Although best known as the gateway to Angkor Wat and the Angkor Archaeological Park, there are lots of interesting things to do in Siem Reap besides visiting the iconic temples.
Siem Reap itself has lots of attractions and entertainment to offer visitors, so why not spend your days away from the temples exploring what the city has to offer?
From temples and museums through to quadbike tours and cooking classes, Siem Reap has something for everyone. To help you get the most out of your visit, here’s my guide to what else to see and do in Siem Reap apart from visit Angkor…
Things to do in Siem Reap other than visit temples…
Check out the Angkor National Museum
If you’re planning to visit Angkor Wat and the Angkor Archaeological Park during your time in Siem Reap (and who wouldn’t!) I recommended visiting the Angkor National Museum before heading out to the temples. This way you’ll have some basic info on the history of Angkor before you begin your exploration. [Shameless plug – I also recommend you check out my Guide to visiting the temples of Angkor], which includes a handy three-day itinerary].
The museum, beautifully air-conditioned, houses eight separate galleries, which includes the impressive gallery of 1,000 Buddhas (literally), with others focuses on areas such as the pre-Angkor period, religions and beliefs, the great Khmer kings, and ancient costumes.
Need to know: If you want to grab a tuk-tuk after your visit don’t use one of the guys at the entrance as they hike their prices up to take advantage of less savvy tourists. Simply take a quick walk around the corner where you can hail one at a much cheaper price.
Go on a food tour or take a cooking class
If you want to take the taste of Cambodia back home with you, then why not book a cooking class and learn how to make some Khmer dishes yourself? Classes are available all over the city, from dedicated cooking schools though to home-based lesson taught by locals.
Food tours a-plenty are also available in Siem Reap, covering everything from street food dishes to insect specialities for those with a strong stomach. For the brave, the ultimate Cambodian delicacy to try has to be the fried tarantula. Do you dare?
Need to know: If you’re a foodie but prefer a more cultured dining experience that’s perhaps insect free or doesn’t involve you cooking your own dinner then check out our Guide to Eating Out in Siem Reap.
Visit the markets
Asian markets are so much fun, wouldn’t you agree? In Siem Reap, when the sun goes down and the neon lights come on, the night markets come alive and it’s a joy to explore the many, many stalls offering everything from Khmer art and handicrafts through to rip off trainers, designer clothes, food and tourist tat (said with endearing affection!).
Markets can be found all over the city, but most will be selling the same kinds of thing, simply go for a wander and see where your feet – or nose – takes you, as these are great places to try some local street food.
Some of Siem Reap’s best markets include The Old Market, Angkor Night Market, the Noon to Night Market, Centre Market and the Art Centre Night Market.
Need to know: Barter to your hearts content! Cambodian’s love a bit of market banter so have fun with your shopping.
Take a trip to Phare Circus
Set up to help the local community, Phare Circus trains local youths in circus, theatre and dance skills and many of its performers have gone on to work all over the world for companies such as Cirque du Soleil.
Their shows are a mix of acrobatics, gymnastics, dance and acting that tell a story – during our visit we saw the show ‘Same, same but different’ which took a humorous look at how locals and tourists do day-to-day things so differently.
Sketches included taking a bus ride, making and eating dinner, dealing with a tropical rainstorm and fixing a power cut and the performers had me in stitches throughout. Everything from hoops and ribbons through to poles, juggling balls and diabolos came out throughout the show, and it’s a hugely entertaining way to spend the evening.
After the show guests are even invited down into the circus ring to meet with the performers, which is a great finishing touch to your night out.
Need to know: The Phare Circus is slightly out of the centre of Siem Reap so I recommend arranging a tuk-tuk to and from the site. The main show starts at 8pm so it’s a good idea to have dinner before you head to the circus, as there is only a small bar and snacks available to purchase once you’ve arrived.
The circus always has a full house so be sure to book in advance. If you book an unallocated seat then arrive early in order to get a good spot!
Visit the Cambodia Landmine Museum
In Siem Reap the Cambodia Landmine Museum shows you examples of the landmines and other weaponry that has been found across Cambodia.It also highlights the work still being undertaken to remove the country of all landmines (yes, there’s still many out there) and discusses global efforts to end the use of landmines.
It might sound like a depressing way to spend your holiday time, but visiting museums like this is actually very interesting and informative and well worth taking the time to visit.
Need to know: Make sure to pick up a free audio guide at the museum to make the most of your trip.
Step back in time with a visit to Raffles Grand Hotel d’Angkor
For a taste of colonial heritage it’s worth taking a trip to Raffles Grand Hotel d’Angkor, which has kept its classic look from that era. Take a wander through its old hallways, check out the largest swimming pool in Cambodia (yup, for real!), pop into the bar or perhaps do as we did, and order afternoon tea in the conservatory.
Need to know: If you’re feeling really flush, why not go for dinner here – the restaurant follows recipes given by the royal family, as they feed the king when he stays in his royal residence just the other side from the Royal Gardens in front of the hotel.
Spend time with some fruit bats
As well as being beautiful in their own right, the Royal Gardens have another special draw – the tall trees are home to a large colony of fruit bats!
Visit at any time of the day and you’ll see them hanging from every branch, having a snooze, yawn or a little clean. Heaven for animal lovers!
Need to know: The closer you visit to dusk, the more action you’ll see from the bats. Time it right and you’ll hear them before you see them, as they loudly chirp while circling around the trees getting ready to head off for their evening snack!
Take wander down Pub Street
The heart of Siem Reap’s nightlife, Pub Street and its surrounds are home to cafes and shops by day, and bars and nightclubs by night.
It’s always jam-packed and drinks are cheap – even outside of happy hour, which is bound to be on in at least one bar at any given time!
For a fun night out this is where you want to be, and it has everything you need, from restaurants and cheap drinks through to market stalls, tasty street food and the largest hub of tuk-tuk drivers I’ve ever seen!
Need to know: Be sure to visit Angkor What?, Pub Street’s original bar that still feels like it’s living in the 90’s!