Use the quick links below to jump to a particular section of our sights and activities coverage for Vientiane.
Vientiane is quite likely to be one of the smallest capital cities you’ll visit in Asia and while it won’t have the flash or buzz of Bangkok or Hanoi, it does have its own charms and yields surprises to those who spend a little time exploring. If you only have two days, here’s what we suggest you ... Read more about Two days in Vientiane .
That Luang stupa is one of the country’s most sacred and important religious and cultural monuments; its shining image can be found in government logos and all currency notes. Though the site is said to date back to third century AD, the original stupa was built by King Saysetthathirath in 1566, after he moved the capital from Luang Prabang to Vientiane (his statue proudly sits in front of ... Read more about That Luang .
Wat Ong Teu was built in the early 16th century by King Setthathirath, but destroyed when the Siamese razed the city in 1827-1828. It was then rebuilt in the 19th and 20th centuries and now holds an important position as the national centre of Buddhist studies. The temple is quite colourful, with bright yellow and red accents. Enter the sim and the Phra Ongteu, its namesake large bronze ... Read more about Wat Ong Theu .
This 1565-built temple is named after the sacred image it once housed, the Phra Kaew or Emerald Buddha, a 66 centimetre statue carved from a single jade stone. Along with the Pra Bang (Luang Prabang’s namesake Buddha statue), the two images were believed to be inhabited by spirits and very powerful. When King Setthathirat moved his capital from Luang Prabang to Vientiane, he built Wat Ho ... Read more about Wat Ho Phra Kaew .
Home to the original Vientiane city pillar, Wat Si Muang is a busy temple with a constant flow of visitors making wishes and returning with more offerings once their wish has come true. The temple is known for giving luck and fortune, and many people come from near and far to pray and receive blessings from the monks. Several variations of the legend behind the temple abound, but according to ... Read more about Wat Si Muang .
Wat Sisaket was built from 1818 to 1824 by King Anouvong, the last king of Lane Xang Kingdom, as his private monastery. It is the only temple to have survived the attack and destruction by the Siamese in 1827-1828 and therefore, it is the only wat in Vientiane surviving in its original shape. Its location marks the centre of the old city and has the oldest monastery in the country. The ... Read more about Wat Sisaket .
Ride through the gates of Wat Sokpaluang and you are immediately overcome with a sense of peace and calm. Also known as Wat Pa (meaning forest temple), this temple is not historically significant like Wat Sisaket or Wat Phiawat but the large forested grounds are lovely and it ranks as one of our favourite temples in Vientiane. The shady spot is a retreat from the modern world and it’s ... Read more about Wat Sokpaluang .
The Lao Textile Museum is an exquisite private collection of antique textiles in a gorgeous, elegant traditional building that brings Jim Thompson’s House to mind. Though the family speak some English, there is no signage or interpretation. Therefore, this place would only be of interest to textile enthusiasts or true aficionados. Underneath the raised house there are old looms and antique ... Read more about Lao Textile Museum .
This two-storey colonial mansion became the Lao National Museum in 1985 and houses enough relics of Lao history and culture, both ancient and modern, to make a visit worthwhile. The first rooms after entering the museum are filled with a hodgepodge of ancient artefacts. You may be surprised to learn that dinosaur bones have been found in Laos. As well, there is evidence of early people from ... Read more about The Lao National Museum .
Vientiane boasts just a handful of monuments; its biggest, That Luang, was built in 1560 to commemorate moving the capital city from Luang Prabang to here. Perhaps the lack of interesting architecture is what led the Royal Lao government to create Patuxai when the US supplied cement and funds to build an airport in 1960 — that’s where the cement ended up, ... Read more about Patuxai .
Buddha Park is more curious than spectacular – which makes for a curious spectacle. A rogue monk is said to have attempted to reconsolidate Buddhism and Hinduism into his own brand of mysticism through a prolific collection of sculptures depicting various deities and scenes from both religions. The information provided at the park is less dramatic, simply stating that Bunleua Sulilat ... Read more about Buddha Park (Wat Xieng Khuan) .
Sprawling yet little-visited Phou Khao Khouay National Park is located only 40 kilometres northeast of Vientiane, accessible via Route 13 headed to Tha Khaek. The park, which means “Buffalo Horn Mountain”, features some beautiful scenery and a vast array of biodiversity ranging from dense jungle to cool, misty pine forests, rivers and waterfalls, including noteworthy Tad Leuk and Tad Xay – ... Read more about Phou Khao Khouay National Park .
Between 1964 and 1973 the US army dropped over two million tons of ordnance on Laos, making it the most heavily bombed country per capita in history. Of the more than 270 million sub-munitions, 80 million failed to explode. The nightmare continues to this day: one person is killed or injured almost everyday by unexploded ordinances (UXO) in Laos. The Cooperative Orthotic and Prosthetic ... Read more about COPE Visitor Centre .
The Lao Disabled Women’s Development Centre (LDWDC) is a non-profit organisation that empowers women with disabilities by offering vocational training, employment, support and community. Visitors can take a tour and a handicraft class at the centre in Vientiane. Be prepared for a joyous and eye-opening ... Read more about Lao Disabled Women’s Development Centre .
While capital city Vientiane rushes towards modernity, one remarkable centre helps women with their future by reviving Laos’ age-old traditional crafts. The Houey Hong Vocational Training Centre for Women provides training and employment opportunities to disadvantaged women in dyeing, weaving, tailoring and small business administration. Travellers can tour the centre and have fun in a natural ... Read more about Houey Hong Vocational Training Centre for Women .
Look at photos of Vientiane’s Mekong riverside from only a few decades ago and you may be surprised to see that it was a wildly leafy tree-lined dirt road, home to little more than rustic shacks, outdoor patios and simple eateries. The river was higher back then, as the Chinese had yet to start their many damming projects upstream, and during wet season the businesses along Fa Ngum would ... Read more about Mekong riverfront at sunset .
The Lao French Institute, or L’Institut francais du Laos was established in 1993 and was initially focused on promoting the French language. The centre has since become a hub for cultural exchange, with its primary focus on France and Laos but other cultures as well – though programming is Francophone-centric. Francophiles will enjoy the multimedia library, a theatre that’s also used as a ... Read more about Lao-French Institute (L’Institut Francais du Laos) .
Trekking on tropical trails, riding on bumpy dirt roads, gadding about in the heat and lapping up generous quantities of Beer Lao are all popular activities in Laos that can leave at least one body part feeling very sore. If you’re passing through Vientiane, you may want to take advantage of the very affordable massages on ... Read more about Massage .
Temperatures in Vientiane can soar and the heat is exacerbated by the amount of new concrete and number of vehicles that have appeared in recent years. It can be especially brutal in the hot-dry months of March to June, and the only civilised thing to do in the middle of the day is to hide in one of the city’s many air-conditioned cafes or take a cooling plunge in ... Read more about Swimming pools in Vientiane .
Every Southeast Asian city has a market that’s a treasure trove of exotic bits and pieces; while Laos cannot rival the markets of Chiang Mai and Bangkok, in Vientiane Talaat Sao, or the morning market, offers a great selection of local offerings, mostly of the fabric-based ... Read more about What to buy at Vientiane's Talaat Sao (Morning Market) .
Visitors are often surprised to learn how different Lao cuisine is to its neighbours. A cooking class is a great window into Lao culture. Not only will you gain insight into ingredients and dishes, you’ll discover the important relationship Lao people have with food and the traditional dining etiquette. Most cooking classes follow the same formula: lessons on three to five dishes, recipes to ... Read more about Cooking classes .