The 10 Best Restaurants in Chiang Mai's Old City
© Peter Forsberg / Alamy Stock Photo
With more than 300 Buddhist temples and a host of attractions to explore, the need to find the best restaurants in Chiang Mai
is real. After all, sustenance and relaxation is a must! From the ubiquitous pad thai to tom kha gai
(coconut soup), som tam
(green papaya salad) and laab
(a type of meat salad), Thailand is the ultimate treasure trove for a foodie. Culture Trip’s local insiders have found the top spots in Chiang Mai’s Old City to satisfy every palate.
By Hand Pizza
Restaurant, Italian, $$$
When the pizza craving hits, nothing else will do. At this well-loved Chiang Mai spot, the bases come thin and crispy and the toppings are packed full of flavour. Everyone is catered for; choices include fresh mozzarella, basil and tomato or the vegan umami dream, complete with shiitake mushrooms and a drizzle of truffle oil. The pizza oven is out front, so you can watch your pie head into the inferno and return, reborn as a cheesy, tomato-y piece of glory. Drooling much? Rest assured, the menu packs a punch at lunch or dinner. Recommended by local insiders Shayanan Panich and Dan Edel
Feast Society by Salsa Kitchen
Two words: homemade sourdough. Find it at the Feast Society; in loaves, slices to take away and as a big chunk on the side of most dishes. Eat it and feel smug. Of course, there’s more to the Feast Society than its bread, and the menu is expansive, with beef carpaccio, mussels in white wine and a Reuben sandwich jostling for space – good luck choosing. Casual, homely decor and super friendly staff make this a relaxing stop-off any time of day. Recommended by local insider Shayanan Panich
Fern Forest Cafe
Cafe, American, Thai, $$$
Huge fern trees tower over you, birds tweet and soft music plays. The garden at Fern Forest Cafe is the perfect respite from your Chiang Mai wanderings. Friendly staff are sure to welcome you, and the menu brims with traditional Thai and western dishes. If you’re struggling to choose from the well-stocked bakery, the coconut cream cake comes highly recommended. The interiors will look good on the Instagram grid, so make sure to take a snap before you leave. On Sundays, you’ll find live jazz in the garden to while away a lazy afternoon. Recommended by local insider Mattia Miani
Cafe, European, Thai, Healthy, $$$
A must-visit for vegans, vegetarians and those who are just hungry in Chiang Mai. Expect the usual suspects on the menu – Thai and western – but with a vegan twist. The Philly cheesesteak is heaven, whatever your dietary requirements, and the smoothie bowls will start your day right. If you’re feeling less virtuous, the cakes will delight. Ingredients are locally sourced, the straws are metal and a discount is given to reusable cup owners. This place really is good for the soul. Recommended by local insider Troi Williams
Huai Kha Restaurant
Cafe, Restaurant, Thai
The tradition of removing your shoes before entering a building – home, temple or in this case, restaurant – is as much to do with respect as it is with hygiene. Don’t forget to slip yours off when entering Huai Kha. Built in the style of a traditional Thai house on stilts, the usual chairs and tables are replaced by silk pillows, with holes beneath the tables to allow your legs to swing freely above the Chiang Mai street below. The menu comprises authentic dishes, so you’re bound to find your favourite here. Recommended by local insider Troi Williams
Restaurant, Thai, Vegetarian, $$$
Although hidden down a soi (quiet lane), a few minutes from Tha Pae Gate, Dash is no secret among Chiang Mai locals. It offers a mixture of Thai and western food, but it’s the setting that really appeals. The restaurant is located in a fabulous wooden house with a pretty patio area and lush garden. The live band that plays in the evening adds to the homely ambience.
Huen Phen Restaurant
Family-run and with northern Thai cuisine at its heart, Huen Phen spoils you with its genuine atmosphere and authentic food. Traditional dishes such as khao soi (a deeply fragrant coconut-based soup) and khanom jeen nam ngeow (a spicy noodle soup), will have you grinning from ear to ear. Dishes hail from Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai and Mae-Hong Son, so you’ll have the chance to sample something you won’t find elsewhere in the Land of Smiles. It’s open-air and usually packed with locals, expats and tourists alike. Recommended by local insider Troi Williams
Khantoke at Old Chiang Mai Cultural Centre
The Khantoke Dinner is a wonderful way to spend the evening. You will experience a traditional Thai dinner and dancing show all within the delightful atmosphere of the Chiang Mai Cultural Centre. Enjoy a range of northern Thai food, to share, with dishes including chicken curry, Burmese-style pork curry, fried chicken, sticky rice, vegetables with a spicy chilli dip and the local delicacy of deep-fried pork skin.
Eat & Drink Restaurant
Restaurant, Fusion, Thai
Part of the U Chiang Mai Hotel, Eat Restaurant offers local cuisine cooked using traditional techniques. The crab curry and pad thai are popular, and you can choose to enjoy your meal inside, in air-conditioned enjoyment or outside in the heart of the Sunday Walking Street Market.
Ginger & Kafe
Cafe, Restaurant, Thai, Vegetarian, $$$
With a superb location in a traditional Thai house, Ginger & Kafe offers a distinctive restaurant experience with excellent food and service. The decor is fabulous, with antique furniture, colourful accessories and incredible attention to detail. It offers Thai and international favourites, with the massaman curry rated as the best in the city. Before you leave, pop by the onsite shop where you can buy beautiful furniture and other household items.
Cafe, Thai, Coffee, Tea , Fast Food, $$$
is a must for every visitor to Chiang Mai, with its fresh and healthy Thai and international dishes. Its smoothie selection is extensive and serves as a perfect start to the day. The decor is natural and welcoming, with flower baskets adorning the entrance. This little Thai jewel is great for health fanatics
as well as laid-back travellers. Dada Kafe is the perfect location for any time of the day, but its healthy breakfast selection and fresh fruits make it truly outstanding.
Blue Diamond and the Breakfast Club
Restaurant, Healthy, Vegetarian, Vegan, $$$
represents another of Chiang Mai’s vegetarian-friendly restaurants, but it stands out from the crowd with its natural interior and tasty dishes. A favourite among local yogis
and meditators, it offers a variety of healthy Thai dishes and exceptional salads, as well as home-made bread. Next to the restaurant, there is a shop selling fruits and other products. Its variety of vegetarian burgers, as well as its friendly staff, make for an outstanding experience.
Ruen Tamarind Restaurant
Ruen Tamarind Restaurant
is part of the Tamarind Village Boutique Hotel. This exquisite setting has all the ingredients for a magical night out. Choose to dine inside or al fresco on the pool terrace. Dine in style while having authentic Thai favourites and Lanna Thai specialities. Perfect for a romantic date or for that special occasion.
Restaurant, French, $$$
is a delightful little French restaurant tucked into the Old City. Here, they serve up the best home-made favourites in a relaxed and welcoming atmosphere. If you’re missing wine, this is the perfect spot to enjoy a bottle with your meal, as they have an incredible selection of wine from France and beyond.
This is an update of the article by Iona Proebst
These recommendations were updated on June 16, 2020 to keep your travel plans fresh.