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Where to stay in Chiang Mai – a neighborhood guide

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Chiang Mai is the second largest city in Thailand after Bangkok. Once the capital of the Lanna Kingdom (northern Thailand), it is now the cultural capital of the country. Its northern location means that it’s influenced by Burma who once ruled the area. The diversity of Chiang Mai from the busy Night Bazaar area to the tranquil and lush area of Mountainside and its retreats attract an array of tourists to this laid back cultural area of Thailand.

Andy Flynn

My Destination local expert on

Chiang Mai

The Old City


Otherwise known as Tha Phae Gate, the old city is the most historic area in Chiang Mai with streets lined with old Buddhist temples easy to explore on foot. The area is best known for its antique shops at one end of the scale and high end handicraft boutiques at the other. Among this are the well-loved second hand bookshops for travellers to swap and buy as well as bars and restaurants. On Sundays there is a street festival in the centre with market stalls and street entertainment.


The Old City is known as the backpacker hangout, so expect cheap hostels and a real laidback vibe. Guesthouses are very popular here, especially behind the screens of frangipani which have inexpensive restaurants to feed the hungry travelers.




The area of Riverside is named so, as it runs alongside two major rivers in Chiang Mai. Although away from the hustle of the city, it is also still within easy reach should you want to head into the center. Stay here for romantic dinners along the riverside.


On both sides of the Ping River, you will find many top hotels perfect for couples retreats or unwinding surrounding by luxury away from the general buzz of the city.




The area of Mountainside sits firmly on the edge of the city and is home to Doi Inthanon National Park which has the highest mountain in Thailand, waterfalls, wildlife and tropical fauna and flora. But Mountainside is not cut off from the city; the area still has quick and easy transport links to Chiang Mai. This is a perfect place to stay if you want to thoroughly explore the national parks.


Mountainside is often known for its luxurious resorts that are located in serene settings, perfect for honeymooning couples or retreats in the mountainous terrain. However, don’t think you’ll be cut off from the city, most resorts offer shuttles to the city which are quick and easy.


Night Bazaar


The popular area of the Night Bazar is a great place to stay if you want to be amongst the action. Located between the east of the Old City and the Ping River, the Night Bazaar is the heart of the shopping in Chiang Mai and is centrally located making it a good base for sightseeing.


As the Night Bazaar is very popular with tourists, there are a wide ring of hotels to guesthouses here for a range of budgets. With the tourists come all their needs too, so expect internet cafes, shops, beer and karaoke bars and department stores.


Old Town


The area of Old Town is located in the south east of Chiang Mai. It sits inside the walls around the water moat which are over 800 years old. The area mainly consists of ancient ruins and is best explored via a local tuk tuk. There are many statues and monuments depicted the Lanna history.


As the area attracts a lot of backpackers and tourists, there are lots of cheap hostels and guesthouses in the area. Most will have western toilets too. There are also lots of cheap restaurants around here and places to eat. Perfect for the budget conscious traveler.