I love shopping at street fairs and flea markets. There’s nothing quite like browsing a selection of handicrafts in an open-air market while bantering with vendors and snacking on street food.
If you love outdoor markets as much as I do, then you can’t miss the Chiang Mai Sunday Market the next time you’re in Thailand.
Located in the northwestern corner of the country, this famous walking street features all kinds of homemade crafts and goods for sale by local Thai people. From silk scarves to colored umbrellas and hand-knitted caps to the ubiquitous Thai elephant pants, you can find all sorts of amazing things for sale at the Chiang Mai Sunday Market.
Also known as the Chiang Mai Walking Street or the Tha Pae Walking Street, this weekly market takes place in the center of Chiang Mai’s Old City. Every Sunday night, Ratchadamnoen Road is transformed into a bustling outdoor market. During this time no cars are allowed along the street and the road is packed with tourists and locals alike.
Even if you don’t purchase any souvenirs, Chiang Mai Walking Street is worth a visit. The city is famous for its spectacular temples and there are several gorgeous examples along the route.
You can also find a wide assortment of street foods and snacks along with music, art, and multiple sit-down restaurants. There is even an entire area dedicated to massages.
Pro tip: you will need proof of vaccination to enter the Walking Street. For more details see the COVID Entrance Requirements section below.
Shopping for Souvenirs
The highlight of Chiang Mai Sunday Market is, of course, shopping at the various stalls. All kinds of items are available for sale along the walking street, with an emphasis on handmade items and handicrafts.
You can also find an endless variety of clothing – from silk-shirts and t-shirts to skirts and scarves and everything in-between. A number of stalls feature brightly colored clothing and accessories covered in dangly pom-poms. These stalls are typically run by the local hill tribes and are renowned for their traditional clothing.
Not everything at the market is homemade. There are also some stalls selling tourist trinkets and mass-produced items that you could expect to find at a tourist shop. But I found that to be the exception rather than the rule.
My favorite shop at the walking street is one that sells Thai pants. I bought several pairs of pants from this vendor during my first visit to Thailand and wore them until they disintegrated. I was very happy to find a stall selling the exact same pants on my recent visit to Chiang Mai.
Bargaining is acceptable when shopping for items in the market, especially when you are spending a lot of money at one stall or buying multiple items. I’ll admit I didn’t bargain very often though. It isn’t a skill I’m especially familiar with.
Be sure to arrive hungry as there is no shortage of amazing food on offer at the Chiang Mai Sunday Market. Food stalls selling all kinds of yummy foods are interspersed among the clothing stalls as you walk along the street.
If you’re really hungry, however, look for a bunch of street food vendors grouped together with a seating area. There are several of these makeshift food halls along the walking street, usually located at temples. Here you can find a wide variety of food to choose from in a single area, along with seating (and bathrooms).
Wat Samphao temple is one of my favorite food halls and has a vast selection of food vendors. Wat Phan On and Wat Si Koet are two other temples with a thriving collection of street food every Sunday night.
Pro tip: grab a seat at one of the designated eating areas to enjoy your snack or drink. Due to the pandemic, eating while walking is currently prohibited.
No street fair would be complete without music! The Sunday Night Walking Street features a great collection of musicians interspersed throughout the market.
Some bands play traditional hill tribe music and others play rock/blues. Many of the musicians are blind or disabled and make their living from performing at the Sunday market.
Be sure to stop by the performance area in front of the information booth on Prapokkloa Road. Various bands typically perform there throughout the evening and are worth a listen.
While you are strolling along the Chiang Mai Sunday Market, why not rest your aching feet and get a massage?
This market is unique in that it features an entire side street filled with masseuses. A row of chairs line the street that are typically filled with people getting foot rubs. It’s not something that I’ve seen outside of Thailand before.
And it’s affordable too! A half-hour massage will generally run you 80 baht ($2.40 USD).
If you’re in the market for art, another side street is filled with paintings from local artists. To find the artwork, head to the information booth at Prapokkloa Road and turn north.
I love browsing the artwork and seeing the various pieces on display. It’s not something that I have room for in my backpack, however, so I’ve had to content myself with just looking. Maybe someday I’ll find that perfect work of art and ship it home.
Chiang Mai is famous for its Buddhist temples. In fact, it’s hard to walk very far in Old Town without running into a magnificent temple (or two). There are 117 Buddhist temples in Chiang Mai alone.
There are several temples located along the Chiang Mai Sunday Market that are worth visiting. While most temples typically close their doors in the evenings, some stay open late on Sunday nights so that visitors to the market can enter.
Wat Phra Singh is one of the best temples to visit during walking street. Located on the market’s west side, its doors are typically open to visitors on Sunday nights. Wat Phantao is another lovely temple that is open to visitors during the weekly market.
No matter which temple you choose, leave your shoes outside the door and dress respectfully. Be sure to wear clothing that covers your knees and shoulders before entering.
Chiang Mai Sunday Market Practical Information
When is it?
The market is held every Sunday from 4:00 pm to 11:00 pm. Vendors are still setting up their stalls in the first couple of hours but things really get going after dark. The Thai Anthem is played on speakers at 6:00 pm (plan to stop where you are and stand respectfully until the music is over).
This is one of Chiang Mai’s most popular tourist attractions so it can get quite crowded after 7:00 pm. If you’d prefer a less crowded experience, plan to arrive earlier.
Where is it Located?
Chiang Mai Sunday Market is located on Ratchadamnoen Road in the heart of Old Town (Mueang Chiang Mai District). The route is 1.1 km (.7 miles) long and runs from Tha Pae Gate to the Wat Pra Singh Temple.
COVID Entrance Requirements
After a long hiatus due to the COVID pandemic, the walking street started up again in December 2021 and is still going strong. There are now regulations in place to help curb the spread of COVID-19.
All attendees to the Sunday market must present proof of vaccination before entering and get their temperature scanned. They must also wear a mask the entire time and provide contact trace information via the Thai-chana app (find the app on Google Play or Apple App Store). If you don’t have the app you can also log your name and contact information on a notepad.
Be aware that you cannot eat or drink while you walk around the street fair. I’m a little sad about this as it’s one of my favorite parts of visiting a street fair, but it makes sense. If you do purchase food at the walking street, you can consume it at one of the designated eating areas near one of the temples.