarket Siam Paragon mall is a short walk around the corner.

The hotel also boasts one of Bangkok’s finest rooftop bars (CRU Champagne Bar), an outdoor pool, and nine dining options. The hotel is also a short walk from BTS and MTR stations. See photos and rates here!


Budget: Set in the fun and vibrant Gangnam district, a stay at Voco Seoul Gangnam, an IHG Hotel puts you in a fantastic location. The rooms of this four-star hotel are gorgeous too, and the facilities excellent. See photos and rates!

Luxury: For a taste of luxury, it’s hard to beat the five-star Four Seasons Hotel Seoul. This place is known for its celebrity treatment, exceptional service and fine dining options. Complete with indoor swimming pool and fantastic city location, you won’t want to leave. See photos and rates!

Waiter serving champagne on a tray

Which Is Easier To Get To?

As two major Asian capital cities, you should have no problems at all sourcing a flight to either destination. Both cities are served by major international airports, and both also have a smaller secondary airport for domestic flights.

Bangkok is served by Suvarnabhumi International Airport (BKK), which is a relatively new airport with good travel links into the city.

The city’s former main airport, Don Mueang International Airport (DMK), still receives international flights from within Asia but is primarily used for domestic flights. As a major Asian travel hub, there should be no problem at all finding flights that suit your dates into Bangkok.

Seoul’s Incheon International Airport (ICN) is equally well connected to the rest of the world as Bangkok’s main airport.

It receives myriad flights each day from the world’s major cities and is also a modern airport. Incheon Airport replaced the smaller Seoul–Gimpo International Airport (GMP) as the city’s main airport in 2001, and the smaller airport still receives international flights from China, Taiwan, and Japan, as well as domestic flights from within South Korea.

If you are travelling to other locations within these two countries after your stay in the capital, please be aware that your onward flight may be from a different airport than the one you arrived at.

The two smaller airports handle much of the domestic flights, and it’s worth checking your ticket before heading off in a taxi to the wrong airport…

Back view of woman tourist backpacker travel in Khao San road, Bangkok, Thailand
iStock.com/Nattakorn Maneerat

Which Is Easier To Get Around?

Seoul and Bangkok both have efficient and affordable public transportation systems that make getting around the bustling cities a breeze. And both have good links from their main airports into the cities.

Seoul’s Incheon International Airport is connected to the city center by the Airport Railroad Express (AREX) and the subway.

The subway is a cheaper option than the AREX, although it can be slower and more crowded during peak hours.

Both the AREX and the subway provide convenient and affordable options for travellers to get to and from Incheon International Airport in Seoul.

Upon arrival at Bangkok’s main airport, the Airport Rail Link (ARL) is a fast and convenient way to get to the city’s central areas.

The ARL has two lines, the City Line and the Express Line, with the City Line stopping at eight stations along the way, while the Express Line is a non-stop service. The ARL is air-conditioned, comfortable, and affordable, making it a great option, especially if your hotel is near a terminal.

In Seoul, the subway system is the most popular mode of transportation, with an extensive network that covers most of the city. The subway is clean, safe, and easy to navigate, with signs and announcements in English as well as Korean.

Buses are another popular option, with a vast network that connects even the more remote parts of the city. Taxis and ride-sharing services are also readily available, although they can be more expensive than other forms of public transportation.

In Bangkok, the BTS Skytrain and MRT Subway are the most popular options for getting around the city. The BTS Skytrain covers most of the tourist areas, while the MRT Subway provides easy access to the city’s financial district.

Both systems are efficient, affordable, and air-conditioned, which is a welcome relief from Bangkok’s tropical heat.

Tuk-tuks and taxis are also available, although visitors should be aware of potential scams and occasional overcharging by tuk-tuk drivers.

Thailand Bangkok Siam Square.

What Time Of Year Is Best?

While there’s not a bad time to visit either of these cities, the best time to visit Seoul or Bangkok largely depends on what type of experience you’re looking for and the weather conditions that suit you.

Seoul, as the more northerly destination, has four distinct seasons, with hot and humid summers and colder winters.

The best time to visit Seoul is in the spring (April to June) and the fall (September to November), when the weather is milder and pleasant.

During these seasons, the city’s parks and gardens are in full bloom, making it a great time to enjoy outdoor activities and take in the natural beauty of the city.

Additionally, during the fall, the city’s mountains turn vibrant shades of red and gold, making for a breath-taking backdrop.

The summer months (July to August) can be hot and humid, while the winter months (December to February) can be cold and snowy, making it less ideal for sight-seeing.

In Bangkok, the weather is hot and humid year-round, with temperatures typically above 30°C. The best time to visit Bangkok is from November to February, when the weather is cooler and less humid, making it more comfortable to explore the city’s sights and attractions.

This is also the peak tourist season though, so visitors can expect larger crowds and higher prices.

From March to May, the city experiences its hottest period, with temperatures reaching up to 40°C.

The rainy season in Bangkok is between June and October, with frequent rain showers and high humidity levels.

However, the rain showers are usually short-lived in the late afternoon and can provide welcome relief from the stifling heat.

Sunset at Seoul City Skyline,South Korea

Bangkok vs Seoul: Summing Up

Whether you are looking for a full-on city break, or to spend a couple of days in the capital before exploring elsewhere in Thailand or South Korea, both Bangkok and Seoul will provide you with plenty of opportunity to learn more about their cultures and histories at the same time as keeping you well-fed and entertained.

With fantastic street food at every corner to keep you energized as you explore, meandering through these giant cities is never a chore.

From superb shopping in megamalls or markets, to impressive temples and palaces, both Bangkok and Seoul have something for everyone.

Whichever of these two Asian metropolises you choose, you are sure to have a fantastic time exploring its nooks and crannies.


  • Wandering our World

    Hi and welcome to Wandering our World! This article was written by one of the Wandering our World team - a team of travel enthusiasts who live around the globe.