Phnom Penh - Charming Capital of Cambodia

Introduction

Located in the southern of the country, at the confluence of three rivers, the mighty Mekong, the Bassac and the great Tonle Sap, Phnom Penh is the vibrant bustling capital of Cambodia.  The whole area including the outskirts of Phnom Penh is about 376 square kilometres, in the Kandal Province.

The charming capital city, possesses a very own beauty, with a combination of French colonial mansions and tree-lined boulevards with monumental Angkorian architecture, offers plenty of things for people to experience.

Here in the capital, there are many interesting touristy sites, from the highlights of the Royal Palace, the Silver Pagoda, the National Museum, the Toul Sleng Genocide Museum, the Choeng Ek Killing Fields and Wat Phnom, to market places selling carvings, handicrafts, silk, jewelries and even antiques.

Furthermore, Phnom Penh is also the gateway to the world heritage site, the largest religious complex in the world, the temples of Angkor in the West, also the beaches on the Southern coast and the ethnic minorities in North-Eastern provinces.

The city offers a wide variety of services, from most luxuriuous five star hotels to budget guest houses, from finest international dining to street vendor noodle shops, from back-packer pubs to elegant lounges and bars and more.
Come and see the real life changing day by day in this capital city.

Weather – Best time to visit Phnom Penh

- Cool season: November- March (22-28c)
- Hot season: March- May (28c -38c)
- Rain season: May - October (24-32c, with humidity up to 90%)

Phnom Penh has a tropical weather, which brings warm throughout the year. There are 2 seasons in Cambodia. The dry season from December through April, when the northeast monsoon winds keep the city sunny and dry. From May to November, the southwest monsoon brings rain and high level of humidity to Phnom Penh.

March and April are the hottest months in Phnom Penh when temperatures can rise as high as 40°C. It can get very humid in the following months of May and June, when the temperature remains high and added moisture brings in higher humidity levels. In rain season, it's still possible to enjoy a holiday there since the shower tends to be intense but brief.

In brief, December and January is the best time to visit Phnom Penh, when you'll be able to enjoy dry and cool weather during your holiday. However, this is also the peak-season, it makes the city always crowded by tourists with the highest pricing for hotels and flights during these months.

Top highlights of Phnom Penh

Phnom Penh offers plenty of sceneries and activities. Travellers normally pass by Phnom Penh just before or after visiting Siem Reap city with famous Angkor Complex, and the capital of Cambodian Kingdom will make you surprised.

It is totally wrong to think of coming to Phnom Penh only for seeing the brutal of Khmer Rouge and how the Cambodia was in the past. The city, itself, has many Khmer-era temples, wildlife sanctuaries, theatrical performances and museums, which are all easily accessible. There is no limit of activities to fill up your stay, from dipping into Khmer culture and exploring the city’s heritage, to tasting the delights of local food.

Here are the top recommended highlights to do in Phnom Penh.

Royal Palace

The Royal Palace of Cambodia is one of the sacred places in the heat of Phnom Penh capital. Nowadays, it’s also an extremely prominent and attractive destination with Khmer architecture for visitors.

In Khmer language, its full name is Preah Barum Reachea Veang Chaktomuk Serei Mongkol. The palace was constructed in the 1860s after King Norodom relocated the royal capital from Oudong to Phnom Penh. It is a complex of buildings which serves as the royal residence of the king of Cambodia, his family and foreign dignitaries, as a venue for the performance of national ceremony and ritual and as a symbol of the Kingdom. Up to now, many auxiliary constructions were built, some were destroyed and restored.

Picture of Phnom Penh Royal Palace

Phnom Penh Royal Palace

The palace is oriented to the East and located on the West bank of the junction of four branches of the Mekong River called Chaktomuk. With traditional Cambodian architecture, this is a complex with many surrounding monuments, each of which is used with its own roles and functions. Except the area of the actual Royal residence, the Khemarin Palace, most of the Palace grounds and Silver Pagoda are open to the public for visitors.

Wat Phnom

Wat Phnom is one of the most important and famous pagodas in the capital Phnom Penh. The pagoda is considered as the most sacred place to attract visitors and to learn about the history of the city.

It’s located on the only hill in the city and that’s reason why the name of the temple is Wat Phnom – in Khnmer language, it’s translated as "mountain pagoda".

Wat Phnom has his own special mysterious history and it closely relates to Phnom Penh capital.

Wat Phnom was first built in 1373 and erected at the top of 27 meters-high hill mound overlooking the city. Thee pagoda has another name being “Lady Penh pagoda” according to an ancient legend, linked to the beginning and development of Phnom Penh capital.

Picture of Wat Phnom, Phnom Penh

Wat Phnom had to be reconstructed several times over centuries.

In 2015, the city government was planning to renovate the monument. Nowadays, it is the center of celebration during Khmer New Year, and Pchum Ben.

The Tuol Sleng Prison Museum

Tuol Sleng locates in the heart of Phnom Penh, just a 1.5km walk southeast of the Royal Palace. So it will be a common stop on Phnom Penh city tours, which typically also consist of the Royal Palace, the National Museum of Cambodia, and Wat Phnom.

The Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum (Prison S21) recorded the most complete and truthful evidence of the genocide of the Khmer Rouge regime. Now this is the most important historic site and essential for visitors looking to delve deeper into the darker corners of Cambodian history.

Formerly the Tuol Svay Pray High School was converted in March or April 1976 into a prison and the largest center of torture in the country. The Khmer Rouge renamed the complex "Security Prison 21" (S-21): the buildings were bordered by electrified barbed wires, the classrooms converted into prison rooms and torture chambers, and all windows were covered with iron bars and barbed wires to prevent escapes and suicides.

Up to 20.000 people held at S-21 were taken to the extermination camp at Choeung Ek to be executed; detainees who died during torture were buried in mass graves in the prison grounds.

Visiting Tuol Sleng is a deeply harrowing experience. After the visit, you can feel shock, more than a little depressed by mankind. However, the visit can give you a true understanding of the brief but brutal Khmer Rouge regime, and its impact on Cambodia today.

Tuol Sleng (Prison S-21) Museum in Phnom Penh

Tuol Sleng (Prison S-21) Museum

Killing Fields' of Choeung Ek

The best known of the “killing fields” where the Khmer Rouge executed over a million innocent Cambodians, The Cheung Ek Killing Field at the village of Choeung Ek is one of the most prolific and historical place in Phnom Penh and is also popular destination for tourists from all over the world come here.

There are many things to explore when you visit the Killing Fields. It’s more horrific than Tuol Sleng. You will walk in and listen to your guide to understand a beacon of memory to the lives lost here.

There were many killing fields all over the country but the Killing Fields at Cheung Ek was believed to be the largest one. Every year a ceremony is held around the stupa to bring peace to the spirits of the deceased on the 20th of May.
And nowadays, it is the site of a Buddhist memorial to the victims, and Tuol Sleng has a museum commemorating the genocide.

The memorial park at Choeung Ek has been built around the mass graves of many thousands of victims, most of whom were executed after interrogation at the S-21 Prison in Phnom Penh. Under the monuments of Choeung Ek were mostly Khmer Rouge killed during the disposals within the regime. It can be said that Cheung Ek Killing Field in Phnom Penh is a very important place in the city as it has a long history attached to it.

Killing Fields of Choeung Ek in Phnom Penh

Killing Fields' of Choeung Ek

Psar Toul Tom Poung (Russian Market)

A visit to Phnom Penh will not be completed if you do not visit at least one of the Phnom Penh markets. Today, we will together explore Russian Market, the most popular market among tourists and expats.

In Cambodia, this market named as Phsar Toul Tom Poung. However, it is probably famously known as the name “Russian Market” because of two stories going around why the market is called like this. The first one is that during Vietnamese occupation, all the market’s goods came from Russia, as Russia was also one of the few countries that provided aid to Cambodia in this period. Another story is that the market became popular with foreigners in the 1980s because most of its visitors were Russian who lived in this area.

Located in the south of Phnom Penh, the market offers large volume of merchandises such as local food, traditional handicrafts, gems, Cambodian silk, Chinese textile products and antique furnitures, … In addition, the Russian market also offers many types of books and maps, bags, silverware, shoes and clothes, jewelry and lots of other goods. And maybe it’s the best place to pick up souvenirs for tourists with the abundance of commodities.

Russian market is opened daily from 06.00AM to 05.00PM, and it’s very near the center of Phnom Penh at St. 163 Corner of St. 444. This is an interesting destination in Phnom Penh you should not be missed when visiting this lovely capital.

Psar Toul Tom Poung, Phnom Penh

Psar Toul Tom Poung

Central market

Phsar Thmei, also known as Central Market which is one of the biggest markets in Asia is under one of the continent's largest domes. Most visitors who had a trip to Phnom Penh will explore this market.
The Central Market is constructed in 1935 – 1937.

After the last renovation in 2011, then now it’s still remains one of the largest domes in Asia, measuring 45 meters in diameter and 26 meters high. Phsar Thmei building is a beautiful one, a remnant of the French colonialist period.

The market includes full of all kinds of goods, from food items to clothes, silverworks and jewelries, electronic goods, … If you feel hungry, you will find plenty of food stalls selling classical local dishes and a colorful fresh produce section. It’s very good place to escape from the heat because inside of this market is naturally cool. Over times, the Phnom Penh Central market is the most foreigner friendly market in the city with cleanliness and bountiful English, therefore it becomes a major attraction for tourists who are looking for souvenirs from this exotic Asian land.

The Central Market (Phsar Thmei) is located at Street 128 (Kampuchea Krom) in Phsar Thmei 1 Commune, Daun Penh District and opened daily from 6.30 AM to 5.30 PM.

Phnom Penh Central Market

Phnom Penh Central Market

Silver Pagoda Phnom Penh

Silver Pagoda is one of the most famous destinations that you should not miss when visiting Phnom Penh. The pagoda is located on the south side of the Royal Palace, Phnom Penh. Cambodia’s Royal Palace and Silver Pagoda give you a fascinating look into Cambodia’s past and present.

The Silver pagoda has an official name as Wat Ubaosoth Ratanaram and it’s also known as Wat Preah Keo Morakot which means Temple of the Emerald-Crystal Buddha in Khmer language (commonly shortened to Wat Preah Keo).

The Silver Pagoda is an impressively ornate structure that is also known as Wat Preah Keo, or ‘Temple of the Emerald Buddha’.

Located within the compound of the Royal Palace in Phnom Penh but it’s separated by a walled walkway. You can get Royal Palace to visit and then explore the pagoda.

Phnom Penh Silver Pagoda

Phnom Penh Silver Pagoda

National Museum

The National Museum of Cambodia locates on Street 13, in central Phnom Penh, north of the Royal Palace and on the west side of Veal Preah Man square.

Built between 1917 and 1920, the foundation stone for the new museum was laid on 15 August 1917, from an idea of a French curator, named George Groslier.

The National Museum of Cambodia is a scenic spot in Phnom Penh other than the Royal Palace. Visiting the museum, you can see many of the religious artworks on display and learn about the history of the country of Cambodia. Moreover, The National Museum is Cambodia's largest leading historical and archaeological museum, remains one of the world's largest Khmer art collections.

This is a classic building in Phnom Penh with the use of herringbone roofs and carved doors. It is a blend of traditional Khmer architecture with French colonial style. Maybe it would be the first impression when you enter the museum.

Phnom Penh National Museum

Phnom Penh National Museum

Because the museum is next to the Royal Palace and the visitor’s entrance to the compound and the admission ticket counters are at the corner of Streets 13 and 178, this place is very suitable for you to add on your Phnom Penh city tour after visiting Royal Palace, Silver Pagoda. Opening hours of the National museum is from 08.00Am to 05.00PM everyday and you need to buy ticket to enter the Museum.


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