One day in Battambang, Cambodia, is most definitely not enough time, but that’s all many visitors with the Angkor temples on their mind schedule for this lovely, laidback, riverside city a 3-hour drive from Siem Reap. Do our one day in Battambang itinerary, visiting the markets, villages and pagodas, and you could find yourself wanting to extend your stay.
As with Siem Reap – which visitors typically only allocate 2-3 days to experience when you need a week – one day in Battambang is nowhere near enough time to discover Cambodia’s second city. Recently named a UNESCO City of Gastronomy (link to my story in The Guardian), Battambang boasts beautiful fresh produce, bustling markets and brilliant street food.
While spending 24 hours in Battambang is better than nothing, and will give you a taste of this charming provincial city that’s still under-the-radar for most travellers to Cambodia, we strongly encourage you to extend your stay to at least 2 days in Battambang itinerary.
Trust us, you won’t regret it. We’ve been travelling to Battambang regularly for a decade from our home in Siem Reap and we absolutely adore it. Here’s our one day in Battambang itinerary.
Published 22 February 2018; Last Updated 21 November 2023
One Day in Battambang Itinerary for a Perfect Day in Cambodia’s Rice Bowl
How to Get to Battambang
If you have only allowed one day in Battambang, don’t waste a second of it. Start out early from Siem Reap and have a driver take you to Battambang. A one-way drive to Battambang should cost between US$35-40 depending on the quality of vehicle and whether the driver can speak English or not. Leave at 5am – you can sleep in the car – so you arrive in Battambang around 8am; leave at 6am at the latest, so you reach your hotel by 9am.
Where to Stay in Battambang
You have to stay overnight, as Battambang is a three-hour drive from Siem Reap so a day-trip just doesn’t make sense. One of the best located hotels in Battambang for this itinerary is colonial-inspired Bambu Hotel which has airy high-ceiling rooms with balconies in the main building overlooking a stunning swimming pool, and lodgings in traditional-style wooden houses beyond the pool.
The laidback little city has two more intimate boutique hotels with swimming pools in Wat Kor village on Battambang’s outskirts. Maisons Wat Kor has spacious rooms in two-storey traditional-style timber houses and a swimming pool in the lush tropical gardens.
How to Get Around Battambang
You’ll need to hire a good tuk tuk driver to be able to do our one day in Battambang itinerary. The best tuk tuk driver in Battambang is our Mr Ol (092 563 957), the lead driver of our Cambodia food tours and writing and photography retreats, and we also send our bespoke itinerary clients to him.
Tell Mr Ol that Lara and Terence sent you and if he’s not available, he’ll organise another excellent driver for you for your 24 hours in Battambang. Arrange for the driver to meet you at your hotel upon your arrival from Siem Reap so he can take you straight to breakfast.
Breakfast in Battambang
The best way to kick off 24 hours in Battambang is with breakfast. And not just any breakfast, but the best duck soup in Battambang, if not Cambodia. You’ll be slurping duck soup with the locals at family-owned Mi Kiev Tia Kwai on Street 135 in Kamakor village, now an inner suburb of Battambang. It’s just one block from the ABA bank, the court house and Battambang’s sleepy shopping mall.
Our tuk tuk driver, Mr Ol (see above) knows where it is, as he introduced us to this busy eatery spread across two shophouses. The family wakes in the wee hours of the morning to put the stock on to simmer and roast the meaty ducks, but while they are open until noon, the duck soup is so popular that it usually sells out by 9.30am.
Order the duck soup with wantons. While I’m quite content with the soup’s clear, subtly spiced broth, generous slices of tender duck, a few vegetables, and delicious house-made wantons, you’ll notice locals reaching for the array of condiments on the table. I suggest taking a slurp first.
Morning in Battambang
Of your 24 hours in Battambang we guarantee that the best 3-4 hours will be spent on a morning tuk tuk trundle through the leafy, laidback villages around Battambang. Most hotels can arrange a tour of cottage industries that take in all sorts of artisanal production, from incense making to woodcarving and perhaps a visit to the prahok market and A rice paper maker.
Over the years we’ve worked with our drivers, guides and local families to develop a more immersive, food-focused version of this tour concentrating on the culinary activities, and adding our own hands-on experiences with artisanal producers, from makers of traditional dessert to rice noodles, from fruit farmers to mushroom growers. Let us know if you’d like to do this as we can arrange Battambang’s best guide, Sokin Nou, to take you.
There are many fascinating stops you can add to your village excursions, such as picturesque Buddhist pagodas in frangipani-filled grounds, including Battambang’s oldest, which served as a prison during the tragic Khmer Rouge genocide in the late 1970s. There’s a monument to the period filled with skulls and bones, with a series of graphic bas-reliefs at the base depicting torture and killings, as well as the musty, dimly-lit ‘torture house’ which can be visited. Entry is free but do make a donation.
Make sure your driver takes you to the dilapidated Ek Phnom, a ruinous Khmer Empire era temple on a hillock which the Khmer Rouge attempted to destroy. There’s an enormous Buddha statue near the site’s entrance.
Lunch in Battambang
If you only have one day in Battambang, then lunch is a no-brainer. For us, lunch in Battambang means rustic dumplings and handmade noodles at Lan Chov Khorko Miteanh, also known as Chinese Noodle Guy (#145 Street 2), pictured above.
This simple eatery is home to the most surprising of noodle masters, who makes tasty Chinese dumplings of scallions and minced pork (vegetarian dumplings also available), along with silky, stretchy, hand-pulled noodles, dressed in dirty singlets, baggy low-slung shorts, and flip-flops.
Coffee in Battambang
You can’t spend one day in Battambang without having a coffee at Café Kinyei, an inspiring social enterprise business operated by the Feel Good Coffee Company, which provides training and employment for young locals.
Located in a restored French-Chinese shop-house on Street 1½ in the centre of the old town, the buzzy little café is generally busy with expats and locals. Order the award-winning Cambodian Cappuccino with pineapple syrup, palm sugar and frothy coconut milk.
Afternoon in Battambang
Spend the afternoon of your one day in Battambang exploring the city’s historic centre, which boasts cute boutiques, galleries, cafés, and bars, as well as some 800 heritage buildings. Start with the heritage sights, such as the grand former Lord Governor’s mansion, which is now a municipal museum with small displays of musical instruments and vintage household items.
After you’ve ambled the grid of narrow streets lined with atmospheric Chinese shop-houses, hire a tuk tuk driver to take you to visit some of the pagodas dotted around town, many of which are decorated with colourful bas reliefs and boast interiors illustrated with faded murals. They look wonderful in the late afternoon night.
Gilded Wat Pippitharam, also called Wat Peapahd, is one block north of Art Deco Phsar Nath (Old Market), and is home to a monastery and French colonial buildings. Wat Damreay Sar (‘White Elephant’) has bizarre statues of monkey gods, elephants and other creatures representing scenes from the Reamker, the Khmer version of the ancient Hindu Ramayana.
At Wat Bovil there are wooden carvings on the old vihear while Wat Kandal boasts fascinating paintings and an Angkor Wat replica hidden out back. See our guides to the arts and architecture in Battambang and things to do in Battambang for more ideas.
Sundowners in Battambang
There are few better ways to end your one day in Battambang than sipping a cocktail in the old town. Make a beeline to Street 2 to beautifully decorated Miss Wong, the Battambang sister to Siem Reap’s finest cocktail bar.
Owned by New Zealander Dean Williams, a former radio journo turned kombucha producer, and set in a painstakingly restored Chinese shophouse, the bar is one of Cambodia’s most atmospheric, with rattan chairs, lacquered screens and an intimate interior courtyard.
The cocktails are the big draw, mixed with house-made tonics, infusions and small batch spirits that you’re unlikely to sip elsewhere in Battambang. If you like your cocktail strong, order a heady rose and lemongrass martini.
For something lighter and refreshing, try the lemongrass collins. There are also craft beers and good wines by the glass, along with Chinese bites such as dim sum, pork buns and duck pancakes if you’re peckish.
Evening in Battambang
If you’re in Battambang on a Saturday, Monday or Thursday evenings, book tickets online or through your hotel to see a circus show at Phare Ponleu Selpak, Battambang’s brilliant performing arts school, which is home to a circus school.
Phare Ponleu Selpak, which means ‘brightness of the arts’, was established by a group of Cambodians who met in an art class in a refugee camp on the Thai border in the post-Khmer Rouge period. This is where the skilled performers from the Phare Cambodian Circus AKA the Siem Reap Circus trained.
Note that this is circus arts, so there are no animals, just incredibly talented young Cambodian artists performing acrobats, balancing acts, juggling, and various other circus tricks in shows that combine comedy, drama, dance, and music to tell distinctly Cambodian stories.
Tickets cost US$14 for adults and US$7 for children. Shows start at 7pm, but plan to arrive at 6.30pm at the latest so you can visit the art gallery, have a drink at the cafe, and shop the boutique that sells art work and other cool products made by the students.
Guided tours (US$5) of the campus are also offered from Monday through Friday at 9am, 10am, 2.30pm, and 3.30pm, and include a stroll around the leafy grounds with a guide to see the music students practicing beneath shady trees and the circus students learning new tricks or rehearsing.
You’ll also visit the art gallery and watch an animation film made by the students. Click through to any of the links in this paragraph to learn more about the history of the circus and what to expect from shows.
Dinner in Battambang
Jaan Bai is the best Battambang restaurant, but we’ve included it in our weekend in Battambang itinerary because if it’s a quiet mid-week evening in low season it may not be open after the circus. If you only have one night in Battambang and don’t go to the circus, dine at Jaan Bai. If you’ve got two nights, eat at Jaan Bai the night you’re not at the circus.
One of the few restaurants in Battambang still serving dinner after the circus finishes is La Pizza (59 Street 159), a casual French-owned Italian restaurant in a splendid, yellow, two-storey French colonial villa located on the riverside. The specialty, obviously, is pizza, made in a wood-fired oven.
We recommend The Kep with Cambodian seafood and Kampot peppers, the Spicy Italian with tomato paste, mozzarella, Italian sausage, and jalapeno peppers, and the Occitan with mozzarella, goat cheese, honey, walnuts, spinach and red Spanish onion.
Complimentary crostini with homemade olive tapenade is offered while you peruse the menu and there are affordable bottles of wine, cold Cambodian beers, and a concise dessert menu that includes a fine creme brûlée. There’s seating in the courtyard garden but we love to soak up the colonial ambiance inside.
Sometimes La Pizza closes early or exceptionally on holidays or if there’s a wedding in the vicinity, so have your hotel call (096 360 7417) and book a table and let them know you’re heading there after the circus so they stay open for you.
Important Battambang Travel Tips
- Buy travel insurance as soon as you book your flights, so you’re covered in case of flight cancellations, missed connections and lost luggage, not to mention Covid, accidents, medical emergencies, and evacuations. Travel insurance is essential in Cambodia, where regional hospitals are basic at best.
- Keep in mind that during the Southeast Asian high season (the winter dry season), the best small boutique hotels can be booked months in advance, so book accommodation as soon as you book flights.
- For travel between Cambodian cities, we use bookmebus.
- We recommend Get Your Guide for booking local tours and hiring guides, as well as tickets to attractions, museum, cruises, and so on.
Do you live in Battambang or have you spent 24 hours in Battambang? We’d love to hear what your idea of a perfect one day in Battambang itinerary is. Please let us know your thoughts in the comments below.