Made famous by Angkor Wat, Siem Reap makes for an incredible holiday destination.
Be transported back in time as you spend a day (or more) roaming around the ancient temples of Angkor Archaeological Park.
Apart from Angkor Wat being one of the main Siem Reap attractions, there are plenty of other places to visit in Siem Reap. Bargain with the local shop owners as you purchase handicrafts and souvenirs at the many night markets. Feast on delectable Khmer curries at the roadside stalls. Learn about Khmer culture through arts and crafts, and Cambodia’s devastating history at the selection of Siem Reap museums.
Whether you’re looking for things to do in Siem Reap on a budget, or you’re looking for a bit of luxury, Siem Reap has it all. This article will focus on all of the best things to do in Siem Reap in 2020. Don’t miss out on a thing.
Also, don’t forget to check out our detailed Cambodia travel guide with everything you need to know for your trip to Cambodia.
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1. Watch the Sunrise at Angkor Wat
There’s no doubt Angkor Wat is on the very top of your list of things to do in Siem Reap. Watching the sunrise is an incredible experience. If you get lucky, on a clear day, the skies will turn bright pink behind Angkor Wat.
Head straight to Angkor Wat once you get there and use your phone torch to guide you to the lake. Just follow the mass of people – yes, although it’ll be an early morning, sunrise at Angkor Wat is super popular.
Our best tip is to leave early. Our tuk-tuk driver suggested picking us up at 4:30 am. Most tours will leave at 4:45 am – that extra 15 minutes makes a huge difference. We got to view the sunrise at Angkor Wat in the front row – it doesn’t get more instagrammable than that!
Not only could we set up our tripod in a prime spot, but we could also physically see the sunset with no obstructions, instead of looking at the backs of many heads. For someone who is less than 5 feet tall, I was super grateful for our driver’s advice.
By the time the sun rises, there will be hundreds of people, even in low season. Coming at sunrise is your best bet to avoid crowds – the grounds only get busier as the day goes by. Not to mention, if you go at sunrise and start your day early, you’ll finish your day before it gets way too hot to bear.
2. Visit the Siem Reap War Museum
The War Museum is worth a trip when you’re in Siem Reap. To learn more about Cambodia’s history, It’s a great idea to combine your Siem Reap museum trips with the Killing Fields and Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum, the most popular things to do in Phnom Penh. View their huge and unique collection of military vehicles, war relics, landmines, and weapons.
The war museum is open from 8 am – 5:30 pm. The entrance fee is $5 USD including a free guide who can share their own experiences on the war.
3. Visit Angkor Archaeological Park
Angkor Wat isn’t the only temple in the park. The whole complex is actually deceivingly huge, and you’ll start to see how big the place actually is as you drive, cycle, or walk from temple to temple. As a result, there’s so many things to do in Angkor Wat.
For starters, there are three different passes you can buy; 1-day for $37 USD, 3-day for $62 USD, and 7-day for $72 USD. Going to Angkor Archaeological Park for one day is the most popular, but if you’ve got the time, we’d definitely recommend spreading it out into three days.
Drivers will usually get you to choose between the ‘big loop’ and the ‘small loop’. The small loop is definitely more popular as it includes Ta Prohm, the temple where Tomb Raider was filmed. The big loop is less busy and features a number of very unique temples. We did both loops with our driver so we were able to get a great deal at $20 USD per day – most drivers will charge over $25 USD.
We waited a few days to use the third day of our pass and chose one temple to revisit as we felt like we had skipped over it, due to the heat.
One important fact to note is that Angkor National Park is free after 5:30 pm. This works out perfectly with buying your ticket for the next day, which will be available from 5 pm. Yes, you could buy your ticket on the way from the city to Angkor Wat at 5 am, but you won’t get a good spot to view the sunrise.
Despite what you may read on the internet, there is no such thing as an online ticket. Head to the ‘Angkor Park Pass Ticket Counters’ on Apsara Road – your tuk-tuk driver will know exactly where it is. Then, catch the sunset at the park. We went to Phnom Bakheng which is a hotspot for sunset and one of the best things to do in Siem Reap.
4. See the Phare Circus
Phare is Cambodia’s circus, run by the non-profit organisation Phare Ponleu Selpak. Refugees started up the circus as a form of art therapy following the brutal Khmer Rouge regime. Nowadays, the organisation has grown to establish a public school with over 500 attendees, as well as art, music, theatre, and circus schools.
The modern circus shares Cambodian stories with the audience. No animals are involved in the performance.
Daily circus shows run at 8 pm for one hour in duration. Prices start at $18 USD for adults, and $10 for children 5 – 11 years.
5. Visit the Cambodian Landmine Museum
Although Cambodia was not directly involved in the Vietnam War, it held a military supply line to Southern Vietnam. As a result, a huge amount of landmines and bombs were dropped on Cambodia, in order to destroy these supply lines and disrupt the North Vietnamese armies.
Aki Ra, an ex-child soldier, founded the museum after spending a lot of his time defusing landmines by hand and displaying them in his home. The Landmine Museum is open from 7:30 am to 5:30 pm daily, and will cost $5 USD for entry. Children under 12 years are free to enter.
It’s a 45-minute drive from Siem Reap Town, and 30 minutes from Angkor Park, so it’s a great idea to visit the museum after your trip to the temples.
6. Go Shopping at the Siem Reap Night Markets
Bring out your best bargaining game when the sun goes down. During the day, Siem Reap Town appears quite empty, almost like a ghost town as travellers spend their days at Angkor Wat. But at night time, everyone returns for the night markets. The city really comes alive at night. Whether it’s for a bite to eat, window shopping, or making purchases to bring back home.
Many of the night markets are located close to each other, so you can walk from night market to night market in one night.
ANM Khmer Market is the most popular night market in Siem Reap. It’s a great way to spend your night. The market opens from 5 pm – midnight. Be sure to sample their ice cream rolls and fresh fruit smoothies.
Siem Reap Night Market is located closer to Pub Street, so it’s more on the expensive side of things. If you’re an avid haggler, you should have no problem getting good prices, similar to the other night markets.
Head over the wooden bridge to reach the Siem Reap Art Centre Night Market. They’re open from 4 pm – 11 pm. As the name suggests, you’ll find a myriad of artwork from canvas, to prints and sculptures, but you’ll also find various souvenirs and clothing present at the other markets.
The markets are the perfect place to find a breezy, suitable outfit to visit the temples, so they’re a great place to stop by before visiting Angkor Park. There are elephant pants as far as the eye can see, as well as wrap pants, which seem to be incredibly popular amongst female travellers.
7. Enjoy an Apsara Dance Performance
Apsara is the name for the traditional ballet of Cambodia. Origins of the dance style can be traced back to the seventh century. Apsara dancers have even been illustrated in the carvings at Angkor Wat.
The spirit, or Apsara, wears a tight-fitting white dress and is adorned in beautiful gold jewellery, such as a heightened headpiece. The leader’s subordinates wear coloured skirts.
Kanell Dinner Show at High School Road, Siem Reap, is a great way to experience traditional Apsara dance, over a great meal. A traditional Bokator fight demonstration follows the Apsara dance performance. Bokator is a Cambodian martial art involving weapons such as bamboo sticks.
Prices for a show over dinner start at $27 USD for a five-course Asian fusion set menu. Welcome drinks and appetisers are offered before the show starts at 7:20 pm.
8. Browse the Old Market
Psar Chas, the Old Market, is the only daytime market in Siem Reap. They open from 7 am and offer a more authentic experience than the tourist-ridden night markets. The markets offer a more traditional approach, tailored more towards locals offering fresh fruit and vegetables, spices, and other produce.
9. Get a Fish Spa Pedicure
If you’re looking for unusual things to do in Siem Reap, the concept of a fish feasting on your dead skin seems like a strange one, but it makes for an interesting experience, to say the least. Garra rufa fish, also known as doctor fish or nibble fish, fill clear tanks at roadside shops. They’re hard to miss in Siem Reap.
A fish spa pedicure seems to be a popular end to a long day of walking around Angkor Wat.
Fish spas will cost you as little as $1 USD. These stalls will be further from the main street, so if you’re looking for a bargain, go for a wander and hunt around. Around Pub Street, fish spas are a standard $3 USD. Bring a friend or two along, and you should be able to bargain the cost down.
10. Visit Angkor National Museum
Learn about Cambodia’s history, religion, and beliefs at Angkor National Museum.
The museum is located on 968 Vithei, off Charles De Gaulle and is open from 8:30 am – 6 pm daily. It’s a 2 km walk from the town centre, so visit early to beat the heat during the walk, or take a short tuk-tuk ride to get there.
Tickets are $12 USD, with an extra $3 USD to use your camera, and $3 for an audio headset. The camera charge is a bit steep, especially when a camera isn’t permitted in some areas. Conversely, the headset is incredibly informative, so it’s worth the extra few dollars, especially if you’re already prepared to pay the relatively dear entrance fee.
11. Take a Trip to a Floating Village
Seeing a floating village is a sight to behold. Instead of stalls and shops lining a street, goods, such as fruits and vegetables, are purchased from boats. You’ll see them in many Southeast Asian countries, such as Ko Panyi in Thailand and Cai Be in Vietnam.
Visiting a floating village used to be a way to escape the tourist scene and travel off the beaten path, but for obvious reasons have become popular tourist attractions. In some of the popular villages, tourists seem to outnumber locals.
In Siem Reap, floating villages are scattered throughout the Tonle Sap River. As expected, the closer the village to Siem Reap town, the more touristy the floating village.
Chong Kneas is the most popular floating village to visit in Siem Reap. It is about 40 minutes away from the main town. Visitors to this over-touristed village have unfortunately fallen victim to scams, for example, orphan tourism, being guilted into giving donations, and exorbitant prices. For this reason, we’d recommend avoiding this floating village.
Kampong Phluk and Kampong Khleang are great alternatives to Chong Kneas and offer a more authentic experience. They are both just over one hour’s drive from the main town. While there are tourists, there are significantly less than Chong Kneas.
A short tour of the village (including a boat ride) will cost $20 USD. The entrance fee is steep no matter which floating village you choose, and many consider the fee to be a scam in itself. It’s up to you to make the decision whether it’s worth a visit – we decided against it, but this was partly because we had already visited a floating village in Vietnam.
12. Enjoy a Hot Air Balloon Ride Across Siem Reap
See Angkor Archaeological Park from a different perspective. The best time to enjoy a hot air balloon ride is in the late afternoon, so you can watch the sunset.
Of course, hot air ballooning does come with a hefty price tag. Prices fluctuate with the seasons but will cost around $115 USD each, or at least this was the price when we travelled in low season. If there is one place in the world to splash out on a helicopter ride, Angkor would be one of the coolest places to do so.
13. Experience Pub Street Nightlife
Whether you’re into the party scene or not, visiting Pub Street is one of the best things to do in Siem Reap at night. It’s busy enough to provide a great atmosphere – it seems to be where everyone is at night, but not too busy to be uncomfortably dodging crowds.
Many eateries and bars line the streets. Food is more expensive than stalls outside of the street but still reasonable. Some places will have a Khmer curry for as little as $3 to $4 USD. The craftily-named Angkor What? Bar is a great place to enjoy a beer or cocktail with some live music.
Head there from 5 pm, when the streets become closed off to vehicles. Try the fried scorpions if you dare. Maybe after a drink or two, you’ll be more willing!
14. Take a Helicopter Ride
Like a hot balloon ride, you could also take a helicopter ride over Angkor Archaeological Park.
Rides are quite short, ranging from 8 minutes to 30 minutes, and will cost you anything from just over $150 USD per person to almost 600 USD. Definitely not for the budget traveller, but surely a great tour.
15. Pay a Visit to the Free Temples in Siem Reap
Angkor Park isn’t the only place to visit temples in Siem Reap. There are several temples you can visit in Siem Reap for free, which is a great option if you’re travelling Siem Reap on a budget. They’re all walking distance from the main town area, which means you don’t have to organise transport – just bring your walking shoes and a bottle of water, and you’ll be good to go.
Wat Bo is amongst the older temples in Siem Reap. There aren’t many tourists visiting here, which makes for a great change compared to Angkor Wat after sunrise!
Wat Damnak is the Centre of Khmer Studies and includes a public library inside its ground.
Wat Preah Prom Rath is a large temple and monastery. The modernity of the temple offers a contrast to other temples within the area.
16. Take a Cooking Class
Khmer cuisine is delicious. Lok lak, Amok curry, and kuy teav are amongst some of their most popular traditional dishes.
Learning how to cook some delectable Khmer dishes is a great thing to do in Siem Reap, so you can cook them when you’re back home wishing you were still on holiday.
There are many cooking classes available in Siem Reap. Prices start at $26 USD for a 3-hour class. Some classes start at the village market where you will buy fresh produce for your meals. Classes will generally teach you how to cook a salad as a starter, main curry dish, and dessert.
17. Go on a Cycling Tour
Bikes are a great way to get around Southeast Asia, especially smaller towns like Siem Reap. The most popular cycling tours are to and from Angkor Wat.
Most tours will cater to novice riders, but a small degree of physical fitness will come in handy, given the difficulty during the heat of the day. Starting your Angkor Wat cycling tour at 4:30 am, however, will mean most of the tour will take place before it gets too hot. If you’re not a morning person, there are tours that start later on in the day.
Grasshopper is an international company offering great tours. Prices start at $35 USD for a half-day trip through the countryside. Angkor cycling tours begin at $45 USD for a full-day trip. Alternatively, you can rent a bike for $1-2 USD and customise your own solo tour.
18. Go Ziplining
One unforgettable way to view the Angkor temples is from above. Whereas a hot air balloon or helicopter ride may be out of your price range, ziplining may be the right activity for you, especially if you’re looking for an exhilarating activity.
Angkor Zipline offers the only zipline through Angkor Archaeological Park and is open from 6:30 am – 5 pm. They have a few packages to choose from. The 1 – 1.5-hour course will cost you $65 USD per person, and the 2 – 2.5-hour course is $99 USD per person
Bear in mind a minimum height of 1 metre tall is required to ride the zipline, and a maximum weight of 125 kg. They offer return transport, and you won’t be required to buy the Park Pass to use the zipline.
19. Take a Pottery Class
Anyone who has taken a pottery class before will agree it’s so much harder than it looks, but it is a lot of fun!
Khmer Ceramics & Fine Arts Centre is one of the most popular places in Siem Reap for a pottery class. Prices start at $25 USD per person for a 90-minute class, including return transfers from your hotel or accommodation. You’ll start with an expert demonstration of pottery wheel usage, then you’ll try your hand at making your own creation.
One of their missions is to revive Khmer techniques for ceramics and porcelain making. They’re also helping the disadvantaged members of their community by employing flexible work conditions and training those orphaned or with disabilities.
20. Day Tour Beng Mealea and Koh Ker
Beng Mealea and Koh Ker are lesser-known temples in Siem Reap but are spectacular and a lot less busy than the ones closer to the town. A trip to either or both of these temples is a unique experience in Siem Reap.
Beng Mealea dates back to the 12th century. The temple’s design is the same as Angkor Wat’s, but smaller in scale and consumed by the jungle, giving it an untouched, undiscovered feel.
Koh Ker dates back even earlier, to the 10th century. The tiered pyramid style of the temple is very different in appearance to that of Beng Mealea.
Beng Mealea is around 80 minutes from Siem Reap town, and Koh Ker is a further hour from there. Being quite far away from Siem Reap, these temples are often visited as part of a tour.
Shared minivan tours will cost as little as $30 USD per person, whereas a private tour in a car should cost around $80 USD. Tours typically include return transfers from your hotel, a guide, and water. The entrance fee to Beng Mealea is $10 USD for adults and the entrance fee to Koh Ker is $5 USD.
21. Visit Artisans Angkor
Like Khmer Ceramics & Fine Arts Centre, Artisans Angkor is a company aiming to revive traditional Khmer craftsmanship while giving Cambodians opportunities. In this case, they aim to help young people living in rural areas.
Their handicraft workshop is located at Stung Thmey Street. They’re open from 7:30 am – 6:30 pm daily.
Browse their beautifully-made handicrafts, including silk scarves, silk apparel, jewellery, tableware, and textiles.
Their silk farm is located at Pouk, 20 minutes from Siem Reap Town. There’s a free shuttle service if you pre-book which operates on weekdays from their workshop at 9:30 am and 1:30 pm.
22. Ride a Jeep or Dirt Bike
Go off-road and take a jeep or dirt bike tour around Siem Reap.
Jeep tours are mostly offered around Angkor Archaeological Park, but you can also take tours around other attractions in Siem Reap, such as Pouk Silk Farm and Kulen Mountain.
Dirt bike tours will take you to less popular places than Angkor, such as the floating villages and Phnom Kulen Waterfall. Jeep tours are generally cheaper than dirt bike tours, especially when travelling as a group.
23. Get a Massage
Every now and again, you’ve got to treat yourself. And the great thing is that in many Southeast Asian countries, treating yourself doesn’t have to cost a fortune.
Walking around the streets, you’ll see many outdoor stalls with massages advertised. These are the places to go to if you want the cheapest price. Once again, the closer to Pub Street, generally the more you will pay. It seems that the 30-minute foot massages are the most popular – likely tourists treating themselves after a full day of walking around the temples. Hunt around to find one for as little as $3 USD.
Prices vary greatly depending on the type of place you visit. Finding a small street shop may only cost you $6 USD for a one-hour full-body massage, whereas a boutique, luxury spa may cost up to $50 USD.