Central Market: Buzzing with activity nearly any hour of the day, the Central Market (aka Phsar Chas in Khmer) in Phnom Penh is easily one of the most popular -- not just for tourists but for locals too. Built in the 1930s, the style of market is best described as Art Deco, with a stark dome that's both reflective of the 1930s and the French architect's heritage. The market boast four entrances -- both of which are through the grand doors of the glass dome, and as you weave through into the open air portion, you're bombarded with endless stalls selling everything from elephant pants to fresh coconut water (served in a shaved coconut), postcards, produce and even homemade sandwiches. The main entrance, which is facing east, is where you'll find the more common souvenir shops with merchants hawking scarves, expensive silks (be sure to go with a guide so you can determine which ones were handmade in Cambodia and which were imported from China), household items, shoes, underwear and flowers. Along with shopping, you'll also find a portion of the market selling fresh produce, fish, butchered meat and soothing broths toward the North and East entrances. (Neayok Souk, Phnom Penh City 855; +855 10 405 086; open Monday to Saturday, 7 a.m. to 6 p.m.)
Killing Fields and Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum: Sobering and heart wrenching, a trip to the Killing Fields and the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum is often included as an optional excursion for many cruise ships -- primarily because of the extremely emotional nature. The Killing Fields, or extermination camps, which sit 14 kilometers from downtown, are an open air museum where you can walk along the fields where thousands of innocent Cambodians were tortured and exterminated at the hands of soldiers employed by Pol Pot. The site now consists of a large glass pyramid (which was built in 1989) that is filled with 8,000 human skulls that were exhumed from the mass graves just feet away. As you walk through, don't be surprised if you find fragments of bone still poking up from under the earth or shreds of clothing that haven't been picked up yet. Following the Killing Fields tour, your day will conclude with a visit to the equally horrifying Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum. The museum seems completely unchanged by history -- with the cell blocks still bearing the basic accommodations the prisoners were forced to sleep and dwell in. With '70s barbed wire still hanging from the facade of one of the prisoner's buildings, the insides are now filled with thousands of photos of what victim's faced and some gut-wrenching photographs of the innocent people after they were mercilessly tortured. The museum can be self guided with an audio tour or led by a local guide. (Killing Fields: Phnom Phen City; +855-23-305-371; open Monday to Sunday, 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum; St. 113, Phnom Phen City; +359-88-820-2037; open Monday to Sunday, 7 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.)
National Museum: One of Cambodia's biggest museums, the National Museum houses some of the country's most prized and impressive relics that survived the war, the mass genocide of the late 1970s, widespread plundering and the riot-fueled revolution. The exhibits chronicle everything from daily live in the Khmer villages to items from pre-Angkor periods (the 5th to 8th centuries), relics from the Angkor period (the 10th to 13th century) and pieces that were saved from the war. The museum is home to a staggering 5,000 pieces, which vary from fragments of statues and offering bowls to full costumes that were donned by the kings of the time. The museum itself is hard to miss, with its rust-red facade and three pointed steeples painted in white that are flanked by squiggly red sculptures that curve up to the sky and are scattered around the roof. In addition, the museum sits next to the Royal Palace, so it's easy to visit both landmarks in one day. (Preah Ang Eng St. (13), Phnom Phen City; +855-23-217-643; open Monday to Sunday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.)
Silver Pagoda and the Royal Palace: Located in a large sprawling complex you'll find two of Phnom Penh's most coveted landmarks -- the awe-inspiring Silver Pagoda and the Royal Palace. The Silver Pagoda, which is also know as the Emerald Buddha, was built in the late 1800s and literally glistens in the sun thanks to the more than 5 tons of silver tiles that were used to create it. In the back of the vihear (or temple hall) is the main point of interest for many visitors: the Emerald Buddha. Many say the 200-pound statue was carved completely from jade, where other historians believe it was more likely to be carved from Baccarat crystal from the neighboring waterway. Regardless of what you believe, the Buddha itself is astounding: adorned with gold and studded with more than 2,000 diamonds. The statue is encased, but you'll also find hundreds of donations and gifts received by the royal family over the years -- including other precious gems and significant artifacts. The gallery walls around the pagoda are also a good stop as they depict scenes from the Ramayana (an Indian epic). The Royal Palace, which is a bit of a contrast to the pagoda but equally as stunning, embodies the striking Khmer roof style outlined with gold found in most royal structures and truly dominates the busy city's skyline. The complex is home to a stunning array of gardens, a large throne hall and adjacent rooms that showcase the outfits of the queens and kings in different collections of royal colors. When visiting, guests are required to wear pants that reach the knee and women need to wear either slacks, a long skirt or a shirt that covers the shoulders and arms. The entrance to the royal palace compound costs about $10 per hour with a guide and you have to pay a small fee to enter with a camera. (Samdach Sothearos Blvd (3), Phnom Phen City; +855-96-247-3471; open Monday to Sunday, 7 a.m. to 8:45 p.m.)
Riverfront Park: If you're looking for a place that's home to more locals than tourists, hop in a tuk tuk or walk toward the Riverfront Park, which was just very recently refurbished. The park overlooks the Tonle Sap waterfront (which converges the Tonle Sap river and the Mekong) and is often filled with local residents practicing tai chi, yoga and jogging from as early as 5 a.m. Later in the day, you'll find thousands of residents sitting and relaxing by the water, having picnics or family meals or simply reading books under the towering palm trees. If you're hungry, delicious local bites are served all along the streetside by a variety of vendors and you'll find everything from dried salted fish, boiled duck embryos still in the shell and fresh, spiced curries.
Phnom Penh Food Tour: For a tour that takes you to some of Phnom Penh's best street vendors and guides you through the small, weaving alleyways and uber packed streets, book a street food tour with Urban Forage -- started by an Australian (Ducky) who has lived in more than 17 places. The tour picks you up from the Titanic Restaurant (which sits nearby the port) and then takes you to central markets to indulge in street food classics -- like fresh fruit juices, locally purveyed BBQ joints serving up a Khmer-style barbecue, to local markets that buzz with activity in the mornings to small restaurants and bistros that typically just cater to the locals. The most popular tour is the Street food and BBQ dinner tour (which takes you past the tourist haunts and deep into the local Khmer neighborhoods), but the morning market breakfast tours are also a great way to see the often overcrowded markets in the early light (and give you a chance to try local breakfast specialties, like bobor, a rice porridge similar to congee; nom banh chok, a dish of rice noodles topped with a fish-based green curry gravy made with lemongrass, turmeric root and kaffir lime; or kuy teav, a soup made from pork or beef bones and rice vermicelli and topped with fried shallots, scallions and bean sprouts. Tours range in price from $15 USD for the morning tour to $45 USD for the night tour.