Top 10 Things to Do in Siem Reap, Cambodia

By on Published: April 9, 2020 | Last Updated: April 10, 2020 in Asia, CAMBODIA with 2 Comments

Top 10 Things to Do in Siem Reap

If there’s one place you’ve got to visit in Cambodia (and tick off your bucket list), it has to be Siem Reap.

Home to one of the world’s greatest temple complexes – Angkor Wat – this ancient and UNESCO-listed beauty draws tens of thousands of visitors each year.

It’s probably fair to say therefore, that Siem Reap is not off the beaten track when it comes to tourists, but at the same time, it is just one of those places you have to visit!

And visit for a few days, because those that rush their time here just don’t get the same experience.

If you want my advice, come for at least 3 nights, explore the temples at a relaxed pace over a number of days and, in between, check out the other opportunities and experiences Siem Reap has.

If you’re keen to learn more, here’s my pick of the bunch, the 10 best things to do in Siem Reap in Cambodia.

Oh and if you’re wanting to combine a visit to Siem Reap with an adventure in Vietnam (as many people do), then check out my top Cambodia and Vietnam itinerary for some epic ideas about what to do during a trip to both these countries.


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#1 Check Out the Town’s Temples

Cambodia, Angkor Wat, Engravings 3

First up on my list of the best things to do in Siem Reap is check out the temples in this town.

And I’m not talking about Angkor Wat here!

While this massive complex lies a little outside the city (you’ve really got to get a tuk-tuk there), there’s also some lovely temples within Siem Reap itself to explore… albeit ones that are a bit smaller!

Giving you a fascinating insight into important parts of Cambodian culture, especially if you’re new to the whole scene, the 2 temples I recommend checking out within the centre of Siem Reap are Wat Preah Prom Rath and Wat Bo.

Both free to enter and delightful to stroll round, this is a great morning activity to enjoy on a day when you’re not planning on heading to Angkor Wat until the afternoon / for sunset.

 

#2 Soak up the Night Markets

Cambodia, Battambang, Snails

Conversely, if you’re heading to Angkor Wat for sunrise one day (which you definitely should, learn why here), then you’ll likely be exhausted by afternoon and heading back to Siem Reap for a siesta.

After you’re feeling refreshed however, you’ve then found the perfect time to explore Siem Reap itself.

Like many Southeast Asian cities, Siem Reap really kicks into life after dark, when the horrendous humidity of the day dies down.

And centre of the action at this time is the night market.

Head here to grab some delicious and cheap food for dinner, or just to soak in the atmosphere of this bustling spectacle – it really is the heart of the city.

 

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#3 Eat A Lot

Cambodia, Kampot, Cabbage

But if the night markets aren’t enough for you, or you feel like something different, or a bit more refined, then you’ll be glad to know Siem Reap also has an incredible amount of great restaurant.

Tailored to the tourist crowd, eating delicious Cambodian food (or grub from around the world if you want) is definitely one of the best things to do in Siem Reap.

As a vegetarian, I was happy to find I was well catered for too here, with the following places topping my meat-free eat-out list:

 

#4 Drink!

Cambodia, Siem Reap, Ibis Styles

And if the eating wasn’t enough, there’s plenty of drinking that goes in Siem Reap too.

If that’s your kind of thing, then heading to the aptly-named Pub Street is probably the thing to do; spilling off the night market and filled with, well pubs, this is the place to live it up until the early hours.

A backpacker haven and a budget-priced country anyway, you can certainly have a cheap night out here in Siem Reap if you want.

 

#5 Stroll the Riverside

Cambodia, Angkor Wat Sunrise 12

However, if you prefer to be up and about in the day (and probably looking for a way to escape the heat a little without being stuck in aircon) then one of the best things to do in Siem Reap is to stroll along the riverside that lies at the geographical centre of this town.

This has actually been done in a lovely way, with walkways lining both sides of the river and pedestrian lanes on the bridges crossing it too.

As you stroll you’ll discover snippets of local life and experience this city in a way you never can from the back of a tuk-tuk.

 

#6 Get a Massage

Cambodia, Siem Reap, Ibis Styles Decor

And if the riverside stroll has got you in the mood for relaxing, then why not take it one step further with an amazing massage, which is definitely one of the best things to enjoy in Siem Reap.

There’s tons of people offering all sorts of treatments throughout the Night Market and streets of Siem Reap (including the fish that eat the dead skin off your feet!), otherwise many of the hotels offer more upmarket services in spa-like settings too.

If you opt for a traditional Cambodian massage, which in my opinion you should, do be warned that these are similar to Thai massages i.e. strong and like a form of semi-torture!

That said, they are amazing however for sorting out your aches and creaks and, in my opinion, the pain is well worth it!

Cambodian massage techniques don’t use oil and pressure is applied above clothes, so wearing something loose-fitting is best.

 

#7 Shop Sustainably

Cambodia, Battambang, Decoration

And not only do the Night Markets promise food and drink (as we’ve discussed) but they also offer some of Siem Reap’s best shopping opportunities.

Honestly, everything from clothes to artwork, spices to souvenirs is on sale here.

If you need to pick up an Instagram outfit for Angkor Wat this is your spot (just saying!) otherwise grab some gifts here to take home, or perhaps you’ll be tempted by a pair of quintessential fisherman pants… I mean have you even travelled in Southeast Asia if you haven’t bought at least one pair?!

But seriously, one of the things I liked most about shopping in the streets of Siem Reap was the amount of sustainable and socially conscious enterprises there were.

With many organisations here supporting local women, those with disabilities, Cambodian wildlife or the environment, you can shop to your heart’s content in Siem Reap and not feel guilty about it, knowing you’re supporting a good cause.

 

#8 Snap a Sunset

Cambodia, Angkor Wat, Sunset 1

One of the best things to do in Siem Reap and one thing you absolutely can’t miss here is snapping an amazing sunset.

And whether that’s over Angkor Wat, or over the river in Siem Reap itself, watching that great red ball disappear through the humid haziness at the end of another hot day (and grabbing a snap if you want) is one of the most beautiful sights you’ll see here.

 

#9 Cool Down in a Pool

Cambodia, Siem Reap, Ibis Styles Me

And when it comes to the end of the day, having endured all the hectic heat and humidity you’ll find in Siem Reap, you’ll likely be dying to have a swim!

This will probably be exacerbated further if you’ve spent all day walking and sightseeing, when visions of getting out of your sweaty clothes and cooling your body down will seem like heaven!

Given this, I highly suggest staying somewhere in Siem Reap with a pool because come the late afternoon, there’s nothing more refreshing than jumping in one followed by an ice cold beer as you wash the day off.

For those on a budget, I highly recommend the excellent Onederz Siem Reap, which is a gorgeous hostel complete with 2 pools!

One pool sits on the roof of the main building and is mostly accessed by those staying in the dorm rooms.

The other pool is across the road, in the wing where the private rooms are, and offers a much quieter and more relaxed space.

As well as having 2 great pools, this hostel also has some seriously friendly staff, is spotlessly clean and knows how to crank the aircon!

They can also arrange group tuk-tuk transport to Angkor Wat, which is a great way to keep your budget down when it comes to number 10 on this list!

Book your stay at Onederz Hostel Siem Reap at the best rates HERE.

Alternatively, for those looking for some midrange accommodation, or a bit more privacy, it’s hard to go past the Ibis Styles, which I’ve named the best place to stay in Siem Reap.

A new and modern small hotel, right in the heart of Siem Reap, this place is as functional and convenient as it is relaxing and comfortable.

And their rooftop pool, with views over the river, is hard to beat too!

The best place to cool down after a busy day in Siem Reap, there’s honestly few things better than returning to the peaceful and quiet Ibis Styles to enjoy a refreshing swim and reset before you venturing out for a delicious dinner.

 

#10 Marvel at Angkor Wat

Cambodia, Angkor, Small Temple

And finally, how could anyone ever forget!

Yup, definitely one of the best things to do in Siem Reap is to marvel at the world wonder that is Angkor Wat.

A UNESCO-listed temple complex of epic proportions and ancient magnetism, most people have no idea how big this whole site is, or how long it takes to see it all.

And, in all likelihood, you won’t see it all, but I highly recommend giving it a good go over 3 days!

While you can get 1 day entrance tickets for the site, you simply won’t be able to do the place justice in this, time – you’ll miss either sunrise, sunset or both and you’re likely to spend most of the day hot, sweaty, exhausted and a bit grumpy.

My advice is to take your time therefore, and soak in the place slowly over 3 days, allowing ample breaks and visiting different parts of the site, in different ways, each day.

As an example, on day 1 you could visit Angkor Wat at sunrise (learn how to get the best experience here) and enjoy a morning of cycling around the site.

This tour I took to do just this comes highly recommended as it supports local guides who have so much passion and information, it makes the perfect Angkor introduction with a visit to the 4 main temples.

On day 2, why not visit Angkor Wat later on, travelling there and around by tuk-tuk, before catching sunset on top one of the temples at dusk.

Onederz Hostel offer cheap tuk-tuk afternoon + sunset tours that start at 12:30pm pair you with other travellers to keep the price down. They cost $7 USD and take you to 5 quieter temples that have fewer tourists.

Finally, on the third day you can revisit parts of the complex you want to see again, or other parts you missed, walking around the temples to really get that feeling of having been transported to an ancient civilisation in the middle of the jungle.

Absolutely the best thing to do in Siem Reap, if not the whole of Cambodia, this is one you can’t miss off your Southeast Asian bucket list for sure!

 

The Best Time to Visit Siem Reap

Cambodia, Angkor Wat, Me

No question that the best time to visit Siem Reap is during the winter season, when the humidity and temperatures are slightly lower in this tropical town and the chance of rain reduced.

December through February forms the main high season in these parts, but honestly, I’d avoid these times as crowds at Angkor Wat then will be insane!

Instead, bat for the shoulder season months of either October – November or March – April, prices will be better and although there will still be a lot of tourists around, it won’t quite be as bad!

 

Best Travel Insurance for Your Cambodia Trip

Cambodia, Angkor, Landscape

I’d never consider travelling to Cambodia without proper coverage and always recommend travel insurance from World Nomads which I’ve used throughout my time in this country, Southeast Asia and beyond.

I love that they cover active adventures such as cycling and scuba diving, which you’ll want if you’re going to enjoy this country to the fullest.

The customer service at World Nomads is also excellent, and you can take out, claim or extend your policy easily online.

Get a free quote on your travel insurance with World Nomads below…

 

 

5 Packing Essentials for Cambodia

Cambodia, Angkor Wat Sunrise Me

#1 Lonely Planet Guidebook – The Cambodia Lonely Planet is excellent and very helpful for any trip to this country with lots of top tips and recommended places to eat.

#2 Walking Shoes – There’s likely to be a lot of walking in Siem Reap, especially around those temples at Angkor Wat. As such, I advise packing a pair of good runners, like these New Balance trainers, which are perfect for strolling and climbing the big temple steps.

#3 European & British Power Adapters – Cambodia has a mix of power outlets, but generally opts for a mix of the European and British ones, so make sure you come prepared with a Skross world adapter

#4 Camera and Lens – I love my Sony A6000 mirrorless, which was ideal for snapping the amazing temples of Angkor Wat. Alternatively, a Go Pro Hero 8 would be amazing for capturing the more active side of your trip here.

#5 Travel Wrap – A great multi-purpose travel item that can be used to safely store valuables and cover your shoulders while you explore Cambodia’s temples, I love mine from Sholdit.

 

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Top 10 Things to Do in Siem Reap, Cambodia

 

So that’s my list of the top 10 things to do in Siem Reap in Cambodia.

Home to one of the world’s greatest temple spectacles, there’s no doubt spending at least a few days here is a must on any Southeast Asia itinerary.

Is it on yours yet?

 

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About the Author

About the Author: Creator of Big World Small Pockets, Stephanie Parker is a budget travel addict! Originally from Jersey in the Channel Islands, Stephanie backpacks the world collecting tips, advice and stories, to share with a smile .

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There Are 2 Brilliant Comments

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  1. Jim says:

    Thanks for this great post. I will visit Siem Reap after this coronavirus ends.

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