Renowned for its peaceful atmosphere, sacred monasteries and charming colonial architecture, Luang Prabang is also developing a well-deserved reputation for amazing food! We have chosen 5 of the best restaurants in Luang Prabang, which in themselves are reason enough to visit this historic city in the heart of Laos.
These restaurants have been carefully selected to represent a broad range of styles. They offer everything from fine-dining experiences to the pleasure and authenticity of a home-cooked meal. The list is mainly focused on sit-down restaurants, although street food is also a big part of the Luang Prabang experience and should definitely not be avoided.
If you spend any amount of time in Luang Prabang, there is no way you can miss the 3 Nagas. A beautifully preserved world heritage building, prominently situated along the main road. This restaurant demands attention and gets it, with vintage cars parked outside the gate and an enticing colonial style interior. The staff are colourfully dressed in traditional Laotian uniforms and the atmosphere in the landscaped garden is no less than magical.
The dishes are comprised of traditional Laotian fare, with the possibility of ordering set menus that allow guests to sample all of the most iconic dishes. “The Explorer” menu is a delight for the senses and perfect for adventurous souls. It includes the ubiquitous fried river weed with a spicy buffalo jam, the must-try “Mok Pa” steamed fish wrapped in banana leaves, stuffed lemongrass with minced pork and Laos herbs, as well as a sweet dessert of fried bananas with refreshing vanilla ice cream.
The Burasari Heritage screams exotic luxury and tropical decadence, with a lavishly furnished lounge offering a large selection of cocktails, spirits, fine Cuban cigars and imported wines. However, the true attraction is the riverside restaurant, offering what is perhaps the best view of any restaurant in Luang Prabang. Classic French, Thai and Laotian cuisine is served on The Terrace, overlooking the Nam Khan River with a stunning view of picturesque monasteries peering through the jungle landscape on the other side.
The Terrace serves classic French dishes with a local twist, such as roast duck with a tangy tamarind sauce, as well as spicy Thai food and flavourful Laotian cuisine. As is customary in restaurants in Luang Prabang, foreigners are offered the option of: Mild, Spicy, Very Spicy or Laos Spicy. Laos Spicy is only recommended for the brave. The best time to visit is just before sunset and guests should consider starting off the evening with one of the Burasari’s signature cocktails made with the local spirit Lao-Lao, also known as Lao whiskey.
The Bamboo Tree is a delightful little restaurant, featuring a spacious terrace and a homely atmosphere, as well as friendly and attentive staff. The dishes are simple but beautifully presented Laotian classics. The restaurant also offers cooking classes where you can learn to make everything on the menu and take the recipes home with you.
This is a great place to have lunch, with a large selection of healthy salads, fresh spring rolls, as well as savoury stews and grilled skewers. The spicy papaya and green mango salads are especially recommended. The restaurant is located on a quiet street overlooking the Nam Khan River and is also a great place to relax with a Laos Beer and snack on some fried river weed.
This small and otherwise unremarkable looking family-run restaurant cannot be recommended enough. Hidden in a quiet alley, far from the crowded downtown area, Joy’s provides all the comforts of a home-cooked meal. The whole family is involved in the cooking, service and waiting tables, while the walls are decorated with photographs taken by Joy’s husband, an award-winning Australian photographer.
The menu offers simple but tasty meals, prepared in an unpretentious but artful manner. Especially the fresh river fish, served with a simple side of sticky rice, provides an authentic taste of a typical Laotian family meal. Although this is not a fast-food establishment, with dishes seemingly prepared and served one at a time, Joy’s also offers a selection of familiar western dishes such as burgers with fries, perfect if you are travelling with small children or picky eaters.
The Bamboo Experience
The Bamboo Experience is not so much a restaurant, as a completely immersive cultural encounter. Nestled in a bamboo grove just outside of town, amongst the rice fields and idyllic rural scenery, the Bamboo Experience introduces guests to all the many uses of bamboo. You can try your hand at traditional bamboo weaving, learn how to pound sticky rice, as well as experience many other aspects of rural life in Laos.
After participating in these activities it is time for the main event, a cooking class under the instruction of the family’s kindly matron. You will learn how to prepare stuffed bamboo, bamboo salads as well as a plethora of other dishes. Guests can participate as much or as little as they want, but the result is always the same, a delicious and colourful meal served in the traditional fashion on the bamboo mats overlooking the surrounding countryside.
For those travelling on a budget, nothing beats the all-you-can-eat street food in the local market. A cornucopia of colourful dishes, with many vegetarian options, are proudly displayed to entice hungry back-packers. Diners pay a small fee and are then welcome to stay as long as they like, seated on plastic chairs along the crowded tables. This is not only a great place to eat, but also the perfect place to converse with fellow travellers and exchange travel stories.
If you are just looking for a quick snack, then the market stalls offer a variety of grilled meat on skewers, sausages and refreshing salads, served in a plastic bag and eaten using a skewer as a utensil. These are perfect for snacking on the go, perusing the market for souvenirs, or just standing on a street corner chatting with the locals as you eat. The streets of Luang Prabang are also lined with many charming and atmospheric cafes, where you can enjoy an iced coffee or a cold drink as you watch life unfold in this ancient city.
We hope this list of the best restaurants in Luang Prabang has made your mouth water. Laos is an ideal destination if you are looking for a quiet and relaxing experience, surrounded by beautiful architecture and stunning natural scenery. There are many places of interest to visit outside the cities, including the clear turquoise pools of the Kuang Si Waterfalls, the mysterious Plain of Jars or the incredible 4000 Thousand Islands Archipelago. The Kingdom of Laos was once known as the Land of the White Parasol and the Million Elephants, which is a poetically fitting description for the sophisticated culture and untamed nature of this remarkable country.
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