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25 Things to see and do in Phnom Penh

Despite the fact that many believe that Phnom Penh is one of the least beautiful capitals in Asia, it is a city with many interesting places to visit. Also, if you are going to travel to Cambodia to visit Siem Reap and the Angkor temples, you cannot miss the opportunity to learn more about the history of the country in its capital.

Phnom Penh was the protagonist of one of the cruelest genocides in history. The Khmer Rouge murdered a quarter of the Cambodian population during 1975 and 1979. Many of them were tortured and killed in Phnom Penh. Today, the new city is a tribute to those who died and to learn from the mistakes of the past. In addition, the city is characterized by having many beautiful temples, markets where you will find everything, museums...


1. Visit the Royal Palace, one of the most beautiful places to see in Phnom Penh

This beautiful Palace has been a royal residence since its construction in 1866, when the capital was transferred from Oudong to Phnom Penh.

The Royal Palace in Phnom Penh is divided into three enclosures. The main one is the Throne Room. It is a spectacular building. Inside is the royal throne and the busts of the kings of Cambodia. To the east of the Throne Room is the Khemarin Palace and it is where the kings of Cambodia reside. And finally, the third building is the Silver Pagoda, a beauty.

It is very important to respect the dress codes: keep your shoulders and knees covered, otherwise they will not let you in.

When we visited the Silver Pagoda and the Royal Palace it was under construction. And although the passage and the visit inside were allowed, it is not the same effect. The works are scheduled to be completed by the end of 2023.

2. The Silver Pagoda

Is beautiful. It is located within the grounds of the Royal Palace in Phnom Penh. The vihara houses several national treasures and scores of Buddha sculptures. The one that stands out the most is the Emerald Buddha of Cambodia. Its name refers to the fact that the floor of the pagoda is covered with silver tiles.

It is a working Buddhist temple and is used in many ceremonies. In the same enclosure is the Bopha Stupa and in it are the ashes of Norodom, one of the most illustrious kings of Cambodia.

3. Get to know the old Tuol Sleng prison

Between 1975 and 1979, the Khmer Rouge ruled Democratic Kampuchea (formerly Cambodia). Led by dictator Pol Pot, they established a very radical and authoritarian communist system based on Stalinism and Maoism. They wanted to end all urban civilization and ruralize the country. Its economic system was based solely and exclusively on the countryside. So their main enemies were bourgeois, students, multinationals or foreign companies that had established a headquarters in the country... Anyone who was related to the cities or connected with foreign governments or professionals.

4. Pay tribute to the victims at the Choeung Ek Memorial or Killing Fields

During the almost four years of the Khmer Rouge regime, between 2 and 3 million people died. If we take into account the figures of the Cambodian population, we can say that they killed 1 in 4 people. A real barbarity!

After being tortured in prisons like Tuol Sleng, if they survived the torture and hygienic conditions of the prison, they were sent to this extermination camp known as The Killing Fields. It is located on the outskirts of Phnom Penh.

They arrived in trucks, huddled together, at night and with their eyes covered. The first months of the dictatorship were assassinated during the same night. However, during the last years of the regime, so many trucks began to arrive that it was impossible to execute them at the moment and they were piled up in a kind of warehouse with cages where they were handcuffed to the bars, without water, without food and without the possibility of “going to the bathroom.” ” until the day of his assassination.

It is estimated that approximately 1.5 million people were murdered in the death camps. Once executed, the bodies were thrown into mass graves. Today it is still possible to see how some bones and pieces of clothing come to the surface when the rains move the earth.

Today, in the Fields of Death there is a Memorial. A huge 17-storey Stupa commemorates all the victims of the genocide.

Admission is US$5 for adults and children under 10 are free.

5. Stroll around Preah Sisowath Quay

This avenue along the river is perfect for a walk at dusk. You can do it walking or by bicycle. Along the promenade there are several street food stalls and a lot of atmosphere. In addition, the views of the Mekong River with the city in the background are beautiful.

6. Wat Phnom, one of the most beautiful places to see in Phnom Penh

In Cambodian it translates as mountain temple. It is located on a small hill of 27 meters and you will have to climb some steps to reach the top. It is the tallest religious building in Phnom Penh.

Legend has it that in the year 1373, a wealthy widow found four Buddha statues in a tree by the river. To protect these statues, he built a tiny temple on an artificial hill. And since then this place became a sacred place.

Today it is an active temple where hundreds of faithful come to pray daily. In addition, the Cambodian New Year is celebrated there.

The main temple is Buddhist, although right next to it in the same enclosure you will find a small Chinese Taoist temple with a lot of charm.

7. Visit the National Museum of Cambodia

The building of the National Museum of Cambodia is one of the most beautiful in Phnom Penh. And also, inside you will find a very interesting exhibition.

The museum houses one of the world's largest collections of Khmer cultural material. There you will find a wide variety of sculptures, ceramics and ethnographic objects from the prehistoric, pre-Angkorian, Angkorian and post-Angkorian periods.

Admission is US$10.

8. Visit Wat Langka, one of the most beautiful temples in Phnom Penh

Right next to the Independence Monument you will find this beautiful Buddhist temple. Wat Langka is one of the original five temples founded in the city by Ponhea Yat in 1442 and is one of the most important and beautiful temples in Phnom Penh. As soon as you enter, to your right you will find a huge Dong that attracts a lot of attention.

Some days of the week meditation sessions are held. They are supervised by English-speaking monks and admission is free.

9. Al-Serkal Mosque

The Al-Serkal Blue Mosque is a bit far from the city center, but it is worth visiting. This mosque was a gift from the Al-Serkal family of the United Arab Emirates (hence its name). It is beautiful and is the largest in Cambodia.

The original mosque was built in 1968. The one you see today is a very new reconstruction dating from 2014.

10. Take a sunset boat ride on the Mekong River

After visiting the city all day, what better way to see the sunset than taking a boat ride. The Mekong River crosses Phnom Penh and this is a good opportunity to see the city from another perspective.

The Mekong River is the eighth longest river in the world at almost 5,000 kilometers in length. It is born in the Himalayas and flows into the South China Sea, crossing through 6 countries: China, Myanmar, Laos, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam.

11. Visit the Golden Temple, an incredible and rarely visited temple in Phnom Penh

When they explained to us that the Golden Temple was one of the least visited temples in Phnom Penh, we couldn't believe it. This temple is impressive. It is located a bit on the outskirts of the city, but it is worth coming here and visiting it.

It is one of the most striking and ostentatious Buddhist temples in the world. It is completely painted in gold and inside you can see sculptures of Buddha made of gold.

12. Mongkol Serei Kien Khleang Pagoda

Right next to the Golden temple is the Mongkol Serei Kien Khleang Pagoda. Don't miss it either, it has a beautiful staircase.

Photos of the Golden Temple and Mongkol Serei Kien Khleang Pagoda:

13. Stroll through Phsar Chas or Old Market

I am a great fan of all markets, so I couldn't miss Phnom Penh's Phsar Chas. It is located in the center and although it is not the most famous market in the city (later I will tell you about a perfect one for shopping) this market has a very authentic essence. Here you can find new clothing stores, second-hand clothing, counterfeits, food stalls, fresh produce stalls, souvenirs...

14. Know the Moha Montrei Pagoda

In Phnom Penh there are an infinity of temples and Pagodas, the Moha Montrei Pagoda is a beautiful small pagoda that attracts a lot of attention.

It was built in 1970, a few years before the Khmer Rouge took over the country. Between the years 1975 and 1979, during that dark period, the temple was used as a warehouse for rice and corn.

Moha Montrei means "Great Minister". And it is that the temple was named in honor of Chakrey Ponn, the Minister of War of King Monivong.

15. Visit Wat Sampov Treileak, a very curious temple to see in Phnom Penh

If you thought that throughout my travels in Asia I had seen everything in terms of temples, I was wrong. The Wat Sampov Treileak is a golden Buddhist temple and what is most striking is that IT IS A BOAT! Obviously, it is not a ship as such, but rather a temple in the shape of a ship in original size.

16. Stroll and shop at the Phnom Penh Central Market

The central market building in Phnom Penh is spectacular. It is an Art Deco building built in 1937 and from the time of its construction to date it is the largest closed market in Southeast Asia. Its last reform was in 2011 financed by the French government.

There are all kinds of shops; souvenirs, clothing, accessories, counterfeits, fruit, vegetables, meat...

In addition, there are also beauty service stalls such as; massages, hair massages, hairdresser, manicure and pedicure. I took the opportunity to get a manicure for 5 euros and buy several pairs of slippers. I loved this market!

17. Approach the Independence Monument

In our case, we approached by Tuk Tuk and we didn't even get off because the traffic was horrible, but I recommend that you approach and get off, even if it's only 5 minutes.

The Independence Monument is a 37-meter Angkorian stupa and is one of the main icons of Phnom Penh. It was built in 1958, 5 years after Cambodia achieved its Independence from France to honor this historic moment.

During national celebrations, this monument is the center of any activity. In the eastern part of the monument you will find the monument to Norodom Sihanouk, one of the national idols.

18. Haggle at the Phnom Penh Night Market

If you haven't gotten tired of markets yet, you can't miss the night market. It is an outdoor market, on the street, where you will find many street food stalls to have something very cheap for dinner. Here there are usually many counterfeit shops of all kinds; shoes, clothes, bags, watches etc… Remember to haggle because at the outset they usually give you the price they want multiplied by 3. That is, if they want to charge 5 US dollars for a t-shirt, they will start by asking you for 15 and up.

19. Go on an excursion to the Silk Island

Silk Island (Koh Dach) is about 45 minutes by tuk tuk plus about 10-15 minutes by ferry from central Phnom Penh. It is a perfect opportunity to get to know a more rural and authentic area, as well as being able to disconnect a bit from the hustle and bustle of the city.

There you can learn about the history of silk weaving in Cambodia and see how the locals live in some villages.

The most comfortable way to visit the island is with an organized excursion. Although we visited it for free. We hired a tuk tuk that took us to the port from where the ferry left for 3 US dollars. We took the ferry and as soon as we got to the Silk Island at the same time we got off the ferry we saw that they rented bicycles for 2.5 US dollars a day. So we rented bikes for 4 (2 adults, 1 boy aged 8 and a girl aged 5) and off we went. They have bikes for all ages.

The road that surrounds the island has a total of 40 kilometers and you will pass through temples, beautiful towns, fields... There are cold water and food stops practically along the entire road and you can stop as many times as you want. We visited it in about 9 hours in total, between stop and stop.

Of course, do not forget to visit one of the factories where they weave clothes with silk threads, or one of the farms where silkworms are raised.


20. Disconnect on Koh Rong

If you want to include a beach on your trip to Cambodia without changing the country, a good option is Koh Rong. Cambodia is not known for its incredible beaches, its neighboring countries such as Vietnam, Thailand, Indonesia and Malaysia compete with it when it comes to beaches. Still, it is not impossible to enjoy a paradise on the coast of Cambodia if you feel like it.

There are a few islands in Cambodia but the most popular and with the most accommodation options is Koh Rong. It is located in the southern part of the country and has white sand beaches and crystal clear waters. To get here, you will have to go from Phnom Penh to Sihanoukville (another coastal area). From this area you have two options; a local plane that takes about 40 minutes (I recommend it) or the longest option; 7 hours by bus to the pier from where the ferries leave for the island (the ferry takes about 1 hour more).

21. Excursion to Phnom Baset and Udong

The Pagods and the temples of Phnom Baset and Udong are an essential visit to do if you travel to Phnom Penh. To visit them, the ideal is to hire an organized excursion that includes transportation, a guide in Spanish (you have this option) and food.

This excursion is private so only you will go. It is an advantage since they come to pick you up at the hotel and at all times you can decide a little about the pace of the visits, if you need to stop, etc…

The first stop on the tour is at the Cham Muslim village where the village will be visited and the customs and traditions of the Muslim community in Cambodia will be known. Once you have visited the town, you will head to the city of Phnom Baset where you will visit the pre-Angkorian temple of the 8th century and the Phnom Baset Pagoda where the reclining Buddha is located. The next stop is in Udong, where there are three great stupas that house the ashes of the three great kings.

22. Excursion to Phnom Chisor and Tonle Bati

Another of the recommended excursions to do from Phnom Penh is to Phnom Chisor and Tonlé Bati where the ruins of the 11th century temple of Phnom Chisor are located.

To get to the hill where the ruins are located you will have to climb more than 500 steps and with the heat and humidity it is somewhat overwhelming, but do not give up, it is worth it. The views are incredible and you will also get to know the ruins of this temple and its history.

The tour continues to its second stop at Tonle Bati where the ancient Angkorian temple of Ta Prohm is visited.

23. Sambor Prei Kuk Private Tour

Sambor Prei Kuk is an archaeological complex built after the temples of Angkor and like Angkor at some point in history they were abandoned and engulfed by the jungle. For this reason, many of the temples are still surrounded by tree roots or covered by vines.

If you have more time to visit Cambodia this is a good option for a full day tour from Phnom Penh. It is a private tour, for a minimum of 2 people with transportation, guide in Spanish and food included.

24. Cambodian Cooking Class

Are you passionate about cooking and discovering the gastronomy of other countries? If so, you can sign up for Cambodian cooking classes and enjoy an afternoon of cooking and learning new recipes.

As soon as the tour begins, you will go to the central market where the guide will show you different stalls of fresh products and where you will buy the necessary food for the class.

Cambodian cuisine is based on fresh and natural ingredients such as rice or vegetables. For this reason, its gastronomy is considered one of the healthiest in the world.

It is a very fun experience that will not only teach you how to cook a traditional recipe, but you will also enjoy meeting the locals, listening to their stories, their anecdotes...

25. Siem Reap and the temples of Angkor

For anyone who travels to Cambodia, their main objective is to visit the archaeological site of Angkor Wat. Therefore, you must include Siem Reap to your Cambodia itinerary yes or yes. At least I recommend 4 to 5 days, not only to see the temples of Angkor but also to see the city of Siem Reap, which is very worthwhile.

Here are several articles about Siem Reap that can help you organize your trip:


I hope you enjoy your trip to Cambodia a lot and that this article has been useful to you. You can continue reading many more related articles on the blog.

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A hug and see you soon!

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