Vientiane is such a lovable city, and there is much more to do than you think! Check out the best 11 things to do in Vientiane in this Vientiane travel guide for first timers.
Vientiane, Laos, might not be as famous as Luang Prabang, yet should definitely be on your itinerary. Before visiting, I kept hearing “oh, Vientiane is not worth it” and “there’s nothing to do in Vientiane”, but I don’t agree at all.
Sure, Vientiane might lack the super famous attractions that you can find elsewhere in Southeast Asia, but it’s a very pleasant, charming city. It’s the capital of Vietnam, yet it’s quiet, clean, and filled with parks and green spaces. Fran and I were coming from the chaos of Hanoi in Vietnam and we were so happy to find a city that’s so livable and chilled. We even said we could easily live here for a couple of months!
Anyway, I’m making this introduction long. Here it’s all the info you need to make the most out of your visit to Vientiane, Laos.
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How To Get to Vientiane, Laos
Coming from other destinations in Laos? Check out your options for:
or use the search bar down here to check your transport options:
➤If you’re coming from abroad, Vientiane is the capital of Laos and easily accessible from most countries. However, the best way to reach Vientiane in my opinion is by looking for cheap flights to Vietnam or Thailand and then use a low-cost such as Air Asia or other Asian carrier to fly to Laos. This way is usually much cheaper than flying internationally with Laos as your final destination.
➤ You can also fly to Udon Thani, in Thailand, and cross into Laos by land (check out here transport options).
There are multiple airlines that fly to Udon Thani. Nok Air even offers a package that includes flight to Udon Thani + transportation to Vientiane (it’s approximately a one-hour ride).
➤ It’s also possible to get to Vientiane by train from Thailand, and by bus from Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, and China (and possibly from Myanmar although only some border’s crossings are allowed to foreigners). I usually book transportation in advance on Bookaway. Check out your options:
The Best Things To Do in Vientiane
So, what to do in Vientiane? Definitely enough to keep you occupied for a couple of days! Check out my favorite attractions in Vientiane.
1| Visit the COPE Visitor Center
The COPE Visitor Center is a mini museum that highlights the work done by COPE Laos, a center that help children and adults in Laos recover from the terrible injuries and disabilities they faced as a result of the many unexploded bombs spread all over the land during the war from 1964 to 1973.
The Visitor Center displays many of the prosthetic limbs that COPE has gotten for its children over time, and teaches visitors about the work it does and the effects of war on children.
There’s also a cinema room where they display documentaries about the devastating effects of the UXO (unexploded bombs) and the work of the organization. We watched an entire movie and we learnt a lot. We really had no idea that still so many people today get injured/die with the explosion of the UXO, and that so many others in Laos are disabled due to the same reason.
If you’re also visiting Luang Prabang, you’ll find there another center similar to this one.
READ ALSO: 16 Unmissable Things To Do in Luang Prabang
The COPE Visitor Center is open daily from 9:00 AM to 6:00 PM, and visitors can support COPE Laos by donating or making a purchase at the shop.
2| Climb To the Top of Patuxai Victory Monument
The Patuxai Victory Monument is a testament of war that sits in the center of Vientiane, dedicated to all of the citizens of Laos who gave their lives for their country in different wars.
Built between 1957 and 1968, this arch has gates on all sides (hence the name Patuxai, which means “Victory Gates”) and was built with a style that combines French and Lao tastes similarly.
For just 3,000 kip (approximately $0,35), you can climb seven floors to the top where you can look out at the city below, and the effort is worth it. Nice views over the city and the main boulevard!
The Patuxai Victory Monument is open Monday to Friday from 8 am to 4.30 pm, and on Saturday and Sunday from 8 am to 5 pm.
3| Buddha Park
Buddha Park is a funky sculpture park located in a meadow by the Mekong River, just 25 km southeast from Vientiane. Constructed in 1958 by Luang Pu Bounleua Sulilat and dedicated to Gautama Buddha, the park is filled with over 200 concrete sculptures of Buddhas, Hindu gods, and other demons and mythological creatures.
Of particular note is the giant, three-floored sculpture of a pumpkin. The door to the pumpkin is found through the mouth of a mythological creature that sits at the base of the pumpkin, and the floor levels represent Hell, Earth, and Heaven.
Visit in the early morning or late afternoon if you want to avoid the giant group tours.
The Buddha Park is open daily from 8:00 AM to 9:00 PM, and buses go there from Talat Sao Bus Station every 40 minutes.
4| Browse the Riverside Night Market
Every evening by 5 pm, hundreds of red awnings are set up on an esplanade in front of the Mekong River to get the Riverside Night Market into action.
Starting slow but crowding up as the night progresses, locals and tourists alike wander through the markets and purchase whatever they fancy. Available for sale are clothes, locally made crafts, souvenirs, underwear and more. There is also a children’s playground in the middle of the market which has swings, monkey bars, and slides.
Unlike other night markets, there is no food sold at the Riverside Night Market, but you can find plenty of street food vendors and restaurants around the market.
The Riverside Night Market is usually open from 6 pm to 10 pm every day.
5| Marvel at The National Symbol – Pha That Luang
In the heart of Vientiane, just a couple km northeast of the city center, the Pha That Luang temple stands as a national symbol and the most revered national monument of Laos.
Originally built in 1566 when Vientiane was made the capital of Laos and modified over the centuries, Pha That Luang (The Great Stupa) is a gold-covered Buddhist stupa, which is believed to contain a breastbone of the Buddha. The Great Stupa was built fully in the style of Laos, and it’s truly marvelous to walk around and admire.
Pha That Luang is open from 8 am to 12 pm, and from 1 pm to 4 pm.
6| Visit The Other Temples in Vientiane
As with the rest of Laos, Vientiane is deeply steeped in religion and hosts many other temples other than the Pha That Luang for visitors to explore. To be honest, I love temples in Laos much more than in Thailand, because they are equally beautiful, yet with a fraction of the people around. Many times we had entire temples just for ourselves!
Head to the Wat Haw Phra Kaew, originally built in 1565 to house the Emerald Buddha, but now it also serves as a museum for the religious arts. It contains a variety of stone sculptures, wood carvings, and many Lao treasures like Khmer Buddhist stone tablets and bronze frog drums. There are some very old treasures, some even from the prehistoric era!!
Wat Si Muang is a gorgeous gold and red Buddhist temple that was built in 1563. Legend has it that Si Muang (whom the wat is named after), sacrificed herself on the foundations of the wat in order to appease angry gods, and the pillar built on top of that sacrifice now marks the center of the town.
On Lan Xang Road, Wat Sisaket sits as one of the only temples in Laos to have survived the attacks and occupation by the Siamese when they destroyed the capital in 1828. Built in the early 19th century, i’s a truly remarkable one, different from all the other Buddhist temples we’ve seen so far…and we’ve seen quite a bit! Here there are over 10,000 (yes, 10,000!!!) images of Buddha, mostly in the cloister (see the above picture). Really worth a visit.
Entrance to each temple in Vientiane costs around 20,000 kip, approximately $2,30.
7| Watch the Sunset Over the Mekong
The Mekong River is the 12 longest river in the world and runs through South-East Asia from China through Laos. The views from this great river are famed around the world, especially the views during sunset.
There are various opportunities to view the sunset from different vantage points; with Naga Boats that carry passengers downriver into the sunset, and restaurants alongside the river including Tawan Riverside, Bor Pen Yang, Moon the Night, and Khong View.
8| Join a Food Tour/Cooking Class All in One
In every society, food is always a part of its history and culture. Take a gastronomical tour of Vientiane and learn to replicate its Lao delicacies in a Food Tour and Cooking Class, all in one. Foodies can go around the eating spots of Vientiane, from eateries to food markets, local restaurants, and more.
The tour begins with a practical cooking session, where aspiring Lao chefs are taught to make Kao Larm, a traditional dessert made with sticky rice and coconuts which are roasted in bamboo leaves. From there, you’ll be taken to the local fresh food market, the most famous Kao Piak shop in town, the Xaoban Homemade Yoghurt factory, and other food infused locations around Vientiane.
At each stop, you’ll learn about the history of the food in Laos, and get a taste of each delicious delicacy. The day is capped off with some Beerlao and deep fried bugs, enjoyed at one of the more popular bars along the Mekong River.
BOOK HERE the Hungry Tuk Tuk tour.
9| Try Rice Farming at a Local NGO
Vientiane gives visitors a chance to take their cultural experience a little bit deeper by joining the rice farmers of the town as they go about their business of providing the staple food for their communities.
Early in the morning, you will be picked up and taken to one of the Lao non-government organized farms, where (using traditional Lao farming methods) you will learn to plant or harvest rice, learn about the soil and organic fertilizers used, collect eggs from ducks and chickens, and do some fishing or vegetable harvesting.
With the fieldwork completed, farm hands will take part in preparing a traditional Lao lunch, after which, they will get some rest before being transported back to their hotels. On the way back, you’ll stop at the local fresh foods market where you’ll have a chance to pick up some local coffee or sweet treats.
10| Learn Some Traditional Arts at Lao Disabled Women’s Development Center
In many parts of the world, the disabled are often cast aside by society as being unable to contribute anything of value. Their living situations are usually terrible, and if they are women, those situations are made worse. But in Laos, disabled women find support.
At the Lao Disabled Women’s Center, women suffering from disability are invited to come and live and study. While there, they gain life empowering skills that help them make a living for themselves so they can live life independently. Many of the women gain vocational and artistic skills, and the wares which they create are put up for sale in the Center, which welcomes tourists and lets them purchase the products whenever they visit.
You can also participate in courses and classes in various arts and traditional techniques, which is another great way to support these women.
11| Visit a Traditional Herbal Sauna
When on a visit to any part of Asia, some bodywork should always be on any tourists’ to-do list. In Vientiane, massage parlors and herbal saunas are in plentiful supply. For a traditional and affordable experience, after a day filled with a lot of walking and exploring, visit the Herbal Steam Sauna in Vientiane.
For 20,000 kip (about $2,30), sit in an herb-infused sauna that will scour your skin of dead cells and pervade them with healthy oils and herbs. They’ll give you a mixture of ground coffee and yoghurt to massage all over your body, and after the sauna you’ll rinse it out and voilà! This natural scrub really works! The center also offers a Chinese cupping massage for an extra 100,000 kip ($ 11,60).
And there you go! Here you have enough activities to keep you occupied for 4 days or more, so choose your favorites and have fun in Vientiane.
Where To Stay in Vientiane, Laos
La Seine Hotel by Burasari: A Full Review
If you’re visiting Vientiane soon and looking for the perfect luxury hotel don’t look any farther, as I’ve found the one for you: La Seine Hotel by Burasari. This 5-star hotel was everything I was looking for and more.
The hotel is located just a few miles from the airport, and can be easily reached either by taxi or by airport bus. It’s not exactly in the center of Vientiane, but just a short 10-minute walk to the night market and tens of restaurants.
We were greeted at check-in with a welcome drink… and what else could it be if not wine, in a wine-themed hotel? I had a glass of white wine, Fran had its usual red wine, and then we were shown to our room…wow!
Calling it room is actually a disservice to it. We stayed in the Pomerol Suite and truthfully, it was the most incredible suite I’ve stayed in – ever! This suite is decorated in burgundy, reminding you of the red wine from Bordeaux. It has a very sensual feel, and it’s perfect for couples on a romantic getaway.
At 68 square meters, you can say the Pomerol Suite is huge for being in a city hotel. The room features an extra-large king bed, and a separate sitting area with a couch and a studio area with a desk and comfortable chair that is perfect if you need to get some work done during your stay.
But the bathtub and the gigantic shower are the main highlights of the room, no doubt. This must be one of the biggest bathrooms I’ve ever seen. I took a decadent, bath in the luxurious tub every day of my stay, which after a few months of travel was the biggest luxury I could dream of. I also took a million photos in the tub, but don’t judge me! You would too with such an instagrammable tub.
The coconut bathroom products were amazing, they tasted so good that I almost wanted to eat them. Every light switch around the room had an image indicating what they were for, which is very smart and useful when your room is this big. Also, something we really appreciated was the complimentary minibar that was refilled daily with water, sodas, beer, and a couple of snacks.
The room has a very large balcony with a view of the Mekong, and you can choose to have your breakfast (or glass of wine) here.
I always say that of course we appreciate a luxury design, but even more important is the personalized attention to the guest. In this case, we arrived to the room and found it prepared with rose petals in the bath tub and some beautiful decorations on the bed, and our stay started immediately with a wow factor.
Two of the three breakfasts we had at La Seine were à la carte, while one was buffet style. We didn’t really understand what was the criteria for one or the other, and preferred the à la carte option for a wider choice (not that the buffet was any bad!). Some of our favorite plates were the eggs Benedict with salmon, the pancakes with fresh fruit… and do we want to talk about those wonderful croissants? You can definitely tell that Laos has a French past just by biting one of those melt-in-the-mouth croissant.
Even if you’re not a guest of the hotel, I definitely recommend visiting the Red Rose Bar, an old-charm bar with retro furnishings and daily happy-hour from 5 to 7 pm, where you can have two drinks for the price of one.
Enjoy a glass of wine or one of the sophisticated cocktails. We had the signature Hi-So Passion cocktail with passion fruit and absinthe, and it was really good.
One night during our stay, we had dinner at the Red Rose Restaurant (the same area where you have breakfast in the morning). Don’t expect noodles and fried rice here; the menu is sophisticated, and the food is top. Applause for the chef – whom we also had the pleasure to meet.
The restaurant features both Asian and International food, and we had a good mix of both. We started with some Chicken Satay, a Thai chicken skewers recipe with peanut sauce, and Tom Yum, a hot and sour Thai soup. They were both very good, but our favorite was the Australian beef that we had. It was so incredibly tender! We then finished off with taro ice cream served in a dragon fruit. Make sure you visit the restaurant during your stay. Prices are on the higher side for Asia, but the food is well worth it.
Right when you enter the hotel, you can’t help but notice the winery, home to hundreds upon hundreds of bottles of wine. I have no doubt believing that this is Vientiane’s best wine shop, maybe Laos’ too. I didn’t try this myself, but you can reserve a wine tasting by the glass or by flight.
All in all, it’s hard to imagine a better hotel for your stay in Vientiane. Everything from the incredible service to the breakfast to our suite that I’m still dreaming of, was perfect. If you’re coming to Vientiane, do yourself a favor and pamper yourself at La Seine Hotel.
Rates start at just under $110 per night for a Superior Room in low season, and $240 for the Pomerol Suite we stayed in.
⇒ CHECK OUT rates and availability for La Seine Hotel by Burasari.
Disclaimer: We were guests of La Seine Hotel by Burasari, however all opinions are exclusively our own. I’m extremely opinionated, so I will tell you if something isn’t right!