Don’t miss a thing
You can’t truly say you have been to Phnom Penh until you’ve checked these must see attractions off your travel list.
We’ve put together a list of the Top 10 must sees and dos in the capital to help you make sure you make the most of your trip.
Royal Palace & Silver Pagoda
This royal complex is somewhat reminiscent of Bangkok’s Grand Palace. This can work to your advantage, however, because with an early start you can have the whole place to yourself. While the palace itself is off limits to visitors, there is plenty to explore. Entrance is $10.
The museum houses numerous sculptures, relics and artefacts, but its main highlights are from the Angkorian period. Entrance is $10 (18yr +), $5 (10-17yr), and it’s waived for children under six. Taking pictures is not allowed inside the museum, just in the garden area and surroundings.
According to legend, the first pagoda on this site was erected in 1373AD to house four statues of Buddha deposited there by the waters of the Mekong river that were discovered by a women named Penh. The city is named after this wat, which is set on an approximately 30m high hill (the only natural rise in town).
Tuol Sleng Museum
Tuol Sleng (“poisonous hill”) or S21 (“Security Office 21”), was the former Tuol Svay Prey high school. The Khmer Rouge set up a prison on this site in May of 1976 to detain and gruesomely torture and interrogate people accused of opposing the Pol Pot regime. As nauseating as it is eye-opening.
The Killing Fields
Known in Khmer as Choeung Ek, this is just one of the places where Pol Pot’s followers slaughtered people in their thousands, burying them in shallow mass graves. Also not for the faint of heart, but an important historical site.
River cruises along the Tonle Sap and the Mekong rivers are a popular excursion, especially late afternoon or around sunset when it’s relatively cool and the breeze makes for a pleasant atmosphere. Boats are available for hire on the riverfront, offering varying degrees of quality and service, and taking between 45 minutes to 2+ hours. Cambo Cruise are one of your best bets, with lunch and sunset tours available.
Set aside time to explore the city’s most famous local market, an Art Deco-style building full of merchandise flanked on each of its four sides by a plethora of small stalls. The market has recently been renovated and the northern side boasts a row of food vendors selling cheap and tasty local dishes.
Another must-do with plenty of branded goods on sale for those with good bargaining skills. Be warned, it’s not for the claustrophobic. The aisles are narrow, the humidity can be oppressive and it can get uncomfortably crowded.
Browse through more than 120 stalls selling a huge range of locally produced silk products, handicrafts, curios, home decorations and more; there’s also a range of inexpensive food and drink. The market recently began opening on a nightly basis, from 6pm to late.
Visitors interested in classic Khmer architecture should consider a guided tour around the capital, taking in some of the main landmarks in the city including Olympic Stadium, designed by Vann Molyvann, arguably Cambodia’s most famous modern architect. Visit www.ka-tours.org for details and prices.