Things to do in Phnom Penh!


I have had friends who told me that there's practically nothing in Phnom Penh and asked me to skip the city altogether and just visit Siem Reap but I believe that one of the best ways to truly understand a country and its people is by visiting the capital.

However, there was a time and budget restriction as (insert "art supplies aren't cheap" excuse here).

Anyways, below is a list of places to visit and things to do in Phnom Penh as the city might be unfamiliar to most of my friends.

(I've also included some alternative things to do in the post, just click here to skip the more generic ones!)

1. Choeung Ek Genocidal Center and Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum (S21)

The Killing Fields is highly recommended in order for one to understand the impact of Pol Pot's regime in Cambodia. The cruel and inhumane rule of the Khmer Rouge still affects some of the people living in Cambodia but the country is slowly stabilising in terms of economics.

The Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum, a.k.a. S21 Prison, was turned into a museum to show the horrors during the imprisonment and torture sessions of innocents.
*Note: These two sites are not located near each other but tour packages are available.

2. Royal Palace of Cambodia

One could get a glimpse at how the royal family live as the palace is still in use and only open to the public at certain times. There are also interesting stupas and more traditional Khmer architecture in the area.
However, photography is not permitted within the buildings and admission is a little pricey ($10).

3. National Museum of Cambodia

Not a lot of people during my visit there but many of the artifacts found from the Angkor ruins were relocated here.
Also, photography is not permitted within the museums but feel free to take photos in the courtyard and take a break at the museum cafe.

4. Central Market Phnom Penh

Selling everything from jewellery to household items, you could also find handcrafted souvenirs and numerous clothing stalls.
There's also a traditional food market within walking distance but you'd have to navigate around a little (or ask the locals!).

5. Get on a tuktuk!

Tuktuks are one of the most convenient way to get around the city (and the outskirts). There are also motorbikes but I'm not that keen on hopping on a stranger's bike. It is probably safer too.

However, it is best to agree on a price before hopping on a tuktuk as you might get overcharged. A tuktuk ride within the city centre is approximately $2-$5.

6. A taste of local food

There are just so many different Khmer foods to try out, be it traditional Cambodian food or fusion menus.

From top: Cambodian pork sandwiches & skewers, part of my banh chiao (Cambodian pancakes, which is usually mixed with a sauce), and nom krok (Cambodian rice balls, which tastes sort of like dough-ish rice to me).

They also have a fair share of noodles, including stir fried noodles with beef pieces (top) and handmade noodles with chicken slices (bottom).

Of course, there are more to try and Chinese-Cambodian foods are also as good. I feel that they are quite different from Malaysian Chinese's so it's definitely worth a try. Had a few Chinese-Cambodian meals at my friend's grandma's and they were superb, especially her tomyam soup.

Alternative things to do
for when you've done thetouristy stuff

7. Cafe-hopping

At this point you are probably thinking, really? I came all the way to Cambodia to visit cafes?

Surprisingly, there is a fair amount of cafes in Phnom Penh. There are independent cozy little cafes and also franchised/branched stores from around the world.

The chain of Brown coffee stores in Cambodia is an example of their coffee (and cafe) culture as it is a local brand which expanded quite steadily in the past few years.
Plus, most of the cafes I visited in Phnom Penh had more locals than foreigners.

There are also cafes which dedicated themselves to helping the needy in the area so it is also nice to drop by and have a little coffee or tea break.

8. Well, you know, eat some fried insects

While we are still on the topic of food and local culture, why not try some fried insects for a change? These street snacks might look disgusting and horrifying at first but it is definitely the perfect TV snack for locals.
P.S. It doesnt taste as bad as it looks.

9. Visit the Olympic Stadium

Olympic Stadium - Phnom Penh

Personally, I've missed out this part of Phnom Penh due to oversleeping but I did pass by the stadium. Would be a cool place for those #ootd shots and linework photography.

10. Go for a river cruise/walk along the Mekong River

The Mekong River is one of the most important rivers in Asia as it flows through multiple countries and providing for the produce and the people who live there.
It is definitely not as clean as one would've expected (especially in this bend) but it is interesting to see people go about their lives. Just some people-watching while taking in a gentle breeze.

Saw some people swim in the river, which is not encouraged. Also saw people washing their clothings there.
One of the more amusing things I saw was an officer washing his motorbike at the riverside.
I guess.. as long as you keep the water out of the engines then you could actually save on your water bills?

Also went for an evening/night river cruise. There are boats that will take you for a little tour around the area. Different timings are available (mostly during sunsets).

11. A walk in the park

There are quite a few public parks in Phnom Penh. The greens provide a more soothing and relaxing atmosphere and you could find locals gathering around in the evening when the weather is not as hot.

Monuments and some landmarks could be found within the parks itself.

12. Cool down a little in an air-conditioned shopping centre


One of the more popular shopping malls in Phnom Penh is the Japanese AEON Mall. It is truly a lifesaver when you've spent most of the day under the hot sun.
Coffee joints and restaurants are also available within the shopping mall alongside clothing brands such as Havaianas and MANGO.

---------- list ends here, for now ----------

I wouldn't have been to so many places if I did not let myself explore by foot. Sure, Google Maps and travel guides help a lot but everyone has different interests.

For this trip, I just wanted to relax for a few days and not rush through the itineraries. I also wanted to blend in (I probably ended up 3-4 shades darker during my Langkawi trip at the start of the month and maybe 2 shades darker in Cambodia). I would've passed for a local if my Khmer was fluent. Maybe next time...

Also, please do leave a comment below if you have anything to add to the list! (or anything in general)

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