Visiting Angkor Wat is a given, but what else is there to do in Siem Reap?
Siem Reap is famous for its proximity to the Angkor Temple Complex, but there is more to this town than ancient temples being swallowed up by lush jungles.
We stayed in Siem Reap for three weeks during our time in Cambodia. It was our first stop in Cambodia, and it was where we fell in love with the country for the first time. It took us a few days to get accustomed to the pace in Siem Reap, but once we settled in we began to appreciate the atmosphere and ambiance. And, most importantly, the people.
Sure, Siem Reap is a bit of a tourist trap. And yes, there are a ton of tourists just passing by to take a look at the temples. And yes, Siem Reap is filled with backpackers, most of them awesome, some of them hell bent on getting trashed. And sure, there are a few locals who will treat you like a walking ATM and try to milk you for all your money. That said, we freaking LOVED Siem Reap.
The below list reflects the absolute bare minimum you should do while in town. There are a lot of things to do in Siem Reap, tons of experiences lurking just beyond the edge of your vision and around every corner, so keep an open mind and enjoy exploring this fascinating city!
Things to do in Siem Reap
Angkor Archaeological Park
A total no brainer. This UNESCO World Heritage Site is a sprawling marvel of architecture. You obviously have to go to Angkor Wat when you are in Siem Reap.
Lying on the outskirts of Siem Reap the spires of this ancient city rise out of the jungles, a reminder of the ancient Khmer Empire. The main temple, Angkor Wat is massive and awe inspiring, but it’s far from the only sight to visit in the complex. One day is not enough to see all there is to see, but you can book a three day pass ($40 USD/usable over 5 days) to take your time visiting all the individual ruins. Rent a tuk-tuk to drive you around or get yourself some bicycles and peddle your way from one incredible temple to the next.
Our favorite temple in the complex was Ta Prohm, where the stones laid by man have been partially reclaimed by the jungle surrounding them.
Honestly, if you visit Siem Reap and fail to check out Angkor Wat we would have to question your sanity.
Phare Cambodia Circus
If Angkor is number one on your things to do in Siem Reap list, we reckon this should be your number two.
Be sure to plan one of your evenings around this amazing show put on by students and graduates of the Phare Ponleu Selpa (PPS), a vocational training center aiming at social advancement through the arts. Less a circus and more a performing arts piece with skilled acrobats, wondrous live music, and on-stage painting. Phare retells unique Cambodian stories; historical, folk, and modern.
We did not know what to expect going into the show and by the end we were both in awe of what we witnessed and were genuinely moved to tears by the performance. Really, it’s true. We cried a little. The show is a MUST SEE, especially since it helps fund the PPS which aspires to lift street kids, orphans, and the underprivileged out of poverty by providing them with an education.
An incredible show that is backed by a strong drive towards the betterment of Cambodian lives, what else do you need to know.
Book your tickets and experience it for yourself!
Mad Monkey Hostel Roof Top Bar
Mad Money isn’t just the best hostel in Siem Reap, full stop. Which it is. It also has a great rooftop bar, which became our go to spot in town. The menu is delicious, and served all day long (yes ,you can get an English breakfast here). They even have vegetarian/vegan options, and all the meat and veggies are organic. Mad Monkey doesn’t mess around with its food.
So, even if you aren’t staying at the hostel pay the Mad Monkey rooftop a visit. Enjoy a meal, have a drink, meet a fellow traveler, enjoy a sunset view from the bar, and get chatty with Mad Monkey’s awesome local staff.
Know that any money you spend helps fund Mad Monkey’s many progressive initiatives, such as its mission to build 500 water wells for rural families in the outskirts of Siem Reap province. These guys do amazing work for the local community, and run a kick ass chain of hostels. Pretty much our heroes.
The Night Market
Siem Reap’s Night Market is vibrant, exciting, and energized. We wish we had a better picture to show you just how cool it is, but we were a little drunk and the above is the best we managed.
Anyway, the night market is a great place to needlessly blow money on some trinkets to take home with you. Tons of street food options will go along will that that 50 cent beer in your hand, and a massage at one of the curbside parlors can sooth your achy temple exploring feet. After drinks on Pub Street head over to the Market and stroll through the stalls. Watch your belongings and waste spend your money wisely.
Siem Reap’s famous strip of bars and restaurants is rammed with backpackers, tourists, touts and street performers well into the late night.
Enjoy a 50 cent draft beer from curb side seat in one of the many restaurants as you take in the cacophony. And yes, it can get pretty loud and hectic on ol’ Pub Street some nights. If you absolutely hate drunk backpackers stay away. Otherwise, even if you’re just a spectator among the chaos, it’s worth taking a look at least once.
Want to book accommodations in Siem Reap, Cambodia? We recommend using the following sites:
Disclaimer – We have included a few handy little affiliate links in case any of our readers want to book accommodations. We receive a small commission for any sales made, without any additional cost to you, our dear reader.