Phnom Penh’s harrowing past has not diminished its modern-day vibrancy, characterised by busy markets, ancient temples and preserved memorials.
Uncover the charms of Cambodia’s capital Phnom Penh and learn about its tumultuous history. Stroll through lively streets and admire the beauty and strength of the city, which has survived great turmoil in recent decades. Phnom Penh was colonised by the French in the 19th century, then taken over by the Khmer Rouge in 1975. The Khmer Rouge established a genocidal regime under Pol Pot that lasted four years. Learn about the tragedies that befell the city and how it is bouncing back.
Despite its modern incarnation as the economic and political capital of Cambodia, Phnom Penh has preserved a number of ancient temples and colonial buildings. Navigate busy markets and traffic dominated by scooters to get between landmarks. Visit the Buddhist temple Wat Phnom and learn how the city received its name. Admire the impressive Royal Palace and the Silver Pagoda and stroll around the site, which features pristine gardens, silver floors and Buddhas decorated with precious stones. Other temples worth a visit include Wat Sarawan or Wat Ounalom.
Stroll the art deco Central Market and browse locally made clothing and jewellery. Walk along the promenade of Sisowath Quay at sunset and stop for a drink at one of the bars. Discover the region’s history at the National Museum of Cambodia. This expansive institution holds relics and statues from the Angkorian dynasty.
Tour the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum, formerly the infamous S-21 Prison, to learn about the Khmer Rouge regime. Pay your respects to those who suffered here in crowded cells. If you have a strong constitution, tour the Killing Fields of Choeung Ek where prisoners were executed and buried. See a Buddhist monument nearby that contains victims’ skulls.
Fly into Phnom Penh International Airport, just a 20-minute drive from the centre of town. It is best to visit in the dry season between November and February. Come to Phnom Penh to marvel at its ancient and colonial sites and see how this resilient city has overcome its troubled past.