A trip to Da Lat, Vietnam, means going into the mountains. To get there, we took a bus from the coastal town Mui Ne. Fortunately, I was smart enough to take a pill against carsickness before getting on the bus, because the end of that 5-hour bus ride was one hairpin bend after the other. When we finally arrived in Da Lat, we quickly arranged a Grab taxi to get to our accommodation just outside the city center. Pin’s Home, a homestay run by a friendly young lady who likes sharing restaurant tips as well as her homemade fruity wine. It was a splendid start for our stay in Da Lat, a city that still brings a smile to my face.
Why visit Da Lat?
Da Lat (Đà Lạt) was founded by the French colonists in the early 20th century. A Swiss-French bacteriologist Alexandre Yersin visited the Da Lat region in 1893, immediately fell in love with it, and convinced the colonial government that Da Lat would be a good holiday destination. You see, Da Lat has something that other places in Vietnam don’t offer: coolness. On average the temperature doesn’t rise above 18 degrees celsius. This is the reason why the area is doing so well in agriculture. Da Lat produces flowers, fruits, and vegetables. Moreover, Da Lat attracts a lot of outdoor lovers who come for the lakes and waterfalls. In sum, Da Lat is something else.
6 great things to do in Da Lat
1. Discover every nook & cranny of the Crazy House
When you talk about Da Lat, you have to start with the city’s number one on the list of things to do. The Crazy House, probably one of the most bizarre tourist attractions in Vietnam. Crazy is a good name for the place because it is odd, weird, and goofy. Creator Đặng Việt Nga wanted to let her imagination run free and to make something that didn’t exist yet. She designed the buildings through paintings. She painted the shapes on a canvas and gave local craftsmen the task to bring them to life. Nga felt especially inspired by natural elements such as shells, caves, and termite mounds. Fun fact: you can actually stay the night at the Crazy House. Its official name is Hang Nga Guesthouse.
Click here for an overview of accommodations in Da Lat.
Address: Số 3 Đường Huỳnh Thúc Kháng. Entrance ticket is 40,000 VND.
2. Take a snapshot of the Da Lat train station
Sadly, Da Lat’s train station (in Vietnamese: Ga Đà Lạt) had a short life. It was opened in 1938 but closed again in 1972 due to the Vietnam-America war. Thanks to renovation the Art Deco building still looks mighty fine today. The mustard yellow front attracts many tourists for a quick photo. When you pass through the main hall, you can see a model of a restored steam motive on the tracks. I also read that there is still some train activity going on at the Da Lat train station. Six times a day a vintage train leaves towards the suburb of Trai Mat. From here you can visit the photogenic Linh Phuoc temple. A return ticket for the train journey will cost you 150,000 VND (VIP 1) or 135,000 VND (VIP 2).
Address: Quang Trung 1. Some people mention an entrance ticket for the station of 5,000 VND, but we could walk right in.
3. Go on a villa hunt in the French Quarter
Da Lat train station is a great example of the city’s classical French colonial architecture. In fact, Da Lat’s nickname is the Little Paris of Vietnam. Behind the train station, you will find the French Quarter (along Trang Hun Dao) where you pass one beautiful cottage after the other. One of the villas we saw was a cute cafe called The Dreamer. Unfortunately, it closed down, but maybe in the future, it will open again.
Want to see more stunning French architecture in Da Lat? Be sure to pin down Domain de Marie, the Pasteur Institute, and the Eiffel Tower of Da Lat. For more tips, check out this great article by Emily of Wander-Lush.
4. Visit Linh Son Pagoda
A small quiet temple in the center of Da Lat. We visited this temple at the end of the day and there was no one there except for the monks. This is not a touristy place and therefore feels quite authentic. I especially liked the red and pink pagodas. Also check out the rock pond with its miniature statues. Something you will see at many temples in Vietnam.
Address: 120 Nguyen Van Troi.
Just outside the city center, on the other side of the lake, there is another temple that I would like to recommend. This is the Chùa Trúc Lâm. It’s quite small, but it has an interesting dragon or snake-like statue.
Address: 14 Đường Nguyễn Đình Chiểu.
5. Racing down to the Datanla waterfall
I already mentioned this in the intro: Da Lat is known for its outdoors, especially waterfall. The most popular waterfall is the Datanla waterfall. To get to this waterfall, you can take the path down (a 15-min walk) or you can take the toboggan run. This attraction is often advertised as a rollercoaster, but it is not. It is a simple toboggan course. Still, it is quite a unique way to get to a waterfall.
The entrance ticket for Datanla waterfall is 20,000 VND. The toboggan run is another 40,000 VND per person. To get here, you can catch the green bus (no. 1) from the city center, it departs from Khi Hoa Binh Street (near Hoa Binh Theater. A bus ticket is 10,000 VND.
6. Admire the artichoke & sunflower building
Lam Vien Square, also known as Dalat Square, is the city’s meeting spot for the weekend. The square is next to the big Xuan Huong Lake and is known for its two interesting buildings. The glass artichoke and sunflower, probably chosen because of Da Lat’s optimal growing conditions. Tip: visit Lam Vien Square in the evening, because the place will be nicely lit up. Combine it with a visit to the night market, a 15-minute walk.
Address: Nguyen Thi Minh Khai Street.
Where to eat or enjoy a coffee in Da Lat
La Zero Cafe
We only saw this cafe because we were staying nearby and it looked cool. The place has a forest theme, which you can see in the interior as well as in the presentation of the coffee. Unfortunately, they did not have soy milk for coffee, but I still liked this place.
Address: 242 Yersin.
Ghien Da Lat
A super local cafe. Not a place where tourists come. They don’t have an English menu and staff hardly speaks English, so ordering is a challenge. Why go here? It is super cute. When we were there, there was a breakfast concert going on in the garden, at 9 am.
Address: 206 Đường Phù Đổng Thiên Vương.
An Cafe is a good match with Da Lat’s character. It is an open concept, has wooden seats and swings, gravel paths, and lots of green. We went here for lunch and I ordered the fresh spring rolls. It was good! Unfortunately, they don’t offer many vegan food options, but perhaps in the future this would change. An Cafe is also located in Nha Trang.
Address: 63Bis Ba Tháng Hai.
Bicycle Up Cafe
A small hidden cafe in an alley. If you don’t know it is there, you will not see it. Bicycle Up is a cool trendy place with lots of vintage and re-used items. Old tv sets, a barber chair, and a bathtub filled with plants. It is definitely a place with character.
Address: 82 Đường Trương Công Định.
A typical Buddhist restaurant with a vegetarian and vegan menu. This is the place to try some Vietnamese dishes, but without the meat. It is not just vegetables, they also use really good soy-based mock meats. We ate here two or three times and loved it each time. Good to know: they close between 2 and 4 pm.
Address: 62 Phan Dinh Phung.
Quan Chay An Lac
If you decide to stay Pin’s Home I can recommend Quan Chay An Lac for a simple bit. It is a typical street eatery and 100% vegetarian (notice the word ‘chay in the name’). It doesn’t offer a great ambiance, but most people don’t spend too much time here. Order, eat and go. They have a vegetarian buffet with various mock meats dishes and good chay banh mi.
Address: 01 Đ. Trần Quý Cáp.
And that is my list of things to do and where to eat or drink in Da Lat. Would you visit this city?
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