Angkor’s massive temple complex and the ruins of what used to be the powerful Khmer kingdom make Siem Reap a top destination for history lovers. Because it’s so close to Angkor, Siem Reap has become the gateway to this historic site. It’s the perfect base for exploring the area’s holy temples that were built to honor the Hindu God Lord Vishnu.
The temples later became the center of Buddhism, and Angkor remains one of Southeast Asia’s most important religious sites throughout the centuries. In contrast to the history that Angkor is full of, Siem Reap is packed with backpacker hostels, cool boutique hotels, restaurants, and rowdy bars, offering any visitor to the city many other activities besides Angkor Wat.
So slow down, extend your stay, and keep in mind these 15 things to do in Siem Reap for an all-around awesome trip.
1) See Sunrise & Sunset at Angkor Wat
Located in the former capital of the Khmer empire, Angkor Wat is the most iconic temple at the city’s religious complex and is the most famous of all Siem Reap attractions. Witnessing sunrise is a highly recommended experience for any traveler visiting the region, yet it’s also the busiest time to go, as everybody is keen to capture that stunning temple against a backdrop of soft sunrise colors for their Instagram feeds.
Scope out the vast grounds of Angkor Wat the day before your sunrise excursion to learn where the best photo spots for sunrise at Angkor Wat are, and arrive bright and early at 5 am when the temple gates open.
For an impossibly extravagant experience to escape the crowds, consider a helicopter ride or hot air balloon flight at sunrise to see the temple complex from above. Alternatively, visit Angkor Wat at sunset, when crowds are sparse and the golden sun changes the colors of the temple’s facades.
Make sure to book a reliable tuk-tuk driver in Siem Reap. We’ve met several tourists whose tuk-tuk drivers showed up late and they missed their only day to see the sunrise at Angkor Wat.
We highly recommend Sok he’s the best tuk tuk driver in Siem Reap, we’ve known him for 5 years. We’re really good friends and always love seeing his smiling face waiting for us in Siem Reap. He has a tuk-tuk and a Lexus SUV for those that prefer a car with air conditioning.
2) Marvel at Treasures at the Angkor National Museum
First opened in 2007, the Angkor National Museum collects and preserves artifacts recovered from the temples of Angkor. With thousands of treasures displayed in a number of galleries throughout the museum, its visitors learn about Khmer art, culture, and architecture, gaining insight into the ancient civilization and how it has impacted present-day Cambodia.
Rent an audio guide as you wander through the museum – available in a wide range of languages – unraveling the story of the empire’s beginnings and eventual collapse.
The Angkor National Museum is one of the unmissable Siem Reap attractions for those who want to gain a deeper understanding of how Angkor Wat and the surrounding temple complex came into existence before going to visit the site.
- Address: 968 Vithei, Charles De Gaulle, Krong Siem Reap, Cambodia
- Entrance Fee: Adults $12 USD, Children 6 -11 years old $6 USD
- Hours: April 1st – September 30th 8:30 am – 6pm, October 1st – March 31st 8:30 am – 6:30 pm
3) Learn the Dark History of Cambodia at the Landmine Museum
Founded by Aki Ra, an ex-child soldier, the display of landmines at the Landmine Museum is a sobering Siem Reap attraction. It serves to educate visitors on how the explosives have shaped the tragic history of Cambodia, how they have affected its people and the importance of the ongoing efforts to remove some five-million landmines that still remain in the nation.
On Aki Ra’s solo journey to clear landmines through the villages of Cambodia, he adopted children who were abandoned and wounded as a result of the explosives. He also built an on-site relief center at the Landmine Museum to provide them with a safe space to call home.
Come and discover the dark history of Cambodia and contribute to a worthwhile cause; the museum’s proceeds go towards clearing landmines and funding the relief center.
- Address: GWQW+R8 Phumi Khna, Cambodia
- Entrance Fee: Adults $5 USD, children under 10 free, free for Cambodian citizens
- Hours: Daily 7:30 am – 5:30 pm
4) Unwind with a Massage
If you’re after some low key things to do in Siem Reap, check into a wellness center or massage parlor after a day of exploration. It’s the perfect refined and calming setting for an inexpensive massage. Southeast Asia is a region famed for its massages, with a culture rich in healing practices.
With a number of treatments on offer, choose from a rejuvenating foot massage, luxurious full body massage, or a coveted Thai massage to unwind for the day and recharge for more adventures.
One of our favorite things to do in Siem Reap after a busy day is to grab a beer and head to the night market and get an hour foot massage for less than $5. It’s a great place to relax and people watch.
5) Party on Pub Street
One of the most popular things to do in Siem Reap when night falls is to bar hop on Pub Street. Technically Street 8, this lively street has been lovingly nicknamed Pub Street, due to its heavy concentration of energetic bars and pulsing nightclubs.
One for night-owls, this Siem Reap attraction is many travelers firm favorite haunts. During the day, the area’s international restaurants serve as popular spots for lunch. It’s not hard to find 50 cent beers and $1 drinks.
When night falls, Pub Street’s irresistible happy hour deals and wide availability of cheap beer attracts the city’s free-spirited, party-going backpackers. Don’t miss ‘Angkor What?’ – Pub Street’s first bar that opened back in 1998; become a part of the history by leaving your mark on the bar’s colorful, graffiti-covered walls, as many previous visitors have done.
Not a party goer? You’ll still enjoy wandering busy Pub Street and watching life unfold, as tuk-tuks zip by, street hawkers advertise their goods, and jovial buskers entertain bystanders with a range of performances.
6) Shop at the Angkor Night Market
Open every evening from sunset until midnight, the bustling Siem Reap night market features more than 200 stalls is the place to score some bargains in the form of local handicrafts, fake name-brand goods, and kitschy souvenirs. T
hough items may look similar from stall to stall, quality can vary and prices can be slashed by as much as half with some strategic haggling. Littered with a number of bars and cafes, Angkor Night Market is also a popular place for food and drinks, and one of the liveliest night time Siem Reap attractions.
Note: If you are visiting several countries in Southeast Asia we found Camobia to have some of the cheapest souvenirs in Southeast Asia.
7) Explore a Traditional Floating Village
Just 15-kilometers away from Siem Reap, a highly popular half day’s trip involves a visit to the freshwater lake of Tonle Sap and the surrounding floating village of Chong Khneas. One of the more serene things to do in Siem Reap, you can arrive at Tonle Sap via a 30-minute car journey, or bicycle through quiet villages and lush rice paddies to the dock, where rival boatmen vie to take you out. Half-day tours can be booked here for only $29.
On the lake, discover wooden and bamboo stilted homes, traditional floating markets, schools, and clinics – all while observing the culture and unique wildlife of Tonle Sap. Paddle down the back channels for a more peaceful experience, and ask your guide to stop by the Gecko Center to learn about the flora, fauna, and distinct communities that surround the lake.
Because Tonle Sap has exploded in popularity over the years, the lake does become crowded during the peak travel season. For calmer options, consider Kompong Phluk or Kompong Khleang.
8) Chill Out Poolside at Navutu Dreams
If you’re looking for the best place to stay in Siem Reap head to Navutu Dreams. This is where we stayed on our last trip to Siem Reao. Escape Siem Reap’s flurry of activity by spending a day by the pool at Navutu Dreams – the city’s only resort. Located on the edge of Siem Reap, its three pools, shaded loungers and giant white patio umbrellas transport visitors to a tranquil space for a blissful retreat.
Swim laps in the freshwater sports pool, lounge in the saltwater pool, or splash around in the kiddy pool. When you get hungry, sample the traditional Khmer cuisine at their onsite Niam Niam restaurant, or go for one of their many international dishes for a taste of home. Click here to get the best price at Navutu Dreams.
9) Rent a Tuk Tuk for a Day
Need some cheap transport to get to some of the prime Siem Reap attractions? These two-wheeled vehicles are a common way of getting around throughout Cambodia. Rent one for the day and explore the ruins of Angkor; tuk-tuk drivers are often equipped with a wealth of knowledge on the history of their nation, including its most significant archaeological site.
Our Siem Reap tuk tuk drive Sok was the best, on our last trip we hired him for 3 days to bring us where ever we wanted. He knows the area, speaks great English, was always on time, and is an overall great guy.
They are also familiar with the lay of the land, their local knowledge will undoubtedly come in handy for dodging traffic during rush hour by escaping through the city’s backroads. Tuk-tuks are readily available on the streets, so engage with a few drivers to gauge the going rate and their level of conversational English, and don’t forget to bargain before you get in.
10) Bicycle Through the City
Reach the far corners of Siem Reap and beyond by renting a bicycle for the day and taking yourself on a tour of its sights. Cycle your bike to Angkor’s temple complex and squeeze into the lesser-known temples that tuk-tuks can’t, or just go for a leisurely ride. Though traffic is often unruly in the city, it is a peaceful journey once you get out of Siem Reap – you’ll be surrounded by quiet villages and verdant rice fields.
The good news is that Siem Reap boasts flat terrain, making bicycling a bearable activity even in the humid tropical climate. You can choose to join an organized bike tour, but the city center is also littered with small bike rental shops. If you’re just looking for a city bike, they go for about $1 per day, so pedal for as long as your legs will allow you to.
11) Eat Your Way Through the City on a Food Tour
Eating is definitely one of the not to be missed things to do in Siem Reap. Explore one of the world’s oldest cuisines with a knowledgeable local. Taste authentic street eats, exotic tropical fruits, traditional desserts, and staple dishes on a food tour through the heart of the city with a small group of fellow travelers. Weave in and out of the busy local markets and stop at street stalls with your guide.
Sample a variety of foods while learning about the influences that shaped Cambodia’s food scene and culture. We suggest this $19 private street food tour that includes dinner. You’ll get to try a bunch of local Khmer food and have a guide to explain what exactly you’re eating.
12) Let Fish Feast on Your Feet
Not all Siem Reap attractions involve temples and markets. Scattered on every street corner of Siem Reap are fish spas displaying humorous signs such as, “fish massage, no piranha,” or “please feed our hungry fish your dead skin.” Dunk your feet in a giant tank of small Garra rufa fish and watch them feast on the dead skin of your heels.
You’ll walk away with feet that feel clean and silky smooth after the 15-minute session. A glass of wine or beer is usually included in the fee, so kick back with your drink of choice and experience a tickling sensation that will send you into hysterics.
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13) Devour Insects at the Bugs Café
Eat fearlessly at Siem Reap’s Bugs Cafe and try out some wholesome, insect-based meals at this innovative and wildly popular joint. Round up a group of fellow travelers who are looking for some out of the ordinary things to do in Siem Reap, and order the Discovery Platter for a smattering of insect skewers, scorpion salads, and crunchy critters.
If you’re feeling extra adventurous, go for the tarantula donuts and samosas. Influenced by the owner’s heritage, Bugs Cafe seamlessly blends bold French flavors with the nutty taste of insects for an experience that is far more delicious than you would expect!
14) Be a Villager for the Day
Participate in responsible tourism and give back to the community by joining a local family in a rural farming village and helping out with their daily chores. Together in small tour groups, live a day in the life of a villager for an undeniably local experience. Surrounded by luxury boutique hotels and sophisticated restaurants while traveling through the streets of Siem Reap, it is often easy to forget the level of poverty that exists in the country.
Named “Day in the Life,” villagers who are a part of this program will welcome you into their home and invite you to participate in farming duties like planting rice or trees, cattle herding, and everyday tasks such as making rice wine and weaving thatch for roofs. For a fresh perspective on life in Cambodia and a uniquely local thing to do in Siem Reap, join the Day in the Life program. Click here to inquire about a day in the life of villagers in Siem Reap.
15) Bring Home a Taste of Cambodia
Join a hands-on cultural class by learning how to cook in the surrounding villages of Siem Reap. In a traditional home instead of the standard boring classroom, choose one from each list of appetizers, main dishes, and desserts, and follow a step-by-step demonstration from a local cook to learn how to make your favorite dishes.
Most cooking lessons also include a guided trip to a nearby market to learn about its local vendors and pick up some fresh ingredients for the class. At the end of your lesson, take home a cookbook complete with recipes of Cambodia’s best-known dishes so you can do it all over again. Most classes last for about four hours, including time to eat your own creations, so come hungry.
Have you traveled to Siem Reap? What were some of your favorite things about Siem Reap? We fell in love with Siem Reap back on our first visit in 2013 and have gone back not only for the attractions but for the people. Our friend Sok (the best tuk-tuk driver in Siem Reap) is one of the main reasons, we talk to him weekly and we can’t wait to see him again soon. Make sure to leave a comment below on how you spent your time in Siem Reap. We love hearing from you!
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