Deciding where to stay in Chiang Mai is not as easy as it sounds. The largest city in northern Thailand is fantastic and offers just about everything. Fortunately, Chiang Mai has some of the best hotels in the country.
We visited the city for the first time 8 years ago, fell in love, and have been back countless times. We’ve seen it grow and evolve over the years. Today, a bit under 2 million people live in the city.
That’s why Chiang Mai has such distinct neighborhoods. You can stay next to its world-famous temples, in modern neighborhoods, or in the middle of nature. It all depends on your tastes and fancies. With our advice, you will make the right decision!
The Best Places to Stay in Chiang Mai
City Center – The Old Town
The best place to stay in Chiang Mai is in the city center. Though Chiang Mai is not that big, you can spend a lot of time moving from one place to the other. Traffic sucks, and there’s no public transport.
Since the city’s biggest draw are its iconic temples, the Old Town is where to stay in Chiang Mai City Center. You will be able to walk to Wat Chedi Luang, Wat Phra Singh Woramahawihan, and Wat Chiang Man, amongst others.
We are talking about the area within the ancient city walls. A moat surrounds the Old Town. There are plenty of restaurants, bars, and shops. To discover the rest of the city, take a taxi or tuk-tuk.
We Recommend These Hotels in the City Center:
The best hotel in the Old Town is the Viangluang Resort, within walking distance of most temples. It’s got a pool, restaurant, and garden. The rooms are huge and come with wooden floors, traditional furniture, and balconies. Delicious breakfast with western options included.
99 Heritage Hotel
The elegant 99 Heritage Hotel has a pool, free bikes, a garden, and a restaurant. You get a delicious complimentary breakfast and drinks and snacks throughout the day. Book a plush room with views over Wat Phra Singh, and you won’t want to leave.
Suthep – West of the Old Town
Suthep begins west of the center and reaches the slope of the hills. Doi Suthep-Pui National Park is here. The park is home to some of the greatest temples in Thailand. We are talking about Wat Suan Dok, and Wat Umong Suan Phutthatham.
You need at least half a day to see these beauties. Go in the afternoon to enjoy a killer sunset. The hill is gorgeous. There are several restaurants with views and coffee houses to refresh. Don’t rush and stop to enjoy the scenery.
Suthep is now home to some of the best bars, restaurants, and clubs in the city. Especially around Nimmanhaemin, north of the airport. Locals and tourists come to dine, socialize, and party here. Don’t forget to visit the Lanna Traditional House museum and the Chiang Mai University Art Center.
We Recommend These Hotels in Suthep:
Kantary Hills and Serviced Apartments
The luxurious Kantary is in the heart of Nimmanhaemin. The sleek tower has a pool with a jacuzzi and a spa. Every room is big and comes with a kitchenette. The complimentary breakfast has western options. It’s got Onsite parking and a business center.
E Outfitting Doikham Resort
To stay close to the temples, book a room at the E Outfitting Doikham. The hotel is in the middle of a splendid garden on the slope of the hill. Tall trees surround the pool. All of the rooms are big and have balconies and wooden floors.
Chang Pueak – Northwest of the Old Town
Chang Pueak in the north of Chiang Mai is where to stay if you are into big fancy hotels. The area is where the mountains begin. However, it’s close to the Old Town so a taxi there shouldn’t take long.
You have several temples to discover. Our favorites are Wat Jed Yot, and Wat Mu Bun. You can’t walk from temple to temple. Hire a tuk tuk or taxi. People are honest and very professional in Chiang Mai, so enjoy the ride.
For a glimpse into modern-day Chiang Mai, stop by MAYA Lifestyle Shopping Center. Don’t skip the Chiang Mai National Museum, to the north. The building is in the middle of a lovely garden. The collection inside will blow your mind.
We Recommend These Hotels in Chang Phueak:
Bella Nara Hotel
The 5-star Bella Nara Hotel is close to the Old Town. We love its elegant design and impeccable service. Bella Nara has a big pool and a fully equipped gym. The onsite bar and restaurant are amongst the best in the city.
The Opium Chiang Mai
If you are traveling with friends or family, stay at the Opium Chiang Mai, a short ride from the Old Town. The fully equipped two-bedroom suites are perfect for groups. The pool is in the middle of a garden with mountain views.
Si Phum – North of the Old Town
Si Phum is the best place to stay in Chiang Mai if you want to be close to the center but with fewer tourists. It’s a tiny area north of the Old Town. We like it because it’s pretty authentic.
The nicest temple in Si Phum is Wat Lok Moli. The 14th-Century beauty is across the Old Town and features a jaw-dropping stupa. From there, walk to Masjid Nurul Chang Phuek. As you probably know, Thailand is a multicultural country.
Visiting a neighborhood mosque will give you a better understanding of Thai culture. People pray here, so be respectful. There’s a night market in front of the mosque. You can eat delicious street food with views over Chang Phuak Gate.
We Recommend These Hotels in Si Phum:
Icon Park Hotel
Considering its class and location, the Icon Park Hotel is great value for money. The best rooms have a balcony overlooking the temple. You can have a bite or a cocktail at the hotel’s rooftop terrace while enjoying awesome views.
We love the local POR hotel brand. The POR Santitham has a pool, unlimited coffee, water, and cookies! The extra comfy rooms are huge and come with a balcony. You won’t find better accommodation at this price anywhere in the city.
Chang Moi – East of the Old Town
The area east of Chiang Mai is one of the best places to stay if you are on a budget. Chang Moi is a quiet area with great restaurants, bars, and shops. Chinatown is here, next to the Prim River.
Warorot Market is in Chinatown. The huge market sells just about everything. You won’t see many foreigners but locals buying their everyday products. The food court on the ground floor offers delicious cheap dishes. The flower market is behind Warorot.
The city’s oldest Chinese temple is here too. Pung Thao Kong Shrine overlooks the river. From the temple, walk to Tom Lamyai park to enjoy river views. Cross the river through Chansom Memorial Bridge and visit Wat Ket Karam from the 15th Century.
We Recommend These Hotels in Chang Moi:
At the Train
The At the Train Chiang Mai is one of the best hotels near the train station, perfect for overnight stays. Its rooms are big and have comfy beds. They offer late check out and can arrange transportation and tours.
Hotel Ping Silhouette
The Ping Silhouette combines the traditional with the modern in a lovely garden next to the river. That’s why it’s so quiet. It’s got a pool and a manicured garden with tall trees. The rooms have a seating area and balconies.
Chang Khlan – Southeast of the Old Town
Chang Khlan has the best luxury hotels in Chiang Mai. The area is southeast of the Old Town. However, we don’t recommend walking. A taxi will take you to the center in no time. It also borders the Ping River.
Wat Chai Mongkhon is a gorgeous temple complex overlooking the river. You can take a boat from the temple and tour the river. Our favorite café is north. The Ancient House Chiangmai is a 140-year-old Lana house with great coffee!
Khlong Mae Kha is here too. Shops, tea shops, and tall types of eateries line both sides of this revamped canal. You will see local families, friends, and couples taking pictures and having fun. It opens at 3 PM and closes approximately at 10 PM.
We Recommend These Hotels in Chang Khlan:
Shangri La Hotel Chiang Mai
If you have the money to splash, do so at the Shangri La Hotel, one of the best 5 star hotels in Chiang Mai. The contemporary tower has everything you ever dreamed of. The pool is the biggest in the city, and the spa is fantastic. The top-floor rooms have unforgettable views.
Na Nirand Romantic Boutique Resort
The Na Nirand is the best hotel for couples in Chiang Mai. The colonial-looking property is set in a huge garden next to the river. Everything is elegant and classy at the Na Nirand. This is the place to experience Thai luxury.
Haiya – South of the Old Town
Haiya is our favorite neighborhood in Chiang Mai. It’s a tiny area with quiet leafy streets just south of the Old Town. There are hardly any cars, and you can walk to the center in no time.
You have three temples to discover: Wat Thatkam, Wat Daowadung, and Wat Sri Suphan. Not many foreigners visit them. The houses with big gardens and tall trees around these temples are also interesting. There are several restaurants and bars too.
Artists from all over the country moved to Chiang Mai to develop their careers. You have to check the Dream Space Gallery. Walk around admiring the art and graffiti and stop for a bite with the local creative crowd.
We Recommend These Hotels in Haiya:
We spent a week at the POR Daowadung and loved it. The hip property has a cool pool with water jets and complimentary unlimited espresso coffee, water, and cookies. It’s on a quiet street, minutes from the center. The service is top class!
If you are looking for comfortable budget accommodation in Chiang Mai, book a room at the Asa Hotel. You won’t believe the price! The rooms come with comfy beds and big bathrooms. It has a pool with lounges and the nicest staff.
How Long to Stay in Chiang Mai
We recently spent two incredible weeks in Chiang Mai and felt it wasn’t enough! However, since we all have time constraints, you are probably wondering how many days are needed in Chiang Mai to cover the basics.
We believe you should spend at least 3 days in the city. You will have to rush a bit, but you will see the most important temples. If you have a week, we strongly recommend going to Pai.
Pai is a cute little town up in the mountains. The area is pretty much underdeveloped but has top-class hotels, restaurants, and bars. Pai is all about nature, hot springs, elephants, and the nicest people you’ll ever meet.
Moving Around Chiang Mai
Compared to Bangkok, Chiang Mai is a village! Therefore, you can walk in the center, Si Phum, Chang Moi, and Haiya. The city is safe so you can walk at night too. However, we don’t recommend longer walks. There aren’t many sidewalks, and pollution can be tough.
That’s why we believe the best place to stay in Chiang Mai is the center. You won’t waste time in traffic. For longer distances, it’s best to take a taxi or a tuk-tuk. Thais are honest and excellent drivers. Plus they’ll give you great local tips.
Take a taxi to go to the temples up in the mountains. You can’t leave Chiang Mai without visiting them. If you don’t feel like going alone, we strongly recommend one of these tours. We’ve sent several friends, and they raved about the experience.