Take a stroll Walk down tree-lined avenues studded with more than a thousand rustic colonial villas that roll over the gently sloping hills of Vietnam's Central Highlands. The town was established by French colonials in 1912 as a sanatorium for aristocrats hoping to escape the steamy plains of Saigon. Cool, breezy and beautiful, Dalat became known as 'le Petit Paris'. The creme de la creme of the villas is Bao Dai's Summer Palace (open daily 9am-5pm), an art deco manor built in 1933 that was home to the last feudal king of Vietnam. Alternatively, drop into any one of the many ochre-coloured Catholic churches for mass and, if necessary, confess a few sins. Check in to the Sofitel Dalat Palace (pictured, below and right). This is the grande dame of Dalat hotels, and legend has it that when the French settled the area they established a town to support the hotel. Featuring high ceilings, period furniture, sweeping curtains, double French doors, claw-foot baths, Persian carpets, antique telephones, lamps, chandeliers and reproduction Old Master paintings, with sweeping views over extensive gardens and a lake, the restored Dalat Palace evokes an epoch of grace and grandeur. Superior rooms from HK$1,160, to $2,470 for the presidential suite, double occupancy, including breakfast. Tel: 84 63 825444; www.accor-hotel-vietnam.com . Be cajoled Known as the City of Love, Dalat is the favourite destination of Vietnamese newly weds. Green and serene with a plethora of waterfalls, lakes, pine forests and flower gardens, Dalat is renowned for its kitschy love theme parks. The Valley of Love is a concrete strip where Stetson and chaps-wearing cowboys sell plastic pistols as they wait for schmaltzy honeymooners to ride their ponies or be photographed with bored-looking bears. Love cynic? Then head next door to the 'Valley of Sighs'. Cafe culture Stop for a coffee at one of the many back-street cafes and you may be challenged to a game of chess by a Vietnamese man wearing a scarf, beret and flowing goatee. Or cruise over to the Stop And Go Cafe And Art Gallery at 2A Ly Tu Trong and be serenaded by its owner, artist and poet Duy Viet. Sip thick Vietnamese-style drip coffee and feast on chocolate brownies at Duy Viet's charming French villa while the man himself waxes lyrical: 'The ending of sorrow is the beginning of wisdom', or 'Two lovely blue eyes, oh what a surprise!' Stop and smell the roses The hills are alive with the fragrance of roses, lilies, carnations, gerberas and chrysanthemums. The French established Dalat as a horticultural research centre for temperate plants, and today the town is a significant producer of cool-climate fruits, vegetables and flowers. Dalat Hasfarm is the largest flower farm and welcomes visitors (tel: 84 63 824947). Or swing by Vang Dalat Wines (tel: 84 63 827003), one of the many vineyards that ferment mulberries, strawberries and grapes and other fruit into fresh, light and delicate wines. Shop for dinner Be lured by the smells and colours of the local market, where globe artichokes, leeks, zucchini, mulberries and fresh rosy strawberries sit alongside French and Vietnamese staples. Snack on a freshly baked baguette that is crunchy on the outside, fluffy on the inside and stuffed with foie gras. For more elegant French dining, enjoy a candlelit dinner at La Rabelias (tel: 84 63 825444) at the Sofitel Dalat Palace - the finest restaurant in town. Order such delicacies as grilled duck breast in raspberry tarragon sauce and Dalat berries with coulis and chocolate sauce, followed by a bottle of Bordeaux. Bon appetit. Vietnam Airlines flies from Hong Kong to Dalat via Ho Chi Minh City (see www.vietnamairlines.com ).