Consistent with the Laos’ contrast to the rest of Southeast Asia, the country’s capital has little in common with the likes of other capitals in the region. It’s small by city standards and the slow pace more closely resembles that of a village. It’s not hard to guess it’s a former French trading post, given the historic old French quarter and architecture that lines many roads, including a Laotian Arc de Triomphe. Although Vientiane doesn’t have the outdoor attractions of Vang Vieng, several cute attractions paint a complete picture of this unique city.
A great first stop is exploring the French quarter, which is rich with cultural history and a cafe culture that rivals Luang Prabang. The Buddhist stupa Pha That Luang that is printed on the Laotian currency is located in the heart of the city, and a few kilometers outside you can find many other temples including Wat Si Saket, the oldest temple in Vientiane. You’ll also come across the Patuxai, not to be mistaken for the Arc de Triomphe in Paris, which you can climb for a small fee and enjoy a view of the surrounding landscape.
As with many capital cities, Vientiane is not considered an adventure destination but rather a cultural center rich with historical sites significant to the country’s development today. That means that if you like culture and history then this is the place for you, but if you want something a little more active then you may want to skip it. That said, it’s also an easy place to enjoy a couple of days on any budget, given the variety of upper end French cuisine and local street markets, and both boutique and backpacker accommodation.