The 10 Best Cultural Activities in Phnom Penh, Cambodiaairport_transferbarbathtubbusiness_facilitieschild_activitieschildcareconnecting_roomcribsfree_wifigymhot_tubinternetkitchennon_smokingpetpoolresturantski_in_outski_shuttleski_storagesmoking_areaspastar

The 10 Best Cultural Activities in Phnom Penh, Cambodia

The Royal Palace in Phnom Penh
The Royal Palace in Phnom Penh | © Simon / Pixabay
The capital of Cambodia is a hive of cultural activity with an abundance of places to visit and learn more about the country’s rich culture and history. We throw the spotlight on 10 of the best.

National Museum of Cambodia

History Museum
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The National Museum of Cambodia boasts intricate ancient Khmer detail in its architecture
The National Museum of Cambodia boasts intricate ancient Khmer detail in its architecture | © Elite Studio / Shutterstock
Located next to the Royal Palace, the National Museum of Cambodia is home to more than 5,000 artefacts dating back to the ancient Angkorian period. Various rooms display a range of rare statues, lingas and other items, including the Leper King from Siem Reap and a giant 11thcentury bronze Vishnu. It equips visitors with some great knowledge ahead of a trip to Angkor Wat Archaeological Park.
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Accessibility & Audience:

Family Friendly, Kid Friendly

Atmosphere:

Indoors
Sun - Sat:
8:00 am - 5:00 pm

Choeung Ek Genocidal Center

Memorial
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The Buddhist stupa holding more than 5,000 skulls exhumed from the killing field at Choeung Ek
The Buddhist stupa holding more than 5,000 skulls exhumed from the killing field at Choeung Ek | © Marissa Carruthers
Between 1975 and 1979, the Pol Pot-led Khmer Rouge took over Cambodia, with an estimated two million people killed or dying from starvation and exhaustion. Almost 9,000 bodies were discovered at the mass graves of Choeung Ek, more commonly known as the Killing Fields. Now serving as a memorial, the site features a Buddhist stupa filled with human skulls retrieved from the fields. Visitors can walk around the exhumed graves and learn more through a headset-guided walking tour.
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Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum

History Museum
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Cells that held political prisoners at Tuol Sleng, also known as S-21
Cells that held political prisoners at Tuol Sleng, also known as S-21 | © Davide Calabresi / Shutterstock
This former high school in central Phnom Penh makes for a sobering visit for the horrific role it played during the Khmer Rouge regime. During that time, the former school was transformed into a political prisoners’ camp known as Security Prison 21 (S-21). Only seven prisoners survived, while many others were tortured and killed there, or sent to their deaths at Choeung Ek. Much of the site has been left as it was discovered in 1979 when the Vietnamese army liberated Phnom Penh. The blood-splattered walls, tiny brick cells and abandoned torture tools offer a sobering insight into the brutal regime.
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Atmosphere:

Indoors, Outdoors
Sun - Sat:
8:00 am - 5:00 pm

The Royal Palace and Silver Pagoda

Buddhist Temple, History Museum, Shrine
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The Royal Palace in Phnom Penh | © Simon / Pixabay
The Royal Palace serves as the King’s residence and home of the royal family, a venue for court ceremony and a symbol of the Kingdom. Sections are open to the public. The palace compound is also home to the Silver Pagoda, a prominent temple that takes a prominent place on the riverside and is named for its gleaming silver floor. Guests can stroll through the manicured gardens and discover the ornate temples, libraries and galleries inside the palace grounds.
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Accessibility & Audience:

Family Friendly

Atmosphere:

Outdoors, Indoors
Sun - Sat:
8:00 am - 10:30 am
Sun - Sat:
2:00 pm - 5:00 pm

Wat Langka

Buddhist Temple
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Wat Langka in Phnom Penh | © Marissa Carruthers
As one of Phnom Penh’s most important temples, Wat Langka is home to a large collection of practising monks and ancient scriptures. Guests are welcome to roam the sprawling grounds and temples, provided they behave respectfully. Free meditation sessions, led by a resident monk, are held in the spacious meditation hall every Monday, Thursday and Saturday, from 6pm to 7pm, and Sundays, from 8.30am to 9.30am and 10am for longer sessions.
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Wat Phnom

Park, Buddhist Temple
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Wat Phnom
Wat Phnom | © Lenar Musin / Shutterstock
Standing as the capital’s only hill, this well-manicured park, which doubles up as a roundabout and marks the official centre of the capital, offers welcome respite from Phnom Penh’s heat. Wat Phnom pagoda and its intricately-detailed temple sits atop and welcomes visitors, with foreigners paying a $1 fee. Steer clear of the mischievous, and often vicious, monkeys.
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Accessibility & Audience:

Family Friendly

Atmosphere:

Outdoors

Cambodian Living Arts' theatre show

Art Museum, History Museum
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Cambodian Living Arts
Cambodian Living Arts host a daily cultural show | © Cambodian Living Arts
As the main organisation tasked with bringing traditional arts back to life and steering it in a new, modern direction, Cambodian Living Arts trains musicians, dancers, singers, and other performers, providing them with the props to make a living from their art. One arm of their efforts are the daily shows at the capital’s National Museum, which run from 7 pm. to 8 pm. The Traditional Dance Show takes audiences on a journey from Angkor’s palaces to the villages of today through song, music, and theatre.
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Cambodian Living Arts' Art Tour

Art Gallery
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Join Cambodian Living Arts on an art tour of Phnom Penh | © fietzfotos / Pixabay
Helping to push forward Cambodia’s arts scene, Cambodian Living Arts (CLA) runs an arts tour of Phnom Penh. From architectural heritage sites to contemporary galleries, the capital is rich in arts and culture and this tour takes visitors to the highlights, including galleries and back-alley secrets, led by the artists and cultural leaders who are shaping the arts scene. Key stops include Chaktomuk Theatre, built by revered Khmer architect Vann Molyvann, and the Royal University of Fine Arts.
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Accessibility & Audience:

Family Friendly

Atmosphere:

Outdoors

Sovanna Phum Arts Association

Theater
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Sovanna Phum Arts Association
Sovanna Phum Arts Association, Phnom Penh | © Sovanna Phum Arts Association
Sovanna Phum Arts Association worked tirelessly to keep the arts alive in the capital. It employs more than 120 artists, and puts on a range of shows every Friday and Saturday at 7:30 pm. These include shadow puppet theatre, classical apsara dancing, folklore, mask dances, and traditional music. Visitors can also try their hand at dance, drums, or circus skills at a private workshop.
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Accessibility & Audience:

Family Friendly

Atmosphere:

Indoors
Sun - Sat:
8:00 am - 9:00 pm

Selapak

School
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Apsara dancers sport traditional Cambodian attire
Enjoy an apsara show | © Rawpixel / Shutterstock
If you fancy learning first hand the traditional art of apsara – Cambodian ballet – or bokator – the ancient Khmer martial art – then Selapak, which translates from Khmer to the arts, is a good place to start. It runs traditional dance and martial art initiation classes, demonstrations and lessons, all led by experts in their field. Private classes can be arranged on request.
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Accessibility & Audience:

Family Friendly

Atmosphere:

Indoors
Mon - Sat:
8:00 am - 8:00 pm