Phnom Penh (I know the Phnom Penh Pronunciation is not easy. I will tell you about this in the Section Phnom Penh Facts) is not only the capital of Cambodia but also the home of many cultural highlights of this wonderful country. Moreover, you can get a really detailed inside of the cruel history of Cambodia while staying here. This capital is not only about amazing temples, Phnom Penh absolutely has it all.
In case this is your first time in Cambodia, you can find everything you should know before your trip to Cambodia here.
Surely, due to all these wonderful attractions in Phnom Penh, it shouldn’t be missing in your itinerary through Cambodia. That’s why you can find our Phnom Penh Top 10 here with many important things to do in Phnom Penh.
Phnom Penh Facts
- Economical Center and capital of Cambodia
- Is located between Tonle Sap and Mekong River
- Around 2 Million Inhabitants
- 376 km² area
- Name translatable with Penh Mountain
- Wondering how to pronounce Phnom Penh? It’s: Nom Pen (I know, the Phnom Penh Pronunciation is hard 😉 )
- Zip Code Phnom Penh: 12000
How to get to Phnom Penh
Taking a Bus from Ho Chi Minh to Phnom Penh
Duration: 5 hours
Price: $10 – $15
Ticket: Get your bus ticket on-site or online here
The bus journey from Ho Chi Minh to Phnom Penh was one of our rides where we didn’t only look at the money in order to book our ticket. We’ve heard of many scams on the Vietnam/Cambodia border by bus companies as well as people get left behind at the border if their visa takes too long or if they refuse to pay extra fees to the bus company.
In the end, we choose Sapaco Tourist and we didn’t get scammed or anything. We chose a visa on arrival and everything went fine. They made sure that everyone got their visa.
Taking a Bus from Siem Reap to Phnom Penh
Duration: 6-7 hours
Price: starting from $6
Ticket: Get your ticket on-site or online here
The Bus from Siem Reap to Phnom Penh leaves several times a day. The road is not amazing so the trip can be a little bit shaky. Even though it’s said to be 6-7 hours, the trip often takes longer. Especially during the rainy season.
Cheap flights to Phnom Penh
If you decide to get to Phnom Penh by airplane be sure to check out Skyscanner for the best flight deals and book your flight in advance.
Click here to check for the best flight deals to Phnom Penh.
Best Places to stay in Phnom Penh
Make sure to check our comprehensive Phnom Penh Hotel and Hostel Guide for every Budget.
Top 10 Things to see in Phnom Penh
10. Monkey Temple Phnom Penh
Opening Hours: unknown
Entrance fee: free of charge
The Phnom Penh Monkey Temple is located on the other side of the Tonle Sap and is quite unknown by tourists. This unfamiliarity can be caused, on the one hand, by the fact that you have to walk a little (and by little I mean a lot) to get there and on the other hand, I wouldn’t truly call it the highlight Phnom Penh temple.
Anyway, we got recommended to see this temple and seeing monkeys sounded nice to us. Thus, we decided to get there. But halfway, the sun seemed to strike just too hard and we got kinda lazy to keep on walking. So, we decided to take a Tuk-Tuk to the Monkey Temple.
Our long way to the Monkey Temple, Phnom Penh
Unfortunately, the driver didn’t speak any English. But he told us a price and kept going so we assumed he understood. Well, he did not. It seemed like he has never heard of this temple before. During the way, he stopped every 2 minutes to ask his fellow tuk-tuk drivers for the way. In the end, we managed to get there by telling him the way through our offline map.
(The story ended with him driving by the Golden Temple, Phnom Penh two times, which we wanted to visit afterwards. He discussed with other tuk-tuk drivers more than 20 minutes about the word “Golden” and it’s mysterious meaning. (Even randomly pointing at golden stuff from our side didn’t help. Well, at least we tried) So, he drove us back to the city center and actually expected us to pay the full price which we, of course, didn’t feel like after just being able to see half of the things that we asked for. The journey has taken more than an hour in the end. But actually, it would have been just several minutes journey. So, my advice, make sure your driver actually understands you… But back to topic now)
The Phnom Penh Monkey Temple – What to expect
To be honest, we were kinda disappointed when arriving at the monkey temple. We have actually hoped for a temple full of monkeys. But in the end, there was just one (chubby) monkey around.
The temple was nice, yes, but in comparison to other temples of the city maybe not really unique.
To say something positive as well (at least the Monkey Temple made it to this list, right?) There are no tourists around which makes this temple tranquil and quite.
09. Royal Palace, Phnom Penh
Opening Hours: 08 am – 10.30 am & 2 pm – 5 pm (Fridays until 4.30 pm)
Entrance Fee: $15
The Royal Palace probably is one of the most impressive buildings in Phnom Penh. It’s located in front of the Tonle Sap River together with the Silver Pagoda.
Unfortunately, the palace is closed around noon time (11 am to 2 pm). Of course, we scheduled our visit for 12 pm as we didn’t check for opening times beforehand. So when we saw the big black clouds in the sky we decided it was time to go inside and obviously we stood in front of closed doors.
The entrance fee is pretty high though with 15 USD.
In the end, the palace didn’t fit anymore into our schedule (And to be honest, not in our budget either) as they recommend you to spend around 1,5 hours inside of the palace.
From the outside definitely, it is impressive either at night or daytime.
08. Discover Cambodia’s unique Street food
One of the things that I miss most about Cambodia is its amazing food. It not only is affordable but also super yummy. Especially the street food made our mouth water.
Anyway, Phnom Penh is one of the places with the most diversity when it comes to prices. If you feel like eating in a Touristy restaurant you might get charged Western prices. Around the corner in a local restaurant or at a little street food stand, you can get a nice filling meal for around one dollar. Unbelievable. And often the street food was even better than the food the restaurants offered. Even if it was just fried rice with egg. It’s just really good.
My absolute favorite was Amock. Yummy! Amock is some kind of curry that gets cooked with coconut milk and served with veggies. Although, the original version is with fish you can also find it with chicken, veggies, and Tofu. My favorites were the chicken and vegetable versions. But all of them were really good, though.
Just try what looks good and if you are scared – like so many travelers- of getting some kind of food poisoning: Just eat where the locals are eating. They know what is good. We had street food almost every day while being in Cambodia and we didn’t feel bad even once. So don’t worry!
But not only amazing food can be found on the streets of Cambodia’s capital city. Make sure to also check out the amazing street art in Phnom Penh.
Curious about how to save money while traveling in Cambodia?
Learn how to spend less money on more experience in Cambodia in my Cambodia Budget Guide.
07. National Museum
Opening Hours: 08 am – 5 pm
Entrance Fee: $15
The National Museum is one of the most visited sights besides the temples in Phnom Penh. Inside of the museum, you can learn about the Culture of this country and explore many exhibits.
Unfortunately, the entrance fee is 15 Dollar. And we were thinking a lot about whether it is worth going for that price. In the end, some comments about the museum not having any of their signs translated into English made us doubt a lot. Thus, we didn’t go. You know, we are on a tight budget.
If you think we have missed the museum of our lives let me know in the comments, please. 😉
06. Wat Ounalom
Opening Hours: 06 am – 8 pm
Entrance Fee: free of charge
The Wat Ounalom is located pretty centrally in Phnom Penh, near the royal palace. It is known to be the most important Wat (temple) in Phnom Penh and the Buddhist Center of Cambodia.
It’s unbelievable that this temple was being destroyed during the Khmer Rouge dictatorship. Today, you can’t find a trace of that anymore as it got rebuilt extremely well.
We were pretty lucky. We didn’t check any opening hours before starting to explore the city. In the end, we arrived 15 minutes before the temple was supposed to close for its afternoon break. Thus, we had a little time to explore the inside of it as well. The monk that was supposed to close the door started a nice conversation with us giving us a little insight of the life of a monk in Phnom Penh.
05. Phsar Thmei (Central Market)
Opening Hours: 08 am – 5 pm
The Phsar Thmei (“new market”) is unique for its cross shape and its middle pavilion.
Besides the typical souvenirs, you can find jewelry and second hand clothes. If you walk in the direction of the exit you can find fresh fruits, veggies, fish, and meat. Just have a look around and I am sure you will find something you like.
If you don’t know where to start yet I highly recommend you to try some mangosteen! My favorite Asian fruit that should be on any Asia bucket list. Yummy!
04. Sisowath Quay -Walk along the Tonle Sap
From the Mekong (The Mekong and Tonle Sap are meeting here) you can find a nice fresh breeze which can help you endure the humid afternoon heat of Phnom Penh a little better.
The Sisowath Quay promenade is just perfect for a little walk as a little break from discovering the temples and museums Phnom Penh.
Moreover, it is known to be the connection spot between all the important sights of the city.
Another benefit is, that on the Phnom Penh riverside, less Tuk-Tuk driver will approach to you and try to convince you to take a ride with them (“same same, my friend“) In general, it seemed as if there were way too many of them waiting for new customers during monsoon season.
During your walk around Sisowath Quay, you will have a nice view of the river, find a lot of restaurants as well as several bars. But also you will get to the Royal Palace on this journey.
03. Wat Phnom
Opening Hours: 08 am – 6 pm
Entrance Fee: $1 (ca. 0,88€)
The Wat Phnom (The Mountain Temple) is located on an artificial 27 meter high mountain. Therefore, it is the highest building of the city.
Apparently, you gotta take some steps up in order to reach the temple. But don’t worry. It is totally doable. 😉
The entrance is 1 Dollar per person. So you don’t have to miss this temple even if you are on a budget.
After visiting the Wat Phnom you can have a nice walk through the park around the temple as well. Trust me, it is worth it. And maybe on your way, you might even meet some cute monkeys. It is definitely a great temple in Phnom Penh.
02. S21 – Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum
Opening Hours: 07 am – 5.30 pm
Entrance Fee: $3
If you are looking for a super fun activity in Phnom Penh, maybe you might wanna look for it something else. Same if you are traveling with kids. But if you are interested in Cambodia’s tragic history you shouldn’t miss this opportunity.
The easiest option is to combine a visit to the S21 Museum with point number 01 on this list.
This museum used to be a school before the era of the Khmer Rouge. Like many other institutions for education, it was converted into a prison during the dictatorship.
The entrance fee is 3 Dollar per person. We totally recommend you to get an audio guide which also costs 3 Dollar. So, you can understand all the details of the prison and its dark history as well as the necessary background info. Before really shocking and disturbing information, the narrator will warn you and remind you that you always have the option to skip one of the points if you feel like.
You can listen to your audio guide while walking through the hallways of the former prison or sitting outside. Some of the pictures on the inside are quite cruel and shocking, to be honest, as they are showing dead bodies and tortured prisoners. Anyway, I think, it is important for the world to see what has happened here in order to prevent this kind of things in the future.
During the tour, you always have the option to leave the rooms and buildings and go outside to the beautiful garden to catch some fresh air. Especially after we found some blood of former prisoners in one of the prison cells we also needed to go outside for a while.
After your walk through the S21 prison, you can even meet one of the few survivors and buy his book.
01. Cheoung Ek Killing Fields
Opening Hours: 07.30 am – 05.30 pm
Entrance Fee: $3
The same as point 02, the S21 prison, the Killing Fields of Cheoung Ek is not an activity I would describe as being funny.
Around 100.000 people got killed here during the dictatorship of the Khmer Rogue (1975-1979)
They usually got brought here from the S21 prison, that you can read about in point 02 of this list. That’s why a visit of both is ideal to combine in order to get a really deep inside of the cruel history of the Khmer Rouge.
For example, you can rent a tuk-tuk for the day for around 15 Dollar, which can bring you to both destinations.
The entrance fee to the killing fields is 3 Dollar. As well here we recommend you to use an audio guide for 3 Dollar. There are some signs with information but the information given on the audio guide includes much more details. Furthermore, the audio guide offers background info and interviews.
A visit to the Killing Fields might not gonna be your most beautiful Cambodia memory but one of the most touching for sure. At least for us, it was like that.
More Phnom Penh experiences?
How about a day trip to Oudong from Phnom Penh?