20 Best Things to Do in Siem Reap & Top Attractions to Visit Besides Temples
There are so many things to do in Siem Reap besides temples. The vibrancy in Siem Reap city left me astounded as I never expected Siem Reap nightlife to be bustling with both locals and tourists. Perhaps, my family and I went at the best time to Siem Reap. That was during Songkran in April. You may like to know how was it like to spend the Khmer New Year period with them and get yourself prepared with a big water gun.
During the 6-day travel to Siem Reap, we bought Angkor Wat Pass and spent 3 days visiting the temples and also other attractions other than Angkor Wat. Every night, we went out to the enlivening nightspots as there were too many dazzling things to see in Siem Reap that keep us occupied. Moreover, the stretch of full house Khmer restaurants made one hard to choose the best place to go for dinner.
We stayed at Royal Crown Hotel, which is at the heart of the city. It is a great place to stay there as you don’t need any transport to bring you to many Siem Reap attractions. You can walk to anywhere in the city. Besides, the affordable hotel has air-conditioning, which was so desperately needed by us during the hot weather in Siem Reap. Do get a Cambodia prepaid SIM card as the WI-FI can sometimes fail you. I will suggest a list of places to visit and things you can do in Siem Reap.
– Hone Your Skill in Haggling –
Most of the things to do in Siem Reap at night revolve activities around the Old Market Bridge. If you go during Songkran, you can see firework at night from the bridge. The cluster of Siem Reap Night Market can keep you occupied for a night or two to explore every part of it.
Siem Reap Art Centre Night Market is a great place to get cheap bargains in clothing like T-shirts and other souvenirs and handicrafts. However, the starting price quoted by the vendors does not come that low. As Siem Reap Art Centre is a touristic area, the patience to haggle and slash prices is required. If you need to get some T-shirts due to the hot weather and excessive sweating, it is a place to come and compare prices here.
My family members bought two bags of quick-dry T-shirts as souvenirs, amounting to almost 200 USD. After hard bargaining for two days with the same shop there, the cost was eventually around USD 3 to 6 per piece. We also had our first dinner at Ruby Coffee, at an inconspicuous corner at the end of the road of Siem Reap Art Centre. It served one of the most delicious Khmer food out of the 9 restaurants that we have tried. Try it out!
Old Market, also known as Psar Chas, comprises of a wet market during the day and shops. As tourists, the market may not be of use to us as it is mainly for the locals to buy their food products such as raw fish, meat and spices. However, the traditional wet market provides a glimpse of the Cambodian daily lifestyle and attaches a rich heritage to it. The shops in Old Market operate during the day and night selling clothes, souvenirs and Cambodian handicrafts. Mark it as one of the things to do in Siem Reap.
Walking past Pub Street from Old Market, you will see two long stretches of shops along Night Market Street with brightly-lit signage “Phalla Angkor Night Markets“. Inside the enclosed area, there are also some art pieces and exquisite local handmade products and handicraft other than the clothing shops. Bargaining is always the way to go for getting the best deal out of it.
ANM stands for Angkor Night Market. This market is adjacent to Phalla Angkor Night Market which you cannot miss after walking to the end of Phalla Night Market. Currently, ANM has 10 vendors under its wing comprising of restaurants, silk houses and souvenir stores. One unique outlet to visit here is the Rice Art Painting, where the artists use only rice to achieve their masterpiece. It is something that one must-see as it is a rare form of fine art not frequently seen.
– Beer, Band or Both –
Siem Reap Nightlife is one of the most memorable attractions that I had, which surpasses Bangkok, in my opinion. No sleazy activities are going on or scantily clad women while being entertaining. Hmm… Maybe that is a bit disappointing for the men, huh? Through the walk on the street, I observed that most Cambodians do not smoke. You hardly find Cambodians smokers. Perhaps, it is due to the extra cost of cigarettes, which is unnecessary and burdening to their financial state. It is a rather refreshing and unusual sight for nightlife activities.
The trendiest place to immerse yourself in Siem Reap nightlife is none other than Pub Street. To some, it is also known as Street 08 as that is the street name of the hippest spot. Pub Street is a conglomeration of bars, and they are usually packed with people. The street has the most energetic vibe and walking there generated a euphoric effect on the mood quickly watching the crowd of people dining and drinking. Besides, it was their Khmer New Year.
You can grab a Cambodian beer for as low as US$0.50 and a cocktail for under US$5. Dirt cheap to spend your entire evening sleepless, right? Moreover, some pubs at Siem Reap close as late as 4 am! There are also live music performances in a few bars. Here are some recommendations on locally brewed beers, great music and live band performances around the Pub Street vicinity.
We passed by Hard Rock Cafe almost every evening as it was near to our hotel. There would be live band every night starting at 8 pm till midnight. The Hard Rock Cafe in Siem Reap was the first in Cambodia and a one minute walk away from the Old Bridge. The musical atmosphere was so compelling that it made passerby stopped to take a look. To add on to the list of live band venue above, if you like live band performance in an old colonial-style two-storey building, then go for Hard Rock Cafe.
– For as Low as US$1 –
How can anyone miss out the delicious Khmer food which is so under-rated as one of Siem Reap list of attractions? Well, you get a chance here to eat on the street like a local together with the awesome Cambodians! Other than the under-mentioned, you get cheap eats at food centres, cafes and almost everywhere in Siem Reap. Other than the under-mentioned, you get cheap eats at food centres, cafes and almost everywhere in Siem Reap. You can even get a food tour at the night markets with a local guide who will tell you stories behind each Khmer dish for only US$9!
The best local street food in Siem Reap is none other than Pokambor Street Food! The local hawker stalls are along the stretch of Pokambor Avenue, beside the Old Bridge. The price is unbelievably low from US$1 onwards, but typically US$1.50 is the average cost for a plate of fried noodles, fried rice, a bowl of noodle soup or even papaya salad. Therefore, if you are also on a tight budget trip in Siem Reap, this will be the perfect place to cut down some cost for your meals. You can also try some creepy insects there if you dare, but that is definitely not my cup of tea.
One of our favourites to recommend you is the fresh mango juice @ US$1. We were so addicted to the aromatic fresh fruit juice that we had to get one cup every evening from different stalls. Another must-try food is the home-made ice cream which is made from scratch with milk. You get to watch the whole process of ice cream making. Very interesting! Try the yummy Oreo ice-cream @ US$2.50/bowl. Pokambor Street Food is the best local street food you can find in Siem Reap, beside the river.
– Top Attractions –
If you have more time in Siem Reap or do not want to visit the Angkor temples, here are some points of interests in Siem Reap that you can visit during the day as part of your Cambodia itinerary.
Angkor Silk Farm, owned by Artisans Angkor, is an eight-hectare land demonstrating the complete process of silk production in a traditional way. The organisation provides training and job opportunities for young Cambodians living near the village to learn a professional skill. You get the chance to see in action how the women traditionally dye and weave silk in different stages.
There is also an Artisans Angkor shop at Angkor Silk Farm for selling the finished products. The shop is elegantly decorated and very classy. The moment you step in, you do not feel like coming out. However, the silk products in the shop are expensive but for a good cause. The management invests the revenue they earn to provide training classes and run rural workshops on top of paying wages. The other principle Artisans Angkor shop is in Siem Reap.
Admission to Angkor Silk Farm is free. There are also guided tours available in English, French, Spanish, Chinese, Korean, Japanese or Khmer. The exact location of Angkor Silk Farm is in Puok district, 16.2 km away from Siem Reap city and 25 minutes of travel. You can take a tuk tuk or a private car transfer to reach the place and ask the driver to wait for you there. You can also combine Angkor Silk Farm visit with Mechrey Floating Village as a day tour.
The War Museum Cambodia is one of the most impressive ones that I have ever come across. Thanks to the most entertaining tour guide cum storyteller, Mr Sinarth, who made it alive during wartime despite having almost died for a few times due to injuries. He was a war veteran who called himself ‘the cat with nine lives’. Because of his survival, he can revive back vivid memories and tell us mind-blowing stories about the past. The tour is highly engaging than most other similar museums.
The War Museum in Siem Reap is the only museum in Cambodia with an extensive collection of war machines like the tank, fighter jet, helicopter and field artillery gun. Some of these had been deployed during World War II even before they were used in Cambodia! You will see the remaining shoe of Mr Sinarth’s ex-colleague who died during the war! What a heart-wrenching sight! On top of that, there are several black and white photographs which Mr Sinarth has a little story for them.
The entrance fee is US$5 for foreign guests paid only in cash, but the guided tour is free with a small tip given to the guide. You are allowed to take photographs and filming. The War Museum Cambodia is opened daily from 8 am to 5.30 pm. Lastly, I bought a book written by someone on behalf of Mr Sinarth and get him to autograph it. The book cost US$10, and he would get a US$1 commission. Well, I wanted to support and thank him for the valuable and memorable experience we had in War Museum Cambodia. One of the wisest things to do in Siem Reap.
Here at Tonlé Sap Floating Village is where it opens your eyes to the livelihood of more than 3 million Cambodians living on a floodplain in several villages. The means of subsistence for people living here is fishing and agriculture. That alone supplies half of the fish consumption in Cambodia. Translated as the “Great Lake” or “Large River”, it is the largest freshwater lake in South East Asia.
The dimension of Tonlé Sap can expand up to 10,000 square kilometres during the southwest monsoon raining season and down to 3,000 square kilometres in the dry season. When we went in late April during the dry season, we were advised by two local drivers not to visit it at that time due to the low water condition. The best time to visit Tonlé Sap is the wet season from June to October where the water level at the Mekong is high.
Then, you can see how the houses on stilt float, thus giving it its befitted name “floating village”. Be mentally prepared. There may be some degrees of filth and bad smell from the river which you have to tolerate. Also, beware of well-known scams at the lake such as overcharging. If you do not feel comfortable with the price, do not proceed on with the tours or buy stuff there. Get your Tonlé Sap tour packages from reputable sources online like Klook or Get Your Guide.
Interesting Fact: As most Cambodians are Buddhists, the religious belief is not to take lives unnecessarily. Hence, they do not kill the fishes but let them die naturally when they are out of water. Furthermore, they do not want to overfish but fish just enough to feed the family. They also go to the temples for prayers and purification due to their job nature.
Wat Thmei or Wat Thmey in Siem Reap is a memorial site for millions of Khmers killed under Pol Pot Khmer Rouge regime between 1975 to 1979. Also known as the ‘Killing Fields’ in Siem Reap, the term is similar to Tuol Sleng (S21) Prison and Choeung Ek Killing Fields in Phnom Penh. However, the scale of Wat Thmey Killing Field is much smaller and less intensified in Siem Reap than Phnom Penh.
If you want to experience a full and intense tragic history with an audio guide and look at some horrifying photos, then the two killing fields museums in Phnom Penh will truly bring you back to the horrendous past of the Cambodians. The pagoda at Wat Thmei was converted into a prison then. It was also a torturing ground for the Khmers regardless if they were guilty of committing any sins or not.
Some were killed, and the remains were placed in the memorial stupa. So, you can see skulls of the exhumation through the glass panel. It was an emotional sight left to your imagination. There were not many visitors to this place of interest in Siem Reap, which was understood. You probably do not want to bring your children here as they might be afraid of what they see. However, if you like history, then go to Wat Thmei Killing Fields. No entry fee.
To tone down the gloominess, let’s go back to some shopping or sightseeing in another point of interest which you can add to your list of places to visit in Siem Reap. King’s Road Angkor is a property management company and housed several shops, restaurants, bars and spa under its radius. It is also near to Royal Crown Hotel of where we stayed with merely 3 minutes of walking.
King’s Road Angkor is an enclosed area like a small modern village with a cosy atmosphere. I like this place very much as it seemed to have a calming effect during the day. It also did not have too many tourists. Over here, there are pushcarts which sell Cambodian souvenirs and accessories other than the shops. There are a few restaurants there, but not all of them operate during the day. Some of the trendy bars and restaurants open during the night. By that time, some shops are closed too.
Since we stayed close by, before leaving for our flight home, we went to the bar-restaurant at King’s Road Angkor for lunch – The Brothers. They served delicious Khmer food and also made delicious Carbonara. If you are there, you can eat or drink a beer there. Great food, atmosphere and service! Highly recommended!
Angkor National Museum has now over 1,300 pieces of artefacts displayed that need to undergo restoration. You can see statues of Vishnu, Buddha, Lokesvara and Avalokiteshvara. They are the deities that were being worshipped at the Hindu and Buddhist temples at Angkor Archaeological Park. A visit to Angkor Wat National Museum will unveil the legend behind the Khmer Kingdom during the Golden Era.
There are personal translation device or audio tour set available in several languages. Visitors will also gain a deeper understanding of the customs and traditions of Khmer civilisation, along with the knowledge of different beliefs of the ancient empire. The admission fee is US$12.00 for adults and US$6.00 for children from 6 to 11 years. You can get the ticket here.
Tip: Visit the Angkor National Museum before visiting the Angkor Park to know more about the history of each temple to appreciate the story behind it.
If you are a dog lover, the NPA Explosive Detection Dog Show would be one of the things to do in Siem Reap. You are going to meet the Belgian Malinois dogs who improve and protect the locals by sniffing out the explosive fragments and uncover the land mines. Unfortunately, these life-threatening elements still exist in Cambodia. Thanks to these dogs and the specialised dog trainers from Norwegian People’s Aid, who contribute to protecting lives here.
Learn about psychological behaviour, search pattern and sniffing techniques of this highly intelligent breed in one hour. Bring back home not just the knowledge, but also selfies with the extraordinary animals! The cost per person is US$7.00. All proceeds will go to the non-profit organisation which has been actively clearing unexploded bombs and landmines in Cambodia since 1992.
Tip: Located just 200m away from Siem Reap International Airport, the distance of the NPA Explosive Detection Dog Show makes it an ideal point of interest to go before departure or after the arrival of your flight.
– Intriguing Cultural Dance Performances –
Since there are many night dance performances in Siem Reap and we had the time in the evening, we decided to watch one of the shows below. As it was a last-minute decision made on our arrival in Siem Reap, many of the show tickets were fully booked especially for the more premium category. We wanted the best seats so we could get a better view. After reviewing based on the available front seats, we decided to buy tickets for the show – Smile of Angkor. The show was very entertaining and enjoyable, indeed as expected.
Smile of Angkor is one of the longest-standing show in Siem Reap featuring the history of Khmer empire in story plots with dance, Khmer martial arts, acrobatics and light animation in a large and comfortable air-conditioned theatre. The entire dance performance is divided into six scenes: Dialogue with God, Glorious Kingdom, Resurrection of the Gods, Churning the Sea of Milk, Prayer for Life and Smile of Angkor.
Price Alert: It is much cheaper to get Smile of Angkor ticket from Klook as compared to the official website. We decided to buy from Klook after some price comparison.
The Cambodian Phare Circus in Siem Reap is one of the most well-known shows with a high rating. It is established by nine ex-refugees from the Khmer Rouge Regime. Other than music, dance, acrobatics, one of the highlights of the circus is juggling and body contortion between balance and presenting an elegant dance motion. Say yes to those body flexing!
Angkor Dynasty Show at the Grand Theatre is the latest cultural addition in town. Their high-tech visual lighting effect coupled with fanciful costumes deliver a jaw-dropping impact. The famous Chinese movie director, Zhang Yimou, together with Yang Liping, the director of Cirque Du Soleil, is the punch behind the musical production. A robust partnership of the best directors from overseas for the first time in Cambodia, it can’t go wrong with the choreography of the Angkor Empire.
Price Alert: Book online from Klook is cheaper than the official website.
Rosana Broadway is a sensational cabaret show where performers are clad in glamorous costumes. The ladyboys are the highlight of this show as they often provide amusing entertainment to the audience. The cabaret show uses a lot of stage props which makes the musical production one of the largest-scale transvestite performances in Asia, featuring 16 themes. Therefore, if you have not seen such a performance before in Thailand, it is indeed an eye-opening experience to make it one of the things to see in Siem Reap.
One of the most fulfilling and cheapest things to do in Siem Reap is enjoying a Khmer buffet spread and watching a traditional Apsara Dance entertainment concurrently in Koulen Restaurant. Hurry! Due to the astonishingly low cost, tickets are selling fast and mostly fully booked on several days even way in advance. Furthermore, you get free shared transport for pickup and drop-off. A truly amazing deal!
Enjoy Khmer food or Western fine dining cuisine at Por Cuisine Restaurant enclosed with glass panel looking through the rustic lush green garden. The price is charged according to the type of set meal you choose. The Apsara Show is assimilated by Buddhism and Hinduism to depict the soul energy of water and cloud.
– Enjoy Cambodia –
I have already provided you with a list which some are free things you can do in Siem Reap. You can also refer back other articles in Siem Reap to make your Cambodia trip a memorable one.
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