Phnom Penh, Cambodia’s vibrant capital city, boasts royalty, bustling boulevards, French colonial mansions and fantastic shopping, as well as a complex past. This city is a popular stop on many Mekong River cruises, especially on those travelling from Siem Reap to Ho Chi Minh City. Visitors have plenty to see and do while stopping by Phnom Penh, with tours frequenting the gleaming Royal Palace, museums and temples. Those wanting to gain insight into the dark history of the Khmer Rouge can visit the confronting Killing Fields and the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum.
Popular cruise lines that include Phnom Penh in their itinerary include Avalon Waterways and Heritage Line.
River cruises dock in Sisowath Quay at the Phnom Penh Autonomous Port.
Sisowath Quay is a 3-kilometre-long boulevard with a great variety of restaurants, cafés, hotels and boutiques.
How to Get Around
During shore excursions, some cruise lines organise tuk tuks for passengers to get around to the city’s attractions. Hired bicycles are another popular option and many sightseers explore on foot if they can deal with the hot temperatures.
Travel times from Phnom Penh Autonomous Port
It is a 22 minute journey to Central Market
It is a 29 minute walk to the Royal Palace
It is a 38 minute journey to the Silver Pagoda.
It is a 7 minute journey to Central Market
It is a 7 minute journey to the Royal Palace
It is a 10 minute journey to the Silver Pagoda
It is an 18 minute journey to Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum
It is a 42 minute journey to the Killing Fields.
Currency – Have some Cambodian riel (R) spare when stopping off in Phnom Penh. Notes come in the denominations of R100, R200, R500, R1,000, R2,000, R5,000, R10,000, R20,000, R50,000 and R100,000. There are no coins in Cambodia.
Time Zone – Phnom Penh runs by Indochina Time (ICT), which puts the city 7 hours behind Coordinated Universal Time (UTC). Daylight Saving Time is not observed.
Weather – Take some bottled water and a hat with you when venturing through Phnom Penh’s streets! The city’s average yearly temperature ranges from 23 to 35 degrees Celsius, and hardly ever falls below 21 degrees Celsius. The warm season stretches from March to June and the cold season lasts from October to January (the average low is 23 degrees Celsius).
Royal Palace – Take a guided tour of Phnom Penh’s beautiful Royal Palace. Built over a century ago for the King of Cambodia, the palace gleams with gold and has stunning architecture. Throne Hall, one of the many building within the palace, hosts coronations and other official meetings and celebrations. Be sure to take a few photos of the hall’s opulent 59-metre tower! The Silver Pagoda is another famous building that draws in tourists and locals alike. The stairs within the pagoda are fashioned from Italian marble and the floor is comprised of over 500 silver blocks. Make sure you set aside a good amount of time to explore the Royal Palace’s buildings and the grand statues located throughout.
Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum – The Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum is not a place for the faint-hearted. It was once known as Tuol Svay Prey High School before it was turned into Security Prison 21 (S-21) by the notorious Khmer Rouge leaders. Sadly, over 17,000 people were held at the prison before being slaughtered at the Killing Fields. Today the museum highlights the vicious crimes of the Khmer Rouge and serves to remember the victims of the regime. Visitors can take guided tours through the museum to hear the stories behind the photographs and to pay respect to those who were tortured.
The Killing Fields – The harrowing Killing Fields is an intriguing place to visit when exploring Phnom Penh. 43 out of 129 graves have been left in the fields, serving as a shocking reminder of those who were killed between 1975 and 1978. Take an audio tour around the fields to learn about the Khmer Rouge, and hear first-hand accounts from guard and executioner, Him Huy. Throughout this tour, visitors will learn how prisoners and other innocent victims were tortured and killed in the fields, as well as history on the entire Khmer Rouge regime. An annual ceremony takes place in May to remember those lost during this horrendous time.
Central Market – Those looking to bring home souvenirs should stop by Phnom Penh’s famous Central Market. The yellow Art Deco building was constructed in the late 1930s and has 4 wings that boast an array of stores selling jewellery, cloth, flowers, food, silverwork and keepsake items. Like any popular bazaar, the market is crowded with eager locals and tourists, which creates an overall upbeat and vibrant shopping atmosphere.