Surrounded by the city walls, this was once all that existed of Chiang Mai, and it’s where you can find many of the most popular sights. Many of the temples for which Chiang Mai is rightly famous can be found in this area, as are museums and galleries. Many visitors chose to stay in this part of town, meaning the culture is right on your doorstep, and it’s also a popular area for restaurants and bars.
The roads in Chiang Mai Old City are relatively quiet and the proximity of the sights and attractions mean they can easily be visited either on foot or by bicycle. Here is the rundown of our top ten attractions in Chiang Mai Old City:
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Located near the historic Wat Jet Yod, this is the main museum of northern Thailand and is under the patronage of Their Royal Majesties, the King and Queen. It was renovated in 1996 to celebrate the 700th anniversary of the founding of Chiang Mai and now features a larger and better organized exhibition. Visitors to the museum pass through six sections of exhibits, which constitute a journey from Chiang Mai's prehistory to its present and future course. The museum begins with the natural and cultural background of the region, including the ecology and geography of the north, as well as information on prehistoric settlements. The museum begins with the natural and cultural background of the region, including the ecology and geography of the north, right up to how Lanna culture is celebrated today. Read More...
- Opening Hours: Wednesday to Sunday 09:00 to 16:00
- Location: On the Highway (Northwest) next to Wat Jet Yod
- Price Range: Admission is 30 Baht
Built sometime between 1385 and 1402, during the reign of King Saen Muang Ma, 7th ruler of the Mengrai dynasty, Wat Chedi Luang's massive chedi (pagoda) is a distinctive feature of the Chiang Mai skyline. At its peak, the chedi measured 60 metres across at the square base and 80 metres tall and was once the home of the Emerald Buddha, Thailand's most sacred religious relic. It now houses a replica, as the original resides in Bangkok. The temple was rebuilt in 1990 thanks to funds from UNESCO, and the building and grounds are extremely picturesque. The best time to visit is in the month of May, when a festival to celebrate the city pillar, which sit within the temple grounds, is celebrated. The Buddha at this temple is reclining. Read More...
- Opening Hours: 06:00-17:00
- Address: Phrapokklao Road
Founded by King Muang Kaew in 1497,the Viharn is a traditional Lanna Style temple and was previously known as the Royal Hall of Chao Kawilorot. The second floor is heavily adorned and features two large seated Buddha images. The white image is solid teak and was carved after a vision by King Naresuan in the late 16th century, when he defeated the Burmese forces near Muang Ngai. This vision is depicted in the carved wood panels on the east wall. Having been massively restored in the mid 90s this is definitely a temple to head to if you are interested in contemporary religious art. Wat Chetawan and Wat Mahawan are also on the same road. Read More...
- Opening Hours: 06:00-19:00
- Address: Thapae Road
The centre is a modern multi-media museum and cultural education centre, featuring a range of media, from video, scale models, enlarged photos, wall murals and text in Thai and English. Built in 1924, the building was the former Provincial Hall of Chiang Mai and is considered to be a stunning example of post-colonial Thai architecture. The museum was awarded by the Royal Association of Siamese Architects for its architectural restoration, back in 1999. Visitors can partake in interactive exhibitions music and historical displays, but be warned, this is not the most high-tech museum, although it does pack a lot of history over the two floors, and there’s a small shop if you are looking for souvenirs or a lengthier read on Chiang Mai. Read More...
- Opening Hours: 08:00-17:30
- Address: Prapokklao Road between Rajdumnern Road and Rajwithee Road
- Tel: +66 (0) 5321 7793
Wat Phan Tao is directly adjacent to Wat Chedi Luang. Although there is a wall between the two, you can walk through one to get to the other. The name of this temple means "Monastery of a Thousand Kilns", in reference to the numerous Buddha images within the magnificent Wat Chedi Luang. The temple has a viharn, which is one of the few remaining all-wood structures in Chaing Mai, this was originally the ho kham which literally translates as ‘guilded hall’ and was the palace of Chiang Mai's king, Chao Mahawong, who ruled from 1846 to 1854. It now functions as a monastery, but is still open to the public. By retaining its original use, there’s a real vibrancy to the place and is definitely worth a visit. Read More...
- Opening Hours: 07:00-17:00
- Address: Diagonally adjacent to Wat Chedi Luang, Phrapokklao Road
This venerable temple, located at the end of Ratchadamnoen Road, is perhaps the most venerated in Chiang Mai, behind Doi Suthep. While the dusty parking lot and hordes of taxi drivers may be discouraging at first, this temple is certainly worth a look. Although the main hall of the temple dates back to 1512 and is quite beautiful, the real attraction of this temple is the smaller Lai Kam worship hall behind it. This small building is a wonderful example Lanna (northern) architecture, especially the signature roof design, which is meant to represent a bird's wings. The interior artwork has recently been restored, allowing visitors an excellent view into the lives of Chiang Mai's people hundreds of years ago. Read More...
- Opening Hours: 07:00-19:00
- Address: Singharat Road
Opened alongside the Chiang Mai Historical Centre, this museum has a beautiful location, inside the old courthouse, which was renovated with the project in mind. It’s close to the three kings monument in the centre of Chiang Mai Old City. The exhibition is all about the people who live and have lived in the region, setting the scene for many daily activities through wax works and relics. They manage to avoid it looking too creepy, so another great spot to bring the family to. The museum only has two floors and a visit will take around an hour or so. If you plan to visit the Chiang Mai Historical Centre, there’s a combo ticket that includes the three city centre museums. Read More...
- Opening Hours: Tue-Sun, 08:30 - 17:00
- Address: Phrapokklao Rd, Chiang Mai
Opened in 2013, this new museum follows the history of the Lanna (the last 700 years), as well as touching on the period before this. This museum has a much more modern feel when compared to the Chiang Mai National Museum, and it presents information in bite-size pieces, great for children. The displays come with a spoken introduction in a variety of languages, including English, German, French and Chinese. One of the coolest things about the Chiang Mai Historical Centre is that when it was being built the workers discovered an old royal temple underneath. They decided to preserve it and the addition helps you to bring a little slice of history to life. Read More...
- Opening Hours: Tue-Sun, 08:30 - 17:00
- Address: Ratvithi Road, next to the Arts and Culture Museum and former City Hall
Although Chiang Mai Old City is a quiet place, there’s not as much green space as you might expect. Suan Buak Hat Park is the best place to go if you are looking for a chilled out afternoon. You can rent a mat if you are looking to laze under the trees or take part in some of the activities that always seem to be happening there, including aerobics, badminton, yoga and tai chi. Close to the lake is a small coffee shop that serves simple food and hot or cold drinks. Children will enjoy the basic playground. Read More...
- Opening Hours: 08:00-17:00
- Address: The Southwestern corner of the Old City walls.
This is the oldest temple in Chiang Mai, built in 1296 at the time of the city's founding. The temple served as the residence of Chiang Mai's founder, King Mengrai, for a time. The buildings are finely decorated in red lacquer, gold leaf and mosaics of tinted mirror, wonderful examples of Lanna style architecture. Wat Chiang Man is located on Ratchaphakhinai Road, near the Chang Puak gate in the northern part of the old city. Read More...
- Opening Hours: 09:00-17:00
- Address: Ratchaphakhinai Road