Many visitors to Cambodia bypass Phnom Penh and go straight to Angkor Wat or the Beaches of Cambodia – but Phnom Penh is well worth a visit. You’ll get insights into Cambodia’s unique and difficult history as a backdrop for people’s life today. And Phnom Penh is a lot more fun than people give it credit for, with great hotels, nice restaurants, spas and shops – and a river promenade to see and be seen during sunset, all of that at bargain prices!
Why you should go: I like to visit a country’s capital – it’s usually the economic, political and cultural heart of the country and a great way to see how people live today. That’s true in Phnom Penh do, one of the fastest growing capital cities in Asia. And it also gives insights into the gruesome history of the Khmer Rouge, important to understand modern Cambodia. Having been to Phnom Penh a few years after the civil war ended, it was great to see how lively Phnom Penh has become. And it’s the only city in Asia that give you a resort hotel experience in the heart of downtown, jungle pool and exceptional service included!
Need some more inspiration – check out my post Phnom Penh – why you should go!
Where to stay: For first-time visitors I recommend to stay near the Royal Palace, within easy walking distance to key touristic sights, the river promenade and many restaurants, bars and clubs. For return visitors or anybody wanting to soak up the feel of Phnom Penh, I’d recommend to stay in Boeng Keng Kang (BKK1), the upscale district popular with expats and well-to-do locals.
Once you have picked your favorite neighborhood, you have a choice between strictly local places with dark wood and Angkor-inspired art, hip and trendy hotels that could well be in New York or London or a resort-style oasis you’d only find on a tropical island. You can find my recommendations in the table below:
|Plantation Urban Resort||5*||Downtown||Luxury, Pool, Location|
|Blue Lime Hotel||4*||Downtown||Pool, Location|
|Aquarius Urban Resort||4*||Downtown||Style, Pool, Views|
|Manor House||3*||BKK1||Value, Pool|
|Rambutan Resort||4*||BKK1||Style, Pool|
|Patio Hotel||4*||BKK1||Style, Pool|
|Okay Boutique||2*||Downtown||Value, Views|
Not ready to book? Check out my reviews of hotels in Phnom Penh:
Plantation Urban Resort (dowtown, resort-style, upscale)
Blue Lime (downtown, resort-style, midscale)
Aquarius Urban Resort (downtown, hip & trendy, midscale)
Manor House (BKK1, resort-style, budget)
Patio (BKK1, hip & trendy, midscale)
Rambutan (BKK1, resort-style, midscale)
Okay Boutique (downtown, Khmer-style, budget)
What to do: Phnom Penh has been the capital of Cambodia since the French Colonial period and the Royal Palace with its beautiful throne hall and pagodas is the best place to explore that part of history. The National Museum with artifacts from centuries of Khmer society is right next door and a worthwhile destination, too.
The Tuol Sleng Prison and Killing Fields outside tell the shocking history of the Khmer Rouge who killed millions of people during their terror reign. It’s a tough visit, but the history is well worth remembering and honoring!
For a little lighter fare, I recommend a stroll along the river promenade during sunset – which is what pretty much everybody else in Phnom Penh appears to be doing at that time! Or you can just enjoy the peace & quiet of your hotel and do nothing – something I intend to do a lot of on my next trip to Phnom Penh!
For more tips, check out my post What to do in Phnom Penh!
How to get around: If you arrive at Phnom Penh’s airport, you can take a fixed-fee taxi ($12-18, make sure to agree before you leave) or the shiny new train into town. Once you are in the city, it’s easy to get around: the city is compact and there is an endless number of tuk tuks, rikshas, taxis and cars availabe to take you most places in minutes and for a few bucks. I recommend to stick with ride hail applications, like uber, grab or PassApp to avoid the hassle of negotiating a fair price. And do try a riksha or tuk tuk – they are a hoot to drive in the cool(er) evenings…
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