Off-the-Beaten-Path Things to Do in Siem Reap
This guide goes beyond the Top 10 things you should do during your visit to Siem Reap, including some side trips. If you have the time to stay in Cambodia longer than the three days I go over in my three-day Siem Reap itinerary, I highly recommend it! Phnom Penh is widely known for its history, and the temples at Banteay Srey are a bit more off-the-beaten-path than what you’ll see at Angkor Wat.
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Where to stay in Siem Reap
Zannier Hotels Phum Baitang
Escape the bustle of Siem Reap at this all-villa retreat known for its cookery classes, elegant pool, and peaceful setting.
Shinta Mani Shack
In the heart of the French Quarter in Siem Reap, this stylish urban resort is an oasis away from the city bustle.
Shinta Mani Angkor
Rest and recharge at this French Quarter favorite with a contemporary Cambodian style and pampering spa.
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Things to do in Siem Reap
Best of Siem Reap
I’ve curated some of my favorite, must-do experiences in the region – from Angkor Wat and beyond – in my three-day itinerary to Siem Reap. If you have more time, everything else included in this guide are my recommendations.
The temples at Banteay Srey are about 20 kms from Angkor Wat. Dedicated to the Hindu god Shiva, these elaborate temples are more removed from the crowds at Angkor Wat. En route, make sure to visit the Cambodian Landmine Museum to explore the difficult US history in this country.
Although many people skip it these days, the capital of Phnom Penh has a lot to offer anyone interested in the history of Cambodia. A 45 minute flight or six hour drive from Siem Reap, if you drive make sure to stop in the Bug Market where all the bugs are cooked to perfection!
The National Museum holds many of the sculptures that have been removed from Angkor Wat and delves into the artistic traditions.
Tuol Sleng, the school turned into Khmer Rouge prison, and Chong Ek, the killing fields, are disturbing but important spaces to explore the Khmer Rouge’s horrific reign of terror.
Architecture students at the University offer an architectural tour by tuk tuk that takes you into spaces (synagoge, churches, single family homes) that have now been converted into labyrinthian multi-family dwellings. Chat with the students after your tour at Brown’s Coffee! The bats that cover the trees and lamp posts around Wat Phnom are actually an endangered species, so stop to take a look!
Wander down 240 Street for local shopping, including the handmade quilts and gifts at Mekong Quilts.
Take a local ferry and a bike to Silk Island and bike around this local island exploring temple schools, candy making, and end at the silk museum and shop.
There are some amazing places in Cambodia now for some delicious rest and relaxation, including the private island of Song Saa, the remote Six Senses, and the river and jungle lodge of the Bill Bensley Collection - Shinta Mani Wild.
Theam’s House: Theam’s lacquer work combines traditional themes with modern aesthetic. Worth a visit if only to enjoy a peaceful moment in his beautiful home and garden.
Made in Cambodia Market: Community focused on creating jobs for Cambodians, local crafts people and local products are featured here, including some of the shops mentioned below (like Ammo Jewelry).
Artisans d’Angkor: Well established NGO training locals and people with special needs in traditional Khmer arts.
Ammo Jewelry: Jewelry made from spent ammunition, they also have jewelry making classes we love.
Other favorites include: Kandal Village, Eric Raisina, Gardens of Desire, WOW Gallery, and the iconic John McDermott Gallery with his classic black and white images of Angkor Wat.
Places to eat & drink in Siem Reap
Cuisine Wat Damnak: Serving Khmer cuisine with a modern interpretation by French chef Joannes Riviere. Menus change weekly and are based on seasonably available produce and fish. The restaurant is set in a traditional Khmer wooden house with both indoor and outdoor dining options.
Sugar Palm Authentic: Khmer cooking with a modern twist. Sugar Palm prides itself on the subtle flavors achieved with local herbs and spices. Dishes are best enjoyed when shared!
Charcoal: Featuring both Khmer and western dishes, all produce is sourced locally. Khmer dishes are made with traditional ingredients. A fine selection of wines and cocktails are served. Indoor and garden seating are available.
Olive Fine French cuisine in downtown Siem Reap set in an old colonial building. With a sophisticated and diverse menu of predominantly French choices, the restaurant has also gained a reputation for its excellent service.
Il Forno: A diverse Italian menu featuring hand cut pastas and pizzas and homemade desserts. The cozy venue is a warren of rooms in one of the lanes off of Pub Street and has a traditional Neapolitan wood-fired oven.
Café Indochine: One of the last traditional Khmer wooden villas remaining in the center of Siem Reap is home to Cafe Indochine, creating a romantic setting for this classic Khmer restaurant with some additional international turns.
Chanrey Tree: Located along the river road, Chanrey Tree offers Khmer traditional cuisine in a lush and contemporary setting. Specialties include seafood with Kampot pepper, a native plant and braised frog legs.
Marum provides creative local cuisine with an emphasis on tapas (small dishes) with several vegetarian options on hand but full entrees are also available. Part of the Friends International alliance, Marum is a social enterprise providing food service training skills to disadvantaged young Cambodians.
Viroths: A classic in Siem Reap focusing on local and Western food.
Abacus: Excellent French food with indoor and outdoor dining, a very special experience!
While Pub Street is awash with drinking establishments. The following places provide a bit more atmosphere (and quiet!): Miss Wong, Elephant Bar (Raffles Hotel), FCC Angkor Cambodia. But you have to love Red Piano Bar for the kitsch!
Cafes and Coffee Bars:
Common Grounds, The Little Red Fox, Sister Srey
Gelato Lab, Glasshouse (Park Hyatt)
Need to Know
For more of my favorite picks for Siem Reap, I’ve included some of my favorite can’t-miss picks in this three-day Siem Reap itinerary.
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