The Top 7 Neighborhoods in Chiang Mai

Wat Suan Dok in Chiang Mai

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Chiang Mai in northern Thailand contains a multitude of wonders in its many neighborhoods. With a combination of closeness to nature, a colorful Lanna culture, and sheer creative flair, these facets of the city manifest in different ways from neighborhood to neighborhood.

Nimman’s hip digital nomad lifestyle, Old City’s traditional appeal, and the Night Bazaar’s shop-till-you-drop drive are all authentically Chiang Mai, as are all the other unique experiences you’ll find in the neighborhoods we’ve listed below.

01 of 07

Old City

Wat Chedi Luang

 TripSavvy / Taylor McIntyre

This 1.5-square-kilometer district retains the moats and walls of the ancient Lanna capital (though some of the latter are modern reconstructions). Within these walls, visitors can explore Chiang Mai at its oldest and most culturally distinct.

Guests staying at the Old City get a front-row seat to some of Chiang Mai’s top tourist attractions: the museums around the former City Hall; more than 40 temples, including the venerable Wat Chedi Luang; some of the city’s top dining experiences; and the weekend markets around Thanon Wualai and Thapae Gate, like the Sunday Walking Street Market. Speaking of Thapae Gate, most of the attractions are concentrated around here and Ratchadamnoen Road, which bisects the Old City from east to west.

Thanks to the district’s compact size and relative safety, you can explore the Old City on foot, with no need to hire a taxi or songthaew to get around.

02 of 07

Night Bazaar

Chiang Mai Night Bazaar

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Covering several city blocks to the east of the Old City, the Night Bazaar shopping district surrounding Chang Klan Road is a shopper’s dream. By 7 p.m., the Night Bazaar and its surrounding streets come to life with countless retail opportunities; among the stalls, you'll find everything from tchotchkes and cell phone accessories to jewelry and fine silks.

Beyond the Night Bazaar, head to other markets in the area for even more shopping: Anusarn Market is known for its hill-tribe goods, while Kalare Market offers a broad selection of local eats at its food court.

A good selection of luxury, mid-range, and economy hotels can be found around the Night Bazaar area, ideal for city-minded guests who want to stay close to the shopping and party action in the neighborhood.

03 of 07

Nimmanhaemin

Nimmanhaemin Road

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The hippest district of Chiang Mai can be found northwest of the Old City, near Chiang Mai University. Named after its Nimmanhaemin Road epicenter, Nimman is a digital nomad hotspot that has grown by leaps and bounds over the past decade. In the daytime, coworking spaces brim with foreign visitors running gigs remotely; at night, groups of nomads meet up at local bars for quiz nights, or go bar-hopping to meet new friends or make business connections.

The Chiang Mai University campus is actually a cool tourist destination in its own right. The campus grounds are spread across the foothills of Doi Suthep Mountain, harboring nature-based stops like the Huay Kaew Arboretum, Chiang Mai Zoo, and the Ang Kaew Reservoir.

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Chinatown

Outside Warorot Market, Chinatown

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The blocks surrounding Warorot Market make up Chiang Mai’s semi-official Chinatown, which branches out down Chang Moi, Kuang Men, and Wichayanon roads. This is Thailand with a heavily Chinese flavor, with traditional drugstores, Confucian temples, and stores selling jewelry, tea, and silks.

Where the Night Bazaar opens after dark, Chinatown is a daytime affair. Warorot Market opens at 4 a.m., its three floors brimming with cheap produce, homewares, and home-style food. The best of the rest can be seen by taking an easy stroll south of the market, down Kuang Men Road. Key stops include the Hmong Market—where you can shop clothes, jewelry, and assorted souvenirs—and the 19th-century Kuan U Shrine.

To avoid the sun at its worst, visit in the early morning and finish up by 9 a.m. Time your visit for Chinese New Year, when the locals celebrate this auspicious time of year with parties, dragon dances, and beauty pageants.

Continue to 5 of 7 below.
05 of 07

Wat Ket

Wat Ket Karam, Chiang Mai

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Located between the Ping River and the Superhighway, the Wat Ket area served as a major boat landing for travelers from Bangkok during the 1700s. Its importance as a travel hub also brought a good number of foreign religious missionaries and Chinese traders. Due to the influx of visitors, Wat Ket transformed into a genteel commercial district, whose old structures still stand but have since been repurposed into shops, cafés, and accommodations.

While it doesn’t see as much tourist traffic as other parts of the city, Wat Ket is still worth a visit. Some key attractions include the namesake Wat Ket Karam, a centuries-old temple and attached museum; the Elephant Parade House, a shop and art workshop dedicated to elephant conservation; and the old houses along Charoenrat Road.

Accommodations in Wat Ket lean more towards mid-to-high-end boutique hotels, so backpackers should give this area a miss.

06 of 07

Hang Dong

Giraffe in Chiang Mai Night Safari
Image courtesy of Chiang Mai Night Safari

A sprawling district south of Chiang Mai City contains many not-to-be-missed cultural and natural attractions, including Chiang Mai’s “Grand Canyon,” the Night Safari, and the province’s source of fine wood carving.

The “Grand Canyon” is a former quarry that’s since been flooded and transformed into an adventure destination. Part of it has been taken over by the Grand Canyon Water Park, a family-friendly experience with kayaks, ziplines, and a floating trampoline. If animal encounters are more your thing, visit the Chiang Mai Night Safari after dark to see nocturnal creatures in their element.

For a taste of the local culture, Wat Intharawat is an iconic temple made completely from wood, lacking the gold and jewel trimmings of many Thai Buddhist temples. The three-tiered roof and intricate wood and stucco carvings are typical of traditional Lanna architecture.

Meanwhile, the Baan Tawai woodcarving village churns out furniture, home décor, and other wooden works of art from its many family workshops. Come to see the artisans at work; if you want to buy any of their heavier items, courier services are on standby to help ship your purchases home!

07 of 07

San Kamphaeng

Bor Sang Village

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Some 8 miles east of the city center, a stretch of Highway 1006 known as "Handicraft Highway" is lined with artisanal communities centered around the production of traditional black lacquerware with gold accents, silver jewelry, celadon pottery, and hand-woven Thai silks.

The most famous of these communities is Bo Sang, the umbrella-making village that has perfected the art of taking mulberry paper and transforming it into umbrellas and a variety of other paper products. The brilliantly-colored umbrellas are hand-painted with flowers or birds. Stop by the MAIIAM Contemporary Art Museum before you leave the village for a glimpse of contemporary Thai art. 

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