Phnom Penh in Cambodja

Phnom Penh in Cambodia: 8 x the best things to do

Phnom Penh is the capital of Cambodia, a country best known for the magnificent Angkor Wat temple complex. Still, Phnom Penh is a place not to be missed during your trip through Cambodia! Located on the Mekong River, Phnom Penh offers enough entertainment for a few days in an atmospheric Asian setting. With the Killing Fields as a reminder of past atrocities, as well as the magnificent royal palace downtown, Phnom Penh is a city of extremes. Discover here the best things to do in the capital of Cambodia .

8 x the best things to do in Phnom Penh

No doubt you will experience Phnom Penh with mixed feelings. The city, especially its history, left a great impression on us. Indeed, with the Killing Fields and the Tuol Sleng Museum, you get an unfiltered, tragic history lesson about the genocide that took place here more than 40 years ago. Today, Phnom Penh is once again a bustling capital and it is great to stroll along the river or do some fine shopping in the many local markets. Below are the 8 best things to do in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.

Phnom Penh in Cambodia
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1) Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum

To get a picture of the tragic events between 1975 and 1979, you must visit the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum visits. During this genocide, the country’s leaders, the Khmer Rouge, forced people to work in the countryside, depriving them of all their freedoms. This led to the death of about two million people (a quarter of the population!) through exhaustion, torture and murder. To this day, the grief and suffering is still palpable.

Located in a former school building, the Tuol Sleng Museum was converted into a prison, better known as Prison S21. It may not be the most cheerful thing to do while traveling, but it is an important part of Cambodia. In addition, by visiting you also express your support for the country. A visit to this museum can be combined with the Killing Fields of Choeung Ek, which you can book in advance here.

Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum opening hours: daily from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. | price per person: $5.00 (Audio guide: $5.00 – guided tour: free donation)

doing in Phnom Penh
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tuol sleng genocide museum cambodia
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2) Killing Fields by Choeung Ek

Most of the Tuol Sleng prisoners were taken to the Killing Fields of Choeung Ek . In all, nearly 20,000 (!) people were murdered and buried here. During a visit to this tragic site, you will walk past the various mass graves. In the center of the grounds stands a huge stupa filled with thousands of victims’ skulls. Despite the horrific history that took place here, it is now a serene, peaceful place to remember the tragedy.

TRAVEL TIP: Both the Genocide Museum and the Killing Fields can leave a huge impression. We recommend visiting these first before exploring other highlights of the city. If you are traveling with children, prepare them well for this visit or skip these places if necessary.

Opening hours Killing Fields of Choeung Ek: daily from 7:30 am to 5:30 pm | price per person: $6.00 (includes audio guide)

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stupa killing fields phnom penh
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3) Royal Palace

Built in 1866, the royal palace is the residence of the king or queen of Cambodia. With its impressive architectural style, it reminds us of Bangkok’s royal palace. Be sure to visit the House of the White Elephant where royal celebrations take place. If you visit the palace, you should be aware of dress codes. Appropriate clothing means covering your shoulders and knees. In addition, the palace has a long 3-hour lunch break.

Royal Palace opening hours: daily from 8 a.m. to 11 a.m. and from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. | price per person: $10.00

doing in Phnom Penh
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Royal Palace in Phnom Penh
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4) Silver Pagoda

Near the royal palace you will find the Silver Pagoda, also called Wat Preah Keo (Temple of the Emerald Buddha). As with the royal palace, the builder at the time was King Norodom. Especially the life-size golden Buddha statue covered with thousands of diamonds is a highlight not to be missed. It is believed that about 60% of the remaining relics were destroyed by the Khmer Rouge.

5) National Museum of Cambodia

Cambodia is best known for Angkor Wat. During the prosperous period between the 9th and 15th centuries, this area had a rich culture of high civilization, known as the Khmer Empire. Consequently, the National Museum houses an exceptional collection of art from this period. Besides the museum, there is also a beautiful courtyard garden, great for a stroll through. You can visit the museum daily between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. and a ticket costs $10 per person.

6) Sunset Cruise on the Mekong

If you have energy to spare in the evening, we recommend a sunset cruise. A two-hour boat ride takes you along the Mekong and Tongle Sap rivers past Phnom Penh’s skyline. An ideal place to enjoy a beautiful sunset. Often these boat tours include drinks, which can lead to convivial moments! We found this to be one of the most fun things to do in Phnom Penh.

sunset cruise in Phnom Penh
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7) Visit one of the many markets

Markets, it is something characteristic of Asia and in Phnohm Penh too you will find quite a few! Especially the famous Phnohm Penh Night Market stands out for its conviviality. Here you can buy all kinds of souvenirs and clothing and taste delicious local food. The Night Market is only open Friday through Sunday. Alternatives are the large indoor Psar Thei Market or the Old Market in the picturesque French Quarter.

market in Phnom Penh in Cambodia
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Street food Phnom Penh
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8) Walking along the waterfront

The pleasant promenade along the Mekong River invites you to relax on a bench and watch daily life go by. This is where locals and travelers congregate and everyone goes about their business. Along the promenade you will also find several nice restaurants and bars. Definitely a must do in Phnom Penh, even if you’ve already done the boat trip down the Mekong and Tongle Sap rivers!

mekong river phnom penh
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phnom penh boat trip cambodia
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Where to stay in Phnom Penh

You can find a wide range of accommodations in Phnom Penh, ranging from low-budget hostels to gigantic hotels. It is recommended to stay along the waterfront or in the BKK1 district. Both are centrally located, with many attractions close by. We stayed at HM Grand Central Hotel, where you really get value for money! A budget-friendly option is the cozy Onderz hostel. For a luxury experience, the centrally located Plantation Urban Resort is an accommodation you don’t want to miss!

How to get around in Phnom Penh

In the cities, the most obvious way to get from A to B is to use a tuktuk. Therefore, this is the most obvious, and authentic choice. Do clearly discuss the price with the driver in advance. If you can’t address anyone on the street, use the Passapp application. The principle is simple: through the app, you confirm the destination and place of pickup. Then a tuktuk driver picks you up within minutes and you pay the predetermined price digitally or in cash.

An alternative is Grab. This application works like Uber and is operational in most Asian countries. You can use this app in Phnom Penh, but otherwise it is not yet operational in the country.

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How to get to Phnom Penh

Phnom Penh is the capital of Cambodia, but many are particularly familiar with Siem Reap since it is the base for visiting Angkor. Consequently, these are the two cities where an international airport can be found. From the Netherlands or Belgium, fly to Phnom Penh in about 12 hours with often one transfer in Singapore or Bangkok. Discover the most affordable airfare to Cambodia here.

TRAVEL TIP: To enter Cambodia, you need a visa . You can arrange a visa-on-arrival at the airports, but this is just a bit more expensive than the e-visa you arrange in advance. A visa is valid for 30 days and will cost you €32 via digital.

Best travel time for Phnom Penh

Cambodia, like many countries in Southeast Asia, has a monsoon climate. That is, temperatures throughout the year average 30°C (with occasional warmer months as outliers). In addition, there is a rainy season that runs from May through October. Therefore, the best travel time is in the dry season which falls between November and April.

doing in Phnom Penh
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Still have questions about a trip to Phnom Penh or Cambodia in general? Let us know in a comment below! Looking for more information about your next trip? Please do not hesitate to contact us or send an email to snoezelsontheroad@gmail.com

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