From night markets along the riverfront to tiny tucked away boutique stores offering one-of-a-kind Buddhist artefacts, Vientiane has a surprisingly wide selection of shopping options considering its relatively small size.
Rather than boasting a never-ending supply mega-malls like so many other South East Asian capitals, Vientiane specialises more in quaint gift shops, galleries and outlets, selling genuine hill tribe silk, arts, crafts, home-furnishings, jewellery and books – most of which can be found around the city centre. There’s certainly no shortage of markets either, with Talad Sao Morning Market, Vangtong Evening Market and aforementioned Night Market along the Mekong riverfront among the pick of the bunch. Here are the 10 best places to shop in Vientiane!
The Vientiane Night Market – often referred to as the ‘night bazaar’ – is the biggest and most popular tourist shopping spot in the whole city. Straddling the majestic Mekong River, the sprawling line of red-roofed stalls line the promenade, making for a great place to grab a bargain, find a picturesque spot to eat, or just soak up the chilled-out atmosphere.
Unlike many markets in the region, the shopping tempo is far from frantic. Here, you usually won’t find pushy vendors or much congestion. Instead, you can slowly peruse the various stalls that sell a vast selection of electronics, clothes, accessories, artwork and trinkets. For food, the market itself doesn’t offer much, however there are plenty of bars and restaurants overlooking the Night Market (notably Bor Pen Nyang).
- Opening Hours: 18:00 – 24:00
- Location: On the promenade next to Chao Anouvong Park
Carol Cassidy Lao Textiles is a shop in the centre of Vientiane that doubles as both a workshop and gallery. The store specialises in traditional Laotian textile weaving and has a strong emphasis on intricate patterns and elaborate motifs.
The American designer works in store alongside local artisans, using old-age techniques to produce stunning pieces of woven art, clothes and cloths. Carol Cassidy made her as a prominent designer in the industry after many of her items were chosen to be displayed in museums across the USA – including at The New York Fashion Institute. However, with this world renowned status comes a hefty price tag to match.
- Opening Hours: Monday – Friday: 08:00 –12:00, 14:00 –17:00, Saturday: 08:00 -12:00
- Location: Rue Nokeokummane
Talat Sao Morning Market is a great place to shop for the early risers. Things kick off 07.00, which is when most of the stalls begin to set up, selling everything from cheap clothes to expensive wooden carvings of Buddhist murals.
The market is split into two areas: An outside section is comprised of narrow walkways crammed full of the more rough and ready market-style stalls, whilst the indoor section is more of a shopping mall – the only one you’ll find in Vientiane. Inside is inevitably brighter, more spacious and cooler (air-conditioned), making for a much more pleasant shopping experience. There’s also a Big C centre, a three-screen cinema and an arcade games area – all perfect to escape the outside heat.
- Opening Hours: 7:00-17:00 (Market stalls tend to close earlier)
- Address: Talat Sao Mall, Lane Xang Avenue, Vientiane
- Tel: +856 (0)21 285 001
Oot Ni Gallery is one of the largest and best antiques shops in Vientiane, and is well worth a look if you’re looking for something a little more unique. The shop, which is located near the National Cultural Hall on Samsenthai Street, displays an assortment of genuine antiques from across Southeast Asia, silver ornaments, handicrafts and artwork.
The elaborate paintings include watercolours and oils, and antique goods such as ancient Buddhist artefacts and sculptures also prove popular – as long as you have enough room in your luggage! Some of the more unusual items we found were the old-age ornamental opium pots, bone china tea sets, and authentic teak carvings available in a number of different sizes and weights.
- Opening Hours: Daily from 08:00 – 20:00
- Location: 306 Samsenthai Street, Vientiane, not far from the National Cultural Hall
- Tel: +856 (0)21 214 359
Love shopping but already have a full suitcase? Then Vangtong Evening Market provides a perfect solution. The products on sale here are all of the edible variety, meaning that you’ll leave here with a full stomach, rather than any extra luggage.
Situated opposite the National Stadium, Vangtong Evening Market easy to find – especially when you notice the crowds of locals. You’ll find fresh fish (paa), pork (moo) and chicken (gai) usually being grilled or deep fried. As well as freshly cooked snacks, you’ll notice a range of colourful and pungent curries which have been pre-prepared. Simply point at what takes your fancy and the vendor will happily scoop up a generous portion into a plastic dish with rice – all for about $US1!
- Opening Hours: 17:00-22:00
- Address: Vangthong Food Market, Boulevard Khounboulom
Ministry of Silk, located in the centre of Vientiane, really offers a touch of class for those looking to splash the cash a little on a one-of-a-kind dress or shirt made from locally produced silk.
Designers here specialise in bespoke women’s garments, including stunning cocktail dresses (around $US250) and classy blouses ($US150). They also do a good range of sophisticated overcoats, bags, accessories and some jackets and shirts for the guys. Prices are high but at the Ministry of Silk you do feel like you’re paying for that extra quality. The immaculate white-fronted shop is easily recognisable and conveniently situated on the central Nam Phu Square, a few doors down from La Cave Des Chateaux and L’Opera restaurants.
- Opening Hours: 09:00-21:00
- Address: 99/01 Namphou Square, Vientiane
- Tel: +856 (0)21 213776
Walking into T’Shop Lai Gallery is like entering a tiny Laotian home ware store/body shop. Everything from the gorgeous tables and chairs to the stylish cabinets displaying intricate handmade trinkets are set up tastefully in the spacious downstairs area. You’ll also notice the wonderful aromas coming from the various natural body oils, perfumes and organic soaps on sale – all of which are fair-trade and made from locally sourced ingredients.
Venture upstairs and you’ll find more of a traditional art gallery; there is a good range of colourful local artwork lining the walls which is on sale at a reasonable price.
- Opening Hours: 08:00-18:00 Mon-Sat, 10:00-18:00 Sun
- Address: Th In Paeng, behind Vat Inpeng temple
A stop-off at the charming Little House Café is an opportunity to do two popular Vientiane activities all under one small roof: drink coffee and go shopping! This ever-so-cute little coffee shop-turned-handicraft boutique is owned and operated by the Handicraft Promotion Enterprise (a group that collaborates with ethnic Lenten tribes people to produce embroidered handicrafts ), and can be found just a few metres walk away from the Mekong River front.
Their fresh local coffee is rich and smooth, and if you like it enough you can buy a whole bag of it to take home. On sale is also a decent range of handmade silk and cotton items which feel very unique compared to many of the other generic souvenirs and handicrafts found all over town.
- Opening Hours: 08:30-18:30 (closed Monday)
- Address: Manthatourat Road, Vientiane
- Tel: +856 (0)20-5540-6036
La Cave Wine Shop wouldn’t seem to out of place of on the boulevards of Paris, with its dim lighting, wooden interior and most importantly – its huge selection of European wines.
Whilst La Cave Wine Shop generally specialises in French reds, you can also find some quality white and sparkling wine alongside some more unusual liquors and spirits. As with most other wine shops, you get what you pay for (unless you strike lucky in their bargain bin), with prices starting from around $US10-15 a pop. Not a wine connoisseur? Then don’t worry – the English speaking staff can advise you as to which wine might suit your budget and tastes.
- Opening Hours: 8.30 – 20:00, Monday – Saturday
- Location: 354 Th Samsenthai.
Monument Books is the biggest book shop in Vientiane and holds a vast range of new and second-hand books in various languages. In recent years, the Laos capital has developed a bit of a reputation as being one of the best places on the well-worn South East Asia backpacker trail to stock up on books – essential of course of those long bus journeys and time spent relaxing on the beach. Monument Books is, and always has been, the pick of the bunch; whether you’re after a travel guide, magazine, history book, or just a good novel, Monument Books should be your first stop. There is also an art gallery on second floor with some affordable art by local artists.
There are several other Monument bookstores found across South East Asia, but this Vientiane branch is found on Nokeokumman Rd, near the intersection with Setthathirath.
- Opening Hours: Mon-Fri 09:00-20:00, Sat-Sun 09:00-18:00
- Address: Vientiane Store#124/1, Nokeokumman Rd, Ban Mixay, Vientiane
- Tel: +856 (0)21 243 708