Things to see and do in Chiang Mai

This welcoming city in northern Thailand was the capital of the Lanna Kingdom until its ultimate integration into the Kingdom of Thailand in 1939 and today is a major tourist destination.  Despite being one of the most important cities in the country, it doesn’t have a commercial or financial district with skyscrapers, nothing like that.

Chiang Mai is a relatively small city whose charm lies in its unique and welcoming atmosphere.

Remember to wear comfortable clothing and shoes, take your sunscreen, insect repellent and a raincoat in case of unexpected storms – when it rains here, it pours down.

Road and moat around the old city of Chiang Mai.
Road and moat around the old city of Chiang Mai
Three Kings Square, downtown of Chiang Mai.
Three Kings Square, downtown of Chiang Mai
Night market, Chiang Mai.
Night market, Chiang Mai

It is also a starting point for hiking trails through the northern mountains and to participate in other outdoor activities such as visiting an elephant camp, enjoying rafting or flying with zip lines in the canopy of the forest.

Some monasteries offer meditation courses and you can also find massage schools. By the way, do not forget to enjoy an oil, Thai or foot massage during your visit to Chiang Mai and it may be a good idea to sign up for a cooking course.

See Experiences to live in Thailand.

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Use the old city as a reference to moving around the city, easily recognisable as it is surrounded by a moat and the remains of the old wall. The layout is a perfect square.

Walking from one corner to the next takes approximately 35 minutes. A long-distance at noon if the sun hits you mercilessly, but less hard if the walk is at sunset. This reference is useful for calculating distances.
We can consider the Three Kings Monument and Thapae Gate as the centre of the city.

Map of Chiang Mai.
Chiang Mai

The map is available in PDF for free download. If you point out the accommodation on the map, it will allow you to get the first idea about your location in the city.

You can move around on foot if it is not too hot, rent a bicycle or scooter, or use the available public transport: taxis, ‘songthaews’ (shared pickup-taxi, red colour), a tuk-tuk and samlor (buggy pulled by a cyclist).
Thai people love motorbikes and only move short distances walking. Probably this is why sidewalks are not well maintained, therefore be careful and pay attention to the floor, in addition to the traffic.

Go through the main streets and do not take shortcuts unless you know the way. It is easy to get lost and the light is poor at night. You will soon notice that crosswalks do not work, so be patient and join others who have the same intention, when possible.

Chiang Mai.

The city is quite safe, which does not mean you should lower your guard and not take precautions.

Chiang Mai has dozens of beautiful temples, so considering that time is limited, there is no choice but to choose a few and discard the rest.

Assembly hall or vihan in Wat Chedi Luang, Chiang Mai.
Assembly hall or vihan in Wat Chedi Luang, Chiang Mai

We offer two lists; the short one includes only three, essentials in our opinion.
The second list suggests another nine exciting temples for some reason. We provide it in this article.

The shortlist of temples

Map of Chiang Mai, main temples.

Wat Phra Sing
This is one of the most significant and complete temples in Chiang Mai, apart from maintaining great vitality. It is always lively and Buddhist celebrations are frequent here. A one-hour visit gives you enough time to see the different rooms, stroll through the grounds and take some great photos.

Wat Chedi Luang
This temple has one of the most beautiful ‘vihan’ or ‘assembly hall’ in the whole of Thailand, as well as other rooms of great beauty and the ‘city pillar’ annexe.

Wat Doi Suthep
This temple is one of the most appreciated by the Buddhist community and a popular destination for national and foreign visitors. Its location halfway up a mountain facing the east provides beautiful views of the city at sunset. One hour to get there is probably enough time. You can take a taxi, a songthaew or a tuk-tuk.

Along with the temples, the markets are another attraction of Chiang Mai. We offer you a list of the most popular.

Markets and malls in Chiang Mai

1. Bumrung Buri Market
Open all day offering fresh and cooked food to take away. In the evening, you can come for an economical dinner sitting at the tables outside.

2. Somphet Market
Fresh fruit and vegetables, snacks, tropical juices, etc. A great place to go for breakfast. It opens from early in the morning till sunset.

3. Muang Mai Market
Fresh produce, from meat to fresh fruits and vegetables, and even seafood. Curries, pasta, dried products, etc. From sunrise to sunset.

Muang Mai Market, Chiang Mai

4. Warorot Market, Tom Lamyai and Flowers Market
Near the Ping river, they are next to each other and are the most popular in the city. In addition to food products and fresh flowers, you can find many other items like clothing, sunglasses, shoes or ceramics. It opens from 06h00 to dusk.

Tom Lamyai market, Chiang Mai

5. Computer Plaza (mall)
A shopping mall specialising in electronics: computers, software, photography, music, accessories, etc.

6. Kad Suan Kaew (mall)
The first large mall in Chiang Mai, in addition to shops and supermarkets, it has numerous leisure facilities including restaurants and cinemas.

7. Maya Lifestyle Shopping Center (mall)
Futuristic-looking modern shopping centre owned by the same group as the MBK in Bangkok. Everything you expect for your shopping and leisure time.

Maya shopping center, Chiang Mai
Maya shopping center, Chiang Mai

8. Sunday Walking Street Market
Located in the centre of the old town, it runs from 16h00 to dusk every Sunday. It offers all kinds of products, from clothing to souvenirs, handcraft, decorations and music. Everything the holidaymaker usually seeks is there.

9. Saturday Night Street Market
It’s held on Saturday afternoons until midnight on Wua Lai Street, this market begins at the old town moat.
The street is closed to vehicle and, as the Sunday market, offers an opportunity to find all kinds of products at economical prices, as well as satisfying your appetite at the many food stalls on the street.

Saturday street market in Chiang Mai.
Saturday street market, Chiang Mai

10. Night Bazaar
A classic in Chiang Mai that runs for over a kilometre along Chang Klan Road from early evening to midnight. As with the two-weekend markets, it is aimed more at people visiting the city and much less at the locals. You can find clothes, ornaments, accessories, crafts, jewellery, watches, music, etc. 

11. Ploen Ruedee Night Market
At the northern end of Changklan Road, near the junction with Thapae Road, is the new Ploen Ruedee market, a small restaurant area with an international cuisine offer. Daily except for Sundays, from 5h30 pm to midnight. With a good ambience and live music, the tables are located in the centre and the different food stalls around them.

12. Kalare Night Market
Standing next to the Night Bazaar, it could be considered an extension of it. With similar contents and aimed at the same buyers, besides it has a selection of local and international restaurants. From 17h00 until about midnight.

13. Anusarn Night Market
The same can be said of this market, its contents and opening times. Besides buying and browsing, you can relax having a massage or enjoy a meal of your choice.

Map of the markets in Chiang Mai.
Spa in Chiang Mai
Spa in Chiang Mai
Sharing the bath with an elephant in the river, surroundings of Chiang Mai.
Sharing the bath with an elephant in the river, surroundings of Chiang Mai
Night market in Chiang Mai
Night street market in Chiang Mai

Chiang Mai festivals

» January. Bo Sang Umbrella Fair & Sankamphaeng Handicrafts Festival, Tawai Village Wood Carving Fair
» February. Chiang Mai Flower Festival
» April. Songkran Festival, 13-15
» May. Inthakin City Pillar
» October. Jula Kathin Celebration
» November. Chiang Mai Loy Krathong (Yi Peng Festival), Sunflower Blooming Season

Inthakin City Pillar Festival, Chiang Mai.
Inthakin City Pillar Festival, Chiang Mai

» December.
Chiang Mai Design Week
Nimman Art Promenade Fly High
Chiang Mai Jazz Festival
The Royal Flora Ratchaphruek
Thailand International Balloon Festival

Hospitals, just in case

Video introducing Chiang Mai

Summary
Article Name
Things to see and do in Chiang Mai
Description
Information, maps and suggestions to make the most of your visit to Chiang Mai. Temples, markets, nature activities, etc.
Author
Publisher Name
Manuel Francisco Jalón

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