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Things to see and do

Hiking, walking tours and itineraries

  • A weekend in Vientiane
    4.5 stars

    Vientiane is a long way from the buzz of cities like Bangkok or Hanoi, and is quite likely to be one of the smallest capital cities you’ll ever visit. Two days is usually enough for most travellers passing through to see the highlights — here’s how we’d suggest spending them. Start your ... read more


  • A few of Vientiane's best wats
    4 stars

    Few cultural institutions in Laos have endured the test of time, war and revolution like the wat, or the Buddhist temple. One of the most stunning wats in Vientiane is Wat Ho Phra Keow. Originally built in the mid-16th century by revered King Setthathirath to house the Emerald Buddha, it was ... read more

  • That Luang
    4 stars

    No town in Laos is complete without a stupa or two and, as it's the capital city, it seems fitting that Vientiane has the biggest. Located about two clicks east of the Patuxai monument, golden That Luang is the national symbol. The stupa was first built in 1566 and was said to contain a hair from ... read more

  • Wat Ong Theu
    3 stars

    Known as the Temple of the Heavy Buddha, Wat Ong Theu was originally built in the late 16th century by King Setthathirat but, like most of Vientiane, it was destroyed during the Thai invasion of 1828. The temple you see now was rebuilt at the turn of the 20th century and sits in a shady compound ... read more

  • Wat Ho Phra Kaew
    4 stars

    Visitors to this lovely temple set amid manicured grounds would never guess it has had such a turbulent history. The wat was originally built in 1565 to serve as the temple of the Lao royal family, but was razed and looted during the Thai invasion. The name of the temple is homage to the sacred ... read more

  • Wat Si Muang
    3.5 stars

    Wat Si Muang is a little temple that plays a big role in the daily lives of many locals. Though it is a Buddhist temple, its story offers some insight into how the Lao people have merged their former animist beliefs with Buddhism. Many variations of the legend abound, but approximately 300 years ... read more

  • Wat Sisaket
    3.5 stars

    Built between 1818 and 1824 by King Chao Anou, Wat Sisaket survived the Thai invasion in one piece, making it the oldest temple in Vientiane. The temple features a Bangkok-style design with large pillars and a five-tiered roof -- perhaps this is why it was spared. The sim is surrounded by a ... read more

  • Wat Mixay, Wat Chan, Wat Inpeng, Wat Haysoke
    3 stars

    These four temples are a short walk from the guesthouse district, so most travellers will at least pass by them, if not actually go inside. These are functioning temples and not set up as tourist attractions, so don't expect any English signs or information. Rather, they are pretty and ... read more


  • The Lao National Museum
    3.5 stars

    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 you come upon after entering the museum are filled with a hodgepodge of ancient artefacts like Khmer ... read more

Interesting buildings

  • Patuxai
    4 stars

    The large concrete monolith at the end of Lane Xang Ave is Patuxai, the Victory Gate of Vientiane. Except for the Buddhist details visible up close, Patuxai was clearly designed to resemble Paris's Arc du Triomphe. We're not sure what victory it's supposed to be celebrating -- perhaps the end of ... read more

  • That Dam
    2.5 stars

    A short walk from the centre of town, this blackened stupa is regarded as more of a landmark than an attraction. It's clearly quite old, but there is no signage or any information about it. Legend has it that That Dam was home to a seven-headed dragon with the power to protect Vientiane from ... read more

  • Lao National Culture Hall
    2.5 stars

    The palatial golden building opposite the National Museum on Samsenthai Road is the underused National Culture Hall, which opened in 2000. Constructed with grant money from China as a testament to Lao cultural activities, it's used sporadically and broadly, featuring performances by Lao artists, ... read more

  • Nam Phou (Fountain) Square
    4 stars

    After a 2012 makeover, Nam Phu is fully equipped with speakers, lightshows and a deck connecting to several establishments serving food and beer. Access to the fountain is free and available at all hours, simply meander past the food stalls. There is live music every night by locals with guitars ... read more

Day trips

  • Buddha Park (Wat Xieng Khuan)
    4.5 stars

    Though the locals call it Wat Xieng Khuan, this attraction 25 km outside the city limits it not a temple but an outdoor collection of religiously-inspired statuary. The huge images were built in the 1950s by Lao mystic Luang Pu Bunleae Sulilat who hoped to unite the Buddhist and Hindu faiths with ... read more

General activities

  • COPE: Helping people move on
    3.5 stars

    Between 1964 and 1973 the US army dropped more than two million tons of ordnance on Laos, earning the country the dubious distinction of being the most heavily bombed country per capita in history ... read more

  • Vientiane's best sunset spots
    4.5 stars

    This once sleepy city is on the verge of bustling, yet pockets of tranquility still exist and are at their finest at sunset with a view of the Mekong and an ice-cold glass of BeerLao. A favourite place among expats to watch the sunset is Highland Bar. This outdoor bar on wooden stilts provides a ... read more

  • Mekong Riverfront
    4 stars

    If you haven't drunk a Beerlao on the bank of the Mekong, you have not been to Vientiane. In a city of few must-see attractions, a leisurely evening of food and drink by the river has become the iconic Vientiane experience. Though there are always a couple simple restaurants open along the river, ... read more

  • COPE Visitors Centre
    4.5 stars

    A phenomenal example of Lao people helping their fellow countrymen, COPE was established to provide medical treatment, prosthetics, and mobility devices to people who could otherwise not afford them. Many of the people that COPE (Cooperative Orthotic and Prosthetic Enterprise) treat are victims of ... read more

  • Lao-French Institute (L’Institut Francais du Laos)
    4 stars

    The French Language Centre on Lane Xang Ave (opposite the tourist office) is a prime promoter of local and international arts. The centre serves as a venue for music, dance, theatre, art exhibitions and cinema screenings, which occur irregularly, but roughly on a weekly basis. Its cafe is a ... read more

  • Vientiane shooting range
    3.5 stars

    On the outskirts of Vientiane it’s possible for travellers to get their hands on some weapons and fire a few rounds at paper targets — why wait till you get to Phnom Penh? When arriving at the shooting range of the Vientiane Capital Shooting Federation, visitors are presented with a menu of ... read more

  • Massage
    4 stars

    Trekking on mountain trails, riding on bumpy dirt roads and lapping up loads of BeerLao are all popular activities in Laos that can leave at least one body part very sore. If your body feels a bit out of whack, or you're in need of some serious relaxation, head for one of Vientiane's many massage ... read more

  • Swimming pools in Vientiane
    3.5 stars

    Beat the dry heat of Laos with a dip in one of the many swimming pools scattered across town. The best are undoubtedly the ones at the city's top hotels, and most are open to the public for a modest fee. The third floor of the Don Chan consists of an indoor spa and an open-air gym and swimming ... read more

  • Sengdara Fitness Centre
    3 stars

    The biggest and most popular gym in Vientiane, Sengdara draws a crowd, and to some extent, a captive audience. With two floors of exercise equipment for every need, several exercise rooms with mats and balls, daily classes, an outdoor pool and Jacuzzi, steam rooms, saunas and a massage centre, ... read more


  • What to buy at Vientiane's Talaat Sao (Morning Market)
    4 stars

    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 kind. Every Southeast Asian city has a market that’s a treasure trove of exotic bits and pieces; while Laos ... read more

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