One place that seems to be on everyone’s travel bucket list these days is Angkor Wat. This famous temple complex in Cambodia is one of the largest religious sites in the world and an incredibly awe-inspiring place to visit. To visit this UNESCO World Heritage Site, you’ll need to spend some time in the modern city of Siem Reap.
While the main draw here is obviously visiting the temples, there are lots of fun things to do in Siem Reap! Here you can visit floating villages, fly through the jungle on a zipline, see an incredible acrobatic performance, and much more.
Spending a week in Siem Reap is just the right amount of time to fully explore the temples of Angkor, while enjoying the many other Siem Reap attractions on your days off. If you’re ready to plan a trip to Cambodia’s gateway to Angkor Wat, then read on for a jam-packed guide to the area.
1. Visit the Angkor National Museum
If you’re wondering what to do in Siem Reap when you first arrive, this museum is it. While you’ll surely be chomping at the bit to get to the temples, it’s well worth making a trip to the Angkor National Museum first. Doing so will provide you with a better understanding of the temples and the civilization that built them.
Through a variety of interactive exhibits, the museum seeks to educate visitors about the customs, traditions, and beliefs of the ancient Khmer empire. They’ve got a seriously impressive collection of artifacts here and have done an excellent job of preserving and presenting them.
The museum is open from 8:30 to 6:00pm from May-September and until 6:30 from October to April. Tickets to the museum cost $12 for adults or $6 for children. There are also audio tours available in a variety of languages for an additional $5.
Visiting the Angkor National Museum will have you even more excited about your trip to the temples. In addition to giving tons of useful information, the air-conditioned museum also provides relief from the intense midday heat of Siem Reap! You can find the museum on the map here.
2. Explore the Temples of Angkor
Of all the great things to do in Siem Reap, exploring the temples of Angkor definitely tops the list. After getting a history lesson on the temples at the museum, it’s finally time to head out and see one of the most fascinating places in the world.
In addition to the world-famous Angkor Wat, other must-see temples include Bayon with its smiling faces, Bakheng for sunset, and Ta Phrom, which is also known as the “Tomb Raider temple” for its role in the movie.
To visit the Angkor National Park, you have the choice of buying a one day ($20), 3-day ($40), or 7-day ($60) pass. Unless you really want to dive deep and take your sweet time seeing all of the temples, the 3-day option should suffice. You can even spread out your visits a bit, as you have a full week to use it.
As far as getting around goes, you can join a tour, hire your own private driver (cab or tuk-tuk), or navigate it yourself on a bicycle or motorbike. If you go for the 3-day pass, you’ll probably want to do a mix – perhaps a tuk-tuk tour one day and then cycling there the next.
There are so many options for seeing the temples that planning a trip there can be a little intimidating. Be sure to check out this detailed guide to planning your visit to the Angkor temples before you go.
3. Enjoy A Boat Trip to Floating Villages (one of the most unique things to do in Siem Reap)
One of the top things to do in Siem Reap besides temples, is taking a boat trip to visit one of the area’s floating villages. Full of houses on stilts and locals who get around solely by boat, these floating villages are fascinating places to see up close.
There are a few floating villages within a short drive of Siem Reap. Chong Khneas is the closest one and is therefore the most touristy. A bit further away is Kompong Phluk, which is still easily visited on a half-day trip. This is the one we went to and we had a very enjoyable experience.
A boat tour of Kompong Phluk costs $20 per person and lasts a few hours. On our trip, we had a boat to ourselves and barely saw any other tourists. Instead, we got a kick out of local kids floating by in saucers and waving at us. You can also tack on a brief canoe trip through the mangroves and sit down to eat in a floating restaurant.
Kompong Khleang is located the furthest away from Siem Reap (about 50 km), so you’ll need to spend quite a bit more time and money to get here.
4. Get a Massage
After all that cycling, walking, and climbing at the temples, you might be just a little sore. Thankfully there are no shortage of places to get a nice, relaxing massage in Siem Reap.
Your options for a massage here vary greatly in terms of quality and price. These range from simple and very cheap to super nice and rather pricey. You can get an hour-long massage for as little as $10-12 here and it’ll still be pretty good! A great option to support an even greater cause, is to get a massage from a blind person. There are a few companies in Siem Reap that you can check out.
Even at the higher end, spa treatments are a great value in Siem Reap. At the #1 ranked Mudita Spa, a 3-hour spa package for two that includes a fruit platter and wine costs just $200 total.
With so many excellent options, getting a massage is definitely one of the top things to do in Siem Reap.
5. Visit The Landmine Museum
In between all the temple hopping, you can pay a visit to the Cambodian Landmine Museum. It was started by a former child soldier named Aki Ra who began removing mines he had once set and defusing them with his own handmade tools.
After establishing quite the collection of defused mines, he began charging tourists $1 each to view his collection. He then used the money to support children that he had found wounded or orphaned as a result of landmines.
Unfortunately, the museum was ordered to be closed in 2006. A Canadian NGO stepped in and raised money to buy the land to relocate the museum, and it continues to educate visitors on the horrors of landmines — and war in general. The children who were under the care of the center have recently moved closer to Siem Reap, where they have access to a better education.
The museum is open every day from 7:30-5:30pm. Entry is $5 for adults and free for children under 10. No temple pass is required to get to the museum, so you could visit on one of your off days if you’d like. It’s actually located inside the Angkor National Park, about 7km south of the Banteay Srey complex (check the map here).
6. See Angkor From Above
While it’s pretty incredible seeing the temples of Angkor up close, it’s even more amazing seeing them from above. There are both helicopter and hot air balloon tours available that will give you an elevated perspective on the temples.
Helistar Cambodia offers a few options for helicopter tours above Angkor. You can choose between 8-minute ($99), 14-minute ($165) or 20-minute ($240) tours. The shorter tour takes in Angkor Wat and Bakheng, while the longer one includes a flight above a floating village and the lake.
If you’d prefer a more peaceful journey to the sky, you can take a hot air balloon tour instead. They run both sunrise and sunset tours from December to March, with tours costing $115 per person.
Whichever one you choose, getting a bird’s-eye view of the Angkor temples is easily one of the most amazing things to do in Siem Reap.
7. Visit Artisans Angkor
If you’re wondering what to do in Siem Reap that will help support an organization with a great cause, be sure to visit Artisans Angkor. Their goal is to keep ancient Khmer arts alive while bringing jobs to rural villages and improving the lives of locals.
There are several dozen workshops around the area that employ over 800 artisans who produce carvings, paintings, jewelry, clothing, and much more. The company provides a fair income as well as social and medical insurance and invests profits right back into opening new workshops.
Two of their locations are open to visitors — their oldest handicraft workshop in the city center and their Silk Farm, which is about a 20-minute drive away. The workshop in town is open daily from 8-6pm, and you can drop by anytime for a free guided tour. If you want to visit the farm, be sure to contact them in advance to book a spot on their shuttle.
Since you can pick up some handmade, traditional souvenirs and support a good cause at the same time, visiting Artisans Angkor should definitely be on your list of things to do in Siem Reap. You can find it on the map and get directions here.
8. Chill By The Pool
Exploring the temples of Angkor is an incredible experience. It’s also a very exhausting, dusty, and sweaty one. In between all that temple hopping, you’re going to want to carve out some time to just chill out by the pool!
Since it’s so hot pretty much all the time, many Siem Reap hotels have a swimming pool. Even if yours doesn’t, you can probably find one nearby that will let you use the pool for a small fee.
There are plenty of nice pools you can access for just $5-10 a day. Some of them even include use of a gym and sauna! For a pretty expansive list of all the pools you can visit in Siem Reap, click here.
9. Party On Pub Street
Overall, the nightlife of Siem Reap is pretty subdued. That is, except for the Pub Street. Every night of the week, the party is raging with loud music, cheap drinks, and people dancing in the street.
My advice to you would be to not follow our lead. For some reason, we decided to try to stay out all night on Pub Street and then cycle to Angkor Wat for sunrise. It’s definitely better if you do those things in reverse order. Oh to be a young, clueless backpacker on a gap year again…
10. Go Ziplining
Adrenaline junkies will definitely want to add a bit of ziplining to their list of things to do in Siem Reap. Flying high through the Cambodian jungle and surrounded by wildlife, this is an experience you won’t soon forget.
Angkor Zipline offers a few different options for adventure tours that include ziplines, sky bridges, abseiling, and more. Their silver tour lasts about 1.5 hours and costs $65 per person, while the gold tour includes a few more activities and goes for $99.
If that’s not enough excitement for you, try one of their combo tours that also include either mountain biking or ATV riding.
11. See The Phare Circus (Acrobatics)
On at least one of your evenings in Siem Reap, I highly recommend attending a performance of the Phare Circus. Not only is it an incredibly entertaining show, but it’s also for a very good cause.
The performers in Phare are graduates of a program started by ex-refugees from the Khmer Rouge days. The program offers formal art education to disadvantaged youth, who all attend for free.
All profits from the sale of tickets, merchandise, and refreshments go back into supporting the program. There are three different options for tickets, which are priced at $18, $28, and $38 respectively. Shows go on at 8PM every night, with an additional 5PM showing from November-March on Monday, Thursday, and Saturday.
There are different shows every night, so you could even catch a few different performances while you’re in town. An evening at the Phare Circus is definitely one of the most entertaining things to do in Siem Reap.
12. Wander Around the Old Market
For those who love a good local market, you’ll want to add a trip to the Old Market of Siem Reap to your itinerary. Known locally as Psar Chas, this is where locals come to buy and sell just about everything under the sun.
Take a stroll around this bustling market and you’ll see fresh produce, clothing, household appliances, bootleg DVDs, jewelry, stinky fish paste, and much more. It’s definitely an assault on all your senses, especially if you come early in the morning when the market is most active.
This is one of the best place to visit in Siem Reap if you’re looking for authentic and cheap Cambodian food. You can find the Old Market on the map and get directions here.
13. Sip On Classy Cocktails at Miss Wong
If the bucket-schwilling, backpacker debauchery of Pub Street is too much for you, head to Miss Wong for a classy cocktail instead. Reminiscent of a 1930s bar in old Shanghai, this is definitely one of the coolest places to grab a drink in Siem Reap.
Under the glow of red Chinese lanterns, you can sip on craft cocktails with an Asian influence. Their signature Indochine Martini is made of vodka, ginger cognac and pineapple juice and is absolutely delightful.
In addition to their great cocktails, they’re also cooking up homestyle Chinese dishes. Best of all, the music isn’t overbearing and you can actually carry on a conversation with the person sitting next to you! Miss Wong is open every night from 6PM-1AM. You can get directions and find it on the map here.
14. Dine On Khmer Cuisine
In a place as international as Siem Reap, you’re spoiled for choices when it comes to dining out. Here you can find Italian, Chinese, Mexican, Indian — all the great cuisines of the world. But, you didn’t come all the way to Cambodia to eat a pizza!
Although it’s often overshadowed by its more famous neighbors from Thailand and Vietnam, there’s plenty of delicious Cambodian cuisine. The signature dish of Cambodia is fish amok — a creamy curry made with coconut milk and a tasty mix of spices.
Another popular choice here is kuy teav — a noodle soup that’s eaten for breakfast. Whatever you decide to eat, sampling the local cuisine is certainly one of the tastiest things to do in Siem Reap.
A great way to get to know Khmer cuisine is by taking a street food tour in Siem Reap. Probably the coolest tour is the one offered by Vespa Adventures. On their Siem Reap After Dark tour, you get to ride on the back of a Vespa around town to sample a bunch of different local dishes.
Oh yeah, and free flow booze is included, too. Hence why you have your own personal designated driver for the outing! Tours run every night at 6PM and cost $72 per person.
15. Take a Cooking Class
Speaking of Cambodian cuisine, why not learn how to cook it yourself while in Siem Reap? There are plenty of places in town that offer cooking classes where you get to try your hand at Khmer cuisine.
In a typical class, you’ll visit a local market first to shop for fresh ingredients. You’ll then hit the kitchen to whip up a few local dishes before sitting down to enjoy the fruits of your labor.
A few cooking schools that come recommended include Lily’s Secret Garden and Champey. Both have classes in the morning and afternoon, each lasting 4 hours. Current prices are $24 per person at Lily’s and $27.50 at Champey.
16. Hit the Night Markets
Anyone who has traveled around Southeast Asia will already be familiar with the night market scene. Countless vendors of street food, handicrafts, artwork, clothing, and random knick-knacks vie for your attention (and your dollars).
There are actually several different night markets in Siem Reap, as more and more keep springing up. The original is the Angkor Night Market, which is home to over 200 shops. If you’re looking for some cool souvenirs and gifts to bring home, this is the place to go. Just be sure to bring your a-game when it comes to negotiating a price if you’re buying a lot!
Here you’ll also find the lively Island Bar, which is a great place to grab a drink after perusing the many stalls. The Angkor Night Market opens up at 5PM every night and goes until around midnight. You can get directions to the market and find it on the map here.
17. Do Yoga
In the past few years, yoga has quickly become one of the top things to do in Siem Reap. There are plenty of options for doing yoga here, which is a great thing to do after all that walking, peddling, and climbing at the temples.
Of all the choices for yoga classes in Siem Reap, it’s hard to top the Navutu Dreams Resort. This eco-chic resort offers yoga classes of many different styles twice a day (check their schedule here) in a comfortable, air-conditioned setting.
Classes here cost $9 per person, or you can get a pack of ten for $80 to save a few bucks if you’ll be around for a while. Best of all, you can access the resort’s pools and gyms if you’re coming there for yoga.
Other popular places to get your downward facing dog on include Angkor Bodhi Tree, the Peace Cafe, and the Siem Reap Hostel.
18. See The Smile Of Angkor
If you’re into the performing arts, you’ll definitely want to catch the Smile of Angkor. This grand production tells the story of the Khmer Empire through six chapters, featuring a huge cast and a very impressive stage set-up.
A mix of traditional aspara dancing, acrobatics, martial arts, and more, the show takes place on an ever-changing stage with some amazing backdrops. While I must say it was a bit cheesy at times, it’s one of the top Siem Reap attractions, and was an entertaining way to spend an evening.
The show goes on nightly at 7:15PM and lasts for a little over an hour. There’s also a buffet dinner prior to the show that you can add to your ticket price. Prices range from about $25-40 depending on your seat and whether or not you opt for the buffet. Personally, I would give it a miss and grab dinner in town before the show instead.
19. Explore Kandal Village
One of the hippest things to do in Siem Reap these days is strolling around the area known as Kandal Village. The once sleepy Hap Guan Street has been transforming into the city’s trendiest place to shop and hang out.
It’s a small, compact street, so take your dear sweet time checking out all that it has to offer. Grab a coffee at Little Red Fox Espresso, peruse the eclectic range of goods at Trunkh, enjoy some delicious vegan food at Vibe, get a massage at Frangipani Spa, and more all on this one street.
20. Learn How to Make Pottery
There are plenty of beautiful ceramics for sale in the many markets of Siem Reap, but did you know you can even try to make your own? The Khmer Ceramics & Fine Art Centre offers classes in both pottery and ceramics painting.
Each class costs $25, and you might as well combine them both so you can make your own Angkorian bowl and then paint it yourself. They have classes at 8, 10, 2, and 4 every day and include free pick up and drop off as well.
Of course, you’re always welcome to drop in and browse their collection of locally made pieces for sale. They’re open daily from 8AM-8PM and you can find them on the map here.
21. Listen To Live Music at X Bar
I don’t know about you, but I always look for places to catch some live music when I travel. And no, I’m not talking about that guy in your hostel who just learned how to play “Wonderwall” or the other dude who thinks he’s a DJ with his dope Spotify mix. I’m talking actual live music played by local bands!
In Siem Reap, the best place to rock out at night is X Bar. They’ve got an awesome rooftop location where they regularly have bands playing. Oh yeah, and there’s also a half-pipe here with skateboards for rent and a tattoo parlor. Rock on!
This is also the place to party if you’re looking to stay out real late, as they stay open until 5AM. Be sure to check their Facebook page to see what’s going on while you’re in town.
Ready for Siem Reap?
As you can see, there’s far more to Siem Reap than the temples of Angkor. There’s plenty to see and do here to warrant sticking around for a few days in between all the temple hopping.
Personally, I thoroughly enjoyed spending an entire week in Siem Reap and spacing out the trips to Angkor. It’s even on my short-list of cities in Southeast Asia to return to for a longer digital nomad stint.
If you’re planning to spend more time in the country (and you should be), then make sure to check out this Goats on the Road guide to traveling in Cambodia.
*Images in this post courtesy of Shutterstock.com.
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