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

Phnom Penh with kids is a fun and accessible adventure. Cambodia might not immediately spring to mind as a family vacation destination, but this amazing country offers a lot of great activities that all ages enjoy. The Khmer people love children and are some of the most genuine, generous and happy people you will encounter anywhere in the world. The country’s capital is a welcoming city with numerous attractions for families. Enjoy these 10 kid-friendly things to do in Phnom Penh.

A family picnic on the ground of the Royal Palace in Phnom Penh, Cambodia
A family picnic on the ground of the Royal Palace in Phnom Penh, Cambodia (Photo credit: mazzzur, Depositphotos.com)

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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 can be aggressive if your children have food.

Wat Phnom in Phnom Penh
Wat Phnom (Photo credit: Marcin Konsek, Wikimedia Commons)

2. Admire elephants.

Elephants were traditionally used to transport people and heavy goods in Cambodia. Today, although you can still find elephant rides at some places in Cambodia, this practice is now considered unethical for a host of reasons.

Years ago, you could find Sambo, Cambodia’s famous elephant giving rides to tourists at Wat Phnom. In 2014, Sambo retired to the Elephant Valley Project in Mondulkiri, about 172 miles from Phnom Penh. Read about how to find a reputable elephant sanctuary in Cambodia.

Near Phnom Penh, you can see elephants and other rescued animals like sun bears and tigers at Phnom Tamao Wildlife Rescue Center. This wildlife reserve is home to Lucky the elephant, who is famous for her painting skills. You must book a tour in advance to visit this attraction. Reserve an all-day tour with pick-up in Phnom Penh via Viator now.

Elephants at Phnom Tamao Wildlife Rescue Center near Phnom Penh, Cambodia
Elephants at Phnom Tamao Wildlife Rescue Center (Photo credit: WildlifeAlliance.org)

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.

Phnom Penh Royal Palace
Phnom Penh Royal Palace (Photo credit: Rhombur, Depositphotos.com)

4. Shop for toys in the markets.

Phnom Penh has wonderful outdoor markets filled with flowers, produce, handicrafts, wooden toys, children’s clothes and games. The Russian Market, Central Market, and Weekend Night Market are all fantastic.

If you’re visiting the Weekend Night Market, then 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.

An outdoor market in Phnom Penh
An outdoor market in Phnom Penh (Photo credit: diego.fiore1981.gmail.com, Depositphotos.com)

5. Cool down at Garden City Waterpark.

The Garden City Waterpark is well worth a visit during your trip to Phnom Penh with kids. It offers four large waterslides, including the 48-foot-high Boomerango and the 316-foot-long Super Bowl. There’s also a wave pool, lazy river, and FlowRider Double. With average high temperatures in the 80s and 90s Fahrenheit year-round, the whole family will want to cool down at the largest water park in Cambodia.

Garden City Waterpark
Garden City Waterpark (Photo credit: WhiteWaterWest.com)

6. Take a sunset cruise.

River cruises offer an amazing view of the city as you motor slowly for one to two hours along the Tonlé Sap River past the Royal Palace and across to the floating fishing villages on the vast Mekong River. Some cruises include dinner as you sail, while others offer snacks and drinks only. Take a look at this array of Phnom Penh river cruises to find the one that suits your family.

Mekong River sunset in Phnom Penh, Cambodia
Mekong River sunset (Photo credit: Svetlana195, Depositphotos.com)

7. Stroll along Sisowath Quay.

Even if you don’t want to take a cruise, the Sisowath Quay 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?

View of the Tonle Sap River along the Sisowath Quay
View of the Tonle Sap River along the Sisowath Quay (Photo credit: urf, Depositphotos.com)

8. 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 include a fantastic tree house and sandpit to play in. Check their Facebook page for upcoming live music performances.

Le Jardin Garden Restaurant and Ice Cream in Phnom Penh
Le Jardin Garden Restaurant and Ice Cream (Photo from Le Jardin’s Facebook page)

9. Feed fish at the National Museum of Cambodia.

The National Museum in Phnom Penh houses amazing artifacts and photographs from historical sites around Cambodia. Visit this beautiful sandstone structure to see the country’s largest collections of Khmer art including many Angkor Wat statues. Plus, it offers a special treat for children — four ponds filled with large Koi they can feed.

Koi ponds at National Museum of Cambodia
Koi ponds at National Museum of Cambodia (Photo credit: taneso99o, Depositphotos.com)

10. Play at Sorya Shopping Center.

Located near the Central Markets, the eight-story Sorya Shopping Center features lots of options for play. You’ll find two indoor playgrounds, a roller skating rink, and a movie theater here. Plus, you can purchase affordably-priced toys and clothes at the center. This indoor mall makes a great choice for a rainy day during your Phnom Penh family vacation.

Sorya Shopping Centre in Phnom Penh
Sorya Shopping Centre (Photo credit: Dmitry A. Mottl, Wikimedia)

Learn Cambodia’s history through books. 

While I don’t recommend taking children to the Killing Fields or S21 for a crash course in 20th century Cambodian history, you might want to buy one of the children’s books about the history of Cambodia. There are books about land mine victims that are well-written and will help your kids understand why so many street beggars, including children, are missing limbs. There are also stories about family’s lives in rural Cambodia or that share traditional local fables.

meiji shrine child kimono
Meiji Shrine in Tokyo, Japan (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

Explore More of Asia

For an incredibly clean, safe, and intriguing adventure in Asia — discover fun things to do in Tokyo, Japan with kids.

Embrace the vibrance and diversity of India with these tips for exploring India with kids.

Your kids will love experiencing Disney with an Asian twist. Read the ultimate guide to Shanghai Disneyland.

Things to Do in Phnom Penh, Cambodia with Kids

Save These Tips for Phnom Penh with Kids

For future travel planning, be sure to save this list of the best things to do in Phnom Penh with kids. Simply pin the image above to Pinterest. We hope you’ll follow Travel Mamas on Pinterest while you’re at it!

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 VagabondFamily.org.

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  1. We are planning a trip to Cambodia this year, hoping the virus somehow disappears before August! I volunteered at an orphanage here back in the 90’s for 3 weeks where all of the children lost their parents due to AIDS. It was the most heartbreaking work I ever done, and yet the most rewarding.

    1. Wow – I can imagine that working at an orphanage was so tough yet so fulfilling. I would wind up wanting to adopt everyone, which I know is not possible. Thank you for volunteering your time for such a worthy cause!

  2. 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

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

  3. 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.

    1. 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.

  4. 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!

    1. Hi, I just came across this blog right now while searching for travel info for Cambodia as well. We are travelling to Phnom Penh in May 2017 and will have our baby and 2 year old with us. I was wondering about the vaccinnes as well. Did you by any chance get any reply to this or find any info on it? Thank you in advance!

  5. 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.

  6. 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.

  7. 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!