3-Day Itinerary to Phnom Penh: A Cultural and Historical Tour (2023)

3-Day Itinerary to Phnom Penh: A Cultural and Historical Tour (2023)

Independence Monument, Phnom Penh | Photo: allPhoto Bangkok

Phnom Penh, the capital city of Cambodia, is a bustling metropolis located at the confluence of the Mekong, Tonle Sap, and Bassac Rivers. The city has a rich history and culture that is reflected in its ancient temples, vibrant markets, and modern architecture. Phnom Penh was founded in the 14th century and has since been the center of Cambodian politics, economics, and culture.

The purpose of this article is to provide a comprehensive 3-day itinerary for visitors to Phnom Penh, highlighting the city’s must-see attractions, cultural experiences, and local cuisine. Whether you’re interested in exploring the city’s history and cultural heritage, experiencing local life and cuisine, or taking a day trip to nearby destinations, this itinerary has something for everyone. So, without further ado, let’s dive into the best things to do and see in Phnom Penh.

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Day 1: Exploring Phnom Penh’s Historical and Cultural Sites

The Silver Pagoda inside the Royal Palace | Mohan Nannapaneni

Day 1 in Phnom Penh is all about exploring the city’s historical and cultural sites. There are many fascinating attractions to discover that offer insights into the rich and complex history of Cambodia.

  • 8:00 AM: Start the day at the Royal Palace and Silver Pagoda. Spend about 2 hours here, exploring the grounds and learning about the history of the Khmer monarchy and Buddhism in Cambodia.
  • 10:00 AM: Take a short walk to the National Museum of Cambodia. Spend about 2 hours here, admiring the impressive collection of Khmer art and artifacts.
  • 12:00 PM: Head to Friends the Restaurant, a social enterprise that serves delicious Cambodian and international cuisine. It’s located near the National Museum and is a great place to grab lunch.
  • 1:30 PM: Take a tuk-tuk to the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum. Spend about 2 hours here, learning about the Khmer Rouge regime and its atrocities.
  • 4:00 PM: Take a tuk-tuk to the Choeung Ek Killing Fields. Spend about 1.5 hours here, exploring the site and paying your respects to the victims.
  • 6:00 PM: Head back to the city center and have dinner at Romdeng, a restaurant that serves traditional Cambodian cuisine with a modern twist. It’s located near the Independence Monument and is a great place to unwind and reflect on the day’s experiences.
  • 8:00 PM: End the day with a drink at Eclipse Sky Bar, which offers stunning views of the city skyline from its rooftop terrace.

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Day 2: Experiencing Phnom Penh’s Local Life and Cuisine

Central Market | By Rik Schuiling / TropCrop-TCS – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=113510928

Day 2 in Phnom Penh offers a chance to experience the city’s local life and cuisine, from the hustle and bustle of the markets to the delicious flavors of Khmer cuisine.

  • 8:00 AM: Start the day with a visit to the Central Market, one of the largest and busiest markets in Phnom Penh. Spend about 1-2 hours here, wandering through the maze of stalls and browsing a variety of goods, including jewelry, textiles, and souvenirs.
  • 10:00 AM: Take a tuk-tuk to the nearby Olympic Stadium, which is a popular spot for locals to exercise and socialize. Here, you can join in a game of badminton or simply people-watch and soak up the atmosphere.
  • 12:00 PM: Head to Daughters of Cambodia, a social enterprise that provides employment and training to survivors of sex trafficking. The restaurant serves delicious Khmer and Western dishes, and your meal supports a worthy cause.
  • 1:30 PM: Visit the Russian Market, another popular shopping destination in Phnom Penh. The market is known for its clothing, shoes, and electronics, and you can practice your bargaining skills to get a good deal.
  • 3:00 PM: Take a tuk-tuk to the Cambodian Living Arts Center, which is dedicated to preserving traditional Khmer performing arts. Here, you can attend a performance or workshop and learn more about Cambodia’s rich cultural heritage.
  • 6:00 PM: Have dinner at Malis, one of Phnom Penh’s best Khmer restaurants. The menu features a variety of authentic dishes, including amok and num banh chok.
  • 7:30 PM: Take a sunset cruise on the Tonle Sap and Mekong Rivers, which offers a unique perspective on the city and a chance to relax and unwind after a busy day. You can enjoy a drink and some snacks on board while taking in the beautiful views.

Day 3: Day Trip to Phnom Chisor and Silk Island

FCC | By Paul Arps from The Netherlands – The FCC (Phnom Penh, Cambodia 2011), CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=82917834

Day 3 in Phnom Penh offers a chance to explore some of Cambodia’s ancient history and traditional culture, from the hilltop temples of Phnom Chisor to the silk weaving villages of Silk Island. The day ends with a relaxing evening at the FCC and a delicious dinner at Friends the Restaurant.

  • 8:00 AM: Start your day by taking a private car or tuk-tuk to Phnom Chisor, which is located about 50 kilometers south of Phnom Penh. The drive takes about 1-2 hours, depending on traffic.
  • 10:00 AM: Upon arrival at Phnom Chisor, hike up to the hilltop temple complex to enjoy stunning views of the surrounding countryside and learn about Cambodia’s ancient history. Spend about 1-2 hours here exploring the ruins, taking photos, and admiring the scenery.
  • 12:00 PM: Return to your vehicle and head back towards Phnom Penh. Stop for lunch at Pho Cali, a local restaurant that serves delicious Vietnamese noodle soup and other dishes.
  • 1:30 PM: Take a short boat ride to Silk Island, which is known for its traditional Cambodian silk production. Visit a local silk weaving village to see how silk is made, and learn about the island’s history and culture. You can also explore the island’s peaceful pagodas and gardens.
  • 4:30 PM: Return to Phnom Penh by boat and take a tuk-tuk to the Foreign Correspondents’ Club (FCC), a historic colonial-era building that is now a popular bar and restaurant. Enjoy a drink and some snacks while taking in the views of the Tonle Sap River.
  • 7:00 PM: Have dinner at Friends the Restaurant, a social enterprise that provides training and employment opportunities to underprivileged youth. The menu features a mix of Khmer and Western dishes, and your meal supports a worthy cause.

Phnom Penh offers a rich and diverse experience for visitors, with a mix of ancient history, vibrant culture, and delicious cuisine. Over the course of three days, you can explore some of the city’s most iconic landmarks, learn about Cambodia’s dark past, experience local life and cuisine, and take a day trip to nearby attractions.

On Day 1, you can visit the Royal Palace, Silver Pagoda, National Museum of Cambodia, and Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum to learn about the country’s history and culture. On Day 2, you can experience local life and cuisine by visiting the Central Market and trying some of Phnom Penh’s most famous dishes, and then enjoy a relaxing sunset cruise on the Tonle Sap and Mekong Rivers. On Day 3, you can take a day trip to Phnom Chisor to enjoy stunning views and learn about ancient history, and visit Silk Island to see how traditional Cambodian silk is made and explore the island’s peaceful villages and pagodas.

Phnom Penh is a fascinating city that has something to offer for everyone. Whether you’re interested in history, culture, cuisine, or just want to explore a new place, this city is definitely worth a visit. So pack your bags and head to Phnom Penh to discover all that this amazing city has to offer!