Lively by Laos’ standards, Vientiane still has a very provincial feel when compared with other Southeast Asian cities. This charming riverside capital combines crumbling French colonial mansions, steaming noodle stalls and glittering Buddhist antiquities.
Perched on the banks of the Mekong River, it’s easy to get around and explore Vientiane by bicycle or on foot. You can spend a morning perusing the local market, or sipping on a cup of delicious Lao coffee at a café as you watch local life pass by.
A French trading post in days gone by, Vientiane’s French influence is still very much present in its café culture, pretty bakeries and tree-lined boulevards. Many of the old buildings have been given a new lease of life as chic hotels or stylish restaurants along the river’s edge. Built in 1969, the Patuxai – Vientiane’s version of Paris’ Arc de Triomphe – has great views over the city.
Despite its old-world charm, Vientiane’s temples and wandering monks give it a distinctly Southeast Asian character. At the centre of the city the golden That Luang stupa is a national monument and symbol of Lao culture, whilst the ancient Wat Si Saket is believed to be the city’s oldest temple.
When you’ve finished exploring, nothing beats taking a leisurely stroll along the Mekong at sunset and watching the water sparkle in the fading sunlight.
If you’ve been inspired to start planning your trip to Laos, get in touch with our Asia specialists to add Vientiane to your tailor-made itinerary.