Top 10 Best Things to Do in Chiang Mai

Our list of the best things to do in Chiang Mai Riverside shows just how much of an oddball sort of place this area of the city is. Far from the ancient temples of the Old City, the banks of the Ping River were historically the commercial heart of the Rose of the North. Today, the Riverside area is home to a range of attractions to complement any stay. The cool temperatures and leisurely pace of the river make it a great place to wonder around soaking up the sights and the classic wooden buildings, boutiques and cafés make for great places to stop and freshen up.Our list of the Riverside best attractions may seem a little random and quirky, but that’s just the kind of place this is. Alongside bustling markets and scenic parks, you’ll find strange little museums and unusual landmarks. Through the middle of it all, the sedately flowing river seems to be the calming influence in this peaceful part of Chiang Mai.

Warorot Market

Warorot Market (or Kad Luang) is a must-visit for food lovers as it offers a wide range of ready-to-eat meals, local snacks and all kinds of fresh produce. A large section of the market features inexpensive goods, such as clothing, fashion accessories and personal care products.Targeting mostly Thais, Warorot Market is a great place to get a feel for the local way of life. The three-storey building is close to the riverside and easy to find, just at the end of Chang Moi Road, east of the moat and north of Chiang Mai Night BazaaOpening Hours: 6:00-19:00Location: Chang Moi Road, close to the River Ping, north of Chiang Mai Night Bazaar

Art in Paradise

Art in Paradise is a 3D art gallery where visitors become part of the picture, interacting with paintings to give the illusion that friends are flying on Aladdin’s flying carpet, exploring the deep blue sea, or have even grown angel’s wings. By standing at certain angles these paintings are extremely realistic and a few hours spent exploring the three storey gallery is a fun-filled time and great way to give your camera a workout. On the ground floor there is also a cafe and a small food court. Located on Changklan Road, Art in Paradise is in the south of Chiang Mai, next to the Shangri La Hotel, a few kilometres east of the Ping Rive.

    • Opening Hours: 9:00 to 21:00 (allow at least two to three hours to explore the gallery in full)
    • Address: 199/9 Changklan Rd.
    • Tel: +66 (0) 5327 4100
    • Price Range: 300 baht foreign adults, 200 baht foreign children, 180 baht Thai adults, 100 baht Thai children

Ton Lamyai Market

Tonlamyai Market is a bustling flower market located just next to Worarot Market on Praisanai Road. It is open 24 hours a day, with most deliveries being made in the early hours of the morning. The market is mostly bunched together and covered by tarpaulins, but walking along Praisani Rd allows you to be out in the open and enjoy the sights. Talat Tonlamyai is the only place to get fresh flowers in central Chiang Mai and for that reason it is a hive of activity, filled with locals and visiting Bangkokians, who love photographing the stunning blooms. Getting there isn’t too tricky; just ask a songtaew or tuk tuk for ‘Ton Lamyai’. Or if you prefer a longer walk it is only fifteen minutes from the Thae Pae Gate, walking away from the old town and north along the river.

    • Opening Hours: 7 days a week, 24 hours a day
    • Location: Thanon Praisani, running alongside the river

Set in a beautiful old colonial house, this quaint restaurant has a unique antique ambience. Consisting of a series of dining rooms, some with riverside views, it makes for a truly memorable restaurant experience. In a way you feel as though you are dining in somebody’s house, which lends it a fairly relaxed atmosphere. Art works for sale from local artists hang on the walls and contribute to the old-world charm that the Comedara is so loved for. The Thai menu offers traditional dishes from both the north and south of the country.

    • Opening Hours: 09:00 – 23:00
    • Address: 193 Charoenrat Road
    • Tel: +66 (0)53 211550
    • Cuisine: Thai

Elephant Parade House

There are plenty of places to visit elephants in Thailand and learn more about this magnificent creature, particularly in the northern areas surrounding Chiang Mai. One social enterprise that is making a massive difference to their welfare against the ongoing threats to their native lands is the Elephant Parade, and a fun way to learn more about their work and to get arty is to spend an afternoon painting one of their cute elephant statues. You can also check out the large colourful statues that decorate the main room of this funky elephant house, which have been decorated like durians, coconuts, rainforests and the red songtaews that drive around Chiang Mai. Getting there is quite easy. Jump in a tuk tuk or songtaew and ask for Chiang Mai Land, a street about ten minutes’ drive from the city centre.

    • Address: 20/1 Chiang Mai Land Village, T.Changklan A.Muang Chiang Mai
    • Tel: +66 (0)53 279816

Scorpion Tailed River Cruise

Scorpion Tail Boats, so called because of their characteristic curling tail, are synonymous with northern Thailand and there’s no better way to connect with the history of Chiang Mai than a peaceful cruise down the Ping River. Along the way guests will see classic architecture, glittering temples and a guide will explain about the local trees and plants. The boat trip takes around one hour so we advise that you book the cruise as part of a tour that also visits a fascinating old settlement called Wiang Kum Kam, believed to be an eighth century Mon ruins. Together this trip runs from 05:30 to 12:00 (midday).

Iron Bridge (Sapaan Lek)

The name says it all: it’s a bridge and it’s made of iron. Even the Thai name literally translates as just “iron bridge”. It was originally named this way because, at the time it was built, the fact that it was made of iron made it unique and remarkable in this ancient, historical city. To tell you the truth, this isn’t really the original Iron Bridge, but a faithful copy of a bridge which was demolished in the ’70s. It is now a very popular gathering point in the Riverside area. At night, the western bank is home to some lively bars and, during Yee Peng, is a popular and beautiful place for releasing floating lanterns. During the day, the bridge itself is fairly picturesque thanks to its old-fashioned design, and the view from it of the river is excellent. As it’s crossed by a single-lane road, we recommend walking across the bridge, rather than trying to drive it!

Uncle Jack’s History Museum (Wat Ket Karam Museum)

Ket Karam Museum was opened within the grounds of Wat Ket Karam by the son of Mr. William Bain, a ‘Teak-Wallah’ in the service of the East Asiatic Company. Having refurbished the old (580 years old to be exact) wooden structure there is a well organised display of artefacts from a previous era – the idea being to preserve the beauty of old Lanna culture. Inside this small and kooky museum, items include an old gramophone, coins and antique crockery, vintage bank notes, ancient household appliances, farm tools, wood carvings and Buddha images. The gallery of photographs of a bygone era is considered to be of among the best in Chiang Mai. Financing the museum through his own money and the generosity of visitors who can make donations, Uncle Jack has said his motivation comes from the desire to educate younger people on the roots of their culture. Free Lanna dancing classes for children are also held every weekend.

    • Opening Hours: 09:00-17:00
    • Address: 96 Jaroenraj Road
    • Tel: +66 (0) 89 850 1252

Chiangmai Philatelic Museum

The Chiang Mai stamp museum (you all know what a ‘philatelist’ is, don’t you?) is housed in a charming colonial style building from the early 20th century. Here you will find a huge collection of Thai and international stamps along with other items such as antique scales that were used for sorting parcels generations ago. It is a niche hobby, but stamp collecting – especially stamps from exotic lands – evokes a sense of wonder at the size and scope of our earth, and also the importance of human cooperation. Even if the Chiangmai Philatelic Museum doesn’t seem like your kind of thing, perhaps save it for a rainy day activity. It is located close to Kad Luang flower market on the east bank of the Ping River and it is open from 9:00 to 16:00, from Tuesday to Sunday.

    • Opening Hours: Tuesday to Sunday: 9.00 – 16.00. Closed on Mondays and Thai holidays.
    • Location: 15 Praisanee Road, close to the Flower Market (Talat Tonlamyai)
    • Tel: +66 (0) 5325 1200

Kawila Monument and Park

Directly opposite the army barracks in a small but pleasant park is the Kawila Monument. The monument was erected in honour of Kawila. Born in 1742, Kawila was the first of Prince Chai Kaew’s 10 children who played a major part in the defense and rebuilding of Chiang Mai and consequently is considered as one of the founders of the new city which was reborn after the repressive Burmese regime was driven out. Behind the statue lies a small museum where you can learn more about this great and much revered Thai leader.

    • Opening Hours: 09:00-17:00 (museum)
    • Address: 285 Wat Ket Road
    • Tel: +66 (0) 53 24 860