Phnom Penh, the capital of Cambodia since 1434, is not only the biggest but also the wealthiest city in the country. The city is in the south-central part of the country and offers beautiful and historical architecture and attractions such as the Royal Palace, vintage colonial buildings, and temples.

    Some major parts of the city are divided up by grand boulevards including Monivong and Norodom boulevards going north to south and Pochentong and Sihanouk boulevards going east to west.


    Wat Phnom and Northern Part of the City

    The area around Wat Phnom and the northern part of Phnom Penh is where many people considered the city centre. There's lovely vintage colonial architecture around with a good number of upmarket dining venues, too.

    You can find a variety of accommodation, from 3-star to luxury hotels in the area, including Sunway Hotel Phnom Penh and Raffles Hotel Le Royal. The Boeng Kak area, once known as a backpacker centre, is surrounded by residential areas, restaurants, hotels and embassies.


    Central District and Psar Thmei Market

    Psar Thmei, Phnom Penh’s biggest market, is easy to spot with its interesting art-deco dome and central location. Shoppers will enjoy strolling around and checking out the goods on offer. The market has everything, from fresh food to gold and cheap electronic gadgets to animals – you name it! There are food stands, restaurants (many are Chinese), cafés and bars around the market.

    The city’s most modern department store, Sorya Mall, is also a short walk away. This area is a major landmark of the city, so you can easily find many choices of accommodation around.


    photo by Olaf Tausch (CC BY 3.0) modified


    Boeung Keng Kang 1 Area

    Boeung Keng Kang 1 (or BKK1 for short) is located southeast of the Independence Monument. The area is known as the foreigner or NGO or UN neighbourhood – this is where you’ll find embassies, UN and NGO offices and many stylish restaurants, cafés, boutiques, spas and travel agents, as well as modern apartments. The area is considered the most charming in Phnom Penh.

    There’s a local market by the name Boeung Keng Kang Market worth having a look at, with many clothes and second-hand products for sale. Also, if you fancy ‘real’ local food, stop by the stalls just south of the monument. Here they have food available until very late at night. Hotel options abound in this area, such as the Frangipani Villa-90s Hotel and La Palm Boutique Hotel.


    Riverfront Area (Sisowath Quay)

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    Sisowath Quay is a long boulevard that runs along the intersection of the Tonlé Sap and Mekong rivers for about 3 km. The boulevard is lined with boutiques, bars, cafés, restaurants and luxury hotels (including the FCC Phnom Penh Boutique Hotel and The Quay Boutique Hotel).

    There are ample dining and drinking options along the way, whether you're up for sampling authentic Khmer, Mexican, French Indian or Italian flavours. In between, you can enjoy a variety of things to see and do, from releasing live birds from cages to getting your fortune told by one of the many fortune tellers lining the esplanade. 

    On the western side of the Sisowath Quay is the Royal Palace that is still the residence of Cambodia’s king. For learning about the culture and history of Cambodia, you can head to the National Museum from Sisowath Quay and explore one of the world’s largest collections of Khmer cultural and historical artefacts.


    photo by Ken Marshall (CC BY 2.0) modified


    Street 51, BKK1 Area

    Street 51 in BKK 1 Area is the place to go after dark, especially when you feel lonely and need someone to talk to, or if you're simply looking for late-night entertainment.

    Most places along this street open early in the evening and carry on until late or, in some cases, until the sunrise. There are even a few bars that are open 24/7 and never close their doors. Among the most popular clubs and bars on Street 51 to check out are Heart of Darkness and Shanghai Bar and Restaurant.


    photo by Blemished Paradise (CC BY-SA 2.0) modified


    Prek Leap District

    Prek Leap is outside Phnom Penh and is very popular among locals as a dining and nightlife district. You'll know that you're in the right place once you start to see the restaurant signs, one after another, all in Khmer. Most of the venues here offer authentic Khmer and/or Khmer–Chinese food.

    As for the entertainment scene, expect to see many karaokes, comedy shows and other stage shows. To get there, simply cross the Cambodian-Japanese Friendship Bridge and follow Route 6. It’s safest to get there by taxi.

    photo by Photogoddle (CC BY-SA 4.0) modified

    Paul Smith | Compulsive Traveller

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