Where to Stay in Chiang Mai First Time: 6 Best Areas

In this guide, I will help you to find Where to stay in Chiang Mai first time, best areas to stay in Chiang Mai for first-time tourists (with a video and map), and best hotels in Chiang Mai for all budgets (including the hotel where I stayed).

Located in northern Thailand, Chiang Mai is also known as Rose of the North and was the capital of the old Lanna Kingdom until 1558. Chiang Mai is rich in culture and history with plenty of temples, museums, ancient city walls, and moat.

Chiang Mai is a relatively compact city. Most of the key central areas are within a kilometer or so of each other. If you don’t mind the heat, then you can walk from place to place in the center of town. You might not need to use taxis or public transport at all if you stay in a central area.

However, if you choose to stay in one of the more suburban parts of town, you will almost certainly need to use transport to get around. If budget isn’t an issue, then hotel taxis are the most comfortable option.

Alternatively, you could download the Grab Taxi app and book transport that way. And then there are the shared red Songthaew taxis and tuk-tuks. Songthaews are the cheaper of the two and are quite convenient for hopping on and off. 

Tuk-tuks cost a little more but are perfect for that holiday photo. If you are happy with arranging one of these forms of transport, you can stay further out of town.

Where to Stay in Chiang Mai first time?

The best areas to stay in Chiang Mai for first-time tourists are Chiang Mai Old City, Riverside, and Night Bazaar, Suthep, Nimmanhemin, and Wat Ket. These are all great areas for the first time, but Chiang Mai Old City are the favorite places of many first-time visitors.

Chiang Mai Old City has a central locations and close proximity to major attractions. It is the historical heart of the city, offering easy access to temples, markets, restaurants, bars, and shops.

If you’re planning a trip to Chiang Mai, we recommend spending at least three or five days in Chiang Mai to experience the city’s unique culture, beautiful temples, and delicious food. There are plenty of activities and attractions to keep you busy for a week or even longer.

Where did I stayed in Chiang Mai?

When I visited Chiang Mai, I stayed for 5 days in the Old Town at the The Wing Boutique Hotel. The hotel had a convenient and quiet location within walking distance of many good restaurants and temples. I had a nice clean and a comfy bed.

💖 Best Area for first-timers:Chiang Mai Old City
💎 Best luxury hotel:Phra Singh Village
🏨 Best mid-range hotel:Pingviman Chiang Mai Hotel
💰 Best budget hotel:Chada Mantra Chiang Mai Hotel
💰 Best budget hostel:Green Sleep Chiang Mai Hostel

Map of areas and neighborhoods in Chiang Mai:

Map of Best Areas & Neighborhoods in Chiang Mai
Map of Best Areas & Neighborhoods in Chiang Mai

🎬 You can watch this short video about the best areas of Chiang Mai, and continue reading:

If you like the video format, please subscribe to my YouTube channel at @easytravel4u, I have tons of similar videos over there.

Best areas to stay in Chiang Mai for first-time tourists are:

1. Chiang Mai Old City

Chiang Mai Old City,
Chiang Mai Old City @David McKelvey

The Old City is the overall best place for first-time travelers. It is the historic heart of the city and the most central location to book your accommodation and explore the city. This area offers easy access to the city’s top tourist attractions, as well as many restaurants, bars, cafes, and markets.

Founded more than 700 years ago, Chiang Mai’s famous Old City lies within the moat and ruins of the old fort. The area is roughly a kilometer square. There are a few roads that run through from North to South and East to West, but much of the area is a delightful maze of small streets and alleys that are full of temples, monuments, and old architecture.

Exploring the maze of streets and alleys that comprise Chiang Mai’s Old City is a must. You should start from the central square at Tha Phae Gate, one of four gates to enter the Chiang Mai old city, located on each side of the walls.

From there, head West into the Old City. You might choose a couple of the ten or so ancient temples there as stopping off points:

  • the Wat Chedi Luang, home to Chiang Mai’s largest Buddhist chedi built featuring 98 meters tall and 54 meters. it was built between 1385 and 1402, during the period of King Saen Muang Ma. The monk chats are hosted daily here.
  • the Wat Phra Singh, known as the Monastery of the Lion Buddha or temple of the Lion Buddha, houses a very old Buddha images. It has classic Lanna-style temple architecture in Northern Thailand as it was built in the 14th century when Chiang Mai was the capital of the Lanna Kingdom.
  • the Wat Chiang Man, located in the northeast corner of the old walled part of Chiang Mai. It was built in 1296 by King Mengrai, the founder of Chiang Mai.

Chiang Mai has endless Buddhist temples that date back a few hundred years. You can also find Wat Bupparam and the old monastery of Wat Phan Tao within the Old Town.

If you walk straight from this gate to Rachadamnoen Road, you will find the famous Sunday Walking Street. Home to hundreds of stalls, this night market offers some of the best crafts, arts, and food in the Northern Thailand region. Remember to pratice your bargain skill!

There are also the Saturday Market (Wualai Walking Street Market) on the Wulai Rd, which is also home to several traditional silver workshops. The street start from Chiang Mai Gate up to Tippanet Road are closed for the market.

Old Town is also the location of Sompet Market on the north of Thapae Gate, and a market at the insterection of Chang Puak Road and Maneenoparat Road.

Chiang Mai was the centre of the Lanna Kingdom, you can learn about its lifestyle, history, and culture of the Lanna people through 18 exhibition rooms at the the interesting Lana Folklife Museum, a white colonial-style two-storey building.

Opposite the museum stands the Three Kings Monument Square, home to bronze statues of King Mengrai, the founder of Chiang Mai, and his two friends, King Ramkamhaeng of Sukhothai and King Ngam Muang of Payao.

Just behind the Three Kings Monument is the Chiang Mai City Arts & Cultural Centre (the former Provincial Hall of Chiang Mai). It was built in 1924, the building has post-colonial Thai architecture.

Inside, the museum exhibits photos, maps, old artifacts to show the history of Chiang Mai, the way of living, and the culture of the locals since the prehistoric period. You can buy a combo ticket, which will also give you access to Chiang Mai Historical Centre and Lana Folklife Museum.

Other points of interest in Old City are Suan Buak Hat Park, Thai Coin Museum, Mengrai Kilns. You can take a tuk-tuk ride to experience the real Thailand, or learn to cook Thai food.

If you are tired of walking and sightseeing, you can have foot massages or body massages at Fah Lanna Spa. It is conveniently located close to Wat Phra Singh in the Old City, and you can also find their branches in the Night Bazaar and Nimmanhaemin.

So the Old City is the perfect place to stay if you are keen on digging into the local culture and exploring Chiang Mai’s museums, temples, history, culture, arts, religion.

In and amongst the old world charm of the area, there are many places for you to stay. The area has many mid-range boutique hotels and guesthouses that combine a modern and classic design aesthetic to great effect.

You will also find plenty of budget hostels and guesthouses in The Old City, especially on the Southern side, so there are plenty of choices for backpackers and budget travelers.

Best places to stay in Chiang Mai Old City for first-timers:

  • luxury ($$$): Phra Singh Village, great 5-star hotel located in a convenient location with access to the old city attractions. It has free bikes, outdoor swimming pool, 24-hour front desk, airport transportation, and good breakfast.
  • mid-range ($$): Pingviman Chiang Mai Hotel, popular 4-star hotel centrally located within a short distance from the Saturday and Sunday Night Markets. It has an Outdoor swimming pool, and free parking for those who drive.
  • budget ($): Chada Mantra Chiang Mai Hotel, great 3-star accommodation on Moon Muang Road (Soi 6), great base to experience Chiang Mai for a few days. Close to many massage places, laundry sshops, and restaurants.
  • hostel ($): Green Sleep Chiang Mai Hostel, popular backpacker hostel in central Chiang Mai, within walking distance from from Chang Puak Market, and Chang Puak Gate.

2. Chiang Mai Riverside

 Chiang Mai Riverside
Chiang Mai Riverside @Michael Coghlan

The majestic Ping River winds through Chiang Mai from the north on its journey to the sea far away to the south. Located right outside the walls of the Old City, the Riverside is a more laid-back area.

It has everything, from the charms of the Old City, the modern feel of international hotels and restaurants, but less crowded.

The riverside area offers some higher-end hotel options with great views. There are also some good mid-range accommodation choices. If you want a good river view, then that will, of course, add a little bit to the room price, but it is worth it.

Remember that the cheaper hotel alternatives are also just a short walk from the riverside as well, though.

There are plenty of restaurants and bars fringing the river, especially on the West Bank, so this is a great place to stay for eating and drinking

Stroll along the riverbank, you will see the Warorot Market (also known as Kad Luang locally), the bustling Ton Lamyai Flower Marke, Kawila Monument and Park, Iron Bridge, among others.

The Central Riverside area is very close to the center of town and all of the markets and the night bazaar. So the Riverside area is also a good place to stay for keen shoppers as well as partygoers.

Stay in Chiang Mai Riverside if you travel with families want a relaxed stay; you want a river view, you want to be a few steps away from some great riverside bars and restaurants;

Best places to stay in Chiang Mai Riverside for first-time visitors:

  • luxury ($$$): Ping Nakara Boutique Hotel And Spa, great 5-star hotel located in a colonial-style building on Charoenprathet Road, Short distance from Night Bazaar and the Ping Riverside Garden. It has Wonderful Breakfast, free parking, and Outdoor swimming pool.
  • luxury ($$$): Amata Lanna Chiang Mai, One Member of the Secret Retreats, great 4-star accommodation located close to the river, within walking distance from riverside restaurants and shopping areas, and the the Night Bazaar.
  • budget ($): Riverside House Hotel SHA Extra Plus, 3-star hotel situated along Ping River close to the Tourism Authority of Thailand. It has a coffee shop, laundry service and a tour desk. Short walk from Waroros Market and the Night Bazaar.

3. Night Bazaar

Night Bazaar, where to stay in Chiang Mai for shopping and nightlife
Night Bazaar @David McKelvey

Night Bazaar is the best place to stay in Chiang Mai nightlife and shopping. The Night Bazaar area is the very epicenter of Chiang Mai, centered along Chang Klan Road between Thapae Street and Sridonchai Street. It is conveniently located between Chiang Mai Riverside and the Old City/

The main city market is just to the North, and all the streets around here are crammed full of shops, banks, restaurants, and bars, including McDonalds, Burger King, and Starbucks. If you want to step out of the door and be in the thick of things, then this area is the choice for you. 

Night Bazaar Market is the largest market in Chiang Mai with more than one hundred stalls that sell almost everything from handicrafts, artwork, clothes, to furniture, and homeware. The market open everyday from dusk to midnight. Remember to practice your bargain skills here.

And then there is the atmosphere of the night market, which isn’t just a bunch of shops. The pedestrianized streets throng with visitors, entertainers, and food stalls.

Apart from the Bazaar Night Market, within the area, you can visit other two markets: Kalare Night Bazaar and Asunarm.

When you explore the area you’ll discover Muay Thai boxing arenas, entertainment complexes, and ladyboy shows. All life is here!

Soaking up the atmosphere and people-watching from a nearby bar or restaurant is a Chiang Mai must.

There is a wide choice of budget and mid-range hostels and hotels, so it is a good place to stay for backpackers and those on a medium budget. 

Stay around the Night bazaar if you love to shop!, you’re looking for a lively night scene with plenty of bars and restaurants, you want to be close to tourist attractions, you want to stay in the city center, you are looking for budget or mid-range accommodation.

Best places to stay in Chiang Mai Night Bazaar for first-timers:

  • luxury ($$$): Chiang Mai Marriott Hotel, 5-star hotel set on Changklan Road in the center of famous Night Bazaar, 15 mins walk from the Old Town, short walk from Tha Pae Gate and Warorot Market. It has an outdoor pool, Free parking, and free airport shuttle services.
  • mid-range ($$): dusitD2 Chiang Mai, 4-star accommodation located on Chang Klan Road, near Chiang Mai’s night bazaar, close to supermarkets, convenient stores and pharmacies.
  • budget ($): Nap in chiangmai, great 3-star hotel located on LoiKroh Road, a minute from Night Bazaar, close to travel agencies, massage parlors and restaurants. It has a 24-hour convenience store on-site.

5. Nimmanhemin

Nimmanhemin, great nightlife, cafe, and youth vibe
Huay Kaew Waterfall

Nimmanhemin (also known as Nimman) is an area in the Northwest part of Chiang Mai that’s given its character by the Chiang Mai Rajabhat University campus. The large student population has led to the area developing a hip and happening vibe. 

There are lots of trendy restaurants, coffee shops, bars, boutique hotels, and live music places mainly frequented by local Thais, younger crowd, and students; this makes it a vibrant and fascinating part of town to explore. 

Nimmanhemin is often known as Coffee Street. it has a wide selection of places to eat and dine. Some popular places to check out are The Cafe de Nimman, Ristr8to Coffee Lab, and The Pasta Cafe.

Foodies and shoppers will love to go to the modern Maya Lifestyle Shopping Center and the electric Kad Na Mor, the Student Night Market in front of the Chiang Mai University on Huay Kaew Road.

There are also a few other shopping malls that are dotted along the main road including The Gerald Collection, Kantary Terrace, and Nimman Promenade.

You can learn about history of the area and see original Northern Thai style houses at the Lanna Traditional House Museum, located at the bottom of Nimmanhaemin Road.

This part of town is close to Chiang Mai Zoo and Huay Kaew Waterfall, so these are simple to get to if you choose to stay here in Nimman Haemin.

Other things to do: visit the Museum of World Insects and Natural Wonders, Huay Kaew Arboretum, Princess Mother’s Health Garden, Chiang Mai University, Minimal Gallery, and Jojo Kobe Art Gallery.

Nimman Haemin is a great part of Chiang Mai to find shared workspaces and co-working culture. So if you are one of the ever-increasing numbers of digital nomads combining work with travel then you will be in your element here.

There are some nicely-designed mid-range hotels to choose from in Nimman Haemin but not much for budget travelers who might be better off choosing a different area to stay.

Stay in Nimmanhaemin if you’re looking for co-working spaces, you want a mid-range hotel, you want to be close to the Zoo and University, you want to stay a little way out from the town center.

Best places to stay in Chiang Mai in Nimmanhaemin for visitors:


See more:

5. Wat Ket

Wat Ket, where to stay in Chiang Mai for local vibe
East Chiang Mai @John Shedrick

In East Chiang Mai, you will find the working city going about its day-to-day affairs. There is little tourism here since most tourist sights are over on the west side of the river. it’s a great place to experience local life.

The historic Wat Ket neighborhood is located on the east banks of the Mae Ping. it is full of people from various nationalities, Chinese traders, western missionaries, and native people.

Full of the trendy riverside restaurants, coffee shops, art galleries, and boutiques, and also home to the famous Wat Ket Karam, a Buddhist temple.

There are still plenty of places to stay, though, and you can find some real accommodation bargains here. Hotel rooms and apartments in this area are often rented out to business and long-term travelers. For this reason, you can negotiate some very good prices for a longer stay.

Also, in East Chiang Mai you really aren’t that far out of town at all. A short walk or an even shorter songthaew ride will get you back to the center in no time. 

Budget travelers and families may be happy to stay a little further out since you can find large and well-equipped places to stay, often with a kitchen, at some great prices. 

Stay in the Wat Ket you’re looking for apartment-style accommodation with a kitchen, you want to be away from the tourist center, you’re a long-stay visitor or digital nomad, you are happy to take public transport, you’re looking for a longer-term bargain.

Best places to Stay in East Chiang Mai for first-time tourists:


6. Suthep

where to stay in chiang mai near airport: Suthep

Suthep is a suburban area of Chiang Mai that lies on the West side of town. It is an extremely convenient choice of location for Chiang Mai Airport, which is right on its doorstep. So if you’ll be getting in late or leaving early, then it’s a good place to stay.

To the west of Suthep, you start to climb steeply up the slopes of Doi Suthep Mountain from which the area gets its name. The mountain and city views are excellent. The mountain and neighboring Doi Pui, form Doi Suthep-Pui National Park.

Suthep is a convenient place to visit  Wat Phra That Doi Suthep, an iconic temple perched right at the mountain top.

Suthep has some good private villas and houses to rent, so it is an interesting choice for families or people who want to cook for themselves. 

There are also some nice mid-range to higher-end hotels here. Since the area is less built up than the center of the city, these hotels spread out over a wider area and feature gardens and outdoor swimming pools. 

Overall, Suthep is a great area to stay in Chiang Mai for tourists who prefer a more relaxed and nature-oriented experience. However, if you’re looking for easy access to the city’s nightlife and shopping scenes, you might consider staying closer to the city center.

Best places to stay in Suthep for first-timers:


Read Also:

In conclusion, Old City, Riverside, Night Bazaar, Suthep, Nimmanhemin, and Wat Ket are some of the best places to stay in Chiang Mai for tourists. These are popular and safe neighborhoods for tourists, offering a wide variety of attractions and amenities.

Overall, Chiang Mai Old City is the best area to stay in Chiang Mai for first-timers due to its prime location. If you stay here, you will be located in the heart of city, within easy walking distance to many tourist attractions, as well as many shopping, dining, and nightlife venues.

So, there you go! Now you have all the information about the where to stay in Chiang Mai, you could ever need to help you choose a place to stay in laid-back but action-packed Chiang Mai. If you want five-star luxury, then we’ve got you covered.

About Author: Linda Smith

I'm Linda Smith, the Hotel Expert, an experienced travel blogger who passionate about traveling. I'm here to share with you all my travel experiences and tips. I cover a wide range of travel topics, specializing in sharing information about the best areas, neighborhoods, and hotels in each city. I hope all these things will make your travel easier.

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