Nightlife in Chiang Mai, Thailand: Best Bars, Clubs, & More

Tuktuk in front of Chiang Mai restaurant at night
Tuktuk in front of Chiang Mai restaurant at night.

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When thinking about Chiang Mai’s nightlife, the northern Thai city shouldn’t be compared directly to Bangkok, because they're entirely different. Visitors to Chiang Mai will find a far less frenzied but more balanced nightlife scene with few of Bangkok’s excesses. The main nightlife destinations in Chiang Mai are concentrated around three main areas:

  • Old City, where Zoe in Yellow (the most popular nightclub in the city) holds court along some laid-back bars and live music venues.
  • Riverside, great for high-end, expat-oriented bars and nighttime restaurants with a view of the Ping River.
  • Nimmanhaemin (Nimman) Road, whose proximity to Chiang Mai University drives its student-centered nightclub scene and casual late-night dining.

We’ve put together some nightlife stops in Chiang Mai worth seeing when you’re in town, along with some unique (or unique for Thailand) activity categories that should be high on your to-do list.

Nightclubs in Chiang Mai

Chiang Mai locals and expats love to party, and the city obliges with plenty of nightclubs ready to cater to individual tastes and preferences. The best clubs are all on Nimman Road, thanks to their younger clientele.

Exceptions aside (the Old City’s Zoe in Yellow, for instance) the club scene beyond Nimman may feel a bit too seedy for one’s comfort (unless that’s what you’re after).

  • Infinity Club caters primarily to expats and tourists, but locals love it too for its state-of-the-art dance floor and futuristic laser lighting. An outdoor seating area provides comfortable hangout opportunities for parties of two to six people.
  • Warmup Cafe is the place to go for a younger vibe. Visitors can relax in three separate zones within the club: the outdoor area surrounding a stage for live music; the lounge room with DJs spinning hip-hop and house music; and the main area with pop-rock live acts.
  • Zoe in Yellow is a tourist favorite in Chiang Mai, thanks to its convenient Old City location, affordable drink list, and upbeat vibe. This club is the centerpiece of an entertainment complex with seven other bars vying for your patronage. Expats half-jokingly call this area “the Square of Despair.”
  • Spicy is a seedy nightclub just outside Old City’s Thapae Gate; it also happens to be the preferred last stop after Zoe in Yellow closes at midnight. Spicy’s closing time is much, much later—attracting the overflow from visitors who aren’t done partying yet!
Bar in Chiang Mai

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Bars in Chiang Mai

If you’re not about throbbing house music and live acts, but the simple joys of a good drink while out with friends, you’ll enjoy Chiang Mai’s fun, atmosphere-filled bar scene.

  • Writers Club in the Old City is a favored watering hole for local journalists. Just keep in mind that it's closed on Saturdays.
  • UN Irish Pub is Chiang Mai’s favorite Irish pub, with all that entails—TVs blaring rugby or football games, and absolutely authentic food from Ireland and Great Britain. It’s not all sports all the time; you’ll find occasional quiz nights and live performances as well.
  • Bus Bar is a bigger, brasher take on Chiang Mai’s penchant for converting vans into bars. From the parked vintage double-decker bus on Riverside, barflies can enjoy cocktails, beer, or whiskey while enjoying the views of the Ping River and adjacent Khua Lek (Iron Bridge).

Rooftop Bars in Chiang Mai

Like Bangkok, Chiang Mai has its share of rooftop bars; we recommend visiting the following to enjoy the crisp Northern Thai night air and great views along with your drinks.

  • THC Rooftop Bar is a backpacker-friendly, hippie-themed retreat with affordable drinks overlooking the Old City moat.
  • Myst Maya is located on the rooftop of the Maya Shopping Mall in the Nimman area. Myst’s mixologists can whip up a wide variety of creative cocktails at your command and the bar's upscale vibe matches the drinks and the view perfectly.
  • The Rooftop Sala Lanna takes up the top deck of the Riverside Sala Lanna Hotel. Open from 6 p.m. onward, the Rooftop offers patrons an upscale cocktail experience with 360-degree views of Chiang Mai city and beyond.

Late-Night Restaurants in Chiang Mai

For post-drinks dining in Chiang Mai, head to one of these hole-in-the-wall joints to eat spicy, salty dishes that can take the edge off your buzz.

  • Jok Somphet serves up Thai-style hangover-busters 24 hours a day; try the namesake jok (a type of Thai congee), pork curry, and basil chicken.
  • Midnight Fried Chicken/Sticky Rice is your go-to place for Lanna-style fried chicken, nam prik noom (green chili dip), and sai oua (northern Thai sausages), all eaten with sticky rice. It's open from 11 p.m. to 5 a.m. and is closed on Sundays.
  • Mama Fa Thani specializes in instant noodles, served with hot tom yum soup and a variety of garnishes: minced pork, pork ball, meatball, vegetables, dried squid, and fried eggs.
Didgeridoo players at Chiang Mai night market

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Live Music in Chiang Mai

Thailand’s most talented session musicians let loose every evening in Chiang Mai; find them in one of the themed establishments listed here.

  • Thapae East puts together a diverse mix of foreign and Thai musical artists on an open-air lawn surrounded by shophouses near Thapae Gate.
  • Roots Rock Reggae is one of the bars adjacent to Zoe in Yellow; drop in to hear Chiang Mai’s best live reggae, ska, and rock acts, ideally enjoyed with friends over a shared Sangsom rum bucket.
  • Northgate Jazz Co-Op hosts some of Thailand’s best jazz musicians; groove to their rhythms while enjoying the friendly company of strangers and surprisingly affordable drinks. It's located right in front of the North Gate in the Old City.
  • Boys Blues Bar champions blues music in Chiang Mai, thanks to the efforts of its namesake proprietor. Boy and his accompanying band play almost every night, attracting a loyal clientele of fans and a rotating mix of guest musicians.

Other Nighttime Activities in Chiang Mai

Chiang Mai’s after-dark activities spill out onto the streets and markets, beyond the typical bar and nightclub experiences. Some Thai-specialty experiences—like ladyboy cabarets and muay Thai kickboxing—can also be found in abundance around Chiang Mai.

  • Ladyboy cabaret shows are a classic late-night Thai experience; the song-and-dance numbers handily equal Las Vegas’s in razzle-dazzle, with glamor and laughs handed out in equal measure by the ever-so-game ladyboys. In Chiang Mai, your options include Miracle Cabaret, Chiang Mai Cabaret Show, and Siam Dragon Cabaret.
  • Muay Thai matches unfold almost every night at the CM Entertainment Complex, a muay Thai arena. Most nights are free, but weekends sometimes have prize fights that charge an entrance fee.
  • Go-go bars in Chiang Mai are mostly concentrated around Loi Kroh south of Tha Pae Gate, just off the Old City walls. Loi Kroh is widely renowned as Chiang Mai’s red-light district, visit at your own risk.
  • Nighttime street markets serve up cheap street food, souvenir shopping, and not a few impromptu opportunities for partying. While the Night Bazaar is the undisputed Number One for this experience, the weekend night markets are just as good and atmospheric.

Festivals in Chiang Mai

Time your visit for one of these popular Chiang Mai festivals. These occur during peak tourist season, affording locals and tourists an excuse to party even harder than usual.

  • Jai Thep Festival attracts an art-loving and earth-conscious crowd every February, who come for “three days of Art. Music. Magic” unfolding in the mountains surrounding Chiang Mai. Enjoy both Thai and international acts performing electro & house, ambient, and New Age music.
  • Songkran is Thailand’s biggest festival, popular for its gleeful water-slinging. After dark, head to Tha Pae Gate or Huay Kaew Road, where stages are set up to host Thailand’s top live performers; or continue on to Nimman to keep the party going till after midnight.
  • Yee Peng (Lantern Festival) finds the Old City bedecked in hanging lanterns, as the Yee Peng parade winds through the Old City and out through Tha Pae Gate. The street market around Tha Pae Gate is particularly during the festival, as are the nearby bars and clubs.

Chiang Mai Nightlife Tips

  • Many of the venues listed here offer free entrance; some establishments don’t even charge a corkage fee. For some of Chiang Mai’s venues, bringing your own bottle is tolerated, but you’ll need to buy your ice and mixers from the establishment you’re bringing your drinks to.
  • If you’re hanging out in an open-air area—particularly if the establishment is adjacent to the Old City moat or the Ping River—apply mosquito repellent to ward off the ever-present mosquitoes.
  • Thais love to drink communally, ordering a single bottle of spirits to share, accompanied by a bucket of ice and mixers like soda water or Sprite. Sometimes the “communal” drink is literally one vessel—the Sangsom rum bucket is a nightlife mainstay here!
  • Read more Thai-specific drinking information and etiquette in our comprehensive guide to drinking in Thailand.