Thailand’s second largest city, Chiang Mai, delights travellers with winding ancient streets, lively markets, historic monuments and acres of tranquil rainforest. Here’s where to stay and immerse yourself in local culture for a truly one of a kind adventure…
Founded more than 700 years ago on the banks of the Mae Ping river, Chiang Mai was once the capital of the Lanna kingdom attracting merchants, tradesmen and artists to its warren of tiny streets. Now, nearly 11 million tourists each year visit its old town, trendy cafes, magnificent temples and jungle-cloaked mountains. Stay close to the Old City to maximise sightseeing time and make your trip unique by trying local dishes and craft classes or booking a hotel with its very own museum.
The Inside House radiates with a regal splendour that harks back to Chiang Mai’s former days as capital of the Lanna Kingdom. The Old City’s most opulent hotel – it has just 31 rooms and suites – features complimentary minibars, outdoor bathtubs and espresso machines, and 13 suites even have their own show-stopping private pool. There is traditional Thai artwork throughout while the Ghin restaurant offers Northern Thai cuisine made with local ingredients.
Return to the days of the Lanna kingdom in this elegant resort built around a restored teak house and a magnificent 100-year-old rain tree. Décor is faithful to the colonial style adopted in the area in the late 19th century and features ornamental wood carvings, Lanna woven cloths, rattan made by village craftsmen and murals by local artists. Our tip? Sample a taste of the past in the hotel’s restaurant, where Thai and Lanna fusion cuisine is served with riverfront views.
Once the headquarters of the Borneo Company Limited, this beautiful teak wood building was built in the late 19th century and guests can uncover its fascinating history at a small museum on the grounds of the hotel. It now houses 30 lavish suites with large terraces, rattan rocking chairs and freestanding Victorian baths, while guests can also use the library, spa, glass-walled gym and Insta-ready 25 metre lap pool along a wall of vines.
History buffs will be in heaven at this upmarket boutique hotel packed with priceless antiques. Although a modern property, it is inspired by eleventh century Chinese architecture and located in the heart of the Old City, within walking distance of four temples. Inside, its lawns and hidden courtyards reveal endless surprises including a library with thousands of books and even a museum featuring 19th century Thai artefacts.
Stay in a traditional Lanna style wooden family home at the Ruen Come In, just north of Chiang Mai’s old city. There is a pool, yoga classes and spa treatments available but the focus is really on the food here. The excellent restaurant serves authentic Northern Thai home-cooking using ingredients grown on the hotel’s own organic farm. Guests can sign up for cooking classes on the farm and are also encouraged to visit local food markets.
There’s no better location to explore Chiang Mai than from this city centre hotel. Temples, monuments and the Sunday Night Walking Street Market are all within strolling distance and yet, the boutique property is surprisingly peaceful – with a spa, alfresco art gallery and top restaurant built around a 200-year-old tamarind tree. Cultural activities on offer include classes on flower garland weaving, paper umbrella painting and folding banana leaves into decorations, while guests can also join a free walking tour of local attractions.
Swerve bland identikit hotels to stay in one of 14 antique Thai houses – ruean thai – dating back over a century. Traditional Thai details include handmade clay tiles, a meditation room and stilt foundations but contemporary furniture, a glossy pool and the owner’s own art collection keep things feeling modern. Be sure to get up early at least one morning to join staff in offering alms to Buddhist monks.
A great option for families keen on sightseeing, this boutique property in the centre of the Old City is close to restaurants, temples and shopping – it also offers free bike rentals if you are keen to explore further. Forty-one rooms are built around the restored former residence of Chiang Mai’s governor, and include family rooms which have direct pool access. The hotel also offers handy excursions to destinations beyond the city including Doi Inthanon.
There’s always something new to see at this handsome boutique hotel close to the historic Wat Gate. Reflecting the town’s history as a multicultural merchant town, you can expect to be surrounded by Thai antiques, Chinese design flourishes plus a waving willows garden, infinity pool and library room. The hotel’s gloriously ramshackle café serves all-day breakfast, complimentary afternoon tea and creative Asian dishes in a space inspired by the old merchant alleys that connected the street to the river.
Within walking distance of Chiang Mai’s museums, markets and temples, the look of this serene retreat is inspired by the kingdoms of Lanna and Lan Xang, founded in the 13th and 14th centuries. Rooms have golden teak wood details, carvings and local artwork while one of its two spas is located within a traditional Lanna wooden house. For an even more authentic experience, guests are invited to learn Thai flower arranging or make a pain-relieving compress ball using Thai herbs.
Glimpse the elegance of the Lanna kingdom at this boutique hotel close to the centre of Chiang Mai. Its three-storey building is inspired by ancient Lanna architecture while rooms have teak touches, dark wood furniture and traditional plaster walls. Though the busy city streets are just outside, the hotel feels like a hushed hideaway with a small book corner, restaurant serving breakfast and lunch and a heated saltwater pool.
Chiang Mai’s most important sites are right on the doorstep of this ideally-located hotel on Rachamankha Road. Wander the tiny lanes of the old city, explore numerous temples and markets or pay a visit to the 14th century Wat Muen Ngoen Kong temple, just five-minutes’ walk away. Afterwards, head back to the hotel to relax in its spa, pool or 24-hour fitness centre and make sure to pay a visit to the on-site bistro serving Thai and Italian dishes.