22 Best Things to Do in Siem Reap
Siem Reap is well developed for tourism because of its biggest draw – Angkor Wat. But aside from the famous collection of temples, there’s a lot to see and do in Siem Reap. Escape to nature, immerse yourself in Cambodian culture, learn about the Khmer civilization, or chill out at a café or spa. Here are 22 of the best things to do in Siem Reap, so take your pick.
- Temple hop in Angkor Wat
- Zipline through Angkor Wat
- See Angkor Wat from a whole new height with a hot air balloon ride
- See old landmines at the Cambodia Landmine Museum
- Learn about demining at the APOPO Visitor Center
- Try local dishes at the Street 60m night market
- Tour the Banteay Srey Butterfly Centre
- Attend the Phare Circus
- Souvenir shop at the markets
- Escape the city in Phnom Kulen National Park
- Watch an Apsara dance performance
- See relics at the Angkor National Museum
- Support wildlife rehabilitation at the Angkor Center for Conservation of Biodiversity
- Experience Khmer craftsmanship
- See war remnants at War Museum Cambodia
- Get your hands dirty at a pottery class
- Explore local temples
- Go out on Pub Street
- Café hop
- Relax with a spa day
- Take a Cambodian cooking class
- Visit the Tonle Sap Floating Village
Temple hop in Angkor Wat
Angkor Wat is the reason people go to Siem Reap, so it should be first on your list. Angkor Wat is one of the largest religious sites in the world. There’s over a thousand temples in the Angkor Wat complex, so you could spend multiple days discovering all of them. One or two days is enough for most people though. Be sure to catch sunrise and sunset there – both are magical experiences.
Whether you do a guided tour or not, you should know a few things about Angkor Wat to make the most of your visit. From what to wear to how to avoid the line for tickets, read my complete guide on visiting Angkor Wat.
Zipline through Angkor Wat
Experience Angkor Wat in a different way by ziplining through it. Get your adrenaline pumping by flying through the trees, walking across canopies, and abseiling with Angkor Zipline. The eco-adventure company provides several outdoor experiences you can choose from, including bike and jeep tours.
You’re in good hands with Angkor Zipline, so you can just sit back and have fun. They take safety seriously by starting with a training session, running regular safety inspections, and keeping groups small.
See Angkor Wat from a whole new height with a hot air balloon ride
Get a bird’s eye view of Angkor Wat and Siem Reap by hopping on a hot air balloon. Angkor Balloon runs hot air balloon flights daily. You can fly during the day or go up for sunrise or sunset. On a clear day, you’ll get stunning views of Angkor Wat and the surrounding countryside. It’s an unforgettable way to see Siem Reap that doesn’t cost much.
See old landmines at the Cambodia Landmine Museum
Millions of landmines have already been cleared in Cambodia, but there are still many undiscovered landmines. The Cambodia Landmine Museum educates visitors on how landmines came to be, the dangers of them, and the country’s demining efforts. See defunct landmines and bombs and other leftover fragments of war.
Learn about demining at the APOPO Visitor Center
Did you know rats can detect landmines? One of the most unique things to see in Siem Reap is the APOPO Visitor Center. The non-profit organization trains rats to find landmines, and you can see how it’s done when visiting.
Try local dishes at the Street 60m night market
Siem Reap has a few markets, but the ones in the city center are mostly catered to tourists. To go where the locals hang out and eat, head to Street 60m. It’s a short tuk tuk ride from the city center. There’s lots of local food to try here, including wok-fried insects, green mango salad, and Cambodian desserts. So come with an adventurous appetite!
Tour the Banteay Srey Butterfly Centre
If you’re looking for something different from the usual activities in Cambodia, the Banteay Srey Butterfly Centre is a delightful option that’s 25 km north of Siem Reap. Get up close to thousands of butterflies in southeast Asia’s largest outdoor butterfly exhibit. For a few US dollars, you’ll get a guided tour of the center. After that, you can spend as much time as you want among the butterflies.
Attend the Phare Circus
Have an exciting night out at the Phare Circus. It’s the “top-rated evening entertainment in Siem Reap,” and it definitely lives up to that. The Phare Circus is more than your typical circus act. It also incorporates theater, music, and dance to tell Cambodian stories.
You can make the Phare Circus an entire evening event. Arrive before the show starts to enjoy food, drinks, and pre-show entertainment. And after the circus, stick around to meet the performers.
Souvenir shop at the markets
There are a few markets in the city center that are perfect for souvenir shopping: Old Market, Art Market, and the Made in Cambodia Market. You’ll find jewelry, clothing, homeware, food products, and much more. Since there are so many vendors selling the same thing, it’s smart to shop around and haggle.
Even if you aren’t buying anything, it’s fun to walk through the maze of stalls. And if you go in the evening, you can grab dinner or a snack from the many street food vendors that line up along the streets nearby.
Escape the city in Phnom Kulen National Park
Phnom Kulen National Park is 48 km from Siem Reap, making it a great day or half-day trip. It’s located on Phnom Kulen Mountain, which you can either drive or hike up. Along the way, you’ll see the 1,000 Lingas carved into the riverbed and riverbank. Once you get to the top of the mountain, you can take a dip in the waterfall, visit Preah Ang Thom, and see large stone carvings at Elephant Pond.
Watch an Apsara dance performance
When you visit Angkor Wat, you’ll notice carvings of women dancing on the temple walls. What they’re performing is the Apsara dance. Apsara is a traditional Khmer dance where performers wearing colorful, shimmering costumes depict a story.
Watching an Apsara performance is a fun evening activity that doesn’t just include a show, but also dinner. Apsara Theatre offers a few different dinner options in a lavish and grand theatre setting. You can also ask around since there are a few hotels and restaurants that put on Apsara performances.
See relics at the Angkor National Museum
The Angkor National Museum is the best place to learn about the Khmer civilization in Siem Reap. The museum holds many artifacts from the Khmer, and the placards inside do a great job of explaining the history, art, and culture of these people.
If you plan on seeing Angkor Wat without a tour guide, then going to the Angkor National Museum is a must. It’ll provide you with the context needed to understand the significance of Angkor Wat.
Support wildlife rehabilitation at the Angkor Center for Conservation of Biodiversity
The Angkor Center for Conservation of Biodiversity (ACCB) is the “first nature conservation and endangered wildlife rescue and breeding centre in Cambodia.” They rescue animals from illegal wildlife trade, breed endangered species, and teach the local community and visitors about conservation and environmental issues.
Visiting the non-profit requires a donation of at least $3, and all donations go directly toward caring for the animals. The center isn’t a zoo where you can walk around freely. You’ll need to take a guided tour, which lasts an hour and a half. On the tour, you’ll see the animals they work with and learn about their rehabilitation efforts.
It’s easy to arrange a tour. Just fill out the contact form on their website, send them an email, or call them.
Experience Khmer craftsmanship
Artisans Angkor is a social business that started as a way to provide training and work to impoverished youth. Today, young adults from the ages of 18 to 25 come to learn Cambodian handicrafts, such as stone carving, silk painting, weaving, and silver plating, and secure a job with good working conditions after their training.
You can visit Artisans Angkor to see these artisans at work and learn about the techniques used to produce beautiful jewelry, clothing, art, and other products. If you want to take something home and support the artisans, you can buy their handmade pieces in the gift shop.
See war remnants at War Museum Cambodia
War Museum Cambodia is a small museum that’s preserved weaponry from the Cambodian Civil War. See tanks, missiles, helicopters, and more equipment, and learn about the atrocities and impact of the war. The museum also offers tour guides who can provide a more in-depth explanation. Some of the guides are veterans or have family members that lived through the war, so they’re able to add another dimension to the tour by sharing personal stories.
Get your hands dirty at a pottery class
Ceramics are some of the important artifacts left by the Khmer people. There’s no better place than Siem Reap to learn about Khmer pottery and try your hand at it. The best part is you’ll create a unique souvenir to remember your time in Cambodia by.
Khmer Ceramics & Fine Arts Centre and Angkor Pottery Center offer classes where you’ll use Khmer tools to sculpt your own mug or bowl. Then, they’ll fire it for you, and you can either take it home or have it shipped.
Explore local temples
Angkor Wat isn’t the only area where you’ll find temples in Siem Reap. There are three temples in the city center: Wat Bo, Wat Damnak, and Wat Preah Prom Rath. Pair a walk between these temples with grabbing breakfast or lunch. Depending on what time you go, you might even hear monks chanting or see them going about their daily lives.
Go out on Pub Street
Nightlife in Siem Reap is centered around Pub Street. The neon-lit street is lined with bars and restaurants trying to fill their tables. It’s the most touristy and busy part of Siem Reap, but if you’re looking to go out, this is where you want to be.
Siem Reap has many beautiful, modern, and trendy cafés serving up delicious dishes and coffee. Take a day to discover some of them, or spend a chill afternoon at one after your sunrise Angkor Wat tour. Two of my favorites are The Source Cafe and The Little Red Fox Espresso Cafe.
Relax with a spa day
Unwind from all the walking and adventuring you’ve been doing with a relaxing spa day. Siem Reap has lots of spas that’ll soak your feet, scrub you down, and have you feeling refreshed for an affordable price. Go ahead and pamper yourself – you deserve it.
Take a Cambodian cooking class
Learn how to make Cambodian staples, like fish amok and beef lok lak, from locals so you can recreate them once you’re back home. Cooking classes start at around $20 per person and typically take three hours. Most classes also start with a visit to the local market, where you’ll learn about and shop for ingredients. Angkor Wat Travel Tour, Paper Tiger Cooking Class, and Beyond Unique Escapes all host fantastic cooking classes every day.
Visit the Tonle Sap Floating Village
If you haven’t seen a floating village, the Tonle Sap Floating Village is a short ride from Siem Reap. These villages are actually inhabited and used by locals. However, the floating village is a bit of a tourist trap. Make sure you choose a reputable tour company if you decide to go. Also, beware of scams. Don’t give money to children, schools, or orphanages. They’ll say the money goes toward buying rice, but that’s usually not the case.