Siem Reap Things To Do, Hotels, Nightlife & Activities – Hardly any other city in Cambodia is as well-known as Siem Reap. Even if the rather leisurely small town in the middle of swampy landscapes has little to offer, it has achieved worldwide fame.
This is clearly because one of the most impressive Unesco World Heritage Sites is located here, the Angkor Wat area. Even if the name Angkor Wat stands for an entire temple landscape, it is only one of more than 20 individual temple complexes, which together form an incomparable sight worth experiencing.
But not enough! In the immediate vicinity is also the impressive Tonle Sap, a huge lake, which made the region so livable in the days of Angkor Wat. Nowadays, the small, former colonial town of Siem Reap can also be described as a must see itself, as thousands of backpackers and holidaymakers from all over the world explore the area from there every year. Siem Reap itself offers an international airport, a distinctive backpacker district with a buzzling nightlife, many markets, beautiful colonial-style buildings, and a large number of accommodations for travelers.
Find out everything you can experience in Siem Reap and the surrounding area and which sights you should definitely not miss in Siem Reap with our tips for the best things to do in Siem Reap.
What is the best time to travel to Siem Reap?
The climate in Cambodia is tropical and the temperatures are warm all year round. Even in the coolest month of December, temperatures do not drop below 22°C. Cambodia’s rainy season runs from April to October, with most of the rainfall expected in the west. However, the downpours often only extend over the afternoon/evening hours. Incidentally, the best travel time for Cambodia is predicted from November to March, which also applies to the region around Siem Reap.
How to get to Siem Reap
Siem Reap can be reached in several ways. The most convenient way is via Siem Reap Angkor International Airport, which is located only 8 kilometers from the city center. The airport is served by many destinations from surrounding countries such as Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia, Singapore or Laos. Domestic flights are mainly available from Phnom Penh. If you are traveling from a neighboring country and do not yet have a visa for Cambodia in your passport, you can have a Visa-On-Arrival issued for a fee of USD 30. Alternatively, you can easily have an e-visa valid for 90 days issued online and save yourself the waiting time at the airport.
It is also possible to travel to Siem Reap by land, even if it is very exhausting. The roads in Cambodia are bad, even the shortest distances are long. It takes a good 4-5 hours to Phnom Penh, but the tickets are very cheap. If you want to drive from Thailand to Siem Rep via minivan, you should easily plan 10 hours or more (depending on your destination in Thailand).
When we wanted to take the bus from Koh Chang in Thailand to Siem Reap, a local travel agency even advised us not to do so, even though they missed out on selling a ticket. By the way, there is no train connection to Siem Reap.
The best way to book transfers by bus, minivan or taxi in Cambodia is via 12go. There you will get the best overview of travel times and transport options. We have used the service several times during our Asia trips.
Getting around Siem Reap
In Siem Reap itself, getting from around is super easy. In the city itself, everything is actually within walking distance, the trip to the temple complexes can be covered with a tuk tuk. Rides in the city cost something around 1-2 USD, if you want to hire a driver and tuk tuk for the whole day, you should plan between 15 and 25 USD. In addition, renting a bike is a good alternative to get around Siem Reap.
Hint: Don’t overpay the drivers! 10 USD is already a lot of money in Cambodia. Usual fares for one way short trips are 1 USD. Day trips should not cost more than 25-35 USD.
You can also get to downtown Siem Reap quickly and cheaply from the airport. In addition to the many free tuk tuk and taxi drivers, there are also official taxi stands where vehicles in different classes can be booked. A trip in a tuk tuk officially costs 3 USD for the 8 kilometers to the city center and 7 USD in an air-conditioned car.
Hint: Just keep left at the airport exit and walk past the screaming crowd. There you will find the official counters with the fixed prices mentioned above.
Hotels in Siem Reap
Siem Reap offers everything from simple backpacker accommodation to luxury resorts. The small town houses and guest houses right in the center are particularly popular. The French colonial style there has its very own charm and the entire nightlife as well as a number of markets and sights can be reached quickly on foot.
The area around Pub Street, Central Market Street and Pokambor Avenue along the river is particularly recommended for accommodation. Highly recommended is the Pub Street Private Pool Villa with super fast internet (15 Mbits is enormous for Cambodia). This accommodation offers a swimming pool and is also an ideal place to explore the city.
Also recommended is the Hotel de Ville right on the river with a beautiful rooftop pool and very well-kept rooms. The Old Market, Pub Street and other sights are just 200 meters from the Hotel de Ville. The price of around 80 euros per night (incl. airport transfer) is not a bargain, but it is okay for a 4-star hotel and the great location is definitely worth it!
By the way, you can book cheap hotels in Siem Reap via Agoda. The Asian counterpart to Booking (both belong to the same company) offers rooms in all price categories and the special deals are often even cheaper than booking on site!
Siem Reap Things To Do – In and around the city
In the heart of Siem Reap, around Pub Street area, all of life takes place. In addition to great markets and night markets, most of the restaurants and bars as well as a colonial-style city center can also be found there. There are also, most travel agencies located, so tours and excursions such as an ATV or enduro tour can also be booked. In the following sections we will introduce you to the most beautiful sights in Siem Reap in more detail.
Old Market – Phsar Chas
The Old Market is right in the heart of the city and just a few meters from Pub Street. The market hall offers everything you need to live and much more. Food, meat, fish and other foods are offered. Clothing stalls, jewelery shops, exchange offices and hairdressers can also be found inside. Life is thriving here and visitors who are in Southeast Asia for the first time will discover a lot of new things. For example, vendors simply sleep on the fish counter and right next to the fruit stand it can happen that there is a lot of activity in an open beauty salon. A typical Southeast Asian market!
A visit to the market is absolutely worth seeing and experiencing and you can easily spend several hours in the hall. Just stroll through and immerse yourself in the lives of the locals!
Angkor Night Bazaar
The Angkor Night Bazaar is by no means only open at night, but is ideal for all-day shopping. Shirts, dresses, shoes, bags, but also jewelry and mobile phones can be bought here. These are almost always counterfeit products, but some of them are really well made. Prices are way overstated without negotiation.
In general, amounts greater than a few US dollars should never be paid. Because you should never forget: around 50-100 US dollars is already a monthly salary in rural Cambodia.
Experience has shown that an extremely large number of products are even cheaper than those available in Thailand. Good negotiating skills are always required.
Art Center Night Market
The Art Center Night Market in Siem Reap is picturesquely situated on the river and is primarily a tourist market. In addition to the usual all sorts of things like shoes and shirts, there are artworks and souvenirs. The entire market and the prices are designed for tourists, so bargaining is a must! The Art Center Market in Siem Reap is purely a tourist market.
Pub Street is the center of nightlife in Siem Reap. Bars, clubs, restaurants and travel agencies have settled around the so-called backpacker district. There’s always something going on on Pub Street, whether it’s day or night.
Pub Street is one of the places in Siem Reap where you can always find entertainment 24 hours a day. It’s a great place to have a coffee during the day, eat out in the evening and enjoy a beer at night. In addition, the location is located so central that everyone will probably pass Pub Street at least once. Also, if you’re looking to party hard, then Pub Street and its Beer Gardens is the place to be for drunken socializing.
Colonial Downtown & Riverside
Siem Reap is a colonial city and so French buildings characterize the cityscape. Especially around the river and Pub Street there are some mansions and town houses in colonial style. Immerse yourself in a very special atmosphere when you stroll through the streets of the “old town”. Many great photo opportunities are included. The Hotel De Ville recommended above is also a beautiful old colonial building.
Siem Reap War Museum
The Siem Reap War Museum is just outside the city center about halfway to the airport and can be easily reached by tuk tuk for around USD 2-3. The war history of Cambodia is processed and presented in the museum. We ourselves had visited the museum without a guide, which was a big mistake. A visit to the museum is only worthwhile thanks to the reports of the tour guides, who can all tell first-hand about the country’s eventful past.
The Landmine Museum is also located outside of Siem Reap (about 20 km), but tuk tuk drivers are happy to offer their service for a few USD. In the small museum itself, the problems of the post-war period are illustrated and presented in a gruesome way, provided one is willing to read up on the subject in the museum or to use the audio guide. A visit to the Landmine Museum near Siem Reap is a must for anyone who is really interested in Cambodia’s eventful war history and wants to learn more about the background of the formerly heavily mined country!
The Royal Gardens in Siem Rap are located right in the heart of the city and can be easily reached either by tuk tuk or within a 10-minute walk through the city. The garden itself is beautifully landscaped and also houses a royal residence. However, particularly nice is the Preah Ang Chek Preah Ang Chorm Temple, which is located directly in the park and is a very popular shrine in Siem Reap. In addition to some tourists, it is mainly the locals who come here to make offerings to Buddha. It is best to buy flowers in front of the temple and donate them to the temple to get a little luck and blessings in life…
Phnom Krom is a 137 m high hill with a temple complex in the Angkor region, about 10 km southwest of Siem Reap on Tonle Sap Lake. What makes a visit here so worthwhile is the magnificent view of the entire surrounding plain and the lake. The temple ruins themselves are very beautiful. We can only recommend everyone to visit the Phnom Krom, because you can take really great pictures here.
Tonle Sap – Floating Villages
The Tonle Sap is the largest lake in Southeast Asia and also one of the most fish-rich inland waters on earth. No wonder entire families earn their living here and have built their villages directly on the water. A visit to the fishing villages is a popular excursion for tourists these days. Daytrips to Tonle Sap can be conveniently booked here.
Angkor Wat Siem Reap
Although the entire temple area is commonly known as Angkor Wat, this is just one of many temples. In the entire area, which costs an entrance fee, there are countless temples and buildings, which we would like to introduce to you roughly. A day ticket costs about 40 USD per person, which can be bought directly at the entrance to the park. If you want to save yourself the queue, you can already get your ticket for Angkor Wat online via Tiqets.com. The prices on the platform are often even cheaper than on site! There are also other ticket variants for several days or even a week, but in our opinion 1-3 days on the area are completely sufficient.
Angkor Wat is the most famous temple complex in the Angkor region of Cambodia. The temple is located near Siem Reap, about 20 km north of Tonle Sap Lake. A visit at sunrise is particularly popular, when there is a special atmosphere. The sun usually rises around 5 a.m., you should definitely be at the temple area some time before to not miss anything. Unfortunately, thousands of people have the same idea and so you don’t need to expect a quiet and lonely setting even in the early morning. After all, sunrise is a little more leisurely than at noon.
Next to Angkor Wat, the Bayon is the best known and most impressive temple complex in Angkor – famous above all for its towers with meter-high faces carved from stone. Do not miss!
Angkor Thom is located about 1 kilometer north of Angkor Wat and is also an ornate temple worth seeing.
The Buddhist temple complex Preah Khan is probably the relic of a provisional Angkor capital.
Banteay Kdei is a monastic complex in Angkor built from the mid-12th to early 13th centuries under King Jayavarman VII. The construction is similar to Ta Prohm but less ornate and smaller.
Neak Pean is an artificial island in the center of the North Baray, an artificial reservoir.
The Srah Srang is a water reservoir measuring about 725 × 400 meters near the historical sites of Angkor Thom and Angkor Wat.
Krol Ko is a smaller Buddhist temple complex of the Angkor World Heritage Site and is only a few hundred meters north of the artificial island of Neak Pean.
Who does not know this motif!? Ta Prohm is an ancient temple and monastery surrounded by tropical trees. The motif is a symbol for many when they think of Angkor Wat and Cambodia.
Phnom Bakheng – Sunset Point
The pyramid temple Phnom Bakheng, dedicated to Shiva, is located on the hill of the same name between Angkor Wat and Angkor Thom. The Khmer word “phnom” denotes a precipitously rising elevation. Since magnificent sunsets can be observed from there, a caravan of tourists moves to the Temple Mount every evening to enjoy the sunset with a magnificent view of the surrounding area and the temple complex. Even if the hike up the mountain at sunset is a real “tourist thing”, it is highly recommended that you do it once as the view is definitely worth it.
The Baphuon, a monumental temple mountain built in the mid-11th century in honor of the Hindu god Shiva, is one of the most important testimonies of the Angkorian period.
Terrace of the Elephants
The Terrace of the Elephants is located in Angkor Thom, west of Siem Reap. It lies west of the north-south street on the Great Square and thus delimits the palace grounds to the east.
Note: In and around Siem Reap and Angkor Wat there are at least 20 other complexes and temples. Of course we haven’t seen all of them ourselves and it would be too extensive to list them here. However, we have previously listed the most important and most beautiful buildings, which should also usually be on every bucket list during a visit to the area.
Siem Reap Nightlife
Since Siem Reap is a popular travel destination and a number of young holidaymakers come to Siem Reap in search of adventure in Southeast Asia, a lively nightlife has developed in the otherwise rather small town. Pubs, clubs and bars can mainly be found around the backpacker mile “Pub Street”. Night markets and restaurants complete the picture for evening activities. We briefly present the best meeting places for backpackers and party people here.
City Center & Night Markets
Downtown, around Sivatha Blvd and Pokambor Avenue along the river, most of the evening’s hustle and bustle takes place. The Night Market on Sivatha Blvd allows for shopping, and there are also a number of restaurants and bars within easy reach. The area is great to explore on foot. Opposite Pokambor Avenue, on the other side of the river is the Siem Reap Art Night Market, which also invites you to stroll. The crossings over the river and the entire area are atmospherically illuminated. A really great experience!
Pub Street, the backpacker & party district
If you like a little more action, Pub Street is the place for you. It’s not quite as wild here as on Khao San Road in Bangkok, but there are still enough party people to be found and the party goes on into the wee hours. Some bars on Pub Street are particularly popular, such as “Angkor What? Bar”, the “Temple Club”, or the after-hour “X-Bar” right at the intersection with Sok San Road. Also along Shivata Blvd. there are more bars and pubs.
Eating & Drinking in Siem Reap
In Siem Reap it is super easy to get delicious food of any kind. Whether it’s a small street food restaurant, an international restaurant chain or western restaurants, everything can be found in Siem Reap.
Restaurants around Pub Street
Around Pub Street and Sivatha Blvd, as well as in the small side streets, there are many restaurants for every taste.
There are also many stylish coffee shops and bistros for a relaxed afternoon. Just keep an eye out around Pub Street and the side streets all the way to Phsar Chas.
Authentic Khmer restaurants
There are only a few really authentic Khmer restaurants for locals in the city center around Pub Street. If you want to go to such a “restaurant”, you should ask a tuk tuk driver about it or even better invite him directly to his favorite restaurant.
Is Siem Reap safe?
Since Siem Reap is a tourist hub, the city can be counted among the safer ones in Cambodia. Especially the area around Pub Street and other sights can be visited at any time of the day or night. However, special caution is always required. Don’t display valuables and avoid stumbling drunk late at night alone down deserted alleys.
It is also better to keep your distance from beggars and prostitutes, as they often circle you and rob you unnoticed. In addition, caution is definitely advised if you head towards Angkor Wat at sunrise. In the past, there were often violent attacks on tuk tuks and cyclists on the road through the lonely forest, but fortunately these times are probably over.
No money should be given to beggars and vendors around the temples. Also, beware of minor scams at sunrise in Angkor Wat. There it is not uncommon for beggars to pretend to be official employees of the facility and force tourists to obtain Buddha’s blessings on statues by donating money. It is not uncommon for visitors to be pushed into dark corners of the temple and asked to put 10-50 USD (a lot of money) at the feet of the statue. This can be intimidating for some tourists and seems to give scammers financial success as well. It is best to ignore these scammers and move on immediately.
Note: These experiences are from 2013. If you have any information about the current situation, we would be happy to hear about that in the comment section!
A perfect day in Siem Reap
So that you can enjoy your stay in Siem Reap to the maximum, we have put together a perfect day in the city and the surrounding area for you. It is best to rent a tuk tuk including a driver for the whole day (approx. 25 USD).
- Sunrise at Angkor Wat
- Exploring the temples in the area
- Visit to the Land Mine Museum
- Lunch in an authentic restaurant in the atmospheric old town
- Visit to Phsar Chas market
- Visit to a Buddhist temple in the city (Preah Ang Chek Preah Ang Chorm)
- Sunset at Phnom Bakheng Temple
- Dinner around PubStreet
- Visit to the Night Bazaar by the river
- Party until the early hours on the backpacker mile Pub Street.
Siem Reap Map
Attached you will find an interactive map with all the sights and things to do in Siem Reap.
Have you already been to Siem Reap ? What were your impressions of the city? Leave us a comment below!