Some of the local sights to see and experience in Phnom Penh.
The Royal Palace (including the Silver Pagoda)
Located in the center of Phnom Penh the Royal Palace compound covers several acres and is full of beautiful buildings and gardens. Admission is $3 plus $2 for cameras. As this is the official residence of the Monarchy some areas are off limits to tourists, but there is still plenty to see and experience. Remember, out of respect, all visitors must be dressed to suit.
Shoulders must be covered (sleeved t-shirt is OK) and shorts or dresses must reach down to the knees. Below is a map of the complex showing the different buildings. Make sure you visit the Silver Pagoda, the floor of which is covered in over 5000 pure silver tiles, and is home to the famed Emerald Buddha and a beautiful life sized Gold and diamond Buddha. There is a great scale model of Angkor wat in the area just outside the Silver Pagoda, and the walls surrounding the Silver Pagoda complex is a gallery of stunning ancient Ramaketi frescoes.
The National Museum
Across the road from the Royal Palace is the National Museum of Cambodia. Admission is $3 plus $1 for camera. Here is housed a thousand years of Khmer artifacts collected from all over the country. Through the collection you will be able to see the different stages of how the country has evolved. Start at the entrance and go clockwise around the courtyard from the oldest to the newest items.
Just down the street from the National Museum you will find the 15th century Wat Ounalom. This is now the headquarters of Cambodia’s Buddhist. Admission is free and you are welcome to stroll around the complex. The grounds are full of buildings, shrines and stupas housing sacred Buddhist relics.
Remember to remove your shoes if you enter the Wat itself.
About 1km along the river from Wat Ounalom and sitting on a lovely tree covered hill within the city is the sacred Wat Phnom, after which the city was named. Originally built in the 14th century Wat Phnom has undergone several rebuilds over the centuries. On the eastern side of the hill is the grand Naga staircase main entrance leading up to the central Wat. Behind the main Wat is a very large stupa which contains the ashes of the 15th century King Ponhea Yat.
Admission fee to the top terrace which houses the main Wat and the stupa is around $1. There are numerous shrines and smaller temples surrounding the main Wat. On the western side there is a tree lined path winding up the hill. The trees and surrounding grounds are full of playful monkeys. Here you will also find the only elephant in Phnom Penh. You can take a short elephant ride around the lower level of the hill.
A small Buddhist pagoda on 140 Street.
500 meters behind the Central Markets.
One of the original Pagoda to be built in Phnom Penh.
The Independence Monument
Built in 1958 to celebrate Cambodia’s independence from France. The Independence Monument now also serves as a tribute to Cambodia’s war dead. The monument sits at the center of a large round-a-bout in Central Phnom Penh and is easy to get to.
You will find it about 500 meters from the Royal Palace.
Toul Sleng Museum
A further 1.5 kilometers from the Independence Monument you will find the Toul Sleng Museum. In 1975 the Khmer Rouge turned this once ordinary high school into a security prison and interrogation center. Unfortunately well over 15,000 Cambodians passed through it’s doors, never to be seen or heard of again.
Today the buildings serve as a museum to the madness and senseless waste of war. Much of what you see is exactly how it was left by the Khmer rouge when Phnom Penh was liberated by the Vietnamese Army in 1979.
Admission is $2 with a further $2 if you wish to hire one of the Guides that are available. The guides are very good and will give you a tour of the facility and give you the facts and some stories about the facility and it’s former inmates.
Choeung Ek Killing Fields
The killing fields (Admission $3) are located some 15km outside Phnom Penh. It was to here that the bulk of the internees from Toul Sleng Prison were sent for execution. The area was littered with mass graves, many of which still remain untouched.
To honour the victims a large memorial Buddhist stupa has been erected which contains thousands of skulls and bones found at the site. Guides are available to show you around the site.
Mekong River Cruise
Located on the Riverwalk near the intersection of 136 Street you will find many colorful local cruise boats all lined up waiting for customers. The boats take you for 1-2 hour rides up the Tonle Sap & Mekong Rivers. The sunset cruises are particularly good. You can either go on a shared trip around $5 or hire the whole boat for around $15. You can negotiate prices.
Sisowath Quay runs the whole length of the river from the Royal palace all the way up to Wat Phnom. It is a very pleasant stroll, especially now that the parklands have been upgraded and the footpaths have been newly paved.
There are plenty of trees and grassy shady areas to stop and relax. The whole street is full of boutique cafes, pubs and shops and restaurants with good views overlooking the river waters.
Central Market (Psar Themi)
This recently refurbished yellow domed building is an icon that sits right in the city center. It is crammed full of all sorts of cheap goods to buy. Clothing, belts, shoes, watches, sunglasses, jewelery, electronics, household goods etc. You name it, you can probably find it here. The outsides stalls also house plentiful places for something to eat and there you will also find a sea of beautiful flowers for sale.
Russian Market (Psar Toul Tom Pong)
Situated on the southern side of town is a shoppers paradise for locals and tourists alike. In a large iron roofed building you will find a huge selection of DVDs, CDs, brand name clothing and footwear, silks, bags, curios, souvenirs, artifacts, wood carvings, paintings, gold and jewelery, all at cheaper prices than at the Central market. They even have a whole section of tailors to make quick adjustments to clothing so it suits perfectly.
Phnom Penh is where many Western name brands have their goods manufactured due to low material and labour costs. At the Russian market you can pick up high fashion brand items for a fraction of the cost you would normally pay. There are plenty of shops here selling similar goods so look around and don’t forget to bargain.
This market on 108 Street is not really set up for tourists. It is a fruit, meat, vegetable and hardware market for locals.
There are also several little open air places to grab a bite to eat. It is also where you will find stacks of copies of travel books. Worth a look.
Night Markets (Psar Reatrey)
Located on the Riverwalk near 106 Street and open Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights only, from dusk till before midnight.
Open air market. Plenty of food stalls to grab a bite. Shop for local made handicrafts, clothing and souvenirs. Not as cheap as other markets so bargain hard.