Phnom Penh 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. You can not only find amazing temples, Phnom Penh absolutely has it all.
In case this is your first time in Cambodia, you can find some information that you should know before your trip here.
Surely, Phnom Penh shouldn’t be missing in your itinerary through Cambodia. That’s why you can’t find our Phnom Penh Top 10 here with many important things to do in Phnom Penh.
What to find out in this post
- 1 Top 10 Things to see in Phnom Penh
- 1.1 10. Monkey Temple Phnom Penh
- 1.2 09. Royal Palace
- 1.3 08. Discover Cambodia’s unique Street food
- 1.4 07. National Museum
- 1.5 06. Wat Ounalom
- 1.6 05. Phsar Thmei (Central Market)
- 1.7 04. Sisowath Quay -Walk along the Tonle Sap
- 1.8 03. Wat Phnom
- 1.9 02. S21 – Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum
- 1.10 01. Cheoung Ek Killing Fields
Quick Info about Phnom Penh
- Economical Center and capital of Cambodia
- Is located between Tonle Sap and Mekong River
- Around 2Million Inhabitants
- 376 km2 big
- Name translatable with Penh Mountain
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 of Phnom Penh.
Anyway, we got recommended to see this temple and 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. (Spanish Siesta time shows first influences I guess) So we decided to take a Tuk Tuk to the Monkey Temple. 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 few meter 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)
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
Opening Hours: 08 am – 10.30 am & 2 pm – 5 pm
Entrance Fee: $10
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 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 was pretty high though with 10 Dollar.
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 cheap but also super good. Especially the street food made our mouth water.
Anyway, Phnom Penh is one of the places with 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. 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 version. 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 were 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 really bad even once. So don’t worry!
07. National Museum
Opening Hours: 08 am – 5 pm
Entrance Fee: $10
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 10 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 kinda 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. You can’t recognize that at all anymore these days.
We were pretty lucky. As we didn’t check any opening hours before starting to explore the city. As 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 also started a nice conversation with us giving us a little inside 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.
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 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 here 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 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 not only have a nice view of the river and restaurant as well as bars of the city. But also you will come 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 is located on an artificial 27 high mountain. Therefore, it is the highest building of the city.
Apparently, you gotta take some steps upstairs in order to reach the temple. But don’t worry. It is totally doable. 😉
The entrance is 1 Dollar per person (around 0,88 Euro) per person. So you don’t have to miss this temple even if you are on a budget.
After visiting the temple 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 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 understand all the details of the prison and its dark history as well as the necessary background info. Before really shocking information the narrator will always 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 the information while walking through the hallways of the former prison or sitting outside while listening to it. 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 in the beautiful garden to catch some 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 are 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 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 include 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. At least for us, it was like that.
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