A little while ago I began going to a new cafe or coffee shop (almost) every day in Chiang Mai. What started out as a little personal quest for one week turned into almost two months of visiting a different spot every weekday. That’s a lot of cafes. And cappuccinos. And pieces of cake.
The crazy thing is, there were still tons of places I didn’t get to.
Chiang Mai’s coffee scene has been decent for a while, but in the past couple years things have really blown up and the town now has literally hundreds of coffee shops, not to mention numerous street stalls or carts where you can also grab some cheap Thai-style coffee, oiling, or tea, cha nom yen. The region falls within the “bean belt” and coffee beans grow in the mountains surrounding Chiang Mai, often farmed by hill tribe villages. Combine the readily accessible beans with a growing town that’s home to four major universities, a large number of longterm expats and digital nomads who can’t work without their caffeine and cafes, and you get a lot of cafe options.
As I visited the different spots I shared photos and details about each place on Instagram and Facebook – this post is a collection of those places plus some extras. Below you’ll find 30 cafes and coffee shops with descriptions, photos, opening times and addresses.
Thirty places not enough? Scroll down to the bottom with links to 20 more. Yep, that equals 50 cafes in Chiang Mai (and there are still more…it would be impossible to go to all of them!).
Before I get to the cafes though, there are some guidelines to using this list. To begin with, someone asked me what my ‘criteria’ was for choosing where to visit. Basically, I went if I thought a place was cool or not – very scientific. Most of the first 30 cafes have something about them that makes them stand out in some way or another such as really high quality coffee (there’s a lot of good coffee in Thailand…and there’s even more instant coffee), surprisingly good breakfasts or baked goods, unique atmospheres, or an interesting owner and backstory.
The first 30 cafes are listed in alphabetical order and you can click on the name/heading of each place to go to the cafe’s website or Facebook Page. Many smaller places in Thailand use Facebook as their “website” and have varying degrees of information on them that isn’t always accurate. If you’re looking at what time places open or close, don’t immediately assume that the times in this list or on Facebook are 100% correct. Times in Thailand aren’t usually strictly adhered to and a cafe’s opening times listed on Facebook, or even on the cafe door, aren’t always correct. (I’ve also gone to several places soon after they were supposed to already be open and…they were not.)
Additionally, be aware that places of business in Chiang Mai regularly move or completely close and disappear without warning. You’ll go to your favorite coffee/phad thai/massage/whatever place one day and the next week it could be gone. If you have your heart set on going somewhere specific double check to see it still exists first. Alternatively, new places seem to magically be built and open up overnight so there’s always something new to discover. This post was updated in early January 2018 to reflect some closures and moves, so keep an eye out for a newer post with a proper update.
For pricing, most of the first 30 cafes offer drinks, desserts and meals all around the same price. Usually a hot cappuccino will be 55 – 70 baht while iced drinks will be 5 – 10 baht extra, sandwiches and wraps are usually between 70 – 100 baht, cakes and desserts tend to be around 60 – 100 baht
As of posting the exchange rate is $1 USD to 36 THB — the baht is the lowest I’ve seen since I first visited Thailand — so a typical cappuccino currently costs around $1.80 USD.
Aha Ama is a social enterprise coming from an Akha hill tribe village that worked to not only grow coffee beans but also process and market their own coffee. The young founder, Lee Ayu, singlehandedly started the company convincing farmers in his village to work on his project and has since teamed up with leading coffee roasters and restauranteurs in the U.S. like Stumptown and Andy Ricker of Pok Pok (read more about his story here). Akha Ama has a couple locations around town with my favorite being the Santitham cafe in the middle of a small neighborhood soi.
While they do serve coffee, it’s really the fresh cold pressed juices that will make you want to head to Arttitude Gallery. (For coffee go right next door to the excellent Ristr8to Lab – #24 on this list!) Each of the concoctions is inspired by and named after a famous painting like The Birth of Venus. The cafe also serves some desserts and house made fruit sodas.
Artisan Cafe is a perfect example of Chiang Mai’s artsy, hipster aesthetic. It’s small (quite small unfortunately, there’s not much seating) and decorated with succulents, quirky furniture and the requisite bicycle out in front. I love the slightly out of the way location so that the people stopping in are all coming specifically for the cafe. When going with friends, we ordered several drinks ranging from espresso to a sweetened ice latte and were pleased with all.
Thailand, and Asia in general, is like the Land of Cute. If something is cute, it gets major points despite how well it works, or tastes, or actually serves any purpose. You’ll see a lot of cute things at coffeeshops throughout Chiang Mai – rainbow-layered crepe cakes, desserts that are way prettier to look at than they actually taste, flowery pillows and lace – but not at Cerebrum & Friends. This cafe is straight up weird, with an atmosphere that manages to be stylishly…creepy. You cannot call it cute. Along with coffee, the cafe serves breakfast, sandwiches and salads that I have not tried yet but look quite good. Breakfasts start at 80 baht which is a deal and sandwiches start at 75 baht.
Located on Nimmamhaemin Soi 1, this simple, unassuming cafe offers a nice, clear space to work. In the busy Nimmanhaemin neighborhood, Soi 1 somehow manages to seem overlooked and is quiet, yet probably one of the most charming streets in the area with specialty shops and boutique hotels. As with many of the coffee shops, there is both indoor and outdoor seating.
I had heard about this place for the past several years but never knew where it was until a couple months ago when I realized I had been passing it for ages completely oblivious. Clay Studio Coffee in the Garden is also often known as the terracotta garden and is part of a terracotta studio that creates all manners of statues and pottery. The garden is filled with completed or broken pieces of intricately carved and molded terracotta. It’s really quite incredible and as soon as you step through the doorway into the walled garden space you feel like you’ve walked into another world. There’s a glass coffeehouse serving drinks and food with table both inside and throughout the garden.
Coffee Villa used to have a Nimmanhaemin location, but you now find them in Hang Dong. The bright and funky cafe serves a range of Thai-style drinks along with some Thai and Western dishes. If you like iced coffee, come here for their big-sized 60 baht drinks!
This stylish little coffeeshop manages to be sleek and quirky at the same time. I’ve loved the coffee I’ve had here but it is a really small space so you may not always be able to find a seat!
Connected to the equally beautiful Fah Lanna Spa, Fahtara Coffee is a relatively new cafe in the Old City with a unique atmosphere. The coffeeshop has a rich, earthy feel to it with traditional Northern Thai touches and a charming back patio with lots of greenery and misters for when it’s really hot. They serve a range of coffee drinks and teas along with a rotating selection of desserts that are baked specifically for the cafe, including coconut pudding and even inventive scones and cupcakes with flavors like mango and poppy seed and Earl Grey, and Thai and Western meals. Some of the dishes here are slightly more expensive than other cafes, but you can still find a range of prices to fit any budget. For example, the cafe’s signature “Icepresso”, with espresso, ice cream, chocolate, etc. (it looks divine), is 150 baht but a regular hot cappuccino is still just 60 baht.
Part restaurant, part coffee bar, Food4Thought and Bay’s Cafe serve high quality, slow-brewed drip coffee and incredible organic meals. Practically everything for the wide selection of Thai and Western dishes, like salads, breakfasts and wraps, is made in house – even the tortillas and aioli! Everything I’ve tried here has been fresh, flavorful and just simply really satisfying. The owners and staff are also lovely. A great place to gather with friends to enjoy a long lunch or get some work done, the cafe has indoor and outdoor seating. I’m a fan.
Another social enterprise in Chiang Mai, Free Bird Cafe is run by Thai Freedom House, an NGO dedicated to support arts and language learning for Burmese refugees and Thai hill tribe minorities. The cafe features vegetarian and vegan Shan, Thai and Western dishes and also has a small charity shop onsite where you can donate used clothes or pick up some cheap new pieces. Whenever I come here it’s hard to choose what to order – especially when it comes to drinks as they offer a wide variety of coffees, smoothies and fruit shakes complete with superfood add ons, but I can never say no to the lavender latte…
Out of all the cafes in Chiang Mai there are two that I love, love, LOVE – Graph Café is one of them. I adore the tiny shop tucked away in the Old City, every cup of coffee I’ve had has been filled with creamy goodness and I love how the young couple running the shop, along with the nearby Graph Table, are completely owning their product and brand (check out their Instagram account). Oh, and they now have nitro cold brew coffee on tap – what??! They’ve also recently opened a new location at the One Nimman.
Hana Zono is a great, quiet place to get some work done. Though, I’ve only gone in the mornings – it opens at 8:00 a.m. – but have heard in the afternoons it fills up with students. The cafe serves some snacks and desserts, but not much. Not the best coffee I’ve had in Chiang Mai, but perfectly decent and a good spot to go alone or with just one other person.
Walking into Ketawa Dog Friendly Cafe I felt like I was in a hi-so place in Bangkok…not Chiang Mai. Fortunately, while my yoga pants and flip flops probably didn’t blend with the crowd, my fluffy white dog fit in just fine and was pampered and cuddled by practically everyone in the cafe. Attached to a pet-friendly hotel, the cafe welcomes dogs and cats in its loft-like atmosphere. Prices here are on the more expensive side but I’ll definitely be going back for a doggie play date with friends. (I can’t believe I just said that, but it’s true.) Read more about the cafe here.
I don’t know how I hadn’t heard about Khagee before but thanks to a reader suggestion I found this little cafe on the east side of the river…and instantly fell in love with it. Owned by another young couple, the cafe is very simple and minimal (do you see a theme with the types of places I tend to be drawn to?) serving excellent coffee with a selection of baked goods, desserts and sandwiches made in house.
The Larder Cafe and Bar serves awesome breakfasts and open-face sandwiches…probably the best I’ve had in Chiang Mai. Off of Nimmanhaemin Road, it’s popular with the expat crowd – you can’t find dishes with ingredients like chorizo and bleu cheese many other places! With the high quality ingredients naturally comes a higher price tag however so, to me, this is more of a “special” brunch place rather than somewhere I’d pop ito a couple times a week. I was also a little surprised the first time I went that the atmosphere and decor seems kind of lacking, especially compared to how charming many of the other cafes in the area are…but that doesn’t affect how good the food tastes!
Apparently I learned about Mao Coffee a little after , or so I was told my cafe-owning friends who kind of turned their noses up at the novelty drinks found here but…it was still fun to check out. The cafe’s signature เมากาแฟ, mao gafaae or “drunk coffee”, is served Thai drinking style with a shot of coffee and your “mixer” in a whiskey bottle – you mix your own drink at your table. Located off of Canal Road, the coffeeshop also serves cake and a couple toasted sandwiches in the indoor, yet airy, cafe or outdoor garden.
This cute and colorful cafe is situated just off of the Sunday Walking Street close to Wat Phra Singh. I haven’t tried any of the food, but the cakes and desserts are on point with a really homemade feel, and an American twist, to them with treats Oreo brownies and smores cupcakes.
Another surprisingly good brunch place that I was surprised to learn about considering they’ve been opened for several years is Natwat Home Cafe. The recently remodeled cafe is spacious and airy with lots of light coming in and serves my favorite coffee from my favorite roasters in Chiang Mai (#23!).
The coffee here is okay, but the surroundings are what you’re really coming for. Located in Baan Kang Wat, The Old Chiang Mai Cafe is one of several cafes and small restaurants in the unique outdoor artist’s village. Get ready to take lots of photos of the charming buildings blending traditional Northern Thai and contemporary architecture styles along with the community garden and artist’s studios.
By far one of the best places to eat in the Old City, especially for breakfasts, Overstand is only open until 2:00 in the afternoon so go get your bread fix early! Dishes center around fresh, local ingredients and the cafe also works with other local businesses and artists to create not only an excellent restaurant but real community – one of my favorite things about Chiang Mai!
Another outdoor cafe/boutique/studio complex, Penguin Ghetto has taken over several funky older buildings on a plot of land off of Canal Road. Along with the coffee shop, which serves a range of Irish coffees, there’s also a bakery, cafe, artist studios and shops. Cute, quirky and completely Chiang Mai.
Along with Graph Café, Ponganes Espresso is my favorite coffee in town. Owned by a young couple, Pong and Nes, who lived and trained in Australia for a while, they’re focusing more on roasting and distributing their beans but still have the cafe open during the week serving coffee to go and on the weekends as the full cafe. There’s no WiFi here or many food options, just high quality coffee and people! They’ve also started running unique workshops and classes, like how to brew better coffee at home and coffee tasting sessions, so keep an eye on their Facebook page to see what’s coming up next.
Probably one of Chiang Mai’s most popular coffee brands, Ristr8to is known for its focus on single origin beans from around the world and impressive latte art (the owner has regularly competed and won in international barista competitions). Ristr8to has several cafes around town with the newest location, Ristr8to Lab, serving both coffee and alcoholic drinks on Nimmanhaemin Soi 5 and boasting an open-air atmosphere.
The first time I went to Rustic & Blue in the Nimmanhaemin neighborhood it was in the evening and they had white lights sparkling from teepees in the back garden – it looked magical. Or something straight out of Pinterest. Dishes are made from seasonal, local ingredients with a farm to table feel. The cafe also has a wide selection of their own tea blends.
With bizarre statues and light fixtures, and lots of little details, the eclectic space at SS1254372 Cafe makes you feel like you’re stepping into another dimension. Run by Gallery Seascape, the cafe is part of a complex that also has other studios and galleries that are just as funky.
The exact opposite of SS1264372 futuristic feel, Tanita House highlights traditional Northern Thai culture and design with its wood houses, antique and wood furniture shop, umbrellas and iced drinks served in decorative water bowls. The food here is kind of generic Thai and Thai-ified Western food, but the atmosphere makes up for it and the iced latte with homemade almond milk is a treat.
Tucked away on a back soi off of Suthep Road, The Barn Eatery and Design was created by architecture students who basically wanted a cool place to hang out. Now a coffee shop, restaurant and bar all rolled into one the large, unique space draws a young crowd through the afternoon and late into the night. While I haven’t been impressed by their cakes (I was clearly getting spoiled by some of the surprisingly good ones listed above) their curries for lunch and dinner look delicious and I love the space.
It looks small from the outside, but the cafe and shop is surprisingly large and filled with creative and unusual design elements and knickknacks. Hidden between guesthouses and small shops in the Old City, Up Cafe has a wide selection of coffee, teas and fruit shakes along with desserts, sandwiches and breakfasts. The food here is kind of Thai-style Western food (meaning…not quite what you would actually eat at home) but the place is just so dang cute.
The sign for this little shop reads “9th Street Coffee & Alcohol” which is about all you need to know, isn’t it?
Now if that wasn’t enough, and before I start getting bombarded with comments saying I forgot this place or should have included that place, let me say again that this is not an exhaustive list of cafes in Chiang Mai. I didn’t cover a good portion of the cafes in the Nimmanhaemin neighborhood (home to Chiang Mai’s student and digital nomad communities) such as Kaweh Cafe (open 24 hours), Play Cafe, Libarista, Impresso, Kafe Roubaix…and about a million others.
There are also plenty of other coffee shops and cafes around town, like RockPresso Cafe, Baan Borijinda, Bakerista, Happy Espresso, Kaffe 151, Into the Woods and Pacamara Coffee, and I didn’t cover any of the larger chains that you find in shopping centers and standalone shops, such as Wawee Coffee, MingMitr, Doi Chaang Coffee, TOM N TOMS, Roastniyom or Wake Up Cafe.
Now…where did I miss? What are your favorite cafes in Chiang Mai? (It’s impossible to have just one!)
Also, check out this weekend cafe-hopping itinerary in Chiang Mai.
Hey! I'm Alana and I've spent nearly the past decade living in Chiang Mai, Thailand, working as a writer and photographer. I started Paper Planes as a place to share local insight, special places, and how to travel well through a range of experiences — from hostels to high-end hotels, street meat to multi-course meals.
New places are always calling my name...
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