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3 Days in Phnom Penh

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Phnom Penh, the capital of Cambodia, was once known as the Pearl of Asia before the country spun into turmoil with the mass killings by the Khmer Rouge in the 1970s. Over the last few decades, Phnom Penh has grown into an economic center, sprawled with high rises, hotels, historical architecture, modern malls, and an incredible food culture. Save on research time by following my recommendations for the must-see places that aren't in your normal guide books, and make your 3-day trip to Phnom Penh one to remember.

Good for
  • History Buff
  • Shopping Fanatic
  • Art and Architecture Lover
  • Nature Lover
  • Foodie
  • Peace and Quiet Seeker
  • Thrifty Traveller

15 Places

4 City Tips

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Map

15 Places

Day 1

Alma Cafe

Restaurants

Russian Market

Flea & Street Markets

Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum

History Museums

Choeung Ek Genocidal Center

Historic Sites

Sesame Noodle Bar

Restaurants

Independence Monument

Monuments & Statues

Day 2

Daughters of Cambodia Visitor Centre Cafe

Restaurants

Royal Palace

Castles, Historic Sites

FCC Phnom Penh Restaurant & Bar

Restaurants

Heart of Darkness

Bars & Clubs

Day 3

Bloom Cafe & Training Centre

Restaurants

National Museum

Speciality Museums

Friends the Restaurant

Restaurants

Cambodian Living Arts

Performances

PhoceaMekong Cruises

Boat Tours, Eco Tours, Private Tours, Nature & Wildlife Tours

Mel C's City Tips

  • The local markets work on a barter system. If you're not sure about the "true" price, suggest 50% of the price they start on, and then settle somewhere in between.
  • Phnom Penh is big, so it's best to keep a map with you whenever you go out. You can also use it to help explain to tuk tuk (motorized taxi) drivers where to go, as many of them speak limited English.
  • Avoid bringing a purse when you go out. It's much safer to have a money belt that sits under your clothes, or a backpack.
  • The safest way to get around the city is by tuk tuk for a few dollars or less each trip. Settle on a price before climbing aboard.
    Day 1
  • Save
    Alma Cafe
    Restaurants (Mexican, Cafe)
    See more photos
    Mel C Says:

    Start your first day with a filling and authentic Mexican breakfast at ALMA cafe, situated in the Russian Market area. The primary cook is Mexican with years of experience, cooking home-style food which includes burritos, refried beans, and enchiladas. The breakfast menu is small but plentiful in its portion-size, and can accommodate vegetarian diets too. For a few dollars, you'll get a breakfast that could be enough for two meals for some people, plus bottomless juice and coffee.

    Good for
    • Foodie
    • Thrifty Traveller
    • Solo
    • Friends
    • Couples
    • Senior
    • Family
    Tips
    • ALMA Cafe is only open for breakfast and lunch. You'll have to go to another restaurant for dinner if you're craving Mexican food.
    • Breakfast is available most of the day, until early afternoon.
    • There is air conditioning on the top floor of the restaurant if you're feeling very hot. The bottom floor has fans only.
    Plan to stay:/
    1-2 hours
    From the community
    Ranked #112 of 963 restaurants in Phnom Penh
    Certificate of Excellence 2014
    • REAL delicious Mexican food & for a good propose 02/09/2017
    • Are you kidding me? NO GUACAMOLE! 12/07/2017
    • Alma Cafe
    Address:
    #59coe Street 155
    Near Russian Market
    Phnom Penh
    Cambodia
    Phone:
    +855 92 424 903
    Price range:
    US$4 - US$6
    Hours:
    Wed - Mon
    08:00 - 14:00
    Wed
    17:30 - 20:30
    Thu - Mon
    17:30 - 21:30
    Other:
  • Save
    Russian Market
    Flea & Street Markets
    See more photos
    Mel C Says:

    After you simply can't eat another bite, walk to the Russian Market — a popular site since many Russians began visiting Cambodia in the 1980s. Contrary to its name however, you won't find many products from Russia here. Instead, visitors from around the world come to the market for its huge diversity of products. You'll find anything you could ever want here, including jewelry, souvenirs, recycled products, DVDs, and knock-off brands.

    Good for
    • Thrifty Traveller
    • Solo
    • Friends
    • Couples
    • Shopping Fanatic
    • Family
    Tips
    • Prices are marked up more here than other markets because of the number foreign visitors. Don't feel bad about bargaining hard!
    • Enjoy wandering around aimlessly through the market, and don't worry if you're not sure where you are. Just keep a map of Phnom Penh with you.
    • Try a fruit shake or iced coffee with condensed milk from the food stalls for a refreshing drink.
    Plan to stay:/
    1-2 hours
    From the community
    Ranked #13 of 123 things to do in Phnom Penh
    • Hot & hectic 16/09/2017
    • Russian Markets 15/09/2017
    • Russian Market
    Address:
    Corner of Street 163 and Street 444
    Phnom Penh
    Cambodia
    Other:
  • Save
    Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum
    History Museums
    See more photos
    Mel C Says:

    From the Russian Market, take a tuk tuk to the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum to learn more about the horrific events that took place from 1975-1979 under the reign of the Khmer Rouge regime, led by Pol Pot. This former high school was converted into a prison (called S-21) where an estimated 30,000 people were tortured, interrogated, and killed. Two of only seven prison survivors still work at this museum, and at the end of the tour you will likely meet them. They've spent many days telling their stories to visitors in the hope of educating the next generation so that these atrocities never repeat themselves. The visit will help you to understand some of the negative impacts the war had on the country, including low-quality education, poor health, and generational poverty. An estimated two million Cambodians were killed during this period, a high proportion of whom were intellectuals, which was almost a third of the population at the time.

    Good for
    • Solo
    • Must See
    • Friends
    • History Buff
    • Couples
    Tips
    • Hire an English guide (fee by donation) at the museum. It will make your visit much more informative.
    • Bring a fan as it can get very hot during the day.
    Plan to stay:/
    1-2 hours
    From the community
    Ranked #2 of 123 things to do in Phnom Penh
    Certificate of Excellence 2014
    • A harrowing but essential visit 22/09/2017
    • The Museum is very informative 22/09/2017
    • Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum
    Phone:
    +855 93 388 988
    Hours:
    Sun - Sat
    07:00 - 17:30
    Other:
  • Save
    Choeung Ek Genocidal Center
    Historic Sites
    See more photos
    Mel C Says:

    During the war, about 17,000 of the victims who were tortured and interrogated in the S-21 prison were then transported 11 kilometers away to the killing fields in Choeung Ek. The victims included old people, women, and babies who often suffered painfully slow deaths so that the regime didn't 'waste precious bullets.' Take the well-designed audio tour to hear first-hand accounts from survivors, and even a chilling testimony from one of the persecutors. This now peaceful and natural area honors the victims, and stores the remains of 8,985 people.

    Good for
    • Must See
    • Solo
    • Friends
    • History Buff
    • Couples
    • Senior
    Tips
    • There is a memorial ceremony held here every year on May 9.
    • The tuk tuk ride from the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum is about 30 minutes long.
    Plan to stay:/
    1-2 hours
    From the community
    Ranked #1 of 123 things to do in Phnom Penh
    Certificate of Excellence 2014
    • Grim but must be seen 20/09/2017
    • Thought provoking 18/09/2017
    • Choeung Ek Genocidal Center
    Phone:
    +855 23 305 371
    Other:
  • Save
    Sesame Noodle Bar
    Restaurants (Japanese, Asian)
    See more photos
    Mel C Says:

    If you're heading back to the Russian Market area and craving Asian fusion food, then pop by Sesame Noodle Bar for an authentic experience. Unlike many restaurants that have an endless menu to choose from — to the point of confusion! — this small and welcoming restaurant focuses on doing fewer items well, and with a variety of flavors. It was established by a Japanese and American couple who came to Cambodia to create both traditional and non-traditional dishes, fusing Japanese, Chinese, and American flavors.

    Good for
    • Foodie
    • Trendsetter
    • Hidden Gems
    • Solo
    • Friends
    • Couples
    • Senior
    • Family
    Tips
    • Try the Sesame House Noodle, a cold noodle, which is a more unusual but delicious option. The sauce is the highlight of the dish.
    Plan to stay:/
    1-2 hours
    From the community
    Ranked #27 of 963 restaurants in Phnom Penh
    Certificate of Excellence 2014
    • Great food, great atmosphere 30/08/2017
    • House Noodles with Sesame Magic 24/08/2017
    • Sesame Noodle Bar
    Address:
    #9 Street 460, Phnom Penh
    Phnom Penh
    Cambodia
    Phone:
    +855 89 750 212
    Price range:
    US$4 - US$7
    Hours:
    Tue - Sun
    11:30 - 14:30
    17:00 - 21:30
    Other:
  • Save
    Independence Monument
    Monuments & Statues
    See more photos
    Mel C Says:

    After dinner, make a quick stop to see the Independence Monument right on the intersection of the main Norodom and Sihanouk roads. The monument was designed by Cambodia's most famous architect, Vann Molyvann, in 1958 to mark the independence of Cambodia from France. There is a lot of activity here during national celebrations in particular, when a royal or high-ranking official will light a flame in the interior, and the monument might be surrounded by floral decorations. You'll likely pass the monument during your route into Phnom Penh, but take at least a few minutes to step out of the tuk tuk to admire the stunning design, especially as it is beautifully lit up at night.

    Good for
    • Solo
    • Friends
    • History Buff
    • Couples
    • Senior
    • Art and Architecture Lover
    Tips
    • You can get here easily by taking a tuk tuk.
    • This is more beautiful to see at night when it is lit up.
    Plan to stay:/
    Less than 1 hour
    From the community
    Ranked #14 of 123 things to do in Phnom Penh
    • Newly built, nice to drive past 11/09/2017
    • A large part of Cambodia right in the city 08/09/2017
    • Independence Monument
    Address:
    City Centre
    Phnom Penh
    Cambodia
    Phone:
    +855 23 723 949
  • Day 2
  • Save
    Daughters of Cambodia Visitor Centre Cafe
    Restaurants (Cafe, British)
    See more photos
    Mel C Says:

    Start your second day with another delicious and filling breakfast, this time at Sugar and Spice Cafe close to the riverside. The food is incredible and comes in generous portions, which can often be shared with two people. The workers are highly-trained by a chef from New Zealand, and by eating here, your dollars continue to support the life skills, education, and social and psychological programs for former sex workers and trafficked victims. This training cafe provides former victims with an alternative source of income, and you'll be happy to know it's had a very high success rate, as most of the staff have never returned to the sex trade.

    Good for
    • Foodie
    • Must See
    • Solo
    • Friends
    • Couples
    • Senior
    Tips
    • After your meal, take time to check on their boutique that sells a variety of handmade crafts, and also supports the programs.
    • The organization also has other businesses, including a spa and a boutique hotel that are definitely worth checking out.
    Plan to stay:/
    1-2 hours
    From the community
    Ranked #9 of 963 restaurants in Phnom Penh
    Certificate of Excellence 2014
    • Good cafe - good cause 11/09/2017
    • So much respect for the founder of this place! 10/09/2017
    • Daughters of Cambodia Visitor Centre Cafe
    Address:
    321 Sisowath Quay
    The Riverside
    Phnom Penh
    Cambodia
    Phone:
    +855 77 657 678
    Price range:
    US$4 - US$7
    Hours:
    Mon - Sat
    09:00 - 17:30
    Other:
  • Save
    Royal Palace
    Castles, Historic Sites
    See more photos
    Mel C Says:

    How many times in your life can you say you went into a King's residence? As you stroll along the riverside, you can visit the beautiful Royal Palace, which is made up of a complex of buildings that were built in the 1860s. The Khemarin Palace is the official King's residence, and has been the constant home of Cambodia's Kings since its construction, except during the period of war in the 1970s under the Khmer Rouge. Some areas are closed off to the public, but take the opportunity to explore and marvel at the accessible buildings, including the Silver Pagoda.

    Good for
    • Must See
    • Solo
    • Friends
    • History Buff
    • Couples
    • Senior
    • Family
    • Art and Architecture Lover
    Tips
    • It is best to visit the Royal Palace with a guide to understand the history and significance of the buildings.
    Plan to stay:/
    1-2 hours
    From the community
    Ranked #4 of 123 things to do in Phnom Penh
    • If you like the look of Gold then this is for you 20/09/2017
    • So much colour 20/09/2017
    • Royal Palace
    Address:
    Sothearos
    between Street 240 & 184
    Phnom Penh
    Cambodia
    Phone:
    +855 17 692 736
    Other:
  • Save
    FCC Phnom Penh Restaurant & Bar
    Restaurants (Bar, European, Cambodian)
    See more photos
    Mel C Says:

    If you're already by the river, come for dinner or a post-dinner drink at FCC and enjoy a beautiful view of the Mekong River (a rarity, as most of the bars along the bank here don't have a second or third level river-view.) If you head here for dinner, you can indulge in either Western or Asian dishes, including traditional Cambodian foods like the fish amok or beef lok lak. It's simply a wonderfully comfortable atmosphere, perfect for a great evening in good company.

    Good for
    • Foodie
    • Friends
    • Couples
    • Luxury Traveller
    • Nightlife Seeker
    Tips
    • The cocktails are a bit more expensive than other places; come during happy hour.
    • Try the lychee cocktail.
    Plan to stay:/
    1-2 hours
    From the community
    Ranked #65 of 963 restaurants in Phnom Penh
    • Ambience is good 20/09/2017
    • Famous historic place 19/09/2017
    • FCC Phnom Penh Restaurant & Bar
    Address:
    363 Sisowath Quay
    Phnom Penh
    Cambodia
    Phone:
    +855 69 253 222
    Hours:
    Sun - Sat
    07:00 - 00:00
    Other:
  • Save
    Heart of Darkness
    Bars & Clubs
    See more photos
    Mel C Says:

    If you've got the energy to keep exploring Phnom Penh's nightlife, then come to Heart of Darkness, where a party atmosphere is guaranteed every night of the week. You can enjoy drinks with bars on two floors, and electronic and pop music spun by both local and international DJ's. All with no cover charge!

    Good for
    • LGBT
    • Thrifty Traveller
    • Like a Local
    • Friends
    • Couples
    • Nightlife Seeker
    Tips
    • You don't have to totally dress up to come to this club, it's not a pretentious place.
    Plan to stay:/
    2-3 hours
    From the community
    Ranked #15 of 104 Nightlife in Phnom Penh
    • Had a surprise 11/06/2017
    • Ok - not great 21/04/2017
    • Heart of Darkness
    Address:
    26 Street 51
    Phnom Penh
    Cambodia
    Phone:
    +855 77 837 777
    Other:
  • Day 3
  • Save
    Bloom Cafe & Training Centre
    Restaurants (Cafe)
    See more photos
    Mel C Says:

    Not only is Phnom Penh great for main meals, but is also has fantastic bakeries and cafes. Bloom and Cafe Training Centre stands out as one of the best because it doesn't just offer the regular line-up of baked goods; rather their cakes and cupcakes come in a vibrant blend of colors, animated characters, including those shaped like Prada shoes and Chanel bags! The bakers here have been called 'sugar artists,' and rightly so. Plus, this creative cafe filled with art is also a non-profit that empowers Cambodian women with new skills. Now, that's real guilt-free goodies!

    Good for
    • Foodie
    • Must See
    • Hidden Gems
    • Solo
    • Friends
    • Couples
    • Senior
    • Family
    Tips
    • There aren't too many places that serve bubble tea in town, so if you want a refreshing drink with your sweet treat, try it here at Bloom.
    • The coffee is all fair-trade, so you can feel good about consuming a quality, ethically produced drink, along with ethical cakes!
    • There are gluten free cake and cupcake options for those who have other dietary restrictions.
    • There are 48 choices of cupcake flavors. If you're indecisive, go with the red velvet cake with vanilla cream cheese.
    Plan to stay:/
    1-2 hours
    From the community
    Ranked #47 of 963 restaurants in Phnom Penh
    Certificate of Excellence 2014
    • fantastic 06/09/2017
    • Amazing and delightful baked goods! 06/09/2017
    • Bloom Cafe & Training Centre
    Address:
    222 #40 Street
    Sangkat Beung Raing, Khan Daun Penh
    Phnom Penh 12000
    Cambodia
    Phone:
    +855 77 757 500
    Price range:
    US$1 - US$5
    Hours:
    Mon - Sat
    10:00 - 17:00
    Other:
  • Save
    National Museum
    Speciality Museums
    See more photos
    Mel C Says:

    This is Cambodia's largest museum of cultural history, and also holds one of the world's largest collections of Khmer (Cambodian) art. From sculptures to ceramics to bronzes, the exhibits here feature over 14,000 items, and give visitors a rich insight into the previous Cambodian empire, as well as detailing the complex history of changing religions and migration throughout the centuries. The museum buildings themselves, built between 1917 and 1924, also reflect the Khmer temple-style architecture.

    Good for
    • Must See
    • Solo
    • Friends
    • History Buff
    • Couples
    • Senior
    • Art and Architecture Lover
    Tips
    • Wear clothing that covers the shoulders and knees in order to to enter this temple-museum.
    Plan to stay:/
    1-2 hours
    From the community
    Ranked #8 of 123 things to do in Phnom Penh
    • Over charged OK place 21/09/2017
    • Complete waste of $20 18/09/2017
    • National Museum
    Address:
    13th St.
    Between 178th and 184th Sts.
    Phnom Penh
    Cambodia
    Phone:
    +855 23 211 753
    Hours:
    Sun - Sat
    08:00 - 17:00
    Other:
  • Save
    Friends the Restaurant
    Restaurants (European, Asian, Soups, Cambodian)
    See more photos
    Mel C Says:

    You will be immediately struck by the vibrant colors, and walls covered in art created by Cambodian youth, at Friends the Restaurant. As you enter, young Cambodian staff greet you with genuine smiles, and you realize this is no ordinary restaurant. By indulging in their delicious and beautifully-presented Asian and Western tapas items, and signature frozen shakes and daiquiris, you are supporting students who are being provided with free education and life skills.

    Good for
    • Foodie
    • Must See
    • Solo
    • Friends
    • Couples
    • Senior
    • Shopping Fanatic
    • Family
    Tips
    • If you really want a local food experience, try the fried spider here!
    • Check out their shop, right next to the restaurant, called Friends ''N'' Stuff.
    Plan to stay:/
    1-2 hours
    From the community
    Ranked #10 of 963 restaurants in Phnom Penh
    Certificate of Excellence 2014
    • Great food. 16/09/2017
    • Delicious. Amazing service. Fantastic cause! 13/09/2017
    • Friends the Restaurant
    Address:
    House 215
    Street 13
    Phnom Penh
    Cambodia
    Phone:
    +855 12 802 072
    Price range:
    US$5 - US$10
    Hours:
    Sun - Sat
    11:00 - 23:00
    Other:
  • Save
    Cambodian Living Arts
    Performances
    See more photos
    Mel C Says:

    Experience an authentic cultural performance at the National Museum, organized by the Cambodian Living Arts organization. The war in the 1970s nearly destroyed all aspects of Khmer culture, as artists were specifically targeted, and temples and many other cultural sites were destroyed by the Khmer Rouge regime. Cambodian Living Arts' mission is to revive the arts, provide artists with a living, and develop their talents. Support their efforts by attending this spectacular performance, in which you will enjoy traditional dancing integrated with historical storylines.

    Good for
    • Must See
    • Hidden Gems
    • Solo
    • Friends
    • History Buff
    • Couples
    • Senior
    • Family
    • Art and Architecture Lover
    Tips
    • Reserve tickets on theire website for the type of show you want to see: shadow puppets, theater, or musical performances.
    Plan to stay:/
    2-3 hours
    From the community
    Ranked #1 of 6 Concerts & Shows in Phnom Penh
    • Don t miss 20/09/2017
    • Absolutely wonderful. 12/09/2017
    • Cambodian Living Arts
    Address:
    Street 13
    National Museum of Cambodia, Sangkat Chey Chumneas, Khan Daun Penh
    Phnom Penh 12000
    Cambodia
    Phone:
    +855 17 998 570
    Price range:
    US$15 - US$15
    Hours:
    Sun - Sat
    19:00 - 20:00
    Other:
  • Save
    PhoceaMekong Cruises
    Boat Tours, Eco Tours, Private Tours, Nature & Wildlife Tours
    See more photos
    Mel C Says:

    End your day with a BBQ dinner sailing along the majestic Mekong River. This is one of the world's 12 longest rivers, and runs through China's Yunnan province, Burma, Laos, Thailand, Cambodia, and Vietnam. While you dive into the huge meal served onboard, chat with the very friendly local staff, get to know other travelers, and revel in the peacefulness of this 2.5-hour boat ride, far away from the city noise.

    Good for
    • Foodie
    • Luxury Traveller
    • Hidden Gems
    • Friends
    • Couples
    • Senior
    • Family
    • Nature Lover
    Tips
    • You can also book a cocktail cruise or a full day cruise.
    Plan to stay:/
    2-3 hours
    From the community
    Ranked #2 of 27 Boat Tours & Water Sports in Phnom Penh
    Certificate of Excellence 2014
    • Highly recommended for families, couples, all travellers! 15/09/2017
    • Lovely sunset cruise, with wonderful staff :) 27/08/2017
    • PhoceaMekong Cruises
    Address:
    Sisowath Quay
    Titanic Tourism port
    Phnom Penh 12000
    Cambodia
    Phone:
    +855 77 303 266
    Other:
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