• Mario Ng

Siem Reap Attractions - What to see and do in Siem Reap

Many people head over to Siem Reap for one sole reason: to visit the UNESCO World Heritage Site in Angkor Wat. Yet, there is much more than just Angkor Wat in Siem Reap!


Temple-wise, there are many more temples to explore, and it can take weeks, even months, to complete visiting all known temples. Even then, new artefacts are discovered all the time. Just recently, a Cambodia-Singapore team discovered four sandstone remnants of Buddha statues. (Click here to find out more about the recent discovery!) These date back all the way to the Jayavarman VII era. In layman terms, it basically means these artefacts date back to the late 12th to early 13th century. Wow!


Besides the temples, there are also other places of interests to keep one occupied! Being in Southeast Asia, there are many local markets to visit, where you can buy numerous items at a bargain. Clothes, souvenirs, and paintings are all up for grabs! All that matters is your bargaining skills.

Social enterprises are also aplenty in Siem Reap. Many of these have made a local name for themselves, contributing much to the local economy and helping the local communities. For the more adventurous, take a helicopter ride touring Angkor Wat! It is really a unique experience, and you realise how there are so many other temples in Siem Reap. Angkor Wat is really but the tip of the iceberg.


Enjoy your stay in Siem Reap!

For your convenience, refer to this list of attractions you should head to while in Phnom Penh!

1. Angkor Archaeological Park

​2. Angkor Handicraft Association

3. Angkor National Museum

4. Angkor Night Market

5. Angkor Pottery Center

6. Angkor Wat

7. Artisans D'Angkor Workshop

8. Made in Cambodia Market

9. Phare, The Cambodian Circus

10. Psar Chas (Old Market)

11. Pub Street

1. Angkor Archaeological Park

Many people associate Siem Reap with Angkor Wat and head down to this sleepy little town for this very reason. Rightly so! The architecture and cultural gems that people identify with Angkor Wat is tremendous. However, there is much more than just Angkor Wat and quite often, visitors to Siem Reap only discover so upon their arrival at Angkor Archaeological Park.


Here, we present just a few of the many temples that are located within the Park. Take note that visitors can purchase multiple-day tickets to Angkor Wat. For those who are first-time travellers to Siem Reap and wish to take it easy visiting the temples, a one-day pass is often enough. For those enthusiastic about the temples and wish to spend much more time doing so, be grateful for the fact that they offer multiple-day passes, including 3-day and 7-day passes, with the corresponding difference in their prices.

Inside Angkor Archaeological Park
Inside Angkor Archaeological Park

For those who have finished visiting Angkor Wat, which would most probably be the very first temple of the day, it is time to explore the other temples. Tour agencies and hotels would generally split such visits into two types, and visitors can choose either the “Little Circuit Tour” or the “Big Circuit Tour”. For those who wish to explore the more popular temples in Siem Reap, the “Little Circuit” is often sufficient, and would keep you occupied for most of the day. Similarly, people passionate about temples should go for the "Big Circuit Tour", which ensures you visit more temples, especially those farther out of downtown Siem Reap.


To benefit first-time travellers to Siem Reap, we will discuss a little further about the Little Circuit.


Besides Angkor Wat, the next temple you will likely be visiting is Angkor Thom. It is more than just one temple. Instead, it is a complex with different temples and entrances, each with its own unique character. Among its most popular inhabitants are Bayon and Phimeanakas. It would take a minimum of two hours to finish exploring these temples in Angkor Thom. Take your time, as the day would have just started, and remember to hydrate!

Walking among the ruins within Angkor Archaeological Park
Walking among the ruins within Angkor Archaeological Park

After you have finished exploring the vastness of Angkor Thom, you will be picked up by your driver to head to the next temple. Remember though, that you will be passing by many temples and more often than not, you would be exhausted before you have finished visiting all the temples in the Little Circuit. There’s no shame in informing the driver that you are done for the day. They understand that it can be humid and warm. Don’t worry!


Another temple that must be mentioned is Ta Prohm. It is the temple that has trees growing all over it, with tree roots and branches intertwined with the structure. As a result, it creates a natural beauty that cannot be imitated by humans. It is a beautiful sight to behold. Many people also head over here to snap pictures. So, make sure you do your shots here as well! Of course, this is also known as the temple where Hollywood superstar Angelina Jolie came over to do her scenes for Tomb Raider. Try to watch the movie before heading over to Siem Reap!

Check out the ruins of Ta Prohm within Angkor Archaeological Park
Check out the ruins of Ta Prohm within Angkor Archaeological Park

These temples are all quite far apart, such that it requires the use of a vehicle. Hence, while heading to the Park by yourself is technically possible, it may not be practical. Most hotels can arrange a tour for you, and you simply pay for their services, which would last for a day. Whether you wish to take a tuk-tuk or an air-conditioned van, the choice is really yours. A tuk-tuk is cheaper, and we also felt that it created a more authentic experience. It seemed as if we were real explorers researching the ruins of the different temples. However, for those who feel that they may not be able to take the heat and humidity, an air-conditioned van is highly recommended. The day will be long, and it is not worth it to spoil your day so early in the morning!

2. Angkor Handicraft Association

Entrance of Angkor Handicraft Association
Entrance of Angkor Handicraft Association

Located not far off from the city centre, this place is a five-minute tuk-tuk ride from downtown.


Angkor Handicraft Association (AHA) and its souvenir market is a no-frills market that seeks to connect local artisans to tourists directly. This means that all of the sellers at this market are the original producers of the products, which range from handbags, ceramics, to sculptures.


It was created to help these artisans compete against the mass-produced souvenirs goods where most of the time, they are not even produced in Cambodia itself. This market acts as a stepping stone to aid these locals.


Along with the market, visitors can also shop at other places around Siem Reap and be assured that it has been produced locally, by looking out for the Official Seal of Authenticity.

Most of the time, you can find local artisans creating the products right at the market. You can chat with them while they are making their latest creation, and find out more about them and their lives.


It is a refreshing way to shop for souvenirs, and know that the proceeds will mainly go back to the original producers. This is a responsible way of shopping for souvenirs, and an effective way of giving back to society.


AHA has a website that speaks about these local artisans, along with information about a few producers, how they benefitted from being able to sell directly to tourists. Find out more here!

Merchandise for sale at Angkor Handicraft Association
Merchandise for sale at Angkor Handicraft Association

3. Angkor National Museum

A relatively new and modern-looking museum that opened in 2007, Angkor National Museum contains many priceless treasures that date back as far as the 9th century.


Consisting of eight different galleries, each gallery showcases different sculptures and along with them, a different aspect of the Khmer empire. It is interesting to note that some of the artefacts were in fact discovered not far off from the museum, in and around Angkor Archaeological Park.

Angkor National Museum
Angkor National Museum

Visitors first enter a Briefing Hall, where they watch a video clip introducing them to the museum, explaining briefly the different galleries and what they represent. It is quite cool to know that the presentation is run in seven different languages, although most of them are oriented towards Asian visitors, with only English and French to the exception to the norm (the rest of the languages include Khmer, Korean, Japanese, Chinese, and Thai).


Among some of the sculptures discovered were from great empires, including from King Jayavaram II’s time as King, who was known to have united the two kingdoms of Tchen-La. Other sculptures discovered were from King Soryavarman II’s time, perhaps more well-known for building Angkor Wat.


One of the galleries also focuses on Buddhism, on how it shaped Cambodia, all the way from the ancient civilization it was into the country it is today.


Angkor National Museum is certainly a worthy visit, where visitors can understand Cambodia a little better. Of course, it does help that visitors can enjoy seeing such sculptures in the comfort of air-conditioned rooms, a much welcome respite from the days visiting Angkor Archaeological Park!

Within the grounds of Angkor National Museum
Within the grounds of Angkor National Museum

​INSIDER TIP:

Take note that Angkor National Museum enforces a strict no-photography rule in their galleries.

Hence, take note to respect such rules in the museum!

4. Angkor Night Market

Angkor Night Market is another market, where different vendors selling different goods and services, come together to attract tourists and their money. Why then, should this market be visited?


For one, it is by far the biggest night market in town, with more than 240 stores. Also, with so many stores, it has a larger variety of differentiated products, including a store offering “fish massage”! It is also very well-lit with bright lights all around, creating a rather enjoyable experience shopping all night long.

Entrance to Angkor Night Market
Entrance to Angkor Night Market

Silk scarfs, rice-art paintings, ceramic bowls, Khmer cocktails, antiques, woodcrafts, paintings, t-shirts, and many other different products are up for grabs in this market. It is easy to understand why many tourists flock to this place for their touristy needs. It is also good to know that most products are sold at an affordable price, and as such, it is unlikely (though not impossible) for visitors to get charged exorbitant prices!


Of course, you can get hungry quickly after burning so many calories. Fret not. The beauty of this market is such that there are also many eateries on-site, so you never have to leave the market to get a meal. Whether you fancy a local Khmer meal, some western delights, or cocktails with live music, this market’s got it. Take your time to go through the offerings and enjoy!

Vendors selling their wares at Angkor Night Market
Vendors selling their wares at Angkor Night Market

At the end of it all, we are pretty sure that you would have enjoyed your night at Angkor Night Market! Now, time to grab a tuk-tuk and head back to your hotel with all your spoils of war!

5. Angkor Pottery Center

Run by an entrepreneurial lady, Mrs Hann offers ceramic and pottery classes to anyone keen to learn. This can be considered a hidden gem of Siem Reap!

Angkor Pottery Center
Angkor Pottery Center

Depending on the type of class you wish to enrol in, you can take part in a basic class, learning how to make ceramic bowls and plates, or be more adventurous and learn how to make a proper vase! Classes are also kept very affordable, from US$7.00 for a half-hour session!


You will learn all these from the master herself, and do it from a traditional Khmer Potter’s wheel!


At the very least, you will have three tries to create a simple object, like a bowl or plate. We realised at the end of it all, that while some may find pottery-making a natural gift, a few of us found it a struggle. A simple plate was all I could manage, at the end of three attempts.

At the end of the session, you can also choose to keep the creation you have made, for a small additional fee. Mrs Hann will complete the work by letting it dry and firing it up, before having it delivered to your residence once it is completed! It is a unique and amazing souvenir to take home with you, all the way from a city in Cambodia!

6. Angkor Wat

Angkor Wat is world-famous, and everyone who comes to Siem Reap will surely visit Angkor Wat. It is basically the main reason and at times, the sole reason, why people want to head to Siem Reap. We can understand such feelings as well, having seen the beauty of it all. Having said that, we don’t think we need to introduce this majestic beauty. Rather, we think we can help explain our experience when we first visited this UNESCO World Heritage Site. Perhaps, it can be useful for first-time visitors to Angkor Wat.

The amazing sunrise behind Angkor Wat
The amazing sunrise behind Angkor Wat

Most hotels would be able to arrange a tour for visitors to visit Angkor Wat. You can easily discuss this with your hotel concierge when you first touch down in Siem Reap. Most of the time, they will suggest visiting first thing in the morning, so that you can catch the sunrise, which is amazing. If so, it is strongly advisable to purchase the tickets in the late afternoon the day before you wish to visit. This is so that you can head down to Angkor Wat straight from your hotel the next morning, rather than going to the ticket counter to purchase the tickets, which would probably have a long queue. We did it around 4.30 pm and duly got them after a quick 5-minute queue.


Be careful not to purchase them too early in the day, as the ticket is valid for one day, and getting them too early may result in the tickets being valid for that very day, rather than the next day! Do note as well, that the ticket is good for the entire Angkor Archaeological Park, rather than just Angkor Wat.


The next morning, you would generally need to leave your hotel by 5 am, to give yourself ample time to catch the sunrise. Most hotels would pack the breakfast for you to take to Angkor Wat, so make sure you inform your hotel the day before. Some hotels offer either a tour in a tuk-tuk or an air-conditioned van. The choice is really yours. For us, we chose the tuk-tuk, as we felt it would provide a more authentic experience, rather than getting off an air-conditioned van each time to visit a temple. It is also an added benefit that a tuk-tuk is cheaper! The enjoyable surprise we got the next morning is that the cool morning breeze, which provided a sort of welcome to that day’s activities. It was also quite cool travelling in an entourage, as multiple tuk-tuks from all over Siem Reap headed in one direction towards Angkor Wat. It was as if we are all coming together for a mission.


Once you have reached the steps of that majestic structure, take note that it would still be very dark. Hence, take note to walk carefully as you enter the structure. We noticed that you would do no wrong in simply following the crowd, as all of us are headed only to one place that morning.

At Angkor Wat before dawn
At Angkor Wat before dawn

When we arrived at the “holding area”, there was some daylight already. Not surprisingly, there was already a crowd over there, waiting patiently for the sunrise, just to capture that perfect shot. Do not worry though, as there are numerous vantage points for you to take a picture of. Just take note to enjoy the moment as well, rather than continuously snapping away. Before you know it, the sun would be up!

The crowd patiently waiting for the sunrise at Angkor Wat
The crowd patiently waiting for the sunrise at Angkor Wat

After you have completed the early morning’s activities, it’s time to enter Angkor Wat proper. In the structure are many, and we mean many, decorations. Carved onto the walls are scenes of different battles based on Hinduism. We honestly do not know much about these, just that they look plain marvellous. All four sides of Angkor Wat are filled with these decorations and we wonder at the sight of them all.

Amazing sunrise at Angkor Wat
Amazing sunrise at Angkor Wat

One of the key benefits of arriving early is to be able to climb up the main tower of Angkor Wat quickly. This is because it is extremely popular (for obvious reasons) and a queue quickly forms up, which can take up to an hour on busy days! The sight is certainly beautiful, and you become amazed at this structure rather quickly.


It can take a long time to explore the sights of Angkor Wat. While we arrived at the structure before 6 am, we only left the place around 10 am. Note that we would then continue our journey visiting other temples. Hence, make sure you drink lots of water! They have booths selling such essentials outside the temples. Take note! Of course, no visit to Angkor Wat is complete without having a picture taken with it. There will be someone offering to take an instant photo for you at an affordable price. It is also quite big, A4 in size. After which, they can also help you take pictures using your camera (at no charge). It’s really quite affordable, and you are helping a local earn some money. We feel this is a good aspect of tourism for Siem Reap and Cambodia as a whole. Go do it, since you get a nice photo at the end of it all. It will probably be a picture you will keep for years!

Within Angkor Wat
Within Angkor Wat

7. Artisans D'Angkor Workshop

Quite often when you walk along the streets of Siem Reap, you will find stalls selling woodcrafts and carvings. It is amazing to see these crafts, and you will find it even more incredible when you realise that such crafts were actually made by hand, by a local artisan. Yet, many may wonder how it was actually done?

Artisans d’Angkor
Artisans d’Angkor

In a workshop right in the town centre, visitors have a chance to find out just how artisans craft such beautiful handicrafts. Enter Artisans d’Angkor Workshop, where you will find out first-hand how such crafts and jewellery are made.


When you reach the workshop, a handler will take notice of you, and will help bring you to a local workshop guide. You will also find that there are many others like you, and all are here to visit the workshop, which has become a tourist attraction in its own right!


Room by room, building by building, the guide will show you and explain to you how a product is made, be it a simple wood carving, stone carving, lacquerware, painting, or jewellery. Most of the time, the artisans are busy at work and pay no attention to you. You see that they are used to the throngs of visitors to the workshop, but are simply giving their all to their products.

Behind the scenes at Artisans d'Angkor Workshop
Behind the scenes at Artisans d'Angkor Workshop

As you walk past the buildings, you will find that there is also a small room where quality control is done, to ensure that visitors and customers do not purchase a defective product by accident. Moving on, you also see a wall where many partners’ brands are displayed. Many of these brands are regionally and even internationally recognised, selling the products produced by Artisans d’Angkor. Many famous and well-known people, including celebrities and politicians, have also come to the workshop to see the good work done by the company.


Artisans d’Angkor is a social business, where a significant portion of its sales proceeds goes towards benefitting the local community. It creates meaningful jobs for the locals, where the artisans, through an association, collectively hold a 20 per cent share in the company.

How purchasing a product from Artisans d'Angkor helps locals
How purchasing a product from Artisans d'Angkor helps locals

At the end of the tour, you are guided to a showroom, where all the finished products are on display. Over here, many more products are for sale. Silk scarfs, handbags, clothes, woodcrafts, lacquerware, and much more merchandise are available to be purchased by customers. Note that these products are generally quite highly-priced, which can be a shock after touring Angkor Night Market and Psar Chas. However, do realise that the quality of these products are of the highest, and they have been individually and beautifully crafted! Enjoy your shopping!

Merchandise for sale at Artisans d'Angkor
Merchandise for sale at Artisans d'Angkor

8. Made in Cambodia Market

Located by King’s Road, Made in Cambodia Market is really a street market located among eateries, all conveniently located together. This means that visitors can make use of this opportunity to first do some shopping, grab some dinner, before heading back to shop some more!

Made In Cambodia Market
Made In Cambodia Market

The beauty of this market is that the goods sold are all made in Cambodia. Most of the time, they are produced by locals, before bringing them to sell in the market. Except to see unique local handbags, notebooks, and mini figurines for sale. Also, as it is located among the eateries and other permanent stores, this makes the market clean and neat, which could be the difference for a family choosing to shop for local products.

Clothes for sale at Made in Cambodia Market
Clothes for sale at Made in Cambodia Market

Along with these products for sale, there are also performances held every Saturday evening, between 6 pm and 7 pm! This makes for a good before-dinner show! As we mentioned earlier, there are also many eateries located within the complex, and one is bound to find at least one eatery that suits his or her taste. Afterwards, feel free to re-walk around the market. The sellers are always friendly and ready to answer your queries!

9. Phare, The Cambodian Circus

Phare is an authentic Cambodian production, where all its performers participate in a nightly show, presenting to the audience Cambodia’s very best. Phare is touted as a circus, and the performers do not disappoint at all.

During the performance at Phare The Cambodian Circus
During the performance at Phare The Cambodian Circus

Consisting of an amazing nine different types of shows, the exact performance of the night will depend on the circus’ schedule for that month. Held every night at 8 pm, its own boutique and café are also open for business at 6 pm. This means that customers can grab an early dinner and do some shopping, before enjoying the show proper.


The auditorium is also open at approximately 7.30 pm, although we do recommend queueing up to enter it way before 7.30 pm. This is due to the free-seating arrangement that the circus has. As a result, although you get to choose the section (A, B, or C) you wish to sit in, you still have to contend with others to get the seats you fancy.


Of course, section A offers the best views, followed by section B. If you only have section C left, fret not, as you still get a good view, although you would be more likely to have a side view of the performances. Do take note though, that seats sell out really quickly. Hence, we highly recommend purchasing the tickets at least 2 days before the actual show!


The show itself is top-notch, with each show about different local folklore. The performers are constantly dancing, joking, and playing, throughout the entire show, to create a lively and jovial atmosphere. At times, they will also engage with a couple of fortunate (or unfortunate?) audience members, making it even funnier.

Working the crowd at Phare The Cambodian Circus
Working the crowd at Phare The Cambodian Circus

Yet, you can see the concentration and professionalism as the performers strut their stuff. Acrobatic manoeuvres seem to be handled so easily and efficiently by them, and each successful stunt is always met with huge applause by the audience.


The best part of this circus is the purpose of this entire setup. Created primarily to offer meaningful employment opportunities for Cambodians, the circus acts as a sustainable social business that creates profits, where a vast majority of proceeds goes back to helping the local community. Find out more about this circus here! All the performers are graduates of the parent organisation of the circus, Phare Ponleu Selpak (PPSA), a non-profit organisation that focuses on improving the lives of Cambodians. Find out more about PPSA here!

The audience meeting the Phare team after the event
The audience meeting the Phare team after the event

Indeed, the circus is a professional setup that seeks to be the best in what they do, while not forgetting the very purpose of its existence. Having appeared in numerous media outlets, the circus is adamant about improving and creating more shows for audiences. This circus is simply a must-visit attraction for all visitors to Siem Reap!

10. Psar Chas (Old Market)

Psar Chas is a must-visit place for all visitors to Siem Reap, from first-time travellers to Cambodia to seasoned travellers in Southeast Asia. It is important to note that this market is also known as the Old Market, Psah Chas, Phsar Chas, and Psar Chaa.

Psar Chas (Old Market)
Psar Chas (Old Market)

It is a place where visitors can get whatever they want or need, for their stay in Cambodia. Think standard souvenirs like t-shirts, jeans, paintings, magnets, perfumes, shoes, and bags. Of course, it is also an intriguing experience to witness a local market in Cambodia. For those who have travelled to Phnom Penh, this is much like their Central Market. However, it would be foolish to deem the two as the same. The only similarity would be the variety of items that they sell. Psar Chas has its own unique identity, and you appreciate them for who they are.


Local food is also for sale, and visitors can purchase pre-packed snacks. This includes preserved jackfruit, coconut stripes, peanut candies, and many others. They are really sinful, but taste really good! Different types of tea and tea leaves are for sale, and you can buy them back to try! The best part of it all is that they are all sold at really reasonable prices, so you can get more of them!

Food products for sale at Psar Chas
Food products for sale at Psar Chas

If you are ever hungry while shopping in this big complex, you do not have to worry, as they have an on-site eatery, ready to serve you. Local cuisine is what they do best, so go ahead and enjoy! However, for those with a weak stomach, do take note that hygiene is probably not at the top of their priority. Hence, indulge at your own risk!


After completing one round around the market, you may feel that you might have missed out on something, and wish to complete one more round, just in case you forgot to buy something. Fret not, as this is common. Just go ahead and walk one more round, and enjoy your visit to this market!

Different types of products for sale at Psar Chas
Different types of products for sale at Psar Chas

11. Pub Street

Pub Street is where all the action is in Siem Reap, especially as dusk arrives in this city. The eateries are all set for business, and the bars turn on their loud music to attract customers. Massage parlours are all set to vie for business, and roadside stalls are already selling their unique food creations for customers.

Pub Street in Siem Reap
Pub Street in Siem Reap

If you have not been to Pub Street, it is safe to say you have not really been to Siem Reap!


With many eateries open for business, it can be tough deciding what to eat, and where to drink! If unsure, all we can say is to follow the crowd! If it is really crowded, we believe the food and drinks are unlikely to be that bad! Of course, don’t expect five-star service and Michelin-standard cuisine!

Food and entertainment at Pub Street
Food and entertainment at Pub Street

Part of heading to Pub Street is to embrace the loud music and crowded atmosphere. You can really just take a walk around the street without eating or drinking anything. Take in all the music and really positive atmosphere as visitors and tourists have fun in the night, most probably after a long day from visiting Angkor Wat and Angkor Archaeological Park!

Food stalls at Pub Street
Food stalls at Pub Street

Google Maps: List of attractions and food places in Siem Reap!

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