Phnom Penh formerly known as Krong Chaktomuk Serimongkul or shortly known as Krong Chaktomuk is the capital and most populous city in Cambodia.
It is located in the south-central region of Cambodia on the banks of the Tonlé Sap, Mekong, and Bassac Rivers.
As of August 2020, the population of Phnom Penh is about 2.15 million people.
The city covers a total area of 679 square kilometers (262 square miles).
The average altitude is 12 metres (39 feet) above sea level.
Phnom Penh was founded in 1434 to succeed Angkor Thom as the capital of the Khmer nation but was abandoned several times before being reestablished in 1865 by King Norodom.
Beginning in 1870, the French colonial authorities turned a riverside village into a city where they built hotels, schools, prisons, barracks, banks, public works offices, telegraph offices, law courts, and health services buildings.
By the 1920s, Phnom Penh was known as the “Pearl of Asia”, and over the next four decades, Phnom Penh continued to experience rapid growth with the building of railways to Sihanoukville and Pochentong International Airport (now Phnom Penh International Airport).
As the Vietnam War spread into Cambodian territory, the city’s population swelled with refugees and reached nearly three million in early 1975.
When the Khmer Rouge (radical communist movement) came to power in Cambodia in 1975, they forcibly evacuated the entire population of Phnom Penh and drove its residents into the countryside. The city remained virtually deserted until Vietnamese forces invaded Cambodia and overthrew the Khmer Rouge in 1979. Phnom Penh was gradually repopulated in the following years.
Today, Phnom Penh is one of the fastest growing cities in Southeast Asia.
The Royal Palace in Phnom Penh is a complex of buildings which serves as the royal residence of the king of Cambodia. The Kings of Cambodia have occupied it since it was built in the 1860s, with a period of absence when the country came into turmoil during and after the reign of the Khmer Rouge.
The Silver Pagoda is located on the south side of the Royal Palace. It houses many national treasures including many golds and jeweled Buddha statues. The most significant are a small green crystal Buddha known as the “Emerald Buddha” of Cambodia. There is also a life-sized gold Maitreya Buddha commissioned by King Sisowath, weighing 90 kg and dressed in royal regalia and set with 9584 diamonds, the largest of which weighing 25 carats, created in the palace workshops during 1906 and 1907. After the Cambodian Civil War the gold Maitreya Buddha lost most of its two-thousand diamonds.
Wat Phnom is a Buddhist temple (wat). It was built in 1372, and stands 27 metres (88.5 ft) above the ground. It is the tallest religious structure and the oldest structure in the city. The pagoda was given the name of Wat Preah Chedey Borapaut. Wat Phnom is the central point of Phnom Penh.
Wat Ounalom is a wat located near the Royal Palace of Cambodia. As the seat of Cambodia’s Mohanikay order, it is the most important wat of Phnom Penh, and the center of Cambodian Buddhism. It was established in 1443 and consists of 44 structures. It was damaged during the Khmer Rouge period but has since been restored. The main complex houses a stupa that contains what is believed to be an eyebrow hair of Buddha and an inscription in Pali.
The Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum is a museum in Phnom Penh, chronicling the Cambodian genocide. The site is a former secondary school which was used as Security Prison 21 (S-21) by the Khmer Rouge regime from its rise to power in 1975 to its fall in 1979. From 1976 to 1979, an estimated 20,000 people were imprisoned at Tuol Sleng (the real number is unknown).
Choeung Ek is the site of a former orchard and mass grave of victims of the Khmer Rouge – killed between 1975 and 1979 – in Dangkao Section about 17 kilometres (11 mi) south of the Phnom Penh city centre. It is the best-known of the sites known as The Killing Fields, where the Khmer Rouge regime executed over one million people between 1975 and 1979.
The National Museum of Cambodia is Cambodia’s largest museum of cultural history and is the country’s leading historical and archaeological museum. The museum houses one of the world’s largest collections of Khmer art, including sculptural, Khmer ceramics, bronzes, and ethnographic objects. Its collection includes over 14,000 items, from prehistoric times to periods before, during and after the Khmer Empire, which at its height stretched from Thailand, across present-day Cambodia, to southern Vietnam.
The Independence Monument was built in 1958 to memorialize Cambodia’s independence from France in 1953. It located in the centre of the city. The monument is in the form of a lotus-shaped stupa, of the style seen at the Khmer temple at Banteay Srei and other Khmer historical sites. It stands 37 meters (121 feet) tall.
The Central Market is an Art Deco landmark of Phnom Penh. The bright yellow building completed in 1937 has a 26 m (85 ft) high central dome, with four tall arch-roofed arms branching out diagonally across the block, creating vast hallways housing countless stalls and all kinds of goods. Initially designed by city architect Jean Desbois, construction works were supervised by French architect Louis Chauchon. When it first opened in 1937, it was said to be the biggest market in Asia.
Russian Market is located in the south part of Phnom Penh and is known to the locals as Phsar Toul Tom Poung. It is the most popular market among tourists and probably the best place to buy souvenirs. The reason why it is called Russian market is because it was a popular market among the Russian expats during the 1980s when most of the western expats in Phnom Penh were Russian.
In April, Phnom Penh celebrates Cambodian New Year, an occasion increasingly popular with tourists.
Music and the arts are making a revival throughout Cambodia, especially in Phnom Penh.
The martial arts of Bokator, Pradal Serey (Khmer kick boxing) and Khmer traditional wrestling have venues in Phnom Penh watched by dedicated spectators.
Phnom Penh is notable for Ka tieu Phnom Penh, its variation on rice noodle soup, a dish available in sit-down cafes as well as street cafes.