is Southeast Asia's smallest capital nestled between the bends of the mighty Mekong River. This unusual city is surrounded by lush green paddy fields and is still peaceful and quiet. Vientiane has countless temples and pagodas with important Thai and Khmer shrines and relics that mirror the country’s chequered past. It is also a place for curious pedestrians to easily and pleasantly explore the city by foot.
Vientiane is a typically old Indo-Chinese town and the mixture of Asian and French colonial architecture will charm you. Not only does the style of the buildings reflect Laos’ historical ties with France, but the freshly baked baguettes are often served next to shops selling Lao noodle soup. This capital city is the center of culture, commerce and administration in Laos. The major attractions of Vientiane are the serene Buddhist monasteries, excellent shopping places and the wonderful strolls you can make along the banks of the Mekong River.
The top of the Arch the Triumph (Patuxay) offers you rare views on the greenish city. This monument, patterned after the Parisian Arc de Triomphe, was built in memory of all war victims. Another important national symbol is the That Luang temple or Royal Stupa. It dates from the 16th century and symbolises Buddhist and Lao union. Also visit the Lao Revolutionary Museum and Wat Ho Phakeo, a former royal temple. Wat Sisaket is one of the capital's oldest temples and houses hundreds of small Buddha images. The Buddha Park, located 24 km outside town, displays fascinating Buddhist and Hindu structures. The National Ethnic Cultural Park or Suan Vatthana Tham shows literary heroes of Laos and also contains a small zoo.
Xieng Khouang or Garden of Statues: enshrines sculptures of Buddha images and Hindu gods. This charming park is located near the banks of the Mekong River and it’s about a 25 minute drive from Vientiane. Xieng Khoung is a creation of a monk, who wanted to combine different religions.
Wat Ho Prakeo: is situated next to the Presidential Palace, this temple was exclusively used by the former Lao royal family. Formerly, the temple was the home of the Emerald Buddha. It was taken back by the Thais in 1778 and now resides in Bangkok.
The That Luang: or Royal Stupa is the most famous landmark of Vientiane. It was constructed in 1566 and restored in 1935. The golden stupa is believed to contain a relic of the Lord Buddha and is situated 3 km north of the centre of the city.
The Lao Revolutionary Museum: is housed in a large French colonial building and shows a collection of artefacts, photographs and paintings of the history of the Lao People's Revolution. The English translations of the photo captions are often unintentionally funny.
The Victory Monument or Patuxay: is situated in the centre of Vientiane. The Arch of Triumph, or Victory Gate, was built in 1958 at the north end of Lan Xang Avenue. As you will notice, the architecture was clearly inspired by the Arc de Triomphe in Paris, and adorned with typical Lao motifs. During the day, the monument can be climbed and makes an excellent vantage point of the city.
The Wat Sisaket: is the only temple in Vientiane that survived the sacking of the city by the Siamese in 1828. It is the oldest and most interesting wat in the country. In the hundreds of small niches of the walls of the temple, you’ll find almost 7,000 Buddha images and old Buddhist inscriptions dating from the 18th century.
The National Ethnic Cultural Park or Suan Vatthana Tham: is located 20 km downriver from Vientiane. The park includes shady paths, sculptures of Lao literary heroes and a small zoo. Visitors can also relax at the Mekong riverside and enjoy the view of the Thai-Lao Friendship Bridge.
The Morning Market: allows you to find all kinds of different shops. It's well known for jewellery, silver, antiques and Lao textiles. This is also a good place to change money officially. Outside there's a food market with cheap road restaurants.