As the laid-back capital of Laos, Vientiane is surprisingly cosmopolitan, making it a great alternative to Asia’s bigger cities.
Experience a touch of Paris, but not as you know it
From the Patuxay Monument, known as the Arc de Triomphe of Asia, to its deliciously crisp baguettes and sweet pastries, Vientiane wears its French colonial influence on its sleeve.
Take a wander along tranquil tree-lined boulevards or along the riverfront promenade, before stopping for a cafe au lait and croissant in one of the city’s many cafes and patisseries. Top picks from Tripadvisor include Le Banneton, the riverfront Sinouk Cafe and Le Trio Coffee.
If you want fine French dining, Vientiane has it covered. Try the atmospheric La Cave des Chateaux, the ritzy L’Adresse - Cuisine by Tinay or Le Silapa, conveniently located above I-Beam jazz bar.
Patuxay, Vientiane’s answer to Paris’ Arc de Triomphe
It is a place of reverence and learning
The golden-spired That Luang Stupa is Laos’ national monument and a symbol of Vientiane. Every year in November, in the week leading up to the full moon, the temple becomes the focus for the annual Bun That Luang festival, making it a great time to visit.
Sisaket Temple is said to be Vientiane’s oldest surviving temple, and novice monks and nuns today still study within its cloistered walls. Similarly, Si Muang Temple is as busy as it is beautiful; worshippers often travel for long distances to be blessed and pray for good fortune.
Be mesmerised by the That Luang Stupa
Nourish your soul with a parkful of Buddhas
Laos is a devout Buddhist nation, so it makes sense that Vientiane’s highlights are Buddhist-related.
The quirky Xieng Khouan Buddha Park, a sculpture park on the outskirts of the city, is the brainchild of a monk/sculptor who studied both Hinduism and Buddhism. Once you’ve admired the odd mix of Buddha images, Hindu deities, animals, demons and even a giant 'pumpkin', you can spend some time in quiet contemplation or meditation.
The park also makes an ideal location for some yoga, so bring a mat.
Enjoy the serenity of nature at the Xieng Khouan Buddha Park
It is a city with a diverse and intriguing history
While Laos has never been a big player on the world history stage, Vientiane’s museums and monuments offer a fascinating glimpse of the country’s past.
Hor Pha Keo temple was built by King Setthathirath in the 16th century to house the Emerald Buddha he had looted from Siam (Thailand), but the Thais stole it back two centuries later. Now a museum, it is worth a visit for its beautiful array of Buddhist artefacts. The Kaysone Phomvihane homvih, a tribute to Laos' former Communist leader, is also worth a visit.
The COPE Visitor Centre offers an insight into Laos’ recent history. The centre educates the public about the devastating impact of the bombing campaigns during the Second Indochina War, using its proceeds to ensure that people injured by unexploded ordnances have access to prosthetics and rehabilitation.
For the nature lover, a spot of nature is never far away
Laos is one of the least-populated countries in Southeast Asia, which means nature is never far away, even when you’re in the city.
Phou Khao Khouay National Park is the closest to the city, just 40km away. Here, you’ll find some stunning flora, and fauna such as gibbons, langurs, civets and abundant bird life. While travelling there and back, don't forget to make a stop at the Tad Leuk and Tad Xay/Pha Xay waterfalls, which are spectacular during the rainy season (June to September).
A little farther afield, the Nam Ngum reservoir is home to sandy beaches and secluded swimming spots – accessible in a day trip or an overnight stay.
Best time to visit
November to February tends to be dry and cooler, making it a popular time to go. April, before the rainy season, is the hottest, but also hosts the biggest party: Lao New Year.
Tuk tuks are cheap and plentiful. Vientiane is mostly flat and relatively contained, which makes it a great place for walking and cycling.
The Lao kip. ATMs are easily available everywhere and credit cards are accepted in most hotels.
Fly directly to Vientiane via Lao Airlines and Silkair from Changi Airport. Search for airfare deals and book your tickets now!