Luang Prabang is a UNESCO World Heritage city that is filled with cool cafes in beautiful old buildings. It’s an ideal place to stay and work, or recombobulate after roughing it through provincial Laos. I was there for a week so I got to visit most of the cafes. These were the highlights of my cafe hopping through Luang Prabang.
Address: Sisavangvong Road, Luang Prabang
I always get a cafe latte so I can compare the difference between all the cafes. The best coffee I had was at Indigo Cafe. When I saw my coffee arrive in a glass cup on a wooden coffee plate I knew it was in the running for the best coffee in Luang Prabang. The coffee/milk ratio was just right and it even had a bit of latte art. And most importantly the coffee was great.
Address: Khem Khong, Luang Prabang
My favourite overall cafe for good coffee, ambiance, and location was Saffron Coffee. I was initially attracted to the outdoor deck on the Mekong River. There is a meditative quality about watching the mighty Mekong flow by, so this deck became a favoured spot.
Inside the cafe they have a brew bar, and upstairs there is a good selection of tables and chairs.
One of the features I liked about this cafe is the profiles of the coffee farmers on the walls. The cafe partners with Laos farmers, and at the time of my visit they had help plant over 10,000 new coffee trees. I tend to find NGO/do-good cafes in the region to have too much of the hippy/new-age ambiance for my liking. Saffron gets everything right, being a cool cafe while supporting a good cause.
Address: Kingkitsarath Rd, Luang Prabang
The “Best Chillout Cafe” award goes to Utopia. It’s tucked away down a residential alley with a view of the Nam Khan River. You wouldn’t accidentally find it, but word-of-mouth seems to have propelled it to being a backpacker favourite. There are a few different lounges with garden and riverside seats. The main lounge resembled a modern-day opium den, with young folk sprawled out holding their modern-day opium pipes (ie smart phones). I don’t say that as a judgement but as a self-realisation that I, too, am a smart phone addict. I did spot some book readers in there as well.
Le Banneton Cafe French Bakery
Address: Sakkaline Rd, Luang Prabang
For the best bakery cafe it’s hard to go past Le Banneton. I literally couldn’t go past it on my first walk. I said to myself I’ll just pop in and have a look the pastries and next thing you know I was whipping my kip out to get a delicious danish. The coffee is also of French standard, which is to say not that good. But as I was sitting there with a great pastry and watching French expat men greeting each other with cheek kisses, it made up for the average coffee.
Address: Th. Chao Fa Ngum, near the Post Office | Kingkitsarath Rd, along the Nam Khan river, Luang Prabang
If you travel to Luang Prabang and didn’t go to Joma, did you even go to Luang Prabang? Joma is a cafe/bakery that also offers western meals, and they are something of an institution by now. They opened in Luang Prabang in 1999, and have branches in the main cities of the Greater Mekong region, (though strangely absent from Saigon).
There are two branches, one on the main road near the posts office, and one in the old city area facing the Nam Khan River.
Address: Sakkaline Road, Luang Prabang
Another good bakery cafe is Zurich Bread, which I found out later to be a Thai chain store.
Address: Riverview Park, Luang Prabang
The Viewpoint Cafe does exactly what it promises by being a cafe, on a point, with a view. The point is the confluence of the Nam Khan and Mekong Rivers, and it’s set in a garden environment in the Riverview Park.
Address: Sisavanvong Road, Luang Prabang
Kaogee is a cafe from Vientiane which also have a branch in Laos. They are located next to the Royal Palace Museum on the main road.
Ryan Biddulph says
Almost positive we hit a few of these haunts back in 2012 James. LP had some mean donuts too from what I recall. Fab French breakfast fare in this little sleepy town by the Mekong.
Myriam Haar says
Thank you so much for this review.
We’re about to embark on a tour of Asia starting in Paris via the Trans Siberian Express to China; Laos is definitely on our map, so this is a great list of places for us to visit and catch our breath.
We’re also doing Vietnam and I’ve read that you reside there too on and off so I was interested to read about that less known temple in a district of Saigon. I’ve kept those reports to help us on our way.
Thanks again for your commitment,
Another great Best Cafés report. LP has certainly changed since i went there in 2002. keep on drinking Flat Whites. !
ps Belarus was a cool trip. got out to Mir and Nesvizh too.
all the best mate
Hi james, on the subject of coffee is it possible to get a good coffee in vietnam without sugar? I understand it is all made with that sickly sweet condensed milk.
James Clark says
If you want the traditional Vietnamese iced coffee with milk then the chances are that they will use sweetened condensed milk. There are lots of cafes serving espresso based coffee now and they use normal milk for milk-based coffees. And if you are ever at a place getting a juice or something, ask for no sugar (không đường).
Reba Venneri says
thanks for sharing this information.