Phnom Penh’s attractions blend historical and cultural importance with the charm of its bustling markets and eclectic nightlife.
Your journey through Phnom Penh’s history and culture begins by the waterfront, at the Royal Palace. Built in 1866, towering spires and a gilded façade showcase classic Khmer architecture.
Here you’ll find one of the most iconic places to visit in Phnom Penh: the Moonlight Pavillion, where royal dancers perform. The Silver Pagoda houses national treasures like the “Emerald Buddha” and a life-sized Maitreya Buddha statue encrusted with over 2,000 diamonds.
Behind royalty and magnificent architecture lies a dark history under the Khmer Rouge regime. You can learn about Cambodia’s turbulent past at the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum, a school-turned-prison that held an estimated 17,000 people during the regime’s rule in the 1970s. The Cheung Ek Killing Field, 15 kilometres south-west of Phnom Penh, is a gripping yet sombre experience.
Cambodia travel is incomplete without delving into the complex history has shaped Phnom Penh’s distinctive art scene and culture. A grand building beside the royal palace, the National Museum of Cambodia preserves one of the world’s greatest collections of Khmer artefacts.
More contemporary audiences can chill out at Meta House, an exciting media and art space founded by German film-maker Nico Mesterharm. Artists from around the world travel to Cambodia to host regular workshops and film screenings here, so you might happen to catch some up-and-coming young talents. With a popular in-house restaurant and frequent guest DJs, Meta House is also great for a fun night out.
Take to the streets and be inspired by urban and street art at the K-Bach Art Gallery. This hip gallery celebrates both local and international talents, exhibiting a myriad of styles including graffiti, impressionism and modern art.
Don’t miss Phnom Penh’s lively outdoor markets — vibrant centres for shopping and Khmer food.
Wander through a maze of stores in the Russian Market in Phnom Penh and you will find everything from silk scarves and wood carvings to ceramic kitchenware — with plenty of food and drink options to satisfy any craving.
Stay up late at the weekend Night Market to hunt for great deals out of the blistering heat. Most vendors are open to haggling so test out your bargaining skills should something catch your eye.
Elsewhere in the capital, Street 178 (also known as “Art Street”) is home to the city’s art community. After visiting the galleries, pop by the art and sculpture shops. You might just find some one-of-a-kind art pieces by Cambodia’s most exciting contemporary artists to take home.
With its French heritage, t’s no surprise that Phnom Penh restaurants serve up some great French cuisine. For a crisp baguette and pastry fix, head to La Patisserie by Christophe. A more formal taste of Paris might call for a reservation at the ever-popular Bistrot Langka. This restaurant serves up French classics like beef bourguignon alongside fusion recipes like tuna tataki with wasabi mayonnaise.
For authentic local fare, the markets are your go-to destination. Central Market is a massive complex where you can find Phnom Penh’s delicacies and some unusual street food, like deep-fried tarantulas and scorpions.
Every Cambodia travel guide will agree that evenings bring out a different side of the city. Bask in the Phnom Penh’s nightlife as you meander through alleyways like Bassac Lane to discover different watering holes, from motorcycle-themed Hangar 44 to casual-chic Meat & Drink.
Near the Russian Market, Long After Dark offers a fine menu of comfort food with over 80 types of whisky to appreciate. The wooden interior and furnishings of this speakeasy were made from old houses and boats.
Rock and roll aficionados can revel in iconic hits at Zeppelin Café, named after the star himself, where local and international craft beers and spirits pair perfectly with a game of pool.
Weary travellers should remember to stay hydrated and rest up after all that activity. Re-energise at the end of each day in a lush, conveniently-located hotel so you’ll be ready for another day of travel adventures.