This city was founded by the French as an administrative outpost in 1905, and was formerly the capital of the Lao Kingdom of Champasak until 1946 when the Kingdom of Laos was formed. During the Franco-Thai war the French ceded Preah Vihear Province from Cambodia and the cis-Mekong part of Champassak Province opposite Pakse from Laos to Thailand.
The city served as the primary seat and residence to Prince Boun Oum Na Champassak, an important figure in the Laotian Civil War. He built Champasak Palace, but fled in 1974 before it was completed. In May 1975, it fell to Pathet Lao forces. Since 1975, Pakse has become an economic power and of regional importance within the region. The construction of a bridge over the Mekong, built with Japanese aid, allowing road traffic with Ubon Ratchathani in Thailand, has further integrated the city with neighbouring countries.
Pakse is home to many ethnic Chinese and Vietnamese people.
The population is predominantly Buddhist and the city has several temples. These include: Wat Luang, which was built in 1935 and remains the largest temple in Pakse and the Chinese temple Wat Sopsé. Pakse is also the seat of the Roman Catholic Apostolic Vicariate of Paksé led by Cardinal Louis-Marie Ling Mangkhanekhoun.
The city has the Champasak Provincial Museum, which holds historical documents and artifacts of the province.
There are two hospitals in the city. One is the second largest in Laos, but many citizens travel across the border to Thailand as Thai hospitals are better equipped. There is a high risk of malaria and dengue fever during the monsoon season.
Pakse is on National Road 13, the main transportation highway of Laos. It has bridges over the Xe Don, the French and the Russian Bridges, and one bridge over the Mekong River, the Lao Nippon Bridge, only one of five bridges over the Mekong in Laos. Pakse is the gateway to the Bolaven Plateau, as well as to the southern provinces of Salavan, Sekong, and Attapeu.
It is served by Pakse International Airport. Pakse Airport construction was completed on 2 November 2009, resuming flights to Vientiane, Siem Reap, Ho Chi Minh City, and Bangkok.
Pakse has a tropical savanna climate (Köppen climate classification Aw) with very warm temperatures throughout the year. Temperatures are especially high in the months before the monsoon season (March–April). There is a distinct wet season (April–October) and dry season (November–March).
Pakse is growing as a tourist destination. Visitors to Pakse's Champassak Province have grown from 113,684 in 2006 to 493,180 in 2013. Sites of interest include: