Home to the country’s most famous and important religious monument, Pha That Luang, a 3-layered gilded stupa that has become the national symbol, Vientiane is one of the country’s key sights. It’s got a friendly, relaxed atmosphere, an overabundance of Buddhas (including 2,000 at Wat Si Saket alone) and some of the country’s best food. Add to that the crumbling French architecture, markets morning, noon and night, and shining golden stupas, and you can see what attracts its many visitors.
The city is a draw for anyone wanting to know more about Laos culture. The Lao National Museum offers a viewpoint on Communism and the Vietnam War; the vast number of elaborate temples and sculptures look further back in time, and the markets give you a chance to bargain for local handicrafts, plus silk, teak and textiles. It’s also a stop-off on Mekong River cruises to Luang Prabang (taking 4-6 days), on what could be an interesting and slightly hairy experience, depending on where you stop, the condition of the boat and the state of the river!