Where to stay in Chiang Mai is easy. If it’s your first time to Northern Thailand then you need to be in the Old City as gawking at pagodas will be your priority. If you’re a second time visitor, then base yourself on hip Nimmanhaemin Road so you can hang out with the locals.
Chiang Mai is best known as a launching pad for mountain treks and for its history as the old Lanna kingdom capital with its abundance of centuries old pagodas and engaging heritage museums. The new MAIIAM Contemporary Art Museum is now drawing cultural travellers to the Northern Thai city, as the food has long done.
Chiang Mai is Thailand’s best destination for foodies after Bangkok, home to fantastic markets and street food, which you can experience independently or on a Chiang Mai food tour, and superb Chiang Mai restaurants serving Northern Thai style Lanna cuisine.
Our highly selective guide as to where to stay in Chiang Mai is based on numerous trips to Northern Thailand, all of which have been research trips for hotel sites or guidebooks, as was our most recent trip, which means we got to try out an array of accommodation, from sleek, stylish boutique hotels and apartments to luxurious traditional Lanna-style resorts.
Two charming Chiang Mai boutique hotels that fit into the latter category, Rachamankha and Tamarind Village, are easily our top picks of where to stay in Chiang Mai in the Old City for charm, tranquillity and terrific swimming pools. While Rachamankha has the added bonus of a brilliant restaurant, Tamarind Village’s activities and location are unbeatable.
If you’re on a budget, there is an abundance of more affordable Chiang Mai boutique hotels, such as Lamphu House and Thapae Loft, both of which are fantastic Old City options, in brilliant locations, although Lamphu House has the better swimming pool while Thapae Loft’s rooms are bigger.
For second time visitors, where to stay in Chiang Mai is a no brainer. Nimmanhaemin Road, which is a shopping, coffee sipping, drinking and dining hub for Thais, particularly students from the nearby university, is where you need to be, home to even more of Chiang Mai’s best boutique hotels, along with luxury hotels and stylish serviced apartments.
Our pick of Chiang Mai accommodation on Nimmanhaemin Road is the Eastin Tan Hotel Chiang Mai. If you plan on settling in for a while, the apartments are the pick of the Eastin Tan’s wide range of rooms. It’s a big hotel, however, so if you prefer something smaller and more luxurious, then check into the glam Akyra Manor Chiang Mai.
If you’re looking for a smaller and more affordable Chiang Mai boutique hotel with young owners and youthful guests, then petite Zzziesta in an up and coming neighbourhood that’s not far from Nimmanhaemin Road will be perfect. For a small Chiang Mai hotel with homey atmosphere and home-cooked Lanna food, check into family-owned Ruen Come In where you’ll actually be treated like one of the family.
And if you’re still planning your Chiang Mai trip, also see our 48 hours in Chiang Mai itinerary. Here are our picks of where to stay in Chiang Mai from budget boutique hotels to luxury boutique resorts and stylish serviced apartments.
Where to Stay in Chiang Mai
Chiang Mai Old City Hotels
Secreted behind high walls in a quiet corner of the Old City, enchanting Rachamankha is our pick of where to stay in Chiang Mai if we could only choose one property. Built and owned by renowned designer Rooj Changtrakul and distinguished Thai architect Ong-ard Satrabhandhu, the peaceful 25-room boutique hotel was inspired by the ancient Chinese residences that gave rise to Lanna architecture. Handmade bricks are clad in traditional lime plaster and the luxurious rooms and suites, fragrant with fresh flowers and furnished with antiques and Oriental carpets, are set around palm-filled courtyard gardens, separated by breezy lounges with comfy sofas and coffee tables with neat piles of interior design books. There’s a beautiful library with floor to ceiling shelves with even more books (2,000 apparently) where you can enjoy afternoon tea or a whiskey as you browse tomes on everything from Thai history and culture to art and architecture. The highlight, however, is the huge 20-metre swimming pool within its own courtyard with more than enough sun-beds to go around and a massage pavilion in case you aren’t relaxed enough. When you can bring yourself to leave the property, one of Chiang Mai’s significant temples, Wat Phra Singh, dating to 1345, is close by and it’s a 10-minute stroll to key sights, although there are closer cafés and eateries. Rachamankha also has its own superb restaurant and bar; see the link above.
6 Rachamankha 9 Phra Singh Chiang Mai
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This captivating boutique hotel, which takes its name from the enormous 200- year old tamarind tree at its heart, is our next pick in the Old City. If being in the centre of town is important when it comes to where to stay in Chiang Mai then Tamarind Village, off lively Rachdamnoen Road, is for you. The location is unbeatable with centuries-old pagodas, museums, and fantastic shopping, restaurants and cafés within walking distance. Also built by acclaimed Thai architect Ong-Ard Satrabhandhu, Tamarind Village is a tranquil hideaway, tucked behind high walls. In a traditional Lanna style, the two-storey property has clay roof tiles, whitewashed plaster walls, exposed timber beams, and quaint balconies. The 41 spacious rooms and five suites, charmingly decorated in tribal textiles and rustic antiques, are set around a series of serene courtyards and tropical gardens. The Village Spa is superb and there is a wonderful swimming pool, although it lacks privacy, overlooked by the all-day dining restaurant, Ruen Tamarind. However, what really impressed us were the number of complimentary experiences for guests. I loved the excellent neighbourhood walk, which kicked off with an offering to the Buddhist monks at a local temple, and took in key historic sights, with the guide pointing out her favourite eating spots on the way. Other activities included bamboo weaving, umbrella painting, and making flower garlands and herbal compresses.
Si Phum, Mueang Chiang Mai District, Chiang Mai
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Tamarind Village aside, Old City locations don’t get much better than Lamphu House, with a handful of the Chiang Mai’s star attractions a short stroll away, including Wat Chedi Luang, which is just around the corner. Located in a contemporary new building with a minimalist style, polished concrete floors, and sleek timber screens, this mid-range boutique hotel with just 41 rooms is a great choice for first time visitors. The rooms are snug and have few amenities, however, the balcony and stunning swimming pool make up for their size. Unfortunately the reception staff spoke little English when we were there, however, you’re in the heart of Chiang Mai, everything is on your doorstep, and if you need help there are plenty of friendly travel agents in the neighbourhood. Huen Phen is just around the corner.
1 Soi Phra Pok Klao 9, Phrapokklao Rd, Old City, Chiang Mai
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99 The Gallery Hotel
99 The Gallery Hotel is in a fantastic location near the main sights – it’s just steps from Wat Phra Singh – and the Sunday Walking Street, which is home to a seemingly neverending market, this very handsome and rather elegant mid-range hotel has polished floorboards, lofty ceilings and gilt-edged mirrors. The 53 rooms range from basic, compact Superior rooms to smart, spacious Suites. The pick of the bunch is the 50sqm 99 Deluxe Corner with a four-poster bed and private terrace. There’s a compact saltwater swimming pool, and while there aren’t many sun-beds, a dip does the trick after a day out. Decent amenities including in-room coffee making facilities, DVDs, and fast Wi-Fi. Unfortunately the staff do not speak much English and the lower category rooms are very snug at just 20sqm.
99 Intrawarorot Rd, Old City, Chiang Mai
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In a good location for exploring the Old City – and Dash Teak House restaurant is just around the corner – the contemporary industrial-chic design of this 29-room mid-range boutique hotel is refreshing. The comfortable, spacious rooms are all air-conditioned – something you’ll appreciate after sweaty strolls around the Old City all day. Along with the petite pool, which is perfectly fine for a dip but little else. There’s a cute kombi-van bar in the courtyard that serves cocktails come sundown. Breakfast, which is offered at their café across the road was a tad disappointing, however, there are so many cafés in the Old City that you don’t need to go far for a great coffee and generous breakfast. The excellent Australian-owned Overstand café, for instance, is very close by.
142 Ratchapakhinai Rd, Old City, Chiang Mai
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Chiang Mai Hotels On and Around Nimmanhaemin Road
Eastin Tan Hotel Chiang Mai
Lined with interesting boutiques, bookshops, cafés, restaurants, and bars, and with even more cool stuff in the side streets (sois), Nimmanhaemin Road can’t be beat when it comes to where to stay in Chiang Mai and the Eastin Tan is our home away from home in this lively neighbourhood. The expansive rooms and apartment-suites in this sleek, chic boutique hotel, the highest building on Nimmanhaemin Road, overlook Suthep mountain on one side of the property and on the other, funky Think Park and glam Maya Mall. There are seven room types, ranging from 35-162 sqm, so there’s something for every budget. The apartments have separate bedrooms and big bathrooms, large living rooms with floor to ceiling windows and balconies, superb kitchens and dining areas that are large enough for entertaining. The problem with staying here is, if you’re like us, you won’t want to leave. The only con was a ridiculously slow check-in service, however, all will be good in the world when you’re ensconced in your comfy room looking out at the mountains.
165 Huay Kaew Road, Chiang Mai
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Akyra Manor Chiang Mai
Less than a year old, this glamorous, five-star, suites-only boutique hotel is on one of stylish Nimmanhaemin’s most hip and happening sois (side streets). It’s a first for Chiang Mai and would seem more at home in Bangkok with its enormous rooms and luxurious extras, such as 430-thread count Egyptian cotton sheets, state of the art technology, and espresso machines in the rooms. The 23 Deluxe Suites are a very generous 60sqm while the seven Akyra Manor Suites are a massive 100sqm. Expect loads of attention to detail, abundant amenities, and an excellent restaurant. There’s a small rooftop bar and public spaces are quite snug, but you’re in Chiang Mani and in Nimmanhaemin so you’re probably going to be out most of the time.
22/2 Nimmanhaemin Rd Soi 9, Chiang Mai
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This stylish little Chiang Mai boutique hotel, which opened in early 2016, feels more like a bed and breakfast. With just ten rooms, this is where to stay in Chiang Mai if you like your hotels petite and intimate, and the vibe personable. The friendly young English-speaking owners live on site and either they or their helpful staff are always on hand to share tips and assist with your travel plans. The sleek contemporary design features plenty of polished concrete, breezy spaces, and balconies, and super spacious rooms. While there are few facilities there’s a very pleasant living space and a lovely central courtyard. It’s just a 10-minute tuk tuk ride to the Old City or Nimmanhaemin Road, however, there are free bicycles you can borrow and this is a cool little local area with pockets of interestingness to be discovered. Breakfast was disappointing when we stayed with an order-the-night-before system, which means your breakfast could be waiting and stone-cold when you get downstairs or they could lose your order and you get nothing – unfortunately we experienced both. Having said that, there’s a fantastic café which does excellent coffee just off the alfresco lobby and there are several great cafés nearby.
22/1 Soi Mengrairassamee Sermsuk Road, Chiang Mai
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Ruen Come In
This small family owned Chiang Mai hotel is ran by a hospitable Thai couple who must be some of the city’s most welcoming hotel owners, while the family matriarch is also an outstanding cook. If being able to enjoy good local food at your hotel is a priority when it comes to where to stay in Chiang Mai, then Ruen Come in is for you. The restaurant serves some of Chiang Mai’s finest and most authentic Lanna cuisine, much of it made by the owner using produce from their organic farm. (See the link above). Accommodation at Ruen Come In is either located in a row of newly-built rosewood rooms with balconies or terraces overlooking the garden or are in the sprawling two-storey, traditional teakwood house that was the family home before the children left the nest. All the rooms are spacious but the suites in the older house are absolutely massive with large living areas and big bathrooms. Just off the Super Highway, it’s only minutes from Nimmanhaemin Road, is handy for getting out of town and to Greater Chiang Mai quickly, and is a short stroll to an emerging neighbourhood that’s popular with young Thais and expats. Now retired, the English-speaking owners are happy to drive you to the Old City or out to restaurants at night. It’s easy to get a taxi back.
79/3 Sirithorn Road, Chiang Mai
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Have you been to Northern Thailand? Feel free to share your tips as to where to stay in Chiang Mai in the comments below.