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10 Things to Do in Cambodia’s Phnom Penh with Kids

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Cambodia might not immediately spring to mind as a family-friendly vacation destination, but it’s an amazing country that offers a lot of great things to do with kids. The Khmer people love children and are some of the most genuine, generous and happy people you will encounter anywhere in the world. Phnom Penh is an an accessible city with numerous family-friendly attractions. Here are 10 things to do Phnom Penh with kids.

Royal Palace in Phnom Penh, Cambodia

Posing with a monkey statue at Phnom Penh Royal Palace (Photo credit: Tracy Burns)

1. Visit the playground at Wat Phnom.

A well-maintained playground with equipment for all ages sits just outside Wat Phnom, a temple on a hill known as one of the city's landmarks. Buy some popcorn and fruit from the nearby venders to eat in Wat Phnom’s gardens but watch out for the monkeys. Although they are cute, the monkeys are can be aggressive if your children have food.

2. Admire elephants.

Also at Wat Phnom, you’ll find Sambo, the hard-working elephant. You might even see her walking down along the waterfront in the afternoon in search of bananas. (2018 update: Sambo has retired to an elephant sanctuary. Read about elephant sanctuaries in Cambodia here.)

Phnom Penh Royal Palace in Cambodia

Phnom Penh Royal Palace (Photo credit: Tracy Burns)

3. Explore the Royal Palace and play traditional musical instruments.

Children will love walking on the silver tiles of the Silver Pagoda at the Royal Palace for the clippity-clop noises their feet make. Then explore the gardens filled with flowers and giant topiary trees carved into the shape of animals, teapots and other amazing shapes. A Buddha grotto set on the top of a small manmade hill is the perfect place for a picnic. Keep an ear open for the sound of music coming from the traditional stilt houses near the exit. For a small donation the musician will let your children play the traditional musical instruments and even give them a lesson.

Music Lesson at Royal Palace in Phnom Penh, Cambodia

Music Lesson with traditional Cambodian instruments (Photo credit: Tracy Burns)

4. Shop for toys in the markets.

Phnom Penh has wonderful outdoor markets filled with handicrafts, wooden toys, hairclips, DVDs, children’s clothes and games. In Phnom Penh, the Russian Market, Central Market, and Weekend Night Market are all fantastic. If you’re visiting the Weekend Night Market be sure to have a picnic dinner with the other local families. Don't worry if your children are fussy eaters – there's a KFC stand if none of the local fare appeals to them.

5. Cool down at the Phnom Penh Water Park.

It's a little run down but the Phnom Penh Water Park is well worth a visit. There are a variety of waterslides, a large jungle gym and lots of shallow areas for smaller kids to enjoy. Weekends are the best time to visit as the largest slides are typically turned off during the week. Make sure you take plenty of sunscreen as there's not a lot of shade!

Riverfront in Phnom Penh

The Riverfront in Phnom Penh (Photo credit: Tracy Burns)

6. Take a sunset cruise.

River cruises offer an interesting and amazing view of the city as you motor slowly for one to two hours along the Tonle Sap River past the Royal Palace and across to the floating fishing villages on the vast Mekong River. To arrange a cruise just head to the waterfront and look for the guys with boat signs.

Even if you don’t want to take a cruise, the riverfront esplanade in Phnom Penh comes to life in the evenings with families out walking. It’s a great place to meet local kids or watch fishermen bringing back their catches. You’ll also find food vendors selling local delicacies. Why not dare Dad to try a cricket, spider or snake?

7. Dig in the sandbox at Le Jardin.

Tucked away in the inner suburbs, Le Jardin restaurant is heaven for families. As well as serving great crepes and ice cream, the large gardens have a fantastic tree house and sandpit to play in.

Fish Pond at the National Museum in Phnom Penh, Cambodia

Feeding fish at the National Museum (Photo credit: Tracy Burns)

8. Feed fish at the National Museum.

The National Museum in Phnom Penh has amazing artifacts and photographs from historical sites around Cambodia. Plus, it offers a hidden treat for children – four ponds filled with large Koi that you can feed.

9. Visit an indoor playground at Sorya Shopping Centre.

Sorya Shopping Centre, near the Central Markets, has two indoor playgrounds, a skating rink and amusement arcade. Purchase affordably-priced toys, clothes, and DVDs at the centre during your visit.

Tuktuk in Phnom Penh, Cambodia

A tuktuk, a motorbike with carriage that can carry five people, is a great way to explore Phnom Penh (Photo credit: Tracy Burns)

10. Learn Cambodia’s history through books. 

While I don't recommend taking you're children to the Killing Fields or S21 for a crash course in recent Cambodian history, you might want to buy one of the many stories written for children on the history of the region on how children in rural Cambodia live or traditional fables. There are also many children’s stories about land mine victims that are well-written and will help your kids understand why so many street beggars, including children, are missing limbs. Monument Bookstore and many non-profit organizations stock a great range of locally written children's books, with profits going to charity.

I love all that Cambodia has to offer families so much that one guest post couldn't contain it all. Read my picks for the best kid-friendly spots in Cambodia's Siem Reap!

Would you consider a trip to Phnom Penh with kids? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

Tracy Burns, her husband, Colin, and two children are on an open-ended round-the-world trip to spend more time together as a family and find a place they'd like to call home. Colin works location independently while Tracy home schools their children, coming up with ever more inventive ways to occupy the kids using only the resources that fit in their backpacks. She blogs about their travels at OurTravelLifestyle.com

Comments

  1. Colleen Lanin, The Travel Mama says:

    Tracy – Thank you for your posts about Cambodia for Travel Mamas. I look forward to sharing your recommendations for Siem Reap next week!

  2. Cambodia hasn’t been on my bucket list but this makes me think I might want to spend some time there when I’m on my way to one of my bucket list destinations. Good article!

  3. Tracy Burns says:

    Tom – its a wonderful place. As great as Phnom Penh is, the rural areas are fantastic. We spent an entire month there and could have stayed another two months!

    Thanks Colleen for sharing my article. Looking forward to seeing the one on Siem Reap.

  4. Vessa Phillips says:

    Hi Colleen,
    We bought live birds in cages and set them free at the Imperial Palace in Bangkok, Thailand. It is supposed to bring good luck.
    Thailand is a great side trip if you are going all the way to Cambodia. The people are friendly and it is a very safe country.

  5. rithacheab says:

    i like all things in Cambodia………

  6. Hi.. Just came across this blog while searching for info about traveling to cambodia with kids. We are hoping to travel to cambodia this year with our three small children. I am curious if you followed the cdc’s recommendations for vaccines for your trip? Did you feel that all vaccines were needed? Any info or advise is appreciated!

  7. Thanks for these, Tracy! On our third day now and we’ll check out Le Hardin and the palace tomorrow!

  8. Kinda Szondy says:

    Seriously? You’re advocating elephant rides? In this day and age? Have you been living under a rock? These tourism elephants in Cambodia, Thailand, Vietnam and most of SE Asia are put through a torturous ‘breaking’ to make them suitable for riding which involves heavy beatings and being kept in cages they can’t move an inch in. From as young as babies. How else would you think that a wild animal such as an elephant would be so docile? They are also kept in terrible conditions and yes, ‘hard working’ is putting it lightly. Also, elephants are not supposed to eat bananas in the large loads they do in tourism attractions as it causes serious health issues from high sugar and potassium levels. I can’t believe you would put something like this as a suggestion to do with children. Please do your research before spreading incredibly harmful ideas like this. Shocking.

    • Colleen Lanin, The Travel Mama says:

      Hi Kinda Szondy – Thank you for reminding me of this story and elephant recommendation. This blog post was written eight years ago in 2010 by a guest blogger. I am an animal lover and would never want to harm animals. I have updated the story accordingly.

  9. Hi Travel Mamas,

    Thanks for encouraging more people to visit Cambodia! We love travelling in Cambodia and think it’s a great place for adventurous people with kids to go.

    Also, thanks for linking to our elephant sanctuary article. I really want to emphasize to all your readers that riding elephants – while it might seem like a lot of – is actually very bad for the elephants. They are sometimes poached from the wild, trained through very cruel practices and are beaten regularly by their handlers. As with all wild animals, it’s always best to visit them in their natural environment or in a sanctuary.

    Best, Jane M

    • Colleen Lanin, The Travel Mama says:

      I am happy to link to your article and educate travelers about Cambodia and elephant sanctuaries that help these beautiful animals.

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