The once small market town of Siem Reap has seen the fastest development in Southeast Asia thanks to the increasing popularity of Angkor Wat. Here’s what to do in Siem Reap from incredible religious architecture to floating villages.

By: Paul Healy | Published: 9 Mar 2024

As the base from where to explore the temples of Angkor Wat, Siem Reap appears to be growing at a pace that it can only just keep up with.

Initially the domain of hardy backpackers, Siem Reap has over the years, morphed into a cosmopolitan hub. Trendy hotels, designer spas and high-end restaurants combine with local Asian markets and riverside food stalls to keep you occupied in between exploring the temples.

A fascinating and confronting history fills museums with stark reminders of the past and community projects are a testament to the resilient nature of the Cambodian people.

There are plenty of worthy things to do in Siem Reap between temple visits, here’s our guide to seeing the best of them.

siem reap old market
OLD MARKET

MAP – THINGS TO DO IN SIEM REAP

The centre of Siem Reap is compact and it is easy to get around most of the sites on foot, or by tuk-tuk. However, to see the temples and floating villages, you will need to tuk-tuk, tour, or taxi beyond the city edge.

How to use this map / Click on the top left of the map to display the list of locations, then click on the locations to display further information. Click on the top right corner of the map to open a larger version in a new tab or the star to save to your Google Maps.  


1. ANGKOR WAT TEMPLES

The main reason to come to Siem Reap is undoubtedly to visit the Angkor Wat temples. Representing the height of the Cambodian Empire and their devotion to both Hinduism and Buddhism, the temples near Siem Reap are some of the most interesting historical landmarks in the world.

There are two excellent routes around the temples. The small circuit covers the grandest sights including Angkor Wat, Bayon, and Ta Prohm. The grand circuit visits some hidden gems with few visitors.

We cover all the information you need including the most important temples not to miss, and some more remote ones that are worth seeing in our guide to visiting the Angkor Temples.

2. ANGKOR NATIONAL MUSEUM

The Angkor National Museum is the main museum in Siem Reap and a good starting point for understanding the Khmer Empire.  

It covers all periods of Angkorian architecture with a helpful rundown of the Khmer kings and all the temples associated with their respective reigns.

The detailed descriptions of the Hindu and Buddhist iconography helps decipher the incredible bas-reliefs adorning many of the temples around Siem Reap. If possible, it would be well worth going to the Angkor National Museum before you see the temples.

Entry is $12 and the museum has comprehensive information boards in English, so you don’t need to spend the extra $5 on the audio guide.

Allow 2 to 3 hours to see everything.

3. CAMBODIAN LANDMINE MUSEUM

Each year, dozens of people are killed or injured by landmines left behind from the civil war. 

The Cambodian Landmine Museum was started by Aki Ra who was taken by his family at the age of 5 and recruited into the Khmer Rouge.

After the war, he dedicated his life to ridding Cambodia of landmines and other unexploded ordinance that still litter the countryside.

It’s a poignant exhibition to stories of Cambodian lives permanently affected by landmines, as well as technical information about the ongoing work to remove them.

Entry is $5 and a free audio guide is provided by a QR code you scan on your phone. The museum is funded by visitor fees and part of the ticket price goes to several charitable causes related to helping people hurt by landmines.

The Cambodian Landmine Museum is 25 kilometres north of Siem Reap but it’s easy to see on a day trip to Beng Mealea and Banteay Sri.

4. WAR MUSEUM CAMBODIA

Unlike the Landmine Museum, the War Museum Cambodia has virtually no information and the exhibition consists of not much more than several rusted tanks dotted around a grassy garden.

Occasionally, it’s possible to get a guided tour from an ex-army combatant who provides a fascinating and harrowing account of the war from his personal perspective. If a guided tour is available, the War Museum is an excellent experience in Siem Reap. If a tour is not possible, we wouldn’t recommend going.

We suggest getting a tuk-tuk out to the museum and asking if a guide is available before you purchase your tickets. 

Entry is $5 per person. Guided tours, if available, are no extra charge.

The museum is a 10-minute tuk-tuk ride from the centre of Siem Reap. Expect to pay around $5 for the Tuk Tuk driver to take you out, wait for you, then take you back.

war helicopter cambodia war museum
CAMBODIAN WAR MUSEUM

5. SIEM REAP WATS

If you’re not templed-out from visiting the sights of Angkor Wat, there are 3 more temples in the centre of Siem Reap that are worth popping in to.

Wat Bo is one of the oldest Buddhist temples in Siem Reap. It has several well-preserved paintings depicting famous Hindu and Buddhist stories. Entry is free and you’ll only need a short time to stroll around.

Wat Preah Prom Rath is one of the most beautiful temples in Siem Reap town. It’s decorated with colourful wall paintings and statues. It’s located just near the Old Market.

Wat Dam Nak is an old royal palace that today promotes a better understanding of Khmer culture with an on-site library.

6. PUB STREET

You’ll hear Pub Street before you get to it. With pumping music competing across often empty bars, the vibe is hopeful, teetering towards desperate.

It’s hard to tell whether it’s a vision of what Cambodians think western tourists want on their travels, or the result of years of backpacker demand.

Whatever the cause, Pub Street (Street 8) is the centre of Siem Reap’s nightlife. Many of the joints are open 24/7 and you’ll be able to find all types of food and plenty of bars.

A few places on Pub Street are still offering fish massage, where Red Garra fish chew dead skin off your feet. Apart from the fact that the fish only eat dead skin because they’re so hungry, the tubs contain fish waste and are a breeding ground for bacteria. Most countries have banned the practice and it’s an experience to avoid in Siem Reap.

7. STREET 26

For a calmer experience, we highly recommend heading to Street 26, on the east side of the river. It’s a quiet street with a few excellent bars and restaurants. 

Banlle Vegetarian Restaurant // Banlle has a nice outdoor terrace with a small menu of Khmer cuisine and efficient professional service. For dessert, try the ice cream shop at the entrance.

Laundry // Just across the road from Banlle, Laundry is a smart bar with occasional live music.

Miss Wong // Miss Wong is a cocktail bar and Dim Sum Restaurant inspired by 1920s Shanghai. The décor is beautiful, and the cocktails are decent value.

Tevy’s Place // Tevy’s Place is an excellent value Cambodian restaurant run by an almost all-female staff.

8. PHARE, THE CAMBODIAN CIRCUS

Phare Circus is a fun night out in Siem Reap and a great way to support the local community.

The 1-hour performance is a mix of interpretive dance and aerobic skill, set to a local cultural story. Witness impressive performances under the intimate big top with an added dose of Cambodian humour.

The venue opens at 6 pm where you can have dinner from vendors selling curries, noodles, grilled dishes and burgers. There’s also a bar so you can have a beer or a cocktail before the show watching a performance from the local school children on a stage in the outdoor food court.

You need to buy coupons to make purchases from the food vendors and the bar.

Ticket prices are $18, $28, $38, which you can buy online in advance. It’s not a very big venue so there’s not much benefit in getting the more expensive tickets. The show starts at 8 pm.

9. APOPO HERO RATS

Apopo is a Belgian NGO that trains rats to sniff out landmines, dramatically increasing detection rates in the countryside. Their highly sensitive sense of smell and the fact that they are too small to trigger the explosives makes them the ideal candidate for detecting landmines.

At the visitor centre you can learn about how much the rats have achieved and meet them in person.

10. OLD MARKET

On the eastern side of the river, the Old Market is a warren of stalls providing a great opportunity to do some shopping or just soak up the atmosphere of an Asian market.

The stalls on the east side cater to tourists selling trinkets, souvenirs, t-shirts and scarfs. The western edge is the fresh food market with locals stocking up on fruit and veg.

Seamstresses and hairdressers are busy working away alongside street food vendors. It’s a great photo opportunity even if you’re not looking to buy anything.

11. NIGHTLY STREET FOOD MARKET

The night market straddles both sides of the river between the 2 bridges, both called Art Market Bridge.

On the western side of the river, you’ll find a plethora of stalls selling local food which you eat on little tables by the banks of the river. The crowd and the food, gets progressively more local as you head towards the Fountain Dragon’s roundabout.

The eastern side is more subdued with around 4 or 5 stalls along the river. This is the section of the market we recommend trying. It was the best and cheapest food we found in Siem Reap.

night street food market siem reap

OUR PICKS // WHERE TO EAT IN SIEM REAP

NIGHT MARKET – The best food in Siem Reap is from the street food stalls on the eastern side of the river.

WILD – Spring rolls in a lovely garden setting with a great cocktail list.

MISS WONG – Chinese Dim Sum in a Shanghai-inspired townhouse.

BANLLE – Thai and Khmer classic vegetarian dishes in this stylish restaurant.

TEVY’S PLACE – Traditional Cambodian cooking from a renowned chef.

THE SUGAR PALM – The fanciest food in Siem Reap, perfect if you have a special occasion to celebrate.

SAMBOO – Great Thai and Cambodia cooking with disorganised service.

12. TONLÉ SAP FLOATING VILLAGES

Tonlé Sap is a large lake that starts around 15 kilometres southwest of Siem Reap. It’s the lifeblood of the area with over a million people living on or around the lake.

There are several excursions to Tonlé Sap from Siem Reap where you can experience the unique floating villages.

Over recent years, some of the village tours have become excessively touristy. However, there are still some great local experiences on Tonlé Sap and it makes a great break between temple visits.

All the details are on our guide to visiting Tonlé Sap.

WHERE TO STAY

Siem Reap has embraced tourism with plenty of accommodation options from budget backpacker lodges to luxurious hotels. Here are a few recommendations from us.

HOSTEL | $

ONEDERZ SIEM REAP

Located beside the Old Market, this excellent hostel has private rooms and dormitories with free Wifi and two swimming pools.


BOUTIQUE | $$

JAYA HOUSE RIVER PARK

Located outside the busy area in a tropical garden, this beautiful property has excellent Wifi, air-conditioning, and a very enticing pool.


LUXURY | $$$

BOPHA WAT BO RESIDENCE

A smart clean hotel with a pool in a lovely garden setting. The breakfast is superb and it’s just a short stroll into the centre of town.  


things to do in siem reap

GETTING THERE

Siem Reap has a shiny new airport thanks to Chinese investment. To protect the temples of Angkor, it’s located 45 kilometres east of the town centre.

The best way to get from the airport is to organise a pick-up from your hotel which should cost around $30.

Taxis are few and far between and the airport bus ($8) currently only has 6 services per day, making it a fairly ineffective option.

It takes around 50 minutes to drive into Siem Reap.

tonle sap siem reap
TONLÉ SAP

OTHER CAMBODIA GUIDES TO PLAN YOUR TRIP

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