Luang Prabang History

History comes alive in Luang Prabang.


Archaeological evidence suggests that Luang Prabang has been inhabited since 8,000 BC. King Fa Ngum founded the first Lao kingdom, Lane Xang, in the 14th century, after he conquered and unified today’s Xieng Khouang Province, Khorat Plateau, and Luang Prabang.

Local inhabitants once referred to the city as Muang Swa, but by 1357, they changed the name to Muang Xieng Dong Xieng Thong. Shortly after, King Fa Ngum accepted a golden Buddha image, called the Phra Bang, as a gift from the Khmer monarchy. In response, he renamed the thriving city state, Luang Prabang.

Luang Prabang was the administrative centre of Lane Xang until King Setthathirath moved the capital to Vientiane in 1560. Still, Luang Prabang remained the country’s main religious centre. The city’s first contact with the West occurred in the mid-17th century during the reign of King Surigna Vongsa.

After his death in 1694, Lane Xang broke up into three separate kingdoms: Vientiane, Champassak, and Luang Prabang. By the late 19th century, Luang Prabang was under attack by bandits. They destroyed many sacred Buddha images, temples, and historical documents.

King Sisavang Vong (1904-1959) launched a number of restoration and beautification projects in Luang Prabang, many of which exist today. French influenced buildings began to appear in the late 1800s, adding to the mix of Lao, Tai Lue, Burmese, Chinese, and Tai architecture.

In 1995, UNESCO declared Luang Prabang a World Heritage Site due to its well-preserved temples, traditional wooden dwellings, colonial houses, and natural environment.

Source: Lao Ministry of Information, Culture, and Tourism

Luang Prabang…Timeless
Recommended in Luang Prabang
Calao Restaurant
Take a Lao culinary journey on the Mekong River banks, and enjoy a fine dining experience in a World Heritage Site-listed building that dates to 1904. Born in 2017 from the wish to keep track of authentic recipes, Calao Restaurant features a large selection of dishes from the former royal table and ethnic groups with multiple indoor and outdoor dining options including private saloons. The restaurant presents a la carte and degustation menus as well as personalized offerings and a selection of quality imported products. Calao is open daily for lunch and dinner, and offers Wi-Fi and air-conditioning.
Calao Restaurant + 856 (0) 71 212 100
L'Eléphant Restaurant
Enjoy gourmet dining at l’Elephant, Luang Prabang’s first restaurant, opening its doors in 2000. Located in a 1960s-era building near the Mekong, L’Elephant presents an old fashion French restaurant offering traditional “falang” (French) dishes along with a Lao menu. You’ll find a wine list that matches menu items, along with homemade bread, pastries, and artisanal ice-creams. L'Eléphant is open daily for lunch and dinner, and offers a boutique, Wi-Fi, and air-conditioning.
L'Eléphant Restaurant + 856 (0) 71 252 482
Villa Maly
A Destination unto itself in Luang Prabang’s UNESCO zone, and former home of Lao royalty, Villa Maly presents an exquisite boutique hotel, surrounded by a lush tropical garden. Built in 1938, the hotel’s “Art Deco” style and residential ambiance is prevalent throughout, with an original blend of French and British furnishings from Colonial times. Rooms are elegant and comfortable with a hint of history and creative touches. Guests can relax at the poolside, enjoy massages, travel services, and free bicycle rental. Our garden restaurant serves local and international dishes. Lao-style barbecues, known as “Sindad”, can be arranged. Light snacks and cocktails are available at our poolside bar.
Villa Maly +856 (0) 71 25 39 03
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DestinationsNorthern LaosLuang Prabang