When you’re looking for the best area to stay in Chiang Mai for the first time, there are a few highly recommended areas for you as a tourist to stay at. In this article, we cover all the major important areas in Chiang Mai that are suitable for first-timers. Staying in the centre of the city is surprisingly cheap as it’s full of hostels, but for those looking for more luxurious accommodations, we did come up with all the possible options for every type of traveller. In each recommended area, we’ve come up with hotel suggestions that are among the best in each area. At the bottom of this article, you can find the map of Chiang Mai that includes the city’s highlights and recommended areas. With that being said, let’s jump to the results.
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Best area to stay in Chiang Mai for first time
Where to stay in Chaing Mai for the first time? Keep reading!
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What are the best areas to stay in Chiang Mai for first-timers?


The best areas in Chiang Mai for first-timers are Old City, Nimmanhemin, Tha Phae Gate, Night Bazaar and Riverside. Alternative areas include Santitham, Mountainside and Wat Ket. For many tourists, the Old City is the best area to stay in Chiang Mai due to its location, the culture and the surrounded temples and other city highlights nearby. In the next paragraphs, we dive deeper into each recommended area.
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The best areas to stay in Chiang Mai for first-timers are:

 

1. Old City (Tourists’ top choice)


Old City is by far the most popular area in Chiang Mai for first-timers. The Old City is referred to the area inside the city walls, which was built in the thirteenth century. This area itself is full of history, which attracts tourists in the first place, whether they stay here or outside the city walls. The local government applied a law which forbids high-rise buildings inside this cultural area. Places like Hua Hin also have this law applied, which creates a unique vibe. The Old City is full of Buddhist architecture and here, you can find around three hundred different temples, which makes it ideal for a day of temple-hopping. Most popular activities and venues are located nearby, so you can walk from point A to B easily. As said in the introduction, at the Old City, you can find many affordable accommodations often in the form of hostels, but also higher-end hotels. This area is touristic, meaning that you can easily find day tours, making it an excellent starting point for exploring Chiang Mai and its surroundings. 

Relevant food article: Best restaurants in Chiang Mai Old City.

Some of the best hotels in Chiang Mai for first-timers in this area are visually listed below:
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2. Nimmanhemin (Trendy)


Where Old City stands out with rich culture and history, Nimmanhemin, which is a long street, is the exact opposite as it’s full of trendy places that target young people. Especially if you’re a young traveller and love to go out, stay near Nimmanhemin as it offers a good variety of trendy nightclubs. The combination of excellent nightlife and trendy, modern coffee shops and restaurants attracts many digital nomads, which makes Nimmanhemin ideal for those planning to stay in Chiang Mai for a longer period. The city highlights located in the Old City are just around the corner yet you can still enjoy the modernity of the city of Chiang Mai, such as proper shopping malls. 

Relevant food article: Best restaurants near Nimmanhemin Road.

Some of the best hotels in Chiang Mai for first-timers in this area are visually listed below:
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3. Night Bazaar (Shopping and local nightlife)


Those keen on shopping and local nightlife and love enjoying a bustling neighbourhood, pick a hotel near the Night Bazaar. The Night Bazaar is one of the city’s highlights and as you might expect, it’s known for its bazaar that offers much more than just food and clothes. Here, you can find all sorts of handicrafts, jewellery, and interesting shops for souvenirs and herbs. Because of this, it attracts a wide variety of visitors that are entertained by live music, which makes it a vibrant area. The Night Bazaar is located close to the Old City but has a more local touch. You can enjoy the local nightlife here as well, which is different from the trendy nightlife scene at Nimmanhemin. 

Some of the best hotels in Chiang Mai for first-timers in this area are visually listed below:
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4. Riverside (Family-friendly)


The Riverside of the best area to stay in Chiang Mai for family. Here, you can find all sorts of upscale and luxurious hotels with plenty of space and a good view of the Ping river. This area is much more relaxed compared to the previous recommenced areas as you’re a bit away from the city’s chaos. Because it’s much quieter, it has a bit of a feeling of the Old City, but with the benefits of the Riverview. The hotel prices are higher than in other parts of the city, which make it not ideal for those travelling on a stricter budget. Also, those who love to hang out during the evening and want to explore the city’s nightlife should pick a more centrally located area. 

Some of the best hotels in Chiang Mai for first-timers in this area are visually listed below:
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5. Tha Phae Gate (Foodie haven)


The Tha Phae Gate is located on the Eastside of the Old City wall and in this area, you can find higher-end hotels that are near the old city centre. Aside from the high-quality hotels, you can find amazing food near the gate as well, which makes it a sort of a foodie haven. You can also find elephant sanctuaries nearby as well as the Tha Phae walking street. If you have a larger budget and you still want to be located centrally, picking a hotel near the Tha Phae Gate is highly recommended. Alternatively, you can pick a hotel near the Chiang Mai Gate as well, which is the gate located on the Southside of the Old City wall. Hotels near this gate are slightly cheaper, yet you still have the benefit of staying centrally. Near the Chiang Mai Gate are the Saturday Night Market and the Wua Lai Walking Street which both are ideal for shopping. 

Some of the best hotels in Chiang Mai for first-timers in this area are visually listed below:
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6. Santitham (Budget-friendly)


Santitham is the area right next to the trendy Nimmanhemin. What’s good about Santitham is that you will find tons of amazing (Northern) Thai restaurants along with affordable hotels. Going to the Old City is a piece of cake as it’s only a few hundred meters from Santitham Road. The downside of this area is that it’s not that popular, meaning that it’s not a good place to meet up with fellow travellers. Areas like Old City and Nimmanhemin are more suitable for that. 

Some of the best hotels in Chiang Mai for first-timers in this area are visually listed below:
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7. Mountainside - Su Thep (Away from the mass)


This large area on the west side of the city that’s facing the Doi Suthep is one of the highlights of the city. It’s located behind the airport and the previously recommended area Nimmanhemin and as you can expect, it’s ideal for those who don’t want to stay in the bustling city centre but can somewhat enjoy a bit of nature and a beautiful mountainside view. In this area, you can find a walking trail, plenty of coffee shops, and the Angkaew reservoir and for those planning to head to the mountains, you have the best access. Especially when you’re not into nightlife and only occasionally want to visit the night markets, the mountainside can be a great option for those who want to avoid mass tourism.

Some of the best hotels in Chiang Mai for first-timers in this area are visually listed below:
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8. Wat Ket (Alternative area and budget-friendly)


Wat Ket is the area on the opposite side of the river, opposite the previously recommended area called Riverside. As you can expect with areas that are located further away from the city highlights, it’s a more budget-friendly area although you can find higher-end hotels here as well. Where the previously recommended Mountainside has a nice view, staying at Wat Ket can be a hit or miss when it comes to views, but many hotels here are beautifully decorated and provided with plenty of greenery. In order to get to the Old City, you simply have to cross one of the bridges. You are also located near the Elephant Jungle Sanctuary as well as Chiang Mai’s train station. Wat Ket, in general, is not discovered by the majority of the tourists, which makes it definitely an authentic Thai experience. 

Some of the best hotels in Chiang Mai for first-timers in this area are visually listed below:
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Areas we don’t recommend staying in Chiang Mai for the first time


When visiting Chiang Mai for the first time, most of us want to see the city’s highlights. You can combine these highlights with tours that take you up the mountains and see other amazing nature, but mobility is one of the key aspects of picking the best area. All the recommended areas so far are located near the Old City. When using popular booking platforms, make sure to avoid Hang Dong and Mae Rim as these areas are far outside the city and not ideal for first-time visitors. Obviously, there are exceptions for those who want to stay remotely, however, the majority of the tourists should pick the recommended areas listed in the first parts of the article.
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Conclusion


The most popular area to stay in Chiang Mai among tourists is the Old City, which also includes the Tha Phae Gate (more upscale) and the Chiang Mai Gate (slightly budget-friendly). Younger, party-minded travellers could stay at either Nimmanhemin (trendy) or the Night Bazaar (more local) if they look for a bustling area with good nightlife in particular. Families and couples could stay at the Riverside and Mountainside as these areas offer spacious and more luxurious accommodations. Alternatively, Wat Ket and Santitham offer a healthy mix of both for a better price. In the end, Chiang Mai offers an amazing variety of hotels and for most tourists, the following rule applies: the closer you are to Old Town and its surrounded neighbourhoods, the better you have access to the city’s highlights. 
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Map of the best areas to stay in Chiang Mai for the first time

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Best area to stay in Chiang Mai for first time map
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There you have it, our recommendations to your questions about where to stay in Chiang Mai for the first time. Eventually, you want to stay close to the Old City, however, each recommended area in Chiang Mai for first-timers does have its own benefits. When visiting this beloved city, make sure to have a look at our food recommendations app called TopTravelFoods. Instead of recommending restaurants, our app recommends the best local food these restaurants have to offer. Especially when you don’t have the knowledge of the local gastronomy, the app comes in handy. The app is completely free and available for both iOS and Android. You can check our article about the best restaurants in Chiang Mai or about the best local Thai restaurants in Chiang Mai to see what you can expect in Chiang Mai when it comes to food. Also, make sure to try the amazing Khao Soi, which is a typical dish from the Northern Thai gastronomy. The best versions are written in our article about the best Khao Soi in Chiang Mai.
 

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