The second largest city in Cambodia, Siem Reap offers a fascinating mix of ancient historical treasures and modern attractions.
This small northwestern city is the home of temple ruins and colonial buildings, making it the unofficial tourism capital of Cambodia. But at the same time, Siem Reap is becoming known for its hip hotels, world-class dining and creative cultural scene. This makes it an eye-opening place, where there really is something to everyone.
If you’re planning a trip to Siem Reap, here are the unmissable sights, landmarks and attractions you simply must add to your itinerary.
The gateway to Angkor
The main reason so many eager travellers flock to Siem Reap is its close proximity to Angkor. The Angkor Archaeological Park and the iconic Angkor Wat are just a stone’s throw away.
It’s easy to see why this is one of the best things to do in Siem Reap. There are more Hindu and Buddhist temples here than you can possible explore in one trip, but try to see as many as you can. This UNESCO World Heritage Site was once the largest city in the world, and is a prime example of ancient Khmer architecture, civilisation and art.
Reviving traditional Cambodian culture
Heading back to Siem Reap itself, it’s well worth stepping off the tourist trail to discover traditional Cambodian crafts being made right in front of your eyes. Les Chantiers Écoles teaches artisan skills such as silk painting, wood and stone carving, lacquerware and more to underprivileged young Cambodians. The aim is to keep traditional Cambodian culture alive, and train up the next generation of artisans.
You can take a free guided tour of the school, and also browse the Artisans Angkor shop for something beautiful to take home.
Another must-see if you’re interested in the rich culture of Cambodia is a traditional Aspara dance, complete with elaborate headdresses, sparkling jewels and silk costumes. The best place to see it is at selected hotels and restaurants, which host Aspara performances a few days a week.
A city of markets
Siem Reap boasts some of the best markets in Cambodia, with both day and nighttime covered. The Old Market is one of the best daytime markets, but for the best spectacle – head back to the centre in the evening for one of the many vibrant night markets. Take your pick from Noon Night Market, Angkor Night Market and Siem Reap Art Centre Night Market, all lit up beautifully against the night sky. You’ll need to dust off your haggling skills in order to nab a bargain though.
The bright lights of ‘Pub Street’
Feeling thirsty after all that bartering? Take a stroll down the liveliest street in Siem Reap. Charmingly known as ‘Pub Street’. It’s a riot of neon signs, cheap drinks offers and exotic street food bites, and it’s the perfect place if you’re in the party mood.
Siem Reap’s own temple complex
Angkor’s temples may be a draw for most visitors, but Siem Reap also has its own temple complex right in the heart of the city. Wat Preah Prom Rath is a historical Buddhist temple complex famous for its colourful pagodas, peaceful atmosphere and beautiful gardens.