Sapa itself is not a big town, but with its colonial building, little alleys winding up and down throughout town and some viewing points it certainly deserves some time to be explored.
The centre of Sapa is probably the church and the main square in front of it. From here you can easily get to most attractions of Sapa.
Opposite of the church cross the square you can find the tourist information, where you can get some flyers and information about Sapa and the surrounding area. based on personal experience I would not recommend to book any tours there.
Most shops, restaurants and guesthouses are along Cau May Road, that leads down the hill from the square. This is actually a beautiful road , even though it can be busy, with some charming colonial buildings. A plus are also the little street food stalls along the road – don’t be shy there but try it. At the end of the road you can get a nice view of the surrounding area – a really beautiful view.
Half way through Cao May Road you can see the local market on the right hand side. The stalls in the little alley are protected by a roof – so you can explore the various stalls selling fresh fruits and meat (including worms), interesting packs of spices and even souvenirs even when it is raining. Between the stalls you also find a stairs leading to the indoor market, where you can find more different items on sale. In addition to the items on sales seeing the colourful cloth of the various minority villages makes a visit to the market an enjoyable experience. Please note, that most do not like to get a picture taken. Please ask for permission and even buy something.
If you follow the road between the church and the square (keeping the chruch to your right side) you get some nice views of the surrounding area with the buildings below you. While it is nice, it is not the main reason to follow that road. You will find a road to your left going up a hill, with a little gate further up. This is the entrance of the main viewing point. This is not just a 10 minute walk though. It is a longer way up with a few platforms offering a spectacular view. Without rushing you should have at least 2 hours time, 3 if you want to reach the top. Apparently even when there is fog is a good idea to get up, as you might be able to look over the fog.
Finally there is a lake near the church – follow the road away from Cao May Road., It looks quite peaceful here, and might be a nice place to have a little break when the weather is a bit warmer.
If you are looking for some shopping there are some shops along Cao May Road, including a shop theat sells exclusively products from the minority village. You might find shops in Hanoi claiming to do this, but this is the real deal. So if you want to bring some special gifts home like hand made table runners – you find it there. You will aslo find plenty of shops selling all kind of trekking gear.
In addition it is worthwhile to walk along the little alleys you can find throughout Sapa – you never know what you might find.
So take your time and just walk around – even when doing it without a specific aim, you might find Sapa to your liking.