Written by Fiona G Mokry
Co-written by Dawn Pillay
Locals and expats alike have a deep love for Chiang Mai, and it’s no surprise why.
Nestled in the peaceful mountains of Northern Thailand, Chiang Mai is an escape from the big city grind. Surrounded by lush greenery and gorgeous scenery, this city is praised for its natural beauty and unique atmosphere.
Contributing to the hip vibes of Chiang Mai are the abundance of chic cafes and coffee shops. At every turn, there is another more creative and unique than the last.
A trip to the “Rose of the North” (the local nickname for the city) is not complete without a visit to some of these unexpected and exceptional spots.
Wondering where to go? We’ve rounded up 29 of the coolest cafes around in Chiang Mai, just for you!
1. Feel like you’re swinging between the trees at this waterfall cafe – Jungle De cafe
Come get lost in the wild at this cafe situated next to and above a giant cascading waterfall!
The seating area is breathtaking with the waterfall falling between two bridges of the cafe, and the natural views are unimaginable.
Again you get to bounce around on nets (this time high, HIGH above water ), or enjoy inside-seating in a complete glass house – so you still get to feel like you’re within the canopy, with views to boot.
Enjoy a chocolate latte as the sounds of nature fill your ears, oh we just love it here!
PS: They also have a Jungle Coaster & Zipline tour for those wanting to have a bit of fun.
2. It’s like Thailand’s version of Ubud? – Brandnew Field Good (Temporarily closed)
Coffee in fields of green anyone? Me, please! Come get lost among the rice paddies in this cute little outside setup as you surround your soul with beauty and the slow paced life.
A wooden bridged pathway leads the way through the fields and we have to say, it makes for some really beautiful photographs.
Their barista makes a good fresh, strong coffee so if you’re on the hunt for a real caffeine kick, this is the Field.
The place is quite quirky actually, from their cutlery to their desserts – try their Baffles – waffles in a bowl with yummy toppings!
They are also a homestay, so if you’re looking for a night’s getaway, they’ve got you covered.
3. Live in a fairytale for a day – Whimsical Mermaid Lagoon (ambiance)
The first reason to visit, is that this cafe looks like it magically appeared in our reality… Straight out of a fairytale with its utterly dreamy ambiance. Just look at the comparison between the cafe and this painting of Peter Pan’s Mermaid Lagoon (by Michael Humphries)!
Take a stroll around the garden grounds and you’ll feel transported into paradise. Gorgeous sights of the waterfall, the pond and the swimming koi, mossy rocks, fern glades and floating mist.
You’ll regret not having an impromptu photoshoot here – so come dressed in your best.
Serving up a variety of Thai, Western and Seafood delights, you’ll find dishes like garden green salad, grilled seafood, freshly fried crisp fish, pasta, chicken wings and more.
From shakes to smoothies, strawberry tarts and a variety of cakes. The desserts and drinks will leave your sweet tooth fully satisfied.
At the end of the day, with the stunning scenery, varied menu (and with the right company), Chom Cafe will be a fantastic place for everything from brunch (breakfast and lunch) to dinner.
4. Super trendy to say the least – Chic 39
It’s like this place was designed for photos – clean, naturalistic, modern-chic, what more could one *aspiring* photographer ask for?
Think black and white, stripes, polkas, triangles, and big green Delicious Monsters at every turn and corner.
Plus the food looks just as pretty as the place, adding pops of colour on the tables. I would really recommend trying their (deconstructed) banoffee pie – it comes in a mason jar and is topped with fresh figs and cherries – um, YUMMMMM!
5. Mr Moon Face, take me to Topsy Turvy land please – Kaomakham Coffee (เก๊ามะขาม Coffee)
If you ever read The Faraway Tree as a child, you’ll relate to the reference of that dream treehouse transporting you to another land – and in this garden, that’s the analogy that comes to mind.
There’s remnants of a fairytale world with a garden swing adorned in flowers, and a winding staircase to the treetops.
Woods are heavily decorated in florals and fauna and it’s almost like you’re just waiting for a pixie to pop out of nowhere and take your order.
Order a cappuccino and discover which forest animal art the barista is showing off today.
Don’t forget to leave your mark – something us travellers love to do – and sign one of their colourful ice-cream sticks, sounds silly but it looks so sooo pretty!
6. When comfort meets fine dining – Daddy’s Antique Cafe & Restaurant (Now closed)
So let’s start by saying that I basically want, and need, to try everything on this menu.
Not only is the food on another level, with some of the culinary world’s greatest classics on the plates, all presented beautifully, of course.
As the name suggests, this place is all about antiques, which are all hand-picked and chosen by the owner’s father – who happens to be an avid antique lover with collectables from all over the world – and hence, the name.
You can always tell when someone has taste, and here, you can see it all over the walls – excuse the pun… Beautifully designed and spaced, truly.
They also make their own pasta, which changes the entire eating and food experience, if you’re a foodie like myself. All their pasta dishes are standouts and you have to try their Rotolo Bolognese and Lobster Fra Diavolo – done true Italian style – and their lobsters are imported fresh from the US every Friday.
Other mouth-watering dishes to be tried: Chicken roasted with apple cider; Cheesy truffle fries; Asparagus and pork chop with a buttermilk mash and don’t get me started on the sweets!
Creme brulee french toast, Triple chocolate cheesecake, no just stop it now!
7. It’s not all that meets the eyes – Zombie Cafe
Don’t be freaked out by the name, the only zombie around is the cute statuesque one greeting you at the door. The rest of the place is well, quite beautiful actually.
Set in luscious greens, sit in a beautiful open tree house or enjoy a scrumptious piece of colourful zombie brain *kidding*, cake with your feet literally in the water.
Laze in the sunshine with friends, sipping on drinks with the refreshing and relaxing river water streaming past your toes – or lounge above water on nets and beanbag cushions.
The interior of the restaurant is done in clays and whimsical colours, with a magical-world feel to it.
The perfect little land to enjoy a good cafe and play in for awhile.
8. Nothing but views all around – Phuffin Terrace (Temporarily closed)
On the hunt for even more scenic backdrops? Let’s be honest here, sometimes it’s not so much about the food really, but mmmaybe the Instagram shot you’re going to get….
Their terrace delivers that in mountainfuls of greens, and a sea of trees stretches across horizons – think about the sunsets people!
Designed like a hollow box, the wooden floor runs completely around all four lines, as well as the terrace, so views for every seat is guaranteed!
And again, they’ve adopted the netted seats trend to really make you feel one with nature.
Try some their sweet treats from crepes to rainbow cake, or how about chocolate brownie cheesecake?
9. A perfect spot for a coffee and some ‘me-time’ – No. 39
Talk about a hidden gem, or two, or three, depending what spot of the little lake you choose.
Tucked away between trees, No.39 has built multiple ‘houses’ – if you could them that, so take your pick of where along the lake you’d like to be sipping on your cappuccino today.
Each is different but all of them share an open and natural feeling.
It’s that place you’re seeking with a calm, relaxed and quiet atmosphere, ideal for an afternoon of reading or catching up on some work.
– And of course, your Instagram story.
10. Let’s go have a sit in the ‘English countryside’ garden, my love – The Ironwood
Now this place, is beautiful! There’s no other way to describe it, they’ve got the settings done perfectly.
Whatever the chef dreams up for the day, using fresh, local products and ingredients – is what you’re going to find when stepping through all the greens and into this ‘English-countryside’ garden cafe.
Think plants dripping everywhere, antiqued furniture with a classic twist and a beautiful, natural courtyard outside, it’s the perfect destination for lunch in the English, we mean, Thai sunshine.
The cuisine is Thai fusion and you can some expect some culinary cultural classics in there. From Tamarind Shrimp to Indian Fried Rice done with leg of lamb, and ending it off with panna cotta and fresh berries.
11. Dine in an ultra modern barn as you adventure around – Thachang Hill Coffee & Café
You’ll only be able to find this beauty if you venture out into the Hang Dong Forest, and it’s a favourite among many cyclists along the way. So make it a perfect day adventuring around.
This is modern, minimalist-naturalness done to the tee, and I’m going to call this a modern-barn like space – in the greatest sense of the word.
Thatched roof-tops, glass exteriors, with a delightful mixture of glossed bricks and warm woods, this is anything from an ordinary roadside pitstop.
Try their grilled pork chop, full of flavour and the meat is well cooked.
12. It feels like a picnic in a field of flowers – Galae (Hillside) Restaurant Chiang Mai
At Galae Restaurant you can have lunch in a garden surrounded by a bounty of colorful flowers.
With picnic tables, colourful umbrellas and scores of blooms surrounding you, it’s a feast for the senses.
Indulge in delicious Thai dishes like spicy fishcakes, soups and curries while you admire the view from the side of the lake nearby Doi Suthep Mountain.
If you’re wondering what’s a must-try dish here – feel free to order Gai Galae, Galae’s signature Baked Whole Chicken served in foil. The chicken is tender and well marinated with the gravy, a secret tomato and cashew nut sauce that balances sweet and savoury very well indeed.
This is a great place to enjoy a relaxed lunch followed by a stroll through the beautiful garden.
13. Dine in a tree, in “birds’ nests” suspended over the jungle – The Giant Treehouse Chiang Mai
A long, winding drive through the hills of Chiang Mai yields a great reward.
In the region of Mae On, you will stumble upon The Giant; a café/restaurant that is a tree house at its absolute finest.
Huddled within a dense jungle, a massive, sprawling tree is literally the root and support of the “tree house.” Two suspended bridges cross the wilderness, and connect to a large, lofted platform constructed around the ancient looking tree.
The surrounding rainforest casts a cool shade over the entire café and the views of the rolling hills, jungle and greenery are incredible. The bar, tables and chairs are all made from some form of wood; woven twigs, branches, planks, or tree trunks.
PPhoto via daos md, peter jovic
Sit on the roomy deck or settle into one of the many “bird’s nest” tables suspended over the jungle.
Photo via sitthanat beer, koy narmon
Tuck into a decadent dessert, designer coffee, or tea, served in fashionable glasses. The food menu is limited, but does the trick if you’re looking for a quick fix.
This café is all about the atmosphere, so come ready to experience nature at its best.
14. It’s a one-of-a-kind luxury beach barbeque – Camp Meating (Now closed)
Camp Meating has defined itself as a luxury beach barbeque, and that description is pretty accurate. Located about 20km outside of town and right on the beach, the ambiance here is definitely one of a kind.
The first thing you’ll notice is the sandy area decorated with twinkling fairy lights, draped flags, and fun teepee tents.
Guests can sit on cushions stacked on straw picnic mats spread on the floor to enjoy their meal as you cuddle up to an evening of laughter and hearty chats. Food and drink is served beach-side on low wooden tables making it a casually luxe experience.
The BBQ is prepared directly by the lake as well – and meal options include beer, lamb, and chicken – all of which are excellent. Grilled vegetables and mushrooms, sausage, pasta, bread and salad are available too.
Lastly, live music will serenade you in the evenings as guests kick back and relax under the starry night sky.
PS: If you’re up for it, horse-riding and boat rowing activities are available here too!
15. Discover a secret otherworldly garden – Clay Studio Cafe in the Garden (Now closed)
The first thing you should know about this cafe, is that it’s located in a secret terracotta arts garden surrounded by a high brick wall, and featuring Cobblestone paths, moss covered statues, the sound of trickling water and birds chirping – you’ll feel like you’ve just stepped right into a secret world upon stepping in.
Statues of elephants, Buddha and other sculptures are scattered about the grounds that only add to the otherworldly garden vibes.
The spacious outdoor area is filled with large wooden tables, chairs, and benches to create a tranquil environment – beckoning you to stay for hours on end. Definitely a great place to spend an afternoon sipping on iced coffees or Thai iced tea.
Admire the intricate designs carved in the furniture and wall decorations. The attention to detail is very impressive. (Oooh, and the artwork is available for sale too!)
Listen to the birds chirping and the rustling of wildlife in the dense rainforest while indulging in a traditional Thai curry, fresh spring rolls or decadent dessert. Wouldn’t you love a day here feeling like you’re Mary in your own Secret Garden? (Frances Hodgson Burnett, anyone?)
We sure would. *heart eyes*
16. The romantic waterfall cafe everyone needs to visit – KhaoMao-KhaoFang
Koi ponds and small pools, a seriously impressive man-made waterfall, and hundreds of colorful orchards adorning the grounds – this is one of Chiang Mai’s most romantic dining experience.
With the option to dine by the lake, or beneath the falls in a stunning rainforest – it’s no wonder this restaurant is one of the top rated in the city based on ambiance alone.
Even the bathrooms have been decked out in rainforest foliage and waterfalls!
The menu consists of mostly Thai and Asian-inspired food and it’s definitely tasty.
Although slightly on the expensive side, the price is more than worth it, to experience such a romantic and serene environment.
17. Take a step back in time in this crazy vintage cafe – Cargo Cafe (Now closed)
Walking into Cargo Café is like taking a step back in time. The café décor imitates a 1950s American diner with black and white tiled floors, vinyl couches, and vintage car and motorbike replicas.
Signs like Route 66, Shell & Gulf (gas station) and VW (Volkswagen) decorate every inch of the walls.
There’s even the life-sized statue of Betty Boop, dated gasoline pumps and old-fashioned gumball machines coming together to tie the whole theme in!
On the main menu try Western classics like the German sausage, pizza, pork steak, and veggie burger.
The desserts here are truly a work of art. Must-try cakes include sweet cream vanilla with fresh fruit, double chocolate mousse brownie and banana caramel velvet.
18. Eat, drink and mingle IN the river – Kafe Ban Nok Coffee Roasters
This is simplicity at its finest – this back to basics café operates on the bare minimum, but still manages to pull off a super cool image.
The center of the café is an actual river that cuts a path through the lavish jungle in a rugged outdoor setting.
The café’s concept is literally to eat, drink and mingle IN the river.
The plastic tables and chairs are set up in several centimeters of water from a happily bubbling stream.
Soak your toes in the cool water while enjoying a hot drink or a cold beer, along with simple Thai food with your pals!
19. Looking for authentic Japanese food and Japanese zen? – Kouen Coffee & Bistro
This zen-inspired tea house is the best café in Chiang Mai – if authentic Japanese food and drink is what you’re after.
The light from the tall windows, vaulted ceilings, and paper lanterns contrast beautifully with the dark-stained wood walls – and wall hangings and cheery indoor shrubbery complete the gorgeous theme.
Traditional Japanese cuisine is available for those of you who love it! From sushi and sashimi, to miso soup, tempura and more, the menu will delight anyone’s tastebuds.
Next, choose from classic drinks with a funky twist including the frothy iced green tea, orange blossom latte, and frozen peach lemonade.
via naitualek, m maiiiiii, golfy1985, aomaengka, eatinchiangmai
There’s also an outdoor garden, complimented by white lilies and plenty of foliage, boasts a rock garden, pond, and private gazebos – to add to that super zen Japanese vibes you’re going after!
20. Indulge in sweet treats in this idyllic French garden – Nakara Jardin Patisserie & Bistro
Nakara Jardin sits on a prime piece of real estate on the banks of Ping River, with the outdoor dining area overlooking the water.
Photo via amwem