Phnom Penh, Cambodia
Phnom Penh, Cambodia
Welcome to Phnom Penh!
One of the most interesting cities in Southeast Asia, Phnom Penh will be on overload on your senses – and in the best way possible! With motorcycles whizzing through the streets, buzzing markets, the sound of life reverberating throughout the entire city, and a raw demeanor – Phnom Penh is simply unique, promising and bold.
Wild and untamed, Phnom Penh is the perfect place to learn about history, and culture while also exploring the modern side with Cambodian, Chinese and French influences. Perfectly balancing vibrant and grimy – the city has a little bit of everything
To get the most out of your adventure, please make sure to read this itinerary from front-to-back. It is sectioned into three parts: prep, daily itineraries, and an appendix identifying everything you need to print (lodging, train tickets, etc).
Today – Now
PLANNING & BOOKING
The dreaded part of any vacation - planning! Every savvy traveler knows that it’s always better to plan and book early in advance to bag those irresistible bargains. Not only do you get to save up to 25% on flight and hotel prices, but you also get to never settle for second-best! Lower flight prices, room deals and early bird discounts are only some of the many benefits of booking your tickets, excursions and accommodation early on. We recommend planning and booking 3 to 6 months in advance – a surefire way to have a worry-free pre-holiday buzz when the time to travel is near!
Unforgettable Moments - Phnom Penh
From bargaining at markets, to walking down back alleyways and trying to survive the motorbikes – Phnom Penh will give you a taste of what was once thought to be “The Peal of Asia”. You’ll be learning about its poignant past, admiring the blend of contrasting architecture, eating its local food, and immersing yourself in the exuberant vibe of the city! 7 days will pretty much take you on a rollercoaster through this controlled chaos in Phnom Penh.
Day 1: Arrival + Getting Acquainted
You’ll notice the aura of Phnom Penh the minute you arrive at the airport, and you’ll probably be aching to immediately start exploring. But first, you need to figure out how to go to your hotel from the airport. The Phnom Penh airport is about 10 km from the city, meaning it will take you anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour driving depending on the traffic.
You can take the bus, which will cost you $0.40 and will take you around an hour, or you can take the airport shuttle bus which costs $5 and will also take you around an hour. There is the shuttle train which is considered the fastest option as it’ll take you to the city center in 30 minutes and is free!
If you want to dive right into the local experience, take a tuk tuk right from the airport! A taxi is the safest option and will cost anywhere from $9 to $15.
Start your day at Khema Pasteur for some traditional Cambodian breakfast and coffee and then once you’ve filled up, take a walk towards the Phnom Penh’s famous Central Market. Whether or not you were planning on going shopping, the market is a fun place to be at. Apart from the fact that the building boasts beautiful architecture, the Central Market is the best place to be if you want to do some shopping (even if it’s just window-shopping!). It’ll be a great way to start your Phnom Penh by getting a gist of the local culture.
A delicious soup at Daughter’s Café is a great option if you’re hungry and want to have a quick snack – and the money goes to support survivors of human trafficking.
Your first day needs to be relaxing, slow-paced but also a good introduction to the city – and what better way to do that than by embarking on a river cruise along the river while the sun sets into the horizon? Taking a Phnom Penh Mekong River Cruise will reward you with incredible views, unlimited drinks and a tasty BBQ dinner. On top of all of that, you’ll be getting to see the city as you float unto the water: a surefire way to get you excited for the next few days!
Mekong river views, delicious cocktails and cooling breezes are only a few of the things you get at Foreign Correspondents Club. This place is equally famous with expats and tourists, and is a great way to end your day. If you’re feeling hungry, some Cambodian food at Romdeng will keep you satisfied.
If you’re in the mood for some live music, then Doors is a perfect option with occasional jazz and swing bands schedules.
Raffles Le Royal’s breakfast is renowned for its wide buffet selection and is worth splurging on. Don’t miss out on the mashtini bar, the fresh oysters, and the tempting dishes all around.
You’ll begin your second day a bit differently than you would have expected; by climbing into an old-fashioned cyclco and exploring the burgeoning architecture of Phnom Penh. The Khmer Architecture Tours are widely known around Phnom Penh and are led by an architecture student who will take you on a journey through different hidden Chinese temples, architectural styles, and grand edifices that juxtapose with modern buildings.
The tour finishes right next to Noodle House (luckily for you, since you’ll probably be starving post-cycling!), and you’ll get to munch on delicious handmade dumplings and noodles.
Pay a visit to the Independence Monument that was built to commemorate Cambodia’s independence from the French, and try to time your visit at 6 pm to see the beautiful fountains surrounding it and the blue hues washing the neo-Khmer façade with gorgeous colors.
If you’re looking for a place to have a few drinks after this hectic day, we recommend Hops Brewery. This craft beer joint has incredible German-inspired beers and is a nice place to wind down after a long day out.
Day 3: History
One of the most essential Phnom Penh activities is visiting the Killing Fields of Choeung Ek, a poignant journey through the Khmer Rouge history. There is no doubt that the visit will shed light on the horrific genocide that was perpetrated by Pol Part, and while we get that coming face to face with such a brutal history may not be on your to-do list, we believe that it’s essential to learn about this pivoting historical event.
The Killing Fields were once a cemetery that held Chinese farmers, but it became the site for one of the world’s largest mass killings. The audio guide is narrated by one of the prison’s survivors, and you’ll see everything from bloody clothes, bone fragments, blood-splattered rocks, statues made from human skills, and much more. It’s not an easy visit, it’s emotional, poignant and heart-breaking but it’s important to know the history affecting the places you visit.
Your next stop will be Cambodia’s best museum – the National Museum of Cambodia. You’ll find most of the artifacts that were actually found at the Angkor and Khmer ruin suites, collections of sculptures, pottery, paintings, and much more. A lot of the artifacts actually date back to the 5th century so you’re in for quite a journey!
You’ll probably spend about 2 hours there, and if you still have a little bit of exploring left in you, we recommend browsing through the stores of Street 178 with its beautiful quirky shops.
If you’re looking for some fine dining, then Malis is the place for you. Traditional dishes with a modern twist are served, and Asia’s top chef, Luu Meng, is the one cooking up the dishes!
Head to Street 308 after – the liveliest street in Phnom Penh with a bustling bar scene. There are dozens of bars you can choose from to end a long, hectic day!
Day 4: Day Trip to Koh Dach!
Escape the hustle and bustle of Phnom Penh and spend a day at the quaint Koh Dach to fully immerse yourself in the Cambodian rural life. The “Silk Island” is named after the traditional silk-weaving communities who live there. Once you arrive, you’ll instantly feel like you’ve been transported back in time.
Morning – the journey:
You will need to catch a ferry that will take you from the heart of Phnom Penh. The fares cost about $1, and you can catch a tuk-tuk when you land on Koh Dach. We do recommend, however, to book a tour to avoid any hassle.
Start your morning at the main silk weaving center that is only 1 km away from your ferry will land. You’ll find all types of wooden houses, and you’ll find weavers created different types of silk scarves, and Khmer skirts.
Kick off on a bench with fresh coconut at the café river right by the banks of the river, and then rent a bike!
The best way to discover the beauty of the village is by cycling around the villages, pagodas, and farms and you’ll be able to see much more in a short period of time.
Take the ferry back to Phnom Penh and try some beef carpaccio with Asian herbs at Fox Wine Bistro along with a fine selection of wines!
You can’t miss out on breakfast at the Brown Coffee and Bakery. It’s the most famous café in Phnom Penh thanks to its delicious pastry and good coffee. After you’ve had breakfast, make your way to the hilltop pagoda, Wat Phnom, one of the most visited attractions in Phnom Penh. Locals there go to present offers so their wishes can come true, and you can climb up to the mythical naga serpents to have your fortune read. Don’t forget to check out the statue of Madame Penh while you’re there! Also – be ware of the mischievous monkeys there, they’ve been known to attack humans when they’re provoked.
Grab lunch at the Chinese House, where you can refuel and then head towards Tuol Sleng. This will sort of be a continuation to your first to the Killing Fields, as there you’ll actually get to educate yourself on the details of the genocide, how Khmer Rouge came to power, and much more. Make your way through prisoner photos, learn abut the victims, and the various implements of torture that were used. A word of warning: this is not for the faint-hearted. The displays are graphic, heartbreaking and simply shocking.
Try some of Phnom Penh’s finest Cambodian food at Malis, with its huge list of food, and make sure you try the prahok k’tis there!
Start your day at the atmospheric Russian Market, the best and liveliest shopping place in Phnom Penh that is a cultural experience in and of itself. The market brims with food stalls so you’ll find plenty of breakfast (or late lunch) options there. After you’re done eating, spend a few hours there browsing through the stalls, haggling for souvenirs, and then explore the vibrant neighborhood surrounding the area.
An afternoon spent by the lively Sisowath Quay is essential for some waterfront entertainment. This promenade is perfect for people-watching, and relaxing. Stroll towards the Royal Palace after, to explore the architecture and grandeur of this majestic building. This stunning architectural site has several impressive buildings that you can explore. Begin the exploration at the Throne Hall and check out its interiors, then head towards the Chan Chaya Pavillion where dancers used to perform. The final, and most important, highlight is the Silver Pagoda that boasts Buddhist relics, masks, gold, silver tiles and works of art that date back to the Khmer Rouge era.
For your last evening, soak up the Cambodian culture by attending a Cambodian Living Arts show where traditional drama, folk dancing, and opera are effortlessly blended together. Have an exquisite final meal at Topaz, a restaurant that serves only the finest of French cuisine.
Day 7: goodbye Phnom Penh!
For your last day, we recommend taking the last flight out of Phnom Penh so you can get a few hours of exploration. If you do have time, we recommend:
· Going to spa to de-stress after your week-long trip.
· Check out the Independence Monument.
· Explore the Olympic Neighborhood.