Phnom Penh is a fantastic place to spend a few days. It’s often just a whistle-stop tour or one that gets overlooked as people aim for Siem Reap with the iconic Angkor Wat temples, but it’s a bustling Capital City with plenty of history and culture to explore, and I love it! Phnom Penh was my first stop off in Cambodia and I learnt so much about this country from my time here. The people are fantastic and it’s a proper foodie paradise. You get the feel of how this city is growing but the past is very much still visible.
So if you’re planning a trip to Cambodia, here’s what you’ll be missing out on if you don’t check Phnom Penh out!
VISIT THE ROYAL PALACE AND SILVER PAGODA
This beautiful collection of grand buildings can be seen from the riverfront and is a fantastic place to visit. The vibrant colours of yellow and white represent Buddhism and Hinduism, the 2 main religions in Cambodia. The Palace is still used today for coronations so is still very much connected to the Royal Family. The Silver Pagoda gets its name from the glistening silver floor inside and is home to the Emerald Buddha.
LEARN ABOUT THE HISTORY
Before I visited Cambodia, I had no idea about the tragic history of this beautiful country, and I was even more shocked to find out how recent it was. Being from Europe I know about the horrific acts of the Nazis but knew nothing of the Khmer Rouge and their brutality. Visiting the Genocide Museum and the ‘Killing Fields’ of Choeung Ek is something that everyone should do-it’s a harrowing experience but it’s completely shaped Cambodia today. I would recommend getting an audio guide to listen to as you walk around.
VISIT THE NATIONAL MUSEUM OF CAMBODIA
This museum is home to a huge collection of Khmer art and sculptures. Photos are prohibited but the building from the outside is certainly worth a shot or two! To be honest, art is not really my thing, but if it’s yours then find about opening hours and exhibitions here.
OPEN YOUR EYES AT DAUGHTERS OF CAMBODIA
Daughters of Cambodia is a fantastic charity that aims to help young people escape the sex industry and trafficking in Cambodia. It is a fair trade business where the survivors are able to get the support and rehabilitation they need to recover. Make sure you visit their wonderful shop and cafe to learn more and support this amazing cause.
SHOP AT THE MARKETS
There are a number of markets to instal in Phnom Penh, it’s the perfect place to pick up some souvenirs and sample the delicious food. The Central Market, Russian Market, Night Market and Old Market are great places to spend time.
SEE WAT PHNOM
Located on the top of a hill, people go there to pray for good luck and to bring offerings of thanks when (hopefully) they have been answered. It’s worth a visit if you’re in the area but by this point in my trip I had seen a lot of Pagodas!
WANDER AROUND THE FRENCH QUARTER
The buildings here were built during the French Colonial period and are a mix of Art Deco and Belle Époque style. It’s a gorgeous area to spend time in and get some beautiful snaps. Make sure you see the post office, the national library and train station as you wander on through.
TRY THE STREET FOOD
You CANNOT miss out on this. Khmer food is pretty much only found in Cambodia, nowhere else in southeast Asia, so don’t let the chance pass you by. Find yourself a street vendor and pick up some Nom Banh Chok (Khmer noodles), Bai Sach Chrouk (pork with rice) and about a million steamed buns! Seriously, I love those things.
WATCH A TRADITIONAL DANCE SHOW
I’m a bit of a sucker for this type of tourism draw in. But it’s a nice evening to watch a show and have a meal as well. The outfits are amazing and it’s a good way to get a little taster about the traditions of Cambodia.
EXPLORE OUTSIDE THE CITY
I didn’t take any day trips to the areas around Phnom Penh but there are plenty to choose from. The most popular are Koh Dach or Silk Island for a chilled out day cycling around or laying on the beach next to a sleepy village and the spiritual Mount Udong dotted with temples and the burial sites of previous Kings. Both can easily be done in a day by either taxi or tuk-tuk and I know if I had had more time I would have definitely explored some of these!