October 24, 2019 – Written By Leanna, Lost Plate Guide
A Perfect Day in a Beautiful and Often Overlooked City
Phnom Penh is a beautiful and often overlooked capital city. Many travelers speak about it with mixed reviews, but for those that know the city, Phnom Penh is a place of hidden gems. The only businesses that survive here are small, personable, and full of personality. They’re easily missed and wonderfully intimate, and are entirely reliant on word of mouth.
We use this knowledge when designing our Phnom Penh food and bar tours, and when guests ask for recommendations on what to eat, drink and do throughout their stay.
So, we’ve put together an itinerary for anyone with 24 hours in Phnom Penh. We left out the Genocide Museum and Royal Palace, and left it flexible enough to mix and match depending on your timeline and interests.
Explore the hidden wonders of the Russian Market
This is a crowd favourite for city residents. The food court area is surprisingly tourist friendly, with menus featuring photos of food and clear prices. Of all markets in Phnom Penh, this one is the best at showcasing contemporary art by local craft artisans, from eggshell paintings and wood carvings to ornate metalwork sculptures and delicately intricate showstoppers from Silk Island itself. Bargaining here is expected and commonplace.
The market is open from 5AM-5PM but also features a boisterous night market starting up around sunset along its northern and eastern borders. The wide opening hours makes this an easy must-do for anyone with 24 hours in Phnom Penh.
Eat at some of the best restaurants in town
There’s many ways to define “best” depending on your mood. We have some recommendations for local eats in our Phnom Penh Travel Guide. You can let us do the work and book our Phnom Penh Evening Food Tour to discover the best of Cambodian cuisine at four sit-down restaurants and one craft beer and cocktail bar while exploring the city by private tuktuk.
Charter your own boat, and watch the city light up at sunset
Just north of titanic restaurant there’s a small jetty with boats for hire. They run $10-$20 USD per hour depending on the size of boat, you can just show up and ask around for the best prices and see what’s available almost any day of the year. Find your boat here.
Most boats will have grills and large ice boxes available and the crew will facilitate buying ice or charcoal if you give them some extra time and a few dollars in cash. Bring drinks and dinner, and it’s a great way to end the day.
Try out a bar or brewery and enjoy Cambodia’s quirky night-life
If you stay away from riverside and the girly bar area around street 136, Phnom Penh boasts a pretty awesome night-life scene. Full of live music, international DJs, and world class mixologists, there’s a bit of everything for everyone here in the city, albeit in smaller more intimate settings than you may be used to. Facebook is the ruling platform here for all event info, and a cursory search for local events today on the app or website should garner plenty of results. We also offer an amazing Hidden Bar Tour to help you discover the coolest bars and breweries in town.
See the Ancient Capital of Oudong
Surprisingly this doesn’t come up enough. After a night on the town, catch a late brunch at The Shop 240, Java Cafe, or Lot 369 and get ready for a sight that will take your breath away. Oudong was the capital prior to Phnom Penh, which is a fairly recent city at less than 150 years old. If you want a sample of the ancient tradition here, Oudong is about an hour away, a trip buffered by picturesque country side and scenic rice paddies! Oudong can be reached by boat, by tour groups, or hire a driver for the day through Grab or Camboticket.com
There you have it, a fairly flexible itinerary for 24 hours in Phnom Penh. When dealing with a city of hidden gems, you’ll be glad you did a little digging.