Most people will probably tell you that you don’t need more than a couple of days to explore the sights of Cambodia’s capital city. And after just a few of days there, to be honest, I’d probably of agreed with them.

However, we ended up spending a lot longer in Phnom Penh than we would have done otherwise. Due to an injury and hospital stay for Tom. Therefore I found I had a lot of extra time to explore the city. It’s main rather dark attractions, the killing fields and S21 prison, are important to see to understand the country’s history. However, I found a lot of the other attractions rather expensive. $10 seemed the norm for entry at places like the Royal Palace and National Museum. So I began to look for cheaper or free alternatives to fill my days and found that actually, Phnom Penh has plenty on offer if you just scratch a little under its surface.

So, here are my top cheap & free things to do in Phnom Penh that I discovered during my time in the city.


Free meditation at Wat Langka

This was one of my favourite free things to do in Phnom Penh. Located near the Independence Monument, Wat Langka offers free meditation sessions every Thursday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday. The sessions last 1 hour and anyone is welcome to attend. No one will be there to guide you, so just turn up, get yourself a cushion and allow yourself some quiet time with your thoughts. You don’t need to stay the whole hour either – as meditation newbies we just stayed for 30 minutes. Just remember to tidy your cushions away and be quiet as you leave.


Central Market

Central Market is certainly a beating heart of the city and visiting it is another one of the top free things to do in Phnom Penh. As you walk into it’s yellow 80’s style building, everything looks quite formal and proper, with jewellery and watches glittering in glass cabinets as far as the eye can see. Yet if you wander towards its outer layers you’ll find more lively scenes where endless stalls weave a circular route under a patchwork canopy. What I liked most about the Central Market was the layout. Whether you’re looking for pots and pans or pants all the stalls selling those particular wares are all grouped together in their own area of the market.


Central Market


Walk along the river front to the Royal Palace Park

Phnom Penh can often feel like a busy and hectic city, so a walk along the riverfront is a good way to escape the hustle and bustle. The best place to start is at the Riverside Park next to where the Night Market is held. From there you can walk down by the water, where many locals go fishing, and follow the river to the adjoining Royal Palace Park. Here you can actually glimpse some of the buildings in the Palace complex over the wall, or here you can pay to go inside if you want to.


Riverside walk


Night Market

Set near the river, Phnom Penh’s Night Market is definitely worth a visit. I wouldn’t bother going here for shopping, as the Central Market has so much more choice. However, it’s a good place to eat. There’s a square of vendors who all sell a similar range of snacks. Think various meats on sticks, fried rice and noodles, coconut milk ice cream and sugarcane juice. In the middle, there are mats where you can sit and eat or else make the short walk to the river. This is also the cheapest place I ate in Phnom Penh with my meal costing less than $2!


Night Nerd – alternative thing to do in Phnom Penh

I discovered Night Nerd online and was so pleased our visit was well timed with one of their fortnightly events. Night Nerd is based around the Japanese Pecha Kucha style of presenting. It involves a group of speakers who give a short presentation each on any topic they like. The only rule is that they are allowed only 20 slides and 7 minutes to speak. And then each talk is followed by questions from the crowd. Topics varied from bullet journaling to questioning the fragility of masculinity – so you get a real mix of discussion. It was a really interesting evening and better yet are free to go to! Check their Facebook page for upcoming dates.


Night Nerd


Independence Monument

Built in 1956, this landmark symbolises Cambodia’s independence from France. It’s placed in the middle of a roundabout, but there’s a pedestrianised area around it too so you can walk up and take a look. Although it’s not overly spectacular visually, it represents an important time in the country’s history so is worth stopping off at when you’re in this area of the city.


Independence Monument


Artillery Arts Cafe

There’s plenty of cafes to while away an afternoon in Phnom Penh. But Artillery Arts Cafe was my favourite. It’s hidden away down a little alleyway (which is home to some really cool street art by the way). And its menu focuses on healthy and nourishing food, smoothies and juices. There’s also a little shop next door selling artisan crafty bits and pieces which is worth taking a look inside.


Artillery Arts Cafe


Phnom Penh may not be my favourite city in the world. But by staying for longer I got to experience some cool things I wouldn’t of otherwise. And with most of them costing next to nothing! So if you’re planning on visiting the city too, hopefully my guide has given you a few ideas of some of the best free or cheap things to do in Phnom Penh to help you stick to your budget.


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