For 6 months I’ve lived and worked in the capital of Laos: Vientiane. So I can easily say I can call this capital my second home! Vientiane made a deep impression on me. Temples are next to French bakeries and the local markets where the meat is sold on cardboard boxes are close to luxury steakhouses.
However, unlike most of the capitals in this corner of the world, Laos’ capital is super relaxed. It is a quite small capital with a friendly atmosphere but the reputation of this city is quite bad. Not many people know what to do in Vientiane and travel quicky further to Vang Vieng.
After living for 6 months in this city I can say that there are plenty of fun things to do in and around Vientiane.
So, This top 17 consist of the absolute best things I did during my time in Vientiane!
1. Cope Center
The cope visitor center shows the dark history of the Lao Civil War and the 260 million bombs that were dropped on Laos from 1964-1973. COPE provides artificial limbs and rehabilitation for people, many of them children, who have lost limbs due to UXOs, or unexploded clusterbombs.
The entrance is free, but you can leave a donation. Cope Center is easy to find on google maps and any tuk-tuk driver will know where to go.
Tip: Ask the staff to watch one of the movies! This was for me the most impressive part!
2. Buddha Park
This famous Buddha Park is located 25km outside Vientiane and features over 200 religious statues and sculptures. There is a small entrance fee, and you can get there by local bus, tuk-tuk or by your own rented bike (I did the last thing). It is lovely to just walk around, enjoy the statues and take some pictures.
3. Phou Khao Khouay, National Protected Area | Tad Leuk Waterfall
Phou Khao Khouay is one of Laos’ most beautiful nature reserves. The entire area covers about 2000 square kilometres and is located about 60 kilometers out of Vientiane (2,5 hours driving). Within the National park the Tadleuk waterfall is located. This waterfall is the most popular destination in Phou Khao Khouay, but it is still not crowded! The waterfall is ideal for relaxing, swimming and camping. It is perfect to spend the night next to the waterfall and enjoy the nature!
From Vientiane to Tadleuk Waterfall can be done with either bike or car. On the website they have explained how to get there, which is very easy!
Tip: Camping materials such as tents, mosquito nets, sleeping bags and mattresses can be rented for a small fee. Tad Leuk also has clean toilets and washing facilities. A refreshing bath can be taken in the clear river water.
4. Visit a local market
There are lots of local markets in Vientiane. It doesn’t really matter which one you visit they are all alike BUT so worth a visit! In the local market you will only find local people, no foreigners! Be amazed by all the smells, herbs and meat stalls! The local market is not for people with sensitive stomachs (because of the displayed meat), but it is a must-see if you want to know more about Laotian culture and local food.
5. That Luang & Patuxai
The great golden stupa is a national symbol of Laos both of Buddhism and national sovereignty. Legend has it that part of Buddha’s breast bone is buried here. The stupa is easy to find and you can walk around and make some beautiful pictures!
The Patuxai is a war monument in the centre of Vientiane built between 1957 and 1968. The Patuxai was dedicated to those who fought in the struggle for independence from France. It is an impressive building and you can also take the stairs to go to the top which gives a panoramic city view.
Source: Baiterek Media / shutterstock
6. Visit the Nightmarket
The Night Market opens daily along the riverfront as the sun goes down over the Mekong and stays open until 9:30pm. Local people sell all kinds of souvenirs and food from carts and red-roofed tents. The market has a lovely atmosphere and is visited by many people, both locals and tourists.
7. Restaurants and bars near the night market
One of the most cozy and bustling places in the evening are the many bars and terraces next to the Mekong river (Quai Fa Ngum road). They are decorated with many small lights and every restaurant has fresh and lovely food which makes this is definitely a place to visit in Vientiane!
8. Watch the Sunset
When visiting Vientiane you will often say to yourself ‘I have to go to the Mekong river now!’ Sunsets in Vientiane (and Laos) are known to be beautiful, the sky bursts with hundreds lively colors almost every night.
Tip: If you want to have the best sunset view, go to Suntara restaurant and enjoy a magnificent sunset on the rooftop!
9. SUSHI at Qoo!
People who know me, know I LOVE sushi. So I had 6 months to figure out which sushi restaurant is the best and.. the winner is: Qoo restaurant. It is located a bit out of town but every tuktuk driver can bring you there.
10. Muay Lao lesson
Muay Lao, or Lao kickboxing, is very similar to its much more famous cousin: Muay thai. Get an experience of Muay Lao by taking a training in a Lao gym! Learn about the basic techniques and also various self defence techniques.
11. Lao Lake House
Lao Lake house is located 35 kilometers out of the centre of Vientiane, it is the ideal getaway if you want to escape the hustle of the city. It consist of multiple buildings, where you can spend the night or just come to chill for a day! They have a swimming, pool, BBQ and 2 boats to go on the lake!
12. Walking street
The walking street is not next to the night market which may be confusing because many people think so. The walking street overlooks the Mekong river and is easy to find on google maps. This place really comes alive in the evening. There are lot’s of restaurants, bars, stalls, street food and many people. It is the perfect night out in Vientiane.
13. Lao fondue at Saylomyen Restaurant
Ooh my! Lao fondue is such a treat, it is so delicious and you can spend hours eating! Yes hours! You can choose which kind of meat you want (pork, fish, chicken or beef) and you can grill this on top of the plate. The broth on the side is for boiling all the extra’s such as: eggs, bean sprouts, bell pepper, garlic, onions and noodles.
14. Wat si saket
Wat si saket is the oldest temple in Vientiane that is still completely intact, in fact: all other temples were either built after this temple, or had to be restored after the destruction by Siam of Vientiane in 1828. The temple was restored 1 time by the French in 1913. The most impressive part is that Wat si saket contains a total of approximately 6,840 Buddha statues.
15. Swimming at Rashimi’s
The rooftop pool at Rashimi’s is the best place to cool down in the Lao hot days. The entrance fee is 50.000 KIP, so around 5 euro’s. Because the pool is located on the rooftop you will have a nice view over the Mekong river.
16. Swimming in Landmark pool
If you stay in Vientiane for a longer period of time you will occasionally need some refreshment. Landmark hotel is located near the Mekong river and has a very big and luxurious pool! The fee to use the pool is around 6,50 euro’s.
17. Ocean park at Lao Itecc
Ocean Waterpark is a great place to spend your hot day in Vientiane. It has various slides and lot’s of fun things to do for your children (or the inner child in you). The park is not very busy because not much tourists are aware of it, but local families enjoy going there.
Tip: Do not wear your smallest bikini since there are many families and they might get offended. For more info read 13 things not to in Laos