Like all South East Asian cities, we quickly discovered, Phnom Penh has a few standout markets that are worth a wander to soak up the atmosphere, snack at the food stalls, and, naturally, shop for souvenirs.
The Night Market / Phsar Reatrey
We stumbled upon the small outdoor night market opposite Sisowath Quay on our first evening in Phnom Penh. Oddly enough, the market hadn’t been recommended to us by anyone, and while that was probably because it doesn’t in fact have a whole lot on offer, neither in the way of food or clothes, crafts and souvenirs (it took us less than half an hour to do a lap and that included browsing at each stall!) – it still has a lovely, laidback feel to it. While the racks of clothes on sale seem squarely aimed at locals (miniscule sizes), the souvenirs sold here (Cambodian silks, lanterns, colourful rice baskets, etc) are selective and of fairly good quality. There was a festive spirit to the place when we visited, with a good-looking young band performing and well-dressed young locals obviously enjoying a night out. Fri-Sun 5pm-12am.
Central Market / Phsar Thmey
Reopened just before we arrived in town, after having been closed for a long renovation, the splendid, yellow, Art Deco Central Market, built in 1937, is a must for architectural buffs as much as foodies and souvenir-hunters. Under the colossal central dome are jewellery ‘shops’ – little more than glass counters – selling silver jewellery, watches and ‘gems’, while four wings leading off the central hall sell a wide variety of clothes, shoes, bags, luggage, household goods, electronics, and books, as well as an abundance of souvenirs, including Cambodian handicrafts, wooden carvings, silks, and kramas, the traditional checked cotton Khmer scarves. There are plenty of food stalls as well, most of which can be found on the western side facing Monivong Boulevard, selling everything from fresh fruit and veg, fish, and dried foodstuffs to sit-down eateries dishing up hot soups and curries. Daily 5am-5pm
The Russian Market / Psah Toul Tom Pong
This dimly-lit market became popular with foreigners during the 1980s when it’s said most of the foreigners in Phnom Penh were Russian, hence the name. While it doesn’t have the architectural value of Central Market, photographers will enjoy the atmospheric interior, with its narrow aisles and interesting contrasts between light and shadow. It also has plenty of stalls selling souvenirs and handicrafts – ‘silk’, textiles, kramas, baskets, carvings, and t-shirts – as well as clothes, shoes and bags; counterfeit CDs, DVDs, and software; and luggage, if you’re on your way home. There’s a small fresh food market and stalls selling cheap home-style food. Daily 7am-5pm