15 Things to Do in Phnom Penh Which You Cant Miss Out On

Phnom Penh, also known as the ‘Pearl of Asia’, is the capital of Cambodia, being the most alluring cities built during the French Colonization. Known for its rich historical architecture built by the Khmer Empire and its distressing recent history, Phnom Penh offers ample tourist attractions including temples, the Royal Palace, archaeological museums, large markets and a vibrant nightlife.

1. National Museum of Cambodia

The magnificent National Museum of Cambodia
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The National Museum of Cambodia is the largest archaeological museum in the country with artifacts dating back to the 4th century Angkorian culture and history. The museum was inaugurated as Musee Albert Sarraut in 1920 during the French Colonization. The museum stands out because of the magnificent red sandstone structure making it look like a masterpiece. There are collections of over 14,000 items from before the prehistoric era, pre-Angkor, Angkor and post-Angkor eras, each of which comprises wooden, ceramic and bronze sculptures, stone articles along with a majestic 6th-century statue of Lord Vishnu. Tourists can also buy replica structures, books, postcards and other souvenirs from the store at the main entrance.

Guide: English and French Speaking Guide Available
Open hours: 8 AM to 5 PM
Address: Preah Ang Eng Street 13, Phnom Penh, Cambodia
Special Attractions: The stunning exhibit of the 8-armed statue of Lord Vishnu and the remarkably attractive image of King Jayavarman VII in a meditation posture.

2. The Royal Palace

The Royal Palace of Phnom Penh
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The Royal Palace is just a few blocks away from the National Museum located in Sisowath Quay. The area spanning 174,840 square metres consists of royal lush gardens and other complexly built structures. The King of Cambodia is occasionally seen at the Royal Palace. The hoisting of the blue royal flag is the signal of the King’s residence at the Palace. The land is divided into 4 main compounds where the Silver Pagoda lies adjacent to the Royal Palace being a major highlight of the spot along with the Throne Hall in the central compound, the Moonlight Pavilion in the West and the Khemarin Palace in the North. The most remarkable sight at the Royal Palace is the Emerald Buddha which is adorned with Baccarat Crystals along with another Buddha statue behind it which is made by using 90kg of gold embellished with 9,584 diamonds. 

Open hours:
Monday to Thursday and Saturday from 8 AM to 5 PM
Fridays from 8 AM to 6 PM
Sundays from 8 AM to 5:30 PM
Entrance Fee: 26562 RIEL (USD 6.50) for individual tours and 40865 RIEL (USD 10) for guided tours
Address: Samdech Sothearos Boulevard, Phnom Penh, Cambodia
Special Attractions: The famous Silver Pagoda constructed in wood, inlaid with 5,329 solid silver tiles.

3. Phnom Penh Night Market

Night Market at Phnom Penh
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After a day full of cultural sightseeing, experience a diverse Cambodian nightlife full of shopping and food at the Phnom Penh night market. The streets are filled with local food consisting of grilled meat, fried fish, dried seafood, and fruit juice. Do not miss out on the very famous Rice Noodle Soup, which is available in almost all sitdown cafes and stalls. You will find arrays of stalls with friendly vendors selling everything from clothes, jewellery, wood carved objects, silk scarves, and spices. A few stalls also sell strange food items like fried spiders and bugs.

Open hours: 5 PM to 11 PM
Address: Preah Sisowath Quay, Phnom Penh, Cambodia
Special Attractions: Rice Noodle Soup available at cafes and stalls

4. Wat Phnom

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Built in 1372, Wat Phnom is the tallest religious structure in Phnom Penh, sitting atop a 27 meter high hill surrounded by tall and exotic trees. Wat Phnom is the central part of the city, and hence it holds a special purpose. The temple houses a large bronze statue of Buddha surrounded by flowers, candles, and other sculptures. To the southwest of the stupa, a small shrine is built in the memory of Lady Penh, who found four bronze statues of Buddha inside a large Koki Tree in the river.

Open hours: 7 AM to 6 PM

5. Silk Island

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Also known as Koh Dach, the Silk Island is located just a short ferry ride away from Phnom Penh. Visiting Silk Island is the best way to escape the mundane city life for a few hours and experience rural life in Cambodia. The local weaving community here live in traditional wooden houses, and almost all of them have a silk spinning machine at home where women make intricate and beautiful handmade accessories. The silk factory on the island where the silk is produced offers guides for the tourists. After the tour, you can sit by River Mekong and enjoy some local cuisines at the riverside restaurants.

Special Attraction: Tourists can hire a hut by the riverside and sit and relax before leaving the island.

6. The Killing Fields

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The Killing Fields, also known as Choeung Ek Memorial, is a dreadful reminder of Cambodia’s unfortunate history. This is where more than a million people were killed and buried by the Khmer Rouge regime during their rule from 1975 to 1979. Later on, a Buddhist memorial was constructed for the victims of the Killing Fields. Bones and clothes can still be seen sticking out from the grounds where bodies were buried in stacks. Audio headset guides are available in a few languages that narrate the tragic incident and personal stories from survivors.

Open hours: 7:30 AM to 5:30 PM
Distance from Phnom Penh: 17 KM (South)

7. Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum (S-21 Prison)

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The Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum was formerly Tuol Svay Pray High School, which was turned into a torture camp by the Khmer Rouge because they needed a place to interrogate and execute their victims. In 4 years, 17,000 people entered the prison, but only seven managed to survive the horrifying camp. The museum displays 6,000 heartbreaking portraits of the prisoners so that tourists acknowledge the tragic history of Cambodia.

Open hours: 8 AM to 5 PM
Address: St 113, Phnom Penh 12304, Cambodia

8. Phnom Tamao Zoo

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Established in 1995, Phnom Tamao Zoo and Wildlife Rescue Centre (PTWRC) is Cambodia’s largest zoo located about 40 minutes by road from Phnom Penh. The centre houses over 1200 animals, birds, and reptiles, including endangered species like Malayan Sun Bears, Asiatic Black Bears, Siamese Crocodiles, etc. The 6,000 acres of Phnom Tamao comprises picturesque mountains, pleasant surroundings, and two ancient temples- Phnom Tamao Temple and Thmor Dos Temple.

Open hours: 8 AM to 5 PM
Address: National Road No 2, Tro Pang Sap Village, Tro Pang Sap Commune, Ba Ti District, Takeo Province, Cambodia
Distance from Phnom Penh: 40 KM

9. Independence Monument 

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Locally known as Vimean Ekareach, the Independence Monument is a quintessential landmark at the heart of Phnom Penh City Centre, standing 37 meters tall. The structure is in the form of a lotus-shaped stupa signifying the union of the religious and the secular. The monument stands as a strong symbol of Cambodia’s liberation from the French, and hence during national festivals like Independence Day and Constitution Day, celebrations are made with great grandeur. For a real visual treat, visit the monument at night when the surroundings, as well as the structure, are illuminated by blue, red, and white floodlights. Independence Monument is just a few blocks away from the Royal Palace and Sisowath Quay.

Open hours: 24 hours
Address: Sangkat Boeung Keng Kang Ti Muoy, Phnom Penh, Cambodia

10. Sisowath Quay

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Sisowath Quay is a prominent 3 km promenade located strategically at the meeting point of almost all the roads that lead to the tourist attractions. This is the most active area in the city with an array of restaurants, bars, cafes, boutiques, and luxury hotels. The Sisowath Quay has a pleasant atmosphere allowing the tourists to spend their leisure time shopping, eating, or just relishing the beautiful weather in the evening. There are plenty of options at restaurants that serve Mexican, Continental, Italian, and authentic Khmer dishes. The Royale Palace and the National Museum, along with other major landmarks, are easily accessible from Sisowath Quay.

11. Wat Langka

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Wat Langka is one of the five pagodas founded by Ponhea Yat in 1442, which was established as a library of the Buddhist scriptures. A meeting hall for the locals and monks, it was later used as a storehouse during the Khmer Rouge regime. This radiant shrine is well maintained, unlike most Cambodian Buddhist temples, and the entree is free of charge. Tourists can also stay at Villa Langka to wake up to a peaceful morning surrounded by the pleasant chirping of the birds. Every Sunday at 8:30 AM, tourists can participate in the meditation sessions organized by Wat Langka, which are supervised in English by the monks. Wat Langka is just 2 minutes away from Independence Monument.

Address: Samdach Louis Em, Phnom Penh, Cambodia
Open Hours: 6 AM to 7 PM
Special Attraction: Stay at Villa Langka and attend the morning meditating session for a refreshing experience

12. Ta Prohm Temple

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Ta Prohm is the most popular tourist destination in Cambodia, which dates back to a 12th-century structure built by Khmer King Jayavarman VII. A jungle-lined path will lead you to the spot as the temple is not visible from the main road because of gigantic roots covering the walls and stones. The structure is ethereal in its own aura with branches and leaves entwined, acting as the temple roof. Fig, Banyan, and Kapok trees help cover the massive walls of Ta Prohm.

Address: Angkor Archaeological Park, Krong Siem Reap, Cambodia
Open hours: 7 AM to 5:30 PM
Entrance Fee: 12,259 RIEL (USD 3)

13. Cambodian Living Arts

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The Cambodian Living Arts, a non-profit organisation, hosts breathtaking performances at the National Museum. The 30 dancers take you through a magical journey full of Cambodian culture, mythology, village life, and ancestral traditions. Each performance will blow your mind away, especially the very prominent dance - Apsara. The organisation has been preserving the traditional Khmer dance, which dates back to the 18th century and is passed on to the younger generations with proper learnings. The performing troupe comprises live musicians and singers in their traditional Khmer costumes.

Address: Blvd Samdach, Phnom Penh, Cambodia
Open Hours: From 7 PM onwards (Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday)
Entrance Fee: 61297 RIEL (USD 15)

14. Central Market

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Also known as Psas Thmei in Khmer, the Central Market is the beacon of Phnom Penh, perfect for shopping enthusiasts and photographers. Constructed in 1937, this dome-like structure was the largest indoor market in all of Asia. Central Market is best for clothing, tchotchkes, local handicrafts, jewelry, and gemstones. You can find everything at this market at incredibly cheap rates, and hence it is the perfect place to pick souvenirs for your loved ones. From flowers, shoes, electronics, food items such as vegetables, seafood, and spices, Central Market has it all. Do not miss out on the very famous creamy coconut pudding, which is the ultimate choice of the locals to beat the afternoon heat.

Address: Street 130, Phnom Penh, Cambodia
Open Hours: 7 AM to 6 PM
Special Attraction: Electronics and souvenirs at cheap rates and the delicious creamy coconut pudding is to live for.  

15. Wat Ounalom

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Acting as the center of Cambodian Buddhism, Wat Ounalom offers tourists the in-depth aspects of Buddhist philosophies and spiritual learnings. The oldest of the five pagodas in the country, Wat Ounalom, consists of 44 structures serving as the abode of the Patriarch of the Mahanikai School of Buddhism. The entrance to Wat Ounalom is free of charge, and it is just a 10-minute walk away from the Royal Palace. The highlight of the spot is the display of Buddha’s eyebrow, which prodigiously survived through the Khmer Regime when the collections of Wat Ounalom were wiped out.

Address: 172, Ly Yoat Lay Street, Phnom Penh, Cambodia
Open Hours: 6 AM to 6 PM
Special Attraction: Display of Buddha’s eyebrow which miraculously survived the wipe out.

Hope you enjoyed our list of Things To Do in Phnom Penh. Let us know in the comment section below if we missed anything out.

This post was published by Shivani Asudkar

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