What To Do In Phnom Penh – The 10 Best Places To Visit In 2024

Phnom Penh Cambodge - Le Palais Royal 04 Cover

The city of Phnom Penh is the capital of Cambodia and it is one of the country’s gateways thanks to its international airport. Phnom Penh became the capital of the country when the Siamese Empire (present-day Thailand) invaded Cambodia from the north and took the city of Angkor in 1431. The Khmer people fled to the south and made Phnom Penh the new capital of the Khmer Empire.

Phnom Penh is therefore a historically and culturally interesting city that is well worth a visit. I’d say two or three days would be enough to enjoy most of what it has to offer. As always, let’s start with some transportation and accommodation tips before we get to our list of the best attractions in the city.

How To Get To Phnom Penh?

Phnom Penh Cambodia - How To Get There Bus

If you’re not going to be landing in Phnom Penh’s airport, the best way to get there is by bus or by mini-van. To check departure times and book your tickets in advance, visit Camboticket.com.

Siem Reap – Phnom Penh

Sihanoukville – Phnom Penh

Where To Stay In Phnom Penh?

Phnom Penh Cambodia - Where to stay? Base Villa 1
Base Villa

If you’re a backpacker who doesn’t want to spend a lot of money on accommodation, I recommend you to book at the Base Villa. It’s actually a villa that has been refurbished into a youth hostel. It is conveniently located in the city center and charges only $4.5 per night and per dorm bed! For that same rate, you’ll have access to this beautiful swimming pool too. How awesome is that? Not to mention the friendly, young and dynamic staff!

Phnom Penh Cambodia - Where to stay? Base Villa 1
Base Villa

If you are traveling with a group or you simply want to book a room in a better hotel, I recommend you try the Tea House Asian Urban Hotel. It is located near several tourist attractions and offers high-quality services for reasonable prices.

Phnom Penh Cambodia - Where to stay? - TeaHouse Asian Urban
TeaHouse Asian Urban Hotel

Of course the hotel has a great swimming pool and also a gym, a spa, a massage center, etc. As the name of the hotel suggests, you will have the opportunity to taste several kinds of tea from around the world.

Phnom Penh Cambodia - Where to stay? - TeaHouse Asian Urban 01
TeaHouse Asian Urban Hotel

The 10 Best Things To Do In Phnom Penh

Book your tickets and your rooms and let’s find out more about my 10 favorite attractions in Phnom Penh:

  1. The Royal Palace
  2. The National Museum of Cambodia
  3. Wat Ounalom
  4. The Choeung Ek Memorial (The Killing Fields)
  5. Tuol Sleng Museum
  6. The Phsar Tuol Tom Poung Market AKA the Russian Market
  7. The Independence Monument
  8. Wat Langka
  9. Wat Phnom
  10. The night market

1. The Royal Palace

Phnom Penh Cambodia - The Royal Palace

If there is one spot you shouldn’t miss in Phnom Penh, it’s the Royal Palace. Cambodia is a kingdom currently ruled by King Norodom Sihamoni. The palace was built in 1860 and has since been the home of all the kings of Cambodia.

The Royal Palace is a vast site with many buildings. You’ll probably need half a day to visit all of it. As I mentioned above, access to the palace costs $10 but it’s really worth it. You’ll need to keep a few things in mind though.

You’ll need to abide by a certain dress code and whether you’re a man or woman, you’ll have to cover both your shoulders and your knees. If you happen to be wearing shorts, you can always buy pants nearby. Caps and hats are also prohibited.

Once inside, you can enjoy the sumptuous Khmer architecture and the magnificent royal gardens. You will also find Buddhist temples there, including the Temple of the Emerald Buddha, stupas and many other wonderful things!

2. The National Museum of Cambodia

Phnom Penh Cambodia - The National Museum of Cambodia

Right next to the Royal Palace is the National Museum of Cambodia. Many Khmer artworks and archaeological pieces are displayed there and it also has a beautiful garden. Even if you’re not planning on visiting the museum, just go there and look at the beautiful architecture of the building from outside. If you’re there at sunset, I’m sure you’ll love the atmosphere!

3. Wat Ounalom

Phnom Penh Cambodia - Wat Ounalom

If you head north up the Tonle Sap River, you will come across Wat Ounalom. It is a Buddhist temple built around the year 1443 and one of the most important Buddhist sites in Cambodia. Apparently, the temple contains a precious relic, an eyebrow actually, that presumably belonged to Siddhartha Gautama, the Buddha.

4. The Choeung Ek Memorial (The Killing Fields)

Phnom Penh Cambodia - The Choeung Ek Memorial (The Killing Fields)

We’re now in one of the sites that marked some of the bloodiest pages of human history. I am referring to the genocide perpetrated by the Khmer Rouge from 1975 to 1979 and led by Pol Pot. The Choeung Ek Memorial, more commonly known as one of the Killing Fields, is located about 17 km south of Phnom Penh’s city center. The easiest way to go there is to rent a tuk-tuk.

You’ll need to pay about $6.5 to enter the site and you will be provided with an audio guide that is also available in English. To be honest with you, this visit was really upsetting for me so if you’re easily affected by representations of violence and brutality, maybe this is not for you. I didn’t think that human atrocity could reach such unreasonable proportions. The tree you see below was used by the Khmer Rouge who smashed the heads of babies and newborns against it, and that’s just one example.

Phnom Penh Cambodia - The Choeung Ek Memorial (The Killing Fields)

I’m tempted to spare you all the scary details and at the same time to encourage you to visit the memorial because even if it can only make you feel sick at heart, it’ll remind you of what men can do to impose their ideas. I think it is good to remember that so that we never make the same mistakes again, no matter the causes we defend. I had the same feeling when I visited the war museum in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam.

The visit itself lasts about 2 hours and you’ll see the different ways the Khmer Rouge perpetrated their crime against humanity. At the center of the site is the memorial, which you can see in the first picture of this section. You will also find hundreds of skulls arranged according to the age of the deceased.

It should be noted that the Killing Fields are where the prisoners of Tuol Sleng Prison were executed, which has now become a museum and is our next stop in Phnom Penh.

5. The Tuol Sleng Museum

Phnom Penh Cambodia - The Tuol Sleng Museum

Also called the Genocide Museum, this place was basically a school that the Khmer Rouge transformed into a prison. You will see photos of the prison but you can also visit the prison cells and a variety of torture rooms. Again, this might seem shocking to you but it is still a very informative site that I recommend visiting. If you want to understand Cambodia and its people, you must first understand their history.

6. The Phsar Tuol Tom Poung Market AKA The Russian Market

Phnom Penh Cambodia - The Phsar Tuol Tom Poung Market AKA The Russian Market

We’re in a less gloomy place called the Tuol Tom Poung Market, also known as the Russian Market, simply because many Russian expatriates living in Phnom Penh in the 1980s used to shop there. You won’t find many Russians there today but the market’s name is still used.

There’s a bit of everything at the Russian Market with both fresh, local produce and also clothes and lots of nice souvenirs at low prices. You can also have something to eat there at one of the many food joints in the market. It is a colorful place and one of my favorite places in Phnom Penh.

Phnom Penh Cambodia - The Phsar Tuol Tom Poung Market AKA The Russian Market

7. The Independence Monument

Phnom Penh Cambodia - The Independence Monument

Exact location : https://goo.gl/maps/h7Hf9xR9wH72

If you are going for a walk in the city center, don’t miss out on the magnificent Independence Monument. In fact, Cambodia was under French rule until 1953 and the monument was built five years later in 1958, to mark this newly gained freedom and to pay tribute to all those who fought for the country’s independence. The monument is 20 meters high and is in the center of a roundabout. It cannot be accessed and you’ll just have to look at it from afar.

8. Wat Langka

Phnom Penh Cambodia - Wat Langka

Exact locationhttps://goo.gl/maps/qN1tDsXivbF2

If you’re still in the area, don’t forget to visit Wat Langka which is just a stone’s throw from the Independence Monument. It is one of the oldest temples in Phnom Penh, having been built in 1442. Its name refers to the close relationship between the monks of this temple and other Buddhist monks in Sri Lanka.

9. Wat Phnom

Phnom Penh Cambodia - Wat Phnom

Exact locationhttps://goo.gl/maps/SuM1PzUPF7R2

Located north of the city, Wat Phnom is also a beautiful temple to visit in Phnom Penh. This temple gave the capital of Cambodia its actual name. Phnom Penh literally means “Penh hill” and refers to an old legend of which the main character is an old lady named Daun Penh. This lady was lucky to find four Buddha statues in a tree trunk floating on the Mekong. She picked them up and put them in her house on top of a hill. A few years later, a temple was built to house the statues on the famous Penh hill.

To visit the actual temple today, you’ll need to climb some steps to reach the top of the hill. There will be beautiful buildings and stupas that you can visit. The atmosphere is really mystical and I remember meditating there in front of beautiful Buddha statues. Those moments stayed with me. 🙂

10. The Night Market of Phnom Penh

Phnom Penh Cambodia - The Night Market

Exact locationhttps://goo.gl/maps/MBTd8KDQNko

I had a hard time finding this market because it was simply not listed on Google Maps nor on the guides I looked up on the internet. A Cambodian friend ended up showing me the way and I really loved it. It reminded me a bit of Chiang Mai‘s night markets in Thailand. There will be good Cambodian dishes for you to try for no more than $2 or $3. And if you’re lucky, you can also attend shows performed by local singers.

Let’s wrap this up at Phnom Penh’s night market! Did you find this blog post helpful? Let me know in the comments below!

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