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Explore the Central Market of Phnom Penh
Asia, Cambodia, Food

Explore the Central Market of Phnom Penh 

Situated along one of the main boulevards of the dusty city, surrounded by reflective tall buildings and dawdling traffics, the Central Market of Phnom spreads her wings and silently welcomes visitors into her warm embrace.

Standing strong for almost a century already, the French colonial government built the Central Market of Phnom Penh in 1937. It was constructed in the shape of an imposing yellow dome with four arms branching out into spacious hallways for better ventilation of the market. A French architect Jean Desbois designed this masterpiece of construction. Construction was overseen by French architect Louis Chauchon and the ingenue Wladimir Kandaouroff.

With its first opening in 1937, it was the biggest market in Asia. Additionally, nowadays it is still one of the most distinctive markets in Southeast Asia.


Explore the Central Market of Phnom Penh


The Unconfirmed Theories behind the Landmark Market architecture

Central Market of Phnom Penh
Source: Prahin / Flickr

With its distinctive design and extraordinary location, the story behind the market’s extraordinaire architecture still poses as a mystery to most people. There were numerous interpretations of the meaning behind its unique design.

If you stand in the middle of the market and stare up to the ceiling, it resembles a spider web. To some interpretations, it symbolized the web of French colonization that once covered Cambodia.

To some, it appears like a fuselage of a plane, and that resembles a fighter aircraft’s tail. It is also symbolic of France’s technical superiority over the colonies.

Up till now, the cathedral-like design still stands strong and amazes every visitor that lays their eyes on the dazzling beauty.


What to Know About the Central Market of Phnom Penh?

Central Market of Phnom Penh
Source: Carmelo Bayarcal [Picturesque Pilipinas!]
The Central Market of Phnom Penh still operates till these days. It has seen a few historical changes from the years it stood still in the city. According to an article reported by the Phnom Penh Post, during the Khmer Rouge regime, the market was closed and used as a horse stable. In 1979, The government reopened and run the market as a center for trades between Phnom Penh and Ho Chi Minh for the next ten years. It was until April 1989 that the market became private again.

For one more thing, from 2009 to 2011, the Central Market underwent a USD 4.2 million renovation project funded by the French government, the Phnom Penh Post reported in January 2009.


Still ‘The New Market’ After Over Eight Decades

Central Market
Source: Luke Wilkie | pinterest

Like its Khmer namesake, meaning “The New Market”, but commonly known as ‘The Central Market’ in English, a reference to the location and size, the market is one of the landmarks in the capital. Moreover, aside from the commercial activities, it has also become one of the very few remaining colonial buildings in Phnom Penh with its deep-yellow deco art.

Since the renovation wrapped up in early 2011, the Central Market of Phnom Penh is still up and running from dusk till dawn. Painted in the original yellow like 82 years ago from the renovation, the market now houses over three thousand stalls, selling various products from gold and silver jewelry to clothes to antiques to electronic devices to fake-name brand watches and such.


Distinction of the Market

Central Market
Source: winninator

Unlike many regular markets in Cambodia, the Central Market of Phnom Penh is still a very traditional market. It also aims to be a site that can reflect Cambodian culture and modern development for both local and overseas visitors. Furthermore, it is also one of the places that tourists should not miss after visiting Angkor Wat and such.

While shopping is a major tourist attraction in Cambodia, the central market is filled with bazaar items that could sweep you off your feet in this exotic land of Southeast Asia. From well-crafted key chains to fresh food section, around the main building is bombarded with stalls offering traditional clothing and scarves, household items, and second-hand clothes, which are mostly from Europe and the United States.

In addition to that, the landmark Central Market is also the first market in Phnom Penh to have its own board of directors, organized by the Phnom Penh Municipality in early 2009. They are responsible in managing the market as well as working with the vendors. As a matter of fact, the Central Market of Phnom Penh is undoubtedly one of the best places for browsing with its clean environment, wide range of products on sale, and a wider parking space than regular market.


A Small Guide to the Landmark Market

Central Market Phnom Penh
Source: robertharding

Here is a short guide to exploring the decades-old central market to your heart content.

In the interior of the market, you can find silver and golden jewelry. You may be able to find some of the exotic gold ornaments that cannot be surpassed in design and style. You can check out freshly-designed jewelry there, and you might even get to try them depends on the sellers.

Opposite of Monivong boulevard, there are some good food stalls on the western side structure. Outside of the main buildings are stalls that offers Cambodian traditional checked scarves (Krama), sarongs, and other clothing. They also have stationary, household items, and electrical devices with reasonable prices. The entrance the market is full with stalls that sell different kinds of tidbits.

For photography lovers, the fresh food section can afford a lot of captivating shots. The overall market scene is also very photographer friendly. You may not want to miss the opportunity.


The Central Market of Phnom Penh is a beautiful building, a spectacular instance from the modern Cambodian architectural scene. To Cambodian people, it is more than just a market. It shows the spirit of modern Cambodia, and her people. Nowadays, as one of the landmarks for the city, it has become a popular destination among both local and international tourists.

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