Top places to visit in Phnompenh (Cambodia)

Royal Palace & Silver Pagoda

Add: Sothearos between Streets 240 & 184.
Ticket price: 6usd
Open hour: Every day.
7h30 AM - 11AM
2PM - 5PM
Information: The Palace buldings and Silver Pagoda are located within the same walled grounds on sothearos just off the riverfront. Marking the approach, the high yellow wall and spired Chanchhaya Pavilion are the most prominent features from the street. The Royal Palace was built in 1866 under the French protectorate and King Norodom, though many of the buildings in the complex were added over the following decades. The “silver pagoda” was constructed at the end of the 19th century and renovated in 1962. A collection of priceless historical objects is on display in the vihear. Guide pamphlets and tour guides are available neat the admission booth. Guided tours are recommended.

Cambodia Nationnal Museum

Add: Street 178 & Street 13, next to the Royal Palace
Ticket Price: 3usd
Open hour: Open everyday from 8AM - 5PM
Information: The distinctive rust-red National Museum next to the Royal Palace was dedicated by King Sisowath in 1920. Over 5000 objects are in display including Angkorian era statues, lingas and other artifacts, most notably the legendary statue of the “Leper King” though the emphasis is in Angkorian artifacts, there is also a good collection of pieces from later periods, including a special exhibition of post-Angkorian Buddha figures. Visiting the museum after rather than before a trip to the Angkor Archaeological Park in Siem Reap halps lend context to the Angkorian artifacts. Multilingual tour guides are available. Souvenirs and books available. Photography is limited. The museum borders Street 178, aka “Artist’s street” which is lined with local art galleries and souvenir shops. The Reyum Gallery on Street 178 is of particular note, exhibition the works of contemporary Cambodia artists.

Watt Phnom

Add: Intersection of Street 96 and Norodom Blvd
Ticket Price: 1usd
Open hour: Open everyday
Information: A small hill crowned by an active wat (pagoda) marks the legendary founding place of the Phnom Penh. The hill is the site of constant activity, with a steady stream of the faithful trekking to the vihear, shrines and fortune tellers on top and a constellation of vendors, visitors and motodups at the bottom. Elephant rides available. The legend of the founding of Wat Phnom is tied to the beginnings of Phnom Penh. Legend has it that in 1372 Lady Penh (Yea Penh) fished a floating Koki tree out of the river. Inside the tree were four Buddha statues. She built a hill (‘phnom’ means ‘hill’) and a small temple (wat) at what is now the site known as Wat Phnom. Later, the surrounding area became known after the hill (Phnom) and its creator (Penh), hence the name of the city ‘Phnom Penh.’ The current temple was last rebuilt in 1926. The large stupa contains the remains of King Ponhea Yat (1405-1467) who moved the Khmer capital from Angkor to Phnom Penh the early 15th century. Look for the altar of Lady Penh between the large stupa and the vihear. She is said to be of particular help to women.

Choeung Ek Memorial (The Killing Fields)
Add: 15km from Southweast of Phnompenh
Information: From April 17, 1975 until January 7, 1979, the ultra-Communist Khmer Rouge (i.e. Red Khmer) regime, led by Pol Pot, controlled the whole of Cambodia. Under the Khmer Rouge regime the country was known as ‘Democratic Kampuchea.’ During the short reign of the Khmer Rouge, between one million and two and a half million Cambodians perished, some killed outright, others dying from disease, malnutrition, neglect and mistreatment. Many of the dead ended up in various ‘killing fields’ that can be found scattered across the country. The killing fields were essentially ad hoc places of execution and dumping grounds for dead bodies.
The memorial at Choeung Ek just outside Phnom Penh was an orchard and a Chinese cemetery prior to 1975. During the Khmer Rouge regime it became one of the killing fields - this particular killing field is the site of the brutal executions of more than 17,000 men, women and children, most of whom first suffered through interrogation, torture and deprivation in the S-21 Prison (Toul Sleng) in Phnom Penh. Choeung Ek is now a group of mass graves and a memorial stupa containing thousands of skulls. It’s about a 20-40 minute drive from the center of Phnom Penh. There are guides available at the site, and a small souvenir shop. For sake of historical context, combine your trip to Choeung Ek with a visit to Toul Sleng Genocide Museum.

Toul Sleng Museum (S-21)

Add: Corner of Street 113 & Street 350
Ticket Price: 2usd
Open hour: everyday from 8AM to 5PM (closed for lunch).
Information: Prior to 1975, Toul Sleng was a high school. When the Khmer Rouge came to power it was converted into the S-21 prison and interrogation facility. Inmates were systematically tortured, sometimes over a period of months, to extract confessions, after which they were executed at the killing fields of Choeung Ek. S-21 processed over 17,000 people, seven of whom survived. The building now serves as a museum, a memorial and a testament to the madness of the Khmer Rouge regime. Much has been left in the state it was when the Khmer Rouge abandoned it in January 1979. The prison kept extensive records, leaving thousands of photos of their victims, many of which are on display. Paintings of torture at the prison by Vann Nath, a survivor of Toul Sleng, are also on display. The museum’s famous and controversial ‘skull map’ is no longer on display.

Independence Monument (Vimean Ekareach)

Add: At the intersection of Norodom and Sihanouk.
Ticket Price: Free
Open hour: Everyday
Information: The Independence Monument (Vimean Ekareach) was inaugurated in November 9, 1962, celebrating Cambodia’s independence from foreign rule. Renowned Cambodian architect Vann Molyvann was the architect of the monument which is patterned on a lotus flower bud, adorned with Naga heads (multi-headed cobras,) and obviously reminiscent in design of the towers of Angkor Wat. The Independence Monument now also serves as a monument to Cambodia’s war dead as well as her independence. The Independence Monument sit in the center of the traffic circle at the intersection of Norodom Blvd. and Sihanouk Blvd. and is the site of colorful celebrations and services on political holidays such as Independence Day (January 7) and Constitution Day (September 24.)

The Riverfront Area
Information: Some of Phnom Penh's most important cultural sites as well as dozens of pubs, restaurants and shops sit along the picturesque park-lined riverfront overlooking the chaktomuk - the confluence of the Tonle Sap, Mekong and Bassac Rivers. The Royal Palace, the Silver Pagoda and the National Museum are clustered together between Street 178 and 240 and restaurants and pubs line the riverfront road Sisowath Quay, stretching north from the Royal Palace area all the way to Street 104 near Wat Phnom. Visit the Royal Palace and National Museum and stroll up the riverfront for a drink or a meal or to do some shopping. Just off the riverfront, Street 240 behind the Royal Palace harbors several restaurants and high-quality boutiques and Street 178 next to the National Museum is known as 'Art Street' and is dotted with interesting little art galleries and silk shops. Early risers, check out the spectacular sunrise over the river in front of the Royal Palace area.

Russian Market: This market is of far less architectural interest but has a larger and more varied selection of souvenirs, curios and silks than the Central Market. Like the Central Market, it has a good selection of silver, gold and jewels, but also carries huge selection of curios, silks, carvings, etc. The Russian Market offers the largest selection of bootlegged VCDs, DVDs and CDs of all of the traditional markets. Most of the CD vendors are located on the south side near the southeast corner of the market. It’s also a good place to buy fabric for business and casual cloths to take to the tailor. Most of what the visitor might want is in the same general area on the south side but the rest of the market is well worth exploring. Food and drink stands in the middle of the market for hygienically adventurous visitors.

Central Market (Phsar Thmei): This distinctive building is a city landmark - a unique art deco version of a traditional market. Four arms of the market converge in a soaring dome at the hub, perhaps reflecting the four arms of the chaktomuk (the convergence of the Mekong River.) Prior to 1935 the market area was a swamp/lake known as Beng Decho that received the runoff during the rainy season. The lake was drained and the market constructed in 1935-37, during the French colonial period, and originally dubbed the ‘Grand Market.’ Phsar Thmey is currently undergoing renovation but most of the project is complete. The central section of the main market building displays an amazing collection of gems and jewelry. The souvenir vendors are all back along the central entrance walk - offering curios, statuary, handicrafts, silks, t-shirts, postcards, etc. Book and map vendors sit to either side of the main market entrance. (‘Phsar Thmey’ would be properly translated ‘New Market’, but ‘Central Market’ has caught on in English.)

Old Market (Phsar Chas): Phsar Chas not at all geared to tourists, carrying such items as fruits and vegetables, hardware, second hand clothes, motorcycle parts and religious items. The late afternoon shopping hour along Street 110 and Street 108 makes for a confusing, dirty, potentially photogenic scene. There has been a market on this site since at the earliest days of the French colonial period (and probably much longer) when it sat next to a now reclaimed river inlet.

Night Market (Phsar Reatrey): Phnom Penh’s new Night Market on the riverfront is aimed squarely at visitors and tourists, offering a wide and varied selection of Cambodian handicrafts silks, art, curios and souvenirs. Currently the Night Market opens only on the weekends, starting up at about 5:00PM and runs until at least 9:00 or 10:00PM. Located in the park between Street 106 and 108 on the riverfront. Stop in as you stroll up the riverfront.

Phsar Kandal: A typical, sprawling, low-slung local market similar to Phsar Chas. Meat, vegetables, fruits and tailors fill the north half while jewelers and electronics stalls are located in the building next door. It’s a very local scene but as the market is only a couple of blocks off the riverfront tourists occasionally find their way to the coffee stalls and noodle shops. There is a comparatively large Vietnam-ese population living in the area around Phsar Kandal, which and is reflected in the character of the market - the food, the dress and the language.

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