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In Phnom Penh you can stay in Raffles Hotel Le Royal, where a wall of black-and-white photographs alludes to its time as a Red Cross hospital. A short ride around the corner, on the back of a polished Vespa, will take you to the Vattanac Capital Tower. From the skyscraper’s glass-walled sky bar, you can gaze down on a panoramic view of 14th-century pagodas and the tiered roofs of French-colonial buildings, interspersed with the gleaming modern constructions that mark Phnom Penh as a city on the rise.

Raffles Hotel Le RoyalThis tapestry of construction can be picked apart on an architectural tour, from the frangipani-lined boulevards to the bold New-Khmer-designed Institute of Foreign Languages. You’ll see the Art-Deco Central Market, which is regularly mistaken for a modern temple, and faded-yellow French mansions that line avenues once described by Charlie Chaplin as ‘little sisters’ to the Champs-Elysées.

One building that deserves thorough investigation is the Royal Palace, whose gilded roof dominates the skyline near the riverfront. It’s still the official residence of the King of Cambodia, but you’re able to tour the three-spired Throne Hall and a collection of other pavilions and pagodas. The Silver Pagoda contains a near-life-size Buddha, which sparkles with almost 10,000 diamonds.

What looks like an enormous pagoda next to the palace is the National Museum of Cambodia. Within its walls is the largest (and finest) collection of Khmer sculpture in the world. Walking through its pavilions and courtyards, you can see how sculptural techniques developed over a millennium, from a pre-Angkorian stone Vishnu to detailed bronze casts and bas-reliefs of mythological birds.

To get a grasp on modern Cambodia, you can take a tour with a local resident. Bolstered by a young population, the city comes into its own at night in a buzz of cocktail bars, fine-dining restaurants and night markets (the Russian Market has the widest range of goods).

A tour by Vespa is a convenient — and stylish — way to travel between a selection of bars and restaurants. Led by your Vespa driver-guide, you stop off for Khmer-inspired cuisine in cocktail bars and small independent restaurants. You’ll finish in one of the tiny bars in Bassac Lane, where you might find a jazz musician performing.

Phnom Penh is also making a name for its emerging craft brew bars and microbreweries, and a specialist city tour looks into the art of brewing in detail. Guided by a beer enthusiast, you’ll sample a selection of brews, such as European-influenced Hops Beer. This selection of ales is based on a 500-year-old German purity law that dictates beer can only be made from water, barley and hops.

Tuol Sleng and the Killing Fields of Choeung Ek

Tuol Sleng (S-21)On the outskirts of Phnom Penh is Tuol Sleng, also known as S-21. This former high school, now a museum, was commandeered by Pol Pot’s security forces and turned into a prison for interrogation, torture and death. More than 17,000 people passed through its gates, with only seven living to tell the tale.

The Khmer Rouge were meticulous record keepers, photographing each prisoner. A selection of these black-and-white portraits are on display in the old cells, and photographs taken by the Vietnamese photojournalists who first entered after the fall of the Khmer Rouge hang on the walls.

We suggest a combined visit with a guide to Tuol Sleng and the Killing Fields of Choeung Ek. Once an orchard, this death camp witnessed the killing of thousands of prisoners from S-21, who were piled into 129 mass graves here. The site is now a memorial to the people who died.

Best time to visit Phnom Penh

Phnom Penh is a year-round destination, although the best time to go is from November to March, when there’s little rain and temperatures are mild enough to let you explore.

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Veronica Spann

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Suggested itineraries featuring Phnom Penh

Our itineraries will give you suggestions for what is possible when you travel in Phnom Penh, and they showcase routes we know work particularly well. Treat them as inspiration, because your trip will be created uniquely by one of our specialists.

Map of Phnom Penh

Places & hotels on the map

    Places near Phnom Penh

    Accommodation choices for Phnom Penh

    We’ve selected a range of accommodation options for when you visit Phnom Penh. Our choices usually come recommended for their character, facilities and service or location. Our specialists always aim to suggest properties that match your preferences.

    • Pool area at Villa Langka

      Villa Langka

      Medium

      Centrally located and nicely tucked away just off the main street, Villa Langka provides a peaceful base from which to explore Phnom Penh.

    • Raffles Hotel Le Royal, Phnom Penh

      Raffles Hotel Le Royal

      First Class

      Set on large garden plot in the center of Phnom Penh, Raffles stands out as one of the capital's true luxury properties, offering guests a high level of comfort and excellent facilities.

    • La Rose Suites, Phnom Penh

      La Rose Suites

      Medium

      La Rose Suites is arguably Phnom Penh’s finest luxury boutique hotel, centrally located but offering an escape from the hustle and bustle of city life.

    • Executive room, Rosewood

      Rosewood Phnom Penh

      Deluxe

      Occupying the top 14 floors of the ultra-modern Vattanac Capital Building, the Rosewood Phnom Penh is one of the city's most luxurious accommodation options.

    • iRoha Garden

      iRoha Garden

      Medium

      The iRoha Garden hotel and resort is located in Phnom Penhs quiet embassy district a stones throw away from some of the cities major sights.

    • Deluxe Room at La Rose Boutique

      La Rose Boutique

      Medium

      La Rose Boutique is a small and intimate property with Khmer charm. This ten room hotel is a great choice for those looking for a perfect balance between Cambodian tradition and modern facilities.

    Ideas for experiencing Phnom Penh

    Our specialists seek out authentic ways to get to know the places that could feature in your trip. These activities reflect some of the experiences they've most enjoyed while visiting Phnom Penh, and which use the best local guides.

    • Phnom Penh river scene

      Experience Phnom Penh Water Festival

      Phnom Penh

      The Water Festival, or Bon Om Tuk, is the greatest occasion in the Cambodian calendar. Celebrated to mark the end of the monsoon season and the turning of the waters in the great Tonle Sap, hundreds of thousands of Cambodians flock to the capital, Phnom Penh, to join in the festivities.

    • Orphans at PSE

      'For the Smile of a Child' Project

      Phnom Penh

      Visiting the Stung Meanchey municipal dump is quite a challenging experience as hundreds of children are scavenging here in terrible conditions. However, some organizations such as PSE and CCF are doing a great job helping them towards a better life.

    • Monsoon sunset

      Mekong Sunset Cruise

      Phnom Penh

      The scene is one of peace and tranquility as the sun sets over the city and local villagers come down to the waters’ edge to bathe.