Some of these sites in Phnom Penh can be heavy yet crucial sites, some showcase Cambodia’s beautiful art and history.
During your next trip to Phnom Penh, visit these four top-notch museums and sites that bring the rich and complex history of Cambodia to the forefront:
National Museum of Cambodia
Preah Ang Eng St. (13), Phnom Penh, Cambodia
This gorgeous semi-outdoor museum displays the finest collection of Khmer art in the world. Just the building itself is worth the trip. Built in 1917, the terracotta temple-like structure with a lush and tranquil courtyard garden is a fine example of Khmer architecture. At the National Museum of Cambodia, you can witness hundreds of examples of Angkorian art and statuary, many of which are examples of repatriation from the looting of these sacred sites.
The museum does a lot of work to preserve and educate others on the rich history of the Angkor empire to show why it is crucial to the formation of modern Cambodia. I would also highly recommend attending a dance show in the evening at the museum’s performance space. Khmer traditional dance is an extraordinary art form and a great way to understand even more about the country’s artistic landscape. The museum is open daily from 8.00am until 5.00pm and tickets are 10$ per person.
Choeung Ek Genocidal Center
ផ្លូវជើងឯក, Phnom Penh, Cambodia
The Choeung Ek Genocidal center is a heavy yet crucial site for any foreigner to visit. I strongly believe that history repeats itself if we do not learn from its mistakes, so learning about the Cambodian genocide will helps you understand the country a bit more. The brutal Khmer Rouge regime under the leadership of Pol Pot lasted from 1975-1979 during which over a million people died.
The memorial is located on a former mass grave of the Khmer Rouge, and the haunting stories and tragedies seep through the whole grounds. The stupa memorial in the center is an eerie site, filled with human skulls to be sure that no one forgets about this vast suffering. It is crucial that you visit this memorial during your trip and listen to the stories of survivors. I promise that the memorial will teach you so much about the resilience and strength of the Khmer people. An audio guide is available in English and the center is open daily 7:30am-5:30pm with tickets for 3$ per person.
The Royal Palace
Samdach Sothearos Blvd (3), Phnom Penh, Cambodia
The Royal Palace is one of the biggest tourist attractions in Phnom Penh. Today, it is still the official residence of King Norodom Sihamoni. The king’s quarters are closed to the public, but most of the other sites inside the complex are open to tourists. For example, The Silver Pagoda is a site like no other, covered with 5,000 blocks of silver with a crystal Buddha statue made out of nearly 10,000 diamonds.
There is also the famous Moonlight Pavilion which is a performance space for the royal dancers and the location of many royal banquets and ceremonies. Last but not least, you must visit the Throne Hall. This extravagant and decadent center of the palace complex is where the king and queen sit for coronation and special events. The palace is open daily 7:30-11am and 2-5pm and admission costs $6.50.
Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum
រាជធានី, សង្កាត់បឹងកេងកង៣ ខណ្ឌចំការមន, St 113, Phnom Penh 12304, Cambodia
This museum is located in a former secondary school that was turned into the primary prison during the Khmer Rouge. Around 20,000 people were imprisoned here and most were tortured and/or executed. According to the museums’ website, only 12 prisoners survived after the prison’s end and only 4 are still alive today. If you are looking for an extended account of the genocide, this museum will go into great detail of what happened. Similarly to the Choeung Ek memorial, visitors must visit one of these two sites in order to learn as much as they can about the country’s dark history. The museum’s overall goal is to educate and create messengers for peace, hoping that this history never has to repeat itself. The museum is open every day from: 8:00 am –5:00 pm and admission costs 5$ per person.
There is so much to see in Phnom Penh so don’t forget to carve out some important time for these educational and engaging sites!