Phnom Penh City Guide – 12 Things To Do

Phnom Penh is the capital of Cambodia and a city we did not know much about before we visited. Cambodia has a dark history in the recent past and we were interested to learn as much about it as possible. Phnom Penh turned out to be one of our favourite places we have visited in South East Asia so far.


The Killing Fields

Located south of the city, this was one of the many sites around the country of Cambodia where crimes against humanity were carried out. During the Khmer Rouge regime many people were taken here and brutally murdered.

This historical site/museum now offers a guided audio tour and is a must visit for us  in Phnom Penh. Be prepared for some disturbing and sobering stories and scenes. Click here to read our full guide.

Organised day trips with a tour guide are also available form Phnom Penh to the Killing Fields. CLICK HERE to check out tour options.


Royal Palace

Located in the center of the city the Royal Palace is the home of the King of Cambodia. This collection of stunning buildings gives a beautiful example of ancient Cambodian architecture.

There are extensive exhibits of Cambodia dress and ancient tools for daily living.  In one of the main golden building’s sits the Golden Thrones.

These thrones are only used for coronations with the front throne being the King’s and the smaller throne that sits behind being the Queens

The Central Market

The Central Market is a huge golden domed building in the centre of Phnom Penh. This market has pretty much everything you could need.

We spent over an hour wandering around the market. If after all that shopping you are feeling hungry, the market is also home to a number of Khmer food stands selling lots of delights.


S21 Prison

Similar to The Killing Fields, the S21 Prison or Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum is another site of remembrance for the atrocities of the Khmer Rouge. From 1976 to the fall of the regime in 1979 over 20,000 people were imprisoned in Tuol Sleng.

These prisoner’s ranged from normal people to members of the previous US backed government that was deposed by the Khmer Rouge. The museum has many real life accounts for you to learn about and is again a must see in Phnom Penh. 

Phnom Penh Night Market

Located on the riverfront, this night market is a fantastic place to go and experience some local nightlife in Phnom Penh. Wander along the stalls offering clothes, souvenirs and toys.

Enjoy a fresh squeezed sugar cane juice and watch the performance on the big stage. There is a large section of food vendors at the back. You can order something to eat and take a seat on the beautifully woven rugs spread around the square. The market is not large but is a great place to spend some time in the evening.


National Museum 

Located just north of the royal palace, the National Museum of Cambodia is home to an  amazing collection of Khmer cultural design, artwork and history. It was built in 1917 and stands proud today as one of the cities most visited sites.

The cost is around 15.00USD and you can spend a good afternoon exploring the exhibits. There are audio guides available for an extra cost and our highlight was the large statue of Vishnu. Later in the evening there are also exhibitions of traditional Khmer dance and music that are worth a visit. Times for these can be found at the museum. 


Russian Market

Like most cities in South East Asia there are no shortage of markets in Phnom Penh. This market got the name “The Russian Market” due to its popularity with the Russian expats in the 1980’s.

It is one of the best place to do some shopping in the city. You can find local souvenirs, wood carvings, toys, and antiquities as well as name brands. Some of the items may be knock-off but you can find authentic clothes as many are made in local factories. 

Wat Phnom

Located to the north of the city center this hilltop temple stands out in the city. This pagoda is home to a beautiful white structure and magnificent grounds. There are many statues of animals dotted through the grounds.

You enter from the eastern side and there is a “donation” for tourists of 2 dollars US for the upkeep. You can walk around the grounds and take in the sites and scenes. A great way to spend some time in the city.


Sisowath Quay Boardwalk

This riverfront boardwalk stretches along the bank of the Mekong. When we first arrived in Phnom Penh our boat docked on the river side. Without realising we actually strolled down the boardwalk towards our hotel.

The boardwalk is wide open and you can see the river on one side and the city on the other. It is a great way to check out some cafes and bars that you may wanna visit later in the evening.

Locals use the area of exercise and sports with groups of men playing “keep up” with a football.  In the early evening there are even some vendors offering food and souvenirs. We used to walk along the boardwalk.


Mekong River Sunset Cruise and BBQ 

While in Phnom Penh we decided to have a nice evening on the Mekong with a cruise, dinner and drinks. We choose the Mekong River Sunset Cruise.

We got to see magnificent views of the city from the water and we enjoyed a delicious buffet and drinks. It starts at 5.00pm but make sure you arrive 30 minutes before.


Food Tour

Phnom Penh is a city rich in diverse food and culture. We highly recommend a guided food tour of the city so that you can sample all there is to offer.

Our local guide was very knowledgable and knew all the best spots in the city. CLICK HERE to check out the food tour we went on! We highly recommend it!


Dave’s Handmade Noodles 

This amazing family run restaurant was located just around the corner from where we were staying and we found it on our first day. It quickly became our go to spot for any meal while in Phnom Penh. The food was absolutely top class.

The handmade noodles and dumplings were some of the best we had on our journey so far. The highlight has to be the family that run the resturant. “Dave” has great english and is happy to sit and talk all day.

The rest of the family are so warm and welcoming, they recognised us straight away each time we returned.

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