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Cambodia Phnom Penh

16th July 2024

21 Best Things to Do in Phnom Penh: Get Ready for Adventure (2023)

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Looking for the best things to do in Phnom Penh? If so, we’ve got you covered in this blog post.

From our past experience of leading group trips here, we’ve curated a list of the most captivating and must-visit attractions in the capital city of Cambodia.

Get ready to immerse yourself in a vibrant fusion of history, culture, and delightful experiences. From exploring historical landmarks to indulging in authentic cuisine, we’ll guide you through the very best that Phnom Penh has to offer.

So, join us on this adventure and uncover the hidden gems that make Phnom Penh a truly unforgettable destination. Let’s dive into the best things to do in Phnom Penh!

5 Facts about Phnom Penh

  • Phnom Penh is the capital and largest city of Cambodia.
  • The city is located at the confluence of the Mekong, Tonlé Sap, and Bassac rivers.
  • Phnom Penh is known for its rich cultural heritage, with historical sites like the Royal Palace and Silver Pagoda.
  • It experienced significant growth and urban development in recent years, with modern skyscrapers and a thriving nightlife.
  • The Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum and the Killing Fields of Choeung Ek serve as reminders of Cambodia’s tragic past under the Khmer Rouge regime.

Best Things to Do in Phnom Penh

1. Visit the Royal Palace and Silver Pagoda

Visit the Royal Palace and Silver Pagoda

Step into a realm of regal splendor at the Royal Palace, home to Cambodia’s revered monarch. Admire the architectural marvels, intricate detailing, and golden spires of this royal complex.

The Silver Pagoda, nestled within the palace grounds, showcases a breathtaking collection of silver-tiled floors and sacred artifacts.

  • Location: Samdach Sothearos Blvd, Phnom Penh
  • Best Time to Visit: Mornings for a quieter experience
  • Famous For: Opulent Khmer architecture, Emerald Buddha statue, and royal residences.

2. Discover the Killing Fields of Choeung Ek

Discover the Killing Fields of Choeung Ek

Embark on a poignant journey to the Killing Fields, a chilling testament to Cambodia’s tragic past under the Khmer Rouge regime. Explore the solemn grounds, marked by mass graves and memorial stupas, as you learn about the atrocities committed here.

The haunting audio guide provides firsthand accounts and helps to shed light on this dark period of history.

  • Location: 17km south of Phnom Penh
  • Best Time to Visit: Early morning for a reflective atmosphere
  • Famous For: Commemorating victims of the Khmer Rouge regime, thought-provoking exhibits, and informative audio guide.

3. Explore the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum

Explore the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum

Delve deep into Cambodia’s history at the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum, formerly the notorious Security Prison 21 (S-21). Walk through the halls that once held prisoners of the Khmer Rouge, view the chilling exhibits, and gain insight into the suffering endured by countless individuals.

The museum’s displays, including photographs and survivor testimonies, serve as a solemn reminder of Cambodia’s painful past.

  • Location: 113 Preah Norodom Blvd, Phnom Penh
  • Best Time to Visit: Weekdays to avoid crowds
  • Famous For: Former Khmer Rouge prison, thought-provoking exhibits, and survivor stories.

4. Take a boat cruise along the Mekong River

Take a boat cruise along the Mekong River

Embark on a mesmerizing boat cruise along the legendary Mekong River, where the heart of Phnom Penh comes alive. Witness the vibrant river life, marvel at the panoramic views of the city’s skyline, and soak in the gentle breeze as you sail along this historic waterway.

  • Location: Mekong River, Phnom Penh
  • Best Time to Visit: Sunset for breathtaking views
  • Famous For: Scenic river views, traditional boat rides, and lively atmosphere.

5. Wander through the Central Market (Phsar Thmey)

Wander through the Central Market (Phsar Thmey)

Step into the bustling heart of Phnom Penh at the Central Market, locally known as Phsar Thmey. Explore the vibrant stalls that overflow with a plethora of goods, from intricate handicrafts and jewelry to clothing and souvenirs.

Immerse yourself in the lively ambiance and vibrant colors of this iconic market.

  • Location: Corner of Kampuchea Krom and Monivong Blvd, Phnom Penh
  • Best Time to Visit: Morning for a lively atmosphere
  • Famous For: Varied merchandise, local handicrafts, and bustling market experience.

6. Visit the National Museum of Cambodia

Visit the National Museum of Cambodia

Uncover the treasures of Cambodia’s ancient past at the National Museum of Cambodia. Marvel at the awe-inspiring collection of Khmer art and artifacts, including majestic stone sculptures, intricate carvings, and ancient pottery.

The museum’s galleries provide a captivating journey through the country’s artistic and cultural heritage.

  • Location: 13th St, Preah Ang Eng, Phnom Penh
  • Best Time to Visit: Weekdays for fewer crowds
  • Famous For: Khmer art and artifacts, ancient sculptures, and historical exhibitions.

7. Explore the Russian Market (Phsar Toul Tom Poung)

Explore the Russian Market (Phsar Toul Tom Poung)

Step into the vibrant tapestry of Phnom Penh’s local life at the Russian Market, an iconic shopping destination. Stroll through the maze of narrow lanes, brimming with stalls offering everything from clothing and accessories to artwork and souvenirs.

Bargain to your heart’s content and uncover unique treasures.

  • Location: Corner of St 440 and St 155, Phnom Penh
  • Best Time to Visit: Morning or late afternoon for a bustling atmosphere
  • Famous For: Variety of goods, local handicrafts, and bargain shopping.

8. Experience the vibrant nightlife along Riverside

Experience the vibrant nightlife along Riverside

As the sun sets over Phnom Penh, the riverside promenade comes alive with a vibrant nightlife scene. Indulge in the energetic atmosphere as you explore the array of bars, live music venues, and restaurants lining the Tonle Sap River.

Immerse yourself in the city’s buzzing nightlife and create unforgettable memories.

  • Location: Riverside, Sisowath Quay, Phnom Penh
  • Best Time to Visit: Evening for a lively ambiance
  • Famous For: Bars, live music, riverside dining, and vibrant nightlife.

9. Take a sunset stroll along the Tonle Sap Riverfront

Take a sunset stroll along the Tonle Sap Riverfront

Bask in the golden hues of the setting sun as you embark on a romantic sunset stroll along the Tonle Sap Riverfront. Marvel at the breathtaking views, witness local life unfold and embrace the tranquility of the riverside atmosphere.

Let the beauty of the riverfront captivate your senses.

  • Location: Tonle Sap Riverfront, Phnom Penh
  • Best Time to Visit: Evening for a picturesque sunset
  • Famous For: Scenic views, serene atmosphere, and romantic ambiance.

10. Visit Wat Phnom, the city’s namesake temple

Visit Wat Phnom, the city's namesake temple

Discover the spiritual heart of Phnom Penh at Wat Phnom, a sacred Buddhist temple that stands atop a peaceful hill. Ascend the grand staircase, adorned with mythical creatures, and immerse yourself in the tranquil ambiance.

Marvel at the ornate architecture, lush gardens, and a majestic central shrine.

  • Location: Street 96, Phnom Penh
  • Best Time to Visit: Morning for a serene experience
  • Famous For: Buddhist temple, peaceful surroundings, and panoramic views.

11. Explore the Independence Monument

Explore the Independence Monument

Pay homage to Cambodia’s struggle for independence at the iconic Independence Monument. Admire this towering landmark with its intricate design and golden spires, serving as a symbol of national pride.

The monument is particularly captivating when illuminated at night.

  • Location: Intersection of Norodom Blvd and Sihanouk Blvd, Phnom Penh
  • Best Time to Visit: Evening to see it illuminated
  • Famous For: Symbol of independence, architectural beauty, and historical significance.

12. Discover the art scene at Meta House or other galleries

Discover the art scene at Meta House or other galleries

Immerse yourself in Phnom Penh’s thriving art scene at Meta House, a prominent cultural center that hosts art exhibitions, film screenings, and live performances.

Delve into the diverse range of contemporary and traditional artwork, or explore other galleries throughout the city offering a glimpse into the vibrant artistic expressions of Cambodia.

  • Location: 37 Sothearos Blvd, Phnom Penh (Meta House)
  • Best Time to Visit: Check the event schedule for specific exhibitions
  • Famous For: Contemporary art exhibitions, film screenings, and cultural events.

13. Sample Khmer cuisine at local restaurants and street food stalls

Sample Khmer cuisine at local restaurants and street food stalls

Embark on a culinary adventure and savor the flavors of Khmer cuisine at Phnom Penh’s local restaurants and street food stalls.

Indulge in signature dishes such as amok (a fragrant fish curry), lok lak (marinated beef stir-fry), and num banh chok (rice noodle soup). Let your taste buds be tantalized by the authentic flavors of Cambodia.

  • Location: Various restaurants and street food stalls throughout Phnom Penh
  • Best Time to Visit: Evening for the vibrant street food scene
  • Famous For: Amok, lok lak, num banh chok, and vibrant street food culture.

14. Visit the Cambodian Living Arts Center for traditional performances

Visit the Cambodian Living Arts Center for traditional performances

Immerse yourself in the rich cultural heritage of Cambodia through traditional performances at the Cambodian Living Arts Center.

Witness captivating dance, music, and theater shows that showcase the nation’s artistic traditions and celebrate its enduring cultural legacy.

  • Location: 128 G9, Sothearos Blvd, Phnom Penh
  • Best Time to Visit: Check the performance schedule for specific shows
  • Famous For: Traditional dance, music, theater performances, and cultural preservation.

15. Explore the trendy neighborhoods of BKK1 and Toul Tom Poung (Russian Market area)

Explore the trendy neighborhoods of BKK1 and Toul Tom Poung (Russian Market area)

Venture into the trendy neighborhoods of BKK1 and Toul Tom Poung, also known as the Russian Market area, to experience the modern side of Phnom Penh.

These vibrant districts are brimming with hip cafes, stylish boutiques, art galleries, and eclectic shops. Immerse yourself in the trendy atmosphere and mingle with the creative and cosmopolitan crowd.

  • Location: BKK1 and Toul Tom Poung (Russian Market area), Phnom Penh
  • Best Time to Visit: Afternoon to evening for the liveliest atmosphere
  • Famous For: Trendy cafes, boutiques, art galleries, and cosmopolitan vibe.

16. Take a day trip to the nearby Silk Island (Koh Dach)

Take a day trip to the nearby Silk Island (Koh Dach)

Escape the hustle and bustle of the city with a day trip to Silk Island, also known as Koh Dach. Located on the Mekong River, this idyllic island is renowned for its silk-weaving traditions.

Witness the intricate process of silk production, visit local workshops, and purchase exquisite silk products directly from the artisans.

  • Location: Koh Dach (Silk Island), Mekong River near Phnom Penh
  • Best Time to Visit: Morning to afternoon for a serene island experience
  • Famous For: Traditional silk weaving, local workshops, and high-quality silk products.

17. Visit the Cambodian Women’s Crisis Center and learn about their work

Visit the Cambodian Women's Crisis Center and learn about their work

Gain insights into the empowering initiatives of the Cambodian Women’s Crisis Center (CWCC) and learn about their vital work in supporting vulnerable women.

Engage in informative sessions, workshops, or volunteer opportunities to contribute to their cause and make a positive impact in the lives of Cambodian women.

  • Location: Various locations in Phnom Penh (contact CWCC for more information)
  • Best Time to Visit: Check the center’s schedule for specific activities
  • Famous For: Empowering women, supporting survivors, and advocacy programs.

18. Explore the hidden gems of Phnom Penh’s alleyways and backstreets

Explore the hidden gems of Phnom Penh's alleyways and backstreets

Uncover the hidden charms of Phnom Penh as you venture off the beaten path and explore the city’s labyrinthine alleyways and backstreets. Wander through local markets, stumble upon vibrant street art, and discover hidden cafes and shops.

These hidden gems offer an authentic glimpse into everyday Cambodian life.

  • Location: Various alleyways and backstreets in Phnom Penh
  • Best Time to Visit: Anytime for a spontaneous adventure
  • Famous For: Local markets, street art, hidden cafes, and a glimpse into local life.

19. Go on a cycling tour to explore the city’s lesser-known areas

Go on a cycling tour to explore the city's lesser-known areas

Embark on a cycling adventure and explore Phnom Penh’s lesser-known areas with a guided tour. Pedal through charming neighborhoods, uncover hidden temples, and meander along the riverfront.

This immersive experience allows you to discover the city’s hidden treasures while enjoying the freedom of two wheels.

  • Location: Various routes and tour operators in Phnom Penh
  • Best Time to Visit: Morning or late afternoon for pleasant weather
  • Famous For: Exploring off-the-beaten-path areas, hidden temples, and cycling adventures.

20. Visit Wat Ounalom, one of the oldest temples in Phnom Penh

Visit Wat Ounalom, one of the oldest temples in Phnom Penh

Journey back in time as you visit Wat Ounalom, a revered Buddhist temple that dates back to the 15th century. Explore the serene surroundings, admire the stunning architecture, and witness the rituals and practices of Buddhist devotees.

This ancient temple holds a significant place in Cambodia’s religious and cultural heritage.

  • Location: Sothearos Blvd, Phnom Penh
  • Best Time to Visit: Morning or late afternoon for a peaceful ambiance
  • Famous For: Oldest temple in Phnom Penh, religious ceremonies, and historic significance.

21. Visit the Phnom Tamao Wildlife Rescue Center for a Unique Wildlife Experience

Visit the Phnom Tamao Wildlife Rescue Center for a Unique Wildlife Experience

Escape the urban landscape and embark on a unique wildlife adventure at the Phnom Tamao Wildlife Rescue Center. Encounter rescued animals, including tigers, elephants, gibbons, and various bird species, as you learn about conservation efforts and the center’s important work in rehabilitating and protecting Cambodia’s wildlife.

  • Location: Phnom Tamao, Takeo Province (around 40 km from Phnom Penh)
  • Best Time to Visit: Morning for animal feeding and interactions
  • Famous For: Wildlife rescue and rehabilitation, educational experiences, and conservation efforts.

Best Time to Visit Phnom Penh

The best time to visit Phnom Penh is during the dry season, which typically runs from November to March. During these months, the weather is generally pleasant with lower humidity and little rainfall, making it ideal for exploring the city’s attractions and enjoying outdoor activities.

The temperatures are also more comfortable during this period, ranging from around 25°C to 30°C (77°F to 86°F). However, it’s worth noting that Phnom Penh can be visited year-round, and each season has its own unique charm.

The wet season, from May to October, brings lush green landscapes and occasional showers, while the hot season, from April to May, offers vibrant festivities and cultural celebrations. Ultimately, the best time to visit Phnom Penh depends on your preferences and interests.

How to Get to Phnom Penh

  1. By Air: Phnom Penh is served by the Phnom Penh International Airport (PNH), which receives both domestic and international flights. Several airlines operate regular flights to Phnom Penh from major cities around the world.
  2. By Bus: Phnom Penh is accessible by bus from various cities in Cambodia and neighboring countries. There are both government-operated and private bus companies offering comfortable and affordable transportation options.
  3. By Boat: If you prefer a scenic journey, you can reach Phnom Penh by boat along the Mekong River. Boat services connect Phnom Penh with cities like Siem Reap and other riverine destinations.

Where to Stay in Phnom Penh

1. Raffles Hotel Le Royal: Immerse yourself in luxury at Raffles Hotel Le Royal, a historic gem that exudes colonial elegance. Located in the heart of Phnom Penh, this iconic hotel offers spacious rooms adorned with timeless charm, lush gardens, and a tranquil pool.

2. Rosewood Phnom Penh: Experience sophistication and breathtaking views at Rosewood Phnom Penh, a sleek and contemporary hotel soaring above the city. Each stylishly designed room offers panoramic vistas of the city skyline or the majestic Mekong River.

3. The Pavilion: Discover tranquility and charm at The Pavilion, a boutique hotel nestled in a peaceful oasis amidst Phnom Penh’s bustling streets. Combining traditional Khmer architecture with modern comforts, this intimate hotel offers elegantly furnished rooms, a lush courtyard, and a serene pool area.

Where to Eat in Phnom Penh

1. Friends the Restaurant: Indulge in a culinary experience with a cause at Friends the Restaurant, a renowned establishment that supports a social enterprise. This vibrant eatery serves up a fusion of Asian and Western flavors, offering a creative menu of delectable dishes. Dine in a lively atmosphere while supporting local youth through their training program.

2. Romdeng: Immerse yourself in Khmer cuisine at Romdeng, a charming restaurant located in a beautifully restored colonial building. Feast on traditional Cambodian dishes crafted with fresh local ingredients, showcasing the rich flavors and culinary heritage of the country. With its warm ambiance and attentive service, Romdeng provides a memorable dining experience.

3. Malis: Embark on a gastronomic journey at Malis, a refined restaurant dedicated to preserving and celebrating authentic Khmer cuisine. Set in an elegant and contemporary space, Malis offers a menu of meticulously crafted dishes that highlight the diversity and complexity of Khmer flavors. Delight in the artful presentation and impeccable taste as you savor the best of Cambodian cuisine.

Travel Tips & Suggestions

  • Respect local customs and traditions when visiting temples and religious sites.
  • Stay hydrated and protect yourself from the sun with sunscreen, a hat, and appropriate clothing.
  • Bargain at markets but maintain a friendly and respectful attitude.
  • Exercise caution and be aware of your surroundings, especially in crowded areas.
  • Try local street food, but choose stalls that appear clean and hygienic.
  • Use reliable transportation options such as registered taxis or reputable ride-hailing services.
  • Carry small denomination cash for transactions, as some places may not accept cards.

Conclusion – Best Things to Do in Phnom Penh

In conclusion, Phnom Penh presents a tapestry of captivating experiences that showcase the best things to do in Phnom Penh. From exploring historical landmarks like the Royal Palace and Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum to indulging in the vibrant culinary scene and immersing oneself in the rich cultural heritage, this city offers something for every traveler.

Uncover the poignant stories of the past, savor the flavors of Khmer cuisine, and embrace the warmth and hospitality of the locals. Phnom Penh invites you to embark on a journey that will leave you with lasting memories and a deep appreciation for this remarkable destination.

FAQs – Best Things to Do in Phnom Penh

What are the best things to do in Phnom Penh?

There are so many amazing things to do in Phnom Penh! You can visit the Royal Palace and Silver Pagoda to admire the stunning architecture and royal artifacts. Don’t miss the somber yet important experience of the Killing Fields of Choeung Ek and the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum. Taking a boat cruise along the Mekong River offers beautiful views, while exploring the Central Market and the Russian Market allows you to immerse yourself in the local culture. These are just a few highlights!

What is the best time to visit Phnom Penh?

The best time to visit Phnom Penh is during the dry season, from November to March, when the weather is pleasant and rainfall is minimal. However, Phnom Penh can be visited year-round, each season offering its own unique charm. The wet season, from May to October, brings lush green landscapes, while the hot season, from April to May, is vibrant with festivities. Choose the time that suits your preferences, and get ready to enjoy the best of Phnom Penh!

How can I get to Phnom Penh?

Getting to Phnom Penh is easy! You can fly into Phnom Penh International Airport, which receives domestic and international flights. Another option is to travel by bus from various cities in Cambodia and neighboring countries. If you prefer a scenic route, you can even take a boat along the Mekong River. Phnom Penh is well-connected and offers multiple transportation choices.

Which hotels are recommended for a stay in Phnom Penh?

For a luxurious experience, Raffles Hotel Le Royal and Rosewood Phnom Penh are highly recommended. Raffles Hotel Le Royal exudes colonial elegance, while Rosewood Phnom Penh offers contemporary sophistication with breathtaking views. If you prefer a boutique option, The Pavilion is a charming oasis nestled amidst the city’s bustling streets. Each of these hotels promises a memorable stay in Phnom Penh.

Where can I find authentic Khmer cuisine in Phnom Penh?

To savor authentic Khmer cuisine, Friends the Restaurant is a great choice, offering delicious dishes while supporting a social enterprise. Romdeng is another fantastic option, located in a beautifully restored colonial building, serving traditional Cambodian delicacies. For a refined dining experience, Malis showcases the diversity and complexity of Khmer flavors. These restaurants offer a delightful culinary journey through the tastes of Cambodia.

Are there any tips or suggestions for visiting Phnom Penh?

Absolutely! Remember to respect local customs when visiting temples, stay hydrated in the warm climate, and exercise caution in crowded areas. Bargain at markets but with a friendly attitude. It’s also recommended to use reliable transportation options and carry small denomination cash. These tips will help you make the most of your visit to Phnom Penh.

What are some lesser-known attractions in Phnom Penh?

Apart from the popular sites, consider exploring hidden gems like Meta House for art and cultural experiences, or take a day trip to Silk Island (Koh Dach) for a peaceful escape. The Cambodian Women’s Crisis Center provides an insightful experience, while exploring the city’s alleyways and backstreets reveals the local charm. These off-the-beaten-path attractions offer a unique perspective on Phnom Penh’s vibrant culture.
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