Street 184 near the Royal Palace $6-$10 for a dorm At the end of a quiet alley in my favorite neighborhood, Me Mate’s Villa is my super budget sanctuary in Phnom Penh. It’s just a block away from the Royal Palace and the riverside on a quiet street. The rooms are clean, the shower is scalding hot with strong pressure, the lockers can fit your entire bag, and the beds are massive and very comfortable. They even make your bed every day. What I particularly love about this hostel is the kind, attentive staff. Charlie who works at reception has the biggest, most genuine smile and infectious laugh and plays the best reggae mixes. If you’re traveling on a budge and looking for a hostel where you can meet other travelers but still get a good night’s sleep, this place is perfect.
Street 19 near the Royal Palace $50 for garden room, $100 for room with private pool A stone’s throw from the Royal Palace, this hotel has classic Khmer and French architecture and allegedly was built by King Sihanouk’s mother in the 1920s. The rooms include luxuries like a mini bar, a seating area, and even a computer and a full breakfast in the morning. Some rooms even have their own private jacuzzi or pool. All rooms have access to the main swimming pool, gym, and adjoining spa. They strive to operate sustainably, using solar water heating, employing locals, and operating with a no tolerance policy for prostitution.
Street 71 in BKK1 $50 for standard rooms, $110 for the penthouse A sister hotel to the Golden Banana in Siem Reap, Rambutan is a chic and tranquil hideaway in the city with a lovely saltwater pool with a waterfall, restaurant, and spa in a tropical garden. Like the Golden Banana it’s well known for being a gay friendly, progressive establishment. The style is modern meets Indochina with handmade local furnishings and textiles. Rooms have garden and pool views, private gardens, mini fridges, flat screens, and all come with breakfast in the morning.
On the Tonle Sap River Contact for price Ecotourism is rare in Southeast Asia, especially in big cities, but the company behind The Pavilion Hotel is setting out to bring sustainable lodging to Phnom Penh. These beautiful bungalows floating on the river across from the Royal Palace use an advanced ecologically sound cooling systems along with solar panels for electricity. Their goal is to create a dwelling without a carbon footprint, that could be easily removed with no environmental impact. You can also visit the onsite bar open at sunset on Saturdays and Sundays.
Street 19 off Sihanouk Blvd. $1.50-3 for entrees This is my favorite all around restaurant in Phnom Penh. The menu consists mainly of healthy Khmer food without sugar or MSG and is made with brown rice, a rare treat in Southeast Asia. It’s also considerably cheaper than the other healthy vegetarian restaurants I tried in Phnom Penh. My favorite dish is the Khmer curry with brown rice and the fresh spring rolls are the perfect take away for a long bus ride.
Alleyway off St 240 or St 278 near St 63 $3-7 for super smoothies and raw goodness In every city I travel to I always seek out the healthiest food options available, and Artillery offers just that in Phnom Penh. Their menu has entire raw food section, freshly pressed green juice, and smoothies with goodness like homemade almond milk, chia seeds, and raw cacao. The raw zucchini spaghetti was surprisingly flavorful and delicious, with a fresh tomato sauce and even raw nut cheese that tasted like fresh ricotta.
$1-2 for dishes and snacks This market is not my favorite for shopping, I think the selection is limited and the heat is unbearable, but it has some delicious authentic food stalls. My favorite is the crispy crepe almost identical to the ones they have in Vietnam served with a big pile of fresh herbs.
Across from the National Museum $2-5 for entrees You may find it strange that I should recommend an Indonesian restaurant in Cambodia, but I surprisingly never saw Indonesian cuisine outside of Indonesia and this place is as good as what you’d find in Bali. The owners were extremely hospitable and the place had a very warm, friendly vibe. I ordered the gado gado, veggies with salad, peanut sauce, and boiled egg, and it was very tasty, but I heard that the spicy squid is the best dish on the menu.
Street 95 at 348 $5 for entrees This beautiful Khmer restaurant is in the top floor of an old building with high ceilings, and big windows overlooking the trees and flower covered terrace. The open space feels cozy and chic all at once, with delicious Khmer specialties, all with vegan options. The vegetarian amok here was the best I’ve had, steamed perfectly in a banana leaf, and I loved the vegan chocolate orange ice cream.
56 Sihanouk Blvd. $2-6 for drinks and meals Overlooking Hun Sen Park, this two story cafe is a hub for expats fueling up on coffee. Most of the food on the menu is homemade including bakery goods, yogurt, and fresh pasta. They have rotating visual contemporary art exhibitions, and across the street they own an entire workspace that supports local artists. Check out the event calendar for occasional stage poetry and other performances.
BKK1 Street 306 This gourmet grocery store has some great foreign favorites for stocking up on. If you have access to a kitchen they sell organic produce and other cooking supplies and travelers can pick up Coco Khmer coconut oil and healthy snacks here. They also have a full deli and restaurant that could easy fit into an international city like New York.
Despite the smiles and life in Phnom Penh, this city, like the rest of the country, has a tragic recent history. Take a tuk tuk out to the Killing Fields and then to the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum to learn about the atrocities that took place during Pol Pot’s regime. Be sure to listen to the stories on the audio guide while you walk through the memorial site.
If you want to dance without going crazy in a club, Phnom Penh has many dance studios offering lessons. Try out some traditional Khmer dance moves at Selapak, learn Salsa and Merengue at Salsa Phnom Penh, or improvisational dance at the International Institute of the Arts.
In hectic cities like Phnom Penh it’s important to find quiet spaces to recharge. Yoga has always been this space for me, and Phnom Penh has two yoga studios. Yoga Phnom Penh has a variety of class styles offered several times per day including Vinyasa Flow, Ashtanga, Hatha, and even Fly Yoga where you practice postures from swings. Krama Yoga is the first nonprofit yoga studio in Cambodia, sharing the healing practice of yoga with underprivileged locals. Class fees fund their programs which teach children physical health, compassion, and self respect, teaches young adults self confidence and leadership skills, and works through trauma with victims of sex slavery. They have three locations and a wide variety of classes including Restorative, Yin, Ashtanga, and Flow.
Along with teachers and monks, most artists were killed during the Khmer Rouge takeover in the 70s. Phnom Penh has done a tremendous job reviving the arts scene in this country and the city has many modern, inspiring galleries featuring local artists. Meta House has three floors of exhibitions from local and international artists, supports local artists in international exhibitions, and works to foster the art community in Cambodia. They host many events including live music and movie screenings. Java Arts is another popular gallery that supports and funds local Cambodian artists through grants and proceeds from Java Café. Read about more contemporary art galleries in Phnom Penh.
Street 278 near the Independence Monument This popular hostel has some of the best parties in the city. They have international DJs and wild parties on the weekends, live music throughout the week, and host Open Mic for travelers who want to share their talents. This is a great place to meet expats, other travelers, and locals.
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