online store
top of page

Best things to do in Phnom Penh, Cambodia

Phnom Penh has come a long way in recent history; expect to see vibrant night life, neon lights, restaurants, ice cream stalls and cheerful tour guides. But there's more.

The history of Phnom Penh is important if you want to understand the city. The city has a tragic past. In 1975, a military guerrilla group, led by the infamous Pol Pot, unleashed terror upon the people of Cambodia. Just under 25% of the population were killed in a horrific genocide. This is very recent history; it was just over 40 years ago. Homes were forcefully evacuated, families torn apart, and innocent children coerced into becoming armed soldiers, while labour camps sprouted across the land. As both a daughter and a granddaughter of refugees, I understand the tragic effects this has on families and generations to come.

This being said, Phnom Penh has come a long way. The vibrant foodie culture, night markets and cheerful sellers show how even after difficult times, cities can thrive.

You might find my other posts on Cambodia useful:

13 best things to do in Siem Reap

Best places to stay by Angkor Wat in Siem Reap

Best things to do in Phnom Penh Cambodia

Look no further for the best things to do in Cambodia's Phnom Penh!

National Museum Cambodia

Learn more about the the captivating world of Khmer culture at the National Museum, where a treasure trove of ancient artifacts dating back to the seventeenth century awaits. Expect to see hundreds of stone busts depicting revered Buddhist figures and majestic statues of Cambodian warriors, the museum offers a tonnes of artefacts rich in Khmer heritage. Explore the meticulously crafted models of traditional Khmer houses and marvel at the clothing and accessories worn by modern-day farmers, providing a glimpse into the evolving tapestry of Cambodian life.

National Museum Phnom Penh, Adriana Neptuna Wanderlicious
National Museum Phnom Penh

But for a second, can we appreciate how beautiful this building is? It's a phenomenal architecture that you're going to want to photograph. And I did. The red pink roof tiles are super unique. Surrounding the museum is a luscious green garden and 4 symmetrical ponds with tonnes of Koi fish. For less than £1, you can buy some fish feed and grab some excellent photos. Wander through the garden, photograph the picturesque pagodas and meditating Buddha statues.

Admission to the National Museum ranges from $5 to $10, depending on whether you choose to get an audio guide; although I'm not sure if you can still get an audio guide - the audio guide wasn't available when we went. I recommend that you hire a local guide; some of the artefacts were really well displayed, and others weren't. Sometimes I really didn't know what I was looking at. A guide will be able to tell you in detail the information pertaining to each artefact. It's worth it !

Stay in a Luxury hotel

If you're looking for best places to stay, I can recommend the Pavilion Hotel. An incredible oasis in the heart of Phnom Penh, this is an incredible retreat. I spent all day relaxing by the pool, not to mention the private pool we had in our villa. It comes with delicious food and great service and is only a stone's throw from all the local attractions in the city. Highly recommended!

Phnom Penh Night Market

After a full day exploring Cambodian culture, I decided to indulge in the night market. Best decision ever! I really enjoyed Phnom Penh Night Market. It's filled with food vendors, ice cream sellers, fashion companies, jewellery stands and more... there's something for everyone. Try the coconut ice cream with peanuts. It's delightful and only costs around £1. We also decided to grab dinner here. In fact, the night market was one of my favourite things about Phnom Penh.

I couldn't resist the temptation to try grilled skewers, fragrant noodle soups, stir fried veg, and ice cold fruit shakes - watermelon is my favourite as it isn't too sweet. Everyone sits down in the seating area; some rugs on the floor, and you have little plastic tables to eat off. It's very authentic and I loved it!

Also, have a look at the clothing stalls. There's something for everyone, I found it hard to not buy everything.

Night Market Phnom Penh, Adriana Neptuna Wanderlicious
Night Market Phnom Penh

S21 Prison

This one is difficult but very important to visit so you get an understanding of the history of the city and the people. When the Khmer Rouge seized power in Phnom Penh, they sought a location to assemble and inflict unspeakable brutality upon their victims. They turned a high school into a harrowing torture prison. For four agonizing years, approximately 14,000 individuals were incarcerated within its walls, and tragically, only 7 survived. 7.

This haunting site has been transformed into a museum, bearing witness to the horrors that unfolded within its confines. The walls are adorned with photographs of the prisoners, the torture chambers remain intact, and poignant narratives depict the grim reality faced by the victims. Deep within the prison, haunting remnants of the past can be observed — scratch marks etched upon the walls. It is an unsettling sight, and something I really struggle to see, but It's extremely important to understand what happened, so that these sort of atrocities never happen again.

The Killing Fields & Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum

To truly comprehend the harsh reality of Cambodia's past, you have to visit The Killing Fields and the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum to learn more about the Khmer Rouge Regime. It is not an easy visit. However, if you seek a profound understanding of the atrocities that unfolded in this land, witnessing it first hand is imperative. These fields bear witness to the unfathomable suffering endured by hundreds of thousands of men, women, and children. It was here that they were brought, their lives brutally extinguished, and their bodies callously dumped into vast ditches, where their bones still lay to this day. The haunting presence of human remains are visible, and clothing remains can still be seen from the earth. It stands as a solemn testament to the magnitude of the tragedy, one that can be quite difficult to see. These scenes have not been fabricated for dramatic effect but are stark reminders of the past horrors in the hopes it will never be repeated. When torrential rains pour upon these grounds, the earth releases more and more bones, as many of my guides have mentioned to me. Grab one of the headsets, which will guide you through the solemn journey with personal stories from survivors; we weren't short of stories from all the guides we spoke to. They told us of how their siblings died from starvation or how their family members lost their lives.

The Khmer Rouge specifically targeted educated individuals such as doctors, anyone who could challenge their authority; this included lawyers, artists, teachers, and intellectuals. Over the course of 4 years, over two million lives were lost. It's quite shocking to hear, to stories; every single one of our tour guides had stories to tell; how they lost all their siblings, or parents. Today, Cambodia has done a spectacular job in rebuilding, but there's still works in progress. And of course, tourism helps with rebuilding this incredible country.

The Royal Palace

Step into the grandeur of the royal residence in Phnom Penh, a magnificent palace constructed during the 1860s. Despite a brief period of abandonment during the Khmer Rouge era, its opulence remains as brilliant as ever.

Royal Palace Phnom Penh, Adriana Neptuna Wanderlicious
Royal Palace Phnom Penh

Within the palace grounds, you will encounter a number of glittering golden temples and exquisite quarters. Situated by the riverside, you can observe the graceful glide of motorboats and paddle boats, capturing captivating snapshots of the vibrant daily life unfolding before you go in. Take this opportunity to capture unforgettable photographs. We decided to hire a local guide so we understood exactly what we were looking at; our guide was a sweet Cambodian lady who told us stories about not only about the Royal Palace, but her life in the village too. She laughed often and smiled constantly; a lovely tour. Absorb the stories that unfold, deepening your understanding of this captivating destination; my only recommendation is to not go at midday, it can get very hot!

TIP! When planning your visit, it is essential to dress respectfully in adherence to Buddhist culture. Women should ensure their knees and shoulders are covered, while men are advised to wear shirts with sleeves. By honouring these cultural norms, you demonstrate your appreciation for their way of life.

Foodie Tour

What is better than doing a Food Tour in Cambodia? They have some of the best food! You need to try Amok; a delightful fish coconut curry, which is one of the most famous Khmer dishes. Have a look at some of the tours below!

Sisowath Quay Promenade

Stroll down Sisowath Quay Promenade during the day or at night. I choose for the late afternoon and night opting for cooler temperatures! As the sun sets, expect to see all the fairy lights switch on at all the local restaurants. Alternatively, have a look at some of the street food vendors on the Quay, the Cambodians always take the opportunity to sell a fresh cold drink.

Silk Island

Most of the vibrant silk scarves and stylish cotton tops in Cambodia come right from Silk Island, also known as Koh Dach. Tucked away right in the heart of Phnom Penh, this petite island offers a distinctive glimpse into Cambodia's rustic countryside, all without venturing too far from the city.

As you wander through this charming locale, you'll encounter locals residing in traditional Cambodian teak wood houses, lining the earthy pathways. Notice how nearly every house shelters a silk spinning machine beneath its foundation, where diligent women passionately craft these exquisite accessories by hand.

Don't miss the opportunity to visit the island's silk factory, where staff harvest silk from caterpillars! A weird but fascinating process. It's best if you join via a guided tour of the facility and indulge in the chance to purchase silk products at a fraction of their usual cost. Just ask some of the locals for a good place to grab a bite; there's loads of local food at affordable prices.

The easiest way to explore the island if you're not on a tour is with a bicycle or motorbike, as they provide the best means to traverse its enchanting landscapes.

The Silver Pagoda

The Silver Pagoda, a stunning Buddhist temple, stands as a captivating embodiment of South East Asian culture. Every aspect, from the resplendent golden roof to the vibrant orange robes donned by the monks, breathes life into the visions you hold of Cambodia.

Upon reaching the temple entrance, the true essence of its name, the "Silver Pagoda," unfolds before your eyes. The floor glistens with 5,000 shimmering silver tiles, an exquisite offering to Buddha. While you cannot tread upon this precious surface, you are welcome to gaze upon its brilliance, marvelling at the luminous spectacle.

Ascend the grand staircase, and you will be guided to the Temple of the Emerald Buddha, a sight to behold. The effigy of the Emerald Buddha sparkles enchantingly, adorned with an astonishing array of 2086 diamonds. And if that opulence were not enough, the Emerald Buddha is accompanied by an 80kg bronze Buddha, a resplendent gold Buddha, and a captivating silver-gold Buddha, each imbued with its own compelling narrative, waiting to be discovered.

Step into the realm of the Silver Pagoda and let the magnificence of this sacred site wash over you, as you immerse yourself in the tales and treasures that adorn its hallowed grounds.

Wat Phnom

Smiling Buddhist Monk in  Phnom Penh
Smiling Buddhist Monk in Phnom Penh

At the top of the largest hill in Phnom Penh, sits Wat Phnom. Wat Phnom, perched atop a majestic hill adorned with luscious trees, unveils its unique allure. This ancient pagoda is believed to have been erected during the 1300s, adding to its historical significance.

Ascend the expansive staircase flanked by statues of Buddha and mighty lions, and you will encounter a traditional temple that radiates a profound purpose. Within its sacred walls, four statues of Buddha reside, bearing witness to the vibrant traditions upheld at Wat Phnom.

Today, this esteemed sanctuary holds a multifaceted role in the local community. It serves as a revered site where schoolchildren fervently pray to Buddha, seeking divine intervention for academic success in their exams. Likewise, gamblers flock to Wat Phnom to seek blessings and good fortune before venturing into the realm of the casino. Why not try it for yourself? A humble act of devotion couldn't possibly bring harm and may even bestow a touch of serendipity upon your path.

The Old Market

Tucked away in the Old French Quarter, right next to Bassac River, you can find Old Market - it is locally renowned as Phsar Chas. It's the ultimate destination for locals in search of premium produce and this vibrant Cambodian market is just waiting to be explored, and of course, photographed.

Get there early if you want to see the market in full swing. Begin your day by people watching and buying some fresh food or drinks. Witness the rhythmic flow of motorbikes zooming past, while nearby food stalls cater to the nourishment of industrious workers embarking on their daily pursuits.

If you're anything like me, you'll be heading straight towards the bountiful selection of succulent mangoes (and fragrant jackfruit, but I avoided those), each freshly cut and ripe for eating.

Sunset Cruise in Phnom Penh, Adriana Neptuna Wanderlicious
Sunset Cruise in Phnom Penh

Sunset Booze Cruise

Now this is a must do. We did a sunset booze cruise with Kanika boat cruise and we had a great time. It's beautiful as you sail down the Bassac River, one of the largest distributaries of the Mekong River.

Order food, tapas, platters of food, fresh fruit smoothies or a cocktail or two. Enjoy the majestic sight of the Royal Palace and general cityscape as the sun sets, casting the ultimate golden hues upon the Bassac river. This relaxing cruise spans approximately 1-2 hours. I started of with some fresh smoothies and followed up with a few cocktails and Aperol Spritzes!

David's Restaurant - for fresh hand made noodles!

You will not eat fresher noodles than this. Watch the lovely gentleman at the front of the store making the noodles right in front of you, just before you eat it! I also really enjoyed walking towards the restrooms at the back - you get to see all the staff cutting up fresh vegetables and peeling spicy ginger in the back. I chose to have the noodles, but the dumpling dish is meant to be a very famous and popular choice.

Restaurant worker making fresh noodles at David's Restaurant, in Phnom Penh
Restaurant worker making fresh noodles in Phnom Penh

Cambodian Living Arts Dance Show, Cambodia Phnom Penh

Ensure you catch this Phnom Penh cultural show highlight – you absolutely can't miss it! 30 skilled artists will lead you on an immersive journey into Cambodian mythology, ancestral traditions, and village life. Learn all about Cambodian culture through mesmerizing performances such as the Apsara dance, Moni Mekhala dance, and many more! You'll learn more about the vibrant expressions of daily life among the locals through a captivating array of folk and ritual dances.

Go Karting at Kart Station

Ok, so this one is super fun, and I loved it! Race at top speed (if you dare!) around the race track and expect to get competitive. These go karts go a lot faster than I actually expected. Go karting is the ultimate opportunity to unleash your inner racer. Go Formula One. It allows you to step into the shoes of professional racers, experiencing first hand what it's like to navigate corners - which I found hilarious - control the vehicle, and push your limits on the track. It's incredibly satisfying and fulfilling.

Girl Go Karting in Phnom Penh, Adriana Neptuna Wanderlicious
Go Karting in Phnom Penh

Phnom Tamao Wildlife Rescue Centre

The Phnom Tamao Wildlife Rescue Center is a team of 220 experts with a critical mission: to keep the global temperature below 2°C by the year 2030. They achieve this by planting new forests and assisting in the creation and strengthening of parks and reserves on land and sea. Their efforts also contribute to protecting the world's endangered wildlife species which you can learn loads about. Currently, their intervention is focused on the forests of the tropical belt due to their vital importance in regulating the global climate.

Floatation, The Floating Bar

This floating bar is not just a unique and novel experience; it's a delicious experience too. Being on a floating platform surrounded by water creates a distinct atmosphere that sets it apart from traditional bars. Mike and I watched local night fisherman catch some of the biggest fish amongst the reeds.

Floatation is decorated with pretty fairy lights and bamboo lamp shades; the reflection on the water provides stunning views and picturesque surroundings. The scenic backdrop of Phnom Penh adds to the enjoyment and relaxation of the bar experience. Expect refreshing drinks in the hot balmy summer evenings, good company (at least, I had great company with Mike), and breath taking views.

Floatation Bar at night with fairy lights, Phnom Penh
Floatation Bar, Phnom Penh

Weather in Phnom Penh

When to travel to Phnom Penh? Well, all year round you'll find something to do, but have a look at the below months for when you're travelling. The rainy season in Phnom Penh runs from May to October, with the wettest months being July, August, and September. The dry season, with fewer rainy days, lasts from November to April.


  • Average Temperature: 26°C (79°F)

  • Rainy Days: 0 days

  • Average Daylight Hours: 11 hours


  • Average Temperature: 27°C (81°F)

  • Rainy Days: 0 days

  • Average Daylight Hours: 11 hours


  • Average Temperature: 29°C (84°F)

  • Rainy Days: 1 day

  • Average Daylight Hours: 12 hours


  • Average Temperature: 30°C (86°F)

  • Rainy Days: 6 days

  • Average Daylight Hours: 12 hours


  • Average Temperature: 30°C (86°F)

  • Rainy Days: 15 days

  • Average Daylight Hours: 12 hours


  • Average Temperature: 29°C (84°F)

  • Rainy Days: 19 days

  • Average Daylight Hours: 12 hours


  • Average Temperature: 28°C (82°F)

  • Rainy Days: 20 days

  • Average Daylight Hours: 12 hours


  • Average Temperature: 28°C (82°F)

  • Rainy Days: 20 days

  • Average Daylight Hours: 12 hours


  • Average Temperature: 28°C (82°F)

  • Rainy Days: 20 days

  • Average Daylight Hours: 12 hours


  • Average Temperature: 28°C (82°F)

  • Rainy Days: 18 days

  • Average Daylight Hours: 12 hours


  • Average Temperature: 27°C (81°F)

  • Rainy Days: 7 days

  • Average Daylight Hours: 11 hours


  • Average Temperature: 26°C (79°F)

  • Rainy Days: 1 day

  • Average Daylight Hours: 11 hours

That's it, I hope you enjoy your trip to Phnom Penh! If you're still looking for things to do, take a look at some extra tours below!

You might find my other posts on Cambodia useful:

13 best things to do in Angkor Wat & Siem Reap

Best places to stay by Angkor Wat in Siem Reap

There's loads more things to do, Take a look at all the tours here:

Full disclosure! Some of the links here are affiliate links, meaning I get a small commission from every booking made. This is at no extra cost to you. It helps keep me writing and sharing my travel guides free of charge to you :) Thank you for your support!

108 views0 comments


My name is Adriana Neptuna

I'm a full time travel writer, photographer and blogger.  I can't get enough of travelling and love sharing the best tips on your next destination so you can have the best time. I have an insatiable zest for life and I'm always walking around with a camera in hand.

  • Instagram
  • TikTok
  • Facebook
  • LinkedIn
bottom of page