Once known as the “Pearl of Asia”, Phnom Penh is considered one of the most beautiful cities in the region. This capital city of Cambodia continues to retain its colonial charm, the colonial-era buildings and wide tree-lined boulevards reflect these glorious days.
Begin your sightseeing today at the Royal Palace, which serves as the royal residence of the king of Cambodia. Built atop an old citadel called Banteay Kev in 1866, the palace faces towards the East and is situated at the Western bank of the cross division of the Tonle Sap and Mekong Rivers. In the south of the complex is the famous Silver Pagoda, which is named for its use of over 5,000 silver bricks on the floor. The main building of the pagoda houses many national treasures such as gold and jeweled Buddha statues.
Continue to the National Museum of Cambodia, built and inspired by Khmer temple architecture. It features one of the world's largest collections of Khmer arts, including sculptures and Khmer ceramics. During the Khmer Rouge regime, the museum was evacuated and abandoned. It was then found in disrepair, its roof rotten and became home to bats, and many objects damaged or stolen. Though the museum was quickly tidied up and reopened, many of its employees had lost their lives during the regime.
Next you will learn about the Khmer Rouge, a dark history of Cambodia, at the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum. The side was a former high school and converted into a prison and interrogation center by the Khmer Rouge when they won the Cambodia civil war in 1975. Named “Security Prison 21” (S-21) by the regime, Tuol Sleng (meaning "Hill of the Poisonous Trees") was just one of at least 150 execution centers established by the Khmer Rouge.
Drive back to the French Quarter and see the most beautiful examples of French-colonial buildings, stop at Wat Phnom temple which is the tallest religious structure in the city. Wat Phnom is the central point of Phnom Penh, so it is a great place to observe the everyday life of the local people before returning to your hotel.