Vibe: Siem Reap is quiet during the day as visitors spend their days at the temple complex, taking Khmer cooking classes, or relaxing by the pool but downtown Siem Reap comes alive at night with bustling night markets, delicious street food and pumping bars that spill out into the street.
Must Do: If you only do one thing in Siem Reap you have to spend a day exploring the UNESCO World Heritage Angkor Temples, the largest temple complex in the world.
Known for: Being the home of Angkor Wat. After the Angkor temple complex was opened to tourists in the beginning of the 20th century, Siem Reap’s popularity grew by leaps and bounds, and is now the heartland for exploring the ancient Khmer Empire. Before the ‘rediscovery’ of this temple complex in the 19th century, Siem Reap had been a quiet village for centuries. Before that, however, Siem Reap and the Angkor temple complex were the centre of the Khmer Empire, which lasted from the 9th to the 15th centuries CE and the most powerful empire in Southeast Asia.
Top things to see and do in Siem Reap
UNESCO World Heritage Angkor Temples
A sprawling, overgrown temple complex of 400 km2, the Angkor site in Siem Reap is rightly considered one of the most important archaeological sites in South-East Asia. Its most famous temple, Angkor Wat, is famous for being the largest religious monument in the world, while the Bayon Temple is better known as the ‘Tomb Raider’ temple, where Lara Croft crept through dark temple courtyards overgrown with tree roots. You can choose to explore the Angkor temples by renting a bike, hiring a tuk tuk, or going with a guide, and Stray’s Cambodia tours always factor in a non-travel day in Siem Reap so that you have plenty of time to explore. Want to see more than the average tourist? Read our blog: The hidden and outer temples of Angkor.
Explore Downtown Siem Reap
The heart of the city is easy to explore by foot or bicycle, with most of the action centred around Pub Street. Check out the Chinese and colonial style architecture around the Old Market and the Old French Quarter, relax and get a foot massage, walk alongside the river or enjoy a fresh beer at one of the sidewalk cafes.
Les Artisans d’Angkor
Visit Les Artisans d’Angkor to watch artists create skilled traditional Cambodian handicrafts. There are silversmiths, wood and stone sculptors, lacquer artisans, weavers and silk painters who you can watch at work in their studios, and free guides to take you around.
Morning Yoga at Peace Cafe
Peace cafe is a community hub with beautiful gardens, a vegetarian cafe and smoothie bar, yoga & meditation classes and opportunities to speak with Buddhist monks. Pop in to revitalise your mind, body and soul.
Take a Khmer Cooking Class
Learn the secrets of creating delicious Khmer food. The class starts with a trip to a local rural family home to learn about how Cambodian families grow the herbs, spices and vegetables you'll be cooking with. Then under the watchful eye of their friendly chefs you'll create a typical Khmer entree, main and dessert which you get to devour afterwards.
Phare the Cambodian Circus
Phare, the Cambodian Circus, is a modern take on ancient Khmer performance forms, with an artistic direction that rivals Cirque du Soleil. You can expect a combination of acrobatics, dance, music and theatre combined with a storyline embedded in Cambodian history and culture.
Angkor Night Markets
The Angkor Night Market takes place every night with over 200 stalls selling souvenirs, clothing, jewellery, accessories and crafts. Visit the Island Bar towards the back of the markets for a mid-shop cocktail to keep you going!
Watch an Apsara Dance Performance
Apsara Dance is the indigenous ballet-like performance art of Cambodia and several restaurants and hotels in Siem Reap host Apsara Dance Shows, often with a buffet dinner option for a reasonable price.
Phnom Kulen Mountain Trek
Phnom Kulen is considered a holy mountain of religious significance by the Khmer people. Trek on nature trails through lush forest, see the river of 1000 Lingas and Cambodia's largest reclining Buddha. Continue towards the Kulen Waterfalls for a refreshing swim.
Eating and Drinking
In the evenings, head to the Pub Street area just north of the Old Market, where you’ll have your dinner choices of everything from street food to fine dining. If you want to try an authentic Cambodian dish, try the Fish Amok from Le Tigre de Papier (where you can also take a cooking class during the day), or if you're feeling adventurous get a group together and head to Bugs Cafe and order the "discovery platter" complete with Insect Skewers, Tarantula Donuts, Scorpion Salad and Mixed Insects Wok!
Nightlife abounds around Pub Street, with bars and clubs around every corner, and a fair number of backpackers heading to the iconic Angkor What? club. If you’re not looking to suffer from neon-overload, there are plenty of other options to get out and enjoy a night in Siem Reap such as the Apsara Theatre and Phare: The Cambodian Circus.
We’ve put together a list of our favourite recommendations and tips from Stray staff, from the historical to the cultural and the creative.
Enjoy the incredible grandeur of Angkor Wat, explore the stunning Ta Phrom where tree root...
Get more out of watching the sunrise at Angkor Wat when you go with Grasshopper Adventures...
Take a Cycling Tour with Grasshopper Adventures. Choose to explore the countryside or the famous Angkor National Park.
Visit either Kompong Khleang or Mechrey floating villages by boat.
More than just a circus, Phare performers use theatre, music, dance and modern circus arts to tell uniquely Cambodian stories.
Flight of the Gibbon Zipline Canopy Adventure is located inside Angkor Park.
Learn to prepare and cook different local dishes under supervision and then taste and enjoy your creations.
Solve puzzles and riddles to escape a locked room in 60mins.
Ride a Quad Bike through the villages, rice paddies and temples of Siem Reap Province and get a real insight into this beautiful country and its friendly people.
Discover Cambodia with a full day Moto Adventure tour with Khmer Ways.
Angkor Voyage Villa is located 900 metres from Siem Reap Pub Street and is only 7km away f...
Definitely one of the main hotspots to stay for travellers in Siem Reap! The 543 Hostel is...
Sakura Village Guesthouse offers a high standard service to provide every traveller with a...