Behold, before you lies the capital of Cambodia, previously overshadowed by the magnitude of Angkor Wat in Siem Reap. Phnom Penh is rumoured to be one of the fastest growing cities in the country and has been bustling and hustling to offer an array of activities and attractions to delight and beguile even the toughest critic.
With many public transport services around, it is easy to get to where you want to be and fill your days with many wonderful ventures, unique to Cambodia. We recommend downloading PassApp or Grab (two reliable transport services), hail a tuk-tuk, or rent a motorbike from most accommodation.
We have compiled a list of perfectly marvellous must-visit activities for travellers who are seeking to enjoy Phnom Penh in all its glory.
The Distinguished Landmarks
The Royal Palace
Over the past 150 years, the Royal Palace has been based in Phnom Penh, before the location was dependent on who was in political power. It currently serves as the home of King Norodom Sihanouk and Queen Norodom Monineath and is comprised of three buildings; the Silver Palace, the Central Throne, and the Main Palace. Built in 1866 by the great grandfather of the current king, Preah Bat Norodom, the palace graces the riverside with ornate designs and lavish finishings. Many visitors enjoy visiting the palace or taking a guided one-hour tour, as it is a beautiful and historical site to add to their photo collections.
Guided one-hour tour: $10
This temple marks the founding place of Phnom Penh and is situated upon a lavishly green hill amongst the bustling streets of the city. Legend has it that in 1372 a hollow Koki tree washed up on the lawn of lady Penh (Yeah Penh) from the flooding Mekong river. Inside she found four bronze statues of Buddha, and she took it as a sign that they desired a new home. To honour this wish she built a temple on the hill and indirectly inspired the name of the Capital. In Khmer “phnom” means “hill”, so Phnom Penh translates to “the hill of lady Penh”
Admission Fees: $1
S21 Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum and Choeung Ek Killing Fields
To understand the brutal and harrowing history of the Khmer Rouge, one must take to these sites and truly experience the history of the regime run by Pol Pot almost 50 years ago. S21 Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum is a heartbreaking look into the torture chambers of the city, and travellers can visit Choeng Ek Killing Field, where approximately 20 000 people were killed. Both are chilling, yet incredible experiences and we recommend you spread the tour out over two or three days.
S 21 Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum: $8 with audio guide
Choeung Ek Killing Field: $6
The National Museum
The National Museum holds over 5 000 Khmer artefacts and is known to be the most significant museum in the country. There are many displays of the Angkorian era, intricately detailed statues of lingas, the “Leper King”, and an 11th century Vishnu. Visitors can also marvel at the exhibition of post-Angkorian Buddhas.
Admission Fee: $5
These are your go-to sites to visit in Phnom Penh, but what else does the city have to offer?
There are many lavish places to unwind and enjoy a beer, cocktail or excellent glass of wine. We have compiled a list of our favorites. Grab a drink at one of our featured bars!
Night Time Adventuring
Phnom Penh has many options to show travellers a good time, especially if you want to hop around and burn some energy. To read all about our “One Night Only Extravaganza”, click here.
Sunset Boat Trip
There are few things as picturesque as cruising along the Mekong river during sunset while sipping on refreshments and enjoying time with loved ones, friends or on a solo adventure. With a few different tour companies to choose from and varied packages, it is easy to choose the tour best suited to each individual. Our favorite tours include:
Sunset Cruise with Optional Buffet: $15 - $32
Sunset Cruise including BBQ and drinks: $26
Sunset Cocktail cruise with dinner option: $ 21
Sunset Cruise with the option to bring your own beverages and food: $8 - $10
Phnom Penh can be rather overwhelming at times, and we suggest escaping the city streets, hopping on a ferry and cruising to Silk Island. The ferries leave constantly near Wat Phnom, and there is no timetable. The trip to the island is not very timely, and before you know it, you’ll be stepping into a slice of paradise. The rural streets are filled with cows, dogs and laughing children, and as you ride through the narrow roads you’ll find yourself slipping into a tropical haven. The city almost appears as a silhouette in the distance and it is difficult to believe the mayhem of the traffic and city dwellers is a mere stone’s throw away. We recommend either renting motorbikes on the mainland and taking them over on the ferry or enjoying a tuk-tuk tour for approximately $20.
You can enjoy a drive around and make your way to the Silk Farm, where you can revel in the convoluted process behind the silk-making industry, before getting the opportunity to purchase some of the 100% intricately designed fabrics. There is a lovely restaurant with a swimming pool, where you can grab some lunch before taking the ferry back, preferably, during sunset.
There are a few markets worth visiting in Phnom Penh. Here is the list of our favorites:
Situated in Toul Tompoung, the market started in the 80s. There were many Russians shopping in the area back then, hence the name. Many trinkets and local merchandise fill the stalls, as well as a cosy food court, and a buzzing nighttime scene. Visitors can also purchase a great variety of fresh produce as well as trying out some local street food.
The Night Market
This market is open-aired and situated in Riverside, and is worth visiting as it focused more on local people thus inviting visitors into an authentic Cambodian experience. Here, travellers can sample many traditional Khmer street foods, and browse through a broad selection of traditional clothing, western clothes and accessories. There is a stage in the centre where live music often can be enjoyed and visitors should not leave without trying the coconut ice-cream.
Famous for the building, the Central Market is comprised out of four wings and was designed by French Architects, built in 1939 and renovated in 2011. The building is airy and offers a breezy shopping experience. Here, visitors can peruse through the many stalls of clothing, watches, shoes, jewelry and a wide range of souvenirs. There is also a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables and a wide range of places to enjoy a Khmer lunch or dinner.
Orussey has three floors and is stacked with all sorts of merchandise, ranging from clothing, electronics, souvenirs, jewelry, shoes, accessories and many other trinkets. It has an extremely local atmosphere with thousands of feet treading through the many stalls, and little tourists visiting. There are many stalls that sell locally produced products like peppers, salt and beans.
Free Meditation at Wat Langka
There is no better way to really sink into the Buddhist country than by seeking serenity through meditation. At Wat Langka they offer free group meditation sessions on Monday, Thursday and Saturday evenings at 6 pm, and on Sunday mornings at 8:30 am. The temple is located on Saint 282.
Lost Plate Food Tour
If you are a foodie with an adventurous palette we highly recommend taking a food tour through the city with Lost Plate Tour Company. The tour focuses on local, family-run restaurants and stalls that don’t necessarily make it into the guide books but offer a personal touch and a story behind each dish. It covers a distance of 10km during the evening, and pass some of Phnom Penh’s most popular landmarks. The tour also includes unlimited beer or soft drinks. There are many stops for the truly adventurous palettes with options like Balut, or chicken embryo in an egg, red tree ants with beef, or fried crickets.
Rock Climbing at Phnom Climb
Rock climbing has taken off in popularity over the past few years, and with one visit to Phnom Climb, it is easy to see why. Visitors can enjoy clambering up and down the walls, trying to conquer many different routes, with the help of very equipped staff, or fellow climbers. They also have the choice of high-rope climbing or bouldering.
Day Pass: $9
Gear Package: $1
With all these options it is easy to understand why so many travellers extend their stay in Phnom Penh. The capital has an alluring atmosphere and really pulls people into experiencing vivacious adventures and sights by simply just being open to it. We have many recommended accommodation for our travellers in Phnom Penh. If you would like to browse through our partners, click here.