If there’s one place you’ve got to visit in Cambodia (and tick off your bucket list), it has to be Siem Reap… and here’s my list of the top things to do there.
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 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.
What can I say? I’m here to help!
- How to Travel from Bangkok to Siem Reap by Bus
- 10 Epic Things to Do in Cambodia
- Perfect 2 Week Cambodia Itinerary
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#1 Check Out Siem Reap’s Temples
First up on my list of the best things to do in Siem Reap it’s 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 around, 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
Conversely, if you’re heading to Angkor Wat for sunrise one day (which you definitely should FYI, learn why here), then you’ll likely be exhausted by the afternoon and ready to head back to Siem Reap for a siesta!
After you’re feeling rested and refreshed however, you’ve then got the perfect time to explore Siem Reap in the evening.
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 of the day 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 beating heart of the city.
#3 Eat A Lot!
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 restaurants.
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 Relax with a Drink
And if the eating wasn’t enough, then there’s plenty of great drinking spots in Siem Reap too.
If it’s your kind of thing (read. it’s not mine, but I’m also not a young backpacker anymore!), then heading to the aptly-named Pub Street is certainly one of the most popular things to do in this city.
Spilling off the night market and filled with, yes you guessed it, pubs, this is the place to live it up until the early hours.
A backpacker haven and a budget-priced country anyway, you certainly can have a cheap night out in Siem Reap if you want.
#5 Stroll the Riverside
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 lovely riverside that lies at the geographical centre of this city.
The riverside promenade has actually been created in a lovely way, with walkways lining both sides of the water 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
And if the riverside stroll has got you in the mood for a bit of relaxation, 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 holistic treatments throughout the Night Market and streets of Siem Reap (including dipping your feet in a pool of fish that eat the dead skin off your toes!), 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, oil-free and like a form of semi-torture!
That said, they are amazing however for sorting out your aches and pains and, in my opinion, the torture is well worth it!
Cambodian massage techniques involve you sitting and standing on a mat (rather than lying on a massage bed), with pressure being applied above your clothes, so wearing something loose-fitting, light and thin is best.
#7 Shop Sustainably
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, then this is your spot, 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, knowing you’re supporting a good cause, and not feel guilty about it!
#8 Snap a Sunset
One of the best things to do in Siem Reap and one thing you absolutely can’t miss during your time here is snapping an amazing Cambodian sunset.
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 roasting day is absolutely one of the most beautiful sights you can see here – don’t miss it!
#9 Cool Down in a Pool
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 something with 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 venture out for a delicious dinner.
#10 Marvel at Angkor Wat
And finally, how could anyone ever forget that visiting the mighty Angkor Wat is certainly one of the best things to do in Siem Reap?!
A world wonder and a huge UNESCO-listed temple complex of epic proportions and ancient magnetism, most people have no idea just how big this whole site is.
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 Angkor Wat, you simply won’t be able to do this place justice in this short 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 then 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 that it makes the perfect Angkor introduction with a visit to the 4 main temples.
On day 2, why not visit Angkor Wat later on in the day, travelling there and around by tuk-tuk, before catching sunset on top of one of the temples at dusk.
Onederz Hostel offer cheap tuk-tuk afternoon + sunset tours to Angkor Wat that start at 12:30pm and 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.
Otherwise, check out my list of the top 7 Angkor Wat tours here.
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!
And, if you want to learn how best to buy your Angkor Wat tickets, as well as how much they cost, check out the post I wrote all about that here.
Mini Travel Guide to Siem Reap
Best Time to Visit Siem Reap?
No question that the best time to visit Siem Reap is during Cambodia’s winter season, when the humidity and temperatures are slightly lower in this tropical town and the chance of rain is greatly 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 and November or March and April; prices will be better and although there will still be a lot of tourists around, it won’t quite be as bad!
How to Get to Siem Reap?
With an international airport, it’s easy to fly directly into this city if you’re travelling from further afield.
It’s then just a short tuk-tuk or taxi ride to the city centre, where your accommodation is likely to be.
Alternatively, if you’re travelling to Siem Reap from a nearby destination – perhaps from the Cambodian capital Phnom Pehn or Bangkok in Thailand, then you can easily use a good bus service to make the journey.
How Long to Spend There?
I think 3-4 days is a good amount of time to visit Siem Reap, including Angkor Wat.
Check out my picks of the best Angkor Wat tours here.
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5 Packing Essentials for Cambodia
#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 would be awesome 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.
Travel Money in Cambodia
When it comes to paying for things in Cambodia, you want to ensure you’re not being charged overseas transaction fees or getting poor exchange rates when using your card abroad, which is why I always take my Wise Card away with me wherever I travel.
The easy way to spend abroad with real exchange rates, no markups and no sneaky transaction fees, you can use your Wise card just like a debit card in Cambodia… and it links easily with Google and Apple pay – sold! Get yours here.
SAVE THIS TO PINTEREST!
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 that spending at least a few days here is a must on any Southeast Asia itinerary.
Is it on yours yet?
Let me know any questions you might have by dropping them into the comments box below…