Phnom Penh, the capital city of Cambodia, has been around since the 14th century. It has survived wars, a cruel communist regime, and the occupations of both Japan and France. Despite its tumultuous history, it has become a popular destination in Southeast Asia.
Over the past decade, it has become a welcoming place with lots of nooks and crannies to explore. There are temples, museums, and bars just waiting to be discovered. So what are the best areas to stay in during your trip to the biggest Cambodian city?
The best areas to stay in are Daun Penh and Chamkar Mon as these two areas are home to most of the must-see tourist attractions in the city. Both areas are along the Mekong River, and lots of restaurants and hotels to choose from.
The Tuol Kouk zone earns an honorable mention. While its not the best zone it i is a cheap zone. It’s for those hoping to see the city that are one a tight budget. The accommodation in this area is more affordable, and it’s got cafes up the wazoo.
Daun Penh is one of the liveliest neighborhoods in the city. It’s a tourist hot spot, and the perfect starting point for your tour of Cambodia’s capital.
There is no shortage of entertainment along the waterfront area known as Sisowath Quay. You can meander down the boardwalk and embrace the Cambodian way of life. There are manicured gardens, delicious cafes, and artisanal shops to discover throughout Daun Penh.
Often, you will find locals selling tickets to different kinds of events. Choose from traditional Cambodian dance shows and concerts or kickboxing matches.
I highly recommend a sunset cruise on the river. Local guides take pride in their city and provide an amazing experience. The tour provides guests with interesting information about the city’s history, and the view from the riverboats is one of the best in the city.
Towards the south of Daun Penh, you will find many of the city’s main tourist attractions like the Royal Palace, the National Museum, and Wat Phnom.
The highlights of the palace are the Silver Pagoda and the Temple of the Emerald Buddha. In walking distance from the palace is the National Museum of Cambodia which has the best collection of art and ancient artifacts in the entire country.
You will also find Wat Phnom in Daun Penh. Wat Phnom or ” Hill Temple” is the city’s most noteworthy temple as it is considered by locals to be one of the most sacred buildings in the city.
The architecture of Daun Penh is also worth noting. Many of the buildings were constructed during the French Occupation of Cambodia so they have a French-colonial style to them. One of these buildings houses Phenom Penh’s central market; a bustling shopping center that has an array of cheap and delicious local cuisine.
So why stay in Daun Penh? Well, it’s a lively neighborhood with at least three of the city’s main attractions just a short walk away and it has an upbeat vibe that comes alive at night. It’s got the largest concentration of hotels, and there is a unique mix of modern Western Pubs combined with local Cambodian Restaurants. It won’t be difficult to find a place to stay or a place to chow down.
Just to the south of the happening Daun Penh district is Chamkar Mon. It’s a little quieter there and it has a different kind of charm.
In Chamkar Mon, you will find numerous tourist attractions such as Independence Monument, Nagaworld Resort, Entertainment Complex, and more somber Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum.
Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum – also known as Prison- 21 was the sight of the suffering of millions of the Cambiodan at the hands of the ruthless communist leader Pol Pot in the 70s. Today you can tour the high school turned prison turned museum and pay your respects at the site where so many atrocities happened to the Cambodian people.
Other things to see in the Chamkar Mon zone include the Independence memorials that commemorate Cambodia’s freedom from the French in 1953, Wat Than, and Wat Toul Tom Poung.
There is a little island right to the west of Chamkar Mon called Koh Pich or “Diamond Island” which is one of the more modern areas in the city. You go golfing at a golf driving range, visit the International Exhibition center, and go to the main theatre that hosts local and international artists alike.
If you’re looking to do some shopping, Chamkar Mon is the place to do it. Spend your hard-earned money at a large mall called Aeon Mall. There is also a myriad of hotels and restaurants to choose from here as well.
If you want to be close to the action, but not smack dab in the middle of it, Chamkar Mon is a good option. It’s got the perfect mix of modern amenities and tourist attractions.
Just behind both Chamkar Mon and Daun Penh is the Tuol Kouk district. Tuol Kouk is a vivacious neighborhood known for its cafes that sit on every street corner. It’s also the best area for those traveling on a budget as there are more cheap hotels and hostels.
You will also find the famous Russian Market in Tuol Kouk. Think of it as Cambodia’s version of Wal-Mart. You can find literally anything you need there. It’s your one-stop shop for fruits and veggies, knock-off clothes, jewelry, and electronics.
To Sum Up
Each distinct area of Phnom Penh has something different to offer, so consider what landmarks are you most eager to see and choose a district that’s close by. You will enjoy your time in Cambodia no matter which area you choose to stay in.