Once just a hillside village, Da Lat became the summer escape for French colonialists in the early 1900s. Today, all that remains of the French occupation is the grand architecture. Several of the old palaces and villas have been made into hotels (including the Sofitel Da Lat), having avoided damage during the American War.
Known throughout Vietnam for its flowers, fruits and cool temperatures, it is the honeymoon destination for Vietnamese couples. Da Lat is 1500 m about sea level, making it the perfect climate for lush vegetation and temperate weather for area excursions.
The centerpiece of the city is Xuan Huong Lake, which also serves as the local gym with early morning walkers and Tai Chi practitioners. At eh northern end of the lake you'll find Vuon Hoa Da Lat, botanical gardens that feature the many roses, chrysanthemums, hydrangea and numerous other plants that grow here. You'll also be met by kitschy sculptures of cowboys and get to have your picture taken in a cement wagon painted with flowers.
Just to the west, you will find a well-regarded golf course. From there you can get a birdy and watch the plastic swan peddle-boats on the lake.
At the western end of the lake, you'll find the city's open-air market. Located at the end of Nguyen Thi Minh Khai (accessible at the roundabout where Nguyen Thai Hoc and Le Dai Hanh meet), the market takes over several blocks and is the place to go to buy fresh strawaberries, blueberries, avocados, cherries, orchids, roses and, when you need it, warm clothes. Be sure to go early for the best selection.
Across Xuan Huong Lake, you'll find a nice spot to relax, play or enjoy a little lunch at Yersin Park, named after one of the original foreign explorers of the area—Alexandre Yersin. Wander the walking paths and enjoy the scenery before heading out of the city to vist other local attractions.
Built in 1933, Bao Dai's third palace sits perched on a hill blessed with a marvelous view of the area. The last emperor of Vietnam, Bao Dai, was exiled to France in 1954, but his palace remains as it was more than a half century ago. Decorated in Art Deco design, the home includes furniture and photographs in each of its 26 rooms, including a throne room and a “distraction room.”
The area is home to several water falls. Cam Ly is just a few kilometers southwest of the city, but can run quite low in the summer months. Datanla Falls is about five kilometers south and is a beautiful nature area where visitors hike down into a forested ravine. If preferred, you can ride the Alpine Coaster, a sort of sled on wheels that will take visitors down and back out of the ravine. A bit further out from the city is Prenn Falls, where the brave can cross a rope bridge and the area is surrounded by pine trees and flowers. Further out is Tiger Falls, a beautiful waterfall and cave with a legend behind it.