The main attractions in Luang Prabang are its historic temple complexes, with about half of the original wats, or temples, still standing. The most magnificent is Wat Xieng Thong (Golden City Temple). Nearby is the Royal Palace with its golden-spired stupa, now a museum, and Wat Wisunalat, the oldest continually-operating temple in the city. Across the river is Mount Phu Si with several temples on its slopes and a monastery on top, a popular spot for its dazzling sunset views of the gilded spires in the town below.
The best of Luang Prabang, however, is really discovered just meandering around the picturesque city, watching life on the riverbanks, giving alms to the orange-clad novices as they parade serenely through the streets at dawn, and shopping in the bustling markets. Don't miss the fresh produce market near the Mekong in Ban Pakam, which is an authentic slice of Laotian life, and best visited in the early morning. The Night Market opens at dusk each day in the centre of town near Wat Mai and is a great way to end a day of exploring.
A small city, not yet overrun by tourists, some people will be surprised by the variety and quality of restaurants in Luang Prabang. There is plenty of traditional local food on offer, usually at very reasonable prices, and also a dose of standard European fare like stews, baguettes and steaks for the less adventurous. Vegetarians will do well in the city, but carnivores certainly won't suffer either. Luang Prabang's restaurant culture, like its architecture, continues to be influenced by its prior French connection. There are some quality French and French fusion restaurants in the city, and some glorious little bakeries which have a distinctly Parisian feel. Many tourists delight in eating their way around this historic city.
A popular excursion from Luang Prabang is a scenic boat trip past waterfront villages to the nearby Pak Ou Caves, filled with images of the Buddha. Also worth visiting is the picturesque Kuang Si Falls, a beautiful multi-tiered waterfall tumbling over limestone formations with clear turquoise pools below.