8 Best Museums in Chiang Mai, Thailand

Three Kings Monument in Chiang Mai Old City

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As an official UNESCO Creative City for Crafts and Folk Arts, Chiang Mai in Thailand shows off its rich culture in a series of museums scattered around the city and countryside.

The best museums in this collection reveal the multidimensional Lanna culture in all its glory—its history as an independent kingdom, stories of its great sons and daughters, and the cultural output of a proud people who maintain their creative drive to this day.

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Chiang Mai National Museum

Chiang Mai National Museum

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Address
Chang Phueak, Mueang Chiang Mai District, Chiang Mai 50300, Thailand

Located near the historic Wat Jet Yot, some ten minutes drive north of the Old City, the Chiang Mai National Museum represents the ultimate showcase for Lanna history and culture.

The two-story museum (resembling a grand Lanna house, naturally) collects and displays ancient artifacts from the Northern Thai provinces that the former kingdom used to occupy. Six sections across both floors tell Chiang Mai’s story, from its prehistory to its present. Some of the displayed artifacts were rescued from temples submerged when the Bhumibol Dam was completed in the 1970s.

As it’s located within Chiang Mai City, the Museum is easily accessible by red songthaew or tuk-tuk. The museum is only open from Wednesday to Sunday, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.; admission costs 30 baht ($0.90). Many visitors pair a visit to this museum with another to the nearby Highland People Discovery Museum.

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Chiang Mai City Arts & Cultural Center

Chiang Mai City Arts & Cultural Center

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Address
Prapokkloa Rd, Tambon Si Phum, Amphoe Mueang Chiang Mai, Chang Wat Chiang Mai 50200, Thailand
Phone +66 53 217 793

Located in the former Chiang Mai City Hall in the Old City, the Chiang Mai City Arts and Cultural Center now houses 15 exhibition rooms on its two floors. The exhibits tell the story of Chiang Mai as a city and capital for the Lanna Kingdom, covering over 700 years of history.

The scope of the exhibits is surprisingly broad, covering the evolution from informal settlements along the Ping River into the Lanna Kingdom, the relationship between Lanna and Siam, and the modern history of Chiang Mai post-Thai integration.

The Cultural Centre is open from Wednesdays to Sundays and public holidays, from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

Admission fees of 90 baht ($2.70) for adults and 40 baht ($1.20) will be charged upon entry; you can also buy a slightly more expensive museum pass that covers entry for the Lanna Folklife Museum and the Chiang Mai Historical Center.

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Lanna Folklife Museum

Lanna Folklife Museum

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Address
Prapokkloa Rd, Tambon Si Phum, Amphoe Mueang Chiang Mai, Chang Wat Chiang Mai 50200, Thailand
Phone +66 53 217 793

The former Municipal Court Building in the Old City, like its sister building, the former City Hall, was also converted into a museum after the administration relocated to bigger quarters. In the Court’s place, the Lanna Folklife Museum now showcases the Northern Thai lifestyle and art.

Walking through the different exhibits, you’ll find artifacts and explainers on Lanna Buddhist worship; mural paintings, lacquerware, and pottery from Lanna artisans; architectural styles from local builders; and cloth from Northern Thai weavers. The exhibits are intended to demonstrate the harmony between Lanna lifestyle, religion, and nature.

The Lanna Folklife Museum is open from Wednesdays to Sundays and public holidays, from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. The museum is closed on Songkran.

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Darapirom Palace Museum

Darapirom Palace Museum

Image courtesy of Darapirom Palace Museum

Address
WW7R+5V8, Rim Tai, Mae Rim District, Chiang Mai 50180, Thailand
Phone +66 53 299 175

As the Lanna kingdom was unified with Thailand at the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries, Princess Dara Rasmi, daughter of the last Lanna king, became a consort of the reforming Thai King Rama V. After Rama V’s death, Princess Dara Rasmi was granted permission to return to Chiang Mai in 1914, where she died in 1933.

The interior of the house tells her story in rich detail. The corridor and rooms tell Princess Dara Rasmi’s life story; and explain the Princess’s efforts to promote Lanna arts, agricultural traditions, and religion. The gardens surrounding her palace were a particular favorite of the Princess, where she would grow roses contributed by the British Rose Society.

The museum is located in Mae Rim, some nine miles north of the Old City; you can ride a red songthaew from Warorot Market to the market in Mae Rim, then walk to the museum upon disembarking. Visitors can come from Tuesday to Sunday, and on public holidays, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission of 20 baht ($0.60) will be charged upon entry.

Continue to 5 of 8 below.
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Highland People Discovery Museum

Highland People Discovery Museum

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Address
สวนล้านนา ร.9 Chotana Rd, Tambon Chang Phueak, Amphoe Mueang Chiang Mai, Chang Wat Chiang Mai 50300, Thailand
Phone +66 53 210 872

The Karen, Hmong, Yao, Akha, Lisu, Lahu, Khmu, Lua, Tin, and Mlabri peoples had existed in the Chiang Mai environs long before today's borders were drawn up—their relative remoteness from major centers of power have helped their unique traditions, beliefs and customs survive to the present day.

This cultural museum was spun off from Chiang Mai University's Tribal Research Institute in 2017 and now inhabits its own building next to a lake in Rama IX Lanna Park. Visitors can get a good look at the lifestyles of the hill tribes through the displays in the three-story building and get useful context before they pay a visit to those tribes later in their stay! Many visitors pair a visit to this museum with another to the nearby National Museum.

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MAIIAM Contemporary Art Museum

MAIIAM Contemporary Art Museum

Image courtesy of MAIIAM Contemporary Art Museum

Address
122, Moo 7 Tonpao Amphoe San Kamphaeng, Chang Wat Chiang Mai 50130, Thailand
Phone +66 52 081 737

This warehouse-turned-museum represents the personal collection of the Beurdeley–Bunnag family—not claiming to represent Thai modern art in total, but only as one collector’s perspective on the best of contemporary Thai creativity.

Its 32,300-square-foot interior houses over 200 paintings, sculptures, and multi-media work in their permanent collections, plus seasonal exhibitions from Thai contemporary artists. The museum itself is located in the historic Sankampang crafts district, with a mirrored exterior that takes inspiration from the mirror tiles used in traditional Thai temples.

MAIIAM is a 30-minute drive east of the Old City, easily accessible by both public transport and taxi. The museum is open every day except Tuesdays, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Admission is 150 baht ($4.50) for adults.

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Chiang Mai House of Photography

Chiang Mai House of Photography

Image courtesy of Chiang Mai House of Photography

Address
ถนน พระปกเกล้า ซอย 4 Tambon Si Phum, Amphoe Mueang Chiang Mai, Chang Wat Chiang Mai 50200, Thailand
Phone +66 52 000 393

The Thais were avid photographers, taking it up when Westerners brought the craft into Southeast Asia in the 19th century. Photographs bring Northern Thailand’s past into fresh immediacy in ways that no other illustrative art can match: something visitors can see for themselves when they survey the snapshots on display at the House of Photography.

The craft’s development and output in Northern Thailand can be seen in this former court officer’s house in the Old City: the House of Photography’s exhibits cover portraiture, landscapes, and event photography done in Chiang Mai over the years.

The museum is located in the Old City; it’s open from Monday to Friday, from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 a.m. Admission is free.

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Saban-Nga Ancient Cloth Museum

Saban-Nga Ancient Cloth Museum

Image courtesy of Saban-Nga Ancient Cloth Museum

Address
18 ถนน ทิพย์เนตร Tambon Chang Phueak, Amphoe Mueang Chiang Mai, Chang Wat Chiang Mai 50100, Thailand
Phone +66 81 883 6713

Textile fanatics will adore this off-the-beaten-path attraction: a museum that displays over 20,000 pieces of fabric and clothing collected from cultures all across the region. The gorgeous displays and photos represent the Thai, Lanna, Tai Lue, Lao, Burmese, and other people.

Key displays include Isaan "mudmee" (ikat) cloth from the present-day Lao republic; wedding trousseau of Tai Khün royalty from what is now Myanmar, with gold threads embroidered in the fabric with a lotus pattern; and traditional Lanna fabrics from the 19th-early 20th century, used in protection rituals for its wearer.

The Saban-Nga Ancient Cloth Museum is a private museum owned by Akkadej Nakthong, located in Chiang Mai City. It's open Thursday to Tuesday from 10:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m., and admission costs 50 baht.

Article Sources
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  1. Chiang Mai National Museum. "ประวัติที่มาและความสำคัญ." 2017.

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8 Best Museums in Chiang Mai, Thailand