What To Do In Chiang Mai
Looking for what to do in Chiang Mai? There is an infinate number of brilliant and unique things to do in this city! From amazing city tours, enjoying relaxing massages, shopping at one of the many malls to emersing yourself in local history and culture – Chiang Mai has it all.
After recieving uncountable requests from our guests over the years, we have finally compiled our ever expanding list of ‘what to do in Chiang Mai’.
There are countless ‘What to do in Chiang Mai’ blog posts out there – each one is unique and each one has its own merit. This here ‘what to do in Chiang Mai’ is just our version and our opinion on some of the best things that Chiang Mai has to offer!
Our list comprises of our favourite food spots for all occasions, tours and activities for all times imaginable as well as much much more! Take our list of things to do in Chiang Mai at your own discretion and please do let us know if you feel there is something missing and we will be sure to go check it out!
In addition to things to do in Chiang Mai, this page also highlights some other useful information to know whilst visiting our beautiful city.
Top 10 What to Do in Chiang Mai
Chiang Mai is a haven for a huge array of outdoor and adventure activities for both the sports enthusiast and families alike. Chiang Mai is in fact home to arguably the best White Water in all of Thailand! Although this might not come as many peoples first thoughts when thinking about what to do in Chiang Mai, it is a top choice and a much loved activity by all!
Why? Becasue its a fantastic way to get out of Chiang Mai city on an organised and safe tour. You’ll be able to see local communities as you raft through villages and at times be in the thickest of jungles. The Mae Teng river valley is also home to approximately 20% of all elephants in Thailand so you just might get to see one wondering the banks of the river!
Lastly, going whitewater rafting is a fantastic way to cool down from the heat of Thailand. Tackle the rapids, be splashed by the waves and go for a swim in the calmer sections.
When choosing any tour operator in Thailand, price is always key. Do not sacrifice cost for safety. Choosing your rafting operator is like choosing a hotel but instead of the comfort of your bed between a cheap hostel and an expensive 5* Resort, you are choosing a safer and more experienced company over one that is not.
Elephants are an incredible animal, they are huge yet gentle, they are clever and majestic. Ultimately Elephants are a wild animal and ideally should be left to their own devices in their own habitat. Unfortuantely Thailand’s development, history surrounding elephants and lack of national parks do not allow for this.
If you wish to experience and witness these incredible animals be both careful and educated in your decisions. Try to avoid camps where cruelty to the animals takes place but do not be naive – elephants are huge and they are wild aniamls. If not in the wild and free from human interaction then some form of exploitation inevitably takes place.
If you are happy with your decision then you will thoroughly enjoy your expeience. Elephants are undoubtedly one of the most amazing creatures on Earth and being able to see them upclose is a must do experience at some point in your lifetime.
If you haven’t before, going on a Zipline tour is a must! Ziplining is unique as you get to soar through the trees way up in the canopy. Ziplines are extremely safe provided the operator is experienced – similarly to whitewater rafting, the better the operator, the more they are to charge – do not gamble on your safety whilst on holiday!
As well as the thrill of leaping off a platform 20 meters high and zooming over rivers and gorges, ziplining provides a family friendly experience that will be remembered for years to come!
Hands down a brilliant way to see the sigts of Chiang Mai, recieve a guided tour of some of the cities most famous temples and be introduced to local culture and foods. Cycling around the old city on a guided tour is surprisingly relaxing, easy and cooling especially when compared to walking!
This is the most highly recommended tour to participate in within the city of Chiang Mai itself.
Suitable for absolutely everyone. Especially those who don’t think they can cook! Going to a cooking class whilst here in Chiang Mai is a must. Learn the simplicity of Thai cooking and what is involved to creat such mouthwatering masterpeices.
The top rated cooking classes in Chiang Mai are completely beginner friendly, family friendly and heaps of fun! All is topped off by the oppertunity to eat all of your wonderful creations.
Don’t just stay in Chiang Mai City as the province has so much more to offer. Rent a scooter and go exploring on a road trip. Go ziplining or rafting, whatever it is, a day trip out of the city is a must.
The are plenty of places easily accessable by yourself or on a guided tour. Check out some waterfalls, drive to the top of Doi Suthep, go for a hike or even get in touch with some of the larger operators who offer incredible ATV tours which take you on a combination of on-road and off-road tours to experience local and rural Thailand.
Eat Eat and Eat!
From local street food markets to the best chefs available Chiang Mai has some of the best food in the world.
Indulge and allow your curious self to explore the array of different tastes availble in Chiang Mai.
Check out our dedicated food and restaurant recommendations list below!
Be it wondering the streets of the old city by bike, exploring China town and the working markets by foot or even renting a scooter and heading for the hills you need to get lost in Chiang Mai at least once.
Getting lost is fun and its a part of what travelling to new places is all about. Getting off the beaten track is where you are going to meet and do some of the most memorable things whilst on your holiday.
Thailand and Chiang Mai especially, are incredible safe places as long as you keep your wits about you. Don’t be afraid or shy to ask for help if you need to as Thai’s as some of the most friendly, welcoming and helpful people out there!
Shop till you drop!
There are so many places and so much choice when it comes to shopping in Chiang Mai. Even if you’re not looking to buy anything some places are worth visiting just for the experience!
Sunday Night Market is a must. If you’re not in Chiang Mai on a Sunday, then the Saturday Night Market is good. There is also an every night night-market which is okay if you can’t make the Saturday or Sunday specific ones.
Warorot Market and China Town are fun to explore if just to experience a local working Thai market.
If you’re looking for something slightly more up market (with airconditioning + cinema + ice skating etc) then check out some of Chiang Mai’s huge malls such as CentralFestival.
Chill and watch the world go by!
After all of the above you are undoubetly going to be tired and need to rest your feet.
Go for a massage, chat with a monk or just chill at a cafe watchign the world go by for a few hours!
What to do in Chiang Mai – Eat, Eat and Eat!
From Street food to some of the best rated restaurants in the world. From local Northern Thai food to some of the most delicious burgers and pastas out there. Whilst you’re here in Chiang Mai be sure to try as many as the local, foreign and fusion delicacies available!
Brilliant breakfast joint tucked away in the Old City. Located on Moonmuang Soi 5 just a stone throws away from the popular sights of Chiang Mai Old City. Check out their to-die-for French Toast, delicious Breakfast Smoothie or their lunch time specials. Angel’s Secrets combines Thai and Western food in a well done and affordable fusion style.
Another breakfast favourite, Food4Thought never ceases to please. Although slightly out of the way, their enormous Omelette’s, creative wraps and paninis as well as their super healthy smoothies Food4Thought totally makes the trip worth it!
Khao Soi Nimman Soi 7
If you haven’t tried it yes, its a must! Khao Soi is a traditional northern noodle soup with a delicous coconut-based broth. This is a local favourite situated in the popular area of Nimman – open between 11am and 8pm, this restaurant is best visited for a late lunch.
This is a personal favourite in Chiang Mai and is my favourite highend Thai choice in town. Ginger successfully manages to combine the delacacies of Thai flavours with a westen finish making it truely palatable and enjoyable for all.
North Gate Food Market
If you’re looking for street food, look no further. Highly recommended is the authentic Pad Thai. Come here to find some delicous local food at the very lowest prices you’ll ever see.
Packed with young Thai people. Tong Tem Toh is always extremely busy but the wait is always worth it! The menu isn’t in English to ordering sometimes is tricky. The food however you are unlikely to find anywhere else in the world! Real local northern Thai food.
Similar to Tong Tem Toh, Huen Muan Jai is an excelent choice for authentic and unique Thai food seldom found outside of this area. Less busy and their menu is in English – come here if you’re looking something slightly less adventerious but equally delicious. Huen Muan Jai is also slightly more ‘up market’ then Tong Tem Toh.
Located not to far from the Night Market Antonio’s does some of the best Italian in town. Their Pizzas, Pastas, Starters and Wine List is all brilliant. Very reasibably priced for the quality of food and is our favourite all round Italian in Chiang Mai.
Following closely Why Not? is also up there! Located in the heart of Nimman Why Not? has a highly recomendable selection of cheeses, wines and their open wood oven baked pizzas are delicious.
Wet Burritos and Margaritas! Miguel’s located a few hundred meters North of Tha Phae Gate is amongst the best Mexican’s in Chiang Mai!
Enchiladas and Natchos – Salsa conviently has a few branches to choose from and also has amazingly authentic Mexican food in the city.
Centrally located on Nimman, Sushi Umai is the best affordable Sushi in town.
Hidden away in CentralFestival, this Japanese is easily some of the most delicious in Thailand. Slightly more expensive than others but certainly worth it!
Yummy and reasonably priced Vegetarian food in the heart of the Old City of Chiang Mai!
Easily the best Vegetarian food in Chiang Mai – worth a visit even for non-veggies too!
My personal favourite Burger joint in Chiang Mai. The bluecheese burget comes highly recommended!
Another very good option for the meat lovers of Chiang Mai. Rock Me Burger also has a few locations to choose from which is helpful!
What to do in Chiang Mai – Drinks and Nightlife
This is a decent sports Bar with multiple channels to watch which ever game you’re interested in. A haven for expats in Chiang Mai this Bar has a selection of international draft beers and a fresh bakery too. The UN Irish Pub is rich in history and is very comfortable.
Zoe in Yellow is a very popular bar-come-nightclub in the heart of the old city. On a Friday and Saturday night Zoe’s will be packed with young Thai’s and backpackers alike. They boast a large outside seating area as well as multiple bars and dance floors depending on our preference in music.
Beer Lab located on Nimman has by far the best selection of international beers in the city. These beers do however come at a premium price. Beer Lab is often busy with affulent Thai’s.
Riverside is a very friendly, affordable and good fun resturant-come-bar. The food is traditional Thai and delicious. In the evenings a live band performs a mixture of Thai and Western hits. Drinks are well priced and the view across the river is brilliant.
The Jazz Club in Chiang Mai is extremely popular. Live music and cheap drinks brings locals and tourists to this bar every night. Be sure to get there early if you’re hoping to find a seat!
Thailand’s Cultural Do’s & Don’ts
Thai people are very friendly and fun! Please be respectful of local customs, remove shoes when entering someone’s house, avoid situations of conflict and keep calm at all times and learn some basic Thai (Hello: Sawadee krup/ ka, Thank you: Khop khun krup/ ka).
Getting To & From Chiang Mai
We always recommend flying. If your flight from abroad arrives in Bangkok, the easiest and cheapest way is to fly to Chiang Mai and it only takes 1hr! Please note that some domestic airlines leave from a different Bangkok airport to your arrival so check carefully