Where to stay in Chiang Mai?

23:07 Amy Lou 0 Comments


All the info out there is bamboozling, so I made this One-Stop Guide to the five most popular areas in Chiang Mai. Find out what each area is like, who will like it there, and who won't. Check out the guide below.
Where to stay in Chiang Mai?

This guide covers Chiang Mai Old City, the Night Bazaar, Nimmanhaemin, Santitham, and the Riverside area. Budget = 0 - 1000 baht, Midrange = 1000 - 3000 baht, Luxury = 3000 - 5000 baht, Mindblowing = 5000 baht plus.  Click here to open my areas of Chiang Mai map in Google Maps.



Chiang Mai Old City

The original tourist attraction in Chiang Mai. Over 700 years old and surrounded by a picturesque moat, Chiang Mai Old City is the most popular area for travelers to stay in Chiang Mai. Parts of the original city wall are still standing, and you get a real sense of stepping back in time at the four corners of the moat where the old brick walls are still intact. Look closely and you'll discover the small openings used by soldiers long ago for firing arrows down onto invading enemies.

Getting lost in the hundreds of tiny, winding, delightful little lanes, called sois, is a fantastic way to spend a day in the Old City. Chiang Mai used to be a great place of Buddhist worship and learning, and in many ways it still is. Each temple has its own unique and interesting history.

A few words to describe The Old City:
Cultural, charming, heritage, eclectic, bustling, cheap, history, temples, food stalls, markets, spas, hidden gems, unstructured, touristy in places, compact, lively, museums, massage parlours, cooking schools, Muay Thai boxing stadiums.

Who it's for:
The Old City is suitable for all budgets. Most people recommend the Old City as the best place to stay in Chiang Mai. It's very easy to make friends here if you're travelling solo and a great option if you want lots of tourist attractions on your doorstep. Street food is plentiful, cheap, and delicious.

You won't like it so much here if:
You don't like other tourists. You want a good range of coffee shops to work in. You want to make long-term friends.

You'll find
- Historic tourist attractions, like the Three Kings Monument square, Chiang Mai Cultural Center, Lanna Folklife Museum, and Lanna Architecture Museum. Step inside to learn about the ancient Northern Thai kingdom, the significance of the white elephant to Chiang Mai, Northern Thai buildings, and so much more.

- The iconic Thapae Gate. Reconstructed in the 1980s, Thapae Gate is the symbol of Chiang Mai.

- The dazzling Sunday Market begins at Thapae Gate and extends along Ratchadamnoen Road. The laid back street festival vibe is loved by travelers and locals alike, and you can spend hours sampling delicacies, bargaining for trinkets, trying on homemade clothes, and chatting with stall vendors under huge red northern Thai umbrellas and fairy lights. There are plenty of cafes, bars, restaurants, and temples to duck inside if you need a break from the crowd.

- Shops, mostly catering to tourists, selling beautiful handmade arts, crafts, clothes, accessories, and homeware.

- Great dining and cafe options to suit all budgets and tastes. Thai food is easy to find, good quality, and cheap. Good quality, fairly priced international food is available, but it's not as easy to find as in Nimmanhaemin. There are coffee shops, but again, not as many as in Nimman.

- Colourful local markets selling street snacks, cooked Thai food, fresh fruit, fresh vegetables, and flowers. Sompet Market is a lively choice and it's fun to try the free fruit samples.

- A flat and easy-to-navigate landscape. You can walk, bicycle, motorbike, tuk tuk, or red car easily.

- Nightlife options including the Northgate Jazz Bar, Zoe in Yellow, and Pentatonic Rock Bar. Zoe is a backpacker party haven with several bars to explore. My favourite is Pentatonic Rock Bar, because I love heavy rock and metal music.

Recommended hotels in the Old City:
Budget: Baan Guesthouse Chiang Mai GateHOSTEL BY BED
Midrange: Bed Phrasingh HotelBaan Klang Wiang Hotel
Luxury: 99 The Heritage HotelDe Naga Hotel Chiang Mai by The Unique Collection
Mindblowing: Rachamankha a Member of Secret Retreats Hotel

The Night Bazaar

Who it's for:
The Night Bazaar area is for people who want to shop for souvenirs conveniently any day of the week or want to meet bar girls. There are a few luxury hotels and some hostels.

You won't like it so much here if:
You don't like being near sex bars, or you're not into shopping.

A few words to describe the Night Bazaar area:
Souvenir shops, busy, night market, food courts, food trucks, late bars, bars that attract sex tourists, ladyboy shows, electronics shops, a few luxury hotels, muay Thai, pick-out-your-own-seafood-and-eat-it restaurants, kareoke bars.

You'll find...
- The Kalare Night Bazaar, a maze of street stalls and the indoor Anusarn Market. Buy crafts, clothes, trinkets, and souvenirs, then catch some live blues music, get a massage, or see the extravagantly made up ladyboys perform.

- The 3D art gallery Art in Paradise, where you can take pictures of you and your companions interacting with 3D art.

- A silversmith workshop and jewelry shop called Nova Collection. I made a necklace here and highly recommend it.

- Great places to eat including Rock Me Burger, Whole Earth, and Butter is Better (I love their carrot cake).

- A popular bar by the river called Bus Bar.

- A Muay Thai stadium at Kalare Night Bazaar

- A few great temples including Wat Chang Khong.

- The nearby Worawot market is probably the biggest in Chiang Mai. You can buy almost anything made in Chiang Mai here, and lots that isn't. Get up while it's still dark to see freshly cut roses, orchids, jasmine, birds of paradise flowers, daisies, lotus flowers, and more being delivered by the truck-full. Flowers are very important here, because they're used as religious offerings in temples, at shrines, around car rearview mirrors, etc, as well as gifts and decoration. Buy your own at any time of day.

- Most of the bars down Loi Kroh road are for meeting bar girls.

Recommended hotels in the Night Bazaar area:
Budget: STrips the Poshtel, Hotel Montha
Midrange: Chez PomNap In Chiang Mai HotelRaming Lodge Hotel
Luxury: Dusit D2 Chiang Mai
Mindblowing: Anantara Serviced Suites

Nimmanhaemin

Nimmanhaemin is Chiang Mai's cool area. Also called Nimman or Nimmanheminda, this is the place to be for Thai tourists, students, designers, people who work online, and Instagrammers. The main street starts at the new Maya shopping mall and ends at Warm Up nightclub. It's OK, but the real magic is found in the sois with odd numbers leading off the main street. These sois are where you'll find those interesting coffee shops, artisan restaurants, and tiny artistic havens. Make sure you're going down sois with odd numbers, because there's so much more to see than on the even number sois.

Who it's for:
Nimmanhaemin is for people who prefer a trendier area, young people, people who appreciate design, digital nomads, coffee and dessert lovers, nightlife lovers, foodies, people who want to stay for a month or more, those seeking a creative sanctuary to work in, people who want to meet long-termers, people who want to make business contacts or people to collaborate with.

It caters best to those on a midrange or high budget. Things here are generally more expensive than in the Old City, but still cheap compared to, say, the UK, USA, Malaysia, Japan, and Singapore.

You won't like it so much here if:
You dislike modernity, international influence, or coffee shops. You want a big selection of basic, cheap, Thai food stalls. You want lots of tourist attractions on your doorstep. You roll your eyes when you see people posing with quirky things, like massive colourful mango statues.

A few words to describe Nimmanhaemin:
Trendy, design-conscious, modern, arty, rapidly developing, hip, coffee, boutique accommodation, fusion food, sushi, molecular cocktails, tea houses, wine bars, world beers, live bands, bingsu, dessert, quirky markets with teepees, loft and industrial-inspired design, tapas, Italian, cheesecake, crepe cake, bakeries, free WiFi.

Please be aware that the modern interpretation of Nimmanhaemin is quite new. There's still visible power cables, some shabby buildings, a lack of good pavements, and sois with not much going on. I have no doubt that soon, though, those things will be replaced with places more in-keeping with 'the idea of Nimman' described above.

You'll find...

- A wonderland of coffee shops. Coffee is big business in this area. The quality is high and the prices are low. In these coffee shops, your coffee is crafted by expert baristas. Many have won awards. You can get exciting coffees - yesterday I drank coffee with some kind of sugared orange slice at the bottom.

- Healthy and international food options. Salad, organic food, lots of sushi, Thai.

- A new cinema in Maya shopping mall

- Co-working spaces like CAMP, PunSpace, and digital nomad meetups.

- Late night food stalls and trucks.

- Manufactured quirkiness.

Recommended hotels in Nimman:
Budget: BED Nimman, Chiang Mai Bi AnLa Belle Nuit House
Midrange: At Niman Conceptual HomeHotel Yayee
Luxury: Akyra Manor Chiang MaiArt Mai Gallery Nimman Hotel
Mindblowing: X2 Chiang Mai Nimman VillaNimmanvillaVilla 88 Nimman-Chiang Mai

Santitham

You could just drive through Santitham, think it's a grotty area, and never go back. But actually, it has real hidden gems, is in a great location between Nimmanhaemin and the Old City, and is much cheaper because it's not so touristy. You'll find to-die-for cheap Thai food here at 30 - 70 baht a dish.

The ideal location hasn't been overlooked by developers and business owners, and there are several new hip spots with more and more appearing every few months. Think Nimmanhaemin style coffee shops that feel a bit more Thai and are a bit less busy, with names like Kafe Ombra and Artisan. Boutique style accommodation that's much cheaper than Nimmanhaemin with names like Pyur Otel, a gourmet burger restaurant that's sometimes open, a bar that caters to non-Thais and feels a bit more 'real' than other bars around, a bar that serves really good fries and hosts hip hop nights with rap battles.

A few words to describe Santitham:
Much more Thai than tourist, street food, developing, busy main street, shabby, hidden gems, cheap fashion, budget.

Who it's for:
Santitham is for budget travelers, people living here long term, people who want easy access to Nimmanhaemin and the Old City, people who want a less touristy vibe, people who want to live amongst Thais but don't want to go out into the sticks, people who want to stay here more long-term but don't have a big enough budget to live in Nimmanhaemin.

You won't like it so much here if:
You want to be in the middle of all the action the moment you step outside. You really don't like rundown buildings. You want lots of international food.

Recommended hotels in Santitham:
Budget: White Guest HousePlern Plern Bed and Bike, Be LoftelSunshine House
Midrange: Saeng Panya HomeZzziesta Chaing Mai Bed & Breakfast


Riverside

I love wandering down this riverside area. It's got beautiful Lanna architecture, masterfully illuminated bridges, and, of course, the river. It's a great place to find an upmarket restaurant for a special occasion.

A few words to describe the riverside:
River views, art galleries, fancy shops, fancy spas, fancy restaurants, famous bars and nightlife.

Who it's for:
The riverside area caters best to those on a high budget who want a magical resort experience by the river, though there are some cheaper options available.

You won't like it so much here if:
You want to be in the middle of all the action the moment you step outside. You don't like more expensive dining options.

Recommended hotels in the Riverside area:
Budget: Glur Chiangmai
Midrange: sala lanna Chiang Mai
Luxury: The Chiang Mai RiversideHotel Des Artists Ping Silhouette
Mindblowing: Rati Lanna Riverside Spa ResortAnantara Chiang Mai Resort

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