“The gateway to the ruins of Angkor”.
See Angkor photos & Siem Reap
see Angkor archaeological park in our destination page
Where is Siem Reap?
The city of Siem Reap is located in northwestern Cambodia. It is the gateway to the ruins of Angkor, the seat of the Khmer kingdom from the 9th to the 15th century.
During the 16th century, Siam, now known as Thailand, invaded Cambodia. The Thai army was defeated by Cambodia’s army, lead by King Ang Chan. The area of the victory was named “Siem Reap” which literally means the “Siam defeated”.
From then until the 19th century, much of Cambodia was lost to Thailand and Vietnam. It wasn’t until 1887 when Cambodia was integrated into the French Indochina union, that Cambodia began to retain some of its lands.
France continued to both battle and negotiate with Thailand and Vietnam for some years. Siem Reap remained under Siamese administration until 1907 when the province was finally ceded to French Indochina.
In 1901 the École Française d’Extrême Orient funded an expedition into Siam to restore the Bayon Temple. During the expedition they rediscovered many of the surrounding temples. This is when the little known small rural village of Siem Reap was put on the world’s tourist map. With French investment and the popularity of Angkor Wat, tourism grew.
Cambodia gained its independence from the French in 1953. Siem Reap prospered in the years that followed, until the King was deposed in 1970, by a military coup. The monarchy was abolished and the short-lived Khmer Republic was established.
The republic proved disastrous both militarily and politically, giving strength to the Communist Party of Kampuchea (Khmer Rouge). Seizing power in 1975, the Khmer Rouge closed the country off to all foreign influence and drove urban populations to the countryside to create an agricultural peasant society. In 1979 the Khmer Rouge regime fell when Vietnam invaded, backed by a number of disaffected former Khmer Rouge leaders.
The northwest of Cambodia, including Siem Reap was the last area of the country to experience peace, as these were Khmer Rouge strongholds. By 1999, following Pol Pot’s death and disharmony between the remaining leaders, the Communist Party of Kampuchea and the Khmer Rouge effectively ceased to exist.
Angkor Wat had 7,650 visitors in 1993, this figure increased to 2.6 million in 2018. Most of these visitors stay in Siem Reap, making it a major tourist centre in both Cambodian and World tourism.
Our first journey from Battambang to Siem Reap was by minivan. Our second journey from Sihanoukville to Siem Reap was by a sleeper bus.
Having had an extended stay in Cambodia owing to the COVID-19 pandemic, we visited Siem Reap twice. During our first tourist visit to Siem Reap we chose to stay at the Grand Elysee La Residence, booked through Booking.com. Our second visit was on more of a long term basis. During this visit, we chose to stay at Angkor Dino Residence, booked directly.
Grand Elysee La Residence
Situated about 800m from the town centre. The hotel has an outdoor swimming pool and a spa centre.
Our room was huge and came with a flat-screen TV, a seating area, a fridge, a wardrobe, tea/coffee making facilities, air conditioning, and a balcony with chairs. The private ensuite bathroom came with bathrobes, slippers, and free toiletries.
The poolside restaurant offered good food. Breakfast was extremely good.
Angkor Dino Residence
Located about halfway between the centre of Siem Reap and Angkor Wat temple. 1 km from one of the biggest supermarkets in Siem Reap and 500m from the local market of Psa Kralagn.
Our apartment was tastefully decorated and came fully equipped with a king-sized bed, air conditioning, a TV, a wardrobe, a dining table and chairs, and a kitchenette complete with utensils. A modern single ring gas stove was provided, supplied from a large gas bottle, which was outside of the apartment.
The private bathroom came with a hot water shower and the toilet had an extractor fan. Included in the monthly rental is cleaning once a week and a change of bed linen and towels weekly.
Places of interest
Siem Reap is Cambodia’s most visited tourist destination. As such it offers almost every type of tourist attraction. From the traditional Angkor Pottery Centre to firing a Rocket Propelled Grenade at the Siem Reap Shooting Club.
Expect to be badgered by tuk-tuk drivers, offering tours, along with everything else they may be able to offer to you. Pick up your free Siem Reap Angkor Visitors Guide and Siem Reap Pocket Guide from your hotel or guesthouse. They both contain lots of information about Siem Reap and the Angkor Archaeological Park.
The town centre of Siem Reap is concentrated around Sivutha Street and the Psar Chas area (Old Market area) where there are old colonial buildings and plenty of shops. The Wat Bo area is popular for guesthouses and restaurants and the Psar Leu area is known for jewellery and handicraft shops.
The Siem Reap river runs through the centre. Cycling or a stroll along the banks of the river is a very pleasant way of spending some time.
The airport road, National Highway 6, and Charles De Gaulle Road out to Angkor Wat, have a number of new large modern hotels and resorts. Prices tend to be higher than elsewhere in the country. We found the shops and restaurants to be quite expensive compared to other parts of Cambodia and other Asian countries. A cappuccino can be priced at around 2 USD upwards and a Khmer rice or noodles dish at around 5 USD, street food was more competitively priced.
The nightlife is really concentrated around Pub Street, where there are a plethora of bars and eateries.
During our second visit to Siem Reap, August – XXXXXX 2020, things had changed quite drastically. With the world in a tight grip from the COVID-19 pandemic, shop, restaurant, and accommodation prices had plummeted. Many establishments had closed, some temporarily, some permanently. The markets were deserted, most of the tourist stalls gone.
Fruit and vegetable stalls are still flourishing with the daily trade from locals. There is no discrimination, local family-run guesthouses to luxury 5-star resorts have closed their doors. Restaurants offering a 25% discount on food. Shops slashing prices to try and survive. Pub street and it’s usually busy alleys are deserted, only a couple of places remaining open. We don’t know when or even if the town will ever return to its old self.
Angkor Archaeological Park
Located in 6km north of Siem Reap, it is one of the most important archaeological sites in Southeast Asia. Please see our separate Angkor Archaeological Park destination page for further information.
The Cambodia Landmine Museum
It is estimated that there are currently more than 4 million landmines in the ground in Cambodia, which cause casualties every day. The country has the highest percentage of people with amputated limbs in the world. Every month between 300 and 700 amputations are carried out as a result of injuries by landmines.
As of 2019, there are seven demining organizations working in Cambodia in an effort to rid the country of landmines by 2025. The Landmine Museum is about 27km outside of Siem Reap. Offering the public the chance to see deactivated landmines up close. Educating them on the dangers of landmines and understanding how they work. Open from 0730 to 1730 hrs every day of the year.
Entry is $ 5 for an adult, free for children under 12. Cambodian citizens can enter for free.
The largest War Museum in Cambodia. Covering the conflicts over the last three decades of the 20th century.
There is a vast array of military hardware on display, including a T-54 Soviet battle tank, a MiG-19 Soviet single-seat, twin-engined fighter jet, a Mil Mi 8 Soviet helicopter, and a Soviet divisional 85mm calibre D-44 field artillery gun. Also on display are some deactivated small arms. An M16 rifle, an AK-47 Kalashnikov Model Soviet assault rifle, and a Browning Automatic Rifle, all of which may be handled.
The War Museum uses guides who are war veterans. Some of them fought for the Cambodian army, the Khmer Rouge, or the Vietnamese army. The museum is open daily from 0800 to 1730 hrs. Entry is $ 5 for an adult. Cambodian citizens can enter for $ 1. The guide is free of charge.
Angkor National Museum offers visitors a better understanding of the area’s archaeological treasures. Covering Khmer history, civilization, and cultural heritage in eight galleries. Popular among local tourists during the holidays, especially Khmer New Year and Christmas.
Open Daily, April to September 0830 to 1800 hrs. October to March 0830 to 1830 hrs. Entry is $12 for an adult. Cambodian citizens can enter for $ 6. Audio guides are available for an additional $ 5 per set. Khmer language audio guides are available for only $2 per set.
More than just a circus. The Cambodian Circusshows is unlike any other show. They contain dance, theatre, music, and circus acts. These tell of Cambodian folklore.
Artists are graduates of Phare Ponleu Selpak, a professional arts training centre in Battambang.
(APOPO) Visitor Centre is Dutch for Anti-Personnel Landmines Detection Product Development. This centre is about the realities of humanitarian demining of Cambodia and how rats are trained to save lives. Yes, you read that correctly, rats. The African giant pouched rat, nicknamed HeroRATs, are trained to help find landmines. When deployed alongside standard methods, they speed up the process of demining.
Before you even think it, the rats aren’t just released to run around and set off landmines, being killed in the process. That wouldn’t be very humane now, would it? The rats sniff out the mines, anyway, they aren’t heavy enough to detonate the mines. A HeroRAT can search an area the size of a tennis court in 30 minutes. A human deminer with a metal detector can take up to 4 days.
The guides advise about the mine clearance process. There are also a series of videos showing how Cambodia became one of the most mine affected countries in the world.
Monday to Saturday from 0830 to 1200 hrs and from 1300 to 1700 hrs. The last tour begins at 1630 hrs. The tour costs $ 5 per person and takes about 30 to 60 minutes. It is recommended to book in advance by email firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone on +855 8159 9237.
Siem Reap Shooting Range offers a wide range of rifles, machine guns, and handguns to fire. Hardware available includes AK47’s, M16’s, M60’s, and .38 revolvers. The price varies according to the weapon and the amount of ammunition used. A popular choice is the AK47 at $ 60 for a full magazine of 30 bullets. There is a bazooka and a rocket-propelled grenade launcher. Both can also be fired for a much higher price per round.
A lot of the weapons are remnants from Cambodia’s Khmer Rouge regime. Don’t expect the latest military hardware.
Staff is on hand, although there’s not much in the way of safety instructions or proper shooting techniques employed. Wear the ear mufflers, it gets loud.
Siem Reap Old Market (Psar Chas) on the west side of the river has a wide array of fresh vegetables, seafood, and meat as well as household items. Locally known as Psar Chas, it’s the oldest Khmer market in Siem Reap.
There are a number of stalls in the market that offer inexpensive souvenirs such as antiques, silks, T-shirts, jewellery, and shoes. Most of which are designer fakes. Haggle down to between 50 to 75% lower than the stated price. Most items in this market have significantly inflated prices for tourists. Be aware that pickpockets work in this market, targeting tourists.
Cambodia Cultural Village showcases the traditional Cambodian way of life and the local customs and practices of the various ethnic groups in the country.
Home to 13 villages, it shows the different cultures and characteristics of the 19 Cambodian races. Shows include Apsara dances, traditional wedding ceremonies, and circus acts.
In the foothills of Kulen Mountain, about an hour’s drive from Siem Reap is the Kulen Elephant Forest Sanctuary. Home to the elephants who once gave rides to the tourists visiting Angkor Archaeological Park. Rescued and retired, they now roam free in their natural habitat.
Spend time with and experience the daily life of the elephants. Observe them enjoy their natural surroundings. Walk with them into the forest, and witness how they choose to spend their time. Tours and adventures are available.
Made in Cambodia Market has exciting examples of fine quality artisan products and luxury goods made by the craftsmanship in Cambodia today. The greatest benefit of the market is that it helps create Khmer jobs. From the villagers producing the Handicrafts to the sellers interacting with the visitors.
Not only is Siem Reap home to the world’s largest religious monument, Angkor Wat, it is also home to the one and only wakeboard park in the Kingdom of Cambodia. The ICF Wake Park offers wakeboarding, water skiing, and kneeboarding. The lake has a full-size Wakeparx cable system from Germany and offers the seasoned professional a variety of different obstacles.
Sessions start from $ 19/hour inclusive of all equipment and safety gear. For those not into the action packed adrenalin fueled sport, there is a small sandy beach and swimming area with umbrellas and beach chairs. The onsite café serves a selection of western and Khmer dishes as well as drinks.
Visit the Senteurs d’Angkor Workshops on Thnou St in the town and take the free tuk-tuk out to the workshops. The free guided tour takes you through the different buildings. See the artisans handmake soap, natural cosmetics, scented balms, aromatic candles, smok (palm leaf) packaging, and krebei riel (palm bark) boxes. Classes can be attended to learn these skills from the artisans (a fee is payable for these classes).
You can also see the different local spices (Kampot pepper, lemongrass, chilli), and how they are blended to make the traditional curry or amok.
Being a regular blood donor back home in the United Kingdom, Guy became eligible to donate whilst we were in Siem Reap. Giving blood in Cambodia is easy and SAFE, being just as hygienic here as in the UK.
To donate blood in Siem Reap, simply go to the Angkor Hospital for Children.
To be eligible to donate, you must be:-
- 18 to 60 years old.
- Weigh 45 kgs or more (100 lbs).
- In good health.
- The process is really simple and quick:-
- Arrive at the hospital visitor centre.
- Complete the registration form, which is in English (5 mins).
- Go to the donation suite. Have your blood pressure checked. A blood sample is taken to establish a blood group.
- Donate blood.
- Re-hydrate and rest. The hospital provides a snack, a drink, and a t-shirt after your donation.
- The whole process takes about 40 minutes.
Restaurants and Cafes
Ivy Bar & Restaurant
The menu has been developed to provide great meals from across Cambodia, Asia, and the world. Hosting quiz nights, tapas nights, and other events makes the venue popular. They serve a good traditional Sunday roast dinner for when you get that comfort food urge.
Villa D Riverside
Looking for a Sunday roast dinner, we saw this place advertised on Facebook. We were warmly greeted into the lovely outside restaurant area by the owners. Everything about this place was great, the atmosphere, venue, and the music.
Then the disappointment…… The roast lamb dinner didn’t live up to our expectations. The lamb was tough and the vegetables were hard. The dessert was absolutely perfect. Don’t write this place off just because of our disappointing roast dinner. We will give it another try and have something from the a la carte menu, updating this review afterward.
Joe Bar Garage & Grill
Yes, a restaurant and garage together. Run by an ex-pat and his Khmer wife. They serve excellent burgers and are currently offering a Chinese menu. We have eaten there a couple of times and enjoyed not only the food but the atmosphere as well.
Try Me Restaurant
Offering both Cambodian and western food. This restaurant is popular with both locals and foreigners. The food served was tasty, fresh, and a hearty helping. Being outside the main tourist area, the prices are low.
My Little Cafe
A popular establishment with ex-pats. Offering a wide range of Asian food at low prices. A good hearty adequate meal can be had here.
Traditional, nice, and simple good Cambodian food. Prepared with fresh local ingredients. Food was discounted, in an effort to combat the effect that COVID-19 was having on business. This made the meal very cheap, but they didn’t compromise the quality or quantity of the food provided.
Le Meridien Angkor
Being in Siem Reap on the one year anniversary of the start of our epic adventure. We decided to treat ourselves to a traditional afternoon tea. Well, as traditional as we could get, with most of the establishments that normally do afternoon tea being closed, we ended up here.
The western afternoon tea was pleasant and we had the whole of the public areas of the hotel to ourselves. The staff was excellent, as you would expect. A great treat.
If ice cream is your thing, then this place is a must when you visit Siem Reap. Tucked away in the alleys off pub street, it offers a fantastic range of delicious tasting ice creams. We found it very hard not to go there every time we were in town.
Advertised as Temple Town’s favourite Italian Restaurant, we found it disappointing and expensive. We were the only customers and the alley in which it is situated, most other businesses were closed, resulting in there being no atmosphere. The food was nothing special and the portions were small for the price paid.
The Flock Cafe
This cafe is part of The Aviary Hotel. Offering delicious coffees, mouth-watering snacks, and light meals that are created using locally sourced organic produce. The spacious interior is cool on those hot sticky days and makes it a great place to catch-up with friends.
As one of the top hotels in town, prices are usually quite expensive. However, whilst we were in Siem Reap, they had discounted offers, making it a competitively priced place to get a good coffee.
The Little Red Fox Espresso
An Australian owned, Cambodian managed cafe. A favourite spot for both locals and ex-pats. Serving fresh, locally sourced, organic good food in a pleasant atmosphere. They use the best quality, chemical-free, fair trade, organic coffee beans they can source from Cambodia, Thailand, and Laos.
An Indian restaurant, serving classic Indian dishes. Nothing really sets this restaurant apart from any other Indian restaurant.
Wild – Creative Bar & Eatery
A finger food restaurant and cocktail bar, set in a beautiful garden. Specialising in spring rolls. They offer both fresh sweet or savory deep fried spring rolls along with other good food. All of which are made from local organic produce wherever possible.
They are also responsible, supporting eco-friendly employers. Expect amazing food, good drinks served by happy staff.
A social enterprise for “Good Coffee” whilst creating a supportive space to educate and empower Cambodians. A popular hang out for tourists. Not only do they serve organic, gluten-free, vegetarian, and vegan food. They also support APOPO, donating a percentage of their profits to landmine clearance.
Bang Bang Cafe
One of our favorite places in Siem Reap for coffee and cake. It is a specialty bread & cake bakery and is certainly not the cheapest. But the coffee is good and the cakes are absolutely divine, which makes it all worthwhile. Which is probably why it is rated number 2 out of 54 cafes in Siem Reap.
The motto of this cafe is “we are family” and they certainly make you feel like you are. Offering a good selection of delicious dishes and awesome cakes. Sit inside for the coolness of the air conditioning. Alternatively outside in the neat courtyard garden space. No matter where you sit, you will enjoy the food and drinks here, all served by “the family”.
The Village Cafe
A chic 1930’s continental cafe. A great place to take refuge from the hustle and bustle outside. Big comfy sofas to sink into and savour your coffee while waiting for your food to arrive. Tasty food, good service, all in an artistic atmosphere. Live music and DJ nights change the feel of the place for those seeking something more lively after dark.
Another quiz night haunt of ours. The Sunday night charity quiz is good fun and not “university challenge” level. The food here is good as well and they have a huge TV wall for sporting events. A good atmosphere in pleasant surroundings.
This cafe is part The Park Hyatt Hotel. As one of the top hotels in town, prices are usually quite expensive. However, whilst we were in Siem Reap, they had a 25% off discount offer, making it a more reasonably priced place to get a good coffee.
They offer a good selection of fresh pastries, some amazing indulgent cakes, and a selection of homemade ice creams and sorbets.
Bayon Pastry School coffee shop
The coffee shop is part of the Bayon Pastry School, a pastry and baking training facility for young girls from disadvantaged backgrounds. Serving delicious pastries, cakes along with other delights, freshly baked by the students.
Partake in a delicious indulgence and a coffee whilst relaxing in the tranquil garden. Try the brunch, priced at only $ 8 it’s a great deal, you get a fruit bowl, a choice of 2 drinks, and 3 items from the menu. As amateur patisserie connoisseurs (cake lovers) we couldn’t fault the quality or taste of what we had.
Crane – a clubhouse that cares
If drinking excellent coffee in a cool hip atmosphere is your thing, the Crane is for you. A vibrant, arty space that is full of nik naks and art, making it an amazing environment to have a coffee and cake in. Serves, in our opinion, the best cup of coffee we have found in Siem Reap.
They don’t have air conditioning, but the large ceiling fans certainly make up for that. Comfortable chairs, wicked chocolate brownies, excellent coffee, and a quirky shop all make this place a winner.
Temple Coffee n Bakery
A deceiving place. From the outside, it looks like a really cool hip place that’s going to leave a huge dent in your wallet. It is certainly one of the coolest places in Siem Reap and it was surprisingly cheap. We absolutely fell in love with the quirky interior as soon as we walked in.
The layout, decor, and atmosphere are awesome. Coffee was amongst the best in town and the medium size was huge. Easily the largest coffee we had in Siem Reap for the price. Accompanying pastries were delicious as well, again at a very reasonable price. On the roof is the evening venue, The Temple Sky Lounge. A bar with live music or DJ nightly.
One of the few places that serves a Sunday roast. Owned by an Australian, Eureka Villas, it is close enough to the town to get to easily. Yet far enough away to make it a quiet and relaxing atmosphere. We visited to sample the Sunday roast, which Guy enjoyed, but Tania found the meat tough. Consisting of both lamb and pork, it was served with a plethora of vegetables and a jug of gravy.
Food Panda is a mobile food ordering and delivery company. The service is available by its mobile app. Customers connect with restaurants that offer food delivery in their area and they choose and order their food online. The food is then delivered and the customer pays for it.
Another mobile food ordering and delivery company. The Tukout service is available by its mobile app. Customers connect with restaurants that offer food delivery in their area and they choose and order their food online. The food is then delivered and the customer pays for it.
In our opinion, the best supermarket in Siem Reap. Stockists of a lot of western goods as well as other local products. Has a large homeware department upstairs.
Angkor Small Market
On the corner of Oum Khun St and Sivatha Street. A smaller version of its bigger sister store. Closer to the town, so more convenient to those staying in the town itself. Again, has a large homeware department upstairs.
Isn’t just a shop selling quilts. It sells a variety of handmade quality products, made by underprivileged women in Vietnam and Cambodia. The strangest of things made is the all natural bamboo bike.
Sells natural products that are handmade in Cambodia. Many of the items sold are made locally in their own artisan workshop. Take the free tuk-tuk from the shop to visit the workshop. Participate in making a candle or smok packaging whilst there.