Photo: Wat Lanka, Phnom Penh.

Street 13 walking tour

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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 a relatively short but action-packed walking tour. A wander along here allows you to take in markets, historic buildings and plenty of street life. It terminates at the photogenic Post Office Square.

Our suggested starting point, the National Museum though you may want to start a bit earlier than this sunset shot

Tthe National Museum is our starting point, though you may want to start a bit earlier than sunset.

Street 13 lies on the north side of the Royal Palace complex. Start at the National Museum and heading north, Street 178 will be the first cross street. This is worth a slight detour, being home to plenty of local and Western cafes plus some arts and crafts shops and a couple of excellent French period buildings.

Continuing straight along 13 takes you past funky Trunkh on the right -- a great spot to snare a funky souvenir (their pillow covers are great!) -- and then Friends restaurant, a fine place for a cool drink or lunch if you’ve just visited the palace or museum and are kicking off your walk (try the Burmese curry or the snapper with green mango!).

Get a pavement haircut on your way - Wat Ounalom

Get a pavement haircut on your way.

Continuing along Street 13 then leads you past Phnom Penh’s budding Pub Street, Street 172, with its numerous cafes, bars and guesthouses. On the right, behind a row of street barbers, is one of the town’s most prestigious and interesting temples, Wat Ounalom.

Lovely old French period villa, just down 178 street

Lovely old French period villa, just down Street 178.

Cut through the wat, take two lefts, and that’ll bring you back to Street 13 at Phsar Kandal, an excellent market for a wander.

As with any other Phnom Penh street 13th has some spectacular wiring!

Street 13 has some spectacular wiring.

You’re now cutting through the heart of the city with its usual mix of shophouses, colonial-period buildings and street life. Five blocks more will see you crossing Street 110 and arriving at another downtown market, Phsar Chas. Both Phsar Kandal and Phsar Chas, while located amid the key tourist sites of downtown Phnom Penh, still very much retain their local characters.

Fish section at Phsar Chas

Fish section at Phsar Chas.

Immediately after Phsar Chas is yet another market — this time one popular with both foreign visitors and locals — though you’re going to be a bit early for this one since it’s the city’s Night Market. The market sets up right at the river end of the strip of park between Streets 108 and 106, while to the left the strip turns into Freedom Park (much loved by opposition leader Sam Rainsy supporters, striking garment workers and Khmer riot police).

Early morning - French Quarter looking towards Wat Phnom

French Quarter looking towards Wat Phnom.

Cross Street 106 and you’re into the old French Quarter squeezed between Wat Phnom to your left and the riverside on the right. Apart from the wonderful old buildings, such as the Post Office, and the proliferation of cafes, bars and restaurants, this area is something of a transport hub since the Phnom Penh port is located here. Boats to Vietnam’s Chau Doc and up to Siem Reap are moored here plus many bus companies have offices in this part of town.

Post Office Square

Post Office Square.

To wrap up, head a block down to the river, and turn left to find Chinese House further north -- it’s not cheap, but it’s beautiful -- or turn right to head back south towards where you began the walk.


Street 13 walking tour
Starting at the National Museum, Phnom Penh
Admission: Free

Location map for Street 13 walking tour

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