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Once considered the "Pearl of Asia," Phnom Penh was plagued with harrowing war and four years of Khmer Rouge abandonment. The city has been rebuilding since Vietnam ousted the Khmer Rouge in 1979 and today it is the thriving capital city of Cambodia.
Set on the banks of the Mekong River, Phnom Penh is a gorgeous city lined with broad boulevards and French colonial architecture. The streets are bursting with colourful, lively markets flowing with food vendors, and the charming cafe culture and bustling bar scene make Phnom Penh a hub of world class dining.
Take a tour beginning at the magnificent Royal Palace, home of the Cambodian Monarch, King Sihamoni. The glimmering gold spires dominate the city’s skyline, while inside the Palace complex you’ll find beautifully manicured gardens.
The adjacent Silver Pagoda has a floor made from over 5,000 silver tiles and holds an incredible collection of Buddha statues, including a life-sized Buddha encrusted with thousands of diamonds.
Stroll through the National Museum, a dramatic red sandstone building, home to a rich collection of ancient Khmer sculpture. You can then take a cyclo tour to take in the architectural landmarks of the city, including grand colonial buildings and glistening pagodas.
Visit the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum, a former school that became a prison for the torture and murder of thousands of men, women and children during the Khmer Rouge regime. Although it is a chilling site, it is an important historic account of the country’s tragic past.
Stop for lunch at Pour un Sourire d’Enfant, a fantastic project that has rescued thousands of children from scavenging for food from dumps around Phnom Penh.
We’ll then visit the Choeung Ek Killing Fields, a mass grave and now a memorial for one of the worst genocides in history. It is where the Khmer Rouge regime, led by Pol Pot, murdered millions of Cambodians between 1975 and 1979. Disturbing and emotional, this is an important site where you can learn about Cambodia’s harrowing past.
In the evening you can explore the flourishing nightlife and local arts scene. Relax with a refreshing drink on the waterfront balcony at the Foreign Correspondents Club. This famous and historical location has three floors of delicious international menus and cocktail creations.
Phnom Penh is a captivating city and an essential stop for any trip to Cambodia.
November to February is the best time to visit Phnom Penh, as temperatures are cooler and rainfall is at its lowest. The dry season runs from November to April, with hot dry days perfect for outdoor sightseeing.
The monsoon season runs from May to October, with the wettest months being September and October. Visit during the wet season if you prefer to avoid the crowds and don’t mind afternoon showers. Cambodia is the country with the highest number of public holidays in the world - a massive 28 - so the capital Phnom Penh has a full calendar of exciting festivals.
A trip to Phnom Penh is essential for any tour of Cambodia and we feature at least one night in Phnom Penh on all our suggested itineraries. Highlights include a tour of the city to the Grand Palace, as well as sobering visits to the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum and Choeung Ek Killing Fields. With lively markets to explore and fantastic dining to enjoy, you’ll likely want to stay longer than one night.
Stay at Raffles Hotel Le Royal, one of Cambodia’s most luxurious hotels, located at the heart of Phnom Penh. This grand historic hotel boasts a spa, two swimming pools and the excellent service that Raffles is renowned for. Villa Langka is a tranquil hideaway overlooking the Wat Langka temple. An elegantly refurbished colonial house surrounded by lush gardens and an outdoor swimming pool, you’ll adore this tropical paradise.
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