Phnom Penh Attractions

Things to do in Phnom Penh underline much of the dark history surrounding Cambodia as well as the country's ancient past and it more recent colonial legacy. Many attractions are located alongside the picturesque Mekong River within the cultural heart of Cambodia. The French inspired and built city remains one of the most visited in the country and for good reason; it is home to some of the most poignant and interesting sites depicting the country’s volatile past while reflecting on the now peaceful and fascinating backdrop.

Central Market

Central Market
Central Market

Visiting a bustling market in almost any thriving city is one of the best ways to experience what daily life for locals brings. The Central Market in Phnom Penh is a vibrant, busy space with vendors who travel from far and wide to hawk their wares, which include handmade goods, livestock, prepared foods, clothing, electronics, and more. The Central Market here is located in the capital’s core within a 1937 colonial-style building called Psar Thmay, meaning New Market in Khmer. Visiting is one of the top things to do in Phnom Penh any time Monday through Sunday, when it’s open 5:00am through 5:00pm. The Art Deco surroundings feature four main wings and a central dome-topped area.

Friendship Monument

Friendship Monument
Friendship Monument

Visiting the Cambodia-Vietnam Friendship Monument is another of the top things to do in Cambodia. A visit instills a sense of tranquility, symbolizing a peace bond made between the two countries. The monument lies in the city’s center within easy walking distance of several other Phnom Penh attractions such as the Royal Palace. The immense, 1970s-era building features Socialist-realist art style used in the monument’s bas relief which depicts soldiers from both countries. The Cambodian people are represented by the statue of a child and woman incorporated into the work.

Phnom Penh Waterfront

Phnom Penh Waterfront
Phnom Penh Waterfront

Things to do in Phnom Penh like explore the The Sisowath Quay waterfront help to relay more peaceful times and present locals and visitors a scenic place to walk along the water and enjoy the views within this area of contrasts. The waterfront sits on the Tonle Sap River, where vendors sell fresh food and other dishes, locals sit and chat away the afternoon, and small vessels sweep the water offering sunset boat rides to passersby. The riverfront is diverse, dotted with hotels, clubs, shopping stalls and malls, banks, and of course, beloved temples of many sizes like Wat Oulanom.

Royal Palace

Royal Palace
Royal Palace

The Royal Palace is the clichéd must-see if having to choose between Phnom Penh attractions. Though thousands visit and it is usually crowded, missing this royal gem would be a shame; it means missing out on a rich tale of the country’s past told through stunning architecture and art. It is located at the southern end of the waterfront across from the National Museum. The more than century-old palace was once the King of Cambodia’s official residence and an important hub for rituals and ceremonies symbolizing the Kingdom. Today, it is home to the current King of Cambodia. The palace and connecting Silver Pagoda are included in a walled royal compound that consists of many different buildings, gardens, pavilions, and other structures within that look over onto a scenic waterfront park.

National Museum

National Museum
National Museum

An ode to Cambodia’s Angkorian past, the National Museum was a dedication to the people from King Sisowath in 1920. Angkor-related lingas statues, and a range of other artifacts comprise the nearly 5,000 cultural and historical objects displayed inside. One of these is the famous statue called the Leper King. The Angkorian period dominates throughout but there are several pieces from later eras including Buddha statues and figures post-Angkor. The street adjacent to the museum is one of the best Phnom Penh attractions for art lovers; it’s ripe with galleries offering mixed media, and a multitude of shops selling souvenirs.

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