Chiang Mai Nightlife: My Top 10 List

Chiang Mai is a young city full of vivid, creative nightlife, which varies from live music bars and neon-overloaded clubs to dingy holes in the wall and local beer buffets. There is always a place to be entertained, every night of the week and for every budget. Of course, among all these options, there are a select few bars, clubs, and entertaining hideouts that I enjoy more than the others, which I'll tell you more about after the map.

View Market of Eden Nightlife Map in a larger map

About Chiang Mai's Nightlife:


Obviously, the better places to hang out in Chiang Mai are also the classy ones. That means no bathroom smells, no uneven floors, no plastic bags littered outside the entrance. If you can manoeuvre around the place in high heels, as well as sit down anywhere without landing on some toxic waste spill, you've found a keeper (think Chiq Bar or Monkey Club). But don't kick out the classic Thai experience of drinking round a rickety table outside a 7/11, or finding a mom and pop shop where some locals will force you in and pour liquor down your throats regardless of how much you object. Those sorts of places can also become keepers too!


The whole venue has to look like it was funded by a reasonable budget, and that someone was ordered to go out and collect all sorts of arty knick-knacks, as well as a few pretentious arty lamps and spindly barstools. Nobody wants to fork out their hard-earned Baht to huddle in a cement-walled room drinking out of beer bottles, and throwing your money at overpriced menus just feels better when you do it from the comfort of a snazzy sofa, while gazing at a well-known pop art replica. There are tons of quirky little bars in Chiang Mai where the owners have made a creative effort, like collections of dominoes or walls adorned with inspirational sayings (Doggy Monster is a great little hideout with graffitied walls and clever colourful lighting).

Nightlife clubs bar Chiang Mai
Creative decor is always welcome.


To be honest, most of the music you will hear in many clubs will be the same moronic radio tunes which you have heard over and over and over (one of the reasons we love Bus Bar is that you can sing along to Shania Twain followed by Eric Clapton and then get down to some James Brown - yes please!).

Chiang Mai nightclubs and bars seem to be stuck in a time warp created by an Evil DJ Overlord who only plays 90's American Pop Chart compilations, and orders all his underling DJ minions to do the same. On top of that, Chiang Mai youth seem to be hopelessly fascinated by Adam Levine's gyrating hips and waning talent (ahem, Neighborhood Bar - but we still love it there). If you are lucky enough to catch a live band in one of the popular pubs or more alternative haunts, you will start to hear the same Thai songs over and over as well, which makes me wonder if there is a Thai Love Song Overlord (and if he's buddies with the Evil DJ Overlord).

This does sound quite negative, but it's not meant to be. The music only adds to your entertainment, and I have been pleasantly surprised many times by the tunes at some places, and once in a while completely blown away by the talented local bands (if you haven't hit up Boy Blues Bar yet, do it now!). As I said before, Chiang Mai is known for its passionate creative types, and is a blooming bud of raw talent and potential.


A good bar or club in Chiang Mai has to have some sort of beer promotion (eg: 3 large Singhas for ฿179), some sort of liquor promotion (eg: a large bottle of Sangsom + 5 mixers for ฿329), and a reasonable selection of alcohol. Some places focus more on foreign beers in big manly mugs (Beer Republic), while others focus on glowing blue cocktails in glass vases (Warm Up Cafe) or large jugs of watered-down shots that are great for drinking games with friends (Ta Chang, one of the many happening bars in the JJ Market area).

Beer Republic Chiang Mai
"The Beer Experience" at Beer Republic.

Bouncers (Optional)

These big bears who hover around the entrance add to the classy factor mentioned above. They'll never check a foreigner for ID, and a lot of the time they aren't so much big bears as slightly smaller, sinewy boxer-lookalikes. Nevermind that - they're still necessary for when things get out of hand (usually at the hands of the very foreigners they "forgot" to ID, unfortunately). Not all places in Chiang Mai have bouncers, but it always feels better to have them around. Then again, I am South African, so I might just be in need of someone to calm my paranoias about safety.

My Top 10 Nightlife List:

1. Bus Bar - unpretentious, great music, and cheap enough for it to be a regular hangout

2. Neighborhood Bar - delicious drinks, classy vibe, and a great pre-drinks place on Nimman.

3. Rod Sabieng Restaurant - not exactly a nightclub or bar, but it's my local beer buffet - don't judge!

4. Bar Fry & Jagajee - another goodie in the Nimman area, where you can snack on fries and tapas before going out for more drinks somewhere else.

5. "The Off-Licence" - not exactly an official name, but this little arrangement of chairs outside a Nimman bottle store is perfectly-suited to meet my cheapskate needs, and they have a great selection of booze too!

6. Warm Up Cafe - the most popular club in the city (let's not count the gross girly bars), full of young fashionables and plenty of opportunities to "get jiggy wit it", if you're that way inclined.

7. CNX Rooftop Bar - a sweet spot in the Old City overlooking some classic Chiang Mai rooftops.

8. Boy Blues Bar - this is the place you bring visitors to blow them away with musical genius.

9. North Gate Jazz Co-Op - another great place for music lovers.

10. The Square of Despair - Zoe in Yellow, Roots Rock Reggae, Babylon Bar and the rest of them are a haven for wasted backpackers fresh off the train and dodgy locals looking for a piece of the action, but somehow, we end up back here every few months - partly for nostalgia and mostly because it's a whole lotta fun. Make sure not to miss a takeaway from "Tacos Bell" on your way out!

If you know of a place you want me to write about, please leave it in the comments below!

Monkey Club Chiang Mai
See you soon!


  1. "......while others focus on glowing blue cocktails in glass vases"

    Clearly a prerequisite for a good night. If it aint glowing I aint drinking it. Drinks aside a well written article Adrian!

  2. so much I need to learn, really enjoyed this, thank you

  3. Nice one, I love Neighborhood Bar for some pre-drinking too!

  4. Love it, been to all these places and like how you've included places that are so different from one another. You sure love Bus Bar! I've seen you there actually ;) Also Doggy Monster is sweet and of course the off licence is great for cheap beers before heading out on Nimman. Great work Adrian ;)

  5. I laughed at this! Well done! Cute post :D