Chiang Mai is a city in northern Thailand known for its rich cultural heritage, bustling night markets, and breathtaking natural beauty. At the heart of this vibrant city lies the Old City, an area surrounded by ancient walls and moats that house a plethora of historical temples, markets, and museums. In this article, we’ll take a closer look at the Old City of Chiang Mai and all the wonderful attractions it has to offer.

The History of Chiang Mai’s Old City

old city chiang mai
old city chiang mai

Chiang Mai was founded in 1296 by King Mangrai, who established it as the capital of the Lanna Kingdom. The Old City of Chiang Mai was built during this period and has since been a hub of culture and history. The city walls and moats were built in the 13th century to protect the city from invaders and are now a major tourist attraction. Today, the Old City is a vibrant mix of ancient temples, restaurants, shops, and markets, attracting visitors from all over the world.

Exploring the Temples of the Old City

The Old City is home to more than 30 ancient temples, each with its unique charm and history. The most famous of these is the Wat Phra Singh, a stunning temple that houses an image of the Buddha that dates back to the 14th century. The temple is also home to several smaller chedis, each with its unique style and architecture. Another must-see temple in the Old City is the Wat Chedi Luang, which was built in the 14th century and is now a ruin. Despite this, the temple is still a breathtaking sight, with its towering ruins and intricate carvings.

Shopping and Dining in the Old City

old city chiang mai
old city chiang mai

The Old City is a shopper’s paradise, with dozens of markets and shops selling everything from handmade crafts to traditional Thai clothing. The most famous of these markets is the Sunday Walking Street, a bustling night market that stretches for several blocks and is lined with vendors selling handmade goods, street food, and live entertainment. Another popular market is the Night Bazaar, which is open every night and features an array of shops and stalls selling everything from jewelry to electronics.

When it comes to dining, the Old City has no shortage of options. From traditional street food stalls to high-end restaurants, there’s something for every taste and budget. The Old City is especially known for its Khao Soi, a Northern Thai noodle dish that is a must-try for visitors. There are several restaurants in the Old City that serve this dish, including the popular Khao Soi Islam and Khao Soi Mae Sai.

Museums and Galleries in the Old City

old city chiang mai
old city chiang mai

For those interested in history and art, the Old City has several museums and galleries worth exploring. The Chiang Mai City Arts and Cultural Center is a must-visit, showcasing the history and culture of the city through interactive exhibits and displays. Another popular museum is the Lanna Folklife Museum, which focuses on the history and traditions of the Lanna Kingdom. For art lovers, the Old City has several galleries that showcase both traditional and contemporary Thai art, including the popular Three Kings Monument Art Gallery.

Getting Around the Old City

The Old City is small enough to explore on foot, but for those who prefer to take it easy, there are several options for transportation. Tuk-tuks and songthaews (red trucks) are common modes of transportation in Chiang Mai and can be hired for a reasonable price. Visitors can also rent bicycles or motorbikes to explore the city at their own pace.


Chiang Mai’s Old City is a treasure trove of history, culture, and charm. From ancient temples to bustling markets

and delicious food, there’s something for everyone to enjoy. Exploring the Old City is a must-do activity for anyone visiting Chiang Mai, and with so many attractions to see and things to do, it’s easy to spend several days here.

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  1. What is the best time to visit Chiang Mai’s Old City? The best time to visit Chiang Mai’s Old City is between November and February when the weather is cool and dry, making it ideal for sightseeing and outdoor activities.
  2. How much time do I need to explore the Old City? It’s recommended to spend at least two to three days in the Old City to see all the major attractions and get a feel for the city’s culture and history.
  3. Is it safe to walk around the Old City at night? The Old City is generally safe to walk around at night, but it’s always a good idea to take precautions and be aware of your surroundings.
  4. What is the dress code for visiting temples in the Old City? Visitors to temples in the Old City should dress modestly, covering their shoulders and knees. Shoes should also be removed before entering the temple.
  5. What is the best way to get to the Old City from the airport? Taxis and private transfers are available from Chiang Mai airport to the Old City. Alternatively, visitors can take a songthaew or tuk-tuk from outside the airport for a more affordable option.

Chiang Mai Old City Map

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