Le Petit Paris of Vietnam: Discovering Da Lat

An enchanting journey through the city, among crazy houses and surreal gardens

Duration: one day

Itinerary: visiting some highlights in the city, for a total of about 22 kilometres

Equipment: some sunscreen, several bottles of water

Away from the heat of the metropolis, in the mountains of a plateau, sits the town of Da Lat. There’s a colonial soul and charm to this town, which according to popular tradition "gives happiness to some, and coolness to others". The curious motto somehow captures the spirit of what is nicknamed “Le Petit Paris” of Vietnam. Get on your Vespa for a day exploring this fascinating destination.

Leave early, but not before having a yummy Vietnamese egg coffee at BicycleUp, a very pretty place, where you can snap some memories right away. Full of energy, your first stop will be the Da Lạt Flower Garden. Rich in surreal floral arrangements, this huge garden has been housing more than 300 types of native flowers since 1966. Now, visitors can have the pleasure of a lovely stroll in any season.

About four kilometres away is another incredible place: The Valley of Love, where you will undoubtedly encounter many newly married couples posing before statues of cows and dozens of hearts (of questionable taste). The Park is full of the so-called "Da Lat Cowboys" – a team of guys dressed up as true cowherds and offer horseback rides along the lake. Why go there? Simple: It is a very funny, surreal experience, and the view over the valley and lake below is simply wonderful. For lunch, stop in a little place called The Muse; Try the tasty Chicken Banh Mi – a chicken and vegetable sandwich – and one of the homemade yogurts.

Get back on the Vespa, because it's time to discover another curious place which made "La Petit Paris" so famous internationally. The Hang Nga Crazy House is a weird architectural experiment that recalls surrealism and the works of Antoni Gaudì in his most creative expression. The structure of this huge villa, built by the owner Dang Viet Nga, is inspired by the surrounding nature and the creations of the Catalonian artist, mixing together distant universes and styles. The Tiger Room (a symbol of China) is alongside representations of Eagles (symbolising the US) and ants, recalling the hard work of the Vietnamese people. Staircases, tunnels, mirrors: it is wonderful to get lost inside this gigantic house, to then find yourselves on a rooftop or in some secret corner. A little tip: If you wish, you can also sleep here. Some of the rooms can be booked for one night, although the theatrical (almost fearful) excesses of certain elements make it an experience reserved for a particular audience.

Opposite the Crazy House, there is an interesting café-restaurant called Le Chalet Da Lạt, where they combine local flavours with some more international ideas. Surrounded by lush vegetation, it’s the perfect environment for a nice snack, maybe with the delicious, locally produced strawberry Jam – one of the symbols of the gastronomic heritage of the region of Đà Lạt. Head back to the hotel and for dinner consider visiting the Artist Alley Restaurant – a magical place that celebrates art in every form, where you can enjoy the best traditional cuisine of this delightful town.