Phnom Penh lures visitors with its ancient relics and temples, deep and turbulant history and modern day energy.
Phnom Penh’s complicated and brutal history makes it a fascinating place to visit. Wander the streets and witness a city that is slowly bouncing back from decades of turmoil. It was the capital of the Kingdom of Cambodia and later the headquarters of the French colonial administration. In 1975 it was taken over by the Khmer Rouge and subject to years of brutal rule, before the Vietnamese toppled the regime in 1979.
Today it is the economic and political capital of Cambodia and is home to some of its most spectacular temples and harrowing museums. You’ll see bustling street markets, wild traffic, and buildings from throughout its history. Check out Wat Phnom to see the temple that gave the city its name. For a look at some of its more impressive structures, visit the Royal Palace and the Silver Pagoda. Wander through immaculately-maintained gardens, among gold and crystal Buddha statues, and over silver floors.
To see more ancient temples, visit Wat Sarawan or Wat Ounalom. Brush up on your local history with some time at the National Museum of Cambodia. There are statues and artifacts from the Angkorian era and beyond. Anyone looking to understand the country’s troubled recent past should head to the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum. Inside the school Pol Pot converted into the infamous S-21 Prison, you’ll see moving exhibits and what remains of the cramped cells.
Take a trip out to the Killing Fields of Choeung Ek to learn more. There are pits where murdered prisoners were buried, as well as a Buddhist stupa packed with victims’ skulls.
Back in the city, take a trip to the art deco Central Market. Shop for everything from clothes and jewellry to flowers. For a nice evening stroll, head to Sisowath Quay. There are some good restaurants, decent cafés, and a few bars.