Top things to do in Phnom Penh, Cambodia

Phnom Penh, Cambodia, is a vibrant and bustling capital city that offers travelers plenty of exciting experiences. From its fascinating history to its fascinating culture, this Southeast Asian destination has something for everyone.

Located on the banks of the Mekong River, Phnom Penh boasts an array of important historical sites such as Wat Phnom temple and the Royal Palace complex. These monuments provide visitors with an insight into ancient Khmer architecture and Cambodian culture.

There are plenty to choose from for modern attractions, including lively markets filled with exotic items across Asia and thrilling museums like Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum or Choeung Ek Killing Fields Monument. Regarding food, Phnom Penh serves up some delicious local dishes – from savory Amok curries (made with fish paste) to sweet Sticky Rice desserts.

Altogether these features make visiting Phnom Penh an unforgettable experience, so don’t miss out – explore this fantastic city.

Key takeaways

  1. Visit the Royal Palace and Silver Pagoda: Get a glimpse of Cambodian history at this beautiful complex in Phnom Penh.
  2. Take a tour of Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum: Pay your respects to victims of Khmer Rouge regime atrocities during this sobering tour of Cambodia’s past.
  3. Stroll around Central Market: Explore some great shopping options in one place, from souvenirs to clothes, jewelry and more!
  4. Sample street food along Sisowath Quay: Enjoy all sorts of local snacks as you walk along the riverfront promenade overlooking Tonle Sap River in Phnom Penh city center!
  5. Experience nightlife at Rambutan Resort & Pool Bar: An outdoor swimming pool with music, entertainment and drinks make for an unforgettable night out on town!
  6. Bike through Choeung Ek Killing Fields memorial site: Cycle through this memorial site where mass graves are located and learn about the dark chapters in Cambodia’s past.
  7. Indulge in a spa day at Bodia Spa: Relax with traditional massage treatments that will leave you feeling rejuvenated after exploring many attractions around town
  8. Shop at Russian Market: Pick up unique items such as antiques, art pieces or handmade crafts from one-of-a-kind stores here.
  9. Explore The National Museum Of Cambodia to immerse yourself in Cambodian culture: This museum houses artifacts dating back to prehistoric times – perfect if you’re looking for an educational experience.

Cambodia’s capital city, Phnom Penh, was once known as The Paris of the Far East and, although chaotic, it is also extremely beautiful. Gilded with unique temples and deeply-rooted in spirituality, the teachings of Buddhism can be found across the capital, from ancient golden statues and pagodas to a gentle and welcoming community. Its French colonial history also lives on among tree-lined boulevards and the faded and sometimes well-preserved remains of once splendid mansions. Travelling by tuk-tuk is the preferred method, so buckle up for an exciting ride and take a look at my highlights of Phnom Penh.

Things to do and see in Phnom Penh

Phnom Penh, Cambodia

The Royal Palace

There are hidden gems in Phnom Penh and then there is the Royal Palace. It may be one of the more touristy highlights, but it’s still not to be missed. This gold and yellow vibrant masterpiece plays an important role in the Cambodian monarchy and the King still stays here sometimes. You’ll know when he’s in residence because that’s when the blue flag is flown! When he’s not staying, you’re able to take guided tours of the Silver Pagoda, the Throne Hall and the Moonlight Pavilion. We recommend coming early in the morning to see the light hit the bronze statues, vaulted ceilings and ornate artwork.

King Father Norodom Sihanouk Statue

Choeung Ek

One of the more sombre experiences – but equally important in terms of respect and history – is a visit to Choeung Ek, which is located about a 45-minute tuk-tuk ride from Phnom Penh. A brutal reminder of the mass genocide that took place in Cambodia in the late 70s, it’s one of those travel experiences that stirs the soul to its very core. It’s here, behind the gates of what was once a beautiful orchard, that you will find over 20,000 graves of those killed under the Khmer Rouge regime. Known as the Killing Field, it has become a peaceful memorial to those that perished and is a vital part of Cambodia’s history.

The Mekong River

Phnom Penh is also an outstanding city from which to begin a journey along the Mekong River, as the capital city stands on its banks. The Mekong River is the soul of Southeast Asia and its powerful force crosses six countries from China to Vietnam. Embarking on a luxury cruise from Phnom Penh and sailing across to Vietnam means you get to see the highlights of Saigon, Halong Bay and Siem Reap as well. Leaving behind the architecture and temples of the city, you’ll discover a river life quietly unfolding that is home to unique wildlife, floating markets and overwater communities that use the river as an important source of income.

Wat Phnom

Back on dry land, one of the city’s favourite Buddhist temples is Wat Phnom. Set on the only hill in the capital, it houses four statues of Buddha – and legend has it they were discovered by Lady Penh inside a hollow tree that floated up to her house. It’s a site of good luck, and many locals come here hoping for their wishes to be granted. It’s also the tallest temple in the city and filled with shrines, paintings and treasures.

Wildlife Alliance

Away from the temples and the shrines for a while, the Wildlife Alliance is a heartwarming place to spend a day. About an hour outside of the city, it’s a sanctuary for rescued animals including elephants, leopards and monkeys. Inside this rescue centre, you’ll have a chance to feed baby elephants and learn about the conservation efforts of this crucial wildlife rehabilitation home that extricates animals from the illegal wildlife trade.

Streets of Phnom Penh, Cambodia
Photo by Vouchlim Ton on Unsplash


In conclusion, there is much to explore when visiting Phnom Penh: From its culture-rich museums like The National Museum Of Cambodia and historical sites to relaxing spas. Whether indulging yourself in new experiences or paying tribute to historical spots, this city offers plenty of opportunities for exploration or simply taking time off from urban life.

About the author

Not a long time ago, I was just an ordinary girl with a typical office job leading a regular life. But then, everything changed. I made the decision of my life, left everything behind and followed my Love working in Asia to lead a life of an adventurer. Follow me to find out that you don't need to be rich to travel in comfort and style. To travel like a girl! Love, Katie

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