Explore the enchanting Chiang Mai night market! Held every night of the week in different locations, the night markets are full of gorgeous handmade crafts, scrumptious foods, people from all walks of life, and a truly vibrant culture. All under the starlit skies of Northern Thailand. After many visits over many years to Chiang Mai, I’m happy to help you plan your next adventure with my insider tips and guide the exciting night market culture.
Table of Contents
- 1 Introduction
- 2 Quick Summary
- 3 Night market: Setting the Scene for the Daily Night Bazaar
- 4 Saturday Walking Street: Weekly Saturday Night Market
- 5 Sunday Walking Street: The Ultimate Chiang Mai Night Markets
- 6 Jing Jai Market Chiang Mai
- 7 Cuisine: A Feast for the Senses
- 8 Entertainment: A Celebration of Thai Culture
- 9 Explore the Surrounding Area: Hidden Gems and Local Secrets
- 10 Conclusion: The Magic of Chiang Mai’s Night Markets
- 11 Frequently Asked Questions
Thailand is a treasure trove for the senses, and I’ve spent a good chunk of time exploring all over this enchanting country. From vibrant cities to tranquil islands, there’s always something new and fascinating to discover. But among my many adventures, one of my fondest memories is wandering through the bustling and colorful Chiang Mai Night market. In this article, I’ll share my experiences and tips on navigating this lively labyrinth of sensory delights.
But first, let’s clear up the common confusion between the various Chiang Mai markets. There’s the Night Bazaar Chiang Mai (also called the Chiang Mai Night Market), Saturday Walking Street, and Sunday Walking Street. And yes, they’re all different! Check out my summary below:
Night market: Setting the Scene for the Daily Night Bazaar
Nestled in the heart of the busy city center, the Chiang Mai night market along Chang Klan Road springs to life every evening as the sun sets and the sky turns a magnificent shade of pink. The streets and alleys teem with life as vendors set up their stalls and curious visitors arrive in droves. The air is rich with the aromas of mouthwatering Thai cuisine, and the sounds of laughter, bargaining, and traditional music mingle with the hum of the city.
You can find pretty much anything your heart desires at the Night Bazaar! Certainly there are plenty of well-priced food options that are super-tasty, but you can also find some unusual culinary options, too. Ever tried scorpion on a stick? What about a handful of deep fried insects? Not your thing?? Don’t worry, there’s also plenty of delicious pad Thai, mango sticky rice, and the local specialty Khao Soi! (Which is lucky for me because they are three of my all-time favorite Thai dishes!)
Nightmarket Chiang Mai – Top Tips:
- Stall owners start setting up at 5pm so it’s still pretty quiet then and not everything is ready for shoppers. I suggest arriving after 6pm when the vendors have had a chance to set up, eat, and chat to their neighbor.
- Don’t forget to bargain! While some Westerners may find it unusual, it’s very common in South-East Asia. Vendors expect a little fun with their customers during the bartering or negotiation process! When a vendor gives you a price, consider it an ‘opening bid’. There are some theatrics involved – you should look a little surprised at the high price, then counter with a lower price (sometimes almost half the original price). The vendor will then suggest another amount – lower than their original price – and you can, in turn, increase your price. Remember to remain good natured about it and have a little fun with the vendor. After a minute or two of this back and forth, you should be able to agree on a price. Keep in mind that the vendor should be respected and properly compensated for their wares, and that you pay a price that you’re happy with. There are not likely to be any return policies!
- There are traditional and regular Chiang Mai Muay Thai boxing matches held every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday night. Muay Thai fights start from 9pm in the Kalare Boxing Stadium – inside the Kalare Night Bazaar building on Chang Klan Road. Seats start at approximately US$18 but expect to pay more for a ring-side seat. There are people handing out flyers all along Chang Klan Road advertising the fighters scheduled to fight that evening.
Saturday Walking Street: Weekly Saturday Night Market
I love Chiang Mai’s weekly Saturday night market on Wua Lai Road. It’s a smaller, less hectic version of the famous Sunday Walking Street. The Saturday market offers a cornucopia of treasures – from handicrafts and clothing to electronics and souvenirs made from wood, silver, ceramic, fabric, leather, and more. It just seems to attract a smaller crowd, and that suits me well.
Saturday Walking Street – Top Tips:
- If you haven’t already eaten at one of the many food stalls on the southern side of the Old Town, there are PLENTY of options all along Saturday Walking Street – including several areas off to the left side of Wua Lai Road that are set up as food areas. Those eating areas foster a real community vibe because everyone sits and chats together – locals and tourists alike.
- About halfway along Wua Lai Road, a smaller road forks off to the right which takes you down to the extraordinarily beautiful Wat Sri Suphan (or Silver Temple) which is well worth visiting. You should be dressed modestly (no short shorts or bikini tops etc) and pay the entrance fee of 50 baht per person just as you enter the temple complex. Wat Sri Suphan is gorgeous during the day, of course, but when it’s a little cooler and a little quieter, I find the Silver Temple truly magical. My photo, below, is from my most recent visit (this year) when the temple was lit up with colored lights. A monk sat out the front leading a meditation ceremony.
- Do not drink alcohol or smoke on Saturday Walking Street/ Night Markets. There are signs in several languages dotted along the route advising of hefty fines and penalties (including prison time); take the warnings seriously.
Sunday Walking Street: The Ultimate Chiang Mai Night Markets
Sunday Walking Street (aka Sunday Nightmarket) along Rachadamanoen Road from Tha Phae Gate to Wat Pra Singh is the ultimate in Chiang Mai Night Markets – the granddaddy of nightmarkets, in fact! And if there’s one thing Chiang Mai’s Sunday night market is famous for, it’s the sheer variety of items on display. As you meander through the labyrinth of stalls, you’ll find everything from local handicrafts and clothing to electronics and souvenirs made from wood, silver, ceramic, fabric, leather, and more. It really are is a shopper’s paradise! I can’t tell you how many hours I’ve spent perusing the wares, chatting with friendly vendors, and haggling for the best deals.
One of the standout features of the Nightmarket is the abundance of local artisans showcasing their incredible talents. I’ve stumbled upon intricate wood carvings, delicate silver jewelry, and hand-painted ceramics, all made with painstaking attention to detail. If you’re looking to take home a unique piece of Chiang Mai, you’ll undoubtedly find it here.
Sunday Walking Street – Top Tips:
- The most famous market in Chiang Mai is Sunday Walking Street. So much so that even locals who don’t speak any English understand “Sunday Walking Street”!
- Don’t drink alcohol or smoke on Sunday Walking Street. There are plenty of warning signs, and the penalties can be harsh.
- Tha Prae Gate gets super-busy on a Sunday evening, as you can imagine, so access the Sunday Night Market the back way! Get dropped off at the Sun Dok Gate (western side of the Old Town) on Arak Road and walk down Intrawarorot Road; it’s well paved and well lit. Then walk through the grounds of Wat Pra Singh. The temple is lit up at night and looks spectacular (great for photos!). Also, it’s much cooler and far less busy – both of which make it more enjoyable than a visit in the middle of the day. When you come out the other side, you’re at the far end of Sunday Walking Street (ie, Rachadamanoen Road). Ta-dah!!
- The Sunday Walking Street/ Sunday night markets along Rachadamanoen Road passes several temples including Wat Muen Lan and Wat Phan On. Both those temples are set up on Sunday evenings to be (predominantly) food areas, with large communal tables and chairs in Wat Muen Lan that everyone can use. It’s a fabulous spot to have a rest, eat some scrumptious food, and have a chat to the other people at the table – locals and tourists alike. There’s a real sense of community and camaraderie here in amongst the organized chaos of the rest of the market.
Jing Jai Market Chiang Mai
I’ve got a whole blog about the awesome Jing Jai farmer’s market so check it out! It’s best known as the organic market or farmer’s market. You can find sustainable produce, handmade clothing and crafts from local artists, and sensational food. Oh – and plenty of shade!
Cuisine: A Feast for the Senses
No trip to the Nightmarket would be complete without indulging in the incredible array of street food available. From sizzling stir-fries to aromatic curries, there’s a dish to satisfy every craving. Some of my personal favorites include pad Thai, mango sticky rice, and the ever-popular (and sometimes fiery!) som tum, or green papaya salad. There’s something special about watching your meal being prepared right in front of your eyes, the ingredients sizzling and dancing in the wok as the cook expertly blends flavors.
But it’s not just the flavors that make Chiang Mai’s street food scene so special – it’s the atmosphere. As you wander from stall to stall, you’ll meet the warm smiles of the vendors who are eager to share their culinary creations with you, and sometimes try out their English language skills.
Pro tip: If you’re feeling adventurous, don’t be afraid to try something new! I’ve discovered some of my favorite Thai dishes by venturing outside of my comfort zone and sampling the local delicacies. I haven’t yet been brave enough to try scorpion on a stick or deep fried egg squid, but maybe you’re braver than I am?!
Entertainment: A Celebration of Thai Culture
Between bites of delicious street food and browsing the myriad of stalls, take time to soak in the vibrant atmosphere and enjoy all the entertainment on offer. Traditional Thai dance performances, live music, and even the occasional street magician occur throughout the Chiang Mai Nightmarket, providing a delightful backdrop to your evening of exploration.
Pro tip: Be sure to have your camera ready, as these performances make for fantastic photo opportunities and lasting memories of your time in Chiang Mai.
Explore the Surrounding Area: Hidden Gems and Local Secrets
One of the greatest joys of spending time in Chiang Mai is the opportunity to wander its enchanting streets and alleys. Just beyond the various bustling night markets, you’ll find a maze of charming laneways filled with local secrets waiting to be discovered.
From cozy cafés and hidden temples to tucked-away galleries and artisan workshops, there’s a wealth of hidden gems to explore. I’ve spent countless afternoons strolling through these gorgeous streets, sipping on Thai iced tea and marveling at the intricate details of the local architecture.
Top tip: If you’re keen to delve deeper into Chiang Mai’s rich history and culture, consider joining a guided walking tour of the city. These tours are typically led by knowledgeable locals who can provide invaluable insights into the city’s past, present, and future.
Conclusion: The Magic of Chiang Mai’s Night Markets
As a seasoned traveler who’s spent lots of time in Thailand, I can confidently say that Chiang Mai’s night markets are truly fantastic. It’s a place where the ancient and the modern collide. It’s where senses are delighted, and where friendships – both old and new – are forged.
Whether you’re a first-time visitor or a seasoned Thailand explorer, I encourage you to experience the magic of Chiang Mai’s night markets for yourself. From the mouthwatering cuisine and the captivating performances to the warmth and kindness of the local people, it’s an experience that will leave you with a treasure trove of memories and a deep appreciation for the rich tapestry of Thai culture.
Frequently Asked Questions
There are night markets every night in Chiang Mai! From Monday to Friday the night markets are held from 5pm on Chang Klan Road (between Sridonchi and Tha Phae Roads) just outside the Old Town. The Chiang Mai Night Market (sometimes called the Night Bazaar) offers excellent variety and diversity at great prices. Almost anything you could ever need is available at the Chiang Mai Night Market!
The Chiang Mai Night Market is held on Monday to Friday nights on Chang Klan Road from 5pm until late. Then on Saturday evenings, Saturday Walking Street (also called the Saturday Night Market) is held on Wua Lai Road from 5pm until late. And on Sunday evening, the granddaddy of them all, Sunday Walking Street (also called Sunday Night Market) is on. Head to Tha Prae Gate from 4pm and wander along Rachadamanoen Road all the way to Wat Pra Singh. All of Chiang Mai’s Night Markets offer a fabulous range of handicrafts, textiles, souvenirs, clothing, and scrumptious food.
Yes – the Chiang Mai Sunday Night Market (also called Sunday Walking Street) is open and fully operational every Sunday evening. The Sunday Night Market starts at 4pm and runs along Rachadamanoen Road from Tha Prae Gate to Wat Pra Singh. Hot tip: Start at the beautiful Wat Pra Singh where it’s not quite so busy!
The largest night markets in Thailand are in Bangkok. The two most famous Bangkok night markets are Chatuchak Night Market – known by locals as JJ Market – and Khaosan Road. The biggest night markets in Chiang Mai are Sunday Walking Street (also called the Sunday Night Market) from Tha Prae Gate and running all along Rachadamanoen Road.