A Phnom Penh Tour of the Most Popular Attractions

A typical Phnom Penh Tour includes a trip to The Killing Fields of Cambodia, Tuol Sleng Prison (S-21), The Royal Palace, and the Silver Pagoda.

There is so much more and it is only limited by the time you have.

There are a few great Temples in Phnom Penh but if you have already visited the Temples in Thailand then those in Phnom Penh are not likely to impress you.

People often find the typical tour of Phnom Penh to be quite an emotional experience. They can't help but speak of the significant events of the past and you can't ignore the atrocities of genocide that the people of Cambodia endured under the rule of a man named Pol Pot.

Pol Pot was a Cambodian Maoist Revolutionary who led the Khmer Rouge from 1963 until his death in 1998. They were ousted after just 4 years in power by a Vietnamese invasion. In that time they slaughtered millions.

Memorials such as the Cambodian Killing Fields and the Toul Sleng Prison can't be ignored and are popular Tourist Sites.

Pol Pot of the Khmer Rouge

We don't recommend visiting both The Killing Fields and Toul Sleng Prison on the same day. It can become an overwhelmingly intense experience on any Phnom Penh tour.

And for good reason.

Nearly 21% of the population of Cambodia (1.7 to 2.5 million) were either executed or died of starvation or sickness in the forced labor camps that became widespread during the three years (late 1975-1979) that Pol Pot was Premier of the ruling Khmer Rouge Party.

The Khmer Rouge slaughtered the scientists, teachers, doctors and other intellectuals first. Many of them lie in the mass graves at The Killing fields and / or were tortured at the Toul Sleng prison, which was once a high School before The Khmer Rouge turned it into a torture prison.

There is no way to avoid the horror of Cambodia's past nor should you try. We've included all of the significant sites to see on any Phnom Penh tour, including some that completely avoid the war memorials.

This Full Day Phnom Penh Tour is a good, budget priced tour. It gives you a good mix of all the essential tour sites such as The King's Palace, the Silver Pagoda, the National Museum, and Tuol Sleng Prison.

Phnom Penh Tour

Here are some other things to see or do on your Phnom Penh tour. Our list does include the most popular sites but also includes some not-so-popular and not-so-well-known things to see or do.

Phnom Penh Tour Destinations

The Killing Fields in Phnom Penh is where the Khmer Rouge buried thousands of their victims in mass grave sites. A lone monument stands in tribute to the dead. The monument is more than 20' tall and displays a tower of human skulls that reaches to the ceiling of the glass monument.

The human skulls, bones and clothing articles uncovered in the surrounding fields make up the contents of the Memorial at the Killing Fields.

The Fields are located in the peaceful countryside just 30min outside of the City. It's such a beautiful drive out there on a motorbike or a Tuk Tuk that it becomes an almost surreal experience.

It saddened me especially after already visiting the Toul Sleng Museum that same day. But I did visit the Killing Fields and you can see the video here.

Read more about The Killing Fields of Cambodia and get photos, videos, and learn the best ways to get out there.

Prior to 1975 the Toul Sleng Genocidal Museum was once a high school filled with innocent children enjoying the freedom and bliss of their youth. Under the Khmer Rouge (KR) it was transformed into a place of torture for potential dissidents and opposition.

The Khmer Rouge most feared the educated people within Cambodia. They were the only ones capable of mounting opposition and organizing the masses. Doctors, School Teachers, Lawyers, Engineers etc. were rounded up and sent to Toul Sleng Prison, where they were shackled to the walls or beds and tortured in horrendous ways.

The building now serves as a Museum and Memorial.

Read more about Toul Sleng (S-21) Prison, including photos, videos and the best ways to get there.

The Royal Palace was built in 1866 by King Norodom. It is now home to His Majesty Preah Bat Samdech Preah Norodom Sihanouk, King of Cambodia and Her Majesty Preah Reach Akka-Mohesey Norodom Monineath Sihanouk, the Queen of Cambodia.

Phnom Penh Tour

The King's Palace is worth the effort and entrance fees on any Phnom Penh Tour. Within its walls is The Silver Pagoda with 5000 1/4" solid silver tiles covering its floor.

You'll also find the Giant Jade Buddha Statue and numerous -and some priceless- other ancient Buddhist treasures. The King's Palace in Phnom Penh was built in 1866 and looks much like the King's Palace in Thailand, only on a smaller dimension.

You can find the King's Palace Between Street 240 and Street 184 on Sothearos Boulevard. You can't miss it if you go for a westerly stroll along the Riverside.

They are still charging $6.50US for an entrance fee but it seems to change quite frequently. They'll make you pay extra if you want to bring along your camera and more still if you want to use a video camera. Last time it was an extra 5000riel ($1.25USD) and $2USD for a video camera.

At least their opening hours remain the same. They open up at 7:30am but then close down for a 3 hour lunch break. Then they re-open again a 2pm and close for good at 5pm. It's nicest to see the King's Palace in the evening (at the end of your Phnom Penh tour) because they often have the outside lights burning bright and the Palace is quite a site when they do.

  • The Royal Palace of the Kingdom of Cambodia

You can get into the Palace Grounds and into many buildings like the Coronation hall, The Open-Air Theater where the Royal Dance Troupe performs. There is also the Silver Pagoda, which houses a solid gold Buddha encrusted with 9584 diamonds and weighs in at 90 kilos! There is also a small 17th century emerald and baccarat crystal Buddha statue.

Did I mention that the floor of the Silver Pagoda is covered with 5000 quarter-inch-thick .999% pure silver tiles. All the jewels and the silver floor and the sheer audacity of it all are astounding.

You can also see the architecturally incongruous Napoleon III Pavilion shipped and reassembled in Cambodia as a gift of the French Empress Eugenie in the early 20th century.

The King's residence remains off limits to tourists.

  • The Cambodia National Museum

Located just a block North of the Royal Palace, the National Museum has recently been restored and represents the finest of Phnom Penh's architecture.

Near the Kings Palace, Phnom Penh

There are more than 5,000 works of art on display at the National Museum. They range in age from the early 7th Century to the late 13th century.

The museum itself is a work of art yet it takes a certain type of person to fully enjoy a visit. It is not the Louvre and the air inside is stagnant and the art pieces all start to look the same after an hour or so. There were a few pieces that came from the famous Angkor Wat but very few.

The Khmer art was interesting for an hour or so but it takes someone with a real knowledge of the background to keep me interested. I love a good story!

It's there if you are an Asian art buff but if you've come down here from Angkor Wat then it's a let-down.

This Monument was inaugurated in 1958 to celebrate the independence of Cambodia from foreign rule. It now also serves as a tribute to Cambodia's war dead.

It's a tall brownish-colored pillar with some striking Khmer sculpting designs. Trespassing onto or near the monument is strictly forbidden but it's set at the center of a large, busy roundabout. It is a beautiful sight to see, especially during the early evening when the lights are on.

It's not something you would spend more that 20 minutes looking at.

The best thing to do is to hire a motorbike driver or a Tuk-Tuk to take you around the main city streets. The monument is not far from the Riverside or even the Central market. It should not cost more than 4,000-5,000 Riel (4,000 Riel=1 Dollar US).

Another MUST on a good Phnom Penh Tour. Wat Phnom is a small hill crowned by an active Temple and claimed as the founding place of Phnom Penh.

Get more information about Wat Phnom including how to get there and what to look out for on our Wat Phnom Page.

  • The Russian Market

Located just off of Mao Tse Tung Street and Monivong Blvd, the Russian Market is a bit farther out of town. It should not cost more than $2USD to get there on Motorbike or $3USD by Tuk-Tuk.

One of the best Markets for finding everything from Yards of Silk to clothing, Wood Carvings, Pirated Software, and Movies. The area around the Russian Market is a fast growing destination for restaurant goers looking for everything from Korean food to Tex Mex.

  • The Central Market

The Central market is an essential part of any good Phnom Penh Tour. The Market is located between the Bus Station and the Soriya Shopping Center in the center of the city. You can't really miss the Stadium-like dome roof that distinguishes the skyline. The Central Market is a great place to find fake Rolex watches as well as other high-end time pieces.

You can't tell the fakes from the real ones anymore (Unless you open them up).

You'll also find t-shirts for $2USD, jewelry of all kinds, Khmer artwork and handicrafts, cheap electronic goods and an outdoor food stall that serves up some excellent local cuisine. The Central Market is yet to go the way of the many other markets that are filled with cheap plastic trinkets from China.

  • Wat Ounalom

Wat Ounalom was more interesting and beautiful than even the Royal Palace. It is a place that manages to entirely escape the busy whirlwind of street-life in Phnom Penh.

The Monks get far fewer tourists on their Phnom Penh Tour than the Royal Palace. Therefore, they are more open, friendly and eager to practice their English. They are always willing to give you a tour of the Temple and you will learn more about Wat Ounalom than you ever would without a Monk-Led tour.

Or ever could at the Royal Palace (Even if you do pay for a tour guide at the entrance).

Watch the Monks light up when they speak of the only 'Authentic' eyebrow hair of the Buddha himself. It is housed in the inner building at the back of Wat Ounalom.

Remember that it is free to enter the Temple but I always leave a small donation of a few Dollars.

The eyebrow is the highlight of any Phnom Penh Tour!

Learn more about Wat Ounalom at TripAdvisor.


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