Where is the best place to stay in Chiang Mai? Where to stay in Chiang Mai? It is the north, east, west, south or central?
Where are the best nightlife spots or the best places for dinning? Where to stay for a romantic get-away as a couple, or the best place for your family, or the red-light district? What other popular spots for digital nomads and retirees?
Which area is best for your lifestyle, budget and daily routine? Where to stay in Chiang Mai old city? Where is the best place to stay in Chiang Mai?
Find out next.
Quick Facts About Chiang Mai
- If you’re going to Chiang Mai during the high season – you better book your hotel ahead of time before you arrive.
- Chiang Mai City is not the second biggest city in Thailand after Bangkok. In terms of population, Chiang Mai City is somewhere around 4th or 5th largest in Thailand. Source: Biggest Cities in Thailand
- If you live anywhere in Chiang Mai, I don’t think you need to worry too much about internet speed. Each of the hotels and apartments where I stayed had good to great internet connection. If you somehow get a bad internet connection in Chiang Mai, you are very unlucky.
- Public transportation comes in the form of Tuk Tuks, Songthews (Red trucks) and some regular taxis or the Grab App.
The Best Place to Stay in Chiang Mai
The Old City aka The Old Town
Where to stay in Chiang Mai old city?
Let’s start with the most popular spot – this is the giant square you see on the map; whatever’s inside that square is The Old City. This is the oldest and the most historical part of Chiang Mai City. It is a great area to stay if you want to visit the different historic sites and see some of the most beautiful temples in the city. Temples include the Wat Chedi Luang, Wat Phra Sign and Wat Rajamontean, just to name a few.
This area is a great place to stay in Chiang Mai, especially for newcomers who want to be in the middle of everything. The area is also great for family, couples, solo travelers, bag packers and digital nomads.
You can wander around inside the Old City, sightseeing without having your own transportation. If you’re hungry, there are many great restaurants serving Thai, western and international dishes. You’ll also find tons of shops, Visa company, coffee shops, co-working space, cafe, money exchange booths, massage shops, night markets. There are also lots of hostels, as well as boutique hotels, available throughout The Old City.
Tha Pae Gate
This area is one of the coolest places to stay in Chiang Mai. It is a hip spot for holiday travelers, nomads and bag packers. I would say this area is more local and feels more like an authentic Thai neighborhood than Nimman Road.
Overall, staying anywhere inside The Old City would be a great choice. If I was to recommend any newcomers or you don’t know where to stay in Chiang Mai, perhaps you want to maximize your holiday in the city-I would recommend staying around the Tha Pae Gate area.
It’s close to the Sunday Night Market and walking distance to the Saturday Night Market at the southern end of The Old City. It is also walking distance to The Night Bazaar and Loi Kroh Road for the nightlife. Zoe in Yellow Bar is one of the more popular nightclubs in Chiang Mai catering to westerners, which is also in this area.
Lastly, during the evenings you can expect some different events happening at the front of the Tha Pae Gate.
Nimmanhaemin Road commonly known as “Nimman Road”
North from the airport is the iconic Nimman Road, about 1km long stretching from the Northern part of the airport to Maya Mall.
This is another popular and cool place to stay in the city. It will be the most hip, coolest place to stay in Chiang Mai and one of the most expensive places to stay. There are at least three popular nightclubs in this area, great if you want to party. This area is also great if you are a foodie, into fashion, shopping, art, great coffee and dessert.
Many young travelers love to stay in this area, as well as young Thais because of the close proximity to Chiang Mai University, shopping mall, airport, markets, restaurants and everything else.
The area is a bit more upscale, so don’t be surprised to find some super cars and bikes parking nearby. Everything will cost a bit more here, a bowl of noodle soup that would normally cost you 50/60 THB somewhere else, but in this area it might be 100 THB. If you’re a tourist staying for a few weeks or you don’t mind paying a little more for the location and the convenience, then Nimman Road is an ideal spot for you.
There is an alternative to Nimman Road with better value and it is still within walking distance to everything in Nimman Road. I’ll show you that area later in the article.
Overall, some people may not like this area and say it is too westernized, lacking the traditional Thai neighborhood atmosphere. While others will fall in love with this location because it is one, if not the most popular spot in the city for a good reason.
I would highly recommend Nimman Road to any newcomers or anyone who doesn’t know where to stay in Chiang Mai. After staying here you will understand why so many people fall in love with the city. If you don’t like it here, you’ll probably not like other neighborhoods around the city and it’s ok. Chiang Mai City is not for everyone.
Just north of of Huaykaew Road and Kad Suan Kaew Shopping Mall, is the Santitham neighborhood.
I lived in this area for four months during my first visit to Chiang Mai. At that time, I didn’t know how to ride a scooter and had to walk or use a bicycle to get around. This was a great area to stay since there is a shopping mall nearby where you can walk to grab some food at the food court or buy some groceries at Top Market inside the mall.
There were tons of cafés and restaurants in this area. Some of my favorite restaurants are here, places like the Mexican restaurant was one of my favorite places to eat.
This area is smack in the middle of the Old City and Nimman Road/Maya Mall, about a 20 minute walk to either place. If you’re feeling lazy or you need to go somewhere far, just grab the Red Truck or use Grab App to get a taxi.
The Santitham area near Kad Suan Kaew Shopping Mall was my starting point staying in Chiang Mai. But if you’re on a holiday visiting for a few weeks or you’re brand new here and don’t know where to stay in Chiang Mai, then I wouldn’t stay in this area. I would recommend somewhere in The Old City or Nimmin Road. You’ll have more things to do, like exploring ancient temples and there are more great restaurants to try.
However, if you’re staying more than 3 months, this is a great spot. With lots of apartments and condos to choose from – prices can range anywhere from 3,000 THB per month to 20,000 THB per month for a modern 2 bedroom with a full kitchen.
Overall, the area that is close to the main road is more modernized than the area further inside. So there are more western restaurants and more foreigners staying near the main road. But it still feels like a Thai community.
Chet Yot was the second neighborhood where I lived for a good six months during my second trip to Chiang Mai. So I know this area pretty well. It is similar to the last area Santitham and about the same distance to Nimman Road but a bit further from The Old City.
There are many hotels around this area, practically next to the highway in the East and to the West on Chonprathan Road.
If you can’t find a hotel on Nimman Road or you want to stay away from Nimman Road but still live close to it, then this area would be a great alternative to Nimman Road. You can stay at the southern end of Chet Yot just a little north of Maya Mall and you’ll still have access to all what Nimman Road had to offer.
This area is named after the biggest and oldest temple in the area called Wat Ched Yod. If you are staying in this area, make sure to visit this temple at least once. It is amazing how peaceful and quiet this temple is. Considering the super highway is right next to it, but once you’re inside, it feels like going back in time and once you leave, you’re back into the modern Chiang Mai.
Overall, this is a good spot to stay long-term or short-term. If you’re coming for a holiday for a few weeks and you’re looking for an alternative to Nimman Road but still close to it, then I would recommend staying in one of the hotels at the southern end of this area, just 5 minutes north of Maya Mall. There are many boutique hotels there, perhaps better value than the ones in Nimman Road?
If you want to live here long-term, go further inside the area. There are many high-rises full of condos and apartments to choose from, but you will probably need your own transportation or use Grab to hail a taxi if you live further inside this area.
You’ll find some of the best Chiang Mai boutique accommodations and hotels in this area, as well as other luxury hotels along both sides of the river.
The Riverside area is a great place if you are coming as a couple for a romantic retreat. You can’t get anymore romantic than having dinner and watching the sunset next to the river.
Perhaps you’re a retiree with more money to spend to spoil yourself or you are looking for classy, upscale places to stay with good views over the river. Perhaps you want a more laid back vibe as compared to Nimman Road and the Old City but still close to the city center.
The Riverside area is where to stay in Chiang Mai if you’re looking for all of that.
If you look for cheap accommodation in this area, you can always find budget accommodations elsewhere. But overall, most hotels and condos in this area are more luxurious and since you’re in Thailand, the words luxury hotel or 4- or 5-star hotels, doesn’t mean a middle-income foreigner can’t afford them.
Night Bazaar and Area
The Night Bazaar is about a 20 minute walk outside The Old City. The Night Bazaar is a building filled with different shops for souvenirs and fashion. There is also a photo studio, if you want to take some traditional photos of you and your family wearing traditional Thai clothing.
On the bottom floor of the Night Bazaar building is where you find some of the best artists in Thailand drawing and painting large portraits. You can buy any one of the artworks or request one of the artists of your choice to draw or paint anything you want. I love strolling around this area checking out the beautiful artwork. If you’re into art and crafts like me, you’ll have to check out this place.
The Night Bazaar itself is not too exciting, but the area around it, particularly the area at the front of it comes to life during the evenings when the temperature cools down, and all the street vendors set up their shops along the roads.
You can find some of the best seafood restaurants in this area, as well as cafés, many western fast food restaurants can be find here, too. Such as Burger King, Starbucks, Subway just to name a few.
This area is also close to Warrot Market, where you can buy fresh fruits and other products at wholesale prices. Lots of vegans come here to buy their fruits and veggies. Yet, you are still walking distance to some ancient temples such as Wat Bupparam.
To the south is the Loi Kroh Road, which is known for its beer bar and the red light area of Chiang Mai. If you’re into that, this would be a good spot for you to stay. I’ll talk more about Loi Kroh Road next.
Loi Kroh Road, Red-Light/Party
This is what I call the red-light district of Chiang Mai. This area is a fetus as compared to a place like Pattaya and Bangkok. So, if you are into that, best to go there and not Chiang Mai, but if you just want to have a few beers or play some pool, this might be the spot for you.
I think Chiang Mai is bigger with Karaoke bars, where you go in as a group of people and have some exotic Northern Thai girls to socialize or sing with you. But I think these Karaoke are more catered to Korean and Japanese guys. Because they seem to be more into that kind of stuff, if you’re into that too, there are lots of Karaoke bars going along Chang Klan Road. I randomly stopped and got pulled in by one of the attractive girls there but couldn’t stay because I’m broke.
If you’re into the beer bar and the Karaoke bars, then check out the Loi Kroh Road and along the Chang Klan Road. If not, just avoid these areas. But don’t worry, Chiang Mai is not even one tenth as chaotic or sleazy as Pattaya Walking Street.
Hang Dong – more expats live in this area than the other districts.
San Sai/Maejo University
For you to live in these areas, you will need your own transportation to get around. Not many public transports, as well as apartments are available for rent. Most likely you’ll need to lease a detached home or a townhouse. Great if you want to live in a house with a full kitchen and multiple bedrooms.
These are great areas away from the city, away from the traffic and very few tourist live or come here. So not a popular spot if you’re on a holiday, but great if you are going to live long-term or want to buy a home to settle down. Many expats and retirees live in the Hang Dong district than the other three.
Quick Recap: Best place to stay in Chiang Mai
I think you have enough information to start your search on where to stay in Chiang Mai Thailand.
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Here’s a quick summary of the best area to stay in Chiang Mai
1. The Old City: historic, culture, nightlife, night market, foodie, temples
2. Nimman Road: westernized and cool, hip, upscale, foodie, shopping, coffee…
3. Santitham, Huaykaew Road
4. Chet Yot
5. Riverside: romance and luxurious
6. Night Bazaar and Area Seafood, markets
7. Loi Kroh Road, Red Light/Party
8. Outer Districts
Where to stay in Chiang Mai old city
2. Near Tha Pae Gate
Cool places to stay in Chiang Mai
1. Nimman Road
2. The Old City
3. Night Bazaar and Area
Night market area Chiang Mai
1. The Old City
2. Night Bazaar and Area
Overall, Chiang Mai is still relatively a small city as compared to a city like Bangkok. There are distinct districts but none are very far from each other, so it is easy to get from A to B.