Wat Chedi Luang Temple
103 Prapokkloa Rd., Amphoe Mueang
In the middle of Chiang Mai, just west of the Ping River, is the Old City, where you can visit a cluster of ancient temples, including Wat Chedi Luang. This gigantic, monastic temple is profoundly humbling. When you crank your head to look up the steps, it feels like the gods are watching from above. It’s even more epic when the sun goes down and the structure is dimly lit.
Nimmanhaemin Rd., Amphoe Mueang
Cozy, dark bars; eclectic coffee shops; artsy bazaars; energetic students walking about—it's all happening here. Nimmanhaemin Road is the epicenter of nightlife and culture in Chiang Mai. Just west of the Old City, the street is a postcard: Colorful lanterns hang above the streets that jut off into quiet alleyways, where you'll find some of the city's best coffee and tiny noodle cafés. There are dozens of art galleries and mini markets to explore. Bring some baht to buy a few smaller items. And wear comfortable shoes so you can get into it and just walk, walk, walk.
Wat Suan Dok Temple
139 Suthep Rd., Tambon Su Thep, Amphoe Mueang
First you’ll see the peaks. The sharp, jutting, gorgeous white peaks of the chedi, or monuments. And then you'll see the expanse. Several dozen white monuments surround a grand, gold, bell-shaped structure. This is Wat Suan Dok, one of Chiang Mai's most famous Buddhist temples. Built in the mid-1300s, it honors the Thai royal family. Walk along the moat to take in the sea of white buildings before you enter the main temple complex, where you'll see scenic murals and large Buddha statues. It's arresting. Be sure, as always, to wear respectful clothing that covers your shoulders, arms, and legs.
Rustic and Blue
2/1 Nimmana Haeminda Rd., Lane 7, Amphoe Mueang
Picture walking down Nimmanhaemin Road—with its intimate alleyways and colorful lanterns—and suddenly you stumble upon a quaint, whimsical restaurant. There's eclectic wood furniture, a large trellis overgrown with verdant plants, string lanterns, and bright, glossy green subway tiling. This is Rustic and Blue. And the food is as good as the décor. Order the mushroom and pear toast that will make you forget avocado ever existed (until, that is, you try their version of avocado toast) and the grilled Caesar salad topped with farm-fresh eggs and a salty, umami-packed homemade vinaigrette. Come ready to eat a lot—and stay late (there's live music most nights). And then return in the morning for a vegan beetroot latte and thick slices of toasted house-made gluten-free bread slathered in house-made jam.