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Often considered the gateway to northern Thailand, Chiang Mai is a hugely popular destination with visitors heading to the Southeast Asian country!
Nestled among mountains, Chiang Mai is known for its gorgeous temples – and for those looking to discover Thai culture, this is the perfect destination. It also offers a variety of culinary delights and has a thriving digital nomad population.
Whilst Chiang Mai is truly the city that has everything, many visitors can be overwhelmed trying to narrow down their options.
Though considerably smaller than Bangkok, Chiang Mai still has a somewhat hectic atmosphere (especially in the city centre), so it’s important to gather your bearings before you arrive.
That’s where we come in! We’ve figured out the four best neighborhoods in Chiang Mai, and categorised them based on who they are best for. By consulting locals and travel experts, we have figured out the best places for culture, nightlife and more.
So let’s get started!
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At A Glance: Where To Stay In CHIANG MAI
Looking for a specific place to stay? These are our highest recommendations for places to stay in Chiang Mai.
|WHERE TO STAY IN CHIANG MAI|
|Stylish and Bright||Book on Air BnB →|
|OYO 240 Hotel Chiang Mai||Book on Booking.com →|
|Phra Singh Village||Book on Booking.com →|
AirBnB Plus apartments have been hand selected by staff for their stylish interiors and great reviews – meaning you are sure to get the most Instagrammable properties in every city! This gorgeous apartment has minimalist interiors, with a large balcony where you can enjoy views of the city.
OYO are a hugely popular budget hotel chain across Thailand, and their Chiang Mai offering is located in Riverside – our top pick for those on a budget! Rooms are slick and modern, and come with gorgeous views of either the city or the river. They offer massages, as well as free parking.
This five star hotel is truly the pinnacle of luxury in Chiang Mai! Despite its upmarket status, it still maintains a traditional feel – giving you a more authentic experience. Located right in the heart of the Old Town, it is only a short walk from Wat Phra Singh as well as many other major city centre attractions.
Chiang Mai might only be the fifth biggest city in Thailand, but it has so much to offer! In many ways, it is a microcosm of everything that makes Bangkok a world famous destination.
With delicious street food, dazzling temples and delectable cocktail bars around every corner, there’s truly something for everyone in Chiang Mai.
The Old City is where many tourists base themselves, and is by far your best option if you are interested in temple hopping! As the oldest part of the city, this is where you will find some of the most magnificent architecture. It is also well connected to the rest of the city, and is home to the largest number of hotels and hostels.
With a completely different atmosphere to the Old City, Nimmanhaemin is one of the most modern neighborhoods in the city. This is where you will find contemporary apartment blocks, modern cafes and a rich dining scene.
Nimmanhaemin is a popular neighborhood with digital nomads, and this youthful atmosphere makes it a great area for experiencing the best of Chiang Mai’s nightlife!
Just north of Nimmanhaemin is the area surrounding the Night Bazaar! Though the bazaar itself is partially in Nimmanhaemin, heading a little bit further north will reveal some great restaurants with a more local atmosphere.
This area is also popular with digital nomads, but has a bit of a grittier atmosphere. It’s still entirely safe, but you get the best of both worlds when it comes to local culture and tourism infrastructure.
Over on the opposite side of the city centre, Riverside is a peaceful neighborhood that lets you get away from the bustling atmosphere of the Old City! This area is packed with markets and museums, however, these tend to have a more local atmosphere. It is also a gateway into some of Thailand’s natural attractions, with many tour companies based in this area.
Still undecided? Don’t worry – we have some more tips on what to do and where to stay in each neighborhood below!
Let’s take a look, in more detail, at the four best neighbourhoods in Chiang Mai. Each caters to different interests, so be sure to pick the neighbourhood that’s right for you.
Boxed in with the city walls, the Old City is right in the heart of Chiang Mai and is the perfect place to gather your bearings in the city! This is where you will find the most famous temples, as well as plenty of excellent tours discussing the history and culture of Northern Thailand.
Surprisingly, Old City is also a great option for budget travellers! Thailand is a notoriously cheap country – with Chiang Mai being one of the cheapest destinations – so the Old City capitalises on this by offering some great deals to visitors. This is where you will find most of the hostels in the city, as well as some great budget restaurants.
Another great AirBnB Plus property, Mango Tree Apartment is a stone’s throw away from all the major attractions in the Old City! Despite being in the busiest area, its unique location off a side street means you can enjoy a peaceful oasis away from the bustling tourist strips. The interior design is stylish and practical.
Only a short walk from the city walls, POR Thapae Gate is an excellent budget option for those only staying in the city for a few days! It has a great outdoor pool area, and they provide free bike hire to all guests. A breakfast buffet is provided every morning – with vegetarian options on offer.
This luxurious five star hotel will have you feeling pampered throughout your stay! Alongside the outdoor pool, they also have free bike hire and a large fitness centre. A complimentary breakfast is offered every morning – with multiple options available, including gluten free and vegan. Rooms are spacious, and a few come with balconies.
Whilst the Old City is a great option for budget travellers, Riverside easily provides the best value for money in Chiang Mai! This sleepy neighborhood has some excellent budget friendly hostels that come with some added extras to increase your comfort. It is also one of the best neighborhoods for visitors looking for a laid back getaway.
Flanking the river, there are plenty of natural attractions in the area – as well as some boat tours providing a unique way to take in the city! The markets here can get busy, but usually with locals, giving it a more authentic atmosphere.
This two bedroom apartment is only a short walk from the Ping River – and about five minutes from the Old Town by tuk tuk! For groups and families visiting on a budget, this is an inexpensive yet stylish option. The hosts also have superhost status thanks to the excellent reviews.
This simple but modern three star hotel is a great option if you are on a tight budget but want the added privacy of a hotel! Rooms are surprisingly spacious, and many of them come with views of the river. There is a roof garden on top of the hotel, and they also provide Thai massages for a small fee.
Riverside might be our budget friendly pick, but there are still some great luxury options in the area – including this five star gem right by the banks of the river! Surrounded by greenery, this is a great pick for anyone that loves nature and wants somewhere calm to kick back and relax.
Whilst the Old City has some decent nightlife options in its own right, Nimmanhaemin Road is the place to be if you want to party with locals! Both Thais and long-term guests prefer this ultra-modern neighborhood that has some contemporary bars and nightclubs on offer along the main strip.
During the day, this neighborhood is popular with digital nomads! If you are planning a longer stay in Chiang Mai, this is a great neighborhood to base yourself until you find a more permanent accommodation choice. Aside from nightlife, there are also some excellent shopping destinations and entertainment attractions.
This gorgeous apartment comes with excellent reviews thanks to its prime location, elegant design and impeccable attention to detail! The balcony has a small seating area and is well positioned to catch the sun throughout most of the day. Small plants also add to the bright and airy atmosphere.
Right on Nimmanhaemin Road, the Yesterday Hotel comes with excellent reviews thanks to its proximity to the best of the city’s nightlife! It is housed within a traditional building, showcasing some of the best of Thai architecture. It is bright and airy, and they offer an American style breakfast.
This four star hotel is a great compromise between price and luxury – and is located right on Nimmanhaemin Road! Rooms have separate bedrooms and living rooms, as well as balconies overlooking the city. The MAYA Lifestyle shopping centre is a short walk away – perfect for getting your retail fix.
The Night Bazaar is the place to be in Chiang Mai if you want to sample some of the best street food on offer! Whether you are staying nearby or not, you need to take some time out of your trip to visit this vast market. Aside from food, you can also find cheap electronics and souvenirs on offer at the various stalls.
During the day, the area north of the Night Bazaar is similar to Nimmanhaemin – though it is a little bit more peaceful! It also has a more local atmosphere, giving you a slightly more authentic insight into modern life in the city for the local population.
This towering apartment is another stunning AirBnB Plus property – but comes with excellent prices! With a discount for long term stays, this is an excellent option for digital nomads wanting something quick and easy. The interiors are sleek and modern, and there are views of the mountain.
This hotel is located in a calm neighborhood – giving you some peace and quiet whilst staying close to one of the coolest neighborhoods in the city! Though it is only a three star hotel, it comes with excellent design – both inside and outside – that will add a sense of luxury to your stay.
This towering five star hotel is located on the intersection where the Night Bazaar meets Nimmanhaemin Road, giving you easy access to both areas! It has a large outdoor pool where you can unwind after a day of exploring the city, and many rooms come with views of the nearby mountain.
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It’s easy to see why Chiang Mai is one of the most popular destinations in the world! Whilst it has plenty of temples, culinary delights and cultural highlights within its limits, it is not as overwhelming as the larger Thai cities. This creates an easy-going city that allows visitors to take a more authentic dive into Thai culture.
In terms of our favourite area, we are going to go with the area surrounding the Night Bazaar! This area is not only well connected to both Nimmanhaemin and the Old City, but it also has some great attractions in its own right and is the perfect destination to live like a local.
That being said, wherever is best for you depends on your individual needs. We hope this guide has helped you narrow down your options for your upcoming trip to the gateway to Northern Thailand!
Did we miss anything? Let us know in the comments!
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Gin lover. Coffee addict. Nicola has traveled the world for 7 years and is a staff writer for Hotel Jules. Born in London, Nicola first got the taste of travel studying abroad in Barcelona. Since then she's been hooked - traveling the world non-stop. Passionate about green travel and vegan lifestyle, Nicola spends more of her free time staring at maps wondering where she will head to next!