Peruvian Desserts: 15 Traditional Sweets You Need to Try in Peru

Peruvian food is one of the most interesting cuisines not just in South America, but in the world. It combines Spanish, Moorish, African, Japanese, and Chinese influences to create world-famous Peruvian dishes like ceviche, lomo saltado, and pollo a la brasa.

Peru’s plethora of delicious savory dishes makes it arguably the best culinary destination in South America, but equally noteworthy are its desserts. Picarones and alfajores with manjar blanco are a given, but they’re just two of the many popular Peruvian desserts that should be on your list.

If you have a sweet tooth, then check out these fifteen traditional Peruvian desserts on your next visit to Lima and Peru.


If you’re planning a trip to Peru and want to really dive into the cuisine, then you may be interested in going on a food tour or taking a cooking class.


  • Food Tours: Food and Wine/Drinking Tours in Peru
  • Cooking Classes: Cooking Classes in Peru

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1. Mazamorra Morada (Purple Corn Dessert)

If you’re looking for a unique Peruvian dessert, then there’s no better way to start this list than with mazamorra morada or Peruvian purple corn pudding. It refers to a classic Peruvian dessert made with purple corn, fruits, and sweet potato flour.

This purple corn pudding is one of the most popular Peruvian desserts in the country. Known for its deep purple / burgundy color and jelly-like consistency, Peruvian purple corn is what gives the dish its characteristic color and flavor. Morada, in English, means “purple”.

Mazamorra morada is thickened with sweet potato starch (or corn starch) and can be made with different types of fruit like raisins, prunes, peaches, apricot, sour cherries, and pineapple.

Photo by ildi_papp

2. Picarones

Just as popular as mazamorra morada are picarones. It refers to a type of Peruvian doughnut made with sweet potatoes and squash deep-fried in boiling vegetable oil and drenched in chancaca sauce – a syrup made from raw unrefined sugar. It’s one of the most common street food desserts in Peru.

This popular street food snack is said to be derived from buñuelos, a type of Spanish doughnut brought to Peru by the conquistadores. At the time, the ingredients for buñuelos were too expensive so Peruvians substituted them with squash and sweet potato.

Today, picarones is one of the most popular Peruvian desserts. It’s commonly eaten for dessert after snacking on anticuchos, another popular Peruvian street food.

Photo by alexandrelaprise

3. Alfajores

If you’re familiar with South American and Spanish desserts, then alfajores need little introduction. Originally from Spain but popular in many former Spanish colonies like Peru, Argentina, Colombia, Uruguay, Paraguay, Venezuela, and the Philippines, it refers to a type of cookie sandwich made with manjar blanco or dulce de leche as its filling.

Depending on where they’re from, alfajores can be made in different ways, shapes, and sizes. The Peruvian version is typically about 1-2 inches wide and made with lots of butter and equal parts white flour and corn starch. The two cookies are held together with a generous amount of manjar blanco and then dusted with powdered sugar before serving.

If you’ve never heard of it, manjar blanco is very similar to dulce de leche – a sweet caramel cream made with thickened milk sweetened with sugar.

Photo by ildi_papp

4. Lucuma Ice Cream

If you like exotic fruits, then you need to try Peruvian desserts made with lucuma. It refers to an Andean Valley fruit native to Peru, Bolivia, Chile, and Ecuador.

Lucuma has a unique flavor reminiscent of sweet potato, butterscotch, or maple syrup. However, it’s a bit mealy and dry in texture when eaten raw, so it’s typically used as a flavoring agent in Peruvian desserts and drinks. One of the most popular is helado de lúcuma or lucuma ice cream.

Lucuma ice cream is available everywhere in Peru, but if you can get your hands on some frozen lucuma pulp (usually at Latin grocery stores), then you can try making it yourself. Other ingredients include evaporated milk (or dulce de leche), egg yolks, vanilla extract, whipped cream, and sugar.

Photo by ajafoto

Ice cream may be the most popular but lucuma is commonly made into milkshakes and juices as well.

Photo by ildi_papp

Chocolate cake is a popular dessert in Peru. Here’s a version made with layers of lucuma.

Photo by ildi_papp

This is what lucuma looks like in its natural state. It’s one of the most interesting Peruvian fruits and something you need to try in Peru.

Photo by ildi_papp

5. Torta Helada

Torta helada is as delicious as it is colorful. It refers to a classic Peruvian dessert made with layers of vanilla sponge cake, chantilly whipped cream, and strawberry gelatin. Meaning “iced cake”, it’s a Peruvian cake typically served cold in summer, hence the name.

Torta helada is a traditional Peruvian dessert commonly served at children’s parties. It’s typically made with strawberry though it can be made with peach or orange as well, or even a combination of the three.

Photo by ildi_papp

6. Cocadas

Cocadas are coconut macaroons. They’re common in many countries throughout Latin America like Peru, Brazil, Chile, the Dominican Republic, Mexico, and Panama.

Peruvian cocadas are made with grated coconut, condensed milk, egg whites, vanilla, and sugar. They can be eaten plain or topped with additional ingredients like powdered sugar, cinnamon, chopped nuts, or manjar blanco.

Cocadas are often enjoyed with coffee or hot chocolate in Peru, either as a snack or as an after-dinner dessert.

Photo by Paulovilela

7. Arroz Zambito

Arroz con leche is a popular dessert found in many countries throughout the world. It refers to a type of rice pudding dessert made with short-grain rice mixed with evaporated milk, sweetened milk, and other ingredients like raisins, cinnamon, and cloves.

Although arroz con leche is popular in Peru, arroz zambito refers to a specific type of Peruvian rice pudding made with chancaca, the same dark brown sugar used in picarones syrup. The addition of chancaca is what gives arroz zambito its signature brown color.

During colonial times, the term “zambo” was used to refer to people of African descent. Today, zambito is a colloquial term used (mainly in Lima) to describe Peruvian people with darker skin.

Dtarazona, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

8. Crema Volteada

Crema volteada is the Peruvian version of crème caramel. It’s a rich and luscious dessert made with just a few ingredients – eggs, evaporated milk, sweetened condensed milk, vanilla extract, and lemon zest.

Crema volteada literally means “upside down cream” and is in reference to how the dessert is made. Baked in a baño maria or bain marie bath, this traditional Peruvian dessert is prepared in a ring mold which is flipped over after cooling to serve the caramel custard. Drowned in a rich caramel sauce, it can be eaten as is or topped with fresh berries.

Photo by fnalphotos

9. Suspiro de Limeña

Suspiro de Limeña (or Suspiro a la Limeña) is as interesting as it is delicious. A traditional dessert from Lima, its name roughly translates to “sigh of the lady from Lima” and is in reference to its lightness, like a woman’s sigh.

Suspiro de Limeña was invented in the 19th century by Amparo Ayarza, wife of the Peruvian poet José Gálvez Barrenechea. It’s a light but extremely sweet dessert consisting of manjar blanco (dulce de leche) and egg yolks topped with a fluffy meringue made from egg whites and port wine syrup.

Photo by Gerar16

10. Frejol Colado

Frejol colado is an interesting Peruvian dessert with African influences. It’s a type of sweetened black bean dessert made with skinned and puréed black beans cooked with sugar, milk, cloves, anise seeds, and toasted sesame seeds. It’s traditionally made for Easter though it can be enjoyed at any time of the year.

MiguelAlanCS, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

11. Turron de Doña Pepa

When it comes to colorful Peruvian desserts, nothing beats turron de doña pepa. It refers to a unique Peruvian dessert made with crumbly bars of anise-flavored nougat soaked in chancaca (dark brown sugar syrup) and topped with candy sprinkles. It can be prepared at any time of the year though it’s traditionally associated with El Mes Morado, or the Purple Month.

Every October, a series of religious processions is held in Lima to commemorate El Señor de los Milagros (The Lord of Miracles) – an image of Jesus Christ painted in the 17th century. Even after much of Lima was destroyed in earthquakes in the 17th and 18th centuries, the mural was left standing, leading to this annual procession that remains one of the oldest Catholic traditions in Peru. Purple is the color of the Nazarenas nuns in Lima, hence the name El Mes Morado.

Decorated with colorful candies, this visually striking dessert tastes just as colorful as it looks. It’s flavored with anise seeds and chancaca and a host of other flavorings like lime juice, orange zest, vanilla, cloves, cinnamon, and allspice.

Photo by Gerar16

12. Tres Leches

If you’re familiar with Latin American desserts, then tres leches cake needs little introduction. Meaning “three milks” in Spanish, it refers to a popular sponge cake soaked in three types of milk – evaporated milk, sweetened condensed milk, and heavy cream. It’s often topped with whipped cream or meringue and dusted with cinnamon.

Photo by anna.pustynnikova

13. Pionono

Pionono refers to a popular Peruvian sponge cake roll. It’s typically filled with manjar blanco though it can be made with other fillings like dulce de leche, pastry cream, jelly, chantilly cream, or chocolate cream. It’s a soft and delicious dessert that’s best paired with a cup of Peruvian coffee or hot chocolate.

If you’re familiar with desserts from southern Spain, then you may recognize pionono. The Spanish original is a much smaller rolled pastry that originated in Santa Fe, a small town just west of Granada.

Photo by flanovais

14. Pie de Limon

Pie de limon is what Peruvians call lemon meringue pie. But unlike your typical lemon meringue pie, it’s made with local limes for a uniquely Peruvian twist.

Photo by fudio

15. Torta de Chocolate

As you can probably guess from its name, torta de chocolate refers to Peruvian chocolate cake. It isn’t the most unique or exotic Peruvian dessert on this list, but it’s delicious and one of the most popular desserts in Peru.

When done right, Peruvian torta de chocolate is perfectly moist, fluffy, and chocolatey. It’s topped with a rich chocolate frosting and sometimes with fresh Peruvian fruits like aguaymanto (Peruvian groundcherries).

Photo by MSPhotographic


Simply put, no one knows Peruvian desserts better than a local, so what better way to experience the cuisine than by going on a food tour? Not only will a local guide take you to the city’s best Peruvian markets, restaurants, and food stalls, but they’ll be able to explain all the dishes to you in more detail. Check out Get Your Guide for a list of food tours in Lima, Cusco, and other destinations throughout Peru.


Going on a food tour will lead you to the city’s best local restaurants and markets, but if you want to really learn about Peruvian cuisine, then you may be interested in taking a cooking class. Check out Cookly for a list of cooking classes in Lima and Cusco.


When discussing trademark dishes in Peruvian cuisine, savory foods like ceviche and pollo a la brasa dominate the conversation. But as this list shows, authentic Peruvian desserts like mazamorra morada and suspiro de limeña should be part of the discussion.

With so much going for it like Machu Picchu, the Inca Trail, and Rainbow Mountain, there are many compelling reasons to visit Peru, not the least of which is Peruvian cuisine and its delicious traditional desserts.


Some of the links in this article on Peruvian desserts are affiliate links, meaning we’ll earn a small commission if we make a sale at no additional expense to you. As always, we only recommend products and services that we use ourselves and firmly believe in. We really appreciate your support as this helps us make more of these free travel guides. Thank you!

Featured image by ildi_papp. Stock images via Depositphotos.

Spanish Desserts: 20 Traditional Sweets You Need to Try in Spain

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Irish Food: 12 Traditional Dishes to Look For in Ireland

EDITOR’S NOTE: Traveleater Emily Henry shares with us twelve traditional dishes to try on your next visit to Ireland.

When reflecting on the most delicious and recognized cuisines from around the globe, Ireland is rarely, if ever, mentioned.

Ireland, of course, is most known for its majestically rugged landscape, fetching folk music, and mouth watering ales. But there is a world of delightful dishes that are part of the history and traditions of the Emerald Isle. Irish food is hearty and comforting, with a familiarity and humbleness to it that makes many dishes both charming and irresistibly delicious!

If you ever find yourself traversing through this breathlessly beautiful country, here are just twelve of the traditional Irish foods you will want to make certain you try before you leave!


If you’re planning a trip to Ireland and want to really dig into the cuisine, then you may be interested in joining a food tour.


  • Food Tours: Food and Wine/Drinking Tours in Ireland

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Traditional Irish food is simple but hearty. Ireland is home to an abundance of locally grown produce and fresh fish and seafood caught from the surrounding waters of the Atlantic Ocean.

Bread and potatoes form an important part of the Irish diet. Bread usually accompanies the main meal while potatoes have been an important part of Irish cuisine since the 18th century. It can be prepared in a number of ways and continues to feature prominently in many traditional Irish recipes.

Ireland is not rich in fruit but it does have a thriving meat and dairy industry. Its temperate climate allows pastures to grow grass for about ten months a year making it an ideal place to raise cattle, sheep, and pigs.


1. Irish Stew

Meat and potatoes are likely the two foods that come to mind when thinking of Ireland. And, nothing reflects the warmth and homegrown comfort like a good old hearty Irish stew.

Made with what most Irish would find in their pantry or growing in their garden all tossed into one single pot, Irish beef stew is a simple yet satisfying meal that’ll fill the belly and warm the soul. It’s one of those foods that can bring you back to another place and time with each spoonful.

With a base of root vegetables and beef, it’s the perfect dish to make in the dead of winter or on a cold and rainy spring day.

Photo by bhofack2

2. Irish Soda Bread

The number of variations on the recipe for Irish soda bread will likely match the number of families in Ireland. Starting off with the base recipe, added twists and ingredients have resulted in an endless variety of breads that vary from family to family and even between generations.

And, even though it’s bread, there’s no yeast in the recipe, and most recipes will traditionally call for golden raisins and dried cranberries. Other variations can include dashes of honey, sugar, bran, and even Guinness, just to name a few.

A mainstay on the Irish dinner table, you’ll find Irish soda bread best served straight out of the oven or day-old toasted with butter.

Photo by bhofack2

3. Colcannon and Champ

Potatoes once again take center stage, this time in their creamy mashed rendition alongside cabbage and spring onions. It’s a classic comfort food – creamy, buttery and plentiful. And, adding bacon to this traditional Irish dish only elevates it to the level of unavoidably irresistible.

How is this dish even better than your run of the mill mashed potato? How about a generous dollop of butter sat right in the middle, slowly melting its way down. Much like Irish Soda Bread, every family seems to have their own rendition of this Irish classic.

Photo by fotek

4. Shepherd’s Pie

Perhaps one of the most well known Irish dishes, Shepherd’s Pie is typically made with a layer of ground beef or lamb with vegetables and topped with creamy whipped mashed potatoes, then baked and browned to perfection.

It’s a hearty meal that originated in Scotland as a proper pie, complete with crust rather than potatoes. Once it landed in Ireland, however, they swapped out the pastry for potatoes that are inexpensive and plentiful throughout the country. And, to this day shepherd’s pie is most commonly recognized as being made with mashed potatoes and not pie crust.

It has also become a quite popular way of using up leftovers, as there is really no limit to what vegetables and meats can be combined to prepare the base.

Photo by bhofack2

5. Boxty

Once again potatoes make their stand, in yet another delicious rendition.

An amalgamation of raw grated potatoes and mashed potatoes, Boxty is a resourceful way of combining the potatoes already cooked with the potatoes waiting to be cooked. Mix both together into a patty, fry them up and top the potato pancake with a dollop of sour cream and a generous sprinkling of spring onions.

Traditionally, boxty is paired with bacon and fried eggs, but they can hold their own just fine when presented as a solo offering. Served for breakfast, lunch, dinner or anything in between; there’s never a wrong time of day to enjoy this Irish potato pancake!

Photo by fanfon

6. Barmbrack

Barmbrack, commonly shortened to “brack”, is most often associated with Halloween but can be enjoyed any time throughout the year.

At Halloween, however, it’s baked with a little extra surprise in the form of trinkets and coins mixed into the dough. Be lucky enough to grab a slice with a coin, and you’re destined to find wealth in the year ahead; Find a ring, and you can start planning to walk down the aisle.

Made with juicy raisins or dried fruits, this sweet loaf is made even more delicious when it’s soaked in tea and whiskey. Enjoy a thick slice of this fortunetelling fruitcake with an afternoon tea.

Photo by ganzevayna

7. Boiled Bacon and Cabbage

Admittedly, this dish sounds painfully bland and boring, however it’s one of the most popular favorites across the land.

The boiled bacon in this dish isn’t what most people on this side of the pond would recognize as bacon. Salted pork shoulder is the base of the dish, boiled with onions, carrots and herbs and finished off with cabbage for the last ten minutes of boiling.

Finished off with a delicate and creamy parsley sauce, it’s an unexpectedly delicious and traditionally Irish meal – and one that isn’t centered around potatoes and doesn’t even need to see a potato touch the plate.

Photo by fanfon

8. Cured or Smoked Salmon

Cured or smoked salmon is the most popular way to enjoy this protein throughout Ireland. And, it can be found in any meal of the day, be it breakfast, lunch or dinner.

Pair it with scrambled eggs in the morning, atop a salad for lunch or with boxty for dinner. It’s also great just on its own! As the most common type of fish served up in Ireland, salmon is a staple in Irish kitchens.

Photo by Fotosmurf

9. Black and White Pudding

Nope, don’t be deceived, this is not a dessert! But, it is a staple in Irish cuisine. This is actually a type of sausage that is given the name based on whether or not the sausage has been made with blood.

Black pudding – which actually has a purplish hue – is a type of blood sausage while it’s sidekick white pudding is simply made without the blood. Making its appearance more frequently than white pudding, black pudding is often served in a traditional Irish breakfast, both within Ireland and abroad.

© O’Dea at Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 4.0, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

10. Honey Glazed Carrots and Parsnips

Although potatoes are the most common root vegetable seen in Irish dishes, it doesn’t mean that other roots can’t make an appearance every now and again!

As a side dish, honey glazed carrots and parsnips go together with meat or fish and are quick, simple and such a yummy combination of sweet and savory. They add a bright pop of color to your plate and provide a healthy pairing alternative.

Photo by [email protected]

11. Dublin Coddle

Like shepherd’s pie, the Dublin coddle is a traditional Irish stew that makes use of the week’s leftovers. It’s a working-class Irish dish that gets its name from the gentle simmering or “coddling” of ingredients in a one-pot stew.

There’s no set recipe for coddle though it typically contains rashers (Irish bacon) and pork sausage slowly simmered for hours with potatoes, onions, carrots, and herbs. Often served with soda bread or Irish brown bread to mop up the juices, it’s an inexpensive and filling meal that’s especially popular in winter.

Photo by lenyvavsha

12. Full Irish Breakfast

Many people say that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. That sentiment clearly isn’t lost on the Irish with this hearty breakfast fit for a king!

Also known as an Irish fry or Ulster fry, a full Irish breakfast is a traditional cooked breakfast in Ireland that contains some or all of the following: rashers, black pudding, white pudding, pork sausages, baked beans, mushrooms, grilled tomatoes, fried eggs, and leftover potatoes. It’s similar to a full English breakfast and is usually served with tea, orange juice, toast, butter, and marmalade.

An absolute feast of a meal, the full Irish breakfast was created for farm workers to fill them up and get them ready for a full day’s work. It was comprised of locally sourced produce and ingredients, all of which were cooked together with butter in a frying pan.

Photo by muzzoff


Short of an Irish chef, no one knows traditional Irish food better than a local, so what better way to experience Irish cuisine than by going on a food tour? A food-obsessed Irish guide will take you to the city’s best restaurants and markets so all you have to do is follow and eat. Check out Get Your Guide for a list of Irish food tours in Dublin and other cities throughout Ireland.


Fill your plate with any of these irresistible dishes and your heart and soul will instantly be comforted and filled with warmth – and your belly will be filled with the heartiness of Irish tradition.

And, if you ever find yourself wandering across the Irish countryside, exploring the towns and taking in the sights, be sure to include trying at least a few of these traditional Irish foods as a part of your travel plans. It will add even more to your journey, and give you just another reason to fall in love with Ireland even more.

About the Author

Emily Henry is a food and travel writer at and She also contributes her knowledge as a tutor at Undergraduate writing service UK.


Some of the links in this Irish food guide are affiliate links. If you make a booking or reservation, then we’ll earn a small commission at no added cost to you. As always, we only recommend products and services that we use ourselves and firmly believe in. We really appreciate your support as it helps us make more of these free travel and food guides. Thank you!

Cover photo by bhofack2. Stock images via Depositphotos.

Food in Malaysia: 35 Traditional Dishes to Look Out For

If you like Singaporean and Indonesian food, then you’re going to enjoy Malaysian food as well. All three cuisines share many similarities thanks to their shared histories, proximity, and similar ethnic makeup.

Meals consisting of rice topped with a small army of viands are just as common in Malaysia as they are in Singapore and Indonesia. Nasi lemak, satay, and laksa are national dishes while sambal is a staple condiment enjoyed with many Malaysian meals.

Like its neighbors, Malaysian food is known for its diversity and bold flavors so if you enjoy a lot of pep in your food, then you’re going to love Malaysian cuisine.


If you’re planning a trip to Malaysia and want to learn more about the cuisine, then you may be interested in joining a food tour or taking a cooking class.


  • Food Tours: Food and Market Tours in Malaysia
  • Cooking Classes: Cooking Classes in Malaysia

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Like Singapore, Malaysia’s population can be divided into three major ethnic groups – Malay, Chinese, and Indian. Because of its cultural diversity and historical migrations, Malaysian cuisine has evolved to become a mix of several different styles of cooking, primarily Malay, Chinese, Indian, Indonesian, and Bornean.

Food preparation is a communal affair in Malaysia and meals are often enjoyed without the use of utensils. I experienced this once on a food tour in Kuala Lumpur. My guide wanted me to have an authentic Malaysian food experience so he insisted I eat a plate of nasi kerabu with my hands. It was fun, though not as easy as it looks.

Speaking of nasi, rice is the most important staple food in Malaysia, followed by noodles and to a lesser degree, bread. Different types of seafood are common while chicken, beef, and mutton are the preferred meats.

Belacan (shrimp paste), coconut, and soy sauce are essential to Malaysian cooking while some of the most frequently used herbs and spices include chili, lemongrass, pandan (screwpine leaves), galangal, turmeric, and torch ginger.


A list of 35 Malaysian dishes can be difficult to digest so I’ve organized it by category to make it easier to go through. Click on a link to jump to any section.

  1. Starters / Snacks
  2. Meat / Poultry / Seafood
  3. Noodles
  4. Rice Dishes
  5. Desserts / Drinks
  6. Malaysian Food Tours
  7. Malaysian Cooking Classes


1. Roti Canai

Roti canai refers to a flatbread dish popular in several Southeast Asian countries, including Malaysia where it’s considered a national dish. It’s originally a dish of Indian origin and is one of the most well-known examples of Malaysian-Indian food.

It’s made by repeatedly kneading, flattening, oiling, and folding dough before proofing it, to create layers. It’s then flattened and tossed until paper thin before being folded into a parcel and cooked on a griddle.

Roti canai is a popular breakfast dish or snack that’s traditionally served plain with a curry dip – usually dal (lentil) – but it can be filled with savory and sweet ingredients as well like egg, onion, cheese, sliced bananas, or kaya spread. Personally, it’s something we always order as a starter at Malaysian restaurants.

Roti canai is equally popular in Singapore where it’s known as roti prata. In Indonesia, it’s referred to as roti cane, roti konde, or roti maryam.

2. Lor Bak

Lor bak (or ngo hiang or heh gerng) refers to a Hokkien and Teochew dish that’s popular in Eastern China and in a few Southeast Asian countries like Malaysia, Indonesia, and Singapore.

It’s made with different types of meat, seafood, tofu, or vegetables that are seasoned with five-spice powder and rolled in a thin beancurd skin. They’re then deep-fried and served with chili sauce and loh, which is a sweet sauce thickened with corn starch and beaten eggs.

3. Popiah

Popiah refers to a Fujianese / Teochew-style fresh spring roll. Originally from Fujian province in China, it’s become a popular dish in Taiwan and in several Southeast Asian countries like Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam.

Popiah is made with a thin, paper-like crepe or pancake smeared with a sweet bean sauce, hoisin sauce, or a shrimp paste sauce. It’s typically filled with finely grated turnip, jicama, bean sprouts, and lettuce leaves, though it’s often made with other ingredients as well like grated carrot, fried tofu, chopped peanuts, and shredded omelette.

4. Char Koay Kak

If you’re familiar with Singaporean food, then you may recognize this dish. Originally a Teochew dish, it’s basically the Malaysian version of chai tow kueh or “fried carrot cake”.

Char koay kak refers to a dish made with radish cake (steamed rice flour, water, and shredded white daikon) stir-fried with eggs, preserved radish, bean sprouts, and seasonings. It’s a popular comfort food that’s widely enjoyed in Malaysia, from simple hawker stalls to more expensive Chinese restaurants.

Interestingly, in spite of its English nickname, this dish isn’t made with any carrots and bears no resemblance to western carrot cake. It came to be known as “carrot cake” in Singapore because the Hokkien word for radish – chai tow – can refer to a carrot or radish.

5. Rojak

Rojak refers to an Indonesian fruit and vegetable salad dish that’s also popular in Singapore and Malaysia. It’s typically sold at mamak stalls which are open-air establishments serving Indian Muslim cuisine.

Indonesian rujak is typically made with just fresh fruits and vegetables but Malaysian versions often contain other ingredients as well. It can contain things like fried tofu, boiled potatoes, hard-boiled eggs, and prawn fritters mixed together in a thick and spicy peanut sauce. This type of Malaysian rojak is known as rojak mamak.

Pictured below is another type of Malaysian rojak called rojak buah. It’s made with a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables like cucumber, pineapple, jicama, and green apples in a dressing made with shrimp paste, sugar, chilli, and lime juice.

6. Ramly Burger

The Ramly Burger is an iconic Malaysian street food. In fact, when we were on a tour in Langkawi, our tour guide told us that the one Malaysian dish he missed the most from Kuala Lumpur was the Ramly Burger.

The term “Ramly Burger” is used to refer to any type of burger sold as street food in Malaysia. Preparations can vary from vendor to vendor but at their core, Ramly Burgers are made with beef or chicken patties produced by the Ramly Food Processing Company. The burger was invented by Ramly Mokni in 1979 and became an instant classic.

Thanks to our Langkawi tour guide, we became intrigued with the Ramly Burger so we decided to try it soon as we got back to Kuala Lumpur. As you can see below, the version we had was made with an omelette encasing the burger.

I don’t know how true it is but according to this recipe, a Ramly Burger can only be a Ramly Burger if its patty contains Maggi seasoning and a black pepper sauce made with milk, butter, oyster sauce, sweet soy sauce, and corn starch.


7. Sate

Sate or satay is an Indonesian dish that’s become extremely popular in Malaysia and in other Southeast Asian countries. In fact, it’s become so integrated in Malaysian cuisine that it’s recognized as one of four national dishes in Malaysia. Nasi lemak, laksa, and roti canai are the others.

Sate refers to a family of seasoned meat that’s skewered and grilled over charcoal. It’s typically made with different types of meat like chicken, beef, pork, goat, and mutton but it can be made with other ingredients as well like seafood, fish balls, vegetables, and tofu. It’s usually served with a sate sauce made with roasted peanuts, palm sugar, tamarind, and chili.

Sate is ubiquitous throughout Malaysia and is equally popular at street food stalls as it is at proper sit-down restaurants. In Penang, you can try a specific type of sate called lok-lok which is basically a fusion of Chinese hot pot and sate.

8. Lok-Lok

Lok-lok refers to a type of sate popular in Penang. It’s a fusion of sate and hot pot wherein different types of skewered meats, seafood, and vegetables are cooked in a communal pot of boiling water.

As you can see below, a variety of ingredients like raw meat, tofu, dumplings, fish cake, offal, and century eggs are skewered on bamboo sticks and spread out around a central pot. Sticks are color-coded for price and diners are free to grab whatever they want and cook them inside the pot. When ready, the sate is enjoyed with sate sauce and sambal.

Lok-lok is a popular type of meal in Penang and can be enjoyed at restaurants and hawker centers, even from street food carts. It’s interesting to see people gathered around a mobile cart dipping sticks of sate into a boiling pot of water.

9. Bak Kut Teh

Bak kut teh refers to a Hokkien and Teochew pork rib dish that’s popular in Malaysia and Singapore. It consists of meaty pork ribs simmered for many hours in a complex broth made with a variety of herbs and spices like star anise, cinnamon, cloves, and fennel seeds.

Interestingly, the name bak kut teh translates to “meat bone tea” though no tea is actually used to make the dish. The “tea” refers to the strong oolong Chinese tea that’s usually served with the dish. It’s meant to dilute the large amount of pork fat that’s often consumed in bak kut teh.

In Malaysia, bak kut teh is often served with you char kway (fried dough) and a dip made with soy sauce, chili, and garlic. A dry type of bak kut teh is also available along with a less fatty version made with chicken called chik kut teh.

10. Rendang

Rendang is an Indonesian meat dish that’s become popular in other parts of Southeast Asia like Malaysia, Singapore, and Brunei. Believed to have been influenced by North Indian curry, it consists of meat stewed for many hours in coconut milk and spices.

Like Indonesian rendang, Malaysian rendang is traditionally made with beef that’s braised in a coconut milk and spice mixture. The beef is slow-cooked for several hours until the liquid evaporates and the meat becomes caramelized and fork tender.

Beef is the most common though rendang can be made with other types of meat and seafood as well like chicken, goat, water buffalo, sting ray, and crab. Pictured below is ayam rendang or chicken rendang served with a small portion of sambal sotong.

11. Kari Ayam

Kari ayam refers to an Indian-inspired chicken curry dish popular in Malaysia and Indonesia. It consists of chicken pieces cooked with lemongrass, kaffir lime leaves, coconut milk, and a spice paste called rempah.

Rempah is similar to Indian masala and is made with a heady mix of spices like chili, coriander seeds, cumin, fennel, cinnamon, turmeric, and galangal, among others.

“kari ikan & kari ayam” by surtr, used under CC BY-SA 2.0 / Processed in Photoshop and Lightroom

12. Oh Chien

Oh chien refers to a Teochew and Hokkien dish that’s become popular in Taiwan and in many parts of Southeast Asia like Malaysia, Thailand, and Singapore. Depending on where it’s from, it goes by different names like o-a-tsian, orh jian, and orh luak.

Oh chien is an oyster omelette made with fresh raw oysters, starch, and eggs. It’s typically made with sweet potato starch mixed into the egg batter to give it a thicker, gooier texture. It’s fried till crispy and served with a side of chili sauce mixed with lime juice.

13. Ikan Bakar

Ikan bakar means “grilled fish”. It refers to Malasyian and Indonesian fish dishes that are seasoned with a spice marinade and wrapped in banana leaves before being quickly grilled over a hot charcoal flame.

Ikan bakar can be made with pretty much any type of fish, though some of the most popular include freshwater gourami, carp, mackerel, red snapper, rabbitfish, and stingray. Ikan literally means “fish” but the term ikan bakar can be used to described other types of grilled seafood as well like grilled squid and grilled shrimp.

Ikan bakar is equally popular in Malaysia and Indonesia though they do differ in spices used. Malaysian ikan bakar tends to be spicier and more yellowish in color because of its heavier use of chili and turmeric. It’s also lighter due to the absence of kecap manis.

14. Kari Kepala Ikan

Kari kepala ikan refers to a curry dish made with a whole fish head. It’s a dish with Chinese and Indian origins that’s become popular in Malaysia, Singapore, and Indonesia.

Kari kepala ikan is made with the whole head of a red snapper stewed in a Kerala-style curry. It contains a mix of vegetables like okra and eggplant and is often seasoned with over a dozen spices.

15. Sambal Sotong

Sambal is typically enjoyed as a condiment though it can be used as an ingredient as well. Sambal sotong or chili squid is an example of a dish that incorporates sambal as an ingredient. It consists of squid cooked in a sambal-based sauce.

SpartacksCompatriot, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons / Processed in Photoshop and Lightroom


16. Curry Laksa / Curry Mee

Curry laksa (or simply laksa) refers to a Peranakan noodle soup dish popular in Malaysia, Singapore, and Indonesia. It consists of thick wheat noodles or rice vermicelli cooked in a rich and spicy curry coconut milk soup.

Curry laksa is made with a spice paste consisting of a variety of ingredients like garlic, shallots, lemongrass, and belacan. It’s usually topped with deep-fried tofu, a hard-boiled egg, bean sprouts, cockles, shrimp, and cuttlefish. It’s then served with a side of sambal and sometimes garnished with coriander.

Interestingly, the Penang version of curry laksa is referred to as curry mee. Curry laksa and curry mee are one and the same dish, but the term “curry mee” is used in Penang to differentiate it from asam laksa. Penang curry mee typically includes cubes of congealed pork blood.

17. Asam Laksa

Asam laksa is the reason why curry laksa is referred to as curry mee in Penang. It refers to a type of laksa made with a souring agent (asam) like tamaring or gelugur instead of coconut milk.

Unlike curry laksa which is rich and creamy, asam laksa is tangy, sharp-tasting, and spicy. Aside from the souring agent, asam laksa is usually made with shredded mackerel and finely sliced vegetables like cucumber, onions, red chilli, pineapple, mint leaves, laksa leaves, and torch ginger. It’s usually served with thick or thin rice noodles and topped with a sweet shrimp paste called otak udang.

There are a few regional variations of asam laksa though the Penang version is one of the most well-known. In fact, it’s the only Malaysian dish that made it to CNN Travel’s list of the World’s 50 Best Foods.

Asam laksa is definitely a dish that you shouldn’t miss when you visit Penang. Check out our Penang food guide to learn where you should try it.

18. Koay Teow Th’ng

Koay teow th’ng refers to a Chinese noodle soup popular in Malaysia and Singapore. It’s a popular Penang hawker food made with flat rice noodles served in a clear broth containing a mix of ingredients like fish balls, chicken, duck, pork, vegetables, chopped scallions, and browned garlic bits.

Koay teow th’ng is relatively colorless and bland but looks can be deceiving. When done right, it’s an incredibly flavorful dish with silky soft noodles and perfectly springy fish balls. It was easily one of our favorite dishes to eat in Penang which is saying a lot considering the island’s reputation as a Malaysian street food paradise.

For even more flavor, koay teow th’ng is often served with a side of soy-vinegar with chopped red chilies.

19. Kway Chap

Kway chap or kuay chap refers to a Teochew noodle soup made with flat, broad rice noodles (kway) served in a soup made with dark soy sauce. It’s popular in parts of Malaysia and in Singapore.

Kway chap is typically served with braised duck meat, beancurd, fish cake, salted vegetables, braised hard-boiled eggs, and different cuts of pork like offal, pork belly, intestines, and pig’s ears. Unlike koay teow th’ng which is deceptively flavorful, kway chap is every bit as tasty as it looks.

One of the most interesting components of this dish is the kway or broad rice noodles. Unlike conventional noodles which are long and stringy, kway chap noodles are short, flat, and chewier in texture. You can see a few pieces on the spoon below.

20. Char Kway Teow

Char kway teow refers to a Chinese stir-fried noodle dish popular in Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, and Brunei. Char means “stir-fried” while kway teow refers to the flat rice noodles used in the dish.

To prepare, kway teow noodles are stir-fried over very high heat in pork fat with a host of ingredients like light and dark soy sauce, chili, belacan, prawns, blood cockles, Chinese chives, fishcake, and bean sprouts. It’s often served on a plate lined with banana leaf to enhance the aroma of the noodles.

Char kway teow is an extremely popular dish in Malaysia and often the subject of intense debate. Everyone has an opinion on who makes the best and no one is ever wrong.

In Penang, we had this fantastic char kway teow made even more decadent with duck eggs. It was rich and delicious with that indescribable flavor of wok hei.

21. Maggi Goreng

Maggi goreng refers to a specific way of preparing instant noodles, specifically the Maggi brand of instant noodles which is popular in Malaysia.

Instead of just boiling the noodles and then flavoring the broth with the sachet of seasonings as instructed, the noodles are stir-fried with different ingredients like vegetables, eggs, tofu, sambal, soy sauce, and meat. It’s basically just a quick and easy stir-fry noodle dish made using instant noodles.

Maggi goreng varies from vendor to vendor and is commonly sold at mamak stalls in Malaysia and Singapore.

22. Hokkien Mee

As its name suggests, hokkien mee is a Hokkien dish popular in Southeast Asian countries like Malaysia, Singapore, and Indonesia. The term can be confusing because it’s used to describe three distinct versions of the dish.

Singaporean hokkien mee or hae mee refers to a stir-fried dish made with egg noodles and rice noodles garnished with prawns, fish cake, pork ribs, squid, spring onions, and fried pork or chicken lard.

The Kuala Lumpur version of hokkien mee (pictured below), which is also referred to as hokkien char mee, is similar to the Singaporean version except its made with a thick dark soy sauce.

The third and final version of hokkien mee is from Penang. Like Singaporean hokkien mee, it can also be referred to as hae mee. But unlike the Singaporean version, Penang hokkien mee refers to a noodle soup dish made with egg noodles and rice vermicelli in a rich broth flavored with prawn heads and shells, and pork ribs.

If that weren’t confusing enough, there happens to be a Singaporean noodle soup dish called prawn mee that’s very similar to Penang hokkien mee.

“Hokkien Mee” by Charles Haynes, used under CC BY-SA 2.0 / Processed in Photoshop and Lightroom

23. Mee Rebus

Mee rebus refers to an Indonesian noodle soup dish that’s also popular in Malaysia and Singapore. It’s made with egg noodles cooked in a spicy and slightly sweet curry-like gravy.

Mee rebus gravy is made with a host of ingredients like shrimp or tauchu (preserved fermented yellow soybeans) broth, shallots, lemongrass, galangal, kaffir lime leaf, and corn starch as a thickening agent.

It can be garnished with any number of ingredients like hard-boiled eggs, dried shrimp, boiled potatoes, fried shallots, spring onions, green chilis, and bean sprouts.

“Mee Rebus – Food Garden, LCCT RM5” by Alpha, used under CC BY-SA 2.0 / Processed in Photoshop and Lightroom


In Malaysia, you’ll come across many dishes with the word nasi in their name. Nasi means “rice” so these all refer to Malaysian rice meals made with a variety of different side dishes.

24. Nasi Lemak

When many people think of Malaysian food, the first dish that comes to mind is nasi lemak. It’s a Malaysian national dish and perhaps the one dish that best represents Malaysian cuisine.

Nasi lemak literally means “oily or fatty rice” and refers to a rice meal made with fragrant rice cooked in coconut milk and pandan leaf. It’s served with a side of sambal and garnishes like cucumber slices, ikan bilis (small fried anchovies), roasted peanuts, and a hard-boiled or fried egg. When eaten as a more substantial meal, it’s served with other viands like fried chicken, sambal sotong, rendang, or fried fish.

Nasi lemak is typically eaten for breakfast though it’s often enjoyed throughout the day. It’s commonly sold at hawker centers and roadside stalls and is equally popular in Singapore as it is in Malaysia.

25. Nasi Kandar

Nasi kandar is a type of Malaysian rice meal popular in Penang. It’s a Tamil Muslim dish consisting of plain or mildly flavored steamed rice served with a variety of curries and side dishes.

Proteins served with nasi kandar typically include fried chicken, beef curry, lamb, fish roe, fried prawns, and fried squid. Eggplant, okra, and bitter gourd are the most commonly served vegetables, all of which are served on a single plate with rice flooded with a mixture of curries.

As you can see below, nasi kandar is a beautiful chaotic mess of flavor and texture. It’s a popular Malaysian dish and one of the best things you can have in Penang.

“Nasi Kandar Line Clear” by amrufm, used under CC BY 2.0 / Processed in Photoshop and Lightroom

26. Nasi Kerabu

Nasi kerabu has to be one of the prettiest Malaysian rice dishes. It’s known for its blue rice which gets its color from the petals of the butterfly pea flower.

Nasi kerabu is often topped with salad and served with a side of salted egg, solok lada (stuffed chilis), keropek, dried fish, and fried chicken. It’s said to be a Peranakan dish from the Kelantan state of Malaysia, with the blue rice being a Kelantanese preference.

27. Nasi Dagang

Nasi dagang refers to a dish made with rice steamed with thick coconut milk, shallots, lemongrass, and fenugreek seeds. It’s a common Malaysian breakfast food in the eastern coastal states of peninsular Malaysia like Terengganu, Kelantan, and parts of Pahang and eastern Johor.

Nasi dagang is known for its interesting fragrance and unique nutty taste. It’s commonly served with sambal, kari ikan (fish curry), hard-boiled eggs, and pickled vegetables.

“Nasi dagang” by surtr, used under CC BY-SA 2.0 / Processed in Photoshop and Lightroom


28. Kuih

Kuih is the blanket term used to describe a large family of bite-sized snacks or dessert foods popular in Malaysia and in other parts of Southeast Asia like Singapore, Brunei, and Indonesia.

Kuih is a broad term that refers to a wide range of Malaysian food products like cakes, cookies, biscuits, dumplings, pudding, and pastries, most of which are made from rice or glutinous rice. They’re often steamed and usually sweet, though savory versions of kuih do exist.

Recipes vary but the most common flavoring ingredients in Malaysian kuih include grated coconut, coconut cream, pandan leaves, and gula melaka. Most have a soft but firm texture thanks to a batter made from a mix of starches like rice flour, glutinous rice flour, tapioca flour, and mung bean flour.

There are dozens of varieties of kuih in all shapes and colors. Many are quite vibrant and colorful, making them a popular and ideal festival food in Malaysia.

29. Apam Balik

Apam balik refers to a sweet type of murtabak, which is a family of stuffed pancakes or pan-fried breads common in the Arabian Peninsula and Southeast Asia. In Indonesia, apam balik is known as martabak manis or “sweet martabak”.

Apam balik is made from a mixture of flour, eggs, sugar, baking soda, coconut milk, and water. The batter is cooked in a round frying pan and spread with butter or margarine, sugar, and a variety of toppings like crushed peanuts, chocolate sprinkles, and cheese.

Before serving, the apam balik is folded in half and cut into smaller pieces so the fillings go in the middle, making it easier to eat.

30. Roti Tisu

Roti tisu (or roti tissue or roti helikopter) refers to a type of roti canai. It’s much thinner and crispier than your typical roti canai and served in the shape of a cone. It’s often enjoyed with a sweet dip like kaya jam or even ice cream.

31. Pisang Goreng

Pisang goreng refers to banana fritters popular in Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore, and Brunei.

To prepare, plantains are dipped in batter and deep-fried. Most Malaysian street food sellers will serve them as is but fancier coffee shops and restaurants may serve them with powdered sugar, cinnamon, cheese, jam, condensed milk, or ice cream.

“Pisang Goreng” by tacowitte, used under CC BY 2.0 / Processed in Photoshop and Lightroom

32. Cendol

Cendol refers to an iced dessert popular in many Southeast Asian countries like Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore, Brunei, Thailand, and Laos. Its made with shaved ice mixed with green rice jelly noodles, coconut milk, sweetened red beans, and gula melaka (palm sugar syrup).

Depending on the vendor, Malaysian cendol can be made with additional ingredients as well like jackfruit, glutinous rice, grass jelly, creamed corn, and my personal favorite – durian.

33. Ais Kacang

Ais kacang refers to a Malaysian shaved ice dessert that’s also popular in Singapore and Brunei. Its name literally means “bean ice” because it was originally made using just shaved ice and red beans.

Today, ais kacang is made with a host of different ingredients like grass jelly, sweet corn, attap chee (palm seed), roasted peanuts, nata de coco, and agar agar. The ingredients are layered around a mound of shaved ice before being drizzled with evaporated or condensed milk and one or more types of colored syrup.

Ais kacang is commonly referred to as ABC in Malaysia. ABC stands for air batu campur meaning “mixed ice”.

“Ais Kacang” by dilettantiquity, used under CC BY-SA 2.0 / Processed in Photoshop and Lightroom

34. Durian

Durian is one of the most notorious Southeast Asian fruits. It’s notorious for its intensely pungent odor that some say is similar to gym socks or raw sewage. Many people can’t get past the smell which is a shame because for me, durian is one of the most unique and best-tasting fruits in the world.

Aside from its intense odor, durian is known for its thick thorny rind. It belies a soft and creamy flesh that’s been been likened to a rich custard flavored with almonds. It’s absolutely delicious and not something you’d expect from such a pungent-smelling fruit.

Malaysia is the world’s second largest producer of durian, behind only Thailand. It boasts over 130 varieties of the fruit with some of the most prized being Musang King, D24, and Red Prawn.

35. Teh Tarik

Teh tarik literally means “pulled tea” and refers to a hot milk tea beverage popular in Malaysia, Singapore, and Indonesia. It gets its name from the way its poured or “pulled” from a distance during preparation.

Teh tarik is made from a strong brew of black tea mixed with condensed milk. To serve, vendors will pour the liquid back and forth from a distance to aerate the drink and improve its flavor.

As you can see below, teh tarik vendors have gotten so good at it that they can pour the drink from a few feet away without spilling a drop.


No one knows Malaysian food better than a local, so what better way to experience Malaysian cuisine than by going on a food tour? A food-obsessed local will take you to all the best spots and explain each dish to you in more detail. If you’re visiting Malaysia, then check out Get Your Guide for a list of food tours in Kuala Lumpur and in other cities throughout the country.


Aside from food tours, we also enjoy taking cooking classes on trips. In my opinion, it’s one of the best ways to learn about an unfamiliar cuisine. Eating Malaysian food is one thing but learning how to make it is another. If you’re visiting Malaysia, then check out Cookly for a list of cooking classes in different cities throughout the country.


I hope you enjoyed reading this Malaysian food guide as much as I enjoyed writing it. Malaysian food has always felt somewhat familiar to me thanks to its many similarities with Filipino food.

True to its ethnic makeup, Malaysian food is as diverse as it is delicious. It’s been shaped by many cultures and influences so if you’re fond of bold flavors and lots of spice in your food, then you’re going to love Malaysian cuisine.

As always, this Malaysian food guide is a work-in-progress and something we’ll continue to build upon after every return visit to Malaysia. We’ve eaten our way through Kuala Lumpur, Penang, and Langkawi and have our sights set on Ipoh and Malacca next.

Until then, thanks for reading and I hope this food guide helps lead you to some amazing meals in Malaysia.


Some of the links in this Malaysian food guide are affiliate links, meaning we’ll earn a small commission if you make a booking at no additional cost to you. We only recommend products and services that we use ourselves and firmly believe in. We really appreciate your support as it helps us make more of these free travel guides. Thank you so much!

14 Restaurants, Bars, and Markets to Visit for Incredible Food in Madrid

Aperitivos, pintxos, tapas, txokos. If there’s anything we learned from our three weeks in Spain, it’s that Spanish people really know how to celebrate life. And often, they celebrate it with food.

Everywhere we went, we enjoyed delicious Spanish food. We loved the pintxos and sidrerias in San Sebastian and the free tapas in Granada. The cremini mushroom and shrimp pintxos in Logroño were to die for while the fabada asturiana in Oviedo was the best we’ve ever tasted.

Barcelona has calcots and bombas while Santiago de Compostela offers excellent Galician seafood dishes like polbo a feira and perecebes. Madrid has its share of iconic dishes as well like cochinillo and bocadillo de calamares, but more than any one dish, what I enjoyed most about this city was its diversity of food experiences.

Of all the cities we visited in Spain, we had the most well-rounded culinary experience in Madrid, which is something you can expect I guess from the country’s capital and its biggest and most diverse city.

From aperitivos to mercados to Michelin-starred restaurants, I hope our Madrid food guide leads you to some terrific meals in the city.


To help you plan your trip to Madrid, we’ve compiled links to top-rated hotels, tours, and other activities here.


Recommended hotels in Malasaña, one of the best and coolest areas to stay for first-time visitors to Madrid.

  • Luxury: INNSIDE by Meliá Madrid Gran Vía
  • Midrange: Hostal Adis
  • Budget: Woohoo Hostal Madrid


  • Food Tour: Wine and Tapas in Madrid: 2.5 Hour Tour
  • Wine Tasting: Madrid Region Wineries: Guided Tour and Tastings
  • Cooking Classes: Madrid Cooking Classes


  • Visa Services
  • Travel Insurance (with COVID cover)
  • Airport Transfers
  • Car Rental
  • Wifi Device


If you’re planning a trip to Madrid, then be sure to check out our detailed Madrid travel guide. It’ll have all the information you need – like when to go, what to do, where to stay, etc. – to help you plan your trip.

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Fourteen isn’t a lot but we were lucky to have a range of culinary experiences. To help organize this list of the best restaurants in Madrid, I’ve divided it into the five categories below. Click on a link to jump to any section.

  1. Bars
  2. Restaurants
  3. Pastries
  4. Jamonerias
  5. Markets
  6. Madrid Food Tours


1. La Venencia

According to Culture Trip, Madrid has more bars per capita than any other city in Europe. But if you were to visit just one, then it should probably be La Venencia. It’s an historic bar and local favorite that hasn’t changed much since the days of the Spanish Civil War.

Known for its time-worn interior of dusty barrels and faded posters, La Venencia offers just one drink on their menu – Sherry wine. Sherry or Vino de Jerez is a type of Spanish fortified wine made from white grapes grown in the Jerez-Xeres-Sherry DOP region of Andalusia.

For a bottle of wine to carry the “Sherry” label, it must be produced within the Sherry Triangle which is an area in Cadiz consisting of Jerez de la Frontera, Sanlucar de Barrameda, and El Puerto de Santa Maria.

La Venencia offers five types of Sherry wine – Manzanilla, Fino, Amontillado, Palo Cortado, and Oloroso – and almost twice as many tapas dishes. Pictured below are plates of salsichon (cured sausage), anchovies, roquefort, and green olives to go with one of their lighter Sherry wines.

See those chalk marks on the bar? The bartender keeps track of your orders by writing them down on the wooden bar. They’ve been doing it that way for over seventy years.

With just five types of Sherry available, it was easy for us to try all their wines. As you can see below, they ranged from light and crisp to dark and rich.

I’m not a seasoned wine drinker but I enjoyed the experience immensely, and part of that had to do with the bar itself. Drinking Sherry at La Venencia isn’t just about good wine, it’s about taking part in history. Ernest Hemingway was said to be a frequent customer here.

Located along Calle de Echegaray, La Venencia is a simple bar that’s rich in history and tradition. If you enjoy drinking wine and going to authentic establishments, then a glass or two of Sherry wine at La Venencia is a must.

La Venencia

Address: Calle de Echegaray, 7, 28014 Madrid, Spain
Operating Hours: 12:30-3:30PM, 7:30PM-1AM, Mon-Thurs / 12:30-4PM, 7:30PM-1:30AM, Fri-Sat / 12:30-4PM, 7:30PM-1AM, Sun
What to Order: Sherry, tapas

2. Taberna de Angel Sierra

Over the weekends in Spain, Spanish people enjoy aperitivo time (drinks with tapas) from around 1:30PM onwards. Friends and family meet at bars for drinks and fresh tapas before moving to lunch.

A range of alcoholic drinks are consumed like beer, Sherry, white wine, and gin and tonic, but at historic Taberna de Angel Sierra, the drink of choice is vermut (vermouth).

Vermut refers to an aromatized, fortified white wine flavored with caramel and a range of botanicals like roots, herbs, flowers, and spices. It’s a sweet and slightly bitter drink that’s typically enjoyed as an aperitif. In Spanish food culture, it’s the most socially acceptable drink to have before noon on a Sunday.

The most famous vermut comes from the small Catalonian town of Reus. It’s best served de grifo or on tap which is exactly the type of vermut you can expect at Taberna de Angel Sierra.

We were here on a Sunday and the standing-room-only space was packed with locals enjoying vermut and green olives. It was one of our favorite food/drinking experiences in Spain.

Located in Plaza de Chueca, Taberna de Angel Sierra has been open since 1917. It’s a great place to get a drink on any day of the week, but especially on weekends when it gets so busy that crowds often spill out onto the street.

Taberna de Angel Sierra

Address: Calle San Gregorio, 2, 28004 Madrid, Spain
Operating Hours: 12NN-2:30AM, Mon-Sat / 12NN-1:30AM, Sun
What to Order: Vermouth

3. Viva Madrid

On our list of things to try in Madrid was gin and tonic. Based on what I’ve read, the Dutch invented gin while the British added the tonic but it was the Spanish who perfected the garnish and elevated it to an art form.

According to more than one source, you can’t find a better gin and tonic in the world than in Spain. Madrid has been experiencing a gin and tonic craze in recent years so bars offering their own spin on G&Ts are easy to locate.

I’m not a seasoned G&T drinker so I did some research to learn what made Spanish gin and tonics so special. Aside from using premium gin and tonic water, a lot of it has to do with the garnish.

Based on what I’ve read, there’s no classic recipe for a Spanish G&T but they do get pretty imaginative with their garnishes. The Spanish have been experimenting with their garnishes for years so many bars will offer a variety ranging from citrus fruits, roots, berries, and herbs and spices.

This wasn’t the case at Viva Madrid but many bars in Spain will serve G&Ts in a large balloon glass. I don’t remember if they did it here but bartenders often pour tonic water down a spoon and into the drink. Whether this has actual benefits or is done purely for show is unclear.

Unlike most of the places on this list, we found Viva Madrid by chance. Located just off Calle de Echegaray, we had G&Ts here before proceeding to La Venencia.

Known for serving good cocktails and tapas in a lovely space adorned with glazed ceramic tiles, Viva Madrid is a TripAdvisor Certificate of Excellence with a near-perfect 4.5-star rating.

Viva Madrid

Address: Calle de Manuel Fernández y González, nº 7, 28014 Madrid, Spain
Operating Hours: 12NN-2AM, Tue-Thurs, Sun / 12NN-2:30AM, Fri-Sat (closed Mondays)
What to Order: Cocktails, beer, tapas

4. Bodega de la Ardosa

I went to Bodega de la Ardosa twice. The first time I went was over the weekend and the place was practically bursting at the seams with customers. Open since 1892, it’s been one of the most popular places to eat in Madrid for over 125 years!

It was too crowded to stay the first time so we went back on a Monday afternoon and had the entire bar to ourselves. Known for its wall of dusty liquor bottles and excellent tapas, an institution like this was too good to miss. It’s exactly the type of place I seek out on trips.

Some of the recommended dishes at Bodega de la Ardosa include salmorejo and tortilla de patata. If you like vegetable dishes, then you need to try this fantastic plate of alcachofas or grilled artichokes sprinkled with sea salt.

Callos a la madrileña is a classic Spanish dish that you need to try in Madrid. A dish of humble origins, recipes vary from region to region but the Madrid-style of callos is made with tripe, chorizo, serrano ham, and morcilla. It’s rich and tomato-ey with a good punch of paprika.

Callos is one of my absolute favorite Spanish dishes and something I could have almost everyday. The version at Bodega de la Ardosa was delicious, especially when paired with crusty bread.

Bodega de la Ardosa is located on the outskirts of the Chamberi district. Surrounded by trendy hipster bars, it’s a Madrid institution and local favorite that’s survived decades of urban gentrification.

Bodega de la Ardosa

Address: Calle de Colón, 14, 28004 Madrid, Spain
Operating Hours: 8AM-2AM, Mon-Thurs / 8AM-2:30AM, Fri / 10AM-2:30AM, Sat / 10AM-2AM, Sun
What to Order: Salmorejo, alcachofas, tortilla de patata, callos a la madrileña


5. El Cisne Azul

When it comes to toadstools, El Cisne Azul has to be one of the best restaurants in Madrid. Located in Chueca, they specialize in mushrooms and are a favorite destination for Madrileños craving morels and chanterelles.

El Cisne Azul offers an interesting array of dishes made with wild mushrooms like grilled boletus with foie gras and Caesar’s mushroom carpaccio.

We had these chanterelles with scrambled eggs and black truffles, and another dish of tricholomas with lamb sweetbreads. Both were every bit as delicious as they sound.

El Cisne Azul is known for their mushrooms but they offer grilled meats and other dishes too, like this tasty grilled octopus with aioli. They offer an extensive wine list as well.

El Cisne Azul

Address: Calle de Gravina, 19, 28004 Madrid, Spain
Operating Hours: 1-4:30PM, 8-11:30PM, Mon-Sat / 12NN-5PM, Sun
What to Order: Anything with mushrooms

6. El Meson del Boqueron

El Meson del Boqueron gave me my first taste of callos in Madrid. My search for good callos a la madrileña led me to this tasty bowl overflowing with tripe, morcilla, and chorizo.

I had callos three times and none of the restaurants in Madrid made it with garbanzo beans. I’m used to having chickpeas in callos but I guess it isn’t a traditional ingredient in the Madrid version of the dish.

You can probably tell from these first few entries what type of restaurants I gravitate to on trips. I like hyper local establishments that have withstood the test of time.

I don’t know when El Meson del Boqueron first opened but based on its interior, I’m guessing they’ve been around for a while.

El Meson del Boqueron is conveniently located just off Plaza Mayor. It’s a great place to enjoy a meal after visiting the city’s main square.

El Meson del Boqueron

Address: Cava de San Miguel, 14, 28005 Madrid, Spain
Operating Hours: 1-5PM, 8PM-12:30AM, Wed-Mon (closed Tuesdays)
What to Order: Callos a la madrileña, tapas

7. La Tasqueria de Javi Estevez

I love street food and hole-in-the-walls, but I also enjoy haute cuisine and the occasional fine dining experience. We try to go to at least one nice restaurant on every trip, and La Tasqueria de Javi Estevez was that restaurant in Madrid.

A recipient of one Michelin Star, what makes La Tasqueria interesting is its menu of offal-inspired dishes. They offer tapas with different types of offal like lamb sweetbreads, pork cheek, and beef tongue as the main ingredients. It’s cool enough to find a restaurant that features offal so prominently but even more so when it’s received a Michelin Star!

Pictured below is a beautiful and delicious dish of pork cheek and red prawn tacos. They serve them with the scarlet prawn heads so you can suck out all that delicious umami.

Can you guess what these are? (Clue: We had the same offal at El Cisne Azul.) What you’re looking at are lamb sweetbreads with prawn and garlic on melba toast.

These are just two of the many delicious dishes we had at La Tasqueria. Check out my article on La Tasqueria de Javi Estevez for more pictures and information.

I don’t recall seeing it on their menu but it would be great if La Tasqueria offers tasting menus as well. An all-offal tasting menu would be amazing!

La Tasqueira de Javi Estevez is located along Calle Duque de Sesto in the trendy Chamberi district. When it comes to offal, this has to be the best restaurant in Madrid, perhaps in all of Spain!

La Tasqueria de Javi Estevez

Address: Calle Duque de Sesto, 48, 28009 Madrid, Spain
Operating Hours: 1:30-4PM, 8:30-11PM, Mon-Sat / 1:30-4PM, Sun
What to Order: Callos, lamb sweetbreads, pork cheek and red prawn tacos


8. Chocolateria San Gines

Chocolateria San Gines is one of the most iconic places to eat in Madrid. Open since 1894, it’s the oldest and most famous chocolateria in the city.

San Gines has been serving churros con chocolate – one of Spain’s most beloved breakfast and snack combinations – for over 125 years. Like Lisbon’s Pasteis de Belem, it’s a chocolateria that’s become more than just a restaurant in Madrid. It’s a landmark.

Dipping these Spanish-style doughnuts into a supremely dark and thick cup of chocolate is one of Spain’s great pleasures. When it comes to churros con chocolate, Chocolateria San Gines has to be one of the best restaurants in Madrid.

Chocolateria San Gines is located just outside San Gines Church. Being one of the top restaurants in Madrid, I was expecting to fight for a table when I got there but luckily, I was seated right away.

Chocolateria San Gines

Address: Pasadizo de San Ginés, 5, 28013 Madrid, Spain
Operating Hours: 8AM-10PM, daily
What to Order: Churros con chocolate

9. La Mallorquina

La Mallorquina is another example of my proclivity for restaurants that have been around for decades. Open since 1894, they’ve been one of the best restaurants in Madrid for napolitanas and ensaimadas for over 125 years.

Pictured below is their famous napolitana de crema and some type of cream cake. I prefer cream over chocolate but I’ve read that La Mallorquina’s napolitana chocolate is the best in Madrid.

La Mallorquina is located in Madrid’s famed Puerta del Sol. You’ll find yourself at this busy public square at some point so why not stop by for a quick Spanish pastry and a cafe con leche?

La Mallorquina

Address: Puerta del Sol, 8, 28013 Madrid, Spain
Operating Hours: 8:30AM-9:15PM, daily
What to Order: Napolitanas, ensaimadas, bandejas, croissants


A jamoneria is a shop/deli that sells Spanish ham, sausages, cheese, and other cured meats. You’ll find them everywhere in Spain. In some parts of Madrid, there seems to be a jamoneria on every block.

10. Museo del Jamon

Museo del Jamon is a chain of jamonerias with about a dozen or more shops in Madrid. Walk by a Museo del Jamon on the street and it’s hard not to be enticed by its dozens of dangling ham legs and displays of ready-to-eat bocadillos.

I rarely lingered inside a jamoneria because I always knew what to get – a bocadillo de jamon. Pictured below is a bocadillo de jamon iberico de bellota, a specimen of a sandwich made with the finest grade of Spanish dry-cured ham.

Give me a bocadillo de jamon and a cerveza everyday and I’m a happy man.

Open since 1978, there are several Museo del Jamon shops in central Madrid. You can check Google Maps to find a shop near you. Chances are, you’ll walk by one on the street.

Museo del Jamon

Branches: Google Maps
Operating Hours: Varies per branch
What to Order: Bocadillo de jamon, charcuterie

11. Mercado Jamon Iberico

We found Mercado Jamon Iberico by chance. Located less than 500 meters from Plaza Mayor, it’s a family-run shop that’s described as one of the best places to buy jamon iberico in Madrid.

As described, I would usually just pick up a bocadillo to go but we actually sat and enjoyed charcuterie and a bottle of wine at this jamoneria. It’s run by a lovely family who were eager to help with any questions we had.

One of the owners had me sample different types of iberico and I enjoyed this one the best. It’s a jamon iberico de bellota puro which is an acord-fed iberico cured for four years.

Sweet, savory, nutty, and fatty, these have to be some of the most delicious slices of jamon we’ve ever tasted in our lives. I love bocadillos but eating the jamon on its own like this makes you appreciate it even more.

We also had the salchichon de bellota, truffled manchego, and a bottle of white wine. Everything was fantastic and made for a memorable afternoon in Madrid.

Mercado Jamon Iberico is located along Calle Mayor, less than 500 meters from Plaza Mayor. Being so close to one of the city’s most famous landmarks, it’s one of the most conveniently located jamon iberico shops in Madrid.

Mercado Jamon Iberico

Address: Calle Mayor, 80, 28013 Madrid, Spain
Operating Hours: 10AM-9PM, daily
What to Order: to follow


Visiting Spain and not going to a mercado is like traveling to France and not enjoying a baguette. It’s a gastronomic sin.

Historic Mercado de San Miguel off Plaza Mayor is the obvious choice but it’s also the busiest. Like Barcelona’s La Boqueria, I walked in and walked right out.

If you’d prefer a more local, less touristy mercado, then there are others to choose from in Madrid.

12. Mercado de San Fernando

Mercado de San Fernando is one of five markets in Madrid’s Centro district. It’s located in the Embajadores/Lavapies neighborhood which was one of the most colorful and multicultural areas we visited in Madrid.

Like any modern Spanish mercado, Mercado de San Fernando is a mix of traditional tapas bars and more international stalls offering a range of dishes like sushi, pastries, and burgers. There’s even a second-hand bookshop that sells used books by the pound.

We wanted traditional Spanish fare so we went with dishes like chorizo and lomo to go with our beers.

Slivers of manchego cheese and crusty bread to enjoy with our Spanish Mahou cervezas.

I didn’t include them all in this list but of all the mercados I visited in Madrid, Mercado de San Fernando was my favorite.

It was the least polished and one of the most crowded, but it also felt the most authentic. I felt like I was in a real Spanish mercado with locals and not a bunch of tourists.

Embajadores/Lavapies is a gritty but interesting neighborhood. There seems to be a lot of Afrian and Indian restaurants in the area (and barber shops offering EUR 5 haircuts!). It’s a place I would have loved to really explore with more time in Madrid.

Mercado de San Fernando

Address: Calle de Embajadores, 41, 28012 Madrid, Spain
Operating Hours: 9AM-9PM, Tue-Thurs / 9AM-11PM, Fri-Sat / 11AM-5PM, Sun / 9AM-3PM, 5-9PM, Mon

13. Mercado de San Anton

As you can probably tell from the picture below, Mercado de San Anton is more modern and much more polished than Mercado de San Fernando. It’s located in the Chueca neighborhood and offers an even more international range of cuisine.

The market was originally built in 1945 but it went through a complete renovation in 2002 so it looks brand new. The first floor is a mix of fresh produce and takeaway food stalls. The second has a wine bar and about ten stalls offering an international range of cuisine.

If you’d like to dine at a proper restaurant, then you can go up to the third floor which is occupied by La Cocina de San Anton. It’s a restaurant and cocktail bar that offers a full menu of Spanish and international dishes.

A tempting display of pintxos. San Sebastian would be our next stop after Madrid so I waited to have them there.

You can never go wrong with this classic Spanish dish – tortilla de patata. Like callos and bocadillos de jamon, it’s one of my favorite Spanish dishes and something I could have almost everyday.

I don’t know what you call these but they’re like pintxos served on melba toast. Clockwise from the upper left are bacalao ajoarriero, anchovies with pimientos, pulpo a la gallega, and Icelandic smoked codfish liver.

Mercado de San Anton is located in the heart of the Chueca neighborhood, just a block away from Taberna de Angel Sierra. It’s a great place to have lunch after downing a few glasses of vermut.

Mercado de San Anton

Address: Calle de Augusto Figueroa, 24, 28004 Madrid, Spain
Operating Hours: 10AM-8PM, Mon-Sat (closed Sundays)

14. Matadero Madrid Farmer’s Market

We were very fortunate to visit this market. Matadero Madrid is a former slaughterhouse in the Arganzuela district that’s been converted into an arts center. It’s an ever-evolving creative space that reminded me of Taiwan’s creative parks.

Matadero Madrid is interesting enough on its own, but on the last weekend of every month, it hosts the Mercado de Productores which is a farmer’s market offering traditional food and produce grown around Madrid.

The market features over fifty producers selling a wide range of Madrid food products like fresh vegetables, mushrooms, sausages, and canned food. This vendor is selling cecina which refers to salted and dried meat typically made from beef, horse, or rabbit meat.

Blocks of queso de cabra or goat’s cheese. You can get free tastings here which is part of the reason why it’s so much fun visiting these types of markets.

Aside from fresh produce and meat stalls, there are plenty of cooked food vendors at the market as well. Pictured below is Madrid’s classic bocadillo de calamares or squid sandwich.

It’s made with deep-fried calamares served in a bun. It’s a Madrid food favorite that can be found in many bars throughout the city, especially around Plaza Mayor.

If it’s important for you to experience the local food in Madrid, then you need to have a bocadillo de calamares.

Not only were we lucky with the timing, but we were lucky with the location as well. Our AirBnB was located directly across the street from the Matadero Madrid complex.

If your stay falls on the last weekend of any month, then the Mercado de Productores is a great place to experience truly local food in Madrid.

Matadero Madrid

Address: Plaza de Legazpi, 8, 28045 Madrid, Spain
Operating Hours: 11AM-7PM, Sat / 11AM-5PM, Sun (last weekend of every month)


To help you find these restaurants in Madrid, I’ve pinned them all on this map. Click on the link for a live version of the map. It’ll have a few more that aren’t included in this guide.


Going tapas bar hopping on your own is fun, but one of the best ways to experience Madrid’s cuisine is by going on a food tour. A knowledgeable guide will take you to Madrid’s best restaurants, markets, and bars and explain the dishes and drinks to you in more detail.

We went on a bodega food tour in Barcelona and it turned out to be one of our favorite days in Spain. Our guide took us to many hidden local spots that we never would have found ourselves. Check out Get Your Guide for a list of Madrid food tours.


It usually takes me at least two visits to really fill out a guide but I was happy with how this Madrid food guide started out. It features a range of culinary experiences that give first-time visitors a well-rounded taste of Madrid.

Of course, this is just a first attempt so there’s plenty of room for improvement. We absolutely loved Madrid, even more so than Barcelona, so we’ll definitely be back. And we’ll stay for a month next time.

I love going to decades-old restaurants but conspicuously absent from this list is Sobrino de Botin, one of the most well-known traditional Spanish restaurants in Madrid. Founded in 1725, it’s the oldest operating restaurant in the world at almost 300 years old!

I did consider going but someone told me that it’s touristy and not worth the effort, but that’s just one person’s opinion. Many of its TripAdvisor reviews say otherwise. It’s history alone merits a visit so it’s a restaurant we’ll definitely be visiting on our next trip to Madrid.


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11 Pintxos Bars and Restaurants to Visit for Superb Food in San Sebastian

Spain has one of the best cuisines in the world. When you think about Spanish cities with the best food, San Sebastian (or Donostia to the Basque) comes foremost to mind. It’s known for its excellent cuisine and boasts the highest concentration of Michelin-starred restaurants in Spain.

With all the delicious Spanish food you can have in this city, the one dish that perhaps best represents San Sebastian food is the humble pintxo (or pincho). Similar to tapas, it refers to a family of small bar snacks that are typically skewered onto a piece of bread with a toothpick.

We love the variety and informality of these bar snacks so it was important for us to find the best pintxos in San Sebastian. This list of eleven consists mostly of pintxos bars, but it includes other San Sebastian restaurants as well like tapas bars, sidrerias, and pastelerias.


To help you with your trip planning to Donostia-San Sebastian, we’ve put together links to top-rated hotels, tours, and other services here.


Recommended hotels in the Parte Viaje, the best area to stay for first-time visitors to Donostia-San Sebastian.

  • Luxury: Lasala Plaza Hotel
  • Midrange: Ur-Alde
  • Budget: Pensión San Telmo / San Juan


  • Pintxos Crawl: Gourmet Pintxo Tour
  • Wine Tasting: La Rioja Wine Cellar & Tasting Tour
  • Cider Tasting: Cider House Tasting Session with Lunch
  • Cheese Tour: Half-Day Basque Cheese Tour
  • Cooking Class: San Sebastian Cooking Classes


  • Visa Services
  • Travel Insurance (with COVID cover)
  • Car Rental


If you’re planning a trip to Donostia, then be sure to check out our detailed San Sebastian travel guide. It’ll have all the information you need – like when to go, where to stay, where to go on day trips, etc. – to help you plan your trip.

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Pintxos are small bar snacks similar to tapas. The main difference is that they’re typically skewered to a piece of bread with a toothpick. This is to hold all the ingredients in place. Pintxo stems from the Spanish word pinchar which means “to puncture”.

Pintxos are commonly eaten at bars in northern Spain. They’re especially popular in the Basque Country, La Rioja, Cantabria, Asturias, and Navarra where they’re an important part of local culture. They have a strong social component and are typically eaten with friends and family over small glasses of wine or beer.

Pintxos can be served warm or at room temperature. Pintxos served at room temperature are prepared in advance and lined up on the bar’s counter. They typically cost around EUR 2 per piece, and like a buffet, you’re free to grab whichever you like. The bartender will keep track of your pintxos.

Warm pintxos on the other hand, are made to order and usually contain more premium ingredients like steak and foie gras. They’re typically more expensive, around EUR 4 per piece.


It’s fun bar hopping for pintxos in San Sebastian, but if you’d like to do it with a local guide, then you can book a pintxos tour through Get Your Guide. They can offer you tips and tidbits that you otherwise wouldn’t get on your own.

1. Taberna Dakara Bi – CLOSED

Taberna Dakara Bi was the very first bar we went to for pintxos in San Sebastian. I had read many glowing reviews about their sirloin steak with foie gras pintxos. People called it the best in the city so we wanted that to be our first taste of San Sebastian.

We were the first customers to walk into their shop that morning so we got to see all their beautiful pintxos neatly lined up on the bar’s counter. What a gorgeous sight!

The solomillo con foie is a type of hot pintxo so it needs to be made to order. While waiting, we helped ourselves to some of Dakara Bi’s ready-to-go pintxos sitting on the counter.

After a few days of eating pintxos, you’ll start noticing more common varieties like pinchos morunos (pork skewers) and foie a la plancha (grilled foie gras), but there are basically no limitations to pintxos in San Sebastian. Bars are free to be creative and come up with their own recipes.

The reviewers weren’t exaggerating. These pintxos were insanely delicious. Pictured in the foreground is the foie a la plancha while behind it is the solomillo con foie.

Both were sensational but the one in front comes with a much larger piece of foie gras. If you like foie gras, then you should definitely try both.

Here’s a closer look at the sirloin and foie gras served with a fruit reduction sauce. Cut thick, the steak was perfectly cooked and juicy and sensational with the creamy foie gras. The reviews were right, this really is one of the best pintxos in San Sebastian.

Pintxos are defined as “small bites” but as you can see with this solomillo con foie, some of these pintxos can be quite hefty and substantial.

Taberna Dakara Bi was one of the smallest pintxos bars we went to. If you can, try to come early so you can sit down. Taberna Dakara Bi is a TripAdvisor Certificate of Excellence awardee with a near-perfect 4.5-star rating.

Taberna Dakara Bi – CLOSED

Address: 31 de Agosto Kalea, 27, 20003 Donostia, Gipuzkoa, Spain
Notable pintxos: Taco de solomillo con foie
Expect to Spend: About EUR 2-4 per pintxo

2. Gandarias Jatetxea

Take a walk around the old town and you’ll notice that Gandarias Jatetxea is one of the most popular pintxos bars in San Sebastian. It’s a good-sized restaurant with two sections – a bar area for pintxos and a more formal area for sit-down diners.

Within seconds of entering the bar area, these enticing-looking sea urchin shells caught my attention. They contained uni, salmon roe, and a stringy crunchy mystery ingredient.

I walked out with one of the sea urchins and a cremini mushroom with shrimp pintxo. Both were tasty, but they had clearly been sitting out for a while so were a little cold. When freshly made, that mushroom and shrimp pintxo is amazing.

If you’re staying long enough in San Sebastian and have a rental car, then you may want to drive to Logroño. It’s a city in La Rioja province known for making some of the best pintxos in the region.

One of the pintxos they’ve mastered is the cremini mushroom with shrimp. It was absolutely sensational in Logroño and perhaps the single best pintxo we had in Spain. You can refer to my food guide for a list of the best pintxos bars in Logroño.

This brocheta de cordero or lamb brochette was fantastic and perhaps the best pintxo we tried at Gandarias. We ate here a few times and had many kinds, including their foie a la plancha. In terms of variety and quality, Gandarias Jatetxea has to be one of the best san Sebastian pintxos bars.

This picture was taken during a quieter time but Gandarias Jatetxea is typically overflowing with people. It can be hard to find an open table or counter spot so patience (and a quick step) is key.

Like Taberna Dakara Bi, Gandarias is a TripAdvisor Certificate of Excellence recipient with an impressive 4.5-star rating.

Gandarias Jatetxea

Address: 31 de Agosto Kalea, nº 23, 20003 Donostia, Gipuzkoa, Spain
Operating Hours: 11AM-12MN, daily
Expect to Spend: About EUR 3-4.50 per pintxo

3. Bar Gorriti

When doing research for local favorites, two San Sebastian pintxos bars would often come up – Bar Gorriti and Bar Haizea. The spread at Haizea was already decimated by the time I got there but luckily, Gorriti’s was just replenished.

Hopping from bar to bar is part of the allure so it’s best to limit yourself to just a few pieces at every place. At Gorriti, we had pintxos with sardine, a mini bocadillo, and a skewer of chicharrones (deep-fried pork belly).

Bocadillos are traditional Spanish sandwiches. You’ll find miniature versions like this one at many pintxos bars.

Gorriti Taberna really is one of the best San Sebastian pintxos bars. I enjoyed the authentic neighborhood feel of the place. Like many of the restaurants on this list, it’s a Certificate of Excellence awardee with a stellar 4.5-star rating on TripAdvisor.

Bar Gorriti

Address: De la Brecha Enparantza, 2, 20003 Donostia, Gipuzkoa, Spain
Operating Hours: 7AM-10PM, Mon-Sat (closed Sundays)
Expect to Spend: About EUR 2-3 per pintxo

4. Ttvn-Ttvn Taberna

Ttvn-Ttvn Taberna wasn’t the most popular pintxos bar we went to in San Sebastian. After visiting a few restaurants where we were left standing and elbowing our way to the bar for seconds, it was nice to eat pintxos in a more relaxed space.

Taberna Ttvn-Ttvn is a large and well-lit space that offers a wide selection of pintxos. They have a solid 4-star rating on TripAdvisor with most Spanish reviewers giving them an “Excellent” or “Very Good” rating.

They also had pintxos with angulas or baby eels which wasn’t something we saw often during our trip. I love angulas so these pintxos instantly caught my eye.

Our beautiful pintxos platter at Ttvn-Ttvn Taberna. The skewered octopus is known as polbo a feira or pulpo gallego. It’s a Galician-style dish made by boiling octopus to the perfect al dente texture. It’s chopped up into bite-sized pieces then sprinkled with coarse salt and paprika before being drizzled with olive oil. Delicioso!

Word of advice, if you see foie a la plancha on any bar’s menu, then you should order it. The slabs of foie are hefty in size and always delicious.

Ttvn-Ttvn Taberna

Address: 20003 Donostia-San Sebastian, Gipuzkoa, Spain
Expect to Spend: About EUR 2-4 per pintxo

5. Meson Portaletas

Meson Portaletas is another popular San Sebastian restaurant offering a wide assortment of pintxos and bocadillos, but something else caught our eye at this place.

They were one of the few places we found that were offering fresh oysters on the half-shell. We couldn’t resist. This platter of three oysters went for EUR 8.

Meson Portaletas felt like a more upscale San Sebastian pintxos bar similar in feel to Gandarias Jatetxea. They’re also a TripAdvisor Certificate of Excellence awardee with a solid 4-star rating.

Meson Portaletas

Address: Puerto Kalea, 21, 20003 Donostia, Gipuzkoa, Spain
Operating Hours: 11AM-12MN, daily
What to Order: Oysters, pintxos
Expect to Spend: About EUR 8-24 for 3-12 oysters

6. Sidreria Beharri

Sidreria Beharri serves pintxos but we were here for something else. As its name suggests, Sidreria Beharri is a sagardotegi or cider house. They serve Basque cider which is an alcoholic apple cider drink popular in the region.

Basque cider is made by fermenting locally-grown apples for about six months, until an alcohol content of at least 4.5% is produced.

The fermentation process produces a tart and sharp-tasting drink that’s somewhat earthy and straw-like in flavor. It’s a unique and interesting taste that may not be for everyone.

We were in San Sebastian in late April, at the tail end of the txotx season which typically starts in mid-January and goes until April or May. Txotx refers to the act of pouring cider directly from the barrel and pairing it with a traditional menu of cod, steak, cheese, apple jelly, and walnuts.

Here’s a picture of the bartender pouring us our glasses of cider. They pour it from a distance like this to aerate the drink and give it a natural effervescence. “Txotx!”

Sidreria Beharri’s traditional txotx menu goes for EUR 36 per person (minimum of two). We didn’t get the full-course menu but we did order some steak a la carte to pair with our cider.

There don’t seem to be a lot of sagardotegis in the heart of the Parte Vieja (Old Town). Sidreria Beharri was one of the easiest to get to so we went there. They’re a TripAdvisor Certificate of Excellence awardee with a commendable 4-star rating.

Sidreria Beharri

Address: Narrika Kalea, 22, 20003 Donostia, Gipuzkoa, Spain
Operating Hours: 11AM-11:15PM, daily
What to Order: El menu sidreria tradicional, pintxos
Expect to Spend: About EUR 36 for the traditional menu

7. La Mejillonera

I don’t think they offer pintxos but La Mejillonera is a San Sebastian tapas bar that serves mostly seafood tapas. As their name suggests, they’re particularly known for their mejillones or mussel tapas prepared in a number of ways.

If you enjoy mussels, then you should definitely try La Mejillonera. We ate here twice.

La Mejillonera is popular so expect a crowd during peak hours. Like most of the restaurants on this list, they’re a Certificate of Excellence awardee with a solid 4-star rating on TripAdvisor.

La Mejillonera

Address: Calle del Puerto, 15, 20003 Donostia-San Sebastian, SS, Spain
Operating Hours: 11:30AM-2:45PM, 6-10:45PM, Tue-Sun / 6-10:45PM, Mon
What to Order: Mussel tapas
Expect to Spend: About EUR 4 per order

8. La Cuchara de San Telmo

La Cuchara de San Telmo is one of the best and most popular San Sebastian tapas bars. I don’t know if they make pintxos but they do offer a chalkboard of fantastic tapas dishes like this cochinillo asado or roast suckling pig.

Do you remember what I said about ordering foie gras every time you see it on the menu? We did it again here and were rewarded with this fantastic roasted foie gras with apple sauce.

La Cuchara de San Telmo was one of the best restaurants we went to in San Sebastian. We ate here twice.

La Cuchara de San Telmo is tucked away in an alley near the San Telmo Museum. It was one of the most popular restaurants we visited in San Sebastian. They’re a TripAdvisor Certificate of Excellence awardee with a superb 4.5-star rating and close to 3,000 reviews.

La Cuchara de San Telmo

Address: Santa Korda Kalea, 4, 20003 Donostia, Gipuzkoa, Spain
Operating Hours: 12NN-3:30PM, 7:30-11PM, Tue-Fri / 12:30-3:30PM, 7:30-11PM, Sat-Sun (closed Mondays)
What to Order: Tapas
Expect to Spend: About EUR 5-20 per plate (depending on size)


9. Bodegon Alejandro

Bodegon Alejandro is a Michelin-starred restaurant in San Sebastian that serves Basque tasting menus at reasonable prices. Unfortunately, we had already filled up on pintxos by the time we got here so we settled for dessert.

On the left below is their green apple pie with rosemary trifle and lemon thyme ice cream, while on the right is a caramelized french toast served with fresh cheese ice cream. Both were as delicious as they sound and look.

The above two desserts were terrific but what really drew us in to Bodegon Alejandro was their Basque burnt cheesecake. It’s a type of cheesecake invented in San Sebastian by La Viña.

Basque burnt cheesecake is a crustless cheesecake that’s slightly burned at the top, hence the name. It has a slightly gooey texture that’s somewhere between a flan and a New York cheesecake. It’s soft and fluffy around the edges but creamy and molten towards the center.

New York cheesecake was one of my absolute favorite desserts until I met the Basque burnt cheesecake. It’s absolutely delicious and a must-try San Sebastian food.

Proudly on display outside Bodegon Alejandro is their Michelin Star. It’s a great place to have good dessert and reasonably priced tasting menus but be advised that they’re only open on weekends.

Bodegon Alejandro

Address: nº 4, Fermin Calbeton Kalea, 20003 Donostia, Gipuzkoa, Spain
Operating Hours: 8-10:30PM, Fri / 1-3:30PM, 8-10:30PM, Sat / 1-3:30PM, Sun (closed Mon-Fri)
What to Order: Tasting menu, desserts
Expect to Spend: About EUR 52 for the tasting menu

10. Maiatza

These last two entries aren’s pintxos or tapas bars, but places where you can get pastries and other Spanish desserts.

Maiatza is a lovely cafe run by two Argentinian sisters. They offer a bit of everything from breakfast to bruschetta to vegan bowls and cocktails.

Maiatza is a pleasant and well-lit cafe. Open at 8:30AM, they give early risers a great place to have breakfast. We visited Maiatza twice, the first time for breakfast and the second time for a nightcap.

We arrived in San Sebastian by bus from Madrid early in the morning. Nearly everything in the Parte Vieja was still closed except for Maiatza. It was nice to have a light breakfast of coffee and croissants while we waited for the city to wake up.

Alfajores is a type of cookie filled with dulce de leche and rolled in coconut. This particular type is called alfajores de maicena. Based on my research, it’s an Argentinian version of alfajores made with a mix of flour and cornstarch.

Yes, Maiatza is yet another TripAdvisor Certificate of Excellence awardee with a superb 4.5-star rating.


Address: San Bizente Kalea, 7, 20003 Donostia, Gipuzkoa, Spain
Operating Hours: 8:30AM-9PM, Mon-Thurs / 8:30AM-10PM, Fri-Sat / 9AM-9PM, Sun
What to Order: Breakfast, pastries
Expect to Spend: About EUR 5-10 per person

11. Pasteleria Oiartzun

The queue of people waiting outside Pasteleria Oiartzun can’t be ignored. It’s a popular pasteleria near San Sebastian City Hall that serves a variety of sweets like pastries, chocolates, and gelato.

We tried the caramel eclair and an interesting Basque dessert called a goxua.

Like Renée with foie gras, it’s impossible for me to see choux pastries on a menu and not order it. Oiartzun’s eclairs are delicious.

A goxua is a typical Basque dessert made with layers of whipped cream, sponge cake, and caramelized custard topped with a caramel sauce. It’s a creamy dessert reminiscent of crema catalana. Yum!

Pasteleria Oiartzun is popular and in a prime location so expect a line at any time of day. It does move fairly quickly but be prepared to eat your dessert standing.

Like the vast majority of restaurants in this guide, Pasteleria Oiartzun is a Certificate of Excellence awardee with a stellar 4.5-star rating on TripAdvisor.

Pasteleria Oiartzun

Address: Ijentea Kalea, 2, BAJO, 20003 Donostia, Gipuzkoa, Spain
Operating Hours: 8AM-9PM, daily
What to Order: Pastries
Expect to Spend: About EUR 2.50 per pastry


To help you find these San Sebastian pintxos bars, I’ve pinned them all on an interactive map. It’ll have a few more that aren’t included in this guide. Click on the link to open the map in a new window.


When you think of the best food in Spain, you think of San Sebastian. When you think of San Sebastian, you think of Michelin stars and pintxos.

Considering how important a food city it is, this list of eleven San Sebastian restaurants barely scratches the surface. We visited over ten cities and towns in Spain but San Sebastian, like Granada, is definitely one we’ll be exploring again. The food in San Sebastian is SERIOUSLY delicious.


Some of the links in this San Sebastian food guide are affiliate links, meaning we’ll earn a small commission if you make a purchase at no additional cost to you. As always, we only recommend products and services that we use ourselves and firmly believe in. We really appreciate your support as this helps us make more of these free travel guides. Muchas gracias!

10 Essential Things to Do in Hoi An, Vietnam

Hoi An Ancient Town is incredibly pretty, especially at night.

Head out to the Bridge of Lights (Cau An Hoi) at around 8PM to see what I mean. True to its name, the bridge and surrounding areas are illuminated with paper lanterns of every color. They hang from the bridge, from storefronts, between houses, and float down the Thu Bon River.

Hordes of tourists congregate on this pedestrian bridge to take pictures of the magical scene that manifests itself every night in the Old Town.

Admittedly, the crowds can get a bit overwhelming. But as touristy as it can sometimes be, it’s still one of the most memorable things to do in Hoi An.

If it’s your first time visiting central Vietnam, then this guide will show you ten of the best things you can do in this magical fairy tale town called Hoi An.


To help you plan your trip to Hoi An, I’ve compiled links to hotels, tours, and other services here.


Top-rated hotels in Hoi An Ancient Town, the most convenient area to stay for people on their first trip to Hoi An.

  • Luxury: Allegro Hoi An
  • Midrange: Kim Phu Villa Hoi An
  • Budget: Backhome Hostel & Bar


  • Sightseeing Tour: Half-Day Guided Walking Tour in a Small Group
  • Street Food Tour: Unique Street Food Tour
  • Cooking Class: Private Walking Tour and Cooking Class
  • Day Trip: Full-Day Ba Na Hills Tour and Golden Bridge Visit


  • Vietnam eVisa
  • Travel Insurance (with COVID cover)
  • Airport Transfer
  • eSIM Data Plan


Before you visit Hoi An, be sure to check out our detailed Hoi An travel guide. It’ll tell you all you need to know – like how to get to Hoi An from Da Nang Airport, where to stay, where to eat, etc. – to help you plan your trip.

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1. Explore Hoi An Ancient Town (Old Town)

Getting lost in the Ancient Town (Old Town) is one of the most fun things to do in Hoi An. It refers to a thirty hectare area near the mouth of the Thu Bon River that was one of the busiest trading ports in Southeast Asia between the 16th and 18th centuries.

At one point, it was the exclusive trade conduit between Europe, China, India, and Japan, leading to a unique fusion of cultures that can’t be seen anywhere else in Vietnam.

Today, Hoi An Ancient Town is a UNESCO World Heritage Site that’s home to an exceptionally well-preserved complex of timber frame buildings, pagodas, and heritage houses. The old Japanese bridge is particularly impressive. Collectively, the Old Town is the top attraction in Hoi An and a big reason why people enjoy this city.

The Old Town is the heart of Hoi An and its hub of commercial activity so you’ll be spending most of your time there. It’s a fascinating area to explore with its lanyrinthine network of restaurants, cafes, shops, and museums.

Hoi An Ancient Town is at its most dramatic at night, but if you’re into photography, then you may want to explore it early in the morning as well. It looks incredible bathed in the golden glow of sunrise. Plus, you’ll have the town all to yourself. You can check out my article on Hoi An Ancient Town for more pictures and information.

The Old Town is fun to explore on your own but if you’d like to learn more about it on a guided tour, then there are several you can choose from on Klook or Get Your Guide.

Hoi An Ancient Town Ticket: VND 120,000

2. Eat Cao Lau

If you travel for food like we do and want to learn more about Vietnamese culture, then digging into the local Vietnamese cuisine is something that you absolutely must do in Hoi An.

There are three delicious dishes that make up the holy trinity of Hoi An food – cao lau, banh mi, and com ga. Of the three, cao lau may be the most important.

Cao lau is a rice noodle dish made with cha siu pork, rice crackers, bean sprouts, fresh herbs, and deep-fried squares of pork skin. What makes it special are the noodles. Authentic cao lau noodles are made with water drawn from the ancient Ba Le Well.

The well’s alkaline water mixed with wood ash from the Cham Islands gives cao lau noodles its distinctive yellow tinge and chewier texture.

With cao lau being such an important Hoi An dish, I’ve tried it many times but my favorites so far are from Cao Lau Khong Gian Xanh and Cao Lau Thanh. Both are local favorites known for serving some of the best cao lau in Hoi An. Many food stalls at the Hoi An local market offer cao lau as well.

You can check out our food guide for a list of the best local restaurants in Hoi An. If you’d like to experience cao lau and other traditional Vietnamese dishes with a local guide, then there are plenty of food tours to choose from on Get Your Guide.

Where to Try It: Cao Lau Khong Gian Xanh, Cao Lau Thanh
Expect to Spend: About VND 35,000 per bowl

3. Take a Cooking Class

If you want to learn more about Vietnamese cuisine, then taking a cooking class is one of the best things you can do in Hoi An. In fact, the class we took at Thuan Tinh Island Cooking School was the very first cooking class we had ever taken on a trip. We had so much fun that we’ve been doing it ever since.

Many restaurants and hotels offer cooking classes but one of the most recommended is Thuan Tinh Island Cooking School. They’re a TripAdvisor Certificate of Excellence awardee with a perfect 5-star rating, even after over 3,200 reviews.

If you don’t think Thuan Tinh Island Cooking School is the right place for you, then you can check out Cookly for a list of cooking classes in Hoi An. They have dozens to choose from.

4. Ride a Basket Boat

Riding one of these round basket boats has to be one of the most fun things to do in Hoi An. They’re popular in southern and central Vietnam and have become an iconic symbol of the country.

When I booked our cooking class at Thuan Tinh Island Cooking School, included on the itinerary was a short boat ride to Thuan Tinh Island. I assumed it would be on one of these round boats but we wound up riding wooden canoes instead.

The origin of these round boats is unclear, though some people speculate they may have been born from a similar reason as the narrow houses in Hanoi – French taxation.

When the French levied taxes on boats like they did on houses, fishermen found an ingenious way of circumventing taxation by creating large “baskets” that doubled as boats. They quickly became popular because of their tax-free status and clever design.

You can hire wooden canoes to take you up and down the Thu Bon River but I suggest riding one of these basket boats instead. These basket boat trips offer a more unique and authentic way of experiencing the waterways of Hoi An. You can book a basket boat tour on Klook or Get Your Guide.

Photo by Pinglabel via Shutterstock

5. Eat Banh Mi

Banh mi is a Vietnamese national dish. You can have it anywhere in Vietnam but many people, including the late great Anthony Bourdain and CNN, say that the best banh mi can be found in Hoi An, and much of that can be attributed to the bread.

Strictly speaking, the term “banh mi” refers to bread but it’s often used to describe the sandwich made with a small French baguette. It can be filled with any number of ingredients but the most common fillings include liver pate, cold cuts, pickled vegetables, cucumber slices, and cilantro.

Ask locals for the best banh mi in Hoi An and most will point you to the Banh My Queen or Banh Mi Phuong. Both were outstanding and two of the best banh mis I’ve had anywhere in Vietnam.

Where to Try It: Madam Khanh – The Banh My Queen, Banh Mi Phuong
Expect to Spend: About VND 20,000-30,000 per banh mi

6. Have Coffee or Tea at the Reaching Out Tea House

There are many cute cafes serving good Vietnamese coffee in Hoi An, but this has to be one of the most interesting. At Reaching Out Tea House in the Ancient Town, you’re meant to enjoy your coffee or tea in silence.

Reaching Out Tea House is managed by the speech or hearing impaired. Instead of communicating verbally, you’re encouraged to correspond through handwritten notes or by using blocks with messages like “Bill”, “Ice”, or “Thank you”.

Reaching Out is a lovely initiative that serves good coffee. They offer just three coffee blends and four types of tea. You can get them separately or try them all in these coffee or tea tasting sets.

As of this writing, Reaching Out Tea House maintains a perfect 5-star rating on TripAdvisor even after over 2,600 reviews. You can check out our coffee guide for more of the best cafes in Hoi An.

Expect to Spend: About VND 135,000 for the coffee tasting set

7. Explore My Son Sanctuary

A visit to My Son Sanctuary is by far the most popular day trip you can make from Hoi An. It’s a Hindu sanctuary with temples and ancient ruins that’s often referred to as a “mini Angkor Wat”.

My Son Sanctuary is a UNESCO World Heritage Site that was built by the Cham people between the 4th and 14th centuries. You can check out my article on My Son Sanctuary for more pictures and information.

We booked a private tour to My Son Sanctuary with Simply Vietnam Travel but you can book group tours through Klook or Get Your Guide.

8. Eat Com Ga

Com ga is the third member of Hoi An’s holy trinity of regional Vietnamese food, and it may be my favorite. It’s basically Vietnam’s version of Hainanese chicken rice, which was brought to Quang Nam Province by Chinese traders from Hainan.

Com ga is made with shredded poached chicken, seasoned pilaf rice, green papaya and carrot strands, fresh herbs, and a tasty bowl of chicken broth that may or may not contain bits of offal and congealed blood. It’s absolutely delicious and one of my favorite things to eat in Hoi An.

I’ve tried com ga at a few places in Hoi An but my favorite was definitely Long Com Ga, a small restaurant tucked away in an alley in the Old Town. Their com ga was the tastiest for me and served with different types of offal.

Where to Try It: Long Com Ga, Com Ga Ba Buoi
Expect to Spend: About VND 35,000 per order of com ga

9. Eat White Rose Dumplings

White Rose dumplings or banh bao banh vac are dumplings made by the White Rose Restaurant. This Hoi An institution has been serving these iconic dumplings for four generations now.

White Rose dumplings are unique to Hoi An. Filled with spiced minced shrimp or pork, their skins are made with the same alkaline water used to make cao lau noodles, giving them a similarly firm and chewy texture.

You’ll find many restaurants and stalls at the central market offering White Rose dumplings in Hoi An. These are all sourced from White Rose Restaurant but I suggest trying them at the restaurant itself. They have just two items on their menu – White Rose dumplings and fried wontons also known as “Hoi An pizza”.

Expect to Spend: About VND 70,000 per order of white rose dumplings

10. Get a Custom-Tailored Suit or Dress

Getting a custom-tailored suit or dress is one of the most popular things to do in Hoi An. The town’s tailoring tradition goes back many generations so you’ll find dozens of tailor shops in Hoi An that can skillfully recreate exact replicas of whatever you want in 24-48 hours.

With that said, be careful where you go because I’ve read that not all tailors are honest. You can ask your hotel for help or refer to this article for recommendations.

Photo by Tee11 via Shutterstock


As advised, My Son Sanctuary is the most popular day trip people make from Hoi An. If you’re staying long enough, then there are other places you can visit as well.

If you like beaches, then Cua Dai Beach and An Bang Beach are nearby. Thanks to their proximity to the city center, they’re popular with both locals and tourists alike. Day trips to the Golden Bridge in Da Nang (Get Your Guide) and the Marble Mountains (Klook | Get Your Guide) are popular as well.

After your first trip to Hoi An, you’ll understand why it’s one of our favorite cities to visit in Vietnam. Not to live in, but to visit. The city is charming, it’s compact, it’s got great food, and there are plenty of things to do in Hoi An for first-time visitors.

In my opinion, Hoi An is a little too touristy to stay in for a prolonged amount of time (try going to the night market), but if it’s your first time visiting, then there are few destinations in Vietnam more impactful than Hoi An.

Personally, I’ll never forget the first time I saw the Ancient Town at night. We were having drinks by the river then walked our bikes through the Old Town to get back to our hotel.

I didn’t know what to expect so seeing all the lanterns lit up made me feel like I had fallen asleep at the bar and woken up in a fairy tale. It truly was magical.

I hope you have a similar experience on your first visit to Hoi An.


Some of the links in this article on the best things to do in Hoi An are affiliate links. We’ll earn a small commission if you make a purchase or booking at no additional cost to you. As always, we only recommend products and services that we use ourselves and firmly believe in. We really appreciate your support as this helps us make more of these free travel guides. Thank you!

The First-Timer’s Bangkok Travel Guide (2023)

Bangkok is one of those cities that never gets old. No matter how many times you’ve been, you’ll always discover something new and exciting to see, do, and eat.

It’s got a near perfect mix of food, culture, nightlife, shopping, and affordability that’s unmatched anywhere in Southeast Asia.

We’ve traveled to Bangkok so many times over the years that it feels almost like a second home. Such is the allure of the world’s most visited city for the last four years and running. It doesn’t matter where you’re from or what you’re into. Bangkok will have something for you.

If you’re visiting Thailand for the first time, then I hope this comprehensive Bangkok travel guide can help you plan your trip.


This travel guide to Bangkok is long. For your convenience, I’ve compiled links to hotels, tours, and other services here.


Top-rated hotels in Siam, one of the best areas to stay for first-time visitors to Bangkok.

  • Luxury: The St. Regis Bangkok
  • Midrange: Pathumwan Princess Hotel – SHA Certified
  • Budget: Siam Stadium Hostel


  • Sightseeing Tour: Bangkok Day Tour: Wat Pho, Wat Arun, Grand Palace and Emerald Buddha
  • Food Tour: 4-Hour Food Tour with Klong Boat Ride
  • Floating Market Tour: Bangkok Floating Markets Tour


  • Visa Services
  • Travel Insurance with COVID cover (WFFF readers get 5% off)
  • Airport Transfers: Suvarnabhumi | Don Mueang
  • Wifi and Sim Cards

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  1. Bangkok Travel Restrictions
  2. Thailand Visa
  3. Bangkok at a Glance
  4. Best Time to Visit Bangkok
  5. Traveling to Bangkok
  6. Where to Exchange Currency
  7. Best Area to Stay in Bangkok
  8. Places to Visit in Bangkok
  9. Things to Do in Bangkok
  10. Day Tours from Bangkok
  11. Thai Food Guide
  12. Where to Eat in Bangkok
  13. Points of Interest in Bangkok (Map)
  14. How to Get Around in Bangkok
  15. How Many Days to Stay / Bangkok Itinerary
  16. Bangkok Travel Tips


Because of the current global situation, Bangkok travel guidelines change almost on a weekly basis. Our friends at created a website that lists detailed information on travel restrictions around the globe.

Before planning a trip to Bangkok, be sure to check for information on travel restrictions to Thailand. If you do decide to visit Bangkok, then you may want to seriously consider getting travel insurance with COVID coverage.


Depending on your passport, you may need a visa and other travel documents to visit Thailand. Check out to learn about the requirements and to apply for a visa (if necessary).


Bangkok is the capital of Thailand and its biggest city by far. It’s a top tourist destination which is consistently ranked among the world’s most visited cities.

In fact, so popular and beloved is Bangkok that it was voted the “World’s Best City” by Travel + Leisure magazine readers for four consecutive years. Spend a few days there and you’ll understand why.

Bangkok’s myriad attractions make it appealing to a diverse demographic of tourists. Are you into shopping? There are plenty of markets and shopping malls like Chatuchak Market and Siam Square to keep you busy.

Do you like cultural attractions? If so, then you can spend the day exploring the Old City and its must-see sights like the Grand Royal Palace and Wat Pho.

If good food is your thing, then you’ll be pleased to know that CNN declared Bangkok as the world’s best street food city.

And don’t let budget concerns scare you away either. You can thrive on Khaosan Road, the backpacking capital of the universe, for as little as USD 15-20 a day.

In short, Bangkok has something for everyone. It’s an exciting, affordable city that’s much more than your gateway into Thailand. For many travelers, it’s the destination.


Like Manila, Bangkok enjoys a tropical climate so it’s warm year round with just two seasons – rainy and dry.

The dry season is from November-April while the rainy season is from May-October. March-May are typically the hottest months while August and September experience the most rainy days.

Because of the dry and cooler climate, November-February is considered the ideal time to visit Bangkok. However, it’s also peak season so expect higher prices during that time.

NOV-FEB: Climate-wise, this is the ideal time to visit Bangkok. It’s cooler, it rains less, and it isn’t as humid. It’s also the height of tourist season so expect bigger crowds and slightly higher prices overall.

MAR-MAY: These are the hottest months in Bangkok. The temperature often exceeds 40°C (104°F) so it isn’t the most comfortable time to visit. However, Songkran or the Thai New Year happens every April. This three-day festival turns the city into a big water fight, making it a fun time to be in Bangkok.

JUN-OCT: The rainy season in Bangkok typically begins in June and lasts till the beginning of November. This is considered the low season in Bangkok.

Climate: Annual Monthly Weather in Bangkok

To help you better understand the weather in Bangkok, I’ve created the average temperature and annual rainfall graphs below. Suggested months to visit are indicated in orange.

Average Temperature

Annual Rainfall


Bangkok is serviced by two international airports – Suvarnabhumi Airport (BKK) and Don Mueang Airport (DMK).

The former is the primary airport which services more international flights, so the majority of tourists traveling to Bangkok will probably enter the country through Suvarnabhumi.

Here’s how you can get to downtown Bangkok from either airport.

From Suvarnabhumi International Airport (BKK)

BY TRAIN: This is the best way to get to downtown Bangkok from Suvarnabhumi. You can take the Airport Rail Link from Suvarnabhumi to Phaya Thai Station (THB 45). From there, you can can transfer to the BTS line and take it to the station nearest your hotel. You can purchase tickets at the station but you can get a small discount if you buy it in advance through Klook.

BY BUS: You can catch the S1 bus from Suvarnabhumi to Khaosan Road. Departing from Gate 7 on the first floor of the passenger terminal, the fare is THB 60 and it runs every 30 minutes from 6AM-8PM.

BY TAXI OR GRAB: A taxi from Suvarnabhumi to downtown Bangkok should cost you around THB 400 (with airport surcharge and toll). Be sure that the driver uses the meter since taxi scams are quite rampant in Bangkok.

BY PRIVATE TRANSFER: This is the easiest and most comfortable option, but it’s also the most expensive. You can book private transfers from Suvarnabhumi International Airport (BKK) to downtown Bangkok on Bookaway.

From Don Mueang International Airport (DMK)

BY TRAIN: There’s no BTS or MRT station at Don Mueang, so you’ll need to take a bus or taxi from the airport to the nearest train station, which is Mo Chit. If you’re going by bus, then you can catch the A1 bus just outside the terminal. The bus fare to Mo Chit BTS Station is THB 30 and it runs every 15 minutes or so from 7:30AM-11:30PM*. Once you’re at Mo Chit Station, then you can take the BTS to the station nearest your hotel.

BY BUS: You can catch the A2, A3, or A4 bus from Don Mueang to Victory Monument (A2), Pratunam and Lumpini Park (A3), or Khao San Road and Sanam Luang (A4). The fare is THB 30-50 and it runs every 30 minutes or so from 7:30AM-11:30PM*. We’ve never taken a bus in Bangkok but a common concern seems to be that buses tend to get full. For that reason, you may be better off taking it to Mo Chit and doing the rest of the journey by train.

BY TAXI OR GRAB: A taxi from Don Mueang to downtown Bangkok should cost you around THB 350 (with airport surcharge and toll). As advised, be sure the driver uses the meter.

BY PRIVATE TRANSFER: This is the easiest and most comfortable option, but it’s also the most expensive. You can book private transfers from Don Mueang International Airport (DMK) to downtown Bangkok on Bookaway.

*Different websites have conflicting information on bus timetables so these are estimates based on what I’ve read.

From Other Ports of Entry

We flew to Bangkok but there are other ways to get there depending on where you are. I suggest checking Bookaway to find route options available to you. You can click on the link or use the widget below.


The unit of currency in Thailand is the Thai Baht (THB).

I read that SuperRich offers some of the best exchange rates in Bangkok and it seems to be true. I exchanged a small amount of currency at Suvarnabhumi Airport and got a rate of 31.28. Later that same day, I got a rate of 33.05 at a SuperRich branch.

I suggest changing a small amount at the airport, no more than USD 100, just to get you into the city. You can then change the rest at SuperRich. Follow this link for a list of SuperRich branches.

If you’re worried about bringing too much foreign currency with you, then an alternative would be to withdraw THB from an ATM. The rates are comparable.

Just be sure to let your bank that you plan on using your ATM card abroad so you don’t run into any problems. In my experience, my ATM card works in some machines but not in others.

NOTE: Some ATM machines may give you the option of proceeding “with or without conversion”. Always proceed WITHOUT conversion. Proceeding with conversion allows the foreign bank operating the ATM to do the conversion for you, usually at terrible exchange rates.


Figuring out where to stay in Bangkok can be challenging. It’s a big city and the subway system, while convenient, doesn’t service as many areas yet.

For that reason, I think it’s best to stay in a commercial area which is as near as possible to a BTS or MRT station. That way you have easy access to the subway and not have to be so dependent on taxis or Grab to get around.

There are eight popular tourist lodging areas in downtown Bangkok: Sukhumvit, Siam, Silom, Pratunam, Riverside, Chinatown, the Old City (Rattanakosin), and Chatuchak.

Because of Bangkok’s notorious rush hour traffic, international tourists coming in and out of the city at odd hours often stay near Suvarnabhumi Airport, so you count that as the ninth.

We’ve been to Bangkok many times over the years so we’ve stayed in most of these areas. If it’s your first time in Bangkok, then I think the Siam or Sukhumvit areas are ideal. They offer the best combination of shopping, food, and ease of transportation.

I’ve created the color-coded map below to help you visualize where all these recommended areas are. Click on the link for a live version of the map. (Please note that marked areas are approximations only)

RED – Sukhumvit
GREEN – Silom
PINK – Pratunam
BLUE – Riverside
YELLOW – Chinatown
GREY – The Old City
ORANGE – Chatuchak
BROWN – Suvarnabhumi Airport


Sukhumvit has a reputation for being one of the most cosmopolitan areas in Bangkok. Popular with foreigners and expats, it’s home to luxury hotels and plenty of restaurants offering a wide range of cuisine.

If nightlife is important to you, then Sukhumvit is probably the best area to stay. It’s got a bustling nightlife, much of which is centered around Soi 11 which is one of Bangkok’s most famous party streets.

Both the BTS and MRT run through Sukhumvit so transportation shouldn’t be a problem. You can search for accommodations through or Agoda. Check out some of the top-rated hotels in Sukhumvit:

  • Luxury: Hyatt Regency Bangkok Sukhumvit
  • Midrange: LA49 Hotel
  • Budget: Backpack Station


If you’re traveling to Bangkok primarily to shop, then Siam is the best area for you to be. It’s full of shopping centers, department stores, boutiques, restaurants, cafes, and bars.

I don’t remember the name of the hotel but we stayed in Siam many years ago and our hotel was surrounded by shopping malls and connected to a BTS station. It was super convenient.

The BTS Skytrain runs through the Siam area so transportation won’t be a problem. You can search for accommodations through or Agoda. Check out some of the top-rated hotels in Siam:

  • Luxury: The St. Regis Bangkok
  • Midrange: Pathumwan Princess Hotel – SHA Certified
  • Budget: Siam Stadium Hostel


Silom is Bangkok’s business district. We’ve never stayed here but it’s another popular area to stay in Bangkok, perhaps just a tier below Siam and Sukhumvit. It’s home to Lumphini Park, Patpong night market, and the infamous Patpong red light district.

Both the BTS and MRT run through Silom so getting around should be easy. You can search for accommodations through or Agoda. Check out some of the top-rated hotels in Silom:

  • Luxury: W Bangkok Hotel
  • Midrange: The Quarter Silom by UHG
  • Budget: Tini Kati Hostel


Ren and I stayed at Baiyoke Sky Hotel in Pratunam on our first trip to Bangkok together. At 88 storeys tall, it’s the tallest hotel in Southeast Asia. The room we stayed in was huge and gave us an awesome view of the city.

What I liked about this hotel (and area) is that it’s close to many air-conditioned shopping malls in the Siam area like MBK, Siam Center, and Siam Paragon. I remember walking to MBK nearly everyday and spending most of our time there, either to shop or just to get away from the heat.

The hotel also has viewing decks on the 77th and 84th floors that offer spectacular views of the city. You can purchase tickets at the door or in advance through Get Your Guide. You can book a room at Baiyoke Sky Hotel through or Agoda. Be sure to check both sites to find the best deal.

If you like the Pratunam area but don’t think this is the right hotel for you, then you can check these sites for alternate listings in Pratunam: | Agoda. Check out some of the top-rated hotels in the area:

  • Luxury: InterContinental Bangkok, an IHG Hotel
  • Midrange: Theme Boutique Hotel Bangkok
  • Budget: The Cocoon Hostel


The Riverside area is a relaxed, more upscale neighborhood offering great views of the Chao Phraya River. We booked an AirBnB at Ideo Mobi Sathorn, a residential condominium located right next to Krung Thonburi BTS station.

What I loved about staying here is that it’s in a residential neighborhood far removed from the chaos of downtown Bangkok. However, the Riverside area is a bit far from downtown Bangkok so you’ll need to commute everyday to get to the city’s commercial areas. It’s a great place to stay but it may not be ideal for first-time visitors to Bangkok.

If you like the Riverside area, then you can check for listings. Here are a few of the top-rated hotels in the area:

  • Luxury: The Peninsula Bangkok
  • Midrange: Inn a day
  • Budget: Tiny Taladnoi Hostel


If great street food is what you’re after, then Chinatown is one of the best places to be. It’s home to lively Yaowarat Road which is one of the best and most famous areas in Bangkok for street food.

As much fun as it is to eat in Chinatown, it’s a hectic area and perhaps not the best place for people looking for a more relaxed stay in Bangkok. I believe there are only two MRT stations in the Chinatown area so transportation isn’t as easy either.

You can search for accommodations in Chinatown through or Agoda. Check out some of the top hotels in the area:

  • Luxury: Hotel Royal Bangkok@Chinatown
  • Midrange: Norn Yaowarat Hotel
  • Budget: Luk Hostel


I haven’t seen it, but in the movie “The Beach” with Leonardo diCaprio, they described Khaosan Road as “the center of the backpacking universe”. That may be a slight exaggeration but it certainly feels that way when you’re there.

This is where I used to stay when I’d do solo trips to Bangkok twenty years ago. It’s a famous area teeming with bars, cheap restaurants, and guesthouses, which is why it’s such a popular choice among young backpackers on a budget.

If you’re young and like to party, then you’ll probably want to stay somewhere along Khaosan Road. It’s cheap and near some of the city’s most popular attractions like the Grand Palace and Wat Pho.

I used to be apprehensive about recommending the Old City because of its lack of metro stations, but not anymore. Thanks to a local reader, I was happy to learn that the Sanam Chai MRT station opened in 2019. It’s about a 5-minute walk from Wat Pho making it so much easier to get to and from the Old City.

You can search for accommodations in the Khaosan Road area on or Agoda. Here are some of the top-listed hotels in the area:

  • Luxury: Casa Nithra
  • Midrange: Old Capital Bike Inn
  • Budget: Mind Day Hostel Khaosan


Centara Grand at Central Plaza Ladprao is a 5-star hotel not too far from the Chatuchak Weekend Market. We were invited to stay here in 2018. The hotel is connected to the Centra Plaza Ladprao Shopping Complex and is close to Don Mueang Airport.

The hotel isn’t the most modern but it’s luxurious and very comfortable, with plenty of great restaurants to choose from including the fantastic Suan Bua Thai Restaurant.

Chatuchak is a little farther away from the city’s top attractions so I suggest staying in this area only if your main goal is to shop at Chatuchak Weekend Market or you need to be close to Don Mueang Airport.

You can book a room at Centara Grand at Central Plaza Ladprao on or Agoda. If you like the Chatuchak area but would rather stay at a different hotel, then you can check these links for alternate listings: | Agoda. Here are some of the top-rated hotels in the area:

  • Luxury: The Maruay Garden Hotel
  • Midrange: The Quarter Ladprao by UHG
  • Budget: Room@Vipa


The only reason for you to stay near Suvarnabhumi Airport is if you arrive late at night or have an early flight to catch the next day. It’s about an hour from downtown Bangkok so it’s too far to use as a base.

We stayed at The Cottage for one night on a previous trip to Thailand. We flew in from Chiang Mai and needed a place to stay near the airport to catch an international flight early the next morning.

The Cottage is a quick 5-minute drive from Suvarnabhumi Airport. It’s walking distance to the Paseo Community Mall where you’ll find plenty of restaurants and shops. They provide free shuttle transfers to the airport as well.

You can make reservations at The Cottage through or Agoda. You can also check Agoda for alternate listings around Suvarnabhumi Airport.

You can also book hotels and home stays in Bangkok using the handy map below.


1. Grand Palace and Wat Phra Kaew

The Grand Palace is considered by many to be the single most important attraction in Bangkok. Built in 1782, it served as the official residence of Thailand’s Royal Family until 1925. The King now resides in Dusit Palace though the Grand Palace is still used for official events like royal ceremonies and state functions.

There’s lots to see at the Grand Palace so plan to spend a couple of hours here. It’s a large complex comprised of several ornate buildings, pavilions, courtyards, and manicured gardens.

One of the most important structures at the Grand Palace is Wat Phra Kaew or the Temple of the Emerald Buddha. It houses the famed Emerald Buddha and is considered the most sacred Buddhist temple in Thailand.

You can explore the Grand Palace on you own, but if you’d like to learn more about its history, then you may be interested in a booking a guided tour with Klook or Get Your Guide.

Photo by Travel mania

Operating Hours: 8:30AM-3:30PM, daily
Admission: THB 500
Estimated Time to Spend: About 2 hrs

2. Wat Pho

Wat Pho or the Temple of the Reclining Buddha is located just south of the Grand Palace. It’s home to nearly 400 gilded Buddha images, none more impressive than its giant reclining Buddha measuring 15 meters tall and 46 meters long.

Together with Wat Arun, Wat Pho is one of six temples regarded as the highest grade of first-class royal temples in Thailand. It was the country’s first public university and considered the birthplace of traditional Thai massage, which is still taught and practiced at the temple today.

Because of its importance and proximity to the Grand Palace, you can visit both on guided tours which you can book through Klook or Get Your Guide.

Photo by Dmitry Rukhlenko

Operating Hours: 8AM-6:30PM, daily
Admission: THB 200
Estimated Time to Spend: About 1 hr

3. Wat Arun

Wat Arun is located directly across the river from Wat Pho. Aside from being one of the most important temples in Bangkok, it’s also one of its most beautiful, renowned for its striking riverside location and interesting design.

Getting to Wat Arun from Wat Pho is easy. Just walk to Tha Thien Pier and take a quick ferry ride across the Chao Phraya River for THB 4. You can also visit Wat Arun on a guided tour which you can book through Klook or Get Your Guide.

Photo by KoBoZaa

Operating Hours: 8:30AM-6PM, daily
Admission: THB 100
Estimated Time to Spend: About 30 mins – 1 hr

4. Wat Saket

Wat Saket is an Ayutthaya-era Buddhist temple known for its striking gold chedi.

Also known as the Golden Mount, it sits on top of an 80-meter tall manmade hill about 2.5 km east of the Grand Palace. Climb up over 300 steps to reach the stupa on top and get great views of Bangkok in all directions.

There are no BTS or MRT stations near Wat Saket so it’s easiest to get there by Grab from the Grand Palace, or on foot from Wat Suthat. You can also book a guided tour through Get Your Guide that takes you to Wat Saket.

Photo by TWStock

Operating Hours: 7:30AM-7PM, daily
Admission: THB 100
Estimated Time to Spend: About 1 hr

5. Wat Suthat Thepwararam / Giant Swing

Located between the Grand Palace and Wat Saket, Wat Suthat Thepwararam is one of the oldest Buddhist temples in Bangkok. It’s classified as one of ten royal temples of the first grade in Bangkok.

Wat Suthat is a noteworthy temple though its biggest claim to fame may be the gigantic red structure standing just outside its gate. Measuring over 21 meters tall, the Giant Swing consists of two red pillars connected by an intricately carved crossbar.

During the Brahmin thanksgiving ceremony, young men would ride the swing up to 24 meters in the air to try and grab a bag of silver coins with their teeth. It was a precarious practice that was abolished in 1932.

You can visit Wat Suthat Thepwararam on your own but the easiest way to get there would be to purchase a Hop On Hop Off pass. Buses or tuk-tuks ply set routes and take you to popular tourist attractions around the city, including the Giant Swing.

Photo by Casper1774 Studio

Operating Hours: 8:30AM-9PM, daily
Admission: THB 100
Estimated Time to Spend: About 30 mins – 1 hr

6. Jim Thompson House

The Jim Thompson House is a museum located in the Siam area, about a 10-minute walk from the MBK Shopping Center. It houses the impressive Southeast Asian art collection of American businessman Jim Thompson, the man credited for saving Thailand’s silk industry in the 50s and 60s.

Aside from its interesting design, part of what makes the Jim Thompson House so fascinating is his disappearance. Jim Thompson disappeared while out on a walk in Malaysia’s Cameron Highlands in 1967. His body was never found and his disappearance remains a mystery to this day.

You can visit the Jim Thompson House on your own or book a guided tour through Get Your Guide.

Photo by saiko3p

Operating Hours: 9AM-6PM, daily
Admission: THB 200
Estimated Time to Spend: About 1-2 hrs

7. Erawan Shrine

Erawan Shrine is one of the most popular Hindu shrines in Bangkok. Throughout the day you’ll find worshippers offering flowers, incense sticks, and fruit to a gilded statue of Phra Phrom. Phra Phrom is the Thai representation of Brahma, the Hindu god of creation.

Erawan Shrine is located near the Skytrain’s Chit Lom Station. It’s in a busy commercial area straddling Siam and Sukhumvit so you can make a stop here while shopping in the area. Traditional Thai dance performances are held at the shrine throughout the day.

Photo by Uthai Chutivipaporn

Operating Hours: 6AM-11PM, daily
Admission: FREE
Estimated Time to Spend: About 15-30 mins

8. Bangkok Art and Culture Center

The Bangkok Art and Culture Center (BACC) is a contemporary arts center offering free exhibits spread out over ten floors. It’s an interesting space with commercial art galleries, cafes, bookstores, and craft shops.

BACC is located near the MBK Shopping Center and is accessible via the National Stadium BTS Station. It’s a great place to visit while shopping in the Siam area.

Operating Hours: 10AM-9PM, Tue-Sun (closed Mondays)
Admission: FREE
Estimated Time to Spend: About 2-3 hrs

9. Erawan Museum

This is one of the most unique museums I’ve visited in Bangkok. It features a colossal bronze statue of a three-headed elephant weighing 250 tons and measuring 29 meters high (95 ft) by 39 meters long (128 ft).

It’s a short Grab ride away from Samrong Station, the last stop on the Skytrain’s Sukhumvit Line. It’s a bit hard to get to but worth it if you’re looking for something out of the ordinary in Bangkok. Check out my post on the Erawan Museum for more pictures and information.

You can purchase tickets at the gate but you can save on the cost if you buy them in advance through Get Your Guide. You can also get combo tickets through Klook or Get Your Guide that give you admission to both the Erawan Museum and the Ancient City.

Operating Hours: 9AM-7PM, daily
Admission: THB 400
Estimated Time to Spend: About 1-2 hrs


1. Go on a Food Tour

Bangkok is synonymous with street food. CNN called it the very best street food city in the world, and it isn’t hard to see why. No matter where you look, no matter what time of day, there seems to be something delicious waiting for you at every corner.

One of the best neighborhoods to go street food hunting is the area around Yaowarat Road in Chinatown. It’s home to some of the best and most iconic street food stalls in Bangkok. You can search for food tours in Chinatown and in other parts of Bangkok on Get Your Guide.

I love finding obscure eateries that don’t always show up on Google and going on a local-led food tour is one of the best ways to do that.

Photo by dodotone

2. Explore Bangkok’s Many Markets

Like street food, Bangkok is famous for its markets. From food markets to weekend markets to floating markets to night markets, there seems to be a market for everyone in this city.

Markets are such an important part of the Bangkok experience that no first-time visitor should leave without visiting at least one. Some of my favorites include Chatuchak Weekend Market, Or Tor Kor Market, and Khlong Lat Mayom Floating Market.

For more suggestions, check out our article on 20 fascinating markets to visit in Bangkok.

Photo by martinho Smart

3. Go on a Chao Phraya River Cruise

The Chao Phraya River is an important feature of Bangkok. It cuts through the center of the city and serves as a viable means of transport for thousands of commuters every day.

For tourists, the Chao Phraya River is a great way to experience some of Bangkok’s most popular attractions like Wat Arun, Wat Pho, and the Grand Palace.

If you’d like to go cruising in Bangkok, then you may be interested in booking a Chao Phraya River cruise on Klook or Get Your Guide. Many of them are evening cruises that include dinner.

Photo by funfunphoto via Deposit Photos

4. Explore Bang Kachao on Bicycle

If the chaos of Bangkok’s concrete jungle becomes too much for you, then you may want to seek refuge in Bang Kachao, an artificial island formed by a bend in the Chao Phraya River.

Known as Bangkok’s “Green Lung”, Bang Kachao is comprised of 16 sq km of mangrove forests, palm trees, and jungle. It’s a peaceful area with no skyscrapers, just rustic wooden houses and elevated pathways over canals that are best explored on bicycle. It’s a true oasis in Bangkok.

Bang Kachao is easy to get to by longtail boat from Wat Khlong Toey Nok Temple. You can go there on your own and rent a bicycle on the island, or you can arrange a biking tour through Klook or Get Your Guide.


5. Go Bar Hopping

We’re a little too old to party but Bangkok has great nightlife. It’s one of the reasons why it’s such a popular tourist destination, especially for young backpackers.

There are tons of bars you can explore in Bangkok. As mentioned, Soi 11 is a popular area to go bar hopping in Sukhumvit. Khao San Road is another.

If you like rooftop bars, then there are plenty to choose from in Bangkok. We’ve been to Blue Sky on the 24th floor of Centara Grand and loved it. You can also refer to this guide for a list of the best rooftop bars in Bangkok.

Photo by Supermop

6. Get a Massage or Spa Treatment

If you don’t feel like being too active and just want to relax, then one of the best things you can do is get a massage. Whether it’s a foot massage, a body massage, or a full blown spa treatment, it’s something we always enjoy doing in Thailand.

You’ll find spas and massage places everywhere in Bangkok (both legitimate and illegitimate), but if you want the best treatments, then you may want to book one in advance through Klook. They have dozens to choose from.

7. Watch a Muay Thai Kickboxing Match LIVE!

If you’re a fan of combat sports and would like to experience a live Muay Thai event in Bangkok, then you can do so at Lumpinee or Rajadamnern Stadiums. They’re Bangkok’s two major Muay Thai stadiums.

You can buy tickets directly from either stadium’s website, but you can also get Rajadamnern Stadium tickets through Klook.

I’ve read many people say that second class seats give you the best vantage point to watch the fights. Ringside tickets are more expensive and put you too close to the fighters. You’ll find yourself watching the action from ankle level.


8. Take a Thai Cooking Class

We haven’t taken a cooking class in Bangkok but we’ve taken one in Chiang Mai and Phuket. It’s something we try to do on every trip because its a fun way of getting to know the local cuisine.

If going on a food tour is a good way of finding obscure hole-in-the-walls, then taking a cooking class is the best way of learning about the local cuisine. It’s like looking under the cuisine’s hood.

You can book cooking classes in Bangkok through Cookly.

Photo by DextairPhotography


1. Spend the Day at a Floating Market

As described, Bangkok has many, many markets. There are several floating markets alone due to the city’s vast network of canals and waterways.

If you want an authentic local floating market experience, then I highly recommend Khlong Lat Mayom Floating Market which is just outside Central Bangkok.

But if what you’re looking for is a huge floating market with hundreds of colorful boats on the water, then you’ll need to go outside of Bangkok for that. None are more famous than Amphawa and Damnoen Saduak Floating Markets.

I’ve read that these floating markets can get very crowded and touristy, but it should still make for an interesting day trip. You can book any number of floating market tours on Klook or Get Your Guide.

Photo by Avigator Fortuner

2. Visit the Maeklong Railway Market

Have you seen those videos on social media where market vendors quickly pack up their produce to allow trains to pass through? This is that market.

Maeklong Railway Market is a train market in the province of Samut Songkhram, about 80 km west of Bangkok. It’s set up so close to active tracks that vendors and buyers need to quickly get out of the way to allow passing trains to get through.

It’s an interesting experience for sure, one that’s often paired with trips to Amphawa Floating Market. You can check out Klook and Get Your Guide for a list of guided tours to Maeklong Railway Market.

Photo by Marco Giovanelli

3. Explore the Historic City of Ayutthaya

Established in 1350, Ayutthaya is a UNESCO World Heritage Site that was once the capital of Siam. It flourished from the 14th to the 18th centuries and became one of the world’s largest urban areas and a center for global diplomacy and commerce.

Sadly, it was destroyed by the Burmese army in 1767 and never rebuilt. Today, it’s ruins are among the most popular day trip destinations from Bangkok, with the Buddha head embedded in a banyan tree being one of its most recognizable attractions.

You can book Ayutthaya day tours from Bangkok through Klook or Get Your Guide.

Photo by PimjanPhoto

4. Lay on the Beach in Pattaya

Pattaya is a resort town on the east coast of the Gulf of Thailand. It’s about 150 kilometers south of Bangkok, making it the closest major beach resort destination from the capital city.

Pattaya used to have a reputation for being a seedy beach town but not anymore. Today, it caters to families and couples and is better known for its white sand beaches and fun lineup of water sport activities like snorkelling, jet skiing, and parasailing.

If you aren’t moving to a beach destination after Bangkok, then you can check Klook and Get Your Guide for day tours to Pattaya.

Photo by apichon_tee

5. Visit the Seaside Resort Town of Hua Hin

To be honest, I had never heard of Hua Hin before until I learned about it from Chef Nutth of A Chef’s Tour.

As it turns out, Hua Hin is a gorgeous resort town less than three hours south of Bangkok. Chef Nutth said that the late King Bhumibol Adulyadej used to spend a lot of time at his palace in Hua Hin.

It looks like a great place to spend a few days but if you want to just get a taste of Hua Hin, then you can do so on a day tour which you can book through Klook.

Photo by Kaban-Sila

6. Cross the Bridge on the River Kwai

You’ve probably heard of the 1957 film called “The Bridge on the River Kwai”. It won multiple Academy Awards, including Best Picture, and is set during the construction of the Burma Railway in 1942–1943. Also known as the “Death Railway”, this is the bridge referenced in the movie.

Built by the Empire of Japan to support its forces in the Burma campaign of World War II, the Death Railway gets its name because its construction led to the deaths of an estimated 100,000+ civilian laborers and Allied prisoners.

If you’re a war history buff, then you may want to take a ride on the Thai-Burma Railway in Kanchanaburi via a day tour from Bangkok, which you can book through Klook or Get Your Guide.

Photo by Marco Saracco


Thailand is one of the best countries to visit for food. The food is delicious throughout the country so be sure to check out our Thai food guide for a list of 45 must-try dishes in Thailand. If you enjoy the sweeter things in life, then be sure to read our article on the tastiest Thai desserts as well.


As described, Bangkok has amazing food. I’ve listed a few of our favorites below but be sure to check out our Bangkok restaurant guide for more suggestions. If street food is your jam, then you’ll definitely want to check out our Bangkok street food guide as well.

1. Rongros

Michelin-recommended restaurants have a reputation for being expensive, but they don’t have to be. Rongros is the perfect example of that.

Located along the banks of the Chao Phraya River, Rongros doesn’t just serve delicious but affordable Thai cuisine, they offer one of the best views of Wat Arun as well, especially at night. This place is a must for people looking for excellent but cheap Thai food in Bangkok.

2. Sanguan Sri

Sanguan Sri is another Michelin-recommended restaurant that’s easy on the wallet. Open since 1970, this legendary restaurant serves some of the best Thai curry I’ve had anywhere in Bangkok and Thailand.

Open only for lunch, it’s hugely popular with locals so I suggest going at slightly off-peak hours.

3. Somsak Pu Ob

Pretty much everyone has heard of Jay Fai by now but another Bangkok street food stall that you should know about is Somsak Pu Ob. This legendary street vendor sells the most delicious pots of glass noodles served with either prawn or crab.

What you’re looking at below is a hunk of crab with its roe still intact. Yes, crab roe. This stall is amazing and served me one of the best dishes I’ve had so far in Bangkok.

4. Wattana Panich

What if I told you about a restaurant in Bangkok with a giant cauldron of beef stew that’s been slowly simmering for over forty years? Would you believe me?

It’s absolutely true and you can find that magical cauldron at Wattana Panich, another legendary restaurant in Bangkok. It isn’t everyday that you find a place like this so I highly recommend checking it out.

5. Kim Nguan Fish Ball Chom Thong

This Michelin-recommended restaurant is way off the beaten path but if you’re a fan of fish ball noodle soups like we are, then you may want to seek it out. We had fish ball noodle soup many times in Bangkok but the bowls at Kim Ngaun were easily my favorite.


To make it easier for you, I created the map below so you get a better sense of where everything is. Click on the link for a live version of the map.


BTS Skytrain / MRT

I love cities with a great metro system like Seoul and Taipei. The subway takes you everywhere so you don’t need any other form of transportation.

While Bangkok’s BTS and MRT Lines are modern and efficient, they don’t service as many areas of the city yet. We often found ourselves taking the train to the nearest subway stop then either walking for several minutes or taking a Grab to our desired destination. You may wind up doing the same.

If you can, then I suggest staying near a subway station so you don’t become too dependent on taxis or Grab. On one trip, our AirBnB was right outside the Krung Thonburi BTS station which made it so much easier to get around.

If you think you’ll be using the Skytrain enough, then you may want to invest in a BTS One Day Pass or a BTS Rabbit Card. The One Day Pass gives you unlimited rides on the Skytrain for one day while the Rabbit Card is a stored value card similar to Seoul’s T-money Card or Hong Kong’s Octopus Card. However, neither card is valid on the MRT.


As advised, you’ll need another form of transportation to supplement the subway system. Even though it appears to cost more than taxis, I strongly suggest Grab.

Taxi and tuk-tuk scams are rampant in Bangkok. I’ve been scammed on previous trips before and those experiences have completely turned me off to them. People online say that it’s safe to hail taxis that are in transit, but I’ve been so put off by them that I’m afraid to even try that.


If it’s your first time in Bangkok, then I think 3-4 days is a good amount of time to spend in the city. You’ll see all the major attractions and have enough time for a day trip.

If possible, then it may be a good idea to stay over the weekend since some of the best markets are closed during the week. Here’s a sample 4D/4N Bangkok itinerary to help you plan your trip.

• Wat Arun
• Wat Pho
• Grand Palace / Wat Phra Kaew
• Wat Suthat / Giant Swing
• Wat Saket
• Khaosan Road / Banglamphu
• Chatuchak Market (weekends only)
• Or Tor Kor Market
• Jim Thompson House Museum
• Bangkok Art and Culture Center
• MBK Center
• Erawan Shrine
• Yaowarat Road / Chinatown
• Erawan Museum
• Bang Kachao
• Food Tour or Chao Phraya River Cruise
• Day Tour


1. Plan your Trip with Sygic Travel

If you like planning every detail of your trip like I do, then Sygic Travel will be useful to you. It’s a free trip planning app that helps you make efficient itineraries. You can pin points of interest on a map then grouping them together by location. It’s available for free on iOS and Android.

2. Rent a Pocket Wifi Device

Having a reliable wifi connection is a must when traveling. It’ll allow you to navigate, translate signs and menus, and do last minute research. We never go anywhere now without renting a pocket wifi device first.

You can stay connected in Thailand by renting a pocket wifi device or buying a sim card. We always rent pocket wifi devices with unlimited data because we find it simpler to use, but sim cards are fine too. They’re actually cheaper. You can rent a pocket wifi device or buy a sim card through Klook.

3. Dress Appropriately

When visiting the Grand Palace and any of Bangkok’s temples, it’s important to dress appropriately. Please take note of the following dress code:

  1. Short skirts, shorts, or shortened trousers are prohibited. Skirts that fall below the knee are allowed.
  2. Tight fitting trousers or leggings are prohibited.
  3. Any clothing with holes like ripped jeans are prohibited.
  4. Tops without sleeves are prohibited, even if your shoulders are covered with a scarf. Sleeves must always be rolled down.
  5. Any type of sportswear, including sweat shirts and sweat pants, is prohibited.
  6. Sandals and flip-flops may be acceptable but it’s best to wear closed shoes.

4. Beware of Scams

Scams can and do take place anywhere in the world, and Bangkok is no exception. Listed below are some of the scams we’ve encountered through the years.

AIRPORT TAXI SCAM: Taxi drivers will try to charge you an exorbitant rate to take you into downtown Bangkok. Ignore anyone who approaches you. Instead, fall in line at the proper taxi queue at either Suvarnabhumi or Don Mueang Airport, and get a legitimate metered taxi. Any taxi driver who refuses to use the meter is a scammer.

“IT’S CLOSED” SCAM: This is the scam that’s completely turned me off to taxis and tuk-tuks. You hop into a waiting taxi wanting to go somewhere, and the driver will tell you that the place is either closed or not open yet. This is an outright lie. He’ll then try to convince you to go to a gem shop or a tailor instead, where he gets paid for every sucker he brings in. When a driver tells you this, just get out of the car and use Grab instead.

FRIENDLY LOCAL SCAM: Our friend Natt pointed this out to us when we were riding the BTS. A friendly local will approach tourists who look lost and pretend to help them. Once they’ve gained your trust, they’ll try to take you to a gem shop or tailor.

SEX SHOW SCAM: This happened to me and a friend over two decades ago and the memory of it still stings. We were taken to one of those Thai ping pong sex shows by a local who had befriended us. I don’t remember what the lure was, but it may have had something to do with cheap drinks. Once you try to leave, which is what we did after one drink (I swear!), you’ll see a sign saying that the club has an entrance fee, something exorbitant like THB 10,000 or something. The sign is hidden on purpose so you don’t see it walking in. I remember the guy shaking his fist at me and threatening violence if we didn’t pay. We couldn’t pay the full amount because we didn’t have enough, but we wound up losing a lot of money that night. Never again.

5. Check for Bangkok Travel Deals

There are many websites that offer travel vouchers to tours and services. In Bangkok, I suggest going through Klook and Get Your Guide. They’re both reputable companies that we’ve been partners with (and customers of) for many years and have never had any problems.

6. Get Travel Insurance

As we get older, we buy travel insurance more often but it still isn’t something we get before every trip. It depends on where we’re going and what we’ll be doing.

If we’re just visiting Bangkok for a couple of days to eat street food and shop at a few night markets, then we may not get it. But if we plan on doing more active things like hiking or bike riding, then we’ll definitely pick up a policy.

On our last trip to Bangkok, we continued to Chiang Mai where we visited an elephant sanctuary so we did feel the need for travel insurance.

We buy travel insurance from SafetyWing or Heymondo. They’re both popular travel insurance providers often used by digital nomads. Follow the links to get a free quote from SafetyWing or Heymondo. Will Fly for Food readers get 5% off on Heymondo by using our link.

7. Bring the Right Power Adapter

Electrical outlets in Thailand typically feature two-pronged round or flat sockets, either Type A, Type B, Type C, or Type F. Be sure to bring the right power adapters for your devices. Electrical voltage is 220V and the standard frequency is 50Hz.

8. Eat for Cheap at the Basement of Suvarnabhumi Airport

I always eat at airports, even when I’m not hungry. It’s my thing. The problem is, the food at airports is often subpar and overpriced, a shame in a country like Thailand where there’s so much good cheap food to be had.

If you’re flying out of Suvarnabhumi and looking for one last decent Thai meal, then head down to the 24-hr food court located in the airport’s basement.

You’ll find plenty of food stalls there selling good inexpensive Thai food. Just take the walkalator down to the bottom floor then head all the way to the left.

Have Fun!

We’ve been to Bangkok many times over the years but I still don’t consider myself an expert. With that said, I do hope that you find this post useful because I’m only sharing the things I’ve learned from our trips. If you have any questions or suggestions, then please let us know in the comment section below. You’re welcome to join our Facebook Travel Group as well.

Thanks for stopping by and have a delicious time in Bangkok!


These are some of the things we brought with us to Bangkok. If you’d like to see what other gear we use, then you’re welcome to have a look insde our backpack. (NOTE: The following links are Amazon and other affiliate links.)

Canon G7X Mark III
Laptop Carry-on
Hidden Pocket Pants


This Bangkok travel guide contains affiliate links, meaning we’ll get a small commission if you make a booking at no extra cost to you. We only recommend products and services that we use ourselves and firmly believe in. We really appreciate your support as this helps us make more of these free travel guides. Thank you!

Stock photos via Shutterstock

Alishan Forest Tour: Explore Fenqihu and the Alishan National Scenic Area from Chiayi

We spent two weeks in Taiwan in 2018 and visited every major tourist destination in the country. Well, almost.

The most glaring omission from our itinerary was Alishan Forest in Chiayi County, a picturesque mountain retreat known for its forest wilderness and network of vintage railways.

We recently spent the holidays in Chiayi City chasing after the eateries featured on the Taiwan episode of Street Food on Netflix. Chiayi is the most convenient jumping-off point to the Alishan Scenic Area so we weren’t about to leave it off our itinerary a second time.

At first, I wasn’t sure how to tackle Alishan Forest. There are a few ways to get there, the most appealing being to go on our own by train, then staying the night so we could experience Alishan’s much-hyped sunrise.

However, for a number of reasons I won’t get into here, we decided that the best thing for us to do on this trip was to go on a day tour. It may not be the best or the cheapest, but it’s definitely one of the easiest and most hassle-free ways of experiencing Alishan Forest.

If you’re spending time in Chiayi, then you may be interested in this 10-hour day tour that takes you to Fenqihu and the Alishan National Scenic Area.


To help you plan your trip to the Alishan National Scenic Area, I’ve compiled links to recommended tours and other travel-related services here.


  • Alishan Forest Ticket: Alishan National Forest Recreation Area Ticket
  • Tour From Chiayi/Kaohsiung: Discover Alishan Mountain From Chiayi or Kaohsiung
  • Tour From Taichung: Alishan Forest Railway Day Tour from Taichung


  • Visa Services
  • Travel Insurance (with COVID cover)
  • WiFi & Sim Cards

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Also referred to as “Alishan National Park”, “Alishan Mountain”, or “Alishan Forest Recreation Area”, the Alishan National Scenic Area is a 415 sq km mountain reserve in Chiayi County. Along with Taroko National Park and Sun Moon Lake, it’s one of Taiwan’s most visited natural attractions, famous for its railway network, scenic hiking trails, and vast mountain wilderness.

The Alishan area was originally settled by the Tsou aboriginal tribe before being inhabited by Han Chinese settlers in the late 18th century. After Taiwan was ceded to Japan at the end of the First Sino-Japanese War, expeditions to the area revealed an abundance of cypress. This led to the development of the area’s logging industry and a network of railways to facilitate transport of lumber from the mountains to the plains.

Today, a portion of that railway network continues to operate as the Alishan Forest Railway. It’s one of Taiwan’s most popular tourist attractions, consisting of 86 km of narrow gauge railways running up and throughout the Alishan mountains.


As described, I would have preferred to go to Alishan on our own and stay the night as it would have given us the most freedom to explore the area. However, going on an organized day tour solves a lot of logistical problems which is a big reason why we decided to book this tour.

Klook offers a few Alishan tours from Chiayi. We chose this tour because it included a bento box lunch in Fenqihu. It comes with lunch, entrance fees, and transportation during the tour. It doesn’t come with a guide so you’ll be left to explore on your own at every stop, which we preferred. You can book it on Klook.

If you’re coming from a different city in Taiwan or would like to book a different tour from Chiayi, then you can search through Klook’s list of Alishan Forest tours. Some include overnight stays.

Chiayi Forest Railway Garage Park

This tour starts at 8:15AM at a travel agency directly behind the Chiayi TRA Station. You’ll be given a brief synopsis of the tour’s itinerary before being driven in a van to your first stop – Chiayi Forest Railway Garage Park in Chiayi City.

Our driver spoke limited English but we were on the tour with a lovely Singaporean family who was happy to translate for us. If I understood correctly, this is a railway repair shop that also serves as a mini-museum. There isn’t much to see here except for a few parked railway cars so you’ll spend no more than 15-20 minutes at the park before moving on to the next stop.

Hinoki Village

Located in Chiayi City, this was meant to be the last stop on our tour. We were supposed to visit Hinoki Village after driving back from Alishan Forest but our driver decided to take us here first. According to him, he wanted to delay our trip to Alishan so we could experience sunset in the forest. Good call.

Hinoki Village was originally the dormitories of the Chiayi Forest division during the Japanese occupation of Taiwan. It’s a charming village of 28 Japanese-style wooden buildings that now functions as a tourist attraction in Chiayi City. Hinoki in Japanese means “cypress”.

Our driver gave us about an hour to explore the village on our own. It’s a picturesque enclave of one-story houses built using cypress wood from Alishan forest. They have roofs made with what I believe are called Japanese kawara tiles, so when you’re here, it looks and feels like you’re in Japan.

We were busy taking pictures and video so we didn’t go into any of the buildings, but a few of them had shops and perhaps a few exhibits about Alishan’s logging industry.

Hinoki Village is located in the heart of Chiayi City so it’s easy to explore on your own. Entrance is free and you can easily blitz through the place in about half an hour.

Located a short walk from Hinoki Village is Beimen (or Peimen) Station. Built around 1910-1912 using the same Formosan cypress wood, I believe it’s the first stop from Chiayi train station to Fenqihu.


From Hinoki Village, it’s about an hour drive to the tiny village of Fenqihu (also spelled Fenchihu). It’s a twisty ride up the mountain so if you’re prone to motion sickness, then you may want to take medication before the trip.

Fenqihu started as a small encampment for timber logging but it now functions mainly as a stop for tourists en route to the Alishan Scenic Area.

There’s a railway station in Fenqihu which I believe is the last stop on the line from Chiayi to Alishan. From what I understand, it used to go all the way to Alishan but parts of the railway were severely damaged by a typhoon in 2009 and shut down.

People traveling by train need to get off at Fenqihu then complete the journey to Alishan by bus.

Fenqihu is smaller and less busy but it feels a lot like Jiufen in northern Taiwan. Like Jiufen, you’ll find an old street running through the center of town with shops on either side selling Taiwanese food, snacks, tea, and souvenirs.

The Alishan area is known for its cultivation of tea and wasabi so you’ll find many food items made from those products.

As described, we chose this tour because it included a bento box lunch in Fenqihu. This village is known for these packed box lunches that were traditionally sold to railway passengers arriving in Fenqihu at noon. Passengers could purchase packed lunches from the train, passing food and payment through the train windows.

We were given these vouchers to exchange for bento boxes. I thought we’d be having them here, at this restaurant famous for their round packed lunch tins, but our vouchers were for a different place. There are many bento box restaurants in Fenqihu so I’m not sure if this tour offers vouchers to the same place every time. Bento box lunches go for about NTD 120 a la carte.

The restaurant we went to offered bento boxes with either fried pork chop, braised chicken leg, or braised pork. We went with the fried pork chop and braised pork. Known in Chinese as tie lu bian dang, these bento box lunches typically consisted of pork, rice, and a mix of different vegetables. Aren’t they pretty?

Here’s a closer look at my fatty hunk of braised pork belly. Our boxes came with rice, cabbage, bamboo shoots, sausage, tea egg, greens, and other goodies. The bento box lunches at this place were decent but not as good as we expected them to be. Perhaps the restaurant with the round tins is better.

Alishan National Scenic Area

Fenqihu is the midway point between Chiayi and Alishan so it’s another 40-minute drive to Alishan Forest Railway Station. Along the way, our driver would stop at lookout points so we could get out and take pictures. Alishan is known for its tea production so you’ll find rolling hills with plantations like this one on the sides of the road.

Our driver would drop us off at Alishan train station to catch a short train ride to Zhaoping Station. The ride is only about 7-8 minutes long but it’ll give you a feel for what riding in these vintage trains is like. The scenery is beautiful so it made me wish I had done the entire journey by train. Next time for sure.

This tour includes roundtrip train transfers so our driver gave us our return journey tickets before we boarded the train. After arriving at Zhaoping Station, we had about an hour and a half to hike along the trails at our own pace before catching the 4PM train back to Alishan Station.

Here’s a shot of a giddy Ren shortly after arriving at Zhaoping Station. The Alishan Forest Railway consists of 86 km of narrow gauge railways with over 50 tunnels and 77 wooden bridges.

According to Wikipedia, diesel railcars and steam engines used to power these passenger trains before being replaced by diesel-hydraulic locomotives in the 1980s.

The passenger cars are quite narrow with benches on either side facing each other. I’m not sure if they use the same cars on the longer journey between Chiayi and Fenqihu. Probably not.

After disembarking at Zhaoping Station, you’ll have about an hour and a half to make your way to Sacred Tree Station to catch the train back to Alishan Station. It’s less of a hike and more of an easy stroll through paved nature trails with giant trees (cypress?) on either side.

The trains are cute but this is why you need to visit Alishan. The forest is peaceful and achingly beautiful.

There are many picturesque spots along the trail, one of my favorites being this twin pair of ponds called Sister Ponds. They’re two connected ponds with a sad story. According to legend, a pair of aboriginal Tsou sisters fell in love with the same man. Not wanting to hurt the other, they ended their lives by jumping into the pools.

Taroko Gorge is still the most beautiful place we’ve visited in Taiwan but Alishan Forest is a close second. It’s about half the size of Taroko National Park but it’s much easier to navigate and just as fun to explore. As popular as it is, it felt at times like we were the only people on the trails.

One and a half hours is plenty of time to make it to Sacred Tree Station but I would have loved more time in the forest. It would have been fun to get off the main path and explore the smaller trails. It just felt good being here.

You’ll know you’re closing in on Sacred Tree Station when you reach Shouzhen Temple, the largest temple in Alishan. By the temple is a square with snack and souvenir shops. You can rest here before completing the walk to Sacred Tree Station.


Near Sacred Tree Station is this colossal 43.5 meter (142.7 ft) cypress tree. It’s over 2,000 years old and has a circumference of 13.1 meters (43 ft). I’m not sure if the station is named after this tree because there was an even bigger (53 m) and older (3,000+ yrs) sacred tree that was struck and burned by lightning.

We’d board the train back to Alishan Station then make the nearly 2-hour drive down the mountain to Chiayi.

On the way down, our driver stopped by the side of the road so we could take pictures of this magnificent sunset. Have you ever seen anything so beautiful? We’re from the Philippines where we have some pretty epic sunsets but this was one of the prettiest I’ve ever seen. I felt like I was in a movie.

It isn’t as obvious in this picture but can you see how the sun is setting over a sea of clouds in the distance? Alishan is famous for its sun rising and setting over an ocean of clouds. Next time we go to Alishan Forest (and there will definitely be a next time), we’re going by train and staying the night so we can experience its famous Alishan sunrise. Looking at this, I can only imagine how beautiful it must be.


As described, I would have loved to explore Alishan Forest on our own and stay the night to experience its sunrise. Trains running between Chiayi City and Alishan are limited, making day trips feel a bit rushed and impractical.

The best way to enjoy Alishan Forest is to stay overnight in one of the few hotels in the area, like the often recommended Alishan House. You’ll have plenty of time to go hiking and it’s the only way you can experience its legendary sunrise.

I’m not qualified to write a comprehensive DIY guide at this time but I will after my next visit. Based on this experience, I definitely recommend staying overnight if you have the time.

Regardless of how you go, Alishan Forest, at any dose, is worthy of a spot on your Taiwan itinerary. Like Sun Moon Lake and Yehliu Geopark, it’s one of the most beautiful places we’ve visited thus far in Taiwan. Don’t miss it.


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The First-Timer’s Ella Travel Guide (2023)

I wasn’t expecting to see her that morning.

I didn’t know what the schedule was, so I hung around by the bridge taking pictures before retreating up the side of the hill. There was a cafe on the ridge offering a clear bird’s eye view of the bridge. I stood there for a few moments admiring the view before turning and making my way to Little Adam’s Peak.

But something made me go back.

I don’t even remember what, perhaps an idea to take a picture of the bridge from another angle, but I got back to the ridge to find a streak of blue cutting through the haze of forest and fog. I didn’t even hear her coming.

I snapped as many pictures as I could, still in disbelief of my good fortune. It was the moment I had been waiting for in Ella, the small mountain town that was far and away my favorite destination in Sri Lanka.


This travel guide to Ella is long. For your convenience, I’ve compiled links to hotels, tours, and other services here.


  • Luxury: EKHO Ella
  • Midrange: The Symbol of Ella
  • Budget: ELLA-Green View Holiday Inn


  • Hiking Tour: Ella Rock & 9 Arch Bridge, Little Adams Peak with Transfer
  • Tea Fields Hike: Tuk-Tuk Safari Day Trip and Tea Fields Hike with Lunch


  • Sri Lanka E-Visa
  • Travel Insurance with COVID cover (WFFF readers get 5% off)
  • Train Tickets from Kandy

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  1. Ella Travel Restrictions
  2. How to Apply for an ETA to Sri Lanka
  3. Ella at a Glance
  4. Best Time To Visit Ella
  5. Traveling to Ella
  6. Where to Exchange Currency
  7. Where to Stay in Ella
  8. Things to Do in Ella
  9. Day Trips from Ella
  10. Where to Eat in Ella
  11. Points of Interest in Ella (Map)
  12. How to Get Around in Ella
  13. How Many Days to Stay / Ella Itinerary
  14. Ella Travel Tips


Because of the current global situation, Ella travel guidelines have been changing often. Our friends at created a website that lists detailed information on travel restrictions around the globe.

Before planning a trip to Ella, be sure to check for information on travel restrictions to Sri Lanka. If you do decide to visit Ella, then you may want to seriously consider getting travel insurance with COVID coverage.


Applying for an ETA (Electronic Travel Authorization) to Sri Lanka was easy. The entire process is done through the Sri Lanka ETA website and it was emailed to me within minutes of submitting the application and making payment. You can refer to my post on applying for an ETA to Sri Lanka for a step-by-step process. You can also apply for an ETA through


Located about 200 km east of Colombo, Ella is a small mountain town in the central highlands of Sri Lanka. Due to its higher elevation, it’s known for its cooler climate and landscape characterized by cloud-covered hills, waterfalls, and tea plantations.

Ella has long been one of the most popular destination in Sri Lanka, sought after for its laid-back atmosphere and picturesque hiking trails. It’s also the starting or end point of the famed Kandy-Ella train route, which is often referred to as the most scenic train ride in the world.


It’s hard to peg down a “best time to visit” Ella because the information online varies greatly. In spite of the inconsistencies, what seems clear is that Ella is known to be warm and rainy throughout the year, with the rainiest months being around October and November.

I was there in early November and I experienced a LOT of rain. It would typically rain in short bursts then stop, allowing me to go out and do some hiking, but it did pour heavily non-stop for one or two days. It kept me in my room so be ready for days like that during the rainiest months. I don’t remember experiencing any sunny days during my time there.

Trekking is the main draw in Ella so it’s best to go when the weather is clear. Based on my experience and the information I’ve pieced together, that would be from around mid-January till March. This seems to consistently be the driest and warmest time in Ella.

When traveling in Sri Lanka, it’s important to understand that the country experiences two annual monsoons – Yala and Maha. Yala monsoon season is typically from around May till August and affects the southwestern part of the country, while Maha goes from around October till January and affects the northeastern parts of Sri Lanka. Being in the central highlands, Ella will be affected to some degree by both but not as significantly as coastal cities.

JAN-APR: Weather-wise, this is the best time of the year to visit Ella. The weather is relatively dry, especially in February and March. You’ll enjoy the most sunny days making it the ideal time to go hiking.

MAY-AUG: Weather information during these months is conflicting. Some reports say Ella receives little rain in summer while others say it can get fairly wet. Based on traveler experiences on TripAdvisor and Sri Lanka’s monsoon seasons, I tend to believe the latter. Based on my time there, I think mornings are consistently clear and sunny with the rains coming in early- to mid-afternoon.

SEPT-DEC: This is the wettest time of the year in Ella. As described, I went in early November and experienced a lot of rain. It made for nice post-rain pictures but the downpour was often too heavy to do anything.

Climate: Annual Monthly Weather in Ella

For more on Ella’s weather, check out these climate graphs from I’ve also created average temperature and annual rainfall graphs with the most ideal months to visit marked in orange.

Average Temperature

Annual Rainfall


Ella is located in central Sri Lanka, in the southern hemisphere of the country. There are many ways to get there depending on where you are, but for the purpose of this guide, let’s assume you’re coming from either Kandy, Yala National Park, or Colombo.

It’s common to visit Sri Lanka’s most popular destinations in a loop, either going clockwise or counterclockwise starting from Colombo.

From Kandy

If it’s your first time in Sri Lanka and coming from Colombo, then you’ll probably be making a stop in Kandy first before continuing on to Ella. It’s about a 2.5-3 hr train ride from Colombo to Kandy, then another 6-7 hrs to Ella.

6-7 hours sounds like a lot but don’t worry, this is that much hyped scenic train ride so the time goes by quickly. As described, it’s been called the most beautiful train ride in the world, taking you through a lush mountainous terrain with tea plantations as far as the eye can see.

This train ride is one of Sri Lanka’s most sought after attractions so it’s HIGHLY RECOMMENDED that you book your tickets early. Tickets sell out quickly, even during low season, so it’s important to reserve your seat as early as possible.

I bought mine over thirty days in advance and I couldn’t even get my first choice of train class. You can read about my experience booking train tickets in Sri Lanka in the ELLA TRAVEL TIPS section.

You can book train tickets from Kandy to Ella on Bookaway. There are two departures everyday, at 8:47AM and 11:10AM. If it’s your first time experiencing this train ride, then it’s best to take 2nd class.

You can get to Ella from Kandy by bus or private transfer as well, but it will probably be a lot less scenic.

From Yala National Park

Unfortunately, there are no trains connecting Yala National Park to Ella so you’ll need to go by bus or taxi. I haven’t done this myself so I can’t talk about it from experience, but based on what I’ve read, you’ll need to go to Tissa first from Yala, then take a direct bus to Bandarawela and get off at Ella.

Please note that bus travel in Sri Lanka isn’t the most comfortable. I rode buses going between Dambulla, Polonnaruwa, and Kandy and the rides were always bumpy and crowded. Plus, there’s no luggage compartment on these public buses so you can’t take large pieces of luggage with you.

If you’d rather not travel to Ella by bus, then you can go by taxi. The drive from Yala to Ella is about 2.5 hours. You can book a taxi in advance with Ella Budget Taxi which has a perfect 5-star rating on TripAdvisor. According to their website, the cost for a one-way trip will be LKR 13,500-17,500, depending on the size of the car.

From Colombo

As described, most first-time travelers coming from Colombo will probably make a stop in Kandy first. But if you’d like to proceed to Ella directly, then you can do so by train, bus, or private transfer.

If you opt to travel by train, then you’ll be taking the same route that goes from Kandy-Ella. Those trains actually begin in Colombo so total travel time will be around 9-10 hours.

You can purchase tickets through Bookaway. You’ll find bus and private transfer options in the click-through page as well.

From Other Cities

I focused on Kandy, Yala National Park, and Colombo because most travelers will probably be coming from those place to get to Ella. If you’re coming from somewhere else, then you can check Bookaway for available transportation options. You can click on the link or use the widget below.


The unit of currency in Sri Lanka is the Sri Lankan Rupee (LKR). Ella won’t be your port of entry into Sri Lanka so you’ll probably already have LKR with you.

I’ve read that the best place to exchange currency is at Bandaranaike International Airport so that’s what I did. I exchanged enough to last me my whole trip.

But if you need to exchange currency in Ella, then you can do so at a bank or a licensed currency exchange office. You can check Google Maps for a list of banks and licensed money changers in Ella.

Instead of exchanging currency, a better option may be to withdraw LKR from an ATM. I personally find myself doing this more and more these days. Rates are competitive, maybe even better.

Just make sure you tell your bank you’ll be using your ATM card overseas so you don’t run into any issues. In my experience, my card works in some machines but not in others.

NOTE: Some ATM machines may ask if you’d like to proceed “with or without conversion”. Always proceed WITHOUT conversion. That way your local bank does the conversion and not the foreign bank operating the ATM. Proceeding “with conversion” usually leads to highly unfavorable rates, the difference often being as high as 10% according to this article on Medium.


Ella is a small town so I don’t think it matters as much where you stay. As long as you’re close enough to the main road and its cluster of shops and restaurants, then you’ll be fine.

I stayed in a slightly more remote location so I had to walk along the train tracks everyday to get in and out of town, but I didn’t mind at all. I enjoyed it and walking along the tracks was my favorite thing to do in Ella.

But if you’d rather not do too much walking, then you may want to stay closer to the main street. It’s the bigger road marked in yellow on Google Maps.

Dawn View Home Stay

This is where I stayed in Ella. As described, it’s a bit farther away from the main road so I’d walk for about 10-15 minutes along the tracks to get into town.

It’s in a secluded and heavily wooded area offering great views of the mountains. I had a huge room with a stage-sized bed along with a patio where I’d work and enjoy the delicious meals my host would prepare for me. It was a great setup – very relaxing.

You can book a room at Dawn View Home Stay on or Agoda. I’m happy to recommend this place but if you’d rather stay closer to the main road, then you can check out or Agoda for alternate listings. Check out some of the top-rated hotels in Ella:

  • Luxury: EKHO Ella
  • Midrange: The Symbol of Ella
  • Budget: ELLA-Green View Holiday Inn

You can also book hotels and home stays in Ella using the handy map below.


1. Drink Tea

Badulla is tea country in Sri Lanka. It’s one of the major tea cultivation areas in the country so you’ll often find yourself surrounded by hill after hill of tea plantations. If you arrived in Ella by train, then you’ve already seen them.

You’ll find tea brewing everywhere in Ella. My host would prepare pots for me everyday along with biscuits and crackers. It’s one of the things I remember most from my trip, just sitting on my patio sipping tea while working on my laptop. It (almost) made me forget about the rain.

You can drink tea anywhere in Ella but if you’d like to visit a tea factory, then you may want to check out the Uva Halpewatte Tea Factory. They offer tasting tours that start at around USD 3 per person. It’s about 4.5 km north of Ella town center so you can catch a tuk-tuk to go there.

2. Walk Along the Tracks

As described, walking along the train tracks without really having anywhere to go was my favorite thing to do in Ella. The scenery is stunning and it made me feel like I were in my own version of Stand by Me.

Everyone does this in Ella in spite of signs warning you not to. These are very much active tracks so it isn’t uncommon to encounter a train coming your way.

It happened to me once while walking on the tracks in the pitch black of night. I just stepped as far as I could into the weeds to let the train through. When walking at night, be sure to use a torch so you can see where you’re stepping.

Needless to say, walking along train tracks can be very dangerous. If you choose to do this, then you need to do so at your own risk and take every precaution.

3. Wait for the Train at Nine Arches Bridge

Also known as the Bridge in the Sky, the Nine Arches Bridge is a viaduct bridge hailed for being “one of the best examples of colonial-era railway construction” in Sri Lanka. It’s the bridge I was referring to at the start of this article.

Nine Arches Bridge is one of the most picturesque spots in Ella so you’ll always find people taking selfies there, waiting for that money shot of the train passing through. I got there on my own by walking along the tracks but you can also visit on a guided hiking tour.

This is the hill I was describing at the top of this post. I checked out a couple of vantage points and this was the best one I found. As you can see, it gives you a clear view of the bridge.

Interestingly, that building on the right is actually a hotel with just two rooms. I didn’t ask for its name but I believe it’s called 9 Arch View Point.

The money shot. I was so lucky to get this picture, especially since I wasn’t expecting to catch the train coming through that morning. I had tried a couple of times to get this shot but failed.

By looking at the train arrival schedule, you can sort of predict when the trains will come through, but it isn’t always reliable. Trains seem to be chronically late in Sri Lanka which makes it harder to be here at the right time. Luckily today, I was.

4. Hike to Little Adam’s Peak

Ella has two popular treks, this hike to Little Adam’s Peak being the easier one. This is the one I did. I’m not in the best shape but aside from a section with steps up a hill, I was able to manage it with little difficulty and without a guide.

As you can see from this picture, Ella can get foggy and rainy so it’s best to do your hikes early in the morning before the fog rolls in. I couldn’t see anything by the time I reached the peak, but I didn’t mind so much because I enjoyed the hike. It tends to be drier in the mornings as well with the rains typically coming in the afternoon.

If you’d like to hike to Little Adam’s Peak with a guide, then you can book a hiking tour on Get Your Guide.

Trails leading up to Little Adam’s Peak. My host drew me a map so I could easily do the hike myself. It’s pretty easy and takes about 2-3 hours to complete, even while walking at a modest pace.

Estimated Time to Spend: About 2-3 hours
Fitness Level: Moderate

5. Climb Ella Rock

This is the second popular trek and from what I’ve read, the more difficult of the two. As described, I’m not the most fit person so I was apprehensive to do this one. It takes about four hours to get to the top of Ella Rock.

Aside from being more physically demanding, it’s also more confusing. People online recommend getting a guide because you can get lost, though it is possible to do it yourself. You can refer to this excellent post on how to hike to Ella Rock on your own.

If you’d rather play it safe and go with a guide, then you can book a hiking tour through Get Your Guide (Option 1 | Option 2).

Photo by Knet2d via Deposit Photos

Estimated Time to Spend: About 4 hours
Fitness Level: High

6. Admire Ravana Falls

Ella is known for its picturesque waterfalls. Ravana Falls is one of the most popular because of its proximity to the town center. I made a stop here on my way back from a day trip to Lipton’s Seat and Diyaluma Falls, but you can easily visit these falls on your own.

Ravana Falls is located about 6.5 km south of Ella town so you can hire a tuk-tuk to take you there. You can also go on this half-day tour that includes swimming in the pools of upper Ravana Falls.


1. Lipton’s Seat

Lipton’s Seat is essentially a lookout point that gives you sweeping views of the countryside. It’s where Sir Thomas Lipton of Lipton’s Tea used to survey his tea plantations. It’s considered one of the most epic views in Sri Lanka, if you can arrive early enough.

As you can see from the following pictures, the area is known to be foggy so arriving late usually means the views will be shrouded under a thick blanket of fog.

Lipton’s Seat is located in Haputale, about 30 km south of Ella. You can get there by train, private car charter, or guided tour. More on that below.

To be honest, I didn’t mind the fog at all. On the contrary, I may have preferred it because it added a wonderful eerie mood to the place which I enjoyed. Aside from the incredible view, you can take a stroll through the tea plantations here.

A travel blogger in the mist. Like I said, I loved how eerie and mysterious this place looked.

The fog cleared for a second to give me a glimpse of the spectacular view. This picture doesn’t do it justice. There were tea plantation as far as the eye could see.

I read online that you need to be here no later than 7AM to get a clear view, so I hired a car and driver to pick me up from my homestay at 5AM. It takes about an hour and a half to get there so we must have arrived just before 7AM, but the fog had already rolled in. The weather is difficult to predict so keep that in mind when you visit.

I contacted a few tour operators and decided to hire Nawshad Tours Lanka based on the strength of their reviews. I paid LKR 9,000 for the car and driver. Aside from Lipton’s Seat, we also visited Dambatenne Tea Factory, Diyaluma Falls, and Ravana Falls.

If you’d like a better chance of getting a clear view, then another option is to stay the night in Haputale. The train from Ella to Haputale takes about an hour.

This leg is part of that scenic train route so you’ll need to book tickets in advance to get a reserved seat. Otherwise, you can try your luck purchasing unreserved tickets at the train station.

You can theoretically do a day trip but the first train to Haputale isn’t until 6:40AM, so it won’t get you to Lipton’s Seat in time. It’s best to arrive the day before and stay the night. That way you can hire a tuk-tuk to take you to Lipton’s Seat while it’s still dark.

If it isn’t important for you to get there as early as possible, then the easiest way of visiting Lipton’s Seat from Ella is by guided tour.

You can enjoy breakfast at Lipton’s Seat while taking in the view (or fog). I paid LKR 700 for a pot of tea and roti with sambal.

2. Dambatenne Tea Factory

Dambatenne Tea Factory is located at the base of the hill going up to Lipton’s Seat. If it isn’t raining, then I suggest having your driver drop you off at Lipton’s Seat then wait for you here.

It’s a beautiful 2-hour walk through tea plantations down to this factory. I wanted to do that but it was raining the day I went and I forgot to bring my coat. Bummer.

I read that Dambatenne Tea Factory offers tours for LKR 250, but the reviews aren’t so great. People complain that the tour feels rushed and they don’t give you any tea tastings. In any case, it’s a quick stop on many guided tours to Lipton’s Seat.

For a better tea factory visit, you may want to go to Uva Halpewatte Tea Factory instead.

3. Diyaluma Falls

Diyaluma Falls is awesome. At 220 meters high (720 ft), it’s the second highest waterfall in Sri Lanka and even more impressive than Ravana Falls. Can you see where I’m standing in the picture below?

Diyaluma Falls is located about 25 km south of Lipton’s Seat so it’ll take you another hour and a half to get there. It’s definitely worth it. As described, I visited Diyaluma Falls as part of my private car charter with Nawshad Tours Lanka but you can also go there on a guided tour.

4. Nuwara Eliya

Nuwara Eliya is one of the towns along the Kandy-Ella train route. Many people get off at Nanuoya station and spend a few days in Nuwara Eliya before proceeding to Ella. It’s referred to as “Little England” due to British settlers building their holiday bungalows there.

I didn’t go but from the looks of it, it has a similar vibe as Ella, but with its own set of unique attractions like Gregory Lake, Victoria Park, and St. Clair’s Falls. You can refer to this post from Culture Trip for more on what to see and do in Nuwara Eliya.

Nuwara Eliya is about 6 km from Nanuoya station which is along that famous train route, so you can easily visit on your own. But if you’d rather go on a guided day tour from Ella, then you can book it through Klook.

5. Yala National Park

As described earlier in this guide, many first-time travelers to Sri Lanka explore the country in a loop. Yala National Park is usually the stop right before or immediately after Ella.

Yala is the most visited and second largest protected park in Sri Lanka, home to mega fauna like elephants, wild buffalo, and sloth bears, not to mention one of the highest if not the highest concentration of leopards in the wild. If you’d like to go on safari in Sri Lanka, then this is the place to do it.

I visited Yala National Park as part of a press trip, but you can visit the reserve on your own. If you’d rather go on a day trip from Ella, then you can book a safari tour through Klook or Get Your Guide.


1. Matey Hut

I passed Matey Hut everyday on my way in and out of town. It’s along the dirt path I’d take to get on and off the tracks.

Passing by, you wouldn’t think anything of it based on its spartan facade. But underneath its simple exterior belies one of Ella’s best and most popular restaurants.

Even with over 1,200 TripAdvisor reviews, Matey Hut manages to maintain its perfect 5-star rating by serving some of the best Sri Lankan food in town.

They serve simple Sri Lankan dishes like roti, parata, and curry rice. I had this steaming plate of chicken kottu, which is an interesting dish made from wheat flour roti, vegetables, egg, meat, and spices.

The ingredients are thrown onto a hot griddle lubricated with oil. While cooking, they’re repeatedly pounded and chopped with spatula-like tools much in the same way you’d see a Japanese chef cooking fried rice on a teppanyaki table. I was sitting close to the griddle and enjoyed watching the chef make my kottu (almost) as much as I did eating it.

The type of roti they use is described as being very similar to roti canai. It has the same chewy texture so it feels as if you’re eating a dish similar to fried rice, but made with roti. Absolutely delicious and something I’d love to have again.

Don’t let its humble exterior fool you. The food at Matey Hut is exceptional, and cheap too! I believe they conduct cooking classes here as well.

2. Ceylon Tea Factory

In terms of ambiance, Ceylon Tea Factory was the polar opposite of Matey Hut. Made to look like a tea factory, it was the biggest and fanciest restaurant I went to in Ella. But like Matey Hut, they’re a TripAdvisor Certificate of Excellence awardee known for serving excellent Sri Lankan food.

I had read about their rice and curry so that’s exactly what I came for. I asked my server for his recommendation and he advised me to get this delicious beef pepper curry served with papadum, tempered dhal, and pol sambol.

This was the best curry I ate in Sri Lanka. Sri Lankan curries are generally thinner than Indian curries, but this one was creamy and thick with tender chunks of beef.

I didn’t know what “tempered” lentils meant so I googled it. Apparently, tempering is a South Asian cooking technique that involves dry-roasting or frying spices and other ingredients separately, before adding them to a dish at the end. This is said to enhance their flavor.

Dhal and pol sambol are often served as side dishes in Sri Lanka. Pol sambol looks like orange couscous but it’s actually a coconut relish made with freshly grated coconut, red onion, chili, lime juice, salt, and cured tuna fish.

Like I said, Ceylon Tea Factory is a large and modern space. It’s made to look like one, but it isn’t nor has ever been an actual tea factory. I was here specifically for the Sri Lankan curries but I believe they offer many western dishes as well.

3. Adam’s Breeze

I had a late breakfast here after my trek to Little Adam’s Peak. I had this Sri Lankan breakfast of string hoppers with potato curry, onion sambol (relish), and a pot of tea. String hoppers are among the most memorable dishes I had in Sri Lanka.

String Hoppers have a catchy name but they’re basically rice flour pressed into noodle form then steamed. Also known as idiyappam, string hoppers are a staple dish in Sri Lanka and South India, and are typically served at breakfast or dinner with some type of curry. They have great texture and are quite addictive to eat.

A nice potato curry to moisten and add flavor to my string hoppers. You can see in this picture what I was saying about Sri Lankan curries being thin and watery. They’re more soup-like in consistency.

Like the previous two restaurants on this list, Adam’s Breeze is a TripAdvisor Certificate of Excellence awardee with a near-perfect 4.5-star rating. They offer traditional Sri Lankan and dishes like kottu, biryani, and rice and curry.

4. Cafe Chill

Cafe Chill is one of the most popular restaurants/bars in Ella. I had my first meal there and the place was packed with travelers having dinner or enjoying a few drinks. As its name suggests, the place has a relaxed island-y vibe and plays some pretty chill music at night.

I had the lamprais which is an interesting Sri Lankan dish made with two or more curries, rice fried with onions and spices, sambal, belacan (shrimp paste), meat, and a deep-fried hard-boiled egg. All the ingredients are wrapped in banana leaves then baked in an oven. The dish gets its name from the Dutch word lomprijst, meaning “lumpy rice” or “a packet of food”.

According to their menu, Cafe Chill makes their lamprais with ten different types of curry. They use chicken for the meat and serve it with a side of papadum and two types of sambol.

Cafe Chill is a great place to hang out at night in Ella. It seems to be an institution in these parts, known for serving a range of Sri Lankan and western dishes.

5. Remo’s Restaurant

I was in the mood for something spicy so I decided to check out Remo’s Restaurant after reading about their deviled chicken or fish with rice. With a name like that, I expected the sauce to be spicy but it was more like a sweet and sour sauce.

I had the chicken and the sauce was nice and flavorful, but the meat was a little tough. I probably should have gone with the fish instead.

I ordered some papadum as well to enjoy with my beer. This was my last night and meal in Ella.

Remo’s Restaurant is located on the second floor above this ayurvedic treatment center. They offer lamprais and vegan rice and curry as well.


To help you visualize where everything is, I’ve pinned most of the places recommended in this guide on this map. Click on the link for a live version of the map.


Ella is a small town known for its hiking trails so you’ll be getting around mostly on foot. The only time I ever needed transportation was to visit out-of-town attractions like Lipton’s Seat and Diyaluma Falls.

If you need to hire a tuk-tuk, then you can try this Sri Lankan transportation app called PickMe (iOS|Android). It’s similar to Grab or Uber but I’ve read it works better in some cities than in others. I tried it in Ella but I couldn’t secure a booking. I think it works better in bigger cities like Colombo or Kandy.

Either way, I suggest downloading the app anyway because it can tell you approximately how much a trip should cost. Knowing that will help you negotiate.


Ella is one of those places that invites you to stay for as long as you like doing little more than soaking up the atmosphere. I stayed for just a few days but I could have stayed longer without getting bored.

It’s a relaxing environment that’s conducive to working. With my laptop and a fast internet connection, I could have stayed for weeks.

If you don’t have a lot of time and just want to experience Ella’s top attractions, then I think a stay of three full days is enough. It’ll give you enough time to do everything in this guide without feeling rushed. Here’s a 3D/4N Ella itinerary to help you plan your trip.

• Nine Arches Bridge
• Little Adam’s Peak
• Ella Rock
• Uva Halpewatte Tea Factory
• Lipton’s Seat
• Diyaluma Falls
• Ravana Falls


1. Plan your Trip with Sygic Travel

I’ve been using this free travel planning app for many years now to create all our itineraries. What it does is allow me to pin all points of interest on a map so I can see where everything is in relation to one another. That way I can easily group attractions by day to create as efficient an itinerary as possible. Check out my post on Sygic Travel for more information.

DOWNLOAD: iOS / Android

You can view my Ella itinerary on Sygic Travel or download it in Word format from our EAT-ineraries page. It covers Ella, Kandy, Dambulla, Sigiriya, and Polonnaruwa.

2. Stay Connected

A strong and steady internet connection is a must these days, especially when traveling. You’ll need it to navigate, convert currencies, do research, and post your latest #ootd on social media.

You can get a constant wifi connection by either buying a sim card or renting a pocket wifi device. Personally, I find pocket wifi devices to be simpler and more reliable so I don’t mind paying more for them.

I was initially in Sri Lanka for a press trip and they provided all media members with sim cards which I continued to use after the conference. The connection was steady and I could easily top it up when it ran low.

However, there was an issue with daytime and nighttime data usage that caused me to lose my connection a few times. It happened once at an inopportune time when I needed it badly to navigate. It’s for this very reason why I prefer renting pocket wifi devices with unlimited data.

I didn’t rent one in Sri Lanka but a quick Google search led me to I haven’t used them so I can’t personally voucher for them, so proceed at your own discretion. You may have other options available to you as well depending on where you’re coming from.

If you’d rather buy a sim card, then you can get one in advance through Klook. You’ll need to pick it up from Bandaranaike International Airport when you arrive.

3. Book Train Tickets Early

As described, it’s extremely important to book your train tickets in advance no matter what time of the year you go. I went in early November, during the monsoon season, and I couldn’t even get my first choice of ticket for the Kandy-Ella route in spite of me putting in the request thirty days ahead of time!

That’s how popular some of these train routes are, especially that Kandy-Ella route (and vice-versa), so it’s imperative that you book as early as possible. Forget trying to buy it on the spot because chances are, they’ll be long gone by then.

My homestay host in Kandy was a former travel agent and he told me that companies snap up these tickets as soon as they become available and then resell them at a markup. The government has tried to limit the number of tickets people are allowed to buy but they always find a way around these restrictions.

If you’re on a strict schedule and can’t afford to miss the train you want, then I suggest putting in the booking request well in advance, maybe 45+ days before your intended date of departure.

Though tickets don’t become available till about 30 days before, it’s a good idea to make the request early so you’re higher up on the list. As described, you can book Sri Lanka train tickets through Bookaway.

4. Choose the Right Train Class

Picking the right train class can be just as important as booking your tickets early, especially if it’s your first time visiting Sri Lanka. Here’s a quick breakdown on the different reserved train classes, which are the kinds you can book on Bookaway.

1st Class: 1st class cars are air-conditioned so you can’t open the windows. This would be less of an issue anywhere else but in Sri Lanka, it’s something to consider. The scenery is such an important part of the journey and riding in first class will force you to take pictures through windows that aren’t just grimy, but much smaller than the windows in 2nd class. If it’s your first time taking the Kandy-Ella route, then 1st class isn’t ideal.

1st Class Observation Car: I took this from Colombo to Kandy. The observation car is the last car on the train. Passengers sit in reverse facing large rear windows that give them a clear view of the tracks. Observation class isn’t offered on every train so you may want to experience it if it’s available.

2nd Class: This is the best class to take for the famous Kandy-Ella route. Windows are large and can be opened so you can take unobstructed pictures of the view. You can even stick your head out if you want. 2nd class cars aren’t air-conditioned but a good breeze flows through the trains so you don’t feel hot. I’m not sure what it’s like in summer but from what I’ve read, it isn’t too bad either.

Please note that there are unreserved 2nd and 3rd class cars as well. These are much cheaper than reserved seats and don’t sell out as quickly. If you can’t secure reserved tickets in advance, then you can try buying unreserved 2nd or 3rd class tickets on the spot. Just be prepared to stand as you probably won’t be able to find a seat.

Regardless of which class you choose, you’ll be able to freely move through the train which is something you’ll probably want to do, especially if you like taking pictures. Many train doors are left open during the journey so you’ll often find passengers sitting by them for a good portion of the trip.

5. Check for Ella Travel Deals

There are many online tour providers but the ones I use and trust the most are Klook and Get Your Guide. The pickings are still slim compared to other destinations, but you may want to go through their list of Ella activities (Klook | Get Your Guide) to see if anything interests you. I often find activities I wouldn’t normally think of myself so it’s always worth a look.

6. Get Travel Insurance

Travel insurance isn’t something we get before every trip. Whether we get it or not depends on where we’re going, how long we’ll be staying, and what we’ll be doing. For this trip to Sri Lanka, I found it absolutely necessary with all the outdoor activities I had on my itinerary.

Whenever we do feel the need for insurance, we buy it from SafetyWing or Heymondo. They’re both popular travel insurance companies used by many long-term travelers. Follow the links to get a free quote from SafetyWing or Heymondo. Get 5% off on Heymondo when using our link.

7. Bring the Right Power Adapter

Sri Lanka has Type D, Type G, or Type M electrical outlets so be sure to bring the right power adapters for your devices. Electrical voltage is 230V and the standard frequency is 50Hz.

8. Change Back Any Unused Sri Lankan Rupees

It’s illegal to bring more than LKR 5,000 in or out of the country. If you have an excessive amount of LKR left over at the end of your trip, then you need to spend it or change it to a different currency before you leave. You can do that at the airport.

Have Fun!

By no means am I an expert on Ella but I do hope you found this guide helpful. I’m only sharing some of the things I learned from my trip. If you have any questions or comments, then please leave them in the comment section below. You’re welcome to join our Facebook Travel Group as well. We’d love to hear from you.

Thanks for stopping by and have an awesome time trekking in Ella!


These are some of the things I brought with me to Sri Lanka. Have a look inside our backpack to see what other gear we use. (NOTE: The following links are Amazon affiliate links.)

Canon G7X Mark III
DJI Mavic 2 Pro
Battery-safe Pouches
Hidden Pocket Pants


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