The National Museum in Phnom Penh is worth a visit to learn more about the history of Cambodia. It displays artefacts covering 2,000 years of Khmer history, from small wooden boxes or ceramic bowls to huge stone or bronze statues! With many objects from the pre-Angkor period, it provides an interesting framework for what you see when visiting the temples of Angkor. It’s housed in a beautiful building from the 1920s, next to the Royal Palace, making it convenient to visit in combination with the Palace!
The National Museum was established in the 1920s and the architecture of the building alone is worth a visit. The halls are arranged around a courtyard with ponds and trees, so you can take a break if all the Buddha statues are becoming too much!
The Khmer Empire constructed the great cities of Angkor that dwarfed European cities of its time and the National Museum is an easy way to learn a little more about the history of Cambodia. You’ll immediately see the influence of the Hindu and Buddhist religion and their Indian roots on the Khmer, with large statues of Buddha and Hindu gods a key part of the exhibit. Just as with European art of the time, you’ll be able to see the evolution of the art over the centuries, with the artists refining their techniques. Carved stone tablets provide much of what is known about those times.
Travel Tips: The National Museum is located next to the Royal Palace, making it a great option to visit after the Palace. A leisurely stroll through the exhibits and garden courtyard will take about 1h. The National Museum Phnom Penh entrance fee is $10 for adults and the opening hours are from 8:00-17:00h daily. I learned after my visit that photography was not permitted in the museum, but it was not enforced when snapping photos with a phone.
The entrance fee sounded a little steep, but the National Museum is also supporting other museums and exhibits to preserve Cambodian history and artwork – and after the devastation the Khmer Rouge wrecked upon the country, that’s a big job indeed, worth the contribution and a visit when in Phnom Penh!