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Welcome to Phnom Penh! Cambodia’s capital is an exciting, dynamic city full of history. It’s a must-see if you’re visiting Cambodia.

What to see in Phnom Penh? What are the must-do activities? In this article, you’ll find tips for exploring the city in two or three days.

7 must-sees in Phnom Penh

The Royal Palace

As its name suggests, the Royal Palace has been the residence of Cambodia’s kings since 1860. The palace was built when King Norodom I moved from the royal capital of Oudong to Phnom Penh.

While half the palace is reserved for the king’s private use, it is still possible to visit a large part of it and discover such marvels as the Throne Hall, the Emerald Buddha and the Maitreya Buddha, a life-size gold statue encrusted with 9584 diamonds.

Que voir à Phnom Penh ?
Palais royal de Phnom Penh

Royal Palace
 Address: Samdach Sothearos Blvd.
 Opening hours: daily, 9am to 12pm and 2pm to 5pm

Wat Phnom

Wat Phnom is a hilltop Buddhist temple. According to legend, it was built in 1373 to house statues of Buddha, at the request of Daun Penh (“Grandmother Penh”), a wealthy widow. It was this temple that gave its name to the city of Phnom Penh, whose name literally means “Hill of Penh”.

The current temple dates from 1926, and features several Buddha statues.

Access to the hill is free for locals and $1 for foreigners. It’s worth going in the late afternoon, as the hill lights up at the end of the day, allowing you to see it by day and night.

 Proper attire (knees and shoulders covered) is required.

S-21 prison, Tuol Sleng genocide museum

In the heart of Phnom Penh lies a former school that was transformed by the Khmer Rouge into a detention center known as “S-21”. Within these walls, 20,000 people were incarcerated and subjected to extremely violent torture, up to 3 times a day, to extract confessions of fictitious crimes that would condemn them. This is the best-known of the 196 prisons opened by the Khmer Rouge.

Today, the prison has become a museum that bears witness to the atrocities that took place within its walls. The visit, though extremely harrowing, is a must if you want to get an idea of what the Khmer Rouge regime was like. You can see the torture chambers – left as they were when the regime fell – a moving room with portraits of hundreds of victims, the cells where the prisoners were incarcerated, and paintings made by one of the few survivors to bear witness to what happened in this prison.

To accompany this tour, an optional audio guide is available. I strongly encourage you to take it, as it is available in French and is very well produced. It’s an essential tool for understanding the history of this place.

Tuol Sleng
 Address: St 113, Boeung Keng Kang III, Boeung Keng Kang
 Opening hours: daily, 8am to 5pm
 Admission: $5, $3 for 10-18 year-olds
 Official website: tuolsleng.gov.kh/en/

The killing field, Choeung Ek cemetery

After confessing their “crimes”, the prisoners were almost all promised death. They were sent to the outskirts of the city, to Choeung Ek, which was the scene of mass executions. 129 mass graves have been found there.

Covering an area of 20,000 m2, Choeung Ek is Cambodia’s largest “killing field”. On-site excavations have unearthed almost 9,000 bones from 17,000 victims. Many of these bones have been brought together in a stupa visible at the center of the site, which pays tribute to the victims.

Located 17 km southwest of Phnom Penh, you’ll need to take a tuktuk to get there.

Choeung Ek
 Address: Choeung Ek
 Admission: $3
Proper attire (knees and shoulders covered) is required.

The National Museum

Cambodia’s main museum, the National Museum features some 2,000 works of Khmer art. It comprises four galleries surrounding a beautiful patio. Unfortunately, photography is forbidden inside the museum.

Museum in Phnom Penh

National Museum of Cambodia
 Address: St 13
 Opening hours : daily, 8am to 5pm
 Admission: $10
 Official website: https: //www.cambodiamuseum.info/

The markets

Phnom Penh’s markets are a must if you want to see the city in action. You can go to the central “Phsar Thmey” market (which means “new market”), the5th largest in the world, housed in an art-deco building.

I’d also recommend the Orussey market, less frequented by tourists and therefore much more authentic with its narrow alleys.

The Independence Monument

Located in the heart of the city, this monument celebrates Cambodia’s independence from France in 1953.

Built between 1958 and 1962, it stands at the junction of Norodom and Sihanouk boulevards. It is 37 meters high and represents a lotus.

Just a few yards away, you can also see the Norodum Sihanouk memorial built in 2013, which commemorates the former king of Cambodia with a 4.5-metre-high bronze statue housed beneath a 27-metre stupa.


Find a hotel in Phnom Penh

Enter the dates of your stay on this map to see the available establishments and the different rates:

 

This map contains affiliate links, i.e. I earn a commission if you book accommodation after clicking on this card. It doesn’t cost you anything extra, but it helps me to develop Culturez-vous. Thanks a lot! ☺️

If you can get there, I recommend the Saravoan Royal Palace, ideally located in the center of Phnom Penh. The rooms are spacious and the breakfast very good.

Find a hotel in Phnom Penh

Interactive map

All the addresses mentioned in this article can be found on this map:


Enjoy discovering Phnom Penh!

The photographs illustrating this article are the property of Culturez-vous and may not be reused without written permission.

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