How To Spend One Day in Vientiane, Laos’ Laid-back Capital

How To Spend One Day in Vientiane, Laos’ Laid-back Capital

Patuxai Monument, Vientiane

Laos is a country that many people visit for the sake of it because it conveniently borders the more popular Southeast Asian countries of Thailand, Vietnam and Cambodia. I also visited Laos for this very reason: as an addition to my trip to Vietnam and Cambodia. However, I absolutely fell in love with Laos and feel that it deserves way more credit than it gets.

Most people travelling in Laos will likely end up in Vientiane at some point – perhaps you’ll fly into Vientiane or you’ll stop off here to break up your journey from one end of the country to the other.

I’ll say this: Laos’ sleepy capital city of Vientiane doesn’t have the best reputation amongst travellers and is often cited as “boring.” I think it’s definitely worth a visit, being Laos’ capital city and all, but there isn’t a ton to do and it isn’t a place you’ll want to dedicate much time. I recommend saving your precious time for other places in Laos. That is, unless you LOVE temples and want to spend a lot of time exploring Vientiane’s impressive collection of temples.

In my opinion, 24 hours is enough time to enjoy Vientiane and see the city’s highlights, so here is my one day Vientiane itinerary!

Vientiane One Day Itinerary

1 DAY VIENTIANE ITINERARY OVERVIEW

Breakfast at a Lao bakery
Patuxai Monument
Pha That Luang
Wat That Luang Tai
Reclining Buddha
Downtown Vientiane for lunch
COPE Visitor Centre
Vientiane Night Market

Start your day in Vientiane with a coffee & a croissant

Vientiane is all about coffee and bakeries. Coffee grows in the country’s south, in the lush Bolaven Plateau, while bakeries were absorbed into Lao culture during the colonial French era. With this in mind, kickstart your day in Vientiane with coffee and a croissant at one of the city’s top bakeries.

Cafe Vanille is a great choice, with many branches dotted over the city. Alternatively, opt for Common Grounds, a socially conscious cafe in the heart of downtown Vientiane, brewing some of Laos’ best ethically sourced coffee.

Morning: Monuments & temples

After you’ve indulged in some delicious Lao coffee and baked goods, it’s time to head into the heart of Vientiane to visit some of its most famous monuments and temples.

Patuxai Monument

Did you know that Vientiane has its very own Arc de Triomphe?

Patuxai, as it’s called, is a war monument dedicated to those who fought for independence from France. For a mere 3000 kip (27p), you can climb to the top of the Patuxai and enjoy a panoramic view of the city.

Patuxai Monument, Vientiane

Wat That Luang

From Patuxai, continue north along Rue 23 Singha towards the Wat That Luang complex. Here, you’ll find a few different temples, with Pha That Luang Vientiane being the most iconic of them all.

Pha That Luang is supposedly the most important national monument in Laos; a symbol of sovereignty and the Buddhist religion. Its size and architecture are really quite imposing, comprising of a staggering gold stupa.

Pha That Luang, Vientiane

Nearby Pha That Luang’s golden stupa, you’ll find a series of other temples such as Wat That Luang Tai and the Reclining Buddha.

Wat That Luang Tai, Vientiane Reclining Budda, Vientiane

Head to downtown Vientiane for lunch

After a morning spent exploring Vientiane’s temples and monuments, you’ve probably worked up an appetite. Luckily, cheap and tasty meals are never far away in Vientiane!

For lunch, I recommend heading into what I’d refer to as downtown Vientiane. It’s the area of the city near the river, with neighbourhoods such as Watchan, Ban Haysoke and Xieng Nyeun. Here, you’ll find a ton of street food stalls, cafes and restaurants to choose from.

Perhaps you’ll want to grab a steaming bowl of khao piak – a.k.a Lao noodle soup. As a vegetarian, I enjoyed this with tofu, but you can pretty much request any form of protein with it.

Afternoon: COPE Visitor Centre

Assuming you did indeed have lunch in downtown Vientiane, it’s just a half-hour walk to the COPE Visitor Centre. You’ll likely pass near Sisaket Temple on your way, which you may or may not want to stop at, depending on how temple-tired you are from the morning.

The COPE Visitor Centre is a harrowing yet truly fascinating visit. COPE stands for Cooperative Orthotic & Prosthetic Enterprise and is a non-profit organisation providing prosthetic limbs and rehabilitation for Lao people who have suffered limb loss due to bombings in the country.

Laos is the most heavily bombed country on the planet: from 1964 to 1973, the U.S deployed 580,000 bombing missions, resulting in 270 million (yes, million) cluster bombs being dropped on the country. An estimated 80 million of these did not explode at the time, so Laos is littered with unexploded bombs, posing a huge threat to people still today.

The COPE centre displayed an exhibit featuring films, artefacts and information on not only the Vietnam war, but on the victims of the war and the consequences they have suffered. It shows how prosthetics can change the lives of many Lao people.

Entry to the COPE centre is free, although donations are appreciated.

Bomblets in Cope Centre Vientiane Prosthetic limbs in Cope Centre Vientiane

Finish the day at Vientiane Night Market

As the light begins to turn golden, head towards the Mekong. The Vientiane Night Market takes place along the riverfront in Chao Anouvong Park every evening from 6 pm. You’ll see rows upon rows of red-roofed stalls selling handicrafts, clothes, art, electronics, food and more. It’s a huge hive of activity and a great place to spend the evening. It’s a good idea to wander around to find the best price if you spot something you like, as you’ll likely find the same things for sale across the market.

I highly recommend you pick up some coconut pancakes from the market and sit by the river to eat them as the sun goes down – simply delicious, and a perfect way to end your day in Vientiane.

Coconut pancakes, Laos

Got more time to spend in Vientiane?

If you have another half-day or so in Vientiane, I highly recommend a visit to Buddha Park. Buddha Park is a park containing lots of sculptures of – you guessed it – buddhas! It contains more than 200 statues and is great fun to look around. It’s a little way out of town, taking 40 minutes to an hour to get there, so you’ll want to take the local bus, a taxi, or perhaps your hostel will organise a shuttle run there and back, as mine did.

If you choose to take the bus, you’ll need bus #14 from the morning market, which costs 8000 kip (about 1 USD). Entrance to Buddha Park itself costs 15,000 kip (1.75 USD).

Buddha Park Statue, Vientiane

Where to stay in Vientiane

Hostel – Petit Espace
Located in a peaceful area in the heart of Vientiane, this beautiful hostel is the epitome of comfort, with cosy beds and sofas and a rustic common area. Check prices and availability.

Hotel – Patuxay Place
Located just a short walk from the Patuxay Monument, this modern hotel is super comfortable and provides fresh fruit and coffee each morning. Check prices and availability.