Travel with Mekong River Cruise: 10 Best Tourist Attractions in Phnom Penh
The heart of Cambodia beats in the vibrant, busy city of Phnom Penh. This expansive capital is a metropolis of large central boulevards and small back alleyways, where contemporary and ancient meet, stretched out alongside the banks of the Tonlé Sap and Mekong Rivers. Together with Mekong River Cruises, read our list of the best sites and things to do in Phnom Penh for further suggestions on your sightseeing alternatives.
1. Wat Ounalom
Situated on Sisowath Quay, Wat Ounalom is the epicenter of Cambodian Buddhism that makes it the most significant wat of Phnom Penh. It was founded in 1443 serving as the headquarter of the Mohanikay Order and had 44 structures. Although it was harmed under the Khmer Rouge, it has recently been repaired. The primary complex features a stupa with what is said to contain Lord Buddha's eyebrow hair and a Pali inscription. Wat Ounalom stands out for its typical Cambodian architectural style with curved roof lines painted in yellow and red. In particular, the extremely lush, carefully manicured lawns and bushes give the campus a peaceful beauty.
2. Royal Palace of Cambodia
One of the most popular places to go in Phnom Penh is the Royal Palace and Silver Pagoda. The Royal Palace built in the 1860s is where the royal family lives. The palace's throne room is open for people to visit and it showcases the notable Khmer style of architecture. Meanwhile, the Silver Pagoda located within manicured gardens is famed for a very big statue of the Emerald Buddha inside and there are frescoes all over the ceiling that tell a story called Reamker, which is based on an Indian epic called Ramayana.
3. Independence Monument
The Independence Monument, or Vimean Ekareach as it is known in Khmer, is a magnificent building that towers above the heart of Phnom Penh. It was largely built to commemorate the country's liberation from the French in 1958 and dedicated in 1962 under the rule of Sangkum Reastr. It also honors those who gave their lives to further the welfare of the nation. The monument created by renowned Cambodian architect Vann Molyvann in the shape of a lotus is an impressive example of classic Angkorian architecture, which is similar to stupas seen at Banteay Srei and other historical sites.
4. Russian Market
The chaotic and lively Psar Tuol Tom Pong market gets its name - Russian Market – since the 1980s, when it initially gained popularity among foreigners, the majority of whom were Russian. These days, you may see foreigners, locals, and visitors from all over the world navigating the market's interior labyrinth.
Almost anything can be found here, including apparel, antiques, jewelry, artworks, lamps, cooking utensils, shoes, silk scarves, and even scooter components. While exploring the food section, be cautious of the wet floor near the fresh ingredient area because it might be slippery.
5. Choeung Ek Killing Field
The Choeung Ek Killing Fields, also known as the Choeung Ek Genocidal Center, is a place in Phnom Penh where you can learn about the country's sad history in a more gentle way over time. It also has a museum about the war. Although it may not be a happy place, it can help us understand and accept the events that occurred during those terrible years under the Khmer Rouge. The site covers burial and execution grounds with thousands of exhumed skulls on display by sex and age behind glass panels.
6. National Museum of Cambodia
Inaugurated in 1920, Cambodia National Museum is a typical Khmer styled building that holds the country's big collection of Khmer artifacts. Inside the museum, there is a beautiful gallery of old Khmer art, with over 1,800 objects to admire. If you are interested in Cambodian history, you should definitely go visit. The museum has some important things to see, like a head of a god called Vishnu that was found near the complex of Angkor Wat, statues from other temples Koh Ker and Angkor Thom, and a large display of pre-Angkorian artifacts from a long time ago that show Cambodia's history.
7. Tuol Sleng Museum
Another site in Phnom Penh that may sob your heart out is the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum. This is where the Khmer Rouge's Security Prison S-21 was located, and it is known as a place where the regime committed extremely severe acts of torture. Over 20,000 people accused of betraying the revolution went through these gates from 1975 to 1979. The visit is made even more real by the displayed photos on the walls of the empty cells next to the beds.
8. Wat Phnom Temple
The only high point on the flat grounds of Phnom Penh is Wat Phnom Temple, a 46-meter-tall building in a small hill. This religious structure was first established around the 14th century, through many times of rebuilding, the current main temple was built in 1926. Wat Phnom is a very important Buddhist temple in the city where many locals come to give offerings and pray at different shrines near the main sanctuary. It’s also famous for the myth of a lady named Penh who found five statues there: four statues of Buddha and one statue of Vishnu.
9. Phnom Penh Central Market
Phnom Penh Central Market, which is also called Phsar Thmei or 'New Market', is an art deco landmark in the Cambodian capital. Built in 1937, by Jean Desbois, the bright yellow Central Market was the biggest one in Asia at that time with a 26-metre-high central dome and 4 wings extending to huge hallways. It was fixed up using funds from the French Developmental Agency and reopened to the public in 2011. If you love shopping or want to experience the busy atmosphere, or if you just want to see the beautiful buildings, you should visit the Central Market when you're in the city.
10. Sisowath Quay
Sisowath Quay is a beautiful 3-kilometer-long road along the spot where the Tonle Sap and Mekong rivers meet. This place is always busy with lots of local people at sunset and tourists taking photos of boats on the river. There are also lots of shops, bars, cafes, restaurants, and fancy hotels along the boulevard due to its good locations to the city's key highlights, such as Royal Palace and Wat Phnom.
You will find many interesting things to do and see in Phnom Penh. It may be unexpected, but it's worth visiting the Cambodian capital when you travel to or from Siem Reap's Angkor Wat. It's not just about the Khmer Rouge or Cambodia's sad history either. You can visit old temples from the Khmer era, visit art museums, and explore local markets. Come and explore the top attractions in Phnom Penh with Mekong River Cruise.