Siem Reap is the closest town to Angkor Wat, which is the most popular tourist destination in all of Cambodia. Most people really only visit Siem Reap to see the nearby temples of Angkor Wat, but you’ll be surprised to learn that it’s actually a pretty lively little city!
With 2.6 million tourists annually, Siem Reap is one of the biggest tourism hubs in Southeast Asia. You’ll find luxurious hotels, world-class dining, endless shopping, a bustling pedestrian mall, and lots of fun things to do in Siem Reap.
While many people stop in Siem Reap for just long enough to see Angkor Wat, we think it’s worth spending a few extra days here. Most visitors also find that it’s easy to feel a little “templed-out” after a couple of days in the Angkor Archeological Park.
Taking a day off to relax in Siem Reap can give you the second wind you need to finish exploring Angkor Wat. We have compiled our list of the best things to do in Siem Reap to help you make the most of your trip to Cambodia. Enjoy!
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Siem Reap Travel Basics
- Khmer is the official language of Cambodia and nearly 90% of the people in the country can speak it. Most people in Cambodia also speak English so don’t worry about communicating here.
- Learn a few Khmer phrases to get around! “Hello” is “Sous-dey”, “Thank you” is “Or-kun” (sounds like “air con”), and “Where is the toilet?” is “Bantubdakknoew ay nah?”
- Tipping should be minimal if at all here. And several restaurants that we recommend add a 5% service charge to your bill so be sure to check before leaving more.
Money in Cambodia
While the official currency of Cambodia is the Cambodian Riel (KHR), most Cambodians use US Dollars. In fact, almost every ATM in the country will offer you the option of withdrawing either US Dollars or Cambodian Riels.
We recommend withdrawing Dollars as there is no advantage to using Riels and you just have to exchange any extra when you leave the country.
The Cambodian Riel is unofficially pegged at 4,000 KHR to 1 USD. So while the official exchange rate may vary slightly you can expect most businesses to use Riels and Dollars interchangeably at the rate of 4000 to 1.
Riels are primarily used to provide change if something costs less than $1. If you buy something for $0.50, you’ll receive 2,000 Riels as your change.
Getting to Siem Reap
Siem Reap is the closest city to the Angkor Archaeological Park. It takes just 15 minutes to get from the center of town to the park’s main entrance.
Siem Reap has an international airport (REP) so catching a flight from Phnom Penh or any other large city in Southeast Asia is relatively easy.
If you would prefer to travel to Siem Reap by bus, Giant Ibis is a reliable, low-cost company with several buses daily to Siem Reap from both Phnom Penh and Bangkok.
The bus trip from Phnom Penh to Siem Reap takes about six hours and you’ll stop twice for food and bathroom breaks. The bus trip from Bangkok to Siem Reap takes closer to 10 hours due to the border crossing even though it’s just 250 miles (we recommend flying).
When booking buses around Southeast Asia, we always use Bookaway.com. It lets you check the routes, times, and prices of all the buses and minivans for your chosen route. Plus, it’s super easy to change or cancel bus tickets if something happens before your trip.
Note: As of 2022, the Giant Ibis site shows a Bangkok to Siem Reap route in its schedule, but it may not be available for booking – that might change in the future.
Getting Around Siem Reap
There are two apps that are similar to Uber in Siem Reap – Grab (iPhone|Android) and PassApp (iPhone|Android). You can use either app if you want to hail a car. And you can also use PassApp to hail tuk-tuks. If you would prefer to just hail someone on the street, there are literally hundreds of tuk-tuk drivers all over town.
If you want more freedom, you can also rent a motorbike for the day. Some people also choose to bicycle out to the Angkor Archaeological Park although we wouldn’t recommend it as you’ll be sweaty, exhausted, and sunburned by the end of the day.
Where to Stay in Siem Reap
The Embassy Angkor Resort & Spa features a gorgeous outdoor swimming pool, which is the perfect place to relax after a morning exploring the temples of Angkor Wat. Rooms are large with comfortable beds and the most inviting bathtub. You’ll love staying at The Embassy!
If you’re looking for a luxury hotel offering room options at a lower nightly rate, The Night Hotel is a great choice! The location is perfect, right near Pub Street, so you’ll be in the middle of the action. The large outdoor pool is pristine and the rooms are spacious and well-appointed.
The Top 15 Things to do in Siem Reap
1. Explore the Ancient Temples of Angkor Wat
The Angkor Archaeological Park is the crown jewel of Cambodia and the reason that most tourists visit Siem Reap. While some people just spend a single day in the Angkor Archaeological Park, we think you’ll want at least two days to see all the best temples at Angkor Wat.
There are two main routes to follow in the archaeological park. The Small Circuit (or “Short Circuit”) covers the most popular temples, including Ta Prohm (the “Tomb Raider Temple”), Bayon, and Angkor Wat itself. Almost everyone that visits the Angkor Archaeological Park will wind up doing the small circuit route or some variation of it.
The second standard route is the Grand Circuit (or “Large Circuit”) which covers many of the best temples that are located outside of the Angkor Thom walled city, including Preah Khan, Neak Pean, Ta Som, East Mebon, and Pre Rup.
Read all of our Posts About Angkor Wat:
- Things to Know Before Visiting Angkor Wat
- Complete Guide to Angkor Wat: The Best Temples to Visit
- Angkor Wat: Guide to the Small Circuit Tour
- Angkor Wat: Guide to the Grand Circuit Tour
- What to Wear in Angkor Wat: Packing List for Cambodia
2. Visit a Floating Village on the Tonle Sap
There are several floating villages near Siem Reap. These villages are popular to visit so you can see the local people going about their daily lives. They live in floating houses on the edge of Tonle Sap Lake and travel by boat to get wherever they need to go.
Our favorite of the villages is Kampong Phluk floating village. Even though it is referred to as a floating village, it is technically more of a stilt village. The houses have been built on tall stilts to keep homes from flooding in the wet season.
If you visit during the wet season the houses will appear to be floating on the water. But during the dry season, you can actually get out of your boat and walk among the houses on dry land where they will tower 20 feet overhead. It’s a totally unique experience and one of the best things to do in Siem Reap after Angkor Wat.
Over the years, the floating villages of Tonle Sap have become increasingly touristy. It probably won’t feel as authentic as you want it to, but tourism does a lot to help support these villages. It’s interesting to see how people adapt to the changing seasons here.
If you want to see the villages without feeling invasive or pressured to buy their souvenirs, you can take a sunset cruise on Tonle Sap Lake. You’ll get to enjoy the views of the villages but in a more relaxed environment.
3. See the Cambodian Circus
The circus is similar to the Cirque du Solei but on a smaller scale, and with traditional Cambodian flare. Plus, it’s a good cause – the performers are graduates of Phare Ponleu Selpak’s vocational training center which provides training for disadvantaged youth.
You can catch nightly performances at 8 pm, or the earlier 5 pm show on Wednesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays.
4. Try Khmer Fusion Cuisine at Pou
Siem Reap is known for its food and you’ll find plenty of fancy 5-star dining here. But our favorite place to eat in town is the unassuming Pou Restaurant and Bar. This small open-air restaurant is run by a group of up-and-coming Cambodian chefs who are creating unique Khmer fusion cuisine.
Our favorite menu item at Pou is the deconstructed chicken curry – it’s a totally original take on a classic Cambodian dish. Also, make sure you try some of their more creative dishes such as the Beehive Salad or the Grilled Beef with Red Tree Ants. And they have a cocktail list full of interesting drink options that use local flavors like ginger, galangal root, and lemongrass.
Everything at Pou is delicious and quite affordable so order a variety of dishes and share them all!
5. Sip Cocktails at Wild Creative Bar and Eatery
Wild – Creative Bar and Eatery is an incredibly popular little outdoor bar and one of our favorite places in Siem Reap. They serve fun boozy concoctions at totally reasonable prices. Food options here are limited, they really only specialize in spring rolls. But they’re delicious!
Wild is the perfect place for a pre-dinner cocktail and appetizer – be sure to try the Taco Loco roll. Make sure you give them a call to reserve a table, especially if it’s a big group as they fill up every night.
6. Enjoy Happy Hour at the Park Hyatt
Siem Reap is full of luxury hotels featuring upscale restaurants and cocktail bars. Our absolute favorite is the Park Hyatt Siem Reap which offers an evening happy hour with 50% off select cocktails and glasses of wine.
From 5 pm until 7 pm, you can sit in their beautiful courtyard where a massive banyan tree sits at the center of a reflection pool, and enjoy delicious discounted drinks (we recommend the Cucumber Mojito).
If you decide to stay for dinner, there is also a free cultural show every Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and Sunday beginning at 7 pm. It features traditional music, dancing, and an exhibition-style Cambodian boxing match.
7. Get Your Sugar Fix at Gelato Lab
Gelato and Coffee Lab create interesting flavor combinations of deliciously decadent gelato. Options like Guatemalan coffee with caramelized Cambodian sugar cane or Papua New Guinea dark chocolate with black pepper from Kampot.
Each customer can sample two kinds before settling on a favorite. And you must get your ice cream in one of their warm, homemade waffle cones!
8. Go to a Pool Party at Cambo Beach
Cambo Beach Siem Reap is a lively “Beach Club” – a large private pool surrounded by sand (imported from Sihanoukville) and plenty of comfy beach loungers and cabanas. You’ll pay a $5 USD entrance fee that will be credited toward your food and beverage purchases. You can also pay $1 USD to rent a towel.
It’s a lively pool with daily music, pool parties throughout the week, family swim day on Sundays, and competitions where you can win boozy blended drinks. Make a splash by jumping off the high dive, play a game of beach volleyball, or lounge on one of the bean bags by the pool – it’s a good time for all ages! Plus, the food is really tasty and the drinks are reasonably priced.
If you’re feeling burnt out on exploring temples and need a day away from the heat and dust of Angkor Wat, then Cambo Beach is definitely one of the best things to do in Siem Reap!
9. Shop ’til you Drop
Considering the relatively small size of Siem Reap, there are a ton of markets around town if you like to shop for souvenirs. There is the Siem Reap Art Center Market, the Old Market (open from 8 am until 6 pm), the Made in Cambodia Market (open from 12 pm – 8 pm), and the Angkor Night Market (open from 5 pm until 11 pm).
You’ll find similar trinkets at all of these markets – loose-fitting parachute-style pants, cheesy t-shirts, straw purses, scarves, and wooden and brass statues. Most of this stuff can be found all over SE Asia but prices are reasonable. There’s no reason not to buy something that you love. Be sure to negotiate, the first asking price is never the price you should pay.
We found a few souvenirs that were unique to Cambodia. Pepper from Kampot is considered to be some of the best in the world. Silver boxes that are shaped like elephants are a good thing to pick up in Siem Reap. And you’ll see beautiful and unique brass jewelry that has been made from bullet casings found around the country.
10. Get an Archeology Lesson at the Angkor National Museum
The Angkor National Museum is the perfect addition to your tour of the Angkor Archaeological Park. Not only will it help you better understand the history of the Angkor Kingdom, but also many of the best-preserved statues and carvings have been moved to the archeological museum to protect them from further wear and tear.
The museum is well organized with good signage in English and will take at least two hours to get through all of the exhibits. If you want to learn more about the temples of Angkor Wat, this museum is a worthwhile place to spend an afternoon in Siem Reap.
Opening Hours: 8:30 am – 6 pm daily from April 1st – September 30th, 8:30 am – 6:30 pm daily from October 1st – March 31st
Entrance Fee: $12 USD for adults
11. Visit the Cambodia Landmine Museum
The Cambodia Landmine Museum is incredibly informative and well organized. Cambodia is one of the most heavily mined countries in the world and to this day civilians are injured and killed by landmines and other unexploded devices left from the decades of war that raged here. You’ll want to get the audio guide to get the full experience.
Opening Hours: Daily from 7:30 am – 5:30 pm
Entrance Fee: $5 USD for adults, free for children under 10
12. Party on Pub Street
Pub Street is the infamous party area of Siem Reap. It’s where the young backpackers go to drink too much, listen to outrageously loud music, and dance in the street. The street is lined with cheap restaurants, bars, clubs, and loads of touts trying to convince you to drink in their establishment. It’s a smaller-scale version of Khao San Road in Bangkok or Bui Vien Street in Ho Chi Minh City.
The most popular bar on Pub Street is Angkor What? Bar. They play the latest jams and have outdoor tables for prime people-watching. However, you probably won’t love this bar if you’re over the age of 25. We had one drink there (for blog research purposes of course) and during that time, we witnessed drunk people dancing on tables and one girl covered in puke get carried out of the bar.
Now that we’re in our mid-30s, this scene is not really our cup of tea. However, many backpackers would tell you a wild night of partying on Pub Street is a must-do in Siem Reap so we felt compelled to include it on our list.
13. Go Tuk-Tuk Bar Hopping
While we’re not huge fans of the bar scene on Pub Street, we love the tiny mobile tuk-tuk bars located on Street 10 at the intersection of Alley W.
These tuk-tuks have been converted into little cocktail bars with room for just 4-6 patrons. Each tiny bar has its own sound system, disco lights, and a laptop for choosing your jams. You’ll get to enjoy ridiculously cheap albeit simple cocktails and make your own little party.
Beware, the drinks are cheap because alcohol is the cheapest money can buy – you’re sure to wake up with a splitting headache the next morning. If you want to avoid the hangover, you can always stick to beer.
14. Support Local Artists at Maybe Later Mexican Bar and Grill
Maybe Later Mexican Bar & Grill is not only a great spot to get delicious nachos and the best margarita in town, but it’s also a cool way to support the local community. Every wall in this quaint little restaurant is covered in vibrant hand-painted “Day of the Dead” themed murals.
Maybe Later is not just a delicious restaurant, they also run an art program for young, talented locals who are interested in learning to create “street art”. In the coming months, they’ll also be running art classes and begin hosting open mic nights so check out their Facebook Page to see what they’re up to!
15. Drink Craft Beer at The Local
The Local Brew Pub is a great spot to go in the evenings if you want to meet some friendly travelers and drink Cambodia-brewed craft beer on tap. Currently, they only brew two of their own beers – a Creme Brulee Stout and a Hefeweizen. But they also have Indochine brews on tap so you can try the IPA or the Mango Pale Ale, both are outstanding!
A Few More of our Favorite Cafes and Restaurants in Siem Reap
Bang Bang Bakery
Bang Bang Bakery is a really darling little bakery and coffee shop in Siem Reap. One peek inside their dessert case and your mouth will be watering! Homemade cakes, pies, cookies, tarts, and crumbles are on display. They also have freshly baked bread and bagels and have a few decadent breakfast offerings.
The Little Red Fox Espresso
The Little Red Fox Espresso is a great place to get some work done, or just grab a really tasty breakfast. They have creative coffee concoctions, yummy smoothie bowls, and really delicious bagel sandwiches. Plus, they occasionally offer live music (and air conditioning!) in the afternoons in “The Den” on the second floor.
Il Forno Siem Reap has really delicious, authentic Italian food if you’re looking for a break from Khmer classics. The cheese plate is a really lovely selection of fresh cheeses, a rarity in SE Asia. And the pizzas are thin crust and incredibly flavorful. Prices are on the higher side but it’s worth it for a fun date night!
The Christa Restaurant and Bar
The Christa Restaurant and Bar is the best go-to lunch spot in Siem Reap. It’s a laidback restaurant with super reasonable prices and a big selection of Khmer and Western food options. You’ll love coming here and enjoying a fresh fruit shake and a big bowl of soup after a long morning spent at Angkor Wat.
At Bonfire Grill, you’ll find the perfect crispy wings and onion rings. If you are missing a taste from home, the American BBQ and pork ribs, and pulled pork are also one of the best you’ll find in Cambodia. It’s also a great place to eat with the family for lunch. Plus, the staff speaks fluent English and you’ll appreciate the quality.
That’s it – the best things to do in Siem Reap. Do you have a favorite Siem Reap activity that we missed? Let us know in the comments below.
Want more info on things to see and do in Siem Reap? Check out our favorite travel guides!