Top 6 historical sites to visit in Phnom Penh

The striking beauty of the national museum.

As development gradually takes its course, Cambodia manages to reverently preserve its rich cultural heritage, making any travel experience here both eye-opening and humbling.

Phnom Penh is noticeably more dynamic compared to Siem Reap. Buildings are taller, there are more cars on the roads, while the famed NagaWorld sits loftily in the heart of the capital.

From the very moment one sets foot here, the bustling metropolis offers many offbeat adventures. The historical landmarks in this city are plentiful and undeterred by modernisation.

Listed below are the top six historical places to visit in Phnom Penh for those seeking to learn more about this exotic country.

1. Killing Fields of Choeung Ek

The former Killing Fields, Choeung Ek is a mass grave for victims killed by the Khmer Rouge between 1975 and 1979. Located 17 kilometres south of Phnom Penh, the site contains 8,895 bodies – most of them former politicians imprisoned by the Khmer Rouge regime.

Today, it serves as a memorial and is marked by a Buddhist stupa filled with over 5,000 human skulls. Fragments of bones and items of clothing are visible in the pits.

10 Best Attractions in Phnom Penh
The imposing Royal Palace.

2. Royal Palace

The Royal Palace has served as the residence of the King of Cambodia since its construction in 1866. It showcases exemplary Khmer architecture with some minor French influence.

The complex is also home to important monuments and features such as the Temple of the Emerald Buddha, the throne hall, stupas, towering spires and mural paintings.

What to See in Phnom Penh
The black and white photos at the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum speak volumes about the genocide.

3. Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum

The Tuol Sleng museum in Phnom Penh chronicles the Cambodian genocide. It is a former high school which was converted into the notorious Security Prison 21 by the Khmer Rouge regime.

Tuol Sleng translates to “Hill of the Poisonous Trees”, and is one of at least 150 execution centres that were used to kill more than 1.7 million people.

10 Top Tourist Attractions in Phnom Penh
The Silver Pagoda reaches majestically for the sky.

4. Silver Pagoda

Known locally as Wat Ubosoth Ratanaram or Temple of the Emerald-Crystal Buddha, the Silver Pagoda is located at the south side of the Royal Palace. It was built using the Grand Palace in Bangkok as a model and it houses a sacred emerald green crystal Buddha.

The surrounding wall is painted with murals of the Reamker (of Ramayana fame) which were completed in 1904.

What to see and do in Phnom Penh
The sparkling gold filigree makes Wat Ounalom really stand out.

5. Wat Ounalom

Located on the Sisowath Quay, Wat Ounalom is the centre of Cambodian Buddhism and it is the most important wat in Phnom Penh. Built in 1443, the stupa on its main complex is believed to contain a strand of Buddha’s eyebrow hair and an inscription in Pali.

6. National Museum of Cambodia

The National Museum of Cambodia is the largest museum of cultural history and the leading archaeological museum in the country. It contains a collection of over 14,000 items, including Khmer sculptures, ceramics, bronzes, and ethnographic objects.

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Grace Ng is a serial wanderluster, solo female traveler, award-winning recipe developer and travel writer.