When I planned my Vietnam itinerary, I wasn’t sure if I should include Da Lat. It seemed like it’d be quite a detour, considering I was going straight up the coast, and Da Lat is about 60 miles (100 kilometers) inland, in Vietnam’s Central Highlands. Going from Ho Chi Minh to Da Lat is just under 200 miles (300 kilometers) – a 7 hour bus ride. But tales of lush green mountains and cooler temperatures, plus a ‘Crazy House’, were enough to tempt me – I had to visit Dalat.And I am so glad that I went! Da Lat offered a welcome break from the heat (don’t get too excited – it is still extremely hot during the day, but it cools down to jacket-friendly temperatures in the evenings).
My travel guide didn’t have too many things to say about Dalat, and it seems like most tourists visit Dalat to see the Crazy House, but I dug up quite a few things to see and do in Da Lat and want to share the best things I think you shouldn’t miss in Da Lat. There’s a little bit for everyone in here – from a motorbike tour through the mountains to a Harry Potter – themed cafe.
The Best Things To See, Do And Eat In Dalat
Visit The Crazy House Da Lat
The Crazy House was the main reason to visit Dalat for me, and it did not disappoint. If you love architecture, especially surreal structures a la Gaudi, you will love the Crazy House. The Crazy House is the brainchild of architect Dang Viet Nga, who first started building the house as a personal project but eventually opened it up to the public. The centerpiece of the compound is a five-story high building resembling a banyan tree, but since the project was conceived, several other buildings have been added, including a cabin that can be rented. Similar to Gaudi, Dang Viet Nga sees the Crazy House as her life project, and is still adding new buildings to the complex – now in her 80s!
Inside each building there are rooms that can be rented, and to be honest, I regret not having spent one night in the Crazy House, which is officially called Hang Nga Guesthouse (Hang Nga is the Chinese goddess of the Moon.)
The compound comprises of several fantastical buildings with abstract shapes and winding stairs, stalagmites, vines, sculptures, and various themes. One building for example is underwater world themed, the courtyard feels like an Alice in Wonderland-like garden with oversized mushrooms and animals.
I spent over two hours exploring the buildings, peeking into some of the rooms, walking up stairs that brought me to the rooftop, and just getting lost in this fairytale house.
Staying at the Crazy House: There are only ten guest rooms, and all of them are designed differently. They are all animal-themed, there is the bear room, a tiger room, an ant room, a kangaroo room and a termite room, to name a few.
You can book the room of your choice, and if you make your reservation through Booking.com, you can see photos of each room before you book. Rooms start at US$45 including breakfast, which is a fantastic deal for staying at such a unique place. Just be aware that the Crazy House is open to the public from 8.30am to 7pm and you will be sharing the guesthouse with busloads of tourists during those hours.
Visit the Crazy House: 03 Huynh Thuc Khang, open from 8.30am – 7pm. Admission is VND60,000 (US$2.57). Allow a couple of hours to visit the Crazy House – there are plenty of little details to discover.
Tip: If you don’t want to fight for space with tour groups, I recommend arriving as soon as the Crazy House opens, or to visit in the late afternoon, after the last tour groups have left.
Dress up as Harry Potter at Coffee Harry Potter Da Lat
While researching things to do in Dalat, I came across this Harry Potter themed restaurant. Even though I am not a huge Harry Potter fan, I did read all the books and watched the movies, so I decided to go and check it out. If you’re a Potterhead, you’ll love this place. The restaurant is set up like a dining room with long tables, making you feel like you’re in Hogwarts Dining Hall. There is a Sorting Hat, and a bunch of photo ops (for example, which house you’re in) and various school uniforms. You can even rent a school uniform (for VND20,000 / US$0.85 – less than 1 Dollar!) to take some geeky photos. There is a quidditch field, a small “Ollivander’s Wand Shop” and other cool stuff straight out of the Potter universe (I don’t want to give away too much). Of course you can also order Potter-themed drinks and food, such as butter beer, a love potion and house-themed drinks.
It’s quite far from the town center, so I’d recommend taking a Grab or a taxi. The drive is less than 10 minutes, but walking there will take you just under an hour.
Address: Coffee Harry Potter Đà Lạt ( Cậu Bé Phù Thuỷ ), 23 Ngô Văn Sở, Phường 9, Tp. Đà Lạt, Lâm Đồng, Vietnam
Go on a pub crawl in Dalat
I joined a pub crawl that was organized by Kim Cuong Hostel, and it was a great way to get to know the bar scene of Dalat. To be honest, I wasn’t expecting anything too exciting, but it turned out that Dalat has quite a few cool bars. Two that stood out were Fog Bar, a crazy hip hop bar where they were selling laughing gas, and the Maze Bar, which fits in nicely with Dalat’s rather interesting structures (see Crazy House). The Maze Bar is exactly what the name suggests it is: a maze! It costs VND55,000 (US$2.37) but includes a drink ticket. But to get to your drink, you’ll have to conquer the maze first, and this maze is no joke. The bar is spread out over several floors, and every floor is decorated with fantastical details, such as sculptures twisting out of the walls. The attention to detail everywhere is remarkable, with narrow, haunting staircase (some of which lead nowhere), oversized Chinese vases, and decorations that range from strange to bizarre.
Kim Cuong Hostel: 191 Đường Bùi Thị Xuân – Head there to inquire about pub crawl availability
Find your way out of the Maze Bar
If you skipped the above paragraph because bar crawls are not your thing, I still suggest visiting the very unique Maze Bar for a drink – or to enjoy the views over the city from the rooftop. It is open day and night, and you can easily spend two hours finding your way through the maze to get to the rooftop. The Maze Bar is without a doubt one of the quirkiest bar I’ve ever visited.
The address is 57 Phan Boi Chau, and the bar is also known is 100roofs bar.
Take an Easy Rider motorbike tour
Easy Rider tours are a popular way to explore Vietnam: on a motorbike! But instead of riding a heavy motorbike yourself, you’re enjoying the scenery from the passenger seat. These tours have been popular in Vietnam since the early 90s, and since the original Easy Riders launched their tours, a myriad of copycats have started offering similar tours. Dalat is a perfect place to give them a try, because there are so many things to explore around the city, and riding through the mountains on the back of a bike, hair blowing in the wind, feels like ultimate freedom.My full-day Easy Rider tour started at a temple in Dalat, and then we continued to several attractions, including a flower plantation, a coffee plantation, a silkworm plantation, and a coffee plantation that specializes in Weasel Coffee. I didn’t know about Weasel Coffee before I arrived at the weasel coffee farm, but it is similar to Indonesian Kopi Luwak: the weasel eats and digests the coffee beans. After being defecated, the beans are processed into coffee which is known to be the most expensive coffee in the world.
We also stopped at the famous Laughing Buddha (Linh An Pagoda) and Elephant Waterfalls (That Voi), two major attractions near Dalat, and we had food along the way.This was an excellent way to get to see more of Vietnam’s Southwest Highlands and even though the tours are on the pricier side (around US$30, plus a few dollars for coffee and snacks along the way), I’d say they’re worth every penny. I would’ve not been able to map out this tour for myself, and I found that the most memorable stops were the ones that I did not expect, like the flower greenhouse, and the overlooks along the road.
You can find Easy Rider tours online or have your hostel arrange one for you (that’s what I did). Since the Easy Rider tours are private tours, they can also be modified according to your interests – if you want to see more waterfalls for example (there are several stunning waterfalls near Dalat) and aren’t into coffee farms, just tell your driver before you start the tour.Fellow travel blogger Maire wrote a detailed article about her Easy Rider tour in Dalat which captures the experience perfectly.
Tip: You can also take a 2 or 3-day Easy Rider tour, all the way to Mui Ne or Nha Trang or even Saigon. And you can also book Easy Rider tours that allow you to ride a motorbike yourself, following a guide.
I would recommend NOT including the Crazy House in the Easy Rider tour, but to visit it on another day, since it deserves more time than a quick look around.
Try avocado ice cream in Da Lat
Apparently, avocado ice cream is a thing in Dalat, and you’ll most likely find long lines outside the two places that sell this unique ice cream in Dalat. This ice cream is more like an avocado mousse, named Kem Bo. The avocado mousse is served with a scoop of homemade coconut ice cream, and I may have been a little bit skeptical about the flavor – but just like
Vietnam’s Avocado Coffee, avocado mousse ice cream is delicious! The two ice cream shops that sell Kem Bo are right across the street from one another, on Nguyen Van Troi Street:
- Kem bơ Thanh Thảo (76 Nguyễn Văn Trỗi)
- Nari Avocado Cream (74c Nguyễn Văn Trỗi)
I paid VND30,000 (US$1.29) for one portion.
You can also find Kem bo in Dalat’s night market, where several vendors offer it.
Take pictures with teddy bears in Lam Vien Square
Lam Vien Square is a large square right next to Xuan Huong Lake and is notable for the two futuristic glass structures: a sunflower-shaped performance center and a flower bud that houses a café. Construction of the sprawling square, a VND681 Billion project, was started in 2009, and finished almost seven years later at the end of 2015. It is now the main place for people to gather, and events take place in Lam Vien Square regularly.Take a stroll around the square, and you’ll come across street vendors, musicians, and several teddy bears (humans in teddy bear costumes) that are walking around the square. While they’re actually selling stuff, they are also taking photos with people, so get your teddy bear photo here.
Lam Vien Square is always packed with people: groups of young school girls, couples on a date, families on vacation… it’s a great spot for people watching. Doha Cafe, inside the big flower bud, makes for a good stop for a coffee and a snack – grab a table upstairs for the best views over the square.
See the French-colonial villas in Da Lat
During the era of French Indochina, when the French established a number of colonial territories in Southeast Asia, Southern Vietnam became part of the colony of French Indochina. Da Lat became a place of interest in the late 1900s because of its cooler highland climate. The French started with a resort in the hills, which the Europeans used to escape the pressing heat in the coastal regions. Eventually, wealthy French colonists started building more villas as well as French boulevards, some of which you can still see today. At one point in the early 20th century, 20% of the population was foreign.
The area with the best preserved French villas is along Tran Hung Dao, between Lam Vien Square and Lam Dong Museum (the museum is a great way to learn more about Da Lat’s history, and costs only VND15,000 / US$0.65). On GoogleMaps, you can find the area if you google “French Quarter”.
Enjoy the Coffee Shops of Da Lat
If you love coffee, then you’ll be happy to hear that Da Lat has more coffee shops than you can possibly try in a few short days, including several “Third Wave” coffee shop where coffee is taken very seriously. And you don’t have to be a coffee lover to enjoy Da Lat’s coffee shops – they usually offer non-caffeinated drinks, too, such as smoothies or tea.
You’ll stumble across instagrammable cafes while wandering the streets of Da Lat, but here are some that I’ve particularly enjoyed:
There are a couple of Windmills cafes in Da Lat, and each one comes in a different decor. The one on the corner of Ba Thang Hai and Nham Ky Khoi Nhgia has a gorgeous upstairs with wooden panels and a couple of comfy armchairs as well as a small outdoors balcony which is great for people watching.
Address: 7a Ba Tháng Hai
The Married Beans
This is an excellent specialty coffee roaster – definitely the best cup of traditional espresso-based coffee I had in Da Lat. The cafe has a cute interior and you can also buy coffee beans here to take home with you.
Address: 6 Nguyễn Văn Trỗi
Maybe Blue Coffee
Maybe Blue Coffee stands out for its beautifully decorated space with high ceiling, bright windows and colored French window doors. The café serves food as well, and it’s only a one-minute walk from the Crazy House, so stop by after your visit there.
Address: 5 Đường Lê Hồng Phong
Brew & Breakfast
Brew & Breakfast is a vegan café and guesthouse in Dalat, and if you’re looking for a great Western breakfast – plant-based, of course – you’ll probably end up eating here more than just once during your stay in Dalat. The menu ranges from pancakes and oatmeal to breakfast burritos and hearty poke bowls.
The guesthouse is small (three double rooms and a dorm room) but will be enjoyed by non-vegans, too. Dorm beds start at US$, double rooms are US$10.
Address: 2 Tran Hung Dao
Coffee or cocktails with a view
If you take a stroll along Tran Hung Dao to see the French-colonial villas (see above), consider continuing your stroll a little further: about 10 minutes down the road, you’ll reach a small side street named Tran Quang Dieu. Head down this street and you’ll find several coffee shops with little gardens and, more importantly, lovely views over the pine tree woods surrounding Da Lat. Look up on Google Maps: Bohem Coffee (1 Hoàng Hoa Thám) and Secret Coffee & Bar (1B Hoàng Hoa Thám) Secret is actually a speakeasy bar, definitely more lively in the evenings, especially on Saturday when they have live music (from 8:30pm to 10:30pm). If you love a good cocktail, I’d recommend heading to Secret at night.
Da Lat: Practical Information
How to get to Da Lat
By bus: If you go from Ho Chi Minh to Da Lat, there are buses every hour. The journey takes about 7 hours. There are also direct connections to Mui Ne (4 hours), Nha Trang (5 hours) and Danang (12 hours).
By air: You can fly to Dalat from Ho Chi Minh City, Hue, Hanoi, Danang, and even Bangkok. These three airlines have flights to Dalat: Vietnam Airlines, Vietjet Air and Jetstar Pacific Airlines.
Where to eat in Da Lat
Da Lat has a thriving restaurant scene, and these restaurants were outstanding:
- Brew & Breakfast (2 Tran Hung Dao) – amazing vegan Western breakfast food (see above)
- Ganesh (1F Đường Nam Kỳ Khởi Nghĩa) – superb Indian food.
- Oz Burgers () – Get your burger fix here, they have everything from vegan burgers to meat burgers.
- The Sky Over Dalat (
Where to stay in Da Lat
- Dalat’s Cozy Nook Hostel has won the prestigious award for the best hostel in all of Asia – a family-run hostel that offers family-style dinners and Vietnamese cooking classes. Dorm beds start at US$4, a single room is US$12.
- Hà Khoa Hotel Đà Lạt won the Booking.com Travellers Award 2020. The hotel has modern, spacious rooms, each one with a balcony. In addition, there is a sun terrace with lovely city views. Rooms start at US$17 per night
- Lamarque Dalat Villa is a small hotel in a beautiful elegant villa and has a stunning outdoor swimming pool and gardens. Double rooms with terrace start at US$71 per night, including breakfast.
- The Crazy House (see above) is not only one of the most unique places to visit in Vietnam, but also one of the most unique guesthouses you can stay at. A double room in this fantastical fairy tale guesthouse starts at US$45, including breakfast.