Phnom Penh is a surprisingly large city, and each of its quarters has a markedly different character. Around the central market in the center traffic is hectic and the atmosphere buzzes with new-found commercial zeal. Around the so-called embassy district, refurbished colonial villas house diplomatic missions and private homes with large gardens. The most attractive part of the city is the long riverfront containing bars and restaurants where visitors and locals gather to watch the sunset.
Wat Phnom (Wat Phnom Daun Penh)
Legend has it that Daun Penh, a wealthy widow, retrieved a large koki tree trunk from the river. She had hoped to use it for a house, but inside a hollow of the trunk, she found four statues of the Buddha. She then ordered for a section of her property to be elevated for a small shrine to be erected to revere the statues.
Wat Phnom, the namesake and symbol of the capital city of Phnom Penh, sets prominently atop an artificial 27 meter hill (or ‘Phnom’) in the northeastern section of the city.
This became a sacred site and people started to settle around the hill; eventually, this became the city it now is. It is here that the city gets its name: Phnom means hill in Khmer and Penh is of course the name of the lady.
The compound was the citadel of King Ponhea Yat (1393-1463) and rebuilt to its present state in 1886, when King Norodom (1834-1904) relocated the royal capital from Oudong to Phnom Penh. The buildings with beautiful towering spires are a great example of classic Khmer architecture found in Cambodia today.
The Royal Palace of Cambodia is a complex of buildings, even though it is generally understood to be the royal abode of the King of Cambodia.
Originally a wooden structure, the palace was initially constructed in 1892 during the reign of King Norodom, but rebuilt to its present grandeur by King Norodom Sihanouk in 1962. The king spared no effort to make this a true embodiment of brilliant Khmer art.
The Silver Pagoda, also known as the Preah Vihear Preah Keo Morokat (the Emerald Pagoda) to Cambodians, lies within the grounds of the Royal Palace, which is situated near the banks of the Mighty Mekong.
More than 5300 pcs of 1.125 kilo silver tiles are used to cover the floor of the Silver Pagoda, and the silver pieces collectively weigh over six tons.
Independence Monument (Vimean Ekareach)
It is designed by the influential Cambodian modern architect Vann Molyvann in the form of a lotus-shaped stupa in the same style seen at the great Khmer temple at Angkor Wat and other Khmer historical sites.
Independence Monument (Vimean Ekareach) built in 1958 as a memorial to Cambodia’s war dead and to celebrate independence from foreign rule, the monument stands majestically on the intersection of Norodom Boulevard and Sihanouk Boulevard in the centre of the city.
Phsar Thmey (Central Market)
The location where the Central Market now sits was once a swamp area and occupied by a lake known as Beng Decho. Today, this beautiful market has become a prominent landmark in Phnom Penh. In the Khmer language, Phsar Thmey literally means New Market.
Phsar Thmey, also known as Central Market, is a unique colonial style building constructed in 1937.
Phsar Toul Tum Poung (Russian Market)
This market is popular to collectors of genuine antiques; also for those looking for good reproductions.
Toul Tum Poung market is often referred to as the Russian market because of its popularity among Russian expatriates during the 1980s.
At the moment, there are more than 150 stalls selling an array of items from clothing and ornaments to furniture and souvenirs. The entire setting of the Phnom Penh night market is made from natural material, and there are occasionally music performances and entertainment acts.
The night market in Phnom Penh, located in front of the Phsar Chas (Old Market) near the riverside, is perpetually crowded with tourists in search of a good bargain.
Toul Sleng Genocide Museum (S-21)
Inmates were systematically tortured to extract confessions, after which they were executed at the killing fields of Choeung Ek. S-21 processed over 17,000 people, less than a dozen of whom survived. The building now serves as a museum, a memorial and a testament to the madness of the Khmer Rouge regime.
Prior to 1975, Toul Sleng was a high school. When the Khmer Rouge came to power it was converted into the S-21 prison and interrogation facility.
Choeung Ek Memorial (The Killing Fields)
It was used by the Khmer Rouge regime as an execution ground to put down thousands of people between 1975 and 1979. The site is now better known as the Killing Fields.
Located about 17km south of Phnom Penh, Choeung Ek was once an orchard and a Chinese graveyard.
Mass graves containing thousands of bodies were discovered at Choeung Ek after the fall of the Khmer Rouge regime. Many of the dead were former inmates in the Tuol Sleng prison.