6 Things to Do in Phnom Penh
Phnom Penh (pronounced puh-naam-pen) is Cambodia’s busy capital city located near the south of the country and situated at the confluence of the Mekong and Tonlé Sap Rivers. The city of Phnom Penh is steeped in history and known as the location for the heinous guerilla group leader Pol Pot driving his military tanks through the streets as he began his 3 year reign of terror between 1976 and 1979.
Phnom Penh is a good city to spend two or three days, but I wouldn’t recommend it beyond a quick city break or a stop over to other places in the country. It didn’t leave me overawed like many other places in Asia have. So here are 6 things to do in Phnom Penh.
I apologies now for the severe lack of photos on this post, but I like to use my own photos and as you will know if you read my post on Siem Reap I was hit with bout of food poising which coincided with my arrival in Phnom Penh. I had to literally drag myself around the city and I could barely lift my camera. I soon accepted this was going to be a photo-less trip.
1. The Killing Fields of Choeung Ek
The Choeung Ek Genocidal Centre is a harrowing visit but one steeped in history and an opportunity for you to learn more about the harrowing genocide undertaken during the reign of Pol Pot between 1975 and 1979. Between these years an estimated 17,000 people were detained and tortured at S-21 prison and were then senselessly murdered. There are killing fields across Cambodia but Choeung Ek is believed to be the biggest.
The Choeung Ek Genocide Centre is located around 17km south of the city of Phnom Penh. You can reach Choeung via Tuk Tuk or taxi or via the 4C bus which you can take from the downtown area. A round trip will cost less than US$1. If you are travelling with mobile data you can also order a Grab Bike or Taxi.
2. Phnom Penh Night Market
The Phnom Penh Night Market is a market located right near the Tonle Sap River and a few streets away from Wat Phnom. You can listen to live music, search for trinkets and clothes. You can also enjoy some cheap Cambodian street food, including spring rolls, noodle soup, pork skewers and fish amok. People eat on mats on the floor which makes for a friendly community atmosphere.
The market is open on Friday, Saturday and Sunday from 5PM to 11PM.
Location: Preah Sisowath Quay, Phnom Penh, Cambodia
3. National Museum of Cambodia
Located right next to the Royal Palace in the central area of Phnom Penh on Street 13, you can learn all about the history of Cambodia at the National Museum. This museum is certainly one of the most beautiful I’ve seen with its terracotta structure which was built between 1917 and 1920. The museum houses the world’s biggest collection of Khmer sculptures, the style that can be found at Angkor Wat.
The museum costs US$10 for adults and US$5 for children.
Location: Preah Ang Eng Street 13, Phnom Penh, Cambodia
4. The Royal Palace
The Royal Palace is Cambodia’s official royal residence and the grounds include the famous Royal Palace as well as the Silver Pagoda. There are actually a number of elaborate structures to view all with gold plated roofs built in the classic Cambodian style. The Royal Palace is home to His Majesty Preah Bat Samdech Preach Sihamoni, the King of Cambodia. Whilst there you can also view Wat Preah Keo Morakot, otherwise known as the silver pagoda. It used to be the place where the King worshiped and practiced Buddhism.
It costs around US$10 (40,700 KHR) to enter the palace and tickets can be bought at the entrance. It should be noted that the Royal Palace opens between 8AM and 10.30AM, then breaks over the lunchtime period and re-opens between 2PM-5PM. Having just travelled from Siem Reap, with unbelievable food poisoning I managed to drag myself out of bed at around 10AM and by the time I hauled my feet to the palace it was closed for lunch. I therefore took a rather long break on a park bench and then with all my efforts walked (at snail’s pace) up to the next destination on this list.
Location: Samdach Sothearos Blvd (3), Phnom Penh, Cambodia
5. Wat Phnom
Wat Phnom or Wat Phnom Hill is a Buddhist temple set on top of a 27m hill in a park. Gosh that 27m felt like I was conquering the summit of Everest in the state I was in. Apparently, the pagoda was first erected in 1373. The main entrance to the pagoda is via an impressive staircase on the eastern side of the grounds. Many travel to the pagoda for luck with exams or business ventures.
Wat Phnom is located in a circular park in the middle of a roundabout. From the waterfront on Preah Sisowath Quay you can take Baksei Cham Krong Road (Street 94) to the temple. From the Royal Palace you can walk along the waterfront heading north and then turn left on Street 94 to reach Wat Phnom.
6. Sisowath Quay Boardwalk
Before heading to the Phnom Penh Night Market why not take a stroll along the river, at the Sisowath Quay Boardwalk. There is a plethora of restaurants, shops, street vendors and locals selling crafts, fruit and flowers. You can look across the river and watch the boats go by. There is always something happening on the boardwalk providing you with a multi-sensory sensory experience.
Where to Stay?
I would usually opt for a hostel or cheap hotel but for some reason the cheapest best accommodation Phnom Penh were all apartments on Airbnb. I stayed in a fantastic modern apartment with a huge bed large kitchen and living room and lucky for me an ensuite bathroom.
Grab is basically the Uber of Asia, it was a common form of transportation in Vietnam as well for those who didn’t have a bike. I found Grab really useful in Phnom Penh, as I like knowing how much the fare is going to be to keep costs low and you can take either taxi’s or bikes. Download Cambodia’s Grab App here!