Most people I know have been to Vientiane either to apply for a Thai Visa or because it was on their way to visit the north of the country (Vang Vieng and Luang Prabang).
I'm yet to meet someone that loves the city and that has nothing but good things to say about it.
And it's a shame because even if on paper Vientiane doesn't seem like the most interesting city in the region, there are still enough interesting things to keep you busy for a few days.
Then past those first few days of discovery, it's also a nice place to chill, get some work done, and take some time to rest before the rest of your journey.
So if you happen to go be in Vientiane, here's a list of cool things to do in the city.
- Things to see in Vientiane
- Cool things to do in Vientiane
- Shopping in Vientiane
- Drink in Vientiane
- Fun things to do in Vientiane
- More things to do in Vientiane
Things to see in Vientiane
Everywhere you go there are always places that you must visit and Vientiane is no exception.
The good thing about Vientiane though is that you can easily cover all the main monuments in one day.
Whether you decide to do it by foot, with a tuk-tuk, to rent a bike to explore by yourself or to get a guide, everything in this part of the list can easily but done in a few hours.
Does that mean you should stay just a day in Vientiane? Not necessarily.
But if you're on a short trip to Laos, one day could be enough to see the most popular sights of Vientiane.
So, what to see in Vientiane?
Pha That Luang
One of the national symbols of Laos is Pha That Luang.
It's a great place to start your visit of Vientiane and offer a good taste of the influence Buddhism has on the country.
There's also a lot of temples around it so plan some time to walk around and appreciate the different designs and statues.
Inspired by the Arc de Triomphe in Paris, the Victory Gate, or Patuxay, is probably the most iconic monument of Vientiane and one you can't miss.
For a small entry fee, you can climb to the top and enjoy one of the best view of the city.
Ho Phra Keo
From Patuxai if you go down Lane Xang avenue you will arrive at the most important temple in town, Wat Ho Phra Keo.
This temple used to be home to the Emerald Buddha before Thailand brought it back to Bangkok, at the Grand Palace.
Wat Si Saket
Just across the road is Wat Si Saket, probably one of the oldest temple in Vientiane and home of over 2,000 statues and images of Buddha.
Wat Si Muang
Again, just meters from Wat Si Saket is another temple.
Wat Si Muang is believed to bring good luck and good fortune to people who go pray there.
Buddha Park (Xieng Khuan)
Once you're done with the main sightseeing in the city center, head to the Buddha Park.
Located outside the city, by the Mekong, the park contains more than 200 statues of Buddha and is definitely one of the most unique scenes you will see in Laos.
All these visits can be done by yourself and only take a few hours.
Now if you want to hire a van to avoid walking or to get a guide, here are a few options below :
Cool things to do in Vientiane
Now that you're done with the temples, museum, and monuments Vientiane has to offer, it's time to embrace the laidback vibe of the city.
Walk by the Mekong Riverfront
The Mekong River is one of the best places to relax after a long day exploring the city.
Go there during the sunset to have a look at the free aerobic classes happening by the river. It's worth a look.
They've also built a night market on the banks of the river where you can find all sorts of food and drinks.
Take a break to grab a coffee
In the last few years, Vientiane has seen a really interesting coffee scene emerging that resembles the one you can find in Chiang Mai, Thailand.
There's a ton of great cafes with local and international brews made to perfection.
They also offer all sorts of really good fresh and healthy food options with even vegan and vegetarian options in some places.
If you're looking for the perfect place in Vientiane to grab quality coffee and get some work done, you can check the list I've made here.
Shopping in Vientiane
Night market along the Mekong
Every night there's a big night market by the Mekhong where you can find cheap clothes, electronics, and food.
It's a place that mixes both locals and tourists and much like the night markets we have in Thailand, it's a great spot to buy some cheap t-shirts and shoes that you're gonna destroy during your trip.
Not so much a place to buy souvenirs though.
Drink in Vientiane
By now, all these activities probably made you thirsty.
I know I am.
Watch the sunset over the Mekong from a Rooftop Bar
There's nothing better than a cold beer with a great sunset.
For that head to Bor Pen Yang.
Not the most classy place but they have good food and cheap drinks as well as a great view of the Mekhong.
And if you're a single guy traveling to Vientiane, it's probably the place where you want to hang out at night. That's one of the few places where you will meet "friendly" local girls.
Try Laodi Rhum
Because in every country you visit you should try the local drinks.
And this one is really worth trying.
Laodi rhum is made with the sugar can juice like the "Rhum" (and not rum) from the French Caribbean.
Then they mix this delicious juice with local products to produce some high quality arranged rum with flavors like coconut, plum, sugar cane, and more.
It's quite sweet, easy to drink, and with plenty of flavors.
But be careful, a few shots will be enough to send you to another dimension.
🐵 Mojo Tip: if you got some space in your luggage, make sure to bring some bottles home.
Fun things to do in Vientiane
Rent a bike and get lost in the city
Vientiane is relatively small so it makes it pretty easy to get around by bike.
Sure the traffic is a bit crazy at some places but it's overall a very cool city to explore with a bike.
That also allows you to stretch the day you decide to visits the main monuments. Going to visit all the best places in Vientiane will only take you a few hours.
On top of that, with a bike, you see a completely different side of the city. You can have a look at more local areas and even stop for coffee and food wherever and whenever you want.
And if you don't want to bike by yourself, you can also do a bike tour with a guide to learn more about the city as you ride the streets.
That's definitely what I will do next time I'm in town.
Take a day trip from Vientiane
A few years ago we used a local agency to take us on a day trip where we went biking and kayaking in the countryside.
While I can't remember the name of the agency or the place we went, it was absolutely amazing and really eye-opening to see how life and nature is outside of Vientiane.
We biked through the countryside for a few hours to arrive at a waterfall where we had a local lunch (really spicy) with our guide.
Then he gave us a kayak and we went down a river to meet him somewhere at the end of it.
It was super interesting, really intense, a bit exhausting as we had some rain and the weather went from hot and humid to cold and windy a few times. But it's a unique experience and would definitely do it again if I have the occasion.
If you need some inspiration, Marie, a local expat, give 15 ideas of day trips from Vientiane here :
(I think our tour was the #14 on her blog)
More things to do in Vientiane
Of course, there's a lot more to be added and I'll make sure to complete the list next time I'm going to Vientiane.
Book your tickets now
In the meantime, thanks for reading and let me know, what was your favorite part of Vientiane? What should people absolutely do while they're in town?
Let me know in the comments.