Cambodia is filled with beautiful sites, including what it is most popular for: the Angkor Wat temple complex.
Other than the stunning archaeological ruins scattered throughout the country, visitors will also see beautiful nature reserves, untouched beaches, and various exotic animals. Other aspects of the country that shouldn’t be missed are the Angkor Night Market, Botum Sakor National Park, the National Museum of Cambodia, and the Royal Palace.Phnom Penh offers plenty of things to see and do – you’ll often be surprised when making a stop in the Cambodian capital heading to or from Siem Reap’s Angkor Wat.
Those who don’t make a stop off in Phnom Penh will often miss out on so many interesting historical, cultural and environmental attractions in the city.
It’s not all about the Khmer Rouge or Cambodia’s tragic past either. Khmer-era temples, wildlife sanctuaries, theatrical performances and museums are all easily accessible and tours are reasonably priced. Enjoy our personally researched guide to the best attractions in Phnom Penh.
The best time of the year to head to Cambodia is from November to February, when temperatures are a bit cooler and easier to navigate through.
Cambodia is dotted with an array of unforgettable views, people and experiences that will ensure you have a memorable time visiting the Kingdom of Wonder. Here are the most beautiful places to visit in Cambodia.
Angkor Wat at sunrise
Holding the title of the world’s largest religious monument, glorious Angkor Wat is a spectacle to be seen whatever time of the day it may be.
However, watching the sun peek from behind the temple’s iconic towers is a pretty special experience and well worth waking before the crack of dawn for. But don’t expect to have the temple to yourself, as this is peak time, when tens of thousands of other early birds flock to the temple to capture this magical moment.
Koh Rong Samloem at sunset
Beach bums are doing themselves an injustice if they miss Koh Rong Samloem. Why?
Because the relatively undeveloped tropical island is home to isolated beaches that are postcard-perfect, soft powder-white sands, and breathtaking crystal-clear waters. If you’re looking to kick back with sundowner cocktails, then for the best sunsets head to – yep, you guessed it – the aptly named Sunset Beach.
Exploring the Cardamom Mountains
Being at one with nature in the heart of the tropical jungle is another pretty amazing, and unique, experience to treasure.
As Southeast Asia’s largest remaining rainforest, the Cardamom Mountains are also home to a swathe of rare and endangered flora and fauna that make any visit here special.
Looking out from Phnom Sampeu
Perched atop Phnom Sampeu in Battambang is a quaint pagoda and viewing platforms that boast exquisite panoramas of the province – dubbed Cambodia’s rice bowl – sprawling below.
The site is also home to several other spots, such as the macabre Killing Caves, where thousands were tossed to their deaths through a hole in the ceiling by the Khmer Rouge. The bat caves also sit at the base and are a must-see at dusk when hundreds of thousands of bats spiral into the sky.
Kayaking along Kampot River
Hiring a kayak and lazily making your way along the network of tributaries and waterways off Kampot River comes with many rewards.
Kayak through mangroves and pristine countryside and past small fishing communities and temples to get a glimpse of rural Cambodian living and be amid calming nature.
Riding up Bokor Mountain
The crumbling hotel at the peak was until recently a highlight, with visitors able to explore the eerie shell and enjoy the incredible views out across the Vietnamese island, Phu Quoc. However, it recently reopened as Le Bokor Palace, meaning it’s off limits to those who aren’t guests. Despite this, a drive up Bokor still brings with it visits to waterfalls, Buddhist statues, a crumbling church, a refreshing breeze and tonnes of great spots to snap another photo for Instagram.
Hiking through Kep National Park
After stuffing your face with crab – after all, that’s what Kep is famous for – burn off the calories with a walk through Kep National Park.
An eight-kilometre path snakes through thick tropical jungle that is dotted with pagodas and vantage points, taking in the smattering of villages and farmland that stretch to the sea. Signs clearly mark off-shooting paths for those wanting to head deeper into the national park.
Explore Preah Vihear temple
If you want to have a World Heritage ancient temple pretty much all to yourself then that isn’t going to happen at Angkor.
Try getting off the beaten track and heading to remote Prasat Preah Vihear, a series of impressive structures built between the 9th and 12th centuries by several kings. The site has a chequered past and was at the centre of conflict for decades.
Sitting on the edge of the Cambodian-Thai border, ferocious fighting between the two countries over ownership of the sacred site pursued until recent years. In 2015, the destination was deemed safe and taken off many foreign offices’ watch lists. While military presence remains strong, the temple is well worth a visit.
Hanging out with Mondulkiri’s elephants
Standing in the heart of the jungle that dominates the northeastern province of Mondulkiri is a special experience in itself. Throw a few elephants into the mix and you’re onto an almost priceless high. Elephant Valley Project offers visitors the chance to get up close to the magnificent mammals, while learning more about the negative effects of elephant tourism.
The sanctuary offers a permanent or temporary respite for over-worked and neglected elephants, who can kick back, relax and enjoy life in their natural habitat. Visitors can spend the day watching the beasts wallow in mud, wash themselves in the river and stomp through the jungle.
Explore Kirirom’s pine forests
Dubbed Cambodia’s own Switzerland, Kirirom National Park sits a two-hour drive from Phnom Penh, and its cooling pine forests boast temperatures that dip a good few degrees below that of the capital. This makes it a great escape.
A few eco-projects dot the area, offering the chance to delve into local life. Accommodation is offered in the form of tents, villas, cabins and homestays. Hire a bike and cycle through the woods, take a dip in the waterfalls or simply chill while surrounded by nature.
Cambodia’s capital has a reputation as an unlovely arrival point for tourists heading to the ancient temples of Angkor Wat in Siem Reap, or to island resorts off the coast. But those who choose to stay will discover a city on the cusp of change, with a diverse nightlife and innovative restaurant scene emerging as an alternative to the colonial hangouts that catered to the UN personnel who tried to establish democracy in Cambodia in the Nineties.
What are the best things to do in Phnom Penh?
Royal Palace and Silver Pagoda
The Royal Palace and Silver Pagoda are set adjacent to each other, spanning 174,870 square metres of breathtaking Khmer architecture and lush greenery. Although the king of Cambodia still occasionally resides in The Royal Palace (if the blue royal flag is flying, the king is in residence), visitors can explore several buildings within the palace grounds from US$6.50 and guided tours are available from around US$10.
Located in Sisowath Quay, highlights at the Royal Palace include the Throne Hall and Moonlight Pavilion. Meanwhile, entrance to the Silver Pagoda is free of charge, where you can visit the Emerald Buddha, which dates back to the 17th century and is adorned with Baccarat crystals.
Location: Samdech Sothearos Boulevard (between 184th Street and 240th Street), Phnom Penh, Cambodia
Open: Monday–Thursday and Saturday from 8am to 5pm, Fridays from 8am to 6pm, Sundays from 8am to 5.30pm
National Museum of Cambodia
The National Museum of Cambodia is where you can find the cultural side of Cambodian history that dates back to the 4th century. The museum is housed within an impressive red sandstone structure and inaugurated in 1920 as the Musée Albert Sarraut during the French colonial period. It stands out as a fine illustration of traditional Khmer architecture.
There are over 14,000 interesting exhibits, arranged according to prehistoric, pre-Angkor, Angkor, and post-Angkor eras, each of which comprises bronze and wooden sculptures, ceramic items, ethnographic items and stone articles. Check out spectacular exhibits such as the 6th-century, 8-armed statue of Lord Vishnu.
Location: Preah Ang Eng Street 13, Phnom Penh, Cambodia
Open: Daily from 8am to 5pm
Phone: +855 23 217 643
Cambodian Living Arts – Apsara and Traditional Khmer Dance
Cambodian Living Arts is a non-profit organisation that hosts Apsara and traditional Khmer dance performances at the National Museum of Cambodia.’
Tickets are priced from US$15 and shows are held on Mondays, Wednesdays and weekends from 7pm onwards. The organisation preserves traditional Khmer dance that dates back to the 18th century but was almost lost under the Khmer Rouge regime.Cambodian Living Arts revived the art by gathering surviving master artists to train and pass on their knowledge to younger generations.
The troupe comprises live singers and musicians in traditional Khmer costumes, performing eight classical dances of ethnic minorities from all over Cambodia.
Location: Blvd Samdach, Phnom Penh, Cambodia
Open: Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday from 7pm onwards
Phone: +855 23 986 032
Children Park Koh Pich Amusement Park
Children Park Koh Pich is an amusement park at the South Sisowath Quay in Phnom Penh. It can get quite packed and offers colourful ways to have fun, including a rollercoaster, a roller skating area with a big wavy floor section and lots of booths where punters try to burst balloons with darts.
It is, of course, nowhere near as extravagant as Disneyland, but this is a great place for people-watching, especially watching the locals enjoying life with friends and family – a reminder to outsiders that there is now much more to Cambodia than the grim history of the Killing Fields.
Location: Koh Pich St, Phnom Penh, Cambodia
Phone: +855 81 617 977
Golf in Phnom Penh
Golf in Cambodia is relatively new and the number of golf courses is limited. The first club to open in Cambodia, in 1996, was the 18-hole course at the Cambodia Golf & Country Club. On the outskirts of Phnom Penh, about 33 km west of the city centre, it is set among 120 acres, and also has a clubhouse, swimming pools, tennis courts, convention facilities and villas.
Another golf course near Phnom Penh is the Royal Cambodia Phnom Penh Golf Club. To get there, take Route 4 towards Sihanoukville and keep an eye out for a big sign for the club about 14 km from the city.
Independence Monument is an iconic landmark that’s set in the heart Phnom Penh City Centre. Locally known as Vimean Ekareach, it signifies Cambodia’s liberation from the French who have colonised the nation between 1863 and 1953.
As a result, vibrant celebrations of national festivities such as Independence Day (November 9th) and Constitution Day (September 24th) are held here. On most days, the best time to visit is at night as that’s when Independence Monument and its surroundings are illuminated by blue, red and white floodlights.
Location: Sangkat Boeng Keng Kang Ti Muoy, Phnom Penh, Cambodia
Mekong Island (Koh Dach) near Phnom Penh
Mekong Island is where to head to if you wish to take a break from the hustle and bustle of Phnom Penh and venture into a world of peace and tranquillity. The island is about 15 km north of the city centre. Bounded by views of rice paddies, vegetable farms and fruit orchards, Mekong Island not only serves as a venue for an enjoyable day trip or picnic but also enables you to experience the country’s authentic culture at its best.
This island occupies an area of about 10 hectares of land and is one of the prominent centres of traditional handicrafts in Cambodia, with artisans engaged in silk weaving, pottery, woodcarving and dyeing in its villages. One of the best ways to get there by cruise boat from Sisowath Quay in Phnom Penh (usually a 2.5-hour round trip). You can also hire a tuk-tuk from the city to the Japanese Bridge, from where you can continue your journey to the island by ferry.
Location: Koh Dach, Phnom Penh, Cambodia
Oudongk is a town at the foot of the hill of the same name approximately 40 km north from Phnom Penh. The destination offers an escape to the rural countryside with the hilltop overlooking vast plains.
This site is also famous for cultural patrimonies and used to serve as a capital city between the years 1618 and 1866.
Location: Oudongk, Cambodia
Phnom Tamao Zoo near Phnom Penh
Take a tour to Phnom Tamao Zoo and Wildlife Rescue Centre (PTWRC) – the country’s largest zoo and wildlife sanctuary that is located about a 45-minute drive outside town. Opened in 2000, it is more a wildlife rescue centre than a zoo, serving as a safe refuge to rare and endangered animals rescued from the clutches of poachers, traffickers and illegal wildlife traders.
The wildlife centre’s residents now include over a thousand animals plus hundreds of exotic birds and reptiles. Managed by the Ministry of Agriculture’s Forestry Department with support from WildAid and Free the Bears Fund, the zoo occupies about 1,200 hectares land out of a 2,500-hectare forest protected area of Phnom Tamao that enjoys picturesque surroundings comprising mountains and ancient temples such as Phnom Tamao Temple and Thmor Dos Temple.
Location: National Road No 2, Tro Pang Sap Village, Tro Pang Sap Commune, Ba Ti District, Takeo Province, Cambodia
Open: Daily from 8am to 5pm
Phone: +855 95 970 175
Frizz Cooking Class
Frizz Restaurant is a great place to learn about Khmer cuisine, including its history that goes back a long way. In more recent times, the cuisine of Cambodia has been influenced by nearby countries as well as by the French.
But go back 1,000 years to when the Khmer Empire ruled over most of Southeast Asia and, some historians argue, the food in the subject countries was itself influenced by Khmer cuisine. Get a hands-on experience of cooking authentic Khmer dishes to learn more about the ingredients from local experts.
Location: #67 Oknha Chhun St. (240), Phnom Penh 12207, Cambodia
Open: Daily from 10am to 10pm
Phone: +855 23 220 953
Siem Reap Food Tours has been featured in The New York Times as one of the city’s must-do tourist adventures, showcasing the delicious Khmer cuisine of Cambodia as part of walking tours. The tours were designed by a chef and are led by expert guides.
Visitors get a chance to explore a variety of off-the-beaten-path eateries, ranging from bustling local markets to street food vendors in areas away from popular tourist spots. Participants can sample delectable Cambodian specialties and street snacks, along with traditional exotic tropical fruits the region is known for.
Morning tours meander through the region’s lively marketplaces, sampling traditional Khmer breakfast dishes in the shadow of the city’s gorgeous Angkorian temples. Evening tours are also offered, tasting dishes and craft Cambodian beers at family-operated local restaurants and lively night markets.
Angkor Night Market
Open every day from 5pm to midnight, the Angkor Night Market bustles with the sounds and lights of over 200 vendor stalls, bars, and cafes filled with locals and tourists.
The Angkor Night Market is the perfect place for visitors to explore and really get a feel for the people and culture of Cambodia. At the market, visitors can try delicious local cuisine at everything from street carts to fancy restaurants.
It’s also the perfect place to pick up some souvenirs to take back for family, friends, or even themselves; souvenirs vary from t-shirts and keychains to works of art in the form of sculptures or paintings.
Various events are held at the market throughout the year, such as the Happy Khmer Water Festival and the Christmas Shopping Extravaganza.
Sisowath Quay in Phnom Penh
Sisowath Quay is one of Phnom Penh’s most bustling areas, with a row of boutiques, bars, cafes, restaurants and luxury hotels lining its length.
The boulevard spans about 3 km long, at the intersection of the Tonle Sap and Mekong rivers.
Sisowath Quay’s cool and relaxing atmosphere lets you enjoy a delightful getaway, and serves as a central meeting point of almost all roads that lead to the city’s key attractions.
Location: Sisowath Quay, Phnom Penh, Cambodia
The Countless Tuk Tuks
It’s hard not to enjoy yourself in the backseat of a tuk tuk with the wind in your face and friendly Cambodians waving hello. Tuk tuks are one of the least expensive ways to get around in Cambodia, so you’ll likely find yourself hitching a ride multiple times per day. Unlike the traditional tuk tuks in India or Thailand, Cambodian tuk tuks are typically towed behind a motorbike, making the experience even more photo-worthy.
Sovannaphum Arts Association & Art Gallery
Phnom Penh is not as active as Siem Reap when it comes to Khmer performing arts. Even so, you can find some of the performing arts schools in the city are open to the public during the day, allowing you the opportunity to observe dancers in training.
Among these, a must-see is the Sovannaphum Arts Association & Art Gallery on 111 Street 360 (corner of Street 105). Started in 1994 by a group of students from the Royal University of Fine Arts in Phnom Penh, the association has a theatre where traditional cultural shows are staged every Friday and Saturday night at 7.30 pm.
Shows include shadow puppet theatre, classical Apsara dancing, and folk and mask dances. On sale at the gallery at the theatre are shadow puppets made from leather, musical instruments and more. Another fine theatre to visit is the Chatomuk Theatre at Sisowath Quay.
Location: 166 St 99, Phnom Penh 12307, Cambodia
Open: Daily from 8am to 9pm
Phone: +855 10 337 552
Ta Prohm Temple at Tonle Bati
Ta Phrom Temple at Tonle Bati dates back to the late 12th century, featuring well-preserved stone carvings and bas-reliefs of Hindu mythology – this temple is similar in style to Angkor Wat in Siem Reap.
Accessible within an hour’s drive from Phnom Penh City Centre in the Takeo Province, there’s an entrance fee of US$3 to visit the temple, making it affordable and convenient option for travellers who are staying in the capital of Cambodia.
Other attractions in Tonle Bati include Yey Peo Temple (located 200 metres north of Ta Phrom Temple) and Tonle Bati Lake, a popular picnic spot among locals. Great for unwinding after visiting the temples, you can also rent huts and hammocks at relatively low prices.
Location: Tonle Bati, Cambodia
The Killing Fields
The Killing Fields, also known as Choeung Ek Memorial, is a bone-chilling reminder of Cambodia’s tragic history. About 17 km south of Phnom Penh City, it is one of the many killing fields or execution and burial grounds used by the Khmer Rouge regime during its rule of the country from 1975 to 1979.
Mass graves were discovered after the Khmer Rouge fled the city, leading to the construction of a Buddhist memorial for over 15,000 victims in The Killing Fields. Half-day tours to this memorial and S-21 Prison feature informative audio guides in many languages as well as testimony from survivors and guards of the regime.
Location: Phnom Penh, Cambodia
Open: Daily from 7.30am to 5.30pm
Phone: +855 23 305 371
Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum (S-21 Prison)
Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum was formerly Tuol Svay Pray High School before it was turned into an interrogation, torture and execution centre by the Khmer Rouge regime. Also known as S-21 Prison, an estimated 17,000 Cambodians entered this notorious venue. Only 7 managed to survive until the end of the regime.
Most rooms have been left in the state they were found in January 1979, including classrooms divided into tiny cells. An essential stop while visiting Phnom Penh, Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum also displays 6,000 haunting portraits of its prisoners for travellers to understand the recent tragic Cambodian history. It’s an intense experience touring the old prison and will no doubt give you plenty of food for thought.
Location: St 113, Phnom Penh, Cambodia
Open: Daily from 8am to 5pm
Phone: +855 23 665 5395
Wat Langka, nearby Phnom Penh’s Independence Monument, is one of the 5 pagodas founded by Ponhea Yat in 1442. This colourful shrine was established as a library of Buddhist scriptures as well as a meeting place for Cambodian and Sri Lankan monks, but it was also used as a storehouse during the Khmer Rouge’s regime.
Unlike most Buddhist temples in Cambodia, the stupas here are kept in a great condition and entrance to the temple is free of charge. Every Sunday at 8.30am, you can participate in Wat Langka’s meditation sessions which are supervised by English-speaking monks.
Location: Street 282 (Samdach Louis Em), Phnom Penh, Cambodia
Open: Daily from 6am to 7pm
Wat Phnom is a temple that sits on a hill to the north of Phnom Penh. The temple was restored and reconstructed through several years, namely in 1434, 1806, 1894 and 1926.
Wat Phnom is a symbol of the Cambodian capital city and is regularly visited by local devotees who either come for prayers, bring small offerings, or participate in meditation.
Location: Phnom Penh, Cambodia
Cambodian Country Club Equestrian Center
Cambodian Country Club Equestrian Center, which opened in 2003, is in the Northbridge International School. An international-standard riding school and club, it offers riding and riding lessons for adults and children of all abilities and all ages from 5 years old and up. The centre also stages showjumping events, exhibitions and a riding camp for kids.
Location: 2004 Street, Group 6, Sangkat Toeuk Thla, Khan Sen Sok, Phnom Penh 12101, Cambodia
Open: Daily from 8am to 6pm
Phone: +855 93 885 591
French Institute Cambodia
Institut Francais du Cambodge or French Institute Cambodia can be a great place to watch French films, apart from the several big-screen cinemas in town which mostly show films in the Khmer language. Head down to Street 184 for the Institute’s French Cultural Center Cinema. This shows French films, most of them with English subtitles.
Location: 218 Keo Chea, Phnom Penh 12211, Cambodia
Open: Monday–Saturday from 8am to 9pm (closed on Sundays)
Phone: +855 23 985 611
Phnom Penh’s Central Market
Don’t forget your most comfortable pair of walking shoes when heading to Phnom Penh’s massive central market. The art deco building dates all the way back to 1935, but it’s the selection of shops inside that will blow you away. It’s arguably the best place in the country to get dirt-cheap prices on souvenirs like clothing, sunglasses, art and watches. Skip your hotel breakfast and opt for dining at the countless traditional Cambodian food stalls inside.
I hope you enjoyed my list of things.The city is brimming with so many fabulous things to see, people to meet and places to eat.