Things to do in Phnom Penh
These activities are carefully selected and they suit Families, independent travelers but also group travelers. In case you have time to spare and want to get off the beaten track to discover a different part of Phnom Penh and surrounding, please consider one of our recommendations.
Firstly the Royal Palace was erected in the reign of King Onhea Yat (1434), and secondly it was erected in the reign King Norodom (1866). The Royal Palace was formerly called "Preah Barom Reach Veang Chatomuk Mongkul" that meant it was conveniently located at the confluence of four rivers. Nowadays it is only called "Preah Barom Reach Veang". The Royal Palace is a royal residence now where his majesty, the king of Cambodia, and the royal families live. In a common word, it is like a small town of royal dynasties.
National Museum Designed by the French George Groslier and “Ecole des Arts Cambodgients” it was built in 1917 in the reign of King Sisowath in traditional Khmer style. The National Museum houses the world’s important collection of ancient Khmer archeological, religious, and artistic from the 4th to the 13th centuries. There are over 5000 pieces are on display including Angkorian era statues, lingas and other artifacts.
Wat Phnom is located on a hill 27 meters high in the center of Phnom Penh. The legend of founding Wat Phnom has it that in 1372 Lady Penh (Yeay Penh) fished a floating koki tree out of the river. Inside the tree were four Buddha statues. She built a hill (Phnom) and a small temple (Wat) which is now known as “Wat Phnom”. The current temple was last rebuilt in 1926 and the large stupa contains the remains of King Ponhea Yat who moved the capital from Angkor to Phnom Penh in 1422.
Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum
This was a high school prior to the Khmer Rouge regime (1975-79). The museum of Genocidal Crimes it was used by the Khmer Rouge as a detention and torture center in the late 1970 which chronicle the years under the rule of the Khmer Rouge. The building now serves as a museum, a memorial and a testament to the madness of the Khmer Rouge regime. Much has been left in the state it was in when the Khmer Rouge abandoned it in 7th January 1979. The prison kept extensive records, leaving thousands of photos of their victims, many of which are on display. Paintings of torture at the prison by Vann Nath, a survivor of Toul Sleng, are also exhibited.
The notorious Killing fields of Cheung Ek is located 15km of Phom Penh. In this place more than 17,000 civilians were killed and buried in mass graves; many of them transported here after detention and torture in Toul Sleng prison. The memorial at Cheung Ek just outside Phnom Penh was an orchard and a Chinese cemetery prior to 1975. Cheung Ek is now a group of mass graves, killing areas and a memorial stupa containing thousands of skulls and long bones.
The unique, art décor building is a Phnom Penh landmark. Prior to 1935 the area was a swamp/lake that received the runoff during the rainy season. Central market is one of the largest and business markets in Phnom Penh which is a big yellow dome. Built in 1937 by French architects many interesting products are available. Central market in Phnom Penh is a good place to purchase everything from fish and vegetable to second-hand clothes, silk scarves, silverware, gems, antiques and other commodities.
The Independence Monument
The independence Monument (Vimean Ekareach) was inaugurated on 9th November 1962 to celebrate Cambodia’s independence from French rule (1863-1952). It was designed by the renowned Cambodian architect, Vann Monyvann.The Independence Monument is today used to commemorate the souls of combatants and heroes who laid down their lives for freedom of country. It is the site of colorful celebrations and services on holidays such as Independence Day and Constitution Day.
Cyclo tour in Phnom Penh
Cyclos are the old fashioned mode of transport in Phnom Penh and an integral part of the city’s landscape. The cyclo was designed by a French architect and introduced to Cambodian street in the French colonial period. Cyclos remain one of the most enjoyable, relaxing, and environmentally friendly ways to explore Phnom Penh. However the power house behind you, the cyclo drivers, are amongst the poorest of the urban poor in Cambodia. Recognizing their plight the Cyclo Centre was established in 1999 as a ‘drop-in centre’ where cyclo drivers have access to daily English lessons, free medical care, and washing facilities. Enjoy one hour or a half day cyclo tour of Phnom Penh organized through the Cyclo Centre. You will enjoy sightseeing with slow phase of cyclo and sightseeing of the famed city sights such as; the riverside, Wat Phnom, the Royal Palace, the old French Quarter, the Independence Monument, and various interesting local markets – a truly unique experience and one that should not be missed whilst in Phnom Penh.
School of Arts
Cambodian culture is one of the oldest ones in Southeast Asia. Centuries of war, especially over the last three decades, have destroyed much in Cambodia, including arts and culture. The popularity of the traditional arts seems to be weakening and they are threatened by non-Cambodia cultural influences coming from the outside as well. Recognizing the problems, artists from the Royal University of Fine Arts led by Mr. Chhay Sopha and Mrs. Vong Metry collectively decided to establish the Apsara Arts Association (AAA) as non-governmental organization in 1998. Apsara Arts Association teaches students the fine art of Khmer royal ballet. Tourists can pay a visit to the school to rehearsal and training activities.
Watthan Artisans Cambodia (WAC) is a member of Artisans’ Association of Cambodia (AAC) committed to support producers with disabilities and other most vulnerable people from different provinces.
It helps create training and employment opportunity the disabled and also guarantee fair wages and benefits for disabled artisans. The profits are shared by the staff and producers, and are re-invested in staff development and training. Furthermore, WAC aim to increase awareness of the disabled and of the issues they face. With around 20 full time employees Watthan Artisans produces top-quality fashion and home accessories from locally-woven silk, cotton, up-cycled materials and re-claimed hardwoods
Architecturally speaking, Phnom Penh is a comparatively new city. Prior to the late 19th century the city was but a few pagodas and clusters of wooden structures along the riverfront. Almost every currently existing structure was built after the beginning of the French colonial period in 1863. ‘Chinese shophouse’ style buildings dominate the city, characterized by deep narrow apartments made up of a combined ground-floor business-front and upstairs residence. Standing in distinctive difference, old European influenced colonial period structures are interspersed through the central city. At the height of the colonial period Phnom Penh was reputed to be the most beautiful city in French Indochina - recalling Paris in its manicured parks and picturesque boulevards lined with ornate villas. Though sometimes difficult to see through the grime and disrepair of years of hardship and neglect, much of that beauty still exists.
About 40km from Phnom Penh, the former capital of Cambodia, Oudong, rises from the plains. The stupa’s on top of the hill are the burial sites of former Khmer kings. The views are unbeatable and much can be learned here about the Cambodian history. We can travel to Udong by car or by boat along Tonle Sap River to enjoy the view and life along the river bank.
Sunset River Cruise
Short river cruises on Mekong River along the Phnom Penh’s riverfront is a great way to see the city. A cruise typically takes about 1 hour and runs up the Tonle Sap River along the central riverfront area providing a picturesque view of the Royal Palace, National Museum, parks and Phnom Penh skyline.
Koh Dach Island
Koh Dach is a tranquility island locates around 20km north of Phnom Penh. Take a ferry cross the river to the island. Visit the island on a mountain bike and go around the community. Meet interesting local people, including a visit to the local school and families weaving Krama. The island is also famous for growing some particular agriculture products and producing fine handicrafts. Explore more of the authentic Cambodian way and join an experienced guide for a trip around this Mekong Island.
Located a convenient 30km from Phnom Penh, Tonle Bati is a hang out place for the local people during the weekend. Tonle Bati also has an Angkor Era Temple that most tourists will find it a nice surprise to see that the temples of Angkor are spread throughout the country rather than just around Siem Reap. Tonle Bati offers a haven of rest during weekdays. With well maintained gardens and a recreation site close by, people can easily spend half a day in the surroundings of this temple enjoying the simple things that make life charming and fulfilling.
Phnom Chisor and Phnom Da
The hill top temples of Phnom Da and Phnom Chisor are perfect way to introduce people to Cambodian history and style of art of many Angkorian temples. Phnom Da Temple is a cultural, historical site which its visitors are mainly having purpose on studying about the history of Cambodia, especially the pre-Angkorian style of art work because it is a pre-Angkorian Khmer capital during Funan or Nokor Phnom period (from 1st to 6th century). It would be a full day trip in which rural life can be explored, local people can be met and beautiful views can be encountered from the hill tops. Although the temples are simple in design, the story behind them is interesting and the journey towards them offers a great look into local people’s lives.
Tamao Zoo is a 1200-hectares zoo and wildlife rescue centre located 30 kilometres southeast of Phnom Penh in Tro Pang Sap village, Tro Pang Sap commune, Ba Ti district, Takeo province. The zoo itself covers 80 hectares, the remainder has been reserved for its future extension and development. The sanctuary is continually undergoing improvements and strives to provide suitable habits for its larger animals. It was set up to preserve and rescue rare and endangered local wildlife. Some rare species housed here, including tigers, leopards, a lion and several species of exotic birds. At least two dozen of the species found here are endangered.