Phnom Penh is pure sensory overload. The Cambodian capital is not one of those travel destinations that one falls in love with at first sight. Big tourist highlights are missing. The main sights of Phnom Penh are a poignant reminder of the moving, cruel history of Cambodia.
No, Phnom Penh is definitely not a city who welcomes you with open arms. And yet we are of the opinion that you should definitely pay a visit to the capital Phnom Penh on a Cambodia tour.
You want to know what to expect on a trip to Phnom Penh? In this article we tell you about our experiences. We show you the most important sights and highlights and reveal our personal tips for your trip to Phnom Penh.
1. Info & Overview: What to expect in Phnom Penh If you want to understand the history of Cambodia, you have to go to Phnom Travel Penh. It is estimated that during the Khmer Rouge rule between 1975 and 1979 around two million people (a quarter (!) of the entire population) lost their lives. This is so unimaginable that words really fail me.
Two of the most important memorials of the horrific genocide can be found in Phnom Penh. Honestly, a cold shiver runs down our spines when we think about the day of our visit.
Phnom Penh is definitely not a nice city. Phnom Penh is exhausting, overwhelming, chaotic, often noisy and hectic. In short: Phnom Penh is an adventure you have to embark on. Nowhere else in Cambodia is the gap between rich and poor as visible as in Phnom Penh: Expensive cars on one side of the street, begging children on the other.
How many days should I plan for Phnom Penh? We ourselves stayed four nights (ie three full days) in Phnom Penh as well as at the end of our trip (before departure) one more night. We wanted to give ourselves enough time to take in the capital of Cambodia.
Generally, we recommend staying three nights. This gives you enough time to visit the most important sights of Phnom Penh. Travelers in a hurry can probably get a good insight with just two nights.
Cambodia travel guide: Our tip In Southeast Asia we almost always use Stefan Loose’s travel guide. They are really well researched and have great tips ready – this also applies to the Stefan Loose travel guide Cambodia. We really like the layout and structure of the Loose travel guides. Incidentally, they are primarily aimed at individual travelers – perfect if you want to travel Cambodia on your own.
You can buy the travel guide here: Stefan Loose Travel Guide Cambodia
2. Sights in Phnom Penh Killing Fields of Choeung Ek Scary. Disturbing. Terrible. Awful. We could go on like this forever. Calling the Killing Fields a landmark doesn’t feel right. And yet we believe that everyone who travels to Phnom Penh should pay a visit to this place of remembrance.
What are the killing fields exactly? The killing fields are those places where the Khmer Rouge committed mass killings in the most brutal way. There are hundreds of killing fields across Cambodia. The country’s most famous killing field is located in Choeung Ek, around 10 kilometers south of Phnom Penh.
You can explore the area on your own as part of a audio guide tour. The story is told so movingly that you really have to fight back tears. It took us the whole rest of the day to collect ourselves halfway.
Admission: $6 (including audio guide) Getting there: approx. 30 minutes from Phnom Penh (e.g. by tuk tuk – the fare for the ride should be around 15 US -dollars)
Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum The second important memorial is the former security prison (S-21 ), which is located in the center of Phnom Penh. During the rule of the Khmer Rouge, people were imprisoned and tortured here.
Here you can also experience the cruel history of Cambodia . Just like the Killing A visit to the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum also brings Fields to tears. You enter former cells, see photos of the prisoners and hear moving stories about them. You should allow about two hours for your visit.
Admission: $5 (plus $3 for audio guide)
Royal Palace of Phnom Penh with Silver Pagoda This palace complex is located in the center of Phnom Penh and is considered one of the most important sights the city. The king still resides here today, so you can only visit part of the complex. Many buildings can only be admired from the outside. The architecture of the royal palace in Phnom Penh is somewhat reminiscent of that in Bangkok, but it is less impressive and not nearly as spacious.
The heart of the royal palace is the silver pagoda. If you are wondering where the name comes from: The Silver Pagoda owes this to the more than 5.000 Silver tiles covering the floor of the Silver Pagoda. However, they are not really visible to visitors.
If you are interested in history and background, then we can recommend a guided tour. Otherwise, a visit to the Royal Palace is not very informative.
You can book the tour here: Private city tour (incl. Royal Palace & Tuol Sleng Museum )
Entry: 10 U.S. dollar
Tip: To appropriate Pay attention to clothing (knees & shoulders covered)
Wat Phnom Temple The Buddhist Wat Phnom is the most famous temple in Phnom Penh. It is enthroned on a 30 meter high artificial hill in the heart of Phnom Penh. You can reach the temple after a short climb up a flight of stairs.
The temple is pretty to look at, but don’t expect a major tourist highlight. The park around the temple is a welcome refuge and an oasis of calm when it’s hot.
Phnom Penh waterfront (Sisowath Quay) Not a tourist attraction in the traditional sense, but worth a visit is the waterfront of Phnom Penh – usually called Sisowath Quay. It runs along the banks of Tonle Sap River. This neighborhood is surprisingly spruced up: some houses have been renovated and the palm trees give the promenade a nice flair. Worth a stopover is Wat Ounalom.
Locals use the promenade as a outdoor fitness center. You can often watch aerobic groups from the cafés along the promenade. Speaking of cafes, many are more touristy, so it’s best to check the reviews first.
Important note: There have been some reports of pickpocketing at Sisowath Quay . We personally have not had any negative experiences. However, it is advisable to be particularly careful here and to carry valuables on your person.
Our tip: An evening boat trip on the Mekong or the Tonle Sap river. Watch the sunset from the boat with cocktails and dinner.
You can book the trip here: Mekong River Cruise Phnom Penh
View of Phnom Penh We can highly recommend Phnom to marvel at Penh from above. The sea of houses in the Cambodian capital is pretty crazy. We ourselves chose a free view: there is a very nice view from the top floor of Sorya Center Point shopping mall. Important note: The shopping center has recently been renovated. We’re not sure if the view is still the same and so easily accessible. (If you try it, let us know in the comments.)
Rooftop Bars in Phnom Penh Meanwhile there are more and more skyscrapers and thus also rooftop bars in Phnom Penh. The following are known and recommended:
Eclipse Sky Bar: Here one of the most impressive views of Phnom Penh awaits you. The Eclipse Sky Bar is located in the 12. Floor of the Phnom Penh Tower. The lighting mood at sunset is particularly beautiful.
Sundown Social Club: The Sundown Social Club is not so high up, but is all the more relaxed and hip. Here you look at the sea of houses of the Russian Market.
Markets in Phnom Penh Local Markets: Some markets in Phnom Penh are not geared towards tourists at all. Here it is sometimes really adventurous. One of these markets is the Kandal Market near the waterfront. Not far away is Phsar Chas.
Russian Market (Tuol Tom Pong): Perhaps the most touristy market in Phnom Penh. You can buy a lot of souvenirs in this covered market. The quality is sometimes not the best. Don’t forget to bargain!
3. Eating and drinking in Phnom Penh: Our tips In Phnom Penh there are surprisingly many nice cafes and restaurants, where you can eat really well. Some of them are French inspired or under French direction. (Cambodia was under French colonial rule for almost a hundred years.)
Some bars are also run by NGOs. Teenagers and young adults are often trained in these restaurants and thus receive a job and future prospects.
Recommendations for cafes and restaurants Daughters of Cambodia: This nonprofit cafe supports women at risk of human trafficking and prostitution. Not cheap, but we ate well. There is also a small shop where you can buy one or two souvenirs.
Vibe Café: Hip, cool café nearby from the Russian Market. Only vegan dishes are served. The prices are rather high but the atmosphere is really great.
Friends Restaurant: This NGO café supports (former) street children. The menu features Asian and internationally inspired dishes in small portions – perfect for sharing.
Tip: Street Food Tour Street food in Phnom Penh is such a thing. In contrast to Bangkok, for example, it is not easy in Phnom Penh to find good street food that you really dare to try.
So if you are a rather skeptical type of person, then we can only warmly recommend a street food tour. Accompanied by a guide, you will get to know specialties of Khmer cuisine.
You can book the tour here: Streetfood Tour Phnom Penh 4. Hotel tip for Phnom Penh Meanwhile there are some pretty cool hotels in Phnom Penh. We can recommend the Aquarius Hotel and Urban Resort. This modern, stylish hotel is very centrally located (but still quiet), so you can easily walk to most of the sights.
The highlight of the Hotels is undoubtedly the infinity pool on the roof. From here you have a great view over Phnom Penh – perfect to recharge the batteries after a long day of sightseeing.
The rooms are rather puristic, but very stylishly furnished and comfortably furnished. Breakfast is also recommended. Our conclusion: In terms of value for money, this hotel is a great choice for Phnom Penh!
Here you can book the hotel: Aquarius Hotel and Urban Resort
5. More travel tips for Phnom Penh: Safety & Transport How safe is Phnom Penh? It is not uncommon to read that Phnom Penh is a dangerous travel destination. Of course we can only report from our experiences, but subjectively we didn’t feel unsafe in Phnom Penh and we didn’t have any negative experiences either.
However, we would like to mention that pickpocketing is actually not uncommon in Phnom Penh. We also know someone whose bag was stolen from a passing moped in Phnom Penh. This is a popular scam you should be wary of, by the way. Smartphones are also often stolen from people’s hands when driving past.
Our recommendation: be vigilant and carry valuables close to your body. However, don’t let that unsettle you too much – as I said, nothing happened to us at all.
Local transport: From A to B in Phnom Penh Although Phnom Penh is the capital and largest city of Cambodia, you can easily walk to most of the tourist highlights in the city center. Only every now and then we took a tuk tuk for longer distances (or when we were already tired).
Tuk tuks are in Phnom Penh a popular mode of transport and much more common than traditional taxis. You should definitely set the fare in advance. For shorter distances of a few minutes, a price of 1 to 1.5 US dollars is reasonable. For a return trip to the Killing Fields (23 minutes from Phnom Penh) you will pay approximately 15 U.S. dollar. Our tip: The streets are very dusty, especially outside of the center of Phnom Penh. It’s best to take a towel with you. That protects a bit.
A taxi from the airport to the city costs between and 15 U.S. dollar. If you don’t have too much luggage, you can also take a tuk tuk – you have to budget about 7 US dollars for this.
Transparency: Affiliate Links This blog article contains our personal recommendations in the form of so-called affiliate links. If you book or buy something through the links, we will receive a small commission. For you, this does not change the price at all. A thousand thanks from both of us!
Have you ever been to Phnom Penh? What experiences have you had in the capital of Cambodia? We look forward to your comments with your additional tips and recommendations!