This Phnom Penh travel guide will help you to find the attractions, events and must see things to do in Cambodia’s capital city. Phnom Penh is the home of the Royal Palace, and is located at the confluence of The Mekong River and the Tonle Sap River in the south of the country. By far the largest city in the country, it has been the capital since the days of French colonial rule. Once known as the Pearl of Asia, it was widely considered to be the most beautiful French built city in all of Indochina.
Phnom Penh is a curious place in many ways. For the vast majority of people who travel to Cambodia, it is a small town with a great riverfront area. They may visit the temple and the palace, then move on. Arrive from the south however and you get some idea of the scale of things. It is a very large city. The majority of it though is sadly run down, and somewhat plain. It is far removed from a tourist attraction once you venture out a mile or two.
What you’ll find in our Phnom Penh travel guide
There are many things to see in this former colonial city, making it one of the top places to visit in Southeast Asia. The development of hotels, bars, restaurants and cafes in recent years has been incredible.
It has had a chequered history to say the least, and the years of conflict have blighted its development. During the dreadful days of Khmer Rouge rule, this was the seat of power for Pol Pot’s forces. They cut off the city and starved it into submission in an act that lasted a year before it finally fell on April 17th 1975. The Khmer Rouge immediately began the forcible evacuation of the entire city. In the following 4 years it is estimated that some 2 million people died in one of the most brutal regimes the world has ever seen. The former high school became a mass extermination camp and is now Toul Sleng Genocide Museum dedicated to the memory of those who lost their lives. This is the area that became known the world over as, “The Killing Fields”. Read about this in this Phnom Penh travel guide. Tours leave Phnom Penh every day.
Today the city is a faded version of what the French built. Magnificent colonial houses along Sisowath Quay, the main riverfront, are faded and jaded, though this merely adds to the charm of the place. The people are remarkably friendly and smiley, and despite what has happened to them, strangers are made to feel welcome here. This is the best place to find somewhere to eat and drink, a spa or do some shopping.
The Royal Palace is inside a walled complex of buildings that also includes the Silver Pagoda and other tourist attractions. The city has many good hotels and shops and is served by Phnom Penh International Airport. Flights arrive every day from Bangkok and Ho Chi Minh City among many other destinations.
Use the Phnom Penh travel guide to help make your stay in the city more informed.