Overview

Royal Palace, Phnom Penh
Royal Palace, Phnom Penh © Paul Arps
According to legend, an old woman named Penh founded the city of Phnom Penh when she discovered four Buddha images on the Mekong River's banks. She placed the items on a nearby hill and a town grew up around them. The settlement became known as the Hill of Penh (Phnom Penh).

Sometime later, during its prime, Phnom Penh had a claim to being the loveliest of Indochina's French-built cities. Today, it sprawls at the junction of the Mekong and Tonlé Sap Rivers. Its colonial charm contrasts with its heavy traffic and modern concrete buildings. Visitors usually enjoy the old French villas, street-side cafes, tree-lined boulevards and majestic Khmer buildings in Cambodia's capital.

Phnom Penh's wats (temple-monasteries) and museums also make for interesting adventures. Many visitors find time for sunset cruises on the Mekong and Tonlé Sap Rivers, and shopping at a bustling market place. Otherwise, the city's nightlife has a solid reputation, as does its food and café culture.