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The top 10 Things to Do In Phnom Penh with Kids

Cambodia is quickly becoming an increasingly popular Asian travel destination. For decades on end travelers visited Cambodia for the temples of Angkor. But Cambodia is much more than that. One of the must do’s in Cambodia with kids is visiting its capital: Phnom Penh. This article offers the best 10 things to do in Phnom Penh with kids.

Phnom Penh is where the rivers Tonlé Sap, Bassac and Mekong meet. Strolling down the riverfront you’ll find countless of food stalls along the river banks and if you look the other way you’ll be greeted with views of the bustling city life and sneak peaks of the Royal Palace and other beautiful sights.

If you want to learn about the history of Cambodia, Phnom Penh is the place to be. Two of the most important sites to visit in Phnom Penh are touching on Cambodia’s dark past, when the Khmer Rouge of Pol Pot reigned.

And lastly, you’re in Southeast Asia, so of course there are markets a plenty in Phnom Penh. In other words, there’s no shortage of interesting attractions to visit. Keep reading to find out all about them!

Ultimate Family Road Trip Guide: Cambodia - blog post

Why Phnom Penh is a great choice for a family visit

I’ve briefly mentioned the period when Pol Pot was the leader of the Khmer Rouge. Many of us know about the gruesome things he did to his people. Let’s start to say that when your in Phnom Penh with kids, avoid visiting the Killing Fields and the Tuol Sleng museum with kids younger than 16. The pictures and audio are very graphic, so if you want to visit these sites don’t bring young kids and early teens.

But don’t let this throw you off! Just like Cambodia has more to offer than Angkor Wat, Phnom Penh has more to offer then the Killing Fields. This top 10 is filled with lots of fun things to do for kids in Phnom Penh.

Furthermore, you can find playgrounds in many of the malls in Phnom Penh. Indoor playgrounds like Kids City and Toddler Town are great kid friendly places to visit once kids get bored of sightseeing.

In conclusion, it’s a very family friendly city. And Phnom Penh should definitely be part of your family trip through Cambodia.

Read more >> Ultimate Family Road Trip Guide: Cambodia

Read more >> 10 Things to Do In Cambodia with Kids

Exploring the Royal Palace in Phnom Penh - Cambodia

Is Phnom Penh safe for kids?

Yes, definitely! Phnom Penh is as safe as any other Southeast Asian city. Our motto is that it doesn’t matter if you visit Chicago, Amsterdam or Bangkok, you shouldn’t walk around with valuables, don’t leave bags unattended and put away your phone when you’re not using it.

Cambodians are very warm and welcoming people who love kids. All the restaurants we’ve visited were family friendly. At some kids are immediately greeted with a piece of candy at others they folded napkins into animals.

When to visit Phnom Penh

Cambodia is hot all year round. It doesn’t have a real winter. In March temperatures get above 30° Celsius. April and May are unbearably hot, around 40° and sometimes even higher. So try and avoid those months.

June to August is the rainy season. The lush greens all over Cambodia are beautiful. But you might not notice a lot of that if you’re only visiting Phnom Penh. It’s a quieter time, with less visitors and more families who can only travel during the summer holiday. Downpour generally won’t last the entire day, but it can happen.

Know that the infrastructure isn’t that great in and around Phnom Penh. Some roads are unpaved or dirt roads. You will run into them outside of the city center, heavy rainfall results in extremely muddy roads you can’t enter. Flooding also occurs regularly during this season.

Peak season is late December to late February when its cooler and drier, know that pre-booking is advised and the prices are at its highest.

We visited in December and experienced temperatures between 25° and 30° Celsius, during our 3 days in Phnom Penh with kids. We did all the exploring in the morning and spend afternoons somewhere indoor and at the hotel pool.

How to get to Phnom Penh

Fly

Phnom Penh is one of only 3 cities in Cambodia where international flights land. But they come in from other Asian countries. Direct flights to Phnom Penh from other areas in the world don’t exist. You will need to transfer through another Asian country first. We always book our international flights through Expedia, to get the cheapest fares.

When you’re already in Asia and flying to Phnom Penh from there, it’s better to book through 12Go. They offer the best deals within Asia.

Bus

If you’re traveling to Phnom Penh by (sleeper) bus from other cities in Cambodia or internationally from neighboring countries book your tickets via 12Go.

Internationally you can’t board a train into Cambodia. So if you’re coming from any of the neighboring countries and want or need to go with public transport you’re left with buses as your only option. We took a bus from Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam to Phnom Penh. It was clean, chairs were comfy and the border control only took about an hour.

Powered by 12Go system

Getting around Phnom Penh

If you want to take the train from Phnom Penh, you’re options are limited. They only run from Phnom Penh via Takeo and Kampot, terminating in Sihanoukville and the other way around.

Cars in Cambodia can generally only be hired with a driver. So renting your own can be a mission impossible, but I would advise against it. If you want to get around Phnom Penh by car, hire a driver or call for a cab.

The best way to get around in Phnom Penh is by Tuk Tuk, or Remorque as they’re called here. We did this and loved it, it was also nice to feel a gush of wind in our faces after some exploring in the heat.

And because the city center is quit compact, strolling around is easy to do and highly recommended.

Paying with US dollars

Since we’re Dutch I always note prices in euros. But if you’ve read my post about visiting Angkor with kids, then you may have noticed that in that post I mention all prices in USD.

The reason is that in large parts of Cambodia you can pay with either the Cambodian Riel or US dollars. In large touristy areas it happens often that when you pay in riel you’ll get your change in dollars. Not ideal, because you have to calculate all the time to not get scammed. In some places it’s better to just take dollars from the machine and pay everything in USD. We did that in Siem Reap and Angkor.

In Phnom Penh it was easier to pay in riel, that’s why I in this article I converted riel to euros. Do know that it’s possible to pay in USD all over Phnom Penh, if that’s what you prefer.

Top tours in Phnom Penh with kids

That’s it for the general information about family traveling in Phnom Penh. As useful as this info is, it’s time for the good stuff. What are the top 10 things to do in Phnom Penh with children?

10 things to do in Phnom Penh with kids

Feel like royalty visiting the Royal Palace

Watch historical pieces at the National Museum of Cambodia

Learn about the S21 prison at the Tuol Sleng Museum

Pay your respects at the Killing Fields

Enjoy a boat ride on the Mekong River

Take a stroll along Sisowath Quay

Explore Wat Phnom

Splash around in Garden City Waterpark

Shop ’til you drop at Sorya Shopping Center

Get souvenirs at the Psar Thmei Market

Exploring the Royal Palace in Phnom Penh - Cambodia

Feel like royalty visiting the Royal Palace

First on this list of 10 great things to do in Phnom Penh with kids is a visit to its Royal Palace. If you’ve ever been to the Royal Palace of Bangkok, then you’ll see the resemblance. The difference is that the Royal Palace of Phnom Penh is much smaller than the one in Bangkok. But it is as beautiful. And another big advantage is that the amount of visitors can’t be compared. When you’re strolling around Cambodia’s Royal Palace in Phnom Penh you can do it in relative peace. Just make sure you visit it during the morning opening. In the afternoon it will be very busy.

Exploring the Royal Palace in Phnom Penh - Cambodia
The Royal Palace in Phnom Penh - Cambodia

The Royal Palace of Cambodia is a complex of buildings, built in the 1860s, that serve as the residence of the King of Cambodia. Its full name in Khmer is the Preah Barom Reacheaveang Chaktomuk Serey Mongkol. The only time that Cambodian monarchs didn’t live here was during the reign of the Khmer Rouge.

There are a few things you must not miss. Firstly, the Silver Pagoda, aka Wat Preah Keo, built in 1892 and then rebuilt in 1962 with a massive amount of gold, silver, and diamonds. The name of the pagoda comes from the silver floor inside, which has almost a whopping 5,000 silver tiles weighing over 5 tons.

Also check out the gated grey stupa has the remains of Cambodian king Norodom Sihanouk who died in 2012. And there’s another white stupa dedicated to King Ang Duong.

On the courtyard of the Royal Palace in Phnom Penh - Cambodia
Inside the Royal Palace in Phnom Penh - Cambodia

While you’re not allowed inside the main building of the Royal Palace, the Throne Hall, you are allowed to peek through the windows. Don’t skip this, because it’s gorgeous. It was built in 1863, and still in use for religious and royal ceremonies.

Things to know when visiting the Royal Palace of Cambodia

The palace is closed between 11am and 2pm and the price of a ticket is quite hefty, about 9 euros for everyone over 8yo. Dress appropriately, no short shorts or skirts and cover your shoulders. Kids may visit on flip flops, adults may not. Know that it’s no sign that you’re welcomed in when they sell you a ticket. The outfit check takes place after you’ve bought the ticket. If you’re not dressed appropriately they’ll show you to the door and you won’t get your money back.

You’ll need about 1,5 to 2 hours to see it all.

Watch historical pieces at the National Museum of Cambodia

The National Museum in Phnom Penh - Cambodia

Three of the attractions on this top 10 are located next to each other. Sisowath Quay, the Royal Palace and the National Museum of Cambodia. Since chances are high you’re in Phnom Penh when it’s hot, make sure you combine a visit to the Royal Palace and the National Museum. Visit both of them in the morning. Start with the Royal Palace and then when it gets warmer head inside the museum next door.

The National Museum of Cambodia is housed in a beautiful terracotta structure, built in Khmer style. The museum houses one of the world’s greatest collections of Khmer cultural material.

Sculptures from Angkor

About half the galleries are devoted to findings and sculptures from the temple ruins of Angkor in Siem Reap. So, if a visit to Angkor is on travel itinerary, it’s useful to visit this museum first to get some background info and some context.

Tickets cost about 9 euros per adult and kids aged 10 to 17 pay 4 euros.

Read more >> Best Angkor Temples to visit with kids

Disclaimer

Like I wrote before, there are 2 adult activities that I highly recommend you to visit. They are up next. Both are not suitable for children under 16. And even then, not every 16yo is the same. You know them best, and they’re also at an age where you can discuss a visit together. Tell them what the sites are about and what you can see there. For highly empathic or sensitive people, this will be an even more haunting experience. So take that into account as well, before visiting either one of the two following sites.

Our son was to young, so we went in turns. When I got back from the visit I did tell our teenager about the war and torture, but without graphic details. That way he could learn about what happened in Cambodia a few decades ago and how traumatizing it still is for Cambodians. Because everyone over 45 lived through it. Just to give him enough context, without scaring him.

Tuol Sleng Museum in Phnom Penh - Cambodia
The Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum in Phnom Penh - Cambodia

Learn about the S21 prison at the Tuol Sleng Museum

The Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum in Phnom Penh - Cambodia

The harrowing reign of the Khmer Rouge in the 70s and 80s of the last century has left a lasting mark on the Cambodians. Pol Pot’s Khmer Rouge committed genocide on his own people. And the Tuol Sleng Museum is one of the sights dedicated to the memory of all Cambodians that lost their lives and all who survived the Khmer Rouge’s war on people.

The Tuol Sleng Museum was the S21 prison. A secondary school in the middle of Phnom Penh was turned into Security Prison 21, S21 in short. The five buildings were turned into prisons and interrogation rooms. Electrical barb wire made sure prisoners stayed put.

An estimated 20.000 people were held captive here from 1976 to 1979. Most of them were tortured to make them give up names of family members and friends, who in turn were held captive and tortured.

What will you see when you visit the Tuol Sleng Museum?

You can walk inside of former cells. And walk through a hall with rows upon rows of headshots. Taken of inmates when they arrive. The exhibitions are very graphic. With pictures of prisoners who have just been tortured and stories of survivors. The audio tour is informative and beautifully done. The experience is heavy. Expect to leave the place feeling empty and sad.

Book written by survivor of S21 prison in Phnom Penh - Cambodia

Buying books from former prisoners

Only a handful of inmates survived the S21 prison. One of them is Chum Mey. He wrote a book about what happened to him while in prison: Survivor. Another male inmate did the same. Both of them can be found at the site regularly. Selling their book and signing it. That way they make sure that their stories and the story of the Cambodians in the seventies will not be forgotten. And also they can earn money.

Do’s and don’ts when meeting survivors on site

I talked to Chum while I was there and bought his book. Some people went way too far with intrusive questions. How did they torture you? Did it hurt? It was painful to watch how some of us can be so tone deaf. Buy the book, thank the man and say you’re sorry for what happened.

And also, please, don’t ask him for a selfie. Chum is not a circus clown. He’s a human being who went through things most of us will, gladly, never have to suffer through. He deserves respect and dignity. And while he told me that he has accepted that visitors ask for selfies, he wishes that they wouldn’t. His fear is that people will only buy the book if they can get a selfie with him. So he feels like he doesn’t have an option.

This is my personal plea to help out Chum and fellow survivor Bou Meng, let your souvenir be one or both of their books. Thank them and leave it at that.

The killing tree in the The Killing Fields of Choueng Ek in Phnom Penh - Cambodia

Pay your respects at the Killing Fields

Next on this list is the second and last war site. The Choeung Ek Genocidal Center is the official name of this war memorial. The Killing Fields is the name that Dith Pran and Sydney Schanberg gave it in 1975. This is when they wrote their article about it for the New York Times. This article also formed the basis for the world famous book and film with the same title.

Choeung Ek is a village just outside of Phnom Penh. In this village, a former orchard served as a mass graveyard. Prisoners from S21 were transported here and forced to dig their own graves. Often these were shallow graves, because the prisoners were to frail to dig. That’s why you’ll see human bones sticking out of the ground. One of many reasons why you shouldn’t bring kids to this important place.

This site is a hugely emotional place to visit. You won’t find guides here. Everyone is silent, listening to the audio tour on their headset. The first thing you see when entering the site is a stupa. It’s filled with skulls of victims to give visitors an idea of the scale of the Cambodian genocide.

Violence against children

Walking around the remembrance site you’ll see the bones I mentioned before, as well as the Killing Tree. The next sentence is hard to write, but I feel like I have to in order for you to decide whether or not to visit the genocidal center with older children. Children were also killed here and in order to spare bullets, small children and babies were swung by their legs and slammed against the tree to kill them. The picture above, of a tree filled with bracelets is said Killing Tree.

Entrance to the Choeung Ek Genocidal Center in Phnom Penh - Cambodia
The Killing Fields of Choueng Ek in Phnom Penh - Cambodia

How to decide if you should bring kids to Tuol Sleng and the Killing Fields

As an adult you’ll need at least an hour to experience this place and at least another hour, in our case a full day, to process what you’ve seen. Spending time in these two sites takes quite an emotional toll on you. I can’t imagine the marks it leaves on children.

I’ve read quite a bit of blog posts from parents who did take their children to one or both of these sites. There is no age limit when purchasing tickets to the sites. It’s a personal decision for you to make yourself. I decided to add the unsettling details in this post for you to make the right decision.

Enjoy a boat ride on the Mekong River

The heavy part of this post is over. Next on this list of 10 things to do in Phnom Penh with kids is a very relaxing family outing. A boat ride on the Mekong River.

Most tour operators offer sunset cruises, some more luxurious than others or longer than others. It’s a very zen outing. Seeing a city from the water is always a very different and interesting way of sightseeing. Some of the most beautiful sights of Phnom Penh can be spotted on this cruise, like the Royal Palace and Sisowath Quay.

If you’re only opting to cruise through the city than your tour will take about 2 hours.

Top Mekong River tours with kids

The boulevard in Phnom Penh Sisowath Quay - Cambodia

Take a stroll along Sisowath Quay

A very fun thing to do is strolling along the riverfront and enjoy city life and all the traffic on the streets and the water.

Sisowath Quay is a boulevard located along the intersection of the Tonlé Sap and Mekong rivers. Most cafes, restaurants and luxury hotels are located here. Therefore it’s a great place for a sunset walk before heading out to dinner.

You will also pass by some beautiful places like the Royal Palace and National Museum. You can buy street food while you walk or buy souvenirs. We spotted two playgrounds on our walk that were aimed at toddlers. All in all this is a great family outing that offers something for every family member.

Outside of Wat Phnom in Phnom Penh - Cambodia

Explore Wat Phnom

You can’t visit an Southeast Asian capital, without visiting at least one temple, or wat. So, of course 1 out of 10 things to do in Phnom Penh with kids is a temple: Wat Phnom.

Wat Phnom is built on a man made hill. You already get a glimpse of it, before walking up the stairs, lined with lion-like figures. Inside the pagoda you’ll find a gorgeous altar and a bronze seated Buddha.

Behind the pagoda you’ll find a few stupa’s. The biggest one can be seen from all over the city. You’ll need about an hour to see it all.

Splash around in Garden City Waterpark

A relatively new Phnom Penh attraction is the Garden City Water Park. The new talk of town. An amazing water park in the city that opened in the summer of 2020. Not the best time to open, since the second wave of lockdowns kept all of us at home.

This water park gives you the opportunity to play around in a lagoon filled with waves, under a waterfall and of off water slides. Done playing in the water? No prob, take turns using the steam and sauna facilities, while the other parent watches over your offspring in the playground.

I added a link to the official website above, there you can find more info about the park and check out the amazing pics of the park. Because unfortunately the park wasn’t done yet, when we were there.

Other traveling families we know have and all had great reviews. Go when the temperatures are at its peak. Wear UV (longsleeved) shirts, caps and sunscreen and you’re ready to go!

Eating local food in the Sorya Shopping Center in Phnom Penh - Cambodia
Eating local food in the Sorya Shopping Center in Phnom Penh - Cambodia

Shop ’til you drop at Sorya Shopping Center

We’re almost at the end of this list of top 10 things to do in Phnom Penh with kids. And until now, none of them involved shopping. So let’s make up for that, right now.

Visiting the Sorya mall is a great thing to do when it’s hot, since it’s airconditioned. You can find everything you wish for in a mall. Fashion, toys, electronics, jewelry, souvenirs and food. There’s even a cinema on the top floor.

When it comes to food you can find things like pizza and fries, but also local dishes. We had one of our best local meals in this shopping center.

If you’re in need of a pharmacy, go here. We went here and learned they all speak very good English, which is needed when talking meds.

Phsar Thmei Market in Phnom Penh - Cambodia

Get souvenirs at the Psar Thmei Market

Sorya Shopping Center is a mall like we are all used to back home. The Psar Thmei Market is its amazing Southeast Asian counterpart. Its huge yellow colored domed hall ranks as one of the largest domes in the world. It’s a beautiful market. So why didn’t I post pictures of it? This dummy had a new camera and messed up the ISO, so all the pictures came out way to blurry. You have to google it, to see it for yourself.

When walking in here you’re welcomed by countless of smells you hope for when visiting an Asian market. Herbs, street food, soaps and incense. We loved the fruit and vegetable section. Where we saw lots of fruits that we hadn’t seen before. We bought lots of them and tried them all.

You can also buy amazing souvenirs here, since many artisans sell their crafts here.

Because this is a very large market and there is lots to see, make sure you have about 2 to 3 hours to wander around here.

That’s it. You’ve reached the end and thus the 10 things to do in Phnom Penh with kids. Hopefully this is just the beginning of your family’s Cambodian adventure. Need more inspiration? Read my complete road trip guide of Cambodia.

Read more >> Ultimate Family Road Trip Guide: Cambodia

Did you enjoy this list of the Top 10 Things to Do In Phnom Penh with Kids?

If so, read more about family travel in Cambodia

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About me Sas Crossing Countries

Hi, I’m Saskia!

I travel the world with my family of 4 and write about our adventures.

Sas Crossing Countries is a family travel blog. It’s created to inspire other parents to travel the world with their kids. Gift your kids the world! It’s the most valuable present you can give them.

With all the experience I have as a traveling parent I’ve got lots of tools and tips for you. So on this site you’ll not only find family travel blog posts, you can also download FREE pocket guides, travel checklists and eBooks from my resources page.

All that I share can be used to plan your own ultimate family road trip!

above a couch you see 4 illustrated poster maps of different countries in the colors brown, blue, green and white. This picture leads to the shop page where you can buy illustrated poster mapsbanner image with the text get access to my free ebook with all the tools and tips you need to plan out and enjoy your ultimate family road trip. The title of the book is also shown and is The Ultimate Beginners Guide: Planning a Family Road Trip. A mock up is shown of a laptop, tablet and phone showing the cover of the ebook and 3 small images giving a sneak peak of 3 pages inside the book.5% discount link Heymondo Travel InsuranceVisit our travel shop!Download my FREE printable packing listsBuy your 3D wooden world map @ Enjoy The Wood with 10% discount code SASCROSSINGCOUNTRIESUPBecome a member of my private family travel Facebook groupLink to shop The Adventure BookRent a car via Discover CarsGet my free downloadable family travel pocket guidesGet an eSim from AiroloDownload my FREE printable bucket lists

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About me Sas Crossing Countries

Hi, I’m Saskia!

I travel the world with my family of 4 and write about our adventures.

Sas Crossing Countries is a family travel blog. It’s created to inspire other parents to travel the world with their kids. Gift your kids the world! It’s the most valuable present you can give them.

With all the experience I have as a traveling parent I’ve got lots of tools and tips for you. So on this site you’ll not only find family travel blog posts, you can also download FREE pocket guides, travel checklists and eBooks from my resources page.

All that I share can be used to plan your own ultimate family road trip!

above a couch you see 4 illustrated poster maps of different countries in the colors brown, blue, green and white. This picture leads to the shop page where you can buy illustrated poster mapsbanner image with the text get access to my free ebook with all the tools and tips you need to plan out and enjoy your ultimate family road trip. The title of the book is also shown and is The Ultimate Beginners Guide: Planning a Family Road Trip. A mock up is shown of a laptop, tablet and phone showing the cover of the ebook and 3 small images giving a sneak peak of 3 pages inside the book.5% discount link Heymondo Travel InsuranceVisit our travel shop!Download my FREE printable packing listsBuy your 3D wooden world map @ Enjoy The Wood with 10% discount code SASCROSSINGCOUNTRIESUPBecome a member of my private family travel Facebook groupLink to shop The Adventure BookRent a car via Discover CarsGet my free downloadable family travel pocket guidesGet an eSim from AiroloDownload my FREE printable bucket lists