Best neighborhoods to visit in Chiang Mai

Often called Thailand’s “Capital in the North,” the mountainside city of Chiang Mai is an idyllic destination with bundles on offer across its rich and varied neighborhoods.

The lush green scenery and ancient architecture captures the hearts of visitors, as does the range of things to do – you’re never far away from a forested waterfall, a medieval temple or a fantastic jazz club.

This low-rise metropolis has a bustling center and the best neighborhoods to visit are just a short distance apart. It’s easy to get from A to B using songthaew minivans or taxi-hailing apps, so staying in one place when visiting is the best way forward, because nothing is too far away.

Here are the best neighborhoods to explore in Chiang Mai.

Many people walking down a street towards Wat Phra Sing in Chiang Mai's Old City during the Songkran festival
Chiang Mai’s historic Old City is perfect for wandering © 501room / Getty Images

Old City

Best neighborhood for history 

At Chiang Mai’s heart is its ancient center. Surrounded by an impressive, wide moat, the walled Old City buzzes with life and activity. Buddhist temples such as the red-brick Wat Chedi Luang, teak-decked Wat Phan Tao and gold-leafed Wat Phra Singh are on every main road. Large museums including Lanna Folklife Museum and Chiang Mai City Arts & Cultural Center also keep history-loving tourists busy.

Just 1.5km (1 mile) in length and breadth, the Old City is great to amble around on foot or by bicycle, stopping whenever something catches your eye. It’s not just for culture vultures; this neighborhood is awash with pretty cafes and some of the liveliest nightlife spots in the city, from the classy North Gate Jazz Co-op to the raucous Zoe in Yellow. It’s a great place to be based on your first visit if you like to be in the thick of it.

The Old City’s temples are among the best free things to do in Chiang Mai

A handful of street food stalls are set up in the courtyard of the One Nimman retail complex, and people are sitting at picnic tables and eating.
The modern Nimmanhaemin neighborhood is packed with shops and restaurants © danicachang / Getty Images 


Best neighborhood for restaurants

A relatively new neighborhood to the west of the Old City, Nimman (short for Nimmanhaemin) is packed with boutique hotels and modern condo buildings. The drinking and dining options boomed around the influx of residents and consequently it’s become a busy evening destination, full of bars and restaurants.

Every possible cuisine is done very well here. Choose from the quintessentially Northern Thai noodle dishes at Kao Soy Nimman and Ginger Farm Kitchen, or international spots covering Chinese, Indian, Italian and Korean food – and of course there’s burgers galore. Nimman is also home to award winning coffee roasters Roast8ry Lab and Ristr8to Original, and the brilliant vegan community hub Free Bird Cafe.

Know these 11 things before traveling to Chiang Mai


Best neighborhood for local bars 

Directly north of Nimman (but with distinctly fewer tourists) sits Santitham. This is a busy local neighborhood, where the daytime sees a steady traffic thanks to the cafes, schools, gyms and camera repair shops. But it’s the bars and clubs that you should check out here, ready to keep you busy until the small hours.

Yawk Bar is the spot to watch sports or just enjoy a few beers, while Santitham Plaza has a bunch of large open-air venues that are always busy and fun on the weekends – the best in that square is Chang Hi Bar. EDM heads will appreciate BLU CNX. Alternatively, just wander around and pull up a chair at one of the countless small roadside spots; most aren’t listed on Google Maps. 

A woman is sitting on the floor and using a traditional loom to weave fabric
Peaceful Jed Yot is home to some brilliant cultural institutions, including the Highland People Discovery Museum © 88studio / Shutterstock

Jed Yot

Best neighborhood for peace and quiet

Driving into Jed Yot from the highway feels like you’re not in the city at all. The road twists and turns through green fields and quiet back streets that are framed by the verdant Suthep mountain range. This peaceful neighborhood is set apart from the nightlife in Nimman, and it’s a 10- to 15-minute drive from the Old City, but the distance means cheaper and quieter stays.

That’s not to say it’s a dull area; Jed Yot is home to one of the oldest temples in the city, Wat Chet Yot, which is unique due to its Indian-influenced architectural style. There’s also a number of great museums: Chiang Mai National Museum, Sbunnga Textile Museum and the Highland People Discovery Museum, which gives an awesome introduction to the lives of the diverse hill tribes who populate the north of Thailand. 

Overhead shot of a group of people eating Thai food for lunch at the Warorot Market in Chiang Mai.
Warorot is a vast indoor market selling street food, clothes and homewares © Elena Aleksandrovna Ermakova / Getty Images

Chinatown and Night Bazaar

Best neighborhood for street food

Just west of the Ping River sits Chiang Mai’s vibrant Chinatown, the 19th-century trading post that’s still thriving today. The main attraction, Warorot Market (also known as Kad Luang), is a large indoor shopping hub that spreads across two blocks. It’s full to the brim with clothes, homewares and, most importantly, food stalls galore, both Thai and Chinese. It’s a great area to base yourself if you love big community vibes and great, cheap eats, all just 1km (0.6 miles) from Pratu Tha Phae, the Old City’s east entrance gate.

Directly below Chinatown is the Night Bazaar zone. The bazaar itself is a souvenir market and the area is full of great restaurants. It’s also home to two of the most LGBTQI+ friendly spots, Ram Bar and 6ixcret, where elegant drag performers sing and dance pop hits until the small hours. 

Wat Ket

Best neighborhood for riverside hangouts

Along the eastern flank of the Ping River, the Wat Ket neighborhood is lined with old wooden houses and warehouses from bygone years – squint and you could be in the 1950s. On the riverbank are laid-back bars, restaurants and cafes like Good View and The Riverside, where you can graze the days away. Come back in the evening to see the nightlife here buzz, particularly on the weekends when locals and visitors enjoy the live music and dance floors.

Wat Ket is a great area to stay in, full of character and generally a bit cheaper as it’s set back from the old city.

Keep planning your trip to Chiang Mai:

Navigate like a local with these ​​​tips for getting around
Looking for more great experiences? Here are our top picks in Chiang Mai
Explore beyond Chiang Mai on these day trips

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