The cultural epicenter of northern Thailand, Chiang Mai is known for its majestic temples, ancient traditions, captivating history, and breathtaking natural landscapes comprising lush rice fields, awe-inspiring mountains, mesmerizing waterfalls, and more.
One of Thailand’s most popular destinations, this vibrant city presents a myriad of things to see and do — and equally many options when it comes to choosing the perfect place to stay during your trip.
Practicing due diligence is important when determining the best area and accommodations for your Chiang Mai vacation.
When evaluating your lodging choices, many factors come into play, such as location, proximity to major attractions, transportation, budget, and preferred amenities. Additionally, different neighborhoods have different “vibes.”
In addition to guides like this one, online review sites can offer invaluable insights into the quality of facilities, service, and other useful information.
From low-budget guesthouses to luxurious high-end resorts, Chiang Mai lays claim to lodging options catering to every type of traveler.
Read on to learn everything there is to know about where to stay in Chiang Mai, including the best areas, top hotels at every price point, and more. After all, we’re the experts; let us be your guide!
Why You Should Visit Chiang Mai in 2023
With hundreds of Buddhist temples, abundant ancient ruins, and a rich cultural heritage, Chiang Mai is a haven for history buffs and spiritual seekers.
Meanwhile, urban enthusiasts will revel in the city’s amazing shopping, markets, dining, and nightlife, while nature lovers will enjoy near-endless opportunities for outdoor adventuring amidst Chiang Mai’s extraordinary natural beauty.
Factor in the welcoming atmosphere that reflects Thailand’s world-famous hospitality, a refreshing climate (a cool counterpoint to sweltering Bangkok), and mouth-wateringly delicious traditional foods, and you’ll find that Chiang Mai is truly a place like no other.
The 5 Best Parts of Chiang Mai
Several Chiang Mai neighborhoods offer unique experiences — both as places to visit and to stay. Here’s a rundown of a few of Chiang Mai’s most interesting areas:
- Old City: Chiang Mai’s historic heart, the Old City is surrounded by ancient walls and a moat. It offers convenient access to the city’s rich history, numerous temples, and bustling markets.
- Nimmanhaemin Road: This trendy Chiang Mai neighborhood is known for its hip cafes, stylish boutiques, and art galleries. Popular with a younger crowd, Nimmanhaemin Road is also known for its lively nightlife scene.
- Riverside: Located along the picturesque banks of the Ping River, Riverside offers serene river views (and idyllic riverside dining) and a more relaxed ambiance making it an idyllic environment for tranquility seekers.
- Santitham: Situated just northwest of the Old City, this residential neighborhood has more of a local and authentic feel than some tourist-oriented alternatives. At the same time, it’s just a quick trip away from the city center.
- Night Bazaar: Chiang Mai’s vibrant and energetic Night Bazaar neighborhood offers a mix of shopping, dining, and entertainment.
Where to Stay in Chiang Mai: Best Areas
There’s no clear-cut or one-size-fits-all answer to the question of which is the best neighborhood to stay in during your Chiang Mai get away.
Rather, “best” is relative to your personal preferences and interests. The more you know about everything from the atmosphere to the attractions for each potential neighborhood, the more empowered you’ll be to find the area and accommodations that suit you best.
For example, while the ancient allures of the Old City makes it a perfect home base for history fans, Nimmanhaemin Road’s trendy cafes, art galleries, and boutique shops may appeal to a more contemporary crowd.
Those looking to get away from it all, meanwhile, may prefer a more peaceful retreat like Riverside, while night owls will delight in the after-dark allures of the Night Bazaar.
Finally, there’s Sanitham — a haven for travelers looking for a more local experience. Of course, finding a destination and accommodations that fit your budget is also paramount.
That’s why we’ve also included recommendations for the best budget, mid-range, and luxury accommodations for each of the five Chiang Mai areas identified in this guide.
1. Old City
As the Lanna Kingdom’s former capital, Chiang Mai’s Old City is steeped in rich history, which is evident today in the vestiges of the 700-year-old old moat-lined fortress walls surrounding it.
As you walk through the Old City’s narrow streets with centuries-old buildings, traditional wooden houses, and historical landmarks at every turn, you’ll feel like you’re stepping back in time.
Indeed, the Old City’s remarkable historical significance makes it a captivating destination that invites visitors to discover the ancient Thai traditions, culture, spirituality, and architecture that have shaped Chiang Mai.
You’ll also find plenty of quaint cafes, modern boutiques, and art galleries in the Old City. This dichotomy adds up to a mesmerizing mix of modern amenities and traditional charm.
The Old City is a central location that allows for easy access to a myriad of attractions, vibrant markets, entrancing street scenes, and local eateries — all within walking distance.
Meanwhile, plenty of affordable accommodation options have earned this area its status as a backpacker’s hub.
The Old City is also an excellent place for first-time visitors to Chiang Mai. If you’re a repeat visitor or you’re looking for a more local environment, you may prefer trying somewhere new.
Things to Do
- Explore iconic temples like Wat Phra Singh, Wat Chedi Luang, and Wat Chiang Man.
- Visit the Sunday Walking Street Market for local handicrafts and tasty street food.
- Take a traditional Thai cooking class.
- Happen upon local treasures while wandering through the narrow streets.
- Soak in the local culture at the Chiang Mai Historical Center, Chiang Mai Arts & Cultural Center, the Lanna Folklife Museum, and others.
Where to Eat
- Dash! Teak House is a popular spot for simple yet delicious farm-to-table Thai and international cuisine.
- Anchan Vegetarian Restaurant enjoy weekly specials, fresh ingredients, and a “featured dish of the week” — just a few of the allures of this popular vegetarian restaurant.
- Khao Soi Khun Yai, unassumingly hidden in a tiny alleyway, is THE destination for local speciality khao soi noodle curry.
Old City Budget Hotels
- Nai Wiang Poshtel is clean, quiet, and within easy walking distance of temples, markets, and more thanks to a central Old City location. Plus, free bikes!
- Rendezvous Classic House is located within a quiet yet convenient area of Old City. This Lanna style classic house’s spacious and luxurious rooms and abundant amenities belie its budget price tag. An outdoor pool, hearty breakfasts, and friendly staff make Rendezvous Classic House a popular pick — so be sure to book well ahead of your trip.
- Hidden Garden Hostel offers a variety of stylish yet basic room types (all with AC), as well as an outdoor pool, shared lounge, and free WiFi.
Old City Mid-Range Hotels
- Da Naga Hotel features a traditional Thai architectural style that seamlessly blends with its historic surroundings while its modern rooms are spacious and comfortable. Conveniently located just steps away from the Tha Phae Gate. Amenities and services include two on-site restaurants, Nag Spa, a spa pool, Naga Art Gallery, an open-air courtyard, and Thai cooking classes.
- U Chiang Mai is a chic and contemporary low-rise boutique hotel with a chill vibe and plum location on Ratchadamnoen Road. Enjoy a posh Resident’s Lounge (in the meticulously updated former residence of the governor of Chiang Mai), well-appointed rooms, welcoming staff, and the Sunday Walking Street Market at your doorstep.
Old City Luxury Hotels
- 99 The Heritage Hotel is an exquisite hotel showcasing an intriguing mix of the old and the new. Despite its central location in the middle of the hustle and bustle of the Old City, the hotel feels like a haute hideaway thanks to immaculate rooms, stunning landscaping, above-and-beyond service, and scenic outdoor dining amidst gardens and ponds.
- Phra Singh Village is one of Chiang Mai’s newest and most opulent accommodations. Spacious rooms, lush greenery, warm wood and terracotta decor, kind staff, and exceptional cuisine make Phra Singh Village a standout among Old City’s luxury accommodations.
- The Inside House, the ultimate in luxury accommodations, this peaceful hideaway nestled in a verdant tropical landscape in the heart of Chiang Mai is like stepping into a 1920s Lanna Colonial style manse — with all the style and ambience. Choose from exquisite pool suites and impeccably appointed bedrooms.
2. Nimmanhaemin Road
Popular with couples and business travelers seeking contemporary urban experiences, this posh neighborhood (and the city’s business center) boasts a modern and lively atmosphere.
This is thanks to chic cafes, stylish boutiques, and hip art galleries displaying a diverse range of contemporary and traditional Thai art. In addition to drawing arts and culture enthusiasts, Nimmanhaemin Road is also a dream for epicurean adventurers.
From cozy brunch spots to international fusion restaurants to casual late-night dining popular with students from nearby Chiang Mai University, there’s truly something to satisfy every palate.
After dark, the neighborhood takes on a whole new life thanks to a vibrant nightlife scene comprising live music venues, throbbing nightclubs, local watering holes, and atmospheric rooftop bars.
Staying in the Nimmanhaemin Road neighborhood gives you front row seats to this happening hotspot.
If you prefer a more off-the-beaten track environment, Nimmanhaemin Road may not be the best fit. You’ll find comfortable lodging options to suit a range of budgets and preferences — all within close proximity to area attractions.
Things to Do
- Shop for unique fashion, accessories, and local designer products at boutiques, markets, and malls.
- Explore art galleries showcasing contemporary and traditional Thai art.
- Sip on specialty coffees and teas while relaxing in trendy cafes and coffeehouses.
- Experience the lively atmosphere of Nimmanhaemin Road at night.
- Enjoy some restorative pampering at the Oasis Spa Nimman Branch.
Where to Eat
- Rustic & Blue is a popular brunch spot offering a variety of healthy and delicious dishes with a charming “farm shop” aesthetic
- Smoothie Blues is known for its refreshing smoothies and lassies, as well as extensive brunch, lunch, and dinner menus
- Khao Soy Nimman, a simple shop known for serving up the city’s most famous khao soi.
- Ristr8to is a chic spot with a welcoming atmosphere, world-famous latte art, and arguably Chiang Mai’s finest coffee
Nimmanhaemin Road Budget Hotels
- BED Nimman is an adults-only establishment with the area’s only large open-air swimming pool, knowledgeable staff, and complimentary bottled water, fruit, and cup noodles.
- Ibis Styles Chiang Mai is a 208-room “design economy” hotel existing at the intersection of value and quality thanks to a trendy location, international restaurant, complimentary WiFi, and welcome drinks.
Nimmanhaemin Road Mid-Range Hotels
- De Chai the Oriental is a restful retreat overlooking majestic Doi Suthep. This charming Colonial style hotel boasts a prime location within walking distance of Old Town.
- Zivi Nimman is a small boutique hotel featuring an unbeatable location, one-of-a-kind-rooms, free breakfast, and gracious indoor-outdoor common areas.
Nimmanhaemin Road Luxury Hotels
- Akyra Manor Chiang Mai is an intimate boutique hotel featuring design-oriented rooms, mountain views, a rooftop bar and infinity pool, and a hip downtown vibe.
- U Nimman Chiang Mai is a distinctive 147-room retreat offering luxuriously appointed rooms, a wine bar with library, a relaxing garden area, and state of the art fitness center.
Situated on the banks of the Ping River, Chiang Mai’s Riverside neighborhood is a tranquil escape from the bustling city center. This isn’t to say Riverside is sleepy.
Rather, it’s a best-of-both-worlds neighborhood melding natural beauty with an international and urban vibe. While staying in Riverside, you can look forward to leisurely walks along the peaceful riverfront promenade.
Looking for something a bit more exciting?
Head to one of the neighborhood’s many markets, where you’ll have the chance to indulge in tasty street food and browse locally made crafts while immersing yourself in its authentic atmosphere.
Riverside is also home to excellent restaurants offering everything from Thai specialties to international cuisine — many with lovely water views. Lodging options in Riverside include hostels, boutique hotels, and luxury riverfront resorts.
The area’s laidback charm makes it an ideal choice for tranquility-seeking travelers. If non-stop action and nightlife is more in line with your desired vacation, a different neighborhood may be preferable.
Things to Do
- Take a leisurely stroll along the riverfront promenade.
- Visit the Riverside Night Market for local snacks, handicrafts, and live music.
- Enjoy a scenic boat ride on the Ping River.
- Visit the astonishing Warorot Market for fresh produce, spices, souvenirs, and more.
Where to Eat
- The Riverside Bar & Restaurant is a legendary pub and restaurant known for its diverse menu, exotic drinks, dreamy atmosphere, and river views. Go early for a romantic dinner or late-night for live music, dancing, and festive revelry.
- Good View Bar & Restaurant is the place to unwind while enjoying delicious food, live music, and karaoke.
- The Service 1921 Restaurant & Bar is a refined 100-year-old former British Consulate harkening back to an era of intrigue. Concealed behind an unassuming wooden door, this swanky spot has a smart-casual dress code so leave the shorts and flip-flops at home.
Riverside Budget Hotels
- Rustic River Boutique is a charmingly rustic Thai-style hotel with warm staff, ample amenities, and within easy walking distance of the Old City, Night Bazaar, and other attractions
- Baan Songjum is a unique teak wood homestay featuring affordable rooms, a gracious host, and a solid continental breakfast.
Riverside Mid-Range Hotels
- Rarin Jinda Wellness Spa Resort is a relaxing wellness-focused hotel with pleasant river views, a spa, and swimming pool.
- Hotel Ping Silhouette is a sleek and modern business-friendly hotel offering spa services, an onsite restaurant with garden views and international cuisine, and complimentary afternoon tea service.
Riverside Luxury Hotels
- Anantara Chiang Mai Resort is a luxurious sanctuary in the heart of Lanna. Blending traditional Thai and colonial elements with striking modern style, it features floor-to-ceiling doors, balcony daybeds, and Thai boxing, cooking classes, and spa therapies offer something for relaxation- and recreation-seekers alike.
- 137 Pillars House is everything you could want in luxury accommodations, including an on-site spa, free daily manager’s reception, and premium amenities like deep soaking tubs. Fans of the celebrity treatment will soak in the opulent amenities and world-class service at this stunning 5-star boutique property.
Located just northwest of the Old City, this quaint up-and-coming neighborhood offers a mix of residential areas and local markets.
Home to a robust community of locals, expats, and digital nomads, this lesser-known area offers a glimpse into authentic everyday life in Chiang Mai.
Santitham is also known for immersive cultural experiences like Thai cooking and language classes, as well as an international dining scene featuring a variety of cuisines including Thai street food, western dishes, and fusion fare.
Santitham’s lodging offerings cater to different tastes and budgets ranging from basic guesthouses to mid-range hotels.
While you’ll enjoy easy access to Old City and other popular Chiang Mai attractions, the neighborhood’s lower profile with tourists keeps Santitham interesting and affordable. If you’re looking for a laidback local vibe, you can’t go wrong in Santitham.
For those drawn to a faster pace or more touristy areas (you won’t see a lot of English signage here), a different neighborhood may be more appropriate.
Things to Do
- Sample a smorgasbord of street foods at Thanin Market, where you’ll find fewer crowds and better prices than at many others.
- Admire Santitham Temple’s arresting architecture.
- Take Thai language or cooking classes.
- Explore nearby Huay Kaew Waterfall and Doi Suthep Mountain.
- Relieve tension and stress with a massage at Thanyaras Health Massage.
- Attend a Muay Thai fight at Chiang Mai’s Muay Thai stadium in Santitham.
- Listen to live music at Tikky’s Cafe.
Where to Eat
- Flips & Flips Homemade Donuts is a hidden gem in Northern Thailand — go early, they sell out!
- Tikky Cafe serves up healthy, fresh, and plentiful smoothies, fried rice, crispy pork, and other Thai specialities in lush environment featuring tons of greenery and even a mini waterfall.
- Santitham Breakfast & Chiang Mai Pizza is the place to get your Western food fix for everything from hearty breakfasts to wood-fire oven pizza.
Santitham Budget Hotels
- Kitti Rose Home is a lovely guest house run by a friendly family who are happy to help with recommendations and arrangements.
- Smile House Boutique is an excellent choice for budget-conscious travelers thanks to a quiet but central location and nice pool.
- B2 Santitham is a budget boutique hotel with cozy and comfortable rooms. An added bonus? The excellent restaurant right across the street.
Santitham Mid-Range Hotels
- POR Santitham is a small boutique hotel with clean and minimalistic rooms, a beautiful pool area, helpful staff, and unlimited water, coffee, and tea.
- Mercure Chiang Mai boasts comfortable and spacious rooms, a solid gym, and lovely rooftop pool.
- The Isty Hotel is everything you could want in stylish minimalist hotel — plus outstanding service, an inviting swimming pool, and a digital nomad-friendly co-working space.
5. Night Bazaar
Spanning several city blocks to the Old City’s east, Chiang Mai’s Night Bazaar is all about the after-dark action.
While this vibrant neighborhood looks like a regular street comprising a mix of stores, restaurants, and hotels during the daytime, it comes alive at night as one of Thailand’s most famous markets.
A sprawl of vendors and street food stalls selling everything from cell phone accessories and fine silks to fruit smoothies and grilled meats, this one-mile stretch serves up electrifying experiences.
While the main street may command your attention, make sure to peer down the smaller alleyways as you make your way through the market because you never know what hidden treasures are hidden there.
Ideal for thrill-seeking urbanites (and bargain hunters!), the Night Bazaar offers a good selection of economy, mid-range, and luxury hotels. When we say the Night Bazaar neighborhood has everything, we mean it — including a Starbucks.
If you’re looking for more of a local or laid-back vibe, you may prefer returning home to a different neighborhood after your visit to the Night Bazaar. When my wife and I visited, we stayed 2 blocks from this area.
We visited every night, bought some clothes (and were even told that we paid too much for our $2 pair of elephant pants), and ate Gyozas. Be sure to get some!
They were $1 for 6 of them, and you can get them with various types of protein. Food costs way less than I’d have expected, with the exception of McDonald’s, which was the same price as back home; apparently this is considered a delicacy.
Things to Do
- Experience the bustling atmosphere of the inimitable Night Bazaar — just be ready to get your haggle on.
- Observe traditional Thai dance and music performances as you immerse yourself in the Night Bazaar.
- Treat yourself to a rejuvenating Thai massage at one of the area’s many massage parlors.
- Discover local art, crafts, and culture at a variety of galleries showcasing traditional and contemporary artwork.
- Head to nearby Elephant Nature Park for elephant shows….and rides!
Where to Eat
- Kalare Night Bazaar food court is a less-hectic alternative to Night Bazaar — and the perfect place to nosh on an astonishing array of Thai dishes and international cuisine at equally astonishing prices.
- Anusarn Market is a food court located at the bottom of Chang Klan Road that provides the perfect post-shopping sustenance.
- Le Spice Restaurant serves up authentic Indian classics like curries, samosas, and vegetarian options as well as regional specialties.
Night Bazaar Budget Hotels
- Hotel RCN Court & Inn is a budget-friendly hotel within walking distance of the Night Bazaar, Wat Buppharam Temple, and other attractions.
- Sridonchai Heritage Night Bazaar Chiang Mai is cute, clean, and extremely convenient to the local bar and restaurant scene.
Night Bazaar Mid-Range Hotels
- Duangtawan Hotel is a popular option thanks to spacious and clean rooms, an excellent pool and bar area, and an unbeatable location right in the heart of the Night Bazaar.
- DusitD2 is a modern hotel with spacious rooms (many with floor-to-ceiling windows and city and mountain views), beautiful décor, and unparalleled Thai hospitality.
- Raming Lodge Hotel & Spa is a Lana style boutique hotel featuring well-appointed rooms, a spa, and a rooftop swimming pool.
Night Bazaar Luxury Hotels
- Shangri-La is a family-friendly urban resort. Its 277 rooms and suites showcase chic Northern Thai design (think lots of teakwood, silks, and native artwork) with an emphasis on minimalist luxury. You’ll also enjoy a large pool (with slide!), spa, health club, and much more.
- Le Meridien Chiang Mai is a luxurious five-star hotel fusing European roots with modern-day Thai décor and hospitality. You’ll find elegant rooms with mountain and city views, multiple dining options, world-class spa facilities, and a refreshing outdoor plunge pool.
- Maladee Rendezvous Hotel Chiang Mai is a charming heritage hotel providing a tranquil ambiance, incredible and attentive service, soaking tubs, and a spectacular pool and pool area. The perfect hidden oasis in an unbeatable location.
So, Where Should You Stay in Chiang Mai?
|✅ Best to See Everything||Old City|
|😎 Trendiest Part of Town||Nimmanhaemin Road|
|👪 Best for Families||Riverside|
|👩💻Best for Digital Nomads||Santitham|
|🏙️ Best for Night Owls & Foodies||Night Bazaar|
Whether you’re seeking cultural immersion, nature exploration, non-stop nightlife or all of the above, you’ll find it in Chiang Mai. And when it comes to places to stay in this enchanting city, there’s truly something for everyone.
For example, if you’re a first-timer to Chiang Mai or you’re backpacking on a budget and want to pack in as much seeing and doing as possible, Old City may be the perfect fit.
Meanwhile, if you’re a big fan of shopping, style, and nightlife, Nimmanhaemin Road delivers on the dazzle. (It’s also the city’s business center, making it a convenient location for business travelers.)
On the other hand, Riverside offers a peaceful setting for those seeking a slower pace and connectivity with nature. If authenticity is at the top of your agenda, Sanitham may be the perfect homebase for you thanks to its residential feel and localized perspective.
Finally, those who love to be in the heart of the action — especially when the sun goes down — will be invigorated and captivated by the Night Bazaar.
Ultimately, while there’s no single-best answer to the question of where to stay in Chiang Mai, evaluating your priorities and practicing due diligence can help you determine the best neighborhood and lodging for your time in Thailand. Happy travels!