If you’re coming to Phnom Penh for the first time and wondering about how to spend your time wisely, this post is all about things you can do in this capital city of Cambodia. But remember that I’m a local resident. So it’s pretty much from my perspectives and experience as a Phnom Penher.
Founded in 1372, Cambodia’s largest city is known for its historical architecture and attractions. Also known as the Pearl of Asia or Paris of the East, I think it really matters when it comes to how many days you’ve got when visiting Phnom Penh. But, you can decide things you want to do based on your preference. I’ll try to answer some of the most frequently asked questions like: free things to do or unusual to do in Phnom Penh.
Before we get started, let’s see if these posts I wrote may be of help for you:
Stressing out? You should take care of body and mind. How about floating effortlessly on a bed of water that has been saturated with over a thousand pounds of Epsom salt? You can have a regular float practice at Floating Phnom Penh. According its founder, “floating is about sensory deprivation, getting away from all the external ‘noise’ and having a very peaceful environment which can be very relaxing and reinvigorating.” He added that “it’s the first one in the Cambodian city of Phnom Penh.”
Shopping? If you love shopping, these are shops, markets, shopping malls in Phnom Penh, and tips, and what you should know. Believe it or not, Phnom Penh is a new city of shopping malls in Asia. But Phsar Thmey (New Market or Central Market) is Phnom Penh’s best market to see. Its unique architecture is marvelous.
Some historical places in Phnom Penh to visit:
Common tourist spots: Royal Palace, Cambodia National Museum, Choeung Ek, Tuol Sleng Museum
Arts in Phnom Penh?
Cambodian Living Arts, Bophana Audiovisual Resource Center, ArtSpace at the Factory Phnom Penh
NOWHERE is an independent artist-run space to learn, collaborate & inspire in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.
The Royal University of Fine Arts
YK Art House
Meta House Art Cafe
Pagoda or Buddhist temples
Unusual things to try (and why not?)
Eat what the locals eat
If you have a Cambodian friend. You should try at least once to have him or her taking you attend a Khmer wedding cemeremony and reception. Try the dishes served at the weddding reception. It’s not daily meal you find everyday in a Phnom Penh restaurant.
Street food to eat when Phnom Penh
Just like other major cities, street food is common and popular among locals. Should you try? Why not? Cheap and goood, you should try a variety of things when you stumble upon.
Hang out where the local do
There are some hidden places you cannot find on expats' online guide. Make friends with the locals is the way to go.
Visit a local wet market
If you love taking photos you want to really see the ordinary lives of people, you should stroll around and inside a market. There are interesting things you don’t really find everyday.
In Phnom Penh, the charming capital city, Cheoung Ek and the S-21 prison (for those who are brave enough to delve into the country’s dark past). S-21 prison is an ideal place to visit and learn about Khmer history.
You might want to visit the floating villages on the Tonle Sap lake. Cambodians people are typically friendly, smiley, and polite. If you’re planning a long-term stay in Cambodia, you’d be able to figure out how to enjoy the low cost of living.
You should visit the floating villages on the Tonle Sap lake. Cambodians people are typically friendly, smiley, and polite. If you’re planning a long-term stay in Cambodia, you’d be able to figure out how to enjoy the low cost of living.
Phnom Penh Safari Zoo
This Phnom Penh’s first zoo is located in Prek Tasek commune, Chroy Changvar district, about 18 kilometers from Phnom Penh. The Phnom Penh Safari Park has four main areas where you can see tiger performance, crocodile performance, monkey, orangutan, and the fourth parrot performance from Africa and from other countries.
There are many other types of animals for sightseeing and also water parks for cruises and a playground. Ticket prices $15 for for adults and $5 for children.
The Silk Island (or Koh Sach known among locals) has been a popular day trip for bikers and Phnom Penh visitors who want to take a break from the crowded capital city. If you want to spend a relaxing time away from Phnom Penh, you should pay a visit to this Silk Island, a local pinic place on the entire, big Koh Oknha Tei.
Koh Oknha Tei
While the Silk Island is more known to tourists, the name of the entire island is Koh Oknha Tei. Oknah is a honorific title given by His Majesty the King of Cambodia. Thus, the entire island is named after Oknha Tei, who a long time ago contributed greatly to this commune. So, on this Oknha Tei island, there are several more places called islands. It’s as if there are smaller islands (at least by name) on this Koh Oknha Tei.
Silk Island or Koh Dach
Known for being a village that makes Krama and Khmer silks (or silk weaving village), tourists get there to visit the homes of villagers who still work on this by hands. In addition to this, there are places to hang out for a drink or lunch. Unlike in Kien Svay, another local picnic site, the Khmer villagers on this Silk Island don’t market much their local produces like vegetables and fruits. As you get on and drive into the middle part of the island, you can see the green fields where corns, papayas, and mangoes.
How to Get to the Silk Island
It’s easy to get there. The distance from Wat Phnom to the Silk Island is about 10 km or about an hour drive. You can hire a Tuk Tuk for a day long trip or just get a PassApp driver. To across the Mekong river, there are ferries getting back and forth. Usually, it doesn’t take long to wait to catch the ferry, which cost about a dollar for a round ferry cross. When you get to the other side, you would realize that it’s a rural Cambodian village still in development. It might not be long that this small, beautiful island will be transformed into a village of village and boutique hotels.
Chamkar Sneh (Love Farm)
On the way to the Silk Island, there is a picnic place called Love Island (Koh Sneh). Within this small resort, visitors can take a look at the silk worms, some animals, and Khmer traditional houses. There is a small resort on the Silk Island that is called Koh Sneh. You can also order meals and sit by the riverside.
Mekong Keo Morokot Island
There is a new resort or picnic site, Koh Mekong Keo Morokot (maybe run by a Chinese business group) on the other end of the Oknha Tey island. More about Mekong Keo Morokot when it’s officially opened (hopefully in the next few months).
More Phnom Penh Places to Visit