|Map - Phnom Penh touring map,
Cambodia (click to enlarge)
Touring Central Phnom Penh
For a more intimate experience of Phnom Penh consider touring the city center by cyclo or even foot. The city center near the river is the oldest part of town, densely populated and abuzz with activity. The tour marked on the city center map is designed to take in some the highlights and offer a look at Phnom Penh off the beaten path, not the prettiest (or the cleanest) streets, but the living city - busy street life, local shops and cafés, typical Phnom Penh architecture, colorful pagodas and pungent traditional markets. Bring your camera and a sense of adventure. As you tour, take time to explore the pagodas and markets and stop for a coffee or a snack at a local cafe.
Touring by cyclo is the easier than foot and even a romantic means of seeing the city. Walking the tour provides a more intimate, interactive experience but can also be a bit daunting. People are friendly and security is good (during the day) but the chaotic traffic and clogged sidewalks can be challenging. If you tire pick up a motodup or tuk-tuk anywhere along the route. When walking, keep an eye on traffic (it does not yield to pedestrians,) walk on the shady side of the street and, for sake of security, carry your bag/camera on the inside shoulder away from the street.
Beginning at the National Museum, the area has a few colonial-era villas as well as a string of local art galleries along Street 178. As you zig-zag up Streets 13, 172, 19 and 154 you will pass along typical shophouse apartment lined streets and past a couple of pagodas offering some good photographic opportunities. After turning north onto Norodom Blvd note the classic, yellow, early-20th century colonial villas on the east side (A8.) Cross at the traffic light at Street 130 and continue to Phsar Thmey, the distinctive domed ‘Central Market.’
Phsar Thmey was built 1935-37 and most of the surrounding structures were built over the following couple of decades. The corner shophouse at the south east corner is probably the oldest on the square.
At the corner of Norodom Blvd and Street 108 take notice of the naga-adorned faux bridge crossing the boulevard park. Until the 1930s a canal ran where the park now sits and was spanned by a naga bridge.
Wat Phnom is another must see - the legendary founding place of the city. Enter from the east entrance ($1) and take some time to climb the hill and explore the temple. From Wat Phnom walk back toward the riverside through the Post Office Square. Many of the buildings on the square, including the Post Office and the old Police Station next door were constructed in the 1890 and 1900s. The old Police Station next to the Post Office was used as a set location (as the hotel) in the Matt Dillon movie, ‘City of Ghosts.’
Instead of walking directly though to the riverfront, turn south along Street 13. The street is crowded, chaotic, dirty and a bit difficult to walk, but has a very active street life, dozens of busy local shops and cafés (stop for a coffee or a saté) and passes by two bustling traditional markets - Phsar Chas and Phsar Kandal, neither beautiful or geared to the tourist, but both a whirl of colorful activity. Cut through the food section of Phsar Kandal on Street 148. From there it’s just a block to the riverfront, restaurants, bars and a cold drink.
A1: Villa Late 19th century Sino-Khmer villa, displaying a mix of western architectural styles. In very good condition. Currently the offices of UNESCO.
A2: Villa Picturesque 19th century villa in a dilapidated state. Currently ‘The Mansion’ bar.
A3: Old Royal Villa ‘No Problem Building’ Constructed c. 1905. One of the few remaining royal villas. Good condition.
A4: Villa Classic colonial era villa constructed c. 1905. Currently houses a restaurant.
A5: National Museum Constructed in the early 1920s and displaying an eclectic combination traditional Khmer and European architectural styles.
A6: Block of apartments/shops Constructed circa 1905.
A7: 1935-45 Apartments Distinctive art deco style apartment block attached to the Lux Cinema, much of the frontage hidden by a modern facade.
A8: Villa Constructed c. 1920. Small, colonial era villa.
A10: Block of shop houses Late 19th century in poor condition, buried is modern facades and signage.
A11: Apartment block A mixed block displaying periods from the 1930s (at the market end) through the 60s.
A12: Phsar Thmey Unique domed art deco market structure built 1935-37. See page 15 for more.
A13: Raffles Hotel Le Royal Classic colonial era hotel, first opened in 1929. Fully restored in the late 1990s.
A14: Public Library Constructed in the early 20th century in neo-classical Greek style. Open to the public.
A15: Former Treasury Building and Street 106 constructed in the 1890s. Several buildings along Street 106 are late-19th/early-20th century. The boulevard park between Street 106 and 108 was a canal until the 1930s. Some building along Street 108 have the year of construction in the gable design. Note the modern faux-Naga Bridge on Norodom Blvd across the park, an echo of a real bridge there until the 1930s.
A16: 1960s office block
A17: Apartments Colonial period apartments from the 1930s or 40s displaying a unique Mediterranean style. Note the different sort of balconies from the usual shophouse.
A18: Intersection 130/15 Each corner of the intersection has a building from a different period: c. 1905, c. 1940 (art moderne) and from the 1980s.
A19: International Hotel Very unique corner building with a tower structure. Constructed circa 1905. Early signage still visible. Very photogenic. Poor condition.
A20: Post Office/Post Office square The post office building was constructed in the 1890s and is still operating as the GPO. Many of the buildings on and around the square are turn of the century. Best photos in the morning hours.
A21: Former Central Police Station Constructed in the 1890s. Site used extensively in movie ‘City of Ghosts.’ Best photos in the morning hours.
A22: French Colonial Chamber of Commerce On Post Office Square. Constructed early 20th century.
A23: Former Banque de l'Indochine building Late 19th century bank building. Owned by the Van family after 1960. Now fully restored and home to Van’s Restaurant.
A24: Chaktomuk Conference Hall Constructed in 1960-61. ‘Golden era’ architecture by Vann Molyvann.