Looking to stop in Laos during your SE Asia trip? The charming capital city of Vientiane is known for its laid-back atmosphere, French architecture, and gilded Buddhist temples. The Vientiane sights have a lot to offer tourists and visitors, whether it’s the impressive temples and monuments, beautiful architecture, or its growing cafe and restaurant scene. Situated on a curve of the gorgeous Mekong River, Vientiane makes for a chill, navigable city that’s sure to surprise visitors with its wide range of attractions. Those who visit Vientiane will notice its small-town charm, filled with cute and quirky shops that its big neighboring cities can’t replicate. Be sure to check out our list of top things to do and see!
Vientiane, as the capital city, is home to many colourful and interesting Laos cultural attractions that illustrate the past and present history of the dynamic and fascinating country of Laos. Most of these attractions are spread around the city, and it can take as much as a full day to see them all.
But there are some attractions that are well worth visiting within a short tuk-tuk ride from the Crowne Plaza Vientiane. Some of these attractions offer a glimpse of both the Lao-style of architecture as well as colonial architecture. Others offer a wonderful sample of the sights, sounds and tastes of modern Vientiane. Here is what is on offer within a short distance from the Crown Plaza.
THE PRESIDENTIAL PALACE
One of the top Vientiane sights that you simply can’t miss on your visit to town is the Presidential Palace. You can view this imposing structure only from a distance, but it’s fascinating to see, nonetheless. Officially opening its doors in 1986, the Presidential Palace isn’t actually the official residence of the president. It’s used for official state functions and, because of this, the public is not allowed on the grounds. The palace, designed in the modern Lao-style of architecture, is situated in the middle of well-manicured gardens that are every bit as splendid and impressive as the palace itself.
LAO NATIONAL CULTURAL HALL
Architecture buffs will also undoubtedly appreciate the Lao National Cultural Hall located along Rue Setthathilath. The soaring colonnades and intricate detail on the front facade of the building represent the modern Lao-style of architecture at its very finest. Although only open to the public during special events and art exhibitions, the Cultural Hall is nevertheless a favourite subject for tourist photographers.
The National Library is a classic example of the colonial architecture that that was the result of the country being a protectorate of France from 1893 until it granted self-rule in 1946. The building was originally created to serve as the governor’s residence in that bygone era. Today, it’s the repository of Laos’s most important books, scrolls and documents. The library is located midway between the Lao National Cultural Hall and the Presidential Palace.
CHAO ANOU NIGHT MARKET
For hunters of high-quality souvenirs, a good destination is to head to the Chao Anou Night Market after the sun sets for the day. Rather than being aimed at the tourist trade, the market is oriented toward the local people, both vendors and buyers, who congregate at the market to do their shopping and trade in silks, hillside tribe handicrafts, and silver jewellery. The market serves up some tasty Lao delicacies that visitors are invited to sample. It also is a good source of inexpensive clothing, appliances and electronics.
MEKONG REVISIDE WALK
The Mekong Riverside walk is a romantic place to end your long day of sightseeing around Vientiane. Taking a stroll along the riverside promenade is something of a tradition in the city, and you’re likely to be joined by Laos from all areas of the city who have come to the river to enjoy the cooler evening air and socialise with the families and friends. Pick up some snacks and drinks at the numerous stalls along the way and soak in the atmosphere of another evening of after work leisure time in Vientiane.
VISIT THE LAO DISABLED WOMEN’S CENTRE
This inspiring non-profit organization provides support and vocational training for disabled women all around Laos. Disabled women in Laos are among the most vulnerable group of people in Laos, and the center was founded by women who seek to empower and help other disabled women. You’ll be shown a video that introduces you to the history and humble beginnings of the centre. After, the women will take you on a tour of the facilities.The warmth and friendliness of the women make this tour a memorable one. The centre includes many homemade handicrafts and all proceeds go toward the sustainability of the centre. You’ll most likely see women weaving intricate silk fabrics and patterns, transforming them into beautiful skirts that you can purchase from directly. You’ll also notice women making traditional Lao pottery charcoal stoves which are still prevalent in many Lao homes. Other accessories and homemade gifts include paper products, heat mats, cards, jewelry made from recycled paper. An authentic Lao lunch is provided and you will get the opportunity to learn how to make local handicrafts with the locals. The Lao Disabled Women’s Centre is a unique Laos cultural attraction that teaches you more about the local Lao community and the wonderful work they are doing.
TAKE A STROLL ON THE WALKING STREET
Situated behind the Vientiane New World Shopping Center, the walking street is one of the top things to do in Vientiane. The charming road comes alive during the evening, making it the perfect night stroll, especially if you’re a foodie. The walking street is right next to Chao Anouvong Park and is dotted with authentic restaurants, bars, delicious, and affordable street food stalls everywhere. We recommend going on an empty stomach as you’ll want to try all the local amazing street foods upon arrival. You can pretty much find everything at the walking street; handicrafts, international cuisines, clothes, and there’s even a skating rink nearby. The Walking Street is a vibrant but not overwhelming place to enjoy street eats and makes for an excellent people-watching spot.
HAVE YOUR PHOTO TAKEN IN FRONT OF PATUXAY MONUMENT
This is one of the most iconic monuments in the city and anyone who has ever visited Vientiane will recognise it immediately. Surrounded by tranquil, tropical gardens in the middle of the city, this monument will remind some people of the Arc de Triomphe in Paris, which is somewhat ironic as the monument commemorates the Laos who lost their lives in the struggle for independence from the French. You can climb to the top of the monument and have a panoramic view of the garden and surrounding areas. It’s a popular place for residents to visit and stroll in the gardens at sunset.
STROLL AMONG THE WHIMSICAL STATUES OF BUDDHA PARK
Buddha Park is located to the southeast of the city, along the Mekong river. Although the park and statues look ancient, the 200+ intricate statues were the work of a single shaman, priest, and artist named Bunleua Sulilat, who began work in the late 50s. They are mainly made of reinforced, cast concrete, and depict animals, humans, gods and demons. Some of the statues are very large, including a 40-meter long reclining Buddha, and a 3-meter tall Demon head. If you take the journey out to visit the park, be sure to have your cameras fully charged to spend the afternoon getting pictures of all the whimsical statues. It’s best to try and schedule a trip out to the park in the early morning or early evening to avoid the heat of the afternoon sun.
BE AWED BY THE STUNNING PHA THAT LUANG TEMPLE
Foreign tourists are noticeably stunned when they first behold the Pha That Luang Buddhist Temple that is situated a short distance northeast of the city center. The most imposing part of the temple is the gold-covered stupa which soars 145-meters into the sky and is surrounded by 30 smaller stupas. The pinnacle of the stupa is said to be gilded with real gold, while the rest of the structure is coated with gold paint.The structure is revered as a pilgrimage destination by all Lao Buddhists, who make it a point to visit the temple at least once in their lives. The grounds around the stupa contain lots of Lao and Khmer statues that depict figures, both mythical and historical from Lao history. The temple is one of the most beautiful sights in Vientiane.
CHASE THE TAD MOUN WATERFALL
Just outside of Vientiane lies untouched, scenic hiking trails and an abundance of nature. Tad Moun waterfall is the nearest waterfall to the city centre, making it an effortless and wonderful place to visit during the summer days. It’s a popular spot for locals to have summer picnics during the weekend. Those looking for more adventure can rent a bike and cycle around the green region. The falls are more akin to gentle rapids, so you can enjoy the day cooling off and floating on the water. There are also small trails if you’re more interested in hiking, and there are thatch huts available for you to set up a nice picnic date. Ice cream and local Beer Lao are also available for purchase onsite. There are lots of things to do near Vientiane, and Tad Moun Waterfall is a fantastic way to get some nature time without having to go far. Travel through the Lao countryside authentically and pass through the rice paddy fields, muddy trails, and unique rock formations on a bike for the most refreshing sightseeing experience.
CRUISE DOWN THE NAM NGUM RESERVOIR
Only an hour and a half from Vientiane, the Nam Ngum Reservoir makes for a lovely day trip if you’re planning to stay in Vientiane for a few days. If you’re a fan of road trips, you’ll love the route to the reservoir as it’s very scenic and relaxing. You can easily take a cruise down the reservoir and enjoy a nice authentic lunch with soft drinks and local beer. There are a few small islands nearby, and you’ll most likely get to stop on one for a few exquisite panoramic photos of the reservoir. If you seek a delightful, relaxing adventure with minimal costs and effort, be sure to check out the Nam Ngum Reservoir as it’s one of the most laid-back things to do just outside of Vientiane!
COMPLETE YOUR JOURNEY AT CROWNE PLAZA VIENTIANE
After a long day of sightseeing and being out in the sun, there’s nothing more comforting than to complete your journey at our lovely hotel at the Crowne Plaza Vientiane. Recharge by our pool with a craft cocktail in hand, or for total relaxation, book a wonderful spa session at our award-winning Senses Spa, located on the third floor of the Crowne Plaza Vientiane.