Photo: Classic shopfront architecture.

Exploring Savannakhet

Our rating:

Savannakhet doesn’t appear on many tourist itineraries. It’s thin on sights and the decline in tourism interest over the years means that many of the programmes are currently not operating. The draw is the city itself, the historic downtown being the highlight. A showcase of languid ambience and quaint architecture, it can be atmospheric and utterly charming.

Travel better, travel smarter

Save money, receive our latest updates and get the most out of your travels.


A wander around the historic downtown is a must. At the heart is Talat Yen, a square where a food market pops up nightly; it’s a great place to graze on nibbles, people watch and wind down. In the 1920s, the French began to settle in Savannakhet, developing it into a commercial and administrative centre. Shipments travelled up the Mekong from Cambodia to Pakse and Don Kho island before reaching Savannakhet.

The abandoned Khounsavan Cinema. Photo taken in or around Exploring Savannakhet, Savannakhet, Laos by Cindy Fan.

The abandoned Khounsavan Cinema. Photo: Cindy Fan

With the French settlement came Vietnamese and Chinese tradesmen and merchants, the area around Talat Yen and the Catholic Church becoming their commercial hub. You can still see the old wooden shop houses, mixed in with later 1970s modernist pebbledash and terrazzo homes and buildings. Buildings have been touched up with new roofs and some restoration work but much of the architectural details remain as they were, crumbling, dilapidated, imbued with a nostalgia long lost in cities like Tha Khaek and Pakse.

There are many buildings to gawk at on the streets running off from Talat Yen, all laid out in a neat grid. Check out Sooksavan Cafe Bistro, which is beside the abandoned modernist Khounsavan Cinema, Savan Cafe and the shops all along this street, Vivanouk B&B, the now closed Sala Savan Guesthouse and Lin’s Cafe, which in late 2016 still had a small exhibition on the old town upstairs. Look for battered, faded Chinese sign boards, along with a Chinese and Vietnamese temple.

Pace yourself. Photo taken in or around Exploring Savannakhet, Savannakhet, Laos by Cindy Fan.

Pace yourself. Photo: Cindy Fan

At the northeast corner of Talat Yen is Saint Theresa Catholic Church, an important landmark built in the 1920s. The church is still active and services are held from 05:30 to 06:30 Sunday ... Travelfish members only (Around 600 more words) ... please log in to read the rest of this story.

Don’t miss the boat!

Please subscribe to to read the rest of this article, or log in here.

Subscribing to Travelfish costs A$35 per year and it gets you access to more than 200 downloadable guides to specific destinations, fabulous discount coupons and 50% off our personalised travel planning service. Sign up here.


Popular hotels in Savannakhet on Agoda

Popular attractions in Savannakhet

A selection of some of our favourite sights and activities around Savannakhet.

Best places to stay in Savannakhet

A selection of some of our favourite places to stay in Savannakhet.

What next?

 Browse our independent reviews of places to stay in and around Savannakhet.
 Check prices, availability & reviews on Agoda or Booking
 Read up on where to eat on Savannakhet.
 Check out our listings of things to do in and around Savannakhet.
 Read up on how to get to Savannakhet.
 Do you have travel insurance yet? If not, find out why you need it.
 Planning on riding a scooter in Savannakhet? Please read this.
 Browse the web securely while travelling with TunnelBear. Try with a 7–day free trial.

See below for more sights and activities in Savannakhet that are listed on

Top of page

Where to next?

Where are you planning on heading to after Savannakhet? Here are some spots commonly visited from here, or click here to see a full destination list for Laos.

Top of page