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Famous Museums in Phnom Penh You Must Visit
Attraction, Cambodia, Phnom Penh

Famous Museums in Phnom Penh You Must Visit 

Museums in Phnom Penh offer visitors an extremely interesting insight into the culture, history, and heritage of Cambodia. Meanwhile, museums in Phnom Penh show about the beauty of Khmer culture and history, but some museums also present about the darkest time of the country as well. It is essential to learn about a country’s history while visiting it. Here are four museums in Phnom Penh you need to add to your travel bucket list.  You might also want to know: 12 Hours in Phnom Penh!!


Museums in Phnom Penh


National Museum of Cambodia

- Museums in Phnom Penh
Source: Flickr “Daniel Mennerich”

The National Museum of Cambodia is one of the main museums in Phnom Penh, it is famous for the most wonderful artifacts and traditional collections collected from all over the world. The museum houses the world’s best and largest collections of Khmer art, including sculptural, ceramics, bronzes and ethnographic objects.


History:

George Groslier was a French historian, curator and author born and worked in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. Cambodia was under the French colonies and protectorates from 1863 to 1941. Due to Groslier’ s extensive knowledge of the Khmer language, Cambodian ancient monuments and architecture, the government charged him with a mission to found a new Cambodian art museum in 1917. Groslier was the one who designed the National Museum of Cambodia. The foundation stone for the museum laid on August 15th 1917.

Two and a half years later, the museum in Phnom Penh was inaugurated during Khmer New Year on April 13th 1920 in the presence of H.M King Sisowath along with other French governors. The buildings of National Museum of Cambodia were under construction until 1924. The Cambodian most famous architect, Vann Molyvann renovated the central section of the east facade in 1968. However, early directors of the museum were the French.

On August 9th 1951, the French government ceded the control of the National Museum in Phnom Penh to the Cambodians and following Independence in 1953. Nevertheless, during the Khmer Rouge regime (from 1975 to 1979), the Khmer Rouge government closed down the National Museum in Phnom Penh. During that time, the museum was under the unprotected condition and many valuable objects were damaged or stolen. Nevertheless, the government of Cambodia reopened the National Museum in Phnom Penh on April 13th 1979, quickly after the end of the Khmer Rouge regime.

Exploring the National Museum of Cambodia:

The National Museum of Cambodia is eye-catching even from a distance. It is a fine illustration of the traditional Khmer architecture covered with red color. There are approximately 1,877 works of art which equal to 15.2% of the total items on display in the museum galleries, meanwhile there are another 12,320 items (84.8%) secured in the basement storeroom. Most importantly, a marvellous attraction of the museum is the image of King Jayavarman VII in a meditation posture.

Generally, Ceramics, Bronzes, stones and ethnographic items in the National Museum of Cambodia is divided into four categories : prehistoric, pre-Angkor, Angkor and post-Angkor era exhibits. Consequently, you will get a great knowledge and a deep insight into the history of Cambodia when visiting the National Museum in Phnom Penh. Moreover, you will be equipped will some knowledge ahead of a trip to Angkor Wat.

Nearby Restaurants:

If you get tired from browsing the National Museum, there is a cafe shop named “Museum Cafe” which is located in the National Museum compound. Beside coffee, food such as salads, hot meals are served as well. Additionally, you can even enjoy your dinner there with the nightly traditional dance show.

Opening Hours:

  • 8am – 5pm daily
  • Last admission tickets are sold at 4:30pm.

Price:

  • Admission
    • Foreigners (ages from 10 to 17 years old) : 5 USD
    • Foreigners (ages from 18 years old up) : 10 USD

Location: Preah Ang Eng St.13, Sangkat Chey Chumnea, Khan Daun Penh, Phnom Penh, Cambodia.

Note: Photography is permitted in the museum exterior and courtyard, but it is not permitted within the museum galleries.


Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum

- Museums in Phnom Penh
Source: Flickr “Mark Turner”

Toul Sleng Genocide Museum is a museum in the central area of Phnom Penh city. However, this museum is a reminder of the brutalities of the genocidal Khmer Rouge regime. The site reminds one of the darkest times that the people of Cambodia have gone through.


History:

Toul Sleng Genocide Museum was a former high school in the central of Phnom Penh. It was Toul Sleng High School before the arrival of the Khmer Rouge regime. In 1975, when the Pol Pot’s security forces took over Phnom Penh city, and they transformed the former high school into a prisoners’ camp. Moreover, the Khmer Rouge renamed the former high school as “Security Prison 21” (S-21). The prison soon became the largest center of detention and torture in Cambodia. In Toul Sleng, the security workforces detained and tortured innocent prisoners.

Later on, they sent those prisoners to Choeung Ek to be executed. Most of the victims in S-21 were from Lon Nol regime, which included soldiers, government officials, as well as doctors, teachers, etc. The security forces of S-21 repeatedly tortured the victims into naming family members and close associates. From 1976 to 1979, S-21 imprisoned approximately 17,000 people. Vietnamese forces discovered the prison in 1979. On the day the army found S-21, there were only 12 prisoners alive and four of them were children.

Exploring the Toul Sleng Genocide Museum:

Toul Sleng Genocide Museum Phnom Penh has four main buildings, which are Building A, B, C and D. Building A was the large cells. Building B displays black and white photographs of S-21 victims. All the people in the photographs were later being killed. Building C was small cells for prisoners. Building D holds other memorabilia such as torture instruments.

Moreover, you can see a lot of paintings showing people being tortured, which were added after the end of the Khmer Rouge regime. Visitors can watch the documentary movies when visiting the site. The Toul Sleng Genocidd Museum in Phnom Penh shows a short movie “The Killing Machine” at 9:30am daily. And the museum show another movie “Behind The Wall of S-21” daily at 3:45pm. Aside from the movies, there are other programs at the museum, such as dialog forum “Survivors’ Voice” showned at 2:30pm.

Nearby Restaurants:

Finding a place to eat near the Toul Sleng Genocide Museum is not a problem you need to worry about. Since the museum is located in Beoung Keng Kang district, you can find a lot of local and international cafe and restaurants to eat easily. For example, there is a newly coffee shop near the Toul Sleng, which is Dutch and Bean Cafe, a few blocks away from the site. On the other hand, you can enjoy nearby local cuisine restaurants, Metophum restaurant is also within walking distance from the site.

Opening Hours:

  • 8am – 5pm daily

Price

  • Admission
    • Foreigners (adults) : 5 USD
    • Foreigners (ages from 10 to 18 years old) : 3 USD
  • Audio guide : 3 USD

Location: St 113 corner St. 350, Sangkat Beoung Keng Kang 3, Khan Chamkar Morn, Phnom Penh, Cambodia.

Note: Photography is permitted but for personal or research use only.

Check for other attraction in Phnom Penh: Wat Phnom!!!


Choeung Ek Genocidal Center

Source: Flickr “TinySpeakers MadeOfClay”

Choeung Ek Genocidal center was a killing field during the Khmer Rouge regime between 1975 to 1979. It now serves as a memorial site and a museum in Phnom Penh city.


History:

As mentioned above, the security workforces sent prisoners at S-21 to Choeung Ek to be executed, mostly during the nighttime. The guards at the S-21 told prisoners that they were being transferred to another place, and by doing so, it prevented prisoners from crying and escaping. The number of prisoners executed at Choeung Ek on a daily basis could be varied from a few dozen to over three hundred. Later on, the prisoners were told to kneel down and were killed by clubbing on the neck or stabbing with knives or swords. The Khmer Rouge workforces did not even forgive babies, and they killed those infants by bashing their heads against a tree.

Exploring the Choeung Ek Genocidal Center:

Choeung Ek Genocidal Center is also one of the main museums in Phnom Penh, which features a Buddhist Stupa fill with more than 8,000 human skulls exhumed from mass graves, who were the victims during the Khmer Rouge regime. Those 8,000 skulls were arranged by sex and are visible behind the clear glass panels. Moreover, there are 86 mass graves in the site that visitors can walk along, which are the remainders of victims were unearthed after the liberation of the cruel regime.In the nearby massive stupa, it keeps some skulls, bones and pieces of clothing.

Nearby Restaurants:

Since Choeung Ek Genocidal Center is a little far from the city center, fancy or modern restaurants are not quite available there. However there is a small restaurant named “ Blessing Restaurant and Cafe”. It is a local-like cafe that serves some meals to visitors. The cafe is so easy to find since it is located on the entrance road to Choeung Ek Genocidal Center. Beside that, you can find small snacks in front of the gate of the center as well.

Opening Hours:

  • 7:30am – 5:30pm daily

Price:

  • Admission
    • Foreigners (adults) : 5 USD
    • Foreigners (ages from 10 to 18 years old) : 3 USD
  • Audio guide : 3 USD

Location: St. Choeung Ek, Sangkat Choeung Ek, Phnom Penh, Cambodia.

Note: Photography is permitted but for personal or research use only.


SOSORO Museum​ (Preah Srey Icanavarman Museum Phnom Penh)

- Museums in Phnom Penh
Source: information.gov.kh

SOSORO museum (ស.ស.រ)​ a.k.a Preah Srey Icanavarman Museum in Phnom Penh is Cambodia’s first national museum that showcases the economic and financial evolution of Cambodia.


History:

Preah Srey Icanavarman Museum in Phnom Penh was inaugurated on August 8th, 2019. It is currently the newest national museum in Cambodia and the first monetary museum of the Kingdom. Samdach Hun Sen, Prime Minister of Cambodia was the person who chose the name “Preah Srey Icanavarman” . King Icanavarman reigned from 616 to 637. He was the first king in the history of Cambodia who issued the first gold coin. Originally, the building of Preah Srey Icanavarman Museum was the former town hall in 1908 and now it is one of the museums in Phnom Penh, which represents the early 20th-century protectorate style.

Exploring the Preah Srey Icanavarman Museum:

Preah Srey Icanavarman Museum showcases the history of Cambodia, while the focus on the economic and monetary system from Funan or known as Nokor Phnom era to the present time. The museum’s exhibits consist of 12 sections. Section one to section eight exhibit historical events of Cambodia related to currency and the economy since the Nokor Phnom era to the present. Additionally, section nine to twelve showcase the duties of the monetary and banking systems in social and economic development. By visiting this museum, you will learn a lot about the development of the Khmer Riel and evolution of the economy of Cambodia from ancient times to the present day. In addition, the museum also consists of a library, a gift shop, a cafeteria, and a garden.

Nearby Restaurants:

The location of Preah Srey Icanavarman Museum in Phnom Penh is near the Phsar Chas (Old Market). Therefore, before or after a visit to the museum, you can fulfill your stomach with authentic Cambodian cuisine with super affordable price in the local market. However, if you want to enjoy your meals in the air-conditioned space, you can go to Exchange Square, which is a mall that is located only 6 minutes away. You can escape the heat and enjoy western cuisine there in the mall.

Opening Hours:

  • 9am – 6pm daily

Location: Building 16, Preah Moha Ksatreiyani Kossamak Ave St.106, Khan Daun Penh, Phnom Penh, Cambodia.


You should visit at least one museum in Phnom Penh. After a visit to one of the museums in Phnom Penh, you will definitely get more knowledge about the history and culture of Cambodia. The past of this Kingdom might be so depressing and heart-breaking, but at the same time you will be impressed with the glorious history of Cambodia as well.

Another destination: Royal Palace Phnom Penh!!


Additional Information:

You can get to know more details about the sites if you hire a tour guide.

Guided tours are available in Khmer, English and French. Different sites offer different languages for tourists.

Visitors must behave and dress respectfully. Shoulders and knees need to be covered.

Toul Sleng Genocide Museum and Cheoung Ek Genocidal Center are not suitable for children below 14 years old to visit.

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