Travel Itinerary: One Day in Phnom Penh

Phnom Penh, despite its ever-growing volume of traffic, is still a great city to explore on foot, at least in some places. The main sites, including the two biggest markets, can be seen in a day.

A lit, temple-like structure reminiscent of a lotus blossom sits in the center of a roundabout filled with cars and motorcyclists.

The Independence Monument located at the intersection of Norodom and Sihanouk Boulevards. Photo © Christian Haugen, licensed Creative Commons Attribution.


A great place to start is Sisowath Quay, where numerous cafés offer an astounding variety of breakfasts. Explore the Royal Palace, including the Silver Pagoda, and then head across to the National Museum, less than a five-minute walk, to see its huge collection of Angkor relics.

The impressive Silver Pagoda is named for the silver tiles that cover its floor, laid during King Sihanouk’s pre-Khmer Rouge reign. There are more than 5,000 tiles, each weighing more than one kilogram. —p.142


Street 178, which runs past the National Museum, is a good place to grab lunch and wander around the local art galleries. After lunch, visit the nearby art deco Central Market (Phsar Thmey), a few minutes’ walk from the riverfront.

Travel Map of Phnom Penh Around the Central Market

Phnom Penh Around the Central Market

Hitch a ride south of the city, past the Independence Monument to S-21 Tuol Sleng Museum, as terrible and tragic as a sight can be. From this former Khmer Rouge prison, take another short ride to the Russian Market (Phsar Toul Tom Poung), which offers an enormous variety of souvenirs, silks, and bootleg DVDs. It is often very hot in this crowded roofed market, so late afternoon is the best time to visit.

During the Vietnamese presence in the 1980s, Russians often came shopping at the Russian Market (daily 7am-5pm) for Western goods they could not get elsewhere, hence the name. In the late 1990s, it was also possible to purchase large quantities of marijuana as well as AK-47s here, but the bad old times are long gone. —p.155


End the day where you started, on Sisowath Quay, to watch the sunset over the river from the Foreign Correspondents Club, or relax in one of the many sidewalk restaurants.

With its arty ambience (a large painting of Bridget Bardot graces one wall), great international dishes (around US$12), and Khmer standards (from US$6), La Croisette (241 Sisowath Quay, at Street 144, tel. 023/220-554, daily 7am-midnight) is a more upscale option nearby and the perfect place for a sumptuous dinner. Roadside tables or smart indoor seating, eclectic music, free Wi-Fi access, and a good wine list round off this reliably excellent restaurant. —p.168

Excerpted from the Second Edition of Moon Angkor Wat.

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