The Laos city of Luang Prabang might look sleepy from the outside with its temples and the meandering Mekong River, but its undiscovered dining scene is more than bustling, especially for a small place such as this. Its French colonial past means that the traditional Laotian fare – which sees plenty of Southeast Asian herbs and spices – is sometimes combined with European flavours and techniques, and the results are immensely fascinating. Here are 14 of the best restaurants, cafes, and bars in Luang Prabang, as attested to by our satisfaction.
Popular for its cooking school, this long-standing joint offers Lao sampling platters as well as an assortment of sharing plates, from jeow bong (buffalo skin in sweet and spicy chilli) to the hearty orlam stew (think chicken, vegetables, eggplant, and chilli). Dishes here are served relatively mild to cater to foreigners, but don’t be afraid to ask if you want to ramp up the spice.
Tamarind Restaurant is located along Kingkitsarath Rd, Luang Prabang, Laos, p. +856 71 213 128. Open Mon-Sat 11am – 9pm.
Want authentic Laotian cuisine without the fancy gimmicks? Tamnak Lao is your best bet, seeing large numbers of locals and tourists alike. As expected of a locally-run restaurant, all pastes and sauce are homemade – which they use in highlights like the sai ua moo (pork sausages served with chutney, and ua nor mai – crispy bamboo shoots stuffed with vegetables that taste heavenly with some sweet dipping sauce.
Tamnak Lao is located along Sakkaline Rd, Luang Prabang, Laos, +856 71 252 525. Open daily 9am – 4pm, 6 – 10pm.
With elegant high-ceilings and stucco pillars, L’Elephant has some of the city’s best French-Lao fusion cuisine, offering the likes of steak tartare alongside banana leaf-grilled tilapia and lemongrass chicken, prepared with fresh ingredients from its very own vegetable garden. This is also the place for decent wines, which sees both local and imported varieties.
L’Elephant Restaurant is located along Vat Nong Rd, Luang Prabang, Laos, p. +856 71 252 482. Open daily 11am – 10.30pm.
The sister restaurant of L’Elephant, Coconut Garden lets you dine on an extensive array of quality Western, Asian, and Lao dishes in a charming setting – a private courtyard or a shady garden patio behind. For the best of local fare, try the set menus of five different Lao dishes each, featuring dishes like banana fritters in pineapple syrup, larb, and fried glass noodles with bamboo shoots.
Coconut Garden is located along Sisavangvong Rd, Luang Phrabang, Laos, p. +856 71 252 482. Open daily 11am – 11pm.
Purportedly home to the best thin pizzas in town, Secret Pizza is run out of a little backyard and features a full-sized pizza oven. It’s a little far out from town, but once you get here, you’ll find a charming ambience with excellent service, and excellent pastas, lasagnas, and pizzas that start from a very affordable 50,000 kip.
Secret Pizza is located at 3 Ban Nasamphanh, Luang Prabang, Laos, p. +856 20 56 528 881. Open Tue & Fri, 6pm – 9.30pm.
Manda de Laos
Manda de Laos is hands down the most romantic restaurant in Luang Prabang, what with its lush greenery, beautiful lotus pond, and hanging red lanterns. Blending together traditional Lao fare with a French twist, you can try the yam pa thord, a crispy Mekong fish salad, or the barbecued ping sin buffalo steak with galangal and kaffir lime leaves.
Manda de Laos is located at 1 Ban That Luang, 10 Norrassan Rd, Luang Prabang, Laos, p. +856 71 253 923. Open daily 12pm – 3pm, 6pm – 10.30pm.
Step past the idyllic garden outside Blue Lagoon and you’ll be welcomed into the luxurious restaurant headed by local chef Somsack, who’s trained in several kitchens around Switzerland. Here, he offers a long menu of Modern European dishes specked with the flavours of Lao, including a fantastic Luang Prabang wurst, boeuf bourguignon, and … a signature insect menu that sees ant eggs and crickets. See our full review here.
Blue Lagoon is located along Ban Choumkhong, Luang Prabang, Laos, p. +856 20 592 525. Open daily 10am – 10pm.
Particularly popular amongst the expats, Tangor is yet another French dining establishment that boasts a decent wine list. Sip on a glass of Malbec as you indulge in some excellent baked camembert, filet mignon, or medallions of pork tenderloin – all while looking out into the bustling Sisavangvong stretch.
Tangor is located at 63 Sisavangvong Rd, Luang Prabang, Laos, p. +856 71 260 761. Open daily 10.30am – 11.30pm.
L’Etranger Books and Tea
Find L’Etranger Books and Tea in a cosy rosewood house at the corner of Mount Phousi, serving up scrumptious all-day breakfast in three styles: good ol’ American, Mexican, and of course, Laos (two eggs cooked to your style, a rich eggplant dip, and a small basket of white sticky rice). Don’t miss out on the teas, of which there are more than 65 locally-grown varieties by the pot. Plus, make your way over during dinner time for daily arthouse film screenings.
L’Etranger Books and Tea is located at 3 Th Kingkitsarat Rd, Luang Prabang, Laos, p. +856 71 212 880. Open Mon-Sat 7am – 10pm, Sun 10am – 10pm.
This two-storey cafe right by the Mekong River has the best coffee in Luang Prabang, as attested to by locals and tourists alike. A cup of coffee starts from 10,000 kip (which isn’t the cheapest in town), and ranges from traditional pours to espresso-based beverages and hand brewed joes – think V60, Aeropress, and more. Best of all: Saffron uses premium Lao Arabica grown by the Lao hill tribe farmers.
Saffron Cafe is located at Khem Khong Rd, Luang Prabang, Laos, p. +856 71 212 915. Open Mon-Tue 7am – 7pm, Wed 7am – 8pm, Thu-Fri 7am – 7pm, Sat-Sun 7.30am – 5.30pm.
Joma Bakery Cafe
Whether it’s freshly-baked goods (try the croissants here) or artfully-prepared lattes, the popular Joma Bakery does them all well. Their butter is sourced from New Zealand, their fresh juices locally, and their gourmet ice cream made in-house. As for the coffee, it’s organic, fair trade, grown in a local cooperative of farmers in Southern Laos, and roasted locally.
Joma Bakery Cafe is located along Th. Chao Fa Ngum, near the Post Office, Luang Prabang Laos, p. +856 71 252 292. Open daily 7am – 9pm.
525 Cocktail Bar
525 is the original, and still one of the only cocktail bars in the city. This industrial chic Brooklyn-style speakeasy is headed by Andrew S and sees an array of creative concoctions like the New’ Old Fashioned (infused with cinnamon and maple syrup) and Pink Lotus Lychee (sweet, refreshing, and floral). Peckish? Enjoy some Asian prawn balls, empanadas, or the double trouble cheesecake.
525 Bar is located at 100 Kingskitsarath Rd, Ban That Luang, Luang Prabang, Laos, p. +856 71 212 424. Open daily 5pm – 11pm.
Azerai Bistro & Bar
Housed in the elegant Azerai Luang Prabang, this second-floor establishment proves itself to be more than an ordinary hotel bar, with an impressive number of uncommon spirits like Thailand’s Iron Balls Gin – great in a G&T or Martini. The drinks list is rather small, but do ask the bartenders if you can’t find what you one – they are well-trained and can whip up something for you on request.
Azerai Bar is located at Azerai Luang Prabang, Setthathirath Rd, Luang Prabang, Laos, p. +856 71 262 333. Open daily 5pm – 12am.
Lao Lao Garden
This outdoor garden bar is popular among backpackers thanks to its extensive drinks menu, which also sees the local Lao Lao whisky and assorted tropical cocktails. Do note that the standard of the drinks here are lower than the above two spots, but they are cheap and easy. The ambiance is great, the space lighted up with candles and colourful bulbs like a jungle-style Vegas.
Lao Lao Garden is located along Kingkitsarath Rd, Luang Prabang, Laos, +856 20 77 774 414. Open 5pm – late.