Phnom Penh is often overlooked by visitors since most travelers head over to see Angkor Wat or the temples in Siem Reap. However, Phnom Penh is not the capital of the country for no reason at all.
Top 10 Must See: Phnom Penh
If you do find yourself with enough time in the city, below is the Top 10 Must See Phnom Penh places.
1. The Royal Palace and Silver Pagoda
Perhaps the most iconic landmark in Phnom Penh, the Royal Palace is somewhat similar to the Grand Palace in Bangkok. However, it holds its own charm and character despite of this. This means that visitors are able to see how royalty lives, and enjoy a stroll through the grounds. Tip: Start early to avoid crowds. Entrance fee is at $10.
2. Wat Phnom
One of the major pagodas in the city. According to stories, the first pagoda that was built on this location was in 1373 AD. This was to host four statues of Buddha that were brought by the Mekong waters. This was then discovered by a lady named “Penh.” As it is, the city is named after this pagoda (wat), and it is easy to spot since it is set on a high hill, measuring 30m. It is the only natural rise that can be found in the city.
3. National Museum
Located just near the Royal Palace, the National Museum is known for housing several sculptures, artifacts, and relics. Its main feature are the collections that were from the Angkorian period. Although taking pictures is not allowed inside, visitors are free to take photos in the garden and surrounding area. Tip: Prepare $10 for entrance fee; children under six years of age are free.
4. Toul Sleng Museum
Also known as S21 (Security Office 21), Toul Sleng (meaning “poisonous hill”) is an iconic high school (Toul Svay Prey high school), which was set up by the Khmer Rouge as a prison. This was the site that was used to detain people who were gruesomely tortured and interrogated during the Pol Pot regime. Although it is not a pleasant site, it is an eye-opening experience, shedding light on the horrors of time.
5. River Cruises
Phnom Penh is gorgeous on its own, but from the Tonle Sap and Mekong rivers, it is truly a sight to behold. River cruises are something to experience – especially during sunset or late afternoon. It can be pleasant respite after a long day of exploring and tours. Tip: A simple cruise may be cheaper than dining on the boats themselves. Prices vary, so it is best to inquire before boarding.
6. Killing Fields
The Killing Fields, or Choeung Ek, is located a bit far out of Phnom Penh, but it is still a must see for anyone visiting. This is one of the places where the followers of Pol Pot slaughtered people. With deaths mounting over thousands, the dead were buried in shallow mass graves that are marked until today. It is an important historical site to visit, although due to the brutal history, it is not for the faint of heart. Tip: Dress appropriately.
7. Night Market
As darkness falls in the city, one particular area comes alive with hustle and bustle, which is the Phnom Penh Night Market (Phsar Reatrey). Boasting of more than a hundred stalls of products that are locally produced, handicrafts, curios, and more, the market is an area where visitors can shop and have some food and drinks as well. It opens from 6 p.m. onwards, daily.
8. Russian Market (Phsar Toul Tum Poung)
This is another MUST SEE site, which offers several branded clothing for its visitors. If you have great bargaining skills, then this is the market for you. However, if you are claustrophobic, the narrow aisles and hot air my not be ideal.
9. Central Market (Phsar Thmei)
An iconic market in Phnom Penh, Central Market is easy on the eyes with its Art Deco-style building that is full of merchandise. Around the building itself are a number of small stalls, each offering its own share of goods. After its recent renovation, it is now easier to navigate inside and enjoy some local dishes that are tasty and affordable.
10. Independence Monument
Perhaps one of the easiest landmarks to spot, the Independence Monument can be seen as you move around the city. Also close by is the statue of the late King Father Norodom Sihanouk, which is worth a visit. Apart from this, the parks in the area are relaxing and have fountains that are enjoyable as the sun sets.
There are still a lot of places in Phnom Penh that are worth visiting. Some nooks and crannies, and hidden gems aplenty. Despite its shortage of famous temples, there is still some things you must definitely visit if you find yourself in Phnom Penh.