The weekend is upon us here in Cambodia and with it thousands of visitors who have arrived from around Asia. A weekend in Siem Reap is enough to get a taste of the town and nearby temples, but don’t try to cram in too much. Visit knowing you’ll be returning one day.
Here are our tips for a weekend in Siem Reap aimed at sampling the best of Cambodia’s Temple Town.
Weekend in Siem Reap Itinerary – How to Spend 48 Hours in Cambodia’s Temple Town
Siem Reap is home to some of Southeast Asia’s most affordable boutique hotels. Atmospheric Sala Lodges and Maison Polanka offer a taste of traditional Khmer culture while award-winning Viroth’s Hotel is Siem Reap’s most stylish sleep. If money is no object, the Amansara, Park Hyatt and La Residence are the most luxurious lodgings, while Raffles oozes history and has a stupendous swimming pool. Shinta Mani Resort’s pool comes close plus it boasts a flamboyant Bill Bensley design. Sojourn is set amongst the rice fields out of town.
Start with sundowners at the riverside Foreign Correspondents Club (FCC) Angkor, followed by rose and lemongrass martinis at Shanghai-inspired Miss Wong. Dine at one of Siem Reap’s most creative restaurants, helmed by young Cambodian chefs, such as Mie Cafe, The Embassy, Mahob Khmer, or Pou Restaurant and Bar. If you can’t get in to any of those, try Cuisine Wat Damnak for French chef Joannès Rivière’s Cambodian-French cuisine. Resist the urge to kick on – you need to rise early in the morning.
Book a tuk tuk for 4.30am for sunrise at Angkor Wat and get a one-day Angkor Pass. Don’t let the crowds spoil your experience – this is one of Asia’s star attractions for a reason. Embrace it and enjoy contributing to the collective sighs of travellers awestruck by the sun’s illumination of the world’s largest religious monument. After, scramble Angkor Thom and Bayon, and Ta Prohm before trundling back to town for lunch. So you don’t waste a second, see our Insider’s Guide to Angkor Wat and Angkor Archaeological Park, an archaeologist’s guide to Angkor Archaeological Park and tips to how to get more out of your visit to Angkor Archaeological Park.
Head back into Siem Reap for a swim and lunch. Linger over delicious, traditional, home-style Cambodian food, including Siem Reap’s finest fish amok or amok trei (steamed fish curry), at Sugar Palm restaurant, the design of which is inspired by a typical Khmer timber house. Read more in our guide to Siem Reap’s best restaurants.
Refreshed and sated, return to Angkor Archaeological Park to explore sprawling Preah Khan, a former monastery and residence of King Jayavarman VII. Small temples in this area such as Neak Phean and Ta Som are also worth a quick visit. (With longer than a weekend in Siem Reap, we’d recommend you explore more of these smaller, off the beaten track temples). Romantics should skip the crowds up at Phnom Bakheng and hop on one of Kongkear Angkor’s gondolas (above), inspired by the traditional boats dating back to Jayavarman VII’s reign. Boats depart from Takao port, west of Angkor Thom Gate and cruise around the moat; book ahead for the canapés and cocktails option.
Back in Siem Reap, sip a Khmer cocktail at Asana bar in the last antique Khmer house in the old centre before heading to the hugely entertaining Phare Cambodian Circus for a quirky, high-energy Khmer Cirque du Soleil-style circus. Be there at 7.30pm to get a good seat; the one-hour show starts at 8pm. Click through to read more about Siem Reap’s Phare Cambodian Circus and book tickets for the nightly shows (twice-nightly on some days in high season) on the circus website.
Have your tuk tuk driver wait for you at the circus so he can take you directly to riverside Malis or adjoining Chanrey Tree for refined Cambodian cuisine (try the delicious prahok k’tis or Saraman curry). Or try chef Mork Mengly‘s Pou Restaurant and Bar for a more casual meal of creative Cambodian food. Mengly is one of a handful of young local chefs, including the Kimsan ‘twins’ helming an all-women team at Embassy, that are part of a New Cambodian Cuisine movement, elevating local food.
Up for more? Check our some of our other favourite bars in Siem Reap, including the Village Cafe, which oozes French style and has DJ nights; gay club Barcode for its fun 9.30pm drag shows and outstanding negronis; or (if it’s really late) French dive bar, Laundry.
There are few better places to spend the last morning of weekend in Siem Reap than strolling in a serene village set amidst the rice paddies to get an insight into how challenging life can be for Cambodians on a two-hour Treak Village Walk and Talk with Beyond Unique Escapes.
For the final lunch of your weekend in Siem Reap, delight in refined street food at Spoons, beneath the chic sustainable bamboo structure, or on creative Cambodian tapas and traditional dishes with a twist in the courtyard garden at Marum; both are two of Siem Reap’s best hospitality training restaurants, the first ran by Friends International, the latter by EGBOK, so your money is going to good causes. I recommend the red ant fritters served with prahok dip, duck and pumpkin croquettes, and moreish ribs at Marum, and the nom krok (fried rice flour and coconut puddings), fresh spring rolls, and forest sausages at Spoons. (Also see Marum chef Saren’s Siem Reap eating tips.)
Slip into Old Market in the historic heart of Siem Reap. Like most Siem Reap markets, it’s busiest in the mornings when villagers sell fresh produce and locals shop; it’s more relaxed in the afternoon when vendors are napping. After, browse some of the fabulous shops around Old Market. Don’t miss Senteurs d’Angkor, Kokoon on ‘Market Street’ (2 Thnou Street), Christine’s (above Laundry Bar), and Gardens of Desire, Smateria and Wild Poppy on Alley West. Hire a tuk tuk to take you to Ambre, Eric Raisina’s and Theam’s House.
Spend the last night of your weekend in Siem Reap with locals grazing on Cambodian street food at the food stalls on local eat street, Road 60. Some Cambodians jokingly call Road 60 ‘Khmer Pub Street’, as it’s where they go to eat and drink beer, but it’s much more family-friendly than Pub Street. Picnic on mats by the canal on barbecued meats, and buy some Cambodian desserts to take away.
After, make a beeline for the enchanting Sacred Dancers of Angkor, the original apsara dance performance. There are few better ways to end a weekend in Siem Reap. Funds go toward supporting the dancers and musicians as well as supporting the preservation of this ancient art form. They perform from 7-8pm on Sundays and Wednesdays at the Divine Sala, a beautiful stage behind the traditional wooden houses that serve as the headquarters of the Nginn Karet Foundation.
Staying longer than a weekend in Siem Reap? See our Guide to Things to Do in Siem Reap. Keen to explore on two wheels, see our Siem Reap cycling guide. Visiting in monsoon, see our ideas for Things to Do in Siem Reap When it Rains. Families might like our Siem Reap for Families Guide. Our Siem Reap Angkor Wat FAQs answers questions about visas, money, weather, what to wear, etc.
Planning a trip to Cambodia? Lara crafts bespoke itineraries and themed experiences, such as Savour Siem Reap and introduces travellers to Cambodian cuisine and culture Culinary Tours and Food and Travel writing and Photography Retreats in conjunction with our Cambodian travel partners and local guides. We host these throughout the year as both scheduled small group and private tours. More details on our Siem Reap Retreats and Tours site.
Do you live in Temple Town? We’d love to hear your recommendations for how visitors can best spend a weekend in Siem Reap.
Sand In My Suitcase says
We were happily enjoying Siem Reap vicariously through your writing (and we love the idea of staying at Raffles or Amansara) – but we were pulled up short by the red ant fritters :-). George has nibbled on fried grasshoppers in San Miguel de Allende (salty, crunchy and tasty, he says). And he’d be game to try those fritters. But Janice would pass and choose other tapas. Now, where were we? Oh, we’re going to the Old Market…
Great post! I can’t wait to start exploring!
Lara Dunston says
Thanks! Lots to do and explore here – you’re going to love it!
Lara Dunston says
The red ant fritters are really delicious. They’re like little savoury cakes rather than fried fritters and the ants are tiny with an ever-so-slight crunch. You wouldn’t even know they were ants if you didn’t read the menu. Old Market is wonderful – hope you enjoyed it! :)
Lovely photo! I can imagine myself there, relaxing.
Lara Dunston says
Thanks! That boat ride is very relaxing. And surprisingly not a lot of people do it for sunset. Tour groups tend to do it earlier in the day but it’s magic at sunset.
Abhay Singh says
Meaningful contents ,nice article and images are so beautiful I can’t define it….
Lara Dunston says
Thanks for your kind words, Abhay.
Love your suggestions. We aren’t going to Siem Reap for another 7 months but I’ve looked at tons of websites, blogs, etc. and find your ideas the most helpful. We will copy your Friday itinerary exactly and many other suggestions. Still trying to decide if we do 2-days exploring The temples or just 1 long day if we only have 4 days there. I’ll keep checking your postings for more ideas. We booked at Sala Lodge and I’m glad to see you think so highly of it.
Lara Dunston says
Hi Sharon – thank you for the kind words! You are going to love Sala Lodges – it’s so beautiful. There is so much to do in Siem Reap these days – and we will be posting more stories soon on all the many other things to do – but the temples are still the real highlight. If you have 4 days, I would recommend you do one long day on your first day (perhaps the Beyond Unique Escapes Angkor Uncovered tour) and then see how you feel.
If you fall in love and find you can’t get enough of the temples, then you could do some independent exploration with a tuk tuk driver to see different temples or to visit some more off the beaten track sites. Or vice versa: do the star temples on your own by tuk tuk and then do a tour to some of the further afield temples. Then, depending on your interests you can easily fill another couple of days. We love Beyond’s Treak Village Walk and Talk. We also enjoyed Triple A Adventures’ full day Floating Village Tour, which includes a lovely bike ride as well as the boat cruise.
Do check back for more stories in a few weeks and please make sure you let us know when you’re in town.
This was a really good post and gives a great idea of things to do for the weekend. The detail is fantansitc. Really helps plans things out. I am thinking about heading to Siem Reap this July with 2 younger teenage kids in tow. One of them with love it, the other is a bit of an adventure junky. Do you have any recommendations what families could do over a weekend (or a week) in Siem Reap? Any suggestions or ideas would be wonderful, especially if there is something like zipping over trees for my son.
Lara Dunston says
Hi Derrick – nice to see you here and thanks for the kind words! I’ll do you a post on ‘Siem Reap for Families’. Hope that works! We do have zip-lining over the trees and kids love it. I’ll email you when the post is up. Thanks for dropping by!