10 Free Things to do and see in Vientiane, Laos
There's plenty to do in Vientiane for the budget traveler! This small and atmospheric city is full of interesting and exciting free things to see and do, from temples to museums to markets. Save money and visit these top 10 free sites in Vientiane, Laos.
1. COPE Center
A visit to Vientiane is not complete without a visit to the COPE Visitor's Center.
Even decades after the end of the Vietnam War, there are more unexploded ordinances (UXO) leftover in Laos than there are people, and the poor infrastructure and rough terrain make it difficult to remove bombs. A visit to the informative and heartbreaking COPE Visitor's Center in Vientiane, where you can learn about the NGO's efforts to remove bombs and supply prosthetic limbs and rehabilitation services to those injured in explosions, is a worthwhile way to spend an hour or so during your visit to the Laotian capital.
2. Wat Si Mueang
Wat Si Mueang is a historic temple dating back to the 16th century, but its status as a holy site goes back a few hundred years earlier than that. Wat Si Mueang was built over the ruins of an ancient Khmer Hindu temple.
Visit the temple to see the beautiful Buddhist architecture, pray for good luck, and receive a blessing from a local monk.
3. City Pillar Shrine
Vientiane's City Pillar Shrine, located just down the road from Wat Si Mueang, is a sacred site in the city, and Vientiane's spiritual heart.
Vientiane's historic city pillar is housed in a large and ornate shrine building. Like Wat Si Mueang, it's free to visit. There is also a small City Pillar Museum located around the back of the shrine.
Patuxai, the Laotian Arc de Triomphe, pays tribute to Laos' French Indochinese past, but still embraces a uniquely Lao style. Nicknamed the "Vertical Runway", it was built using concrete donated by the USA for the construction of a new airport. The monument was originally built to commemorate independence from France, but has since been co-opted by the Communist Party as a symbol of revolution and victory.
There's a small fee to enter and climb to the roof of the Patuxai for views of surrounding Vientiane, but it's completely free to visit the beautiful park and fountains that surround the huge monument.
5. Vientiane Night Market
As long as you don't buy anything, a visit to the Vientiane Night Market can be a free and very interesting experience. The Night Market along the Mekong riverfront opens every night around 6:00pm, and you can spend an hour or two browsing through the local goods, products, and souveniers.
If you do decide to buy something, don't forget to bargain for the best deal! That's all part of the fun at a Lao market.
6. Beer Lao Brewery Museum
Just out of town on the main road, you can pay a visit to the Beer Lao Factory. Unfortunately, they've stopped giving tours (they might restart when renovations are complete), but you can visit the on-site museum for free. Also, visit the gift shop for some merchandise (like an awesome yellow hat!) and the "minibar" (ie the tasting room) where you can order a couple of bottles to try the three original flavors (Lager, Dark, and Gold) and the three brand-new craft-style lagers (Hoppy, Amber, and White).
7. That Dam Stupa
That Dam, meaning the Black Stupa, is a monument housing a Buddhist holy relic. This Thai-style chedi dates back to the Siamese occupation of the 17th century. Said to have been once covered in gold, the gold has long been stripped away, leaving a bare stone monument. Overgrown in moss and weeds, the stupa, which sits in a traffic circle near the US Embassy, looks mysterious and ancient.
8. Mekong Riverfront
Take a walk through the long park that runs along the riverfront near the Mekong River. You can enjoy local life, join in a morning tai-chi session or an evening aerobics class, or just sit on a bench and watch the muddy waters slowly flow past.
9. Visit the Temples
While some of the most popular temples like Wat Si Saket and That Luang have admission fees, Vientiane has dozens of smaller local temples, each one beautiful and peaceful, that visitors can explore for free. A visit to a Lao temple is a great way to experience local life and culture.
10. Explore the city by bike or on foot
Vientiane is small enough that you can easily get around by bicycle or on foot. The historic city is atmospheric enough to warrant a few hours just exploring the quiet roads lined with crumbling old colonial-era buildings and beautiful golden Buddhist temples. It's a beautiful city for street photography, and one that almost demands a visitor to explore aimlessly by foot.
Learn More: A Weekend in Vientiane Travel Guide >>http://acoupleofdestinations.com/blog/2016/11/Vientiane-weekend-list.html