Our Guide to Siem Reap Markets – Where to Go and What to Buy
Our guide to Siem Reap markets covers the liveliest local markets and petite neighbourhood markets in the northern Cambodia city, as well as artsy crafts and organic farmers markets. We also provide responsible travel advice on the night markets – should you or shouldn’t you shop at them?
Our Guide to Siem Reap Markets
Daily local markets are sprinkled all over the Northern Cambodia city of Siem Reap, from the big buzzy markets in the city centre to the sleepy little markets in the outer village-like suburbs. On Sunday mornings, there’s also an organic farmers market at charming Asana, an old wooden house hidden on a laneway.
Siem Reap also has two artsy crafts markets, the excellent Made in Cambodia market, and the okay Art Market, which doesn’t sell a whole lot of art, but tends to have higher quality products compared to the other Night Markets.
And there are Night Markets, of which there are several in Siem Reap selling generic souvenirs that are mostly made in Thailand, Vietnam and China, that can be found at markets all over Southeast Asia. As responsible travel advocates it’s hard to recommend these as products are often of dubious origins and are made in factories that may or may not employ under-age and/or enslaved workers.
Note that ‘market’ in the Cambodian language of Khmer is written as both ‘phsar’ and ‘psar’.
These are the best Siem Reap markets where we recommend you spend your time.
Siem Reap Markets – Where to Go and What to Buy
Phsar Chas – Old Market
Phsar Chas or Old Market – also written as Psar Chaa because the ‘s’ in ‘Chas’ is silent – is in the old town centre and is the most accessible of the local Siem Reap markets. Hit Old Market around 7-8am to get a real insight into everyday life and sample a quintessential Cambodian breakfast. If you’re more interested in taking photos or shopping, then it’s better to go later when it’s quieter and the old ladies won’t be elbowing you out of the way.
Our tuk tuk drivers who live out in the villages call Phsar Chas the “tourist market” although most admit to never having been inside. Yes, it’s jam-packed with souvenir stalls and as you stroll around you’ll undoubtedly be subjected to annoying shouts of “Buy something! No charge — just looking!” But it’s not just a tourist market.
While there are plenty of stalls on the market’s outer rim targeted to tourists selling wood and stone carvings, faux antiques and fake software/DVDs (on the river side of the market on Pokamber Avenue), generic Southeast Asian souvenirs and clothes made in Thailand (on Street 11), spices and snacks specially packaged for visitors (on Street 9), and fake outdoor gear, backpacks and guidebooks (on 2 Thnou Street AKA Hospital Road), these are interspersed with stalls for locals and expat residents.
I can guarantee you that tourists are not going to be buying gaudy gold jewellery, hardware, bedding and kitchenware, having their hair cut and nails manicured at market beauty shops, and nor will they be shopping for fresh produce, meat and seafood. So, no, Phsar Chas or Old Market is not just for tourists.
In the early morning, small-scale farmers and vendors spread out their produce on the ground in the aisle between the shoe shops, which starts at the central Hospital Road entrance. They lay out everything from freshly picked fruit and vegetables to homegrown herbs, foraged leaves and roots, and fresh fish and frogs, which they’ll be skinning, scaling and gutting right there on the ground. They’re only there in the morning, so go early.
Head into the heart of Phsar Chas to the wet market (named as such because the floors are generally wet from the melted ice which is used to keep the fresh seafood cold) and you’ll see ordinary locals shopping too. Admittedly, they are the better-off Cambodians who live, work and run businesses in the old town. You’ll also see chefs from Siem Reap restaurants shopping for produce here, which is always a good sign.
In the centre of the market, at stalls stretching all the way to the opposite side of the building on Street 11, you’ll find permanent vendors selling fruit and veg, herbs and roots, fresh kroeung (curry paste), palm sugar, and dried spices; just-caught fish from the nearby Tonle Sap, South East Asia’s largest freshwater lake, along with seafood and crustaceans from the southern coast; free-range local chicken and pork, along with poultry and meat; Siem Reap’s famous Chinese-style sweet sausages, dried fish, prahok, and fish sauce.
These permanent vendors are here all day from the wee hours of the morning until around 5-6pm. Early morning is best if you’re doing some serious shopping and want some breakfast while mid-mornings and the early afternoon are best for photography and browsing. Avoid the late afternoon if you can. By the end of the day, the produce has been sitting out since morning, so, let’s just that the market is, ahem, ‘aromatic’ at best.
The quality of the produce is so good at Phsar Chas that it’s not unusual to see some of Siem Reap’s best chefs shopping here, including Chef Joannès Rivière of Cuisine Wat Damnak. You can read about one of our market trips with Chef Jo here on Fine Dining Lovers. You might also bump into us picking up some seafood or fruit and veg. The produce is so inexpensive that if you’re a chef or foodie you’ll be very tempted to swap your hotel for an apartment so that you can do some cooking.
What to Buy
Cambodian checked cotton kramas, colourful lacquer bowls, silk table runners, place mat and coaster sets, coconut wood servers, mini palm wood mortar and pestles, and kitchenware and gadgets, such as nifty vegetable peelers. When it comes to food, try the Khmer desserts, and buy some of Siem Reap’s famous sausages and a jar of prahok to take home.
Phsar Leu – Upper/Higher Market
The city’s biggest market, Phsar Leu – which means Upper Market or Higher Market – is one of our favourite Siem Reap markets. It’s located on National Route No 6, the highway that connects Siem Reap to Phnom Penh in the south and in the opposite direction, the airport, Battambang, and Thai border. It’s a busy, dusty road that visitors either love or hate.
Sprawling Phsar Leu is perhaps the most compelling of Siem Reap markets and it’s even more local than Phsar Chas, seeing few tourists making their way here. If you spot foreigners, they’re probably expats.
If you can handle the, um, heady ‘fragrances’, it’s best to visit early in the morning if you’re keen on taking in the local action. If you’re still half-asleep when you arrive, the wet market’s fresh fish and meat section and buckets of prahok (a beloved seasoning and ingredient of fermented fish that’s used in many dishes, such as prahok k’tis) will wake up your olfactory system.
If you’re a fan of markets, you can easily spend a few hours here browsing, shopping or shooting photos – and if you’re serious about any of those pursuits then visit in the late afternoon when it’s quieter and the locals are less likely to get annoyed with you getting in the road of people.
You’ll find all kinds of stores here selling everything imaginable. A circuit of the outer rim is a good place to start. You’ll find everything from stores selling electrical appliances and towels and sheets to hairdressers and beauty salons. Alternatively, you could head straight to the main entrance, where you’ll see stalls selling baked goods, such as French-style baguettes, biscuits and pastries, into the centre of the market.
While shops offering similar products tend to cluster together – in the middle are the gold shops, there’s a row of shoe vendors beyond these, and opposite those are kitchenware and hardware sellers – things are actually pretty mixed up. You’ll find stalls selling wedding dress sprinkled throughout the market for instance – just in case you’re looking for one.
The food section is right at the back and it’s dustier and even more dimly lit than that at Phsar Chas, making for particularly atmospheric images if you’re a photographer, and a fascinating stroll if you’re not. This is a good spot to sample Cambodian breakfast soups, such as nom banh chok, in the morning.
There is also some fantastic street food at Phsar Leu in the late afternoon and early evening at the front of the market, including lort cha (stir-fried short rice noodles with pork, spring onions, and sprouts) and nom kachai (also written as num kachai and num kachay, which are Chinese-style rice flour chive cakes.
Note that most shops at Phsar Leu shut at around 5pm, although the food stalls and shops on the outer rim of the market will stay open an hour or two longer.
What to Buy
Phsar Leu is another great spot to buy kitchenware and household goods if you are settling into the city for a while or have a generous luggage allowance. This is where to buy your proper granite mortar and pestle, a retro thermos flask, tiffin boxes, colourful floor mats, and batik sarongs, which I use as table cloths and picnic sheets and get made into cushion covers.
Asana Organic Farmers Market
The most European of Siem Reap markets, the Asana Organic Farmers Market is held each Sunday morning (8am-noon) during the dry season, although less frequently during monsoon. Check the Asana bar website for details. Started by Asana owners, Sophary ‘Pari’ Unn and partner Guilhem Maitrepierre, the market is the first of its kind, supporting artisanal producers and local organic growers by providing stalls for them to sell their beautiful products. The market is a social hub as much as it is a spot to shop and is a great place to meet expats if you’re new to town. Do your shopping then join the friendly folks on the recycled rice- and cement-sack cushioned sofas beneath the traditional Khmer house for a chat.
What to Buy
Locally grown organic produce, jars of creamy palm sugar, free-range chickens and eggs, freshly baked German-style bread, homemade French charcuterie, pâtés and terrines, and delicious Middle Eastern dips.
Made in Cambodia Market
Along with Asana, the Made in Cambodia market is the most home-grown, ethical and eco-friendly of Siem Reap markets, with stalls operated by independent artists and designers, such as Saomao and Ammo, which produce jewellery made from spent bullet casings, and NGO-operated social enterprises, such as Friends International’s Friends ‘n’ Stuff, which sells accessories and jewellery made from recycled materials, such as newspaper and rubber tyres. The market moved from its previous location at the Shinta Mani Resort to the Kings Road Angkor tourist complex on River Road, where stalls open at noon until 10pm daily. There are nightly performances by musicians, dancers and artists, including the Phare Cambodian Circus.
What to Buy
What not to buy?! Start with colourful bowls, holders, trays, baskets, and mats hand-woven from plastic bags by Green Gecko’s Rehash Trash; groovy handbags, clutch purses and belts made from aluminium drink can ring pulls by CAN’ART; wallets and necklaces made from newspaper by Friends ‘n’ Stuff; and Sombai‘s rice spirits in beautiful hand-painted bottles.
Road 60 Market
Road 60 Market on the edge of Siem Reap, on a road that runs beside the Angkor Archaeological Park Ticket Office, is definitely the most local of Siem Reap markets. Celebrated by Cambodians from as far as Phnom Penh for its fantastic street food, this popular evening eat street is pretty much locals only, although I have been starting to see the occasional tour guide show up with small groups of nervous-looking tourists. I’m not sure if it’s the baskets of fried bugs and skewers of offal that frighten them – or the fact that the stalls line either side of a busy thoroughfare. Yep, that will be Road 60. Stalls start setting up late each afternoon and are packed away again at the end of the night. Arrive after dark for the buzziest atmosphere and if you have a family, don’t miss the small amusement park. Have your tuk tuk driver wait for you as it can sometimes be tricky to get a ride back to town. Expect to pay US$3 each way.
What to Buy
Don’t even think about leaving without a pair of floral pyjamas. And make sure you try plenty of street food! Sample everything from crispy wok-fried insects (the quality and freshness are far better here than Pub Street) and sour green fruits to barbecued meats and delicious Cambodian desserts.
More Siem Reap Markets to Visit
If you’re a market enthusiast and a completist, I also like these local markets.
On the opposite side of the road to Phsar Leu (above), Phsar Samaki is grittier, darker and more crowded than Phsar Leu and is worth a peek if you’re a market lover. Many locals claim the fruit is better at Samaki than other Siem Reap markets although can’t seem to tell me why. While most Siem Reap markets are closed by 5-6pm, Samaki stays open until late and gets busy in the early evenings, when stalls set up out the front of the market selling everything from fried noodles to grilled meats.
What to buy: Fruit, seeing locals swear the quality is better here than at other Siem Reap markets.
Another of my favourite Siem Reap markets, bustling little Phsar Polanka is on the quieter upper riverside. It has a few good food stalls within, including a dessert shop just inside the entrance, while the mobile carts outside are the place to buy glistening, roasted char sieu duck and pork. One stall sells delicious num pang, the Cambodian version of the Vietnamese banh mi, a baguette stuffed with pork, salad, pickles, mayo, maybe some fish – and pâté, when it’s called num pang pâté.
What to buy: Street food, of course.
This dirty, dusty, sprawling, tin-shed of a market feels as if it’s set in a remote rural town rather than Cambodia’s major tourist destination. It’s definitely the grittiest of Siem Reap markets and the most local (I’ve never seen an expat here, let alone a tourist) and that’s what I find so appealing. Most vendors spread out their fresh produce on the ground, while others roam around selling everything from baskets of fried water beetles and sour green fruits to fresh palm sugar spirit, poured directly from the bamboo flasks to which they were harvested into plastic cups from which you take your sips.
What to buy: Freshly made snacks, from savoury Cambodian-style muffins to sticky donuts.
The Night Markets – Should You Or Shouldn’t You Shop at Them?
Siem Reap is home to a handful of night markets, including the largest and most popular, the Angkor Night Market, accessed off the busy main road of Sivutha Boulevard or ‘bar street’, Sok San Road; the diminutive Full Moon Night Market, on Sivutha Boulevard near National Highway 6 (Airport Road); and the compact Art Market on the riverside.
While you’ll find some good little businesses operating stalls at these, such as the Kamonohashi Project, a handicrafts social enterprise that fights trafficking of vulnerable women (at Angkor Night Market), and Mooglee, a local t-shirt producer (at the Art Market), most of what’s sold are generic Southeast Asian souvenirs that you’ll see sold at markets right across the region, from hippy clothes from Thailand to tourist trinkets and knick knacks manufactured in China.
If that doesn’t bother you, enjoy your shopping, however, it irks me and here’s why…
I’ve been watching cultures lose their traditional craft practices and the world increasingly become the same for almost two decades now and nowhere is this more evident than in the tourist markets around the world that all sell the same factory produced crap. I’ll never forget the little Bedouin girl at Petra tell me that a knick knack was Jordanian made. Recognising it, I turned it over and showed her the ‘Made in China’ sticker. I personally prefer to buy local and support the maintenance of local arts and crafts, whether it’s traditional practices that are under threat or innovative new design products.
I like to know who made my souvenirs, whether it’s a painting, t-shirt, bottle-opener, or bracelet. They don’t necessarily have to have been made by an interesting artist or a workshop of formerly impoverished women who’ve been able to pull themselves out of poverty, although that’s definitely a bonus. But I do want to be certain that they weren’t made by workers enslaved in a factory somewhere, working long hours in horrible conditions, for very little money, if any. And I want to be sure they’re not made by trafficked young people or children. Because that’s how a lot of that garbage is produced.
I want to know that animals weren’t harmed in the production of my souvenirs, that the farmed crocodiles from which those beautiful handbags and shoes are produced have been fed well and kept in good conditions and led a happy life, that the ‘fake fur’ is really fake, and that my mementoes weren’t tested on animals or made from endangered species. Again, if you don’t know the source of your souvenirs, you can’t know these things.
Tips for Visiting Siem Reap Markets
- Local Siem Reap markets are generally open from sunrise to sunset although stalls on the outer rim of markets might stay open later as locals will drop by on their motorbikes to grab something on their way home from work. Psar Samaki, a late opener, is one of the few exceptions.
- Tourist stalls on the outer rim of Old Market, especially on the Pub Street side, stay open later (sometimes to 8-9pm) to take advantage of passing traffic, while tourist markets, such as the Night Markets are also open in the evening (until around 10pm).
- A little bargaining at tourist stalls is expected at Siem Reap markets and prices are set accordingly, but don’t be too aggressive. Don’t bargain for fresh produce or street food.
- This is your chance to use those riels. Cambodian currency is welcome at the markets and prices are often quoted in riels. Remember: US$1 = 4,000 riels.
- Take a cotton bag or buy an eco-friendly bag for shopping and say ‘no’ to plastic. Siem Reap, and Cambodia more largely, has a colossal plastic problem no thanks to plastic bags (and plastic water bottles) that the more responsible members of the tourism industry in Siem Reap are working hard to combat.
- Do sample the street food at Siem Reap markets, but follow the usual rules and go to the stalls busiest with locals, check out the preparation area to make sure it looks clean, and endeavour to use cutlery that’s clean (good stalls might provide a plastic jug of cutlery sitting in hot water). For more tips, see our post on Eating Street Food Safely, part of our Footpath Feasting street food series.
Planning a trip to Cambodia? I craft bespoke itineraries and my Savour Siem Reap experience include safe street food spots. We also introduce you to Cambodian produce, ingredients and street food on our culinary tours and food and travel writing and photography retreats. More details on our Siem Reap Retreats and Tours site.