Visitors come to Chiang Mai to see the fascinating architecture, beautiful temples and peaceful green hills. But few people know that the city is becoming popular in Southeast Asia for its street art!
Although only a fraction of the size of Bangkok, Chiang Mai offers amazing street art with a variety that includes abstracts, portraits, cartoons and social motifs.
Strolling through the many alleys and backstreets of Chiang Mai gives the feeling of walking the aisles of an art museum in Berlin or Hong Kong where collections of stunning murals are exhibited. Most artworks can be found on walls and construction sites in the old city and in the Nimmanhaemin area, but also in many other parts of the city. It serves as means of expression for artists who are passionate about having their voices heard. Using tags, stencils, and murals, graffiti writers and street artists alike, use their art to communicate their feelings, and as means of commenting on social issues and environmental concerns. They bring walls, buildings and even entire neighbourhoods alive with their vibrant creations.
With Chiang Mai steeped in ancient beliefs, traditions and textiles, it is not surprising to see this local heritage often inspiring some of the best street art pieces in town. Look out for beautiful long neck women and other characters dressed in colourful local textiles drawn on the city walls!
Start your exploration of street art at the Three Kings Monument in the old city. It is quiet and calm during early morning and you can find two delicious fresh coffee places close by. The first one is called Improvise Cafe and is opposite Yuparat School; the second place is a little stand located on the street along the city’s old women’s prison.
STREET ART IN THE OLD CITY & THAPAE GATE AREA :
The old city of Chiang Mai is a place that needs to be explored first. Keep your eyes open: you will find great works in the northwest, central north, eastern and western sections of the old city.
One popular area is around Thapae gate, with some excellent street art pieces, especially in the parking space next to Cool Muang Cafe.
One other rather dense area is around the “Zoe in Yellow” nightclub. The neighbourhood is packed with guest houses and small alleys featuring works by Thai artists and Spanish Lagazzo. Don’t miss seeing the vivid three-headed elephant by artist Muay. From there, cross the moat and walk along Chang Moi road. Here street artists have even been invited to use their magic on shop doors
Please note that the old Women’s Prison is being transformed into a public park so there are no more street art works there.
STREET ART IN NIMMANHAEMIN AREA & HILLSIDE 4:
In Nimman area, don’t expect as many murals as in the old city. But great ones can be found while walking on Sirimangklajarn Road and in the many alleys of the east side of Nimmanhaemin Road.
From there, walk to Hillside 4 Condotel on Huay Kaew Road. The parking space right next to this building features many street art works on a wall which is about 80 meters long. Murals there get updated from time to time, mostly during night time. You can also find more pieces in the underground parking of the Furama Hotel, which can be reached through Hillside 4’s parking.
STREET ART IN KAD SUAN KAEW SHOPPING MALL:
In the same area (Huay Kaew Road), Kad Suan Kaew’s outdoor parking shows some of the best and colourfully vivid murals. The place is a bit difficult to find, so the easiest way to reach it might be from Huay Kaew Road, about 20 meters north, after the
Shell gas station, turn left into the street running parallel with Huay Kaew Residence Apartment. This alley will take you to the back parking area.
STREET ART AT JING JAI MARKET:
To go to Jing Jai Market you might need a bicycle or a motorbike, as it is about 4 kilometres from the moat. In 2019, Style Walls held the first International Graffiti & Street Art Festival at Jin Jai Market. This place houses a great organic market at weekends
then, for the rest of the week, it is quiet, with very few people visiting. Some of the art pieces can be found within the open-air market area, some others are on the walls and among the crumbling buildings along Atsadathon Road. Please note there is a sign
in Thai language saying to contact the management before taking commercial picture shoots. If visiting during the weekend, you can enjoy both discovering great street art pieces and tasting delicious local cuisine at the same time.
STREET ART AT CENTRAL FESTIVAL:
Central Festival is Chiang Mai’s famous full-scale lifestyle shopping centre. It’s giant oval structure is easily navigated and features 5 floors with many restaurants, international brands and inovative shops which makes it teenager’s favorite shopping
centre. It’s 5th floor houses a large area which was given to local street artists to express themselves. It is one of the latest street art work in Chiang Mai and features many interesting pieces.
Street art is the proof that some of the best pieces of art, at least contemporary art, are not locked inside museums. Instead, they are out in the open for everyone to enjoy. Spending a day hunting street art in Chiang Mai is a great activity: art is in the air in the streets of Chiang Mai!