Have just a single day to spend in Cambodia’s capital city? Here’s how you might make the most of your time (with a few choose-your-own adventure options).
You’ll want to start out before the heat of the day either with a visit to the Russian Market, where you can buy anything from hats and glitter to noodles and bananas, …
… or with a walk along the Tonle Sap River.
Before it gets too hot, visit the grounds of the Royal Palace.
The entire visit here is outdoors, so it’s best to arrive while it’s still relatively cool (ticket sales open at 8:00). While you can only see building exteriors, it’s still a pretty wonderful collection of buildings and art. Note that aside from a single map, the Royal Palace complex is entirely uncurated, so you might want to get a guide to make sense of it all.
Walk a few blocks to the National Museum of Cambodia.
The collection here represents some of the best art (especially sculpture) from different eras of Cambodian history. It can be confusing at times — not everything is well labeled, many signs have question marks to indicate pieces’ unclear origins, and the promised audio guide does not exist — but you can see everything from the wondrous statuary of Angkor Wat to the world’s largest hand-woven shawl.
The museum is all the more remarkable when you consider the fact that it was closed during the rule of the Khmer Rouge (1975-1979), and that a combination of neglect and vandalism during that time left much of the collection in shambles.
Walk or take a tuk-tuk (or a remorque — more on those later) over to Enso Cafe, where you can cool off with a refreshing make-your-own ginger beer and then boost your energy with truly remarkable avocado toast.
A nice alternative lunch spot is The Shop, which also has great avocado toast and a wide selection of fun and yummy mini-tarts for dessert.
You have a number of options at this point:
If you want to explore Cambodia’s grim but important history, visit the Killing Fields or the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum (the latter was once a prison and interrogation center).
If you’d like to do a little shopping, you can stay on Oknha Chhun Street and visit Wattahn Artisans (clothing, bags, and gifts for a great cause), Garden of Desire (beautiful handcrafted silver jewelry), The Green Store 240 (eco gifts and home goods), or A.N.D. (clothes and handicrafts).
For a different kind of therapy, head down to lively Street 278 …
…and indulge in a hot stone massage at Samatha Spa (it’s not cheap compared to other massages in town, but it’s worth it).
To start off your evening, take a dip in a hotel pool (this is the one at The Pavillion) …
… have a snack at a rooftop bar (this is the view from the Penh House and Jungle Addition Hotel) …
… or order a cocktail made with local ingredients (for something fun, try Elephant Bar at Raffles).
End your day with a sunset & dinner cruise along the Tonle Sap.
The boat will take you down the river to the confluence of the Mekong, and you’ll have amazing views along the way.
If you still have energy at this point, you can hop right across the street for some bargaining at the Night Market. And there are clubs, bars, and restaurants aplenty along the waterfront for those who want to stay up late!
If you’re wondering how to get around, tuk-tuks are plentiful — but if you’re looking for a bit more space and wind in your hair, the motorcycle-pulled carriage known as the remorque should be your vehicle of choice:
I’m going to share your blog with a friend who is traveling there in a few weeks!