Explore Chiang Mai National Museum
The Chiang Mai National Museum is a national treasure that depicts the history of Chiang Mai and the Lanna Kingdom. Located in northern Thailand, it has also proved to be a cultural and educational centre dedicated to preserving Thailand's art and culture.
It basically contains Northern Thai art and culture artifacts from the Chiang Saen Era, Northern goods, Lanna Buddha statues, tribal relics, historic pictures of the kingdom of Chiang Mai, and wood carvings.
This is the most sought after activity to do in Chiang Mai Old City for history buffs and anyone curious about Thailand's diverse culture.
Location: 451Tambon Chang Phueak, Mueang Chiang Mai District, Chiang Mai 50300, Thailand
Timing: 9:00 AM - 4:00 PM
Pray at Wat Chedi Luang
Wat Chedi Luang (Temple of the Big Stupa) opens up at 6 am for its morning rituals. It is advisable to go in the wee hours of the morning as you’d be able to have a peaceful praying session along with the monks and beat the rush. The temple's Main Vihara houses a standing Buddha statue known as Phra Chao Attarot, flanked on either side by two followers.
In that large hall, you can sit in solitude and offer your prayers to Buddha. This is one of the most sought after activities in Chiang Mai Old City. Photography is allowed as long as it doesn’t disrupt the disciples' prayer space.
Location: 103 Prapokklao Rd, Tambon Si Phum, Mueang Chiang Mai District, Chiang Mai 50200, Thailand
Seek Blessings at Wat Buppharam
Located near the Thapae Road and approximately 500 meters away from the Thapae Gate, Wat Buppharam is one of the most popular temples and is a hub for various activities in Chiang Mai Old City. It is most renowned for the towering wood Buddha picture in the main temple hall, which is also where people go to seek blessings.
On occasions, a monk can be found seated on the first level of the main hall, waiting to bless the guests. It is customary to provide a small contribution to the temple in exchange for a blessing and a bracelet.
Location: 8, Jln Perak, Pulau Tikus, 10350 George Town, Pulau Pinang, Malaysia
Visit Wat Phan Tao
Located adjacent to the well-known Wat Chedi Luang, Wat Phan Tao is a lovely wooden temple with a beautifully landscaped garden where Monks can be seen gardening on occasions. Its prayer hall is constructed of dark teak wood and has a gold Buddha picture. Depending on the upcoming holiday or full moon, this area is occasionally adorned.
During rituals, monks will sit alongside the pond and chant, and the atmosphere is wonderful at night. Witnessing this should be on the top of your list of activities to do in Chiang Mai Old City.
Location: 127/7 Prapokklao Rd, Tambon Si Phum, Mueang Chiang Mai District, Chiang Mai 50200, Thailand
Visit Temple of the Lion Buddha - Wat Phra Singh
The Wat Phra Singh is located in the western portion of Chiang Mai's historic city centre and houses the Phra Singh Buddha picture (Lion Buddha). It is one of the most popular and well-visited temples in Chiang Mai's Old City. After nightfall, the temple is brilliantly lit. Monks and ypeople assemble in Wihan, the city's assembly hall.
During the Songkran celebration, the Phra Singh image is removed from wihan Lai Kham and brought through the streets of Chiang Mai in a religious procession. Onlookers may join in on this important activity of Chiang Mai Old City by showering water on the procession and showing their respects.
Location: 2 Samlarn Rd, Phra Sing, Mueang Chiang Mai District, Chiang Mai 50280, Thailand
Timing: 9:00 AM - 6:00 PM
Visit Chiang Mai Art and Cultural Centre
Built in 1924, the relatively modern Arts and Cultural Centre boasts of stunning Thai architecture, while the interiors feature a range of media, from videos to wall murals and more that depict Thai culture. You can experience interactive exhibitions, music, and history that make learning enjoyable and soak in the cultural abundance of the Old City. End the trip with a visit to the souvenir shop, just around the corner.
Location: Prapokklao Road between Rajdumnern Road and Rajwithee Road.
Timing: 08:30 - 17:30 (Monday Closed).
Entry fee: Adult 90 Baht/ INR 205.
Child 40 Baht/ INR 90.
Pamper Yourself with a Thai Massage
Tired after a long, exciting day around the city? Relax your sore muscles and soak your feet at the many massage parlours across Chiang Mai Old City. There is a range of packages to choose from, and aromatic essential oils and Ayurvedic treatments coupled with the ace skills displayed by the masseuses are definitely worth indulging in!
Price: 120 - 250 Baht/ INR 274 - 571 depending on the package you choose.
Go for a Bicycle Tour
If you don’t want to tire yourself by walking through the sprawling city, one of the best things to do in Chiang Mai Old City is to hop on a bicycle and get going! Visit the popular temples, shops, museums, cafes, and every other tourist attraction as you pedal away through the streets.
This is probably the quickest way to get around town, and exciting for all, young and old. You can choose to rent a bicycle for yourself, or join in a group tour to make sure you’re on the right path.
Price: Between 100 - 400 Baht / INR 230 - 915.
Chat with the Monks
A unique feature that Chiang Mai Old City offers is the chat session you can have with the monks at various temples across the city. This is a great experience where you not only learn meditation but hear snippets about monk’s experiences and get a peek into their lives.
The various sessions include a one-on-one conversation with a group of monks, or a group talk and meditation session for all. The talks are generally 2-3 hours long and free of charge, but donations are welcome. A popular spot for this is Wat Sri Suphan or the Silver Temple, which is bright and beautiful, and offers a range of meditation sessions and retreat stays to choose from.
Location: 100 Wulai Road (next to the Wualai Saturday Walking Street Market).
Timing: 18:00 – 21:00.
Stroll Through The Sunday Walking Street
If you’re in the city on the weekend, make sure to head to the vibrant Sunday Walking Street. Set up 4:00 pm onwards and buzzing with activity till midnight, Walking Street is where the Northern Thai people display their handicrafts and artworks for sale. You will also come across numerous food stalls, and shops that sell clothing, jewellery, souvenirs, sculptures, and other knick-knacks.
Stay entertained with the LIVE performers. Here’s where you’ll find the best products at the best prices, so make sure the Sunday Walking Street is on your list of things to do in Chiang Mai Old City.
Location: Tha Pae to Ratchadamnoen Road, Chiang Mai Old City.
Timing: Sunday, 16:00 – midnight.
Go on a Temple Tour
Looking to explore the cultures, religions, and lives of the monks? Then one of the best things to do in Chiang Mai Old City is taking a temple tour to witness it all. The Wat Phra Singh is a famous temple that redefines Lanna style architecture, while Wat Chiang Man is the oldest temple in the city boasting of Thai architecture.
Visit Wat Chedi Luang, especially at night when the structure is lit up and looks pristine. Here lies a damaged chedi that was once Chiang Mai’s tallest structure. Don’t forget to make a stop at Wat Suan Dok, a stunning flower garden temple built in the 14th century and at the gorgeous Wat Phrathat Doi Suthep which takes you back 600 years, built atop a 5300 foot Doi Suthep Peak.
Learn at Thai Cooking Classes
If you’re an absolute foodie and love honing your cooking skills, this one's for you! Learn the art of cooking authentic Thai flavours at some of the most popular cookery schools in the Old City, like the Thai Kitchen Cookery Centre and the Taste from Heaven Vegetarian Cookery School, amongst others.
The Thai Kitchen Cookery Centre lets you choose from a list of 78 dishes and even takes you on market tours so you personally choose your ingredients. The Taste from Heaven Vegetarian Cookery School, as the name suggests, specialises in vegan and vegetarian dishes. Headed by chefs with years of experience, you are sure of learning from the best and showcasing your skills to your loved ones back home.
Entry fee: Starting at 1500 Baht/ INR 3400.
Try Street Food
The street food in Chiang Mai boasts of such brilliant flavours that even the locals travel miles for some sheer indulgence. The Sompet Market and Chiang Mai Gate Market are among the hot-spots to find a good Thai meal, with vendors setting up their carts in the wee hours.
Dishes worth a try are the noodle soup, barbecue, and fried chicken, with some sticky rice and a Som Tam Salad to make it a wholesome meal. For dessert, try the local favourite Thai Roti, cooked with egg, banana, sugar, chocolate and condensed milk, for a delicious after-taste. The sticky rice with mango and condensed milk is also a staple, that is sure to satisfy your tastebuds!
Timing: Varies but usually from sunset until midnight.
Go for a City Walk
Things to do in Chiang Mai Old City definitely include a city walk, because the best way to explore this picturesque city is on foot. You can head to the various temples like Wat Phra Singh and Wat Chedi Luang, followed by the Three Kings Monument, where you pay your respects to the founders of the city. Then head to the Lanna Folklife Museum, Chiang Mai Historical Centre and the Chiang Mai Arts and Cultural Center.
Make sure to buy a combination pass for these three attractions, priced at 180 Baht. End your day with the beautiful Wat Chiang Man, an ancient temple, and a good meal at one of the fine dining spots in the city. Apart from all these tourist attractions lie shopping streets and food stalls, which should definitely be a part of your list!
Visit Three Kings Monument
Located right in the city centre, Three Kings Monument is frequented by travelers from near and far for its serene beauty. The monument is dedicated to the three founding kings of Chiang Mai, namely King Ramkamhaeng, King Ngam Muang, and King Mengrai, hence lending it its name.
There is a vast open square in the centre, with statues of the kings that are an iconic image representing the city of Chiang Mai. Their sculptures are reproduced at various tourist spots across the city, but the original is definitely worth a visit!
Location: Prapokklao Rd, Tambon Si Phum, Amphoe Mueang Chiang Mai, Chang Wat Chiang Mai 50200, Thailand.
Timing: Open 24 hours.
Experience Lanna Folklife Museum
An interesting museum with 18 exhibitions that display the traditions and lifestyles of the Lanna community that inhabited Northern Thailand, the Folklife Museum is definitely on our list of things to do in Chiang Mai Old City. There are life-sized dolls adorning traditional costumes and depicting the lives that the Lanna people led.
There aren’t many historical artefacts here, but the tales are mostly portrayed through paintings, pictures, and wax statues. The beautiful textiles and ceramics at the museum are also worth admiring.
Location: Prapokklao Rd, Tambon Si Phum, Amphoe Mueng Chiang Mai, Chiang Wat Chiang Mai 50200, Thailand.
Timing: 8:30 - 17:00 (Monday Closed).
Entry fee: Adults: 90 Baht/ INR 205.
Children: 40 Baht/ INR 90.
Admire the Tha Pae Gate
Tha Pae Gate, part of the city wall which was once a fortress, is one of the most popular sights in Chiang Mai. The gate bridges the gap between heritage and modern architecture with numerous temples, cafes, massage parlours, shops, and major tourist attractions surrounding it.
Alongside the gate is also a public square that hosts regular music and cultural events. The best time to visit the gate is in the evening on the weekends when the square is abuzz with LIVE performances, and food stalls that offer some of the best Thai specialities. If you’re looking for a spot with a relaxed vibe, to hang out, this is the one!
Location: Moon Muang Rd., Chiang Mai City.
Timing: Open 24 hours.
Shop at Sompet Market
If you want to head back home with a taste of the beautiful city, visiting Sompet Market is among the best things to do in Chiang Mai Old City. This fragrant market is full of food stalls, fresh and seasonal fruits and veggies, Thai snacks, and healthy smoothies.
The market opens really early, so if you’re keen on trying out authentic Thai and Lanna cuisine for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, this is the place to be. You can also indulge in buying spices, preservatives and more that you can bring along as souvenirs.
Location: Si Phum, Mueang Chiang Mai District, Chiang Mai 50300, Thailand.
Timing: 5:00 - 19:00.
Explore the Tribal Museum
Located in the Ratchamanka Park, housed in a multi-storey building, the Tribal Museum represents the culture and lifestyle of the many Chiang Mai hill-tribes. Indoor exhibits like bright clothing, jewellery, tools and artefacts used by the people, a video that tells the unique story of the tribals, and a sprawling garden with tribal huts are what you can look forward to here.
If you can’t spare enough time to visit the villages, this is the best way to learn about the popular Akha, Khamen, Lisu and Hmong and other tribes.
Location: Ratchamangkala Park.
Timing: 9:00 - 16:00.
Entry fee: 50 Baht/ INR 114.
Visit Chiang Mai Historical Centre
Representing the rich history of Chiang Mai, the historical centre is centrally located, right near the Three Kings Monument. Unlike other historical centres, this one offers wax models displaying ancient traditional life and interactive displays that make learning history fun for all, adults and kids.
The building has been designed in Lanna architectural style, while the inner courtyard houses a beautiful shrine, and in the basement lie ancient temple ruins that were discovered when the centre was constructed.
Location: Jhaban Road, Inside the old city and behind the 3 Kings Monument.
Timing: 8:30 - 17:00 (closed Monday).
Entry fee: Adults: 90 Baht/ INR 200.
Children: 40 Baht/ INR 90.