Use the quick links below to jump to a particular section of our sights and activities coverage for Phnom Penh.
The Royal Palace and the Silver Pagoda sit side by side on Sothearos Boulevard and, while they are two separate complexes, they are visited as one. Anyone with an interest in Cambodia history should pop by to meander through the palace grounds — or at least those bits open to the public — surrounded by their high and intriguing butter yellow walls, and accessed through four ... Read more about Royal Palace and the Silver Pagoda .
A mass grave for victims of one of the worst manifestations of control, paranoia and terror created by the Khmer Rouge, Choeung Ek was the preferred execution site for people who had been through Tuol Sleng, or S-21, the Khmer Rouge’s most notorious detention and interrogation centre. At the former school, more than 14,000 men, women and children were kept and tortured until they confessed to ... Read more about Choeung Ek Genocidal Centre .
A school, a prison, the end of the road; Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum was one of hundreds of detention and interrogation centres created all over Cambodia by the Khmer Rouge — who gave the former high school the sinisterly innocuous name S-21 — where countless thousands of Cambodians were ruthlessly processed until they were ... Read more about Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum .
Cambodia’s National Museum (saa-ra moo-un dti if you want to impress your tuk tuk driver) is a reference point around Phnom Penh, an impressive red-tiled, red-walled building set in carefully tended tropical gardens. On the corner of Street 178 and Street 13, two blocks from FCC and the riverside, this is a regular stop off point for foreigner visitors and students interested in Angkorian ... Read more about National Museum .
The fulcrum of Phnom Penh’s north, the story goes that Wat Phnom is the hill from which the capital city drew its name. According to the legend, a Khmer woman, Daun Penh, was dawdling by the riverbank one day when she noticed four Buddha statues inside a tree. She rooted the statues out and the first pagoda was built here in 1373 in order to house them. People have been coming here ever since ... Read more about Wat Phnom .
One of the more prominent wats in Phnom Penh thanks to its location off Sihanouk Boulevard near the Independence Monument, Wat Langka is really of only passing interest to the typical traveller, although it is an historically important temple for Cambodians and a popular one for VIP ceremonies of various kinds. You can tell when something VIPish is happening as they'll close the roads in the ... Read more about Wat Langka .
Apart from Wat Phnom, which is situated atop an artificial hill, Wat Ounalom is the Cambodian capital’s most conspicuous temple and probably the most attractive. The front of the wat overlooks the Tonle Sap riverside promenade and is a short walk north of the Royal Palace and the National Museum. The north side looks across Street 154 to Kandal Market while the temple’s rear entrance on ... Read more about Wat Ounalom .
Despite completely surrounding Phnom Penh, Kandal province is often ignored by visitors to the capital city. It’s worth a day trip, though, to check out the many beautiful pagodas that are found ... Read more about The pagodas of Cambodia’s Kandal province .
Slightly outside Phnom Penh itself but within easy striking distance, spectacular Wat Kean Kleang is one of our favourite temples in this corner of the world. It’s also very conveniently placed on the road to Koh Dach, so any visit to the fascinating silk weaving island ought to include a stop ... Read more about Wat Kean Kleang .
Khmer Architecture Tours run twice-monthly visits to Phnom Penh’s fascinating but rapidly vanishing modern architectural sites, with the aim of promoting an understanding of the genuinely Cambodian style known as New Khmer Architecture. The work of Vann Molyvann, who was responsible for almost 100 building projects over 13 years in the heady post-independence kingdom, features ... Read more about Khmer Architecture Tours .
Made famous by the film, City of Ghosts, Post Office Square is one of the last places in Phnom Penh to glimpse the slow-paced, pot-holed city of old. A short detour from riverside and Wat Phnom, the area deserves a visit in its own ... Read more about Post Office Square .
A magnificent construction that lives with a constant threat of destruction, the Olympic Stadium is a metaphor for the short-sighted mindlessness, grubbiness and political manoeuvring that attend a great deal of Phnom Penh urban “planning”. Better get there while you can before the lumpen barbarians win. Murmurings of demolition and redevelopment persist, despite carefully-worded reassurances ... Read more about Olympic Stadium .
On oh-so-elegant Street 92, planted between Raffles Hotel Le Royal and the impressive Ministry of Economics and Finance, the National Library is off the radar for most visitors to Phnom Penh. Set in lush gardens, the number of cars and motos may lead you to believe Khmers have a passion for reading, but actually it’s a spillover car park for nearby buildings, including the National Archives ... Read more about National Library .
Vann Molyvann is Cambodia’s greatest living architect. Vann’s style of work from the 1950s and 1960s is known as New Khmer Architecture, and blended modernist themes from the time with traditional Cambodian and Angkorian elements. Despite the civil war in the 1970s, many of Molyvann’s works survived, although much of it is now under threat due to rampant development in Cambodia. If you’re ... Read more about Vann Molyvann’s architecture in Phnom Penh .
Phnom Penh’s iconic White Building was opened in 1963, providing 468 apartments to house some of the Cambodian capital’s quickly growing population. The building formed part of an ambitious and rather fantastic, socially centred city development plan spearheaded by then King Norodom Sihanouk. Today, with money calling the shots more than thoughts of community, the building faces the threat of ... Read more about The White Building .
Built in 1937, this stunning butter-coloured art-deco ziggurat designed by Vann Molyvann is the most unlikely of buildings in Phnom Penh. Here you'll find everything from jewellery to avocados and deep fried crickets to white goods, but be prepared to negotiate hard as the prices seem to be higher, and the traders tougher, than elsewhere. A huge dome with four wings, it's an amazingly cool ... Read more about Phsar Thmei (Central Market) .
Despite the name, the one thing you can’t buy at Phnom Penh’s Russian Market is a Russian. But for almost everything else, this warren of stalls has it covered. The market became popular with foreigners in the 1980s when most of its visitors were Soviets who lived in the area, hence the name. Since then, it’s become a regular on the Phnom Penh to-do list because, while it may be big, busy, ... Read more about Phsar Tuol Tom Pong (Russian Market) .
Phnom Penh’s only formal night market, Psar Reatrey overlooks the riverside from the central reservation that separates downtown and northern Phnom Penh — it’s easiest to enter by the gate at the north end of riverside to avoid scrambling between lines of parked scooters. As with Orussey, the Night Market is chiefly oriented towards the local market, but is definitely worth a dip to pick ... Read more about Phnom Penh Night Market (Psar Reatrey) .
A great little local market, Phnom Penh’s Phsar Kandal is centrally located off Street 154. One block back from the riverfront, it’s only a five-minute walk from Street 172 and opposite the north side of Wat Ounalom, so chances are if you’re wandering around the city centre you’ll pass by, or pretty close to it. If you do, it’s well worth a ... Read more about Phsar Kandal .
Phsar Chas is a great little Phnom Penh market conveniently located for travellers to check out but targeting locals — head here instead of striking out to distant suburbs to experience a genuine Cambodian ... Read more about Phsar Chas .
A big and busy local market, Orussey offers a broader slice of “Cambodiana” than you’ll find in Russian or Central Markets; and who knows what you might pick up in the huge, two-storey hall that’s packed with everything from plastic pigs to dried fish and padding to make your bum look ... Read more about Orussey Market .
I’m definitely not the violent type, but one of my favourite things to do on a quiet Phnom Penh weekend is going to a kick-boxing match. It’s free, it’s noisy and it’s a totally Cambodian ... Read more about Kun Khmer (Khmer kickboxing) .
If you’re the kind of person who prefers to do rather than see, Phnom Penh’s Backstreet Academy gives you the opportunity to get up close with Khmer culture in a different way. Practical short courses in Cambodian traditions — of the dancing, fighting and crafty variety — provide an insight into a heritage which is often overshadowed by its neighbours’ more slickly marketed art ... Read more about Backstreet Academy .
As the mercury shows no signs of dropping for at least another month, there’s no better way to cool down than spending some time poolside in Phnom Penh. If you’re lucky, you’ve checked into one of the Phnom Penh guesthouses that has a pool. If you’re slumming it, or didn’t realise how essential a pool was until you got here and experienced the sauna heat, worry not: there are plenty of ... Read more about Swimming .
If you’re looking for something to do of an afternoon in Phnom Penh and have exhausted all of the genocide-related possibilities, you’ll be pleased to hear that on the outskirts of the city there’s a functioning go-kart track about 8km past the ... Read more about Kambol Go-Karts .
If you’re looking to get fit in Phnom Penh, there are a plethora of options — from aerobics at Olympic Stadium to the new public exercise equipment on the riverside. If you’re looking for something indoors and possibly air-conditioned, Phnom Penh has lots of gyms and fitness centres, some of which start at less than a dollar a day and many more that are surprisingly ... Read more about Gyms .
If you’re lucky enough to have a few days to spare in Phnom Penh, there’s plenty of opportunity to learn a new skill or try out something different. Thanks to a growing expat community, courses and taster sessions held in English are plentiful. So pull out your dancing shoes, learn what all those buttons are on your camera, or get your tongue around the cunning consonants of the Khmer ... Read more about Learning stuff in Phnom Penh .
One of the best ways to get a sense of Phnom Penh's scale and location is to cycle — away from it, all the way over to the other side of the Mekong. While you can always hire a bike and just go, if you’re pushed for time or can’t be bothered working out a smart itinerary, taking a tour is a fine ... Read more about Cycling tour .
If you’re sick of sightseeing, or your liver needs a break, never fear, there are daytime activities in Phnom ... Read more about Daytime activities in Phnom Penh .
If you’re up for an evening of exploring local Cambodian treats that seem a little too intimidating to source for yourself — think wet market, no English spoken, no menus and itinerant vendors — then a tour with Urban Forage’s Ducky could be your ... Read more about Food tour .
Kids City promises 11 levels of fun in an air-con, child-friendly environment, and it’s quite entertaining for grown up kids too. More exhilarating than a tuk tuk ride, and cooler than the freshie fashion on riverside, Kids City will earn you parent points while wearing out your ... Read more about Kids City .
For a small city, Phnom Penh offers a diverse range of possibilities for yoga fans. Whether you’re a devoted yogini or yet to bend your limbs to anything resembling a cow pose, the scope is here to extend your practice or try out something completely new, safe in the knowledge that no one you know can see ... Read more about Yoga .
In that wonderfully straightforward way that many Cambodian shops are named, Beautiful Shoes does exactly what it says on the sign. Tucked around the corner from Toul Sleng Museum on an average Phnom Penh street, this unassuming shop has become something of a magnet for footwear fetishists. If you’re tired of flip-flops or get your kicks out of custom-made kicks, here’s our guide so you ... Read more about Beautiful Shoes .
Opened in June 2014, for the first few weekends it seemed like all of Phnom Penh descended at once to get their fix at Japanese-run Aeon Mall. Half department store, half branded boutiques, it’s four floors of concentrated ... Read more about Aeon Mall .
Along with freshly opened Aeon Mall, another new shopping destination that may either fill you with delight or horror is TK Avenue… Yes, really, this is still ... Read more about TK Avenue .
There’s no way to pretend that hot season isn’t off to a roaring start in Phnom Penh, with temperatures already far higher than I am ready to cope with. Luckily, though, there’s no dearth of places to spend an air-con afternoon. My new favourite is City Mall, that Western-style shopping mecca next to Olympic Stadium. Most expats see a trip to City Mall as merely a shopping experience, ... Read more about An afternoon at Phnom Penh's City Mall .
About to head out on the bus to Battambang or Siem Reap and need a good book for the trip? All along the riverside you’ll be able to find children selling genocide-related literature, but please don’t buy books from them — purchase from one of the many adults selling books on the riverside instead (Ed: do remember that authors get no money if you go the pirated route). But, if you’ve ... Read more about English-language bookstores in Phnom Penh .
Hard to imagine a well-run zoo in a country with as many structural difficulties as Cambodia, but Phnom Tamao Wildlife Rescue Centre defies expectations in a huge 6,000 acre park 40 kilometres south of the capital. If you’re spending more than a day or two in Phnom Penh, it should be added to your list of places to ... Read more about Phnom Tamao Wildlife Rescue Centre .
Just a short bike, boat or moto ride away from the hurly-burley of Phnom Penh, Silk Island offers a peaceful, pastoral respite, and the chance to pick up some choice silks and cottons. ... Read more about Koh Dach (Silk Island) .
While there are plenty of smart swimming pools in town to cool off at, you might want to consider a more local option for something a little bit different. With a beautiful lake-side setting, hundred of bamboo salas (cabanas) to choose from, and plenty of cheap beer and food, Kien Svay is a little bit difficult to find, but once you get there a whole new world of peace opens up, away from the ... Read more about Kien Svay (Koki Beach) .
If you’re looking for an excuse to start drinking mid-afternoon, Kingdom Breweries offers a tour of their Phnom Penh facilities, which includes at least two sample ... Read more about Kingdom Breweries .
There’s no particular reason to visit Ta Khmao, which is reason enough in my book. In the spirit of George Mallory, I went visiting simply “because it was there”. Only 11 kilometres out of Phnom Penh, Ta Khmao is perfect if you want a glimpse of life outside the big smoke but you don’t have time to travel. Classified as the capital city of Kandal province, and home to the internationally ... Read more about Day trip from Phnom Penh: Ta Khmao .
Despite being one of the most interesting Angkor period temples, Phnom Chisor is a sadly overlooked destination. Great for a day trip, this spectacular site is a mere hour’s drive from the capital and a short drive from the well-preserved Jayarvarman VII temple of Ta Prom near Tonle Bati lake and the excellent animal rehabilitation centre of Phnom ... Read more about Phnom Chisor .
The capital of Cambodia from 1618 to 1866, Udong was sacked by the Thais, bombed by the Americans and blown up by the Khmer Rouge. Despite this past, a new generation of Khmers have poured interest and money into trying to bring reason to the mayhem and the results form an excellent day trip from Phnom Penh, best done in the late afternoon for the spectacular sunsets. Set astride a series of ... Read more about Phnom Udong .
This wonderful little Angkor period temple lies an hour or so south of Phnom Penh. It’s in a remarkably good state of repair, has plenty of excellent carved reliefs, a picturesque lakeside setting and was built during the reign of the main man himself — Jayarvarman VII. And hardly any visitors come ... Read more about Ta Prohm at Tonle Bati .
The tick-list of things to see in Phnom Penh is often heavy on the brutal history, leaving visitors reeling and with only a bite-sized impression of the country’s rich heritage. Cambodia’s culture goes well beyond loud karaoke and reproductions of Angkor Wat everywhere you turn, beautifully demonstrated by Cambodian Living Arts’ Plae Pakaa performances at the National ... Read more about Plae Pakaa: Cambodian Living Arts .
Phnom Penh’s transformation into a thriving modern city is evidenced by the evolution of the cinema scene here. Now not only 3-D but also 4-D screens are offered in theatres that you wouldn’t be able to distinguish from anything you’d find anywhere else in the world. Plus — thankfully — you’ll find smaller arthouse cinemas showing classics, documentaries, indie and foreign ... Read more about Cinemas .
Spend even one night in Phnom Penh and you’ll probably find yourself by the river. Which is not, incidentally, the mighty Mekong but the less internationally-famous Tonle Sap. Check your city map — unless you are at one of the more expensive hotels close to Koh Pich or out on a cruise, the Mekong is slightly out of reach. But the Tonle Sap is a worthy alternative and extremely important to ... Read more about Phnom Penh's riverside .
If you’re rushing round Phnom Penh and ticking off the sights, may we suggest a small detour? Just opposite Wat Phnom is Street 92, or Daun Penh Street, to give its full name. This elegant tree-lined boulevard running between Wat Phnom and Monivong Boulevard encapsulates much of Cambodia’s history and future, and includes the poshest hotel and a psychedelic ... Read more about Phnom Penh's Street 92 .
One of our favourite Southeast Asian cities for walking, Phnom Penh is always chaotic, generally grubby, usually noisy, often smelly but totally fascinating. It’s a good manageable size and the grid system makes it fairly simple to navigate. Pretty much any area downtown makes for an interesting stroll; the French Quarter or riverside are obvious route choices but we also suggest Street 13 for ... Read more about Street 13 walking tour .
One of the best ways to see the fast-changing Phnom Penh skyline is from the water as the sun sets. Watch the neon lights of the capital flicker on rather dramatically as the Mekong, Tonle Sap and Tonle Bassac rivers darken from milk chocolate to black ink from one of the array of boats offering sunset ... Read more about Sunset boat trip .
For an incredible view of still relatively low-rise Phnom Penh, head up 23 storeys to Eclipse Sky Bar, which as of end-2015 is the highest rooftop bar in the capital. The bar sits at the top of the Phnom Penh Tower, which is otherwise home to offices and embassies on Monivong Boulevard, and is found just a 10-minute ride from Independence ... Read more about Eclipse Sky Bar .
This Vann Molyvann-designed icon was built in 1958 to celebrate independence from the French five years earlier and as a memorial to Cambodia's war dead. It's styled in the shape of an Angkor Wat-inspired, lotus-shaped stupa, and is best viewed from one of the roads that surround it. Sadly, it is now being overshadowed by the ugly, imposing buildings towering nearby -- many would argue ... Read more about Independence Monument .
Northeast of the Independence Monument heading towards the Royal Palace, this monument was built to a Vietnamese design in 1979 by the victors over the Khmer Rouge. Following demonstrations two decades later, the area surrounding the monument was dubbed Democracy Square. Today it is still used for political gatherings -- when the government grants permission, of course -- although the most common ... Read more about Cambodia-Vietnam Soldiers Monument .
Just east of Phnom Penh’s Independence Monument, the memorial to Cambodia’s late king is located on the street bearing his name, Sihanouk Boulevard. Unveiled in October 2013 to coincide with the first anniversary of his death, this US$1.2 million new addition to Cambodia’s public monuments makes for an interesting ... Read more about King Norodom Sihanouk Memorial .
Getting a lovely massage, facial, body treatment or pedicure is a quintessential part of the Cambodia relaxation experience. Even the expensive ones are affordable by Western standards and, on average, their services tend to be reasonably well executed. So, in the purest interests of research, we took it upon ourselves to visit as many as we could, and here’s our run-down on the best places for ... Read more about Spas .