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Da Lat: 5 must-see attractions in Vietnam’s most French city

by Paola Bertoni
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One of the less touristy and most curious destinations I have visited in Vietnam is Da Lat, a charming resort town in the Central Highlands region. Although the city leaves you speechless with its almost kitschy Petit Paris atmosphere, the town’s unspoilt nature and colonial villas make it worth the visit. However, Da Lat stands out for me as the town where I saw an unimaginable number of avocados for the first time in my life.

Why visit Da Lat in Vietnam

Da Lat, the capital of Lam Dong Province, is a unique destination in Vietnam. Situated in southern Vietnam’s Central Highlands, it is also known as the ‘City of Eternal Spring’ due to its temperate climate. It doesn’t have the tropical heat of other Southeast Asian destinations but boasts a pleasant spring temperature all year round.

Hills, pine forests, lakes, and waterfalls surround the city. The French developed Da Lat as a resort in the early 1900s, and many reminders of its colonial heritage remain. If you haven’t been there yet, imagine the city as the mountain town where the Vietnamese go to escape the heat. 

The climate in Da Lat always hovers between 15 and 25 degrees, making it famous for its avocado, artichoke, flower, and strawberry crops. The Vietnamese take great pride in their strawberry crops. There are all sorts of strawberry-shaped souvenirs, including crocheted keyrings. Strawberry jam is also a sought-after delicacy in this part of Vietnam, where strawberries only grow.

Vietnam’s Little Paris

Da Lat, a city in Vietnam, is often referred to as the Little Paris of Vietnam due to its European feel. During the colonial period, it was a popular vacation spot. At its peak, 20% of Da Lat’s population were foreigners. 

Even today, the French Quarter is home to several European-style villas. However, like radio masts in the shape of the Eiffel Tower, kitsch interpretations have replaced the authentic Parisian atmosphere. Still, the kitsch in Da Lat is much subtler than the kitsch in Ba Na Hill in Da Nang

The attractions of Da Lat

The city of Da Lat is not very big, and you can explore it on foot, thanks to its cooler climate compared to the rest of Vietnam. The city’s central area is the market square. There, I saw the most impressive avocado stall in my life.

Most of the city’s main attractions are within walking or cycling distance. However, if you don’t feel like walking or cycling, a cheap taxi service is available.

If you venture a short distance from the city centre, you can visit Hang Na’s Mad House or explore the French Quarter’s charming cottages and chalets. Around Da Lat, you can discover Vietnam’s lush nature, including beautiful waterfalls, Buddhist pagodas, and Emperor Bao Dai’s summer palace.

1) Hang Na’s Crazy House (Hang Nga Guest House and Art Gallery)

During my visit to Da Lat, I had the opportunity to explore the famous Crazy House designed by Hang Nga. The building is an architectural masterpiece, which has been designed to look like a tree, and the little red-eyed animals are supposed to represent the animals that inhabit it. 

The Crazy House is a guest house and an art gallery, and it keeps expanding with the addition of new rooms, tunnels, and staircases. You can even book a room on Agoda from €30 per night, and choose from a variety of themes such as pumpkin, termite, tiger, bear, pheasant, or eagle. 

As the building is constantly being updated, there might be new themes added in the future. If you plan to stay at the Hang Nga Guest House and Art Gallery, don’t forget to share your experience in the comments section of this article.

Paola Bertoni at the Crazy House Hang Nga Guest House and Art Gallery in Da Lat
Me at the Crazy House Hang Nga Guest House and Art Gallery in Da Lat

2) Bao Dai Palace in Da Lat

Bao Dai was the last emperor of Vietnam, and he used his summer residence in Da Lat to escape the high temperatures. The palace was built in 1933 in Vietnamese Art Deco style as a holiday home and has remained unchanged. Bao Dai’s furniture and personal belongings are on public display.

The emperor used the ground floor of Bao Dai’s summer residence, also known as Bao Dai Palace, to receive guests and discuss politics. On the other hand, the first floor was for the royal family. It included a library, drawing room, and dining room.

When you visit Bao Dai Palace, you’ll feel like you’ve entered a 1:1 doll’s house. However, at the end of the visit, you’ll be transported back into the best asian kitsch with the opportunity to take your photo in costume on a fake throne. This experience is top-rated among local tourists.

Bao Dai Palace in Da Lat
Bao Dai Palace in Da Lat

3) The French Quarter in Da Lat

If you are seeking unique European architecture outside of Europe, then you will enjoy exploring the French Quarter in Da Lat. Many tourists and locals consider the French Quarter one of the city’s most beautiful parts. It is pretty surreal to be surrounded by a complex of French colonialist holiday homes from the 1920s and 1930s. Even schools and churches in the area have the same French style.

4) Da Lat railway station

The Da Lat railway station was once considered one of the most beautiful stations in Indochina and had daily connections with Saigon, now known as Ho Chi Minh City. Although used only for tourist events today, it holds great historical significance. The station is a national cultural site known for its unique and beautiful architecture.

The style of the station is a blend of a French country cottage and the dollhouse of Emperor Bao Dai’s summer residence. It’s definitely worth a visit for those interested in history and architecture.

Da Lat railway station
Da Lat railway station

Surrounding of Da Lat: Datanla Waterfalls

The surroundings of Da Lat are renowned for their natural beauty, featuring a mountainous terrain with waterfalls and nature parks replacing the rice paddies. Datanla Waterfalls is the closest waterfall to the city, reachable by bike or taxi from the city centre.

Upon arrival, you can purchase entrance tickets to Datanla Park and follow well-marked trails to reach the falls. Alternatively, you can take a roller coaster ride to the ponds at the base of the falls, a popular attraction among locals despite its kitschy nature.

Datanla waterfalls near Da Lat, in Vietnam
Datanla waterfalls near Da Lat, in Vietnam

Practical information for visiting Da Lat in Vietnam

Da Lat is a city that is less visited than the world-famous Hoi An or the important Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City. However, I recommend spending at least two days there to appreciate its unique atmosphere fully. The city blends the European atmosphere, the madness of the Crazy House, and lush natural surroundings.

How to get to Da Lat from Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon)

Vietnam boasts a well-connected public transport network, with buses being the primary mode of transportation in areas without railways. If you’re planning a trip to Da Lat from Ho Chi Minh City, you have the option of taking a night or tourist bus that’ll get you there in roughly 6.5 hours at a reasonable price of around €11.

However, if you prefer a faster mode of transportation, you can take a domestic flight on an ATR-72 plane with propellers that takes only 1 hour. The cost of the flight, operated by Vietnam Airlines, is about €50. Check in the box below the best way to reach Da Lat during your dates of travel.

Where to stay in Da Lat

For a luxurious experience in Da Lat, consider Quy Tai Premium Hotel, a 5-star hotel with an indoor pool and a delicious buffet breakfast. For families, Goldient Boutique Hotel is an excellent option because of its outdoor swimming pool and children’s playground.

Le Macaron Boutique Hotel is an elegant and classy accommodation option that offers a concierge service. Another great option is The Palette Dalat, which boasts a beautiful garden and well-decorated rooms.

Da Lat is a beautiful city in the Central Highlands of Vietnam. It’s known for its cool climate, natural attractions, and rich culture. Feel free to comment if you added this city to your itinerary and experienced the magic of this unique, charming, and kitsch city.

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