It was a long debate if we should include or not Phnom Penh in our travel itinerary, as it is not a very popular destination to go with kids. In the end, we agreed to stop there for a few days. After all, I’m not sure when we will be in Cambodia again, so we should also see the capital, not just the more popular Siem Reap.
I can’t say I particularly liked Phnom Penh, but it is worth 2-4 days of your Cambodia visit. It will help you understand the country better and have a more clear image about Cambodians, since it is not as touristic as Siem Reap. Moreover, we found that staying in Phnom Penh with a toddler is easier and more fun than we initially imagined.
Phnom Penh somehow reminded us about the cities we visited in Vietnam, even though it is not that crowded and polluted. Still, it is quite chaotic and if you have a baby or young child, a baby carrier will be your best friend here. Don’t even think about using a stroller, as sidewalks are almost inexistent or highly damaged/used for parking motorbikes.
Phnom Penh Royal Palace
The Royal Palace is one of the most visited places in Phnom Penh, so make sure you you pay a visit. It reminded us a lot about the Royal Palace in Bangkok, visited just a few months back, even though it is not as spectacular and significantly less crowded. The large space is perfect for little ones too, as there aren’t too many places in city where they can run free without paying attention to the traffic. The same complex includes the Silver Pagoda, which bears this name due to the 5,329 silver tiles on the floor. The Emerald Buddha of Cambodia is located here.
Try heading to Cambodia’s Royal Palace early morning, as it can get very hot under the tropical sun; actually, the place is closed for visitors at noon time, between 11 and 14.
Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum
The most visited place in Phnom Penh is Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum. It impressed me to tears and no matter how much I read about Cambodia’s recent history, I couldn’t be fully prepared for it. But maybe you want to think twice your visit if you are in Phnom Penh with children.
We went there with our son (3 years old), but luckily he is still too young to understand what is shown there. Actually, Eric found this visit quite boring for him and we made turns in spending time with him outside, in a quiet place. Still, I don’t think I would have taken him to the Genocide Museum if he was a bit older. It depends a lot on the kid, of course, but the whole experience can be quite disturbing.
Child-friendly places in Phnom Penh
If you travel with kids you know that visiting playgrounds is at least as important as the touristic attractions. So we searched for a few places in Phnom Penh too.
Very close to the Royal Palace you will find Wat Botum Park, with a great outdoor playground. Eric loved the with swings, slides and all the other kids attractions. It is very well maintained and quite clean, especially compared with the streets in Phnom Penh. During the day it is quite empty, and hot too, but late afternoon it is full of kids of all ages and nationalities.
We also enjoyed the riverside area, where Eric could run free and feed the pigeons. You can see this is a very touristic spot too, as local kids sell one small bag of grains 1 USD! In this area you’ll also find some of best restaurants in Phnom Penh, Khmer, French, Thai or Indian food, for all preferences. There are evening cruises organised on Tonle Sap river, including dinner as well, which might be a nice experience for your family.
During the day it is quite hot in Cambodia, so we had to search for indoor places to spend our time too. We visited Sorya Center Point, a shopping mall near the Central Market, quite close to our hotel. At the top floor, it has a large playground, perfect for kids; it includes a ball pit and arcades for older children. After the play session, make sure you stop by the bakery located at the ground floor; they have tasty cookies and the best coffee we had in Phnom Penh.
Family Hotel in Phnom Penh
Phnom Penh is crowded, noisy and dirty, so it is highly important to stay in a hotel where you feel good and can disconnect from the chaos on the streets. This is even more important if you visit Phnom Penh with kids.
We were lucky enough to find The Kabiki Hotel, which is probably the most child-friendly hotel in Phnom Penh. Located in the heart of the city, very close to the Royal Palace and on a closed street, The Kabiki feels like a totally different world. Inside the tall fences you will find a large tropical garden, quiet and serene. You can enjoy your time in the shadow of mango trees and you’ll even forgot that you are just minutes away from the bustling streets.
The rooms at The Kabiki are simple, clean and comfortable. Especially designed for families with kids, you can choose between various room setups, with extra beds or bunk beds. They can accommodate up to 7 persons in one room!
Breakfast is a great time of the day at the Kabiki. You can choose between asian and international food, served on the small terrace by the pool, surrounded by trees. The staff was very attentive to make our stay memorable, making sure all our needs are met.
Considering the tropical heat in Phnom Penh, it was awesome to have a swimming pool to cool off. It was also great for Eric to be able to play in the kids pool while we were relaxing on the sun beds next to it. He could also play on the alleys and observe the trees and butterflies.
Budget-friendly accommodation in Phnom Penh
If you are looking for a more simple, budget-friendly hotel in Phnom Penh, we can recommend you the Pacific Hotel. Great value for the money option in the middle of the city, Pacific Hotel has modern decorated rooms where you can rest far from the noise. It is a great refugee after you spent the day exploring the Phnom Penh!
The restaurant at the ground floor, Barb & Lotus, had a wonderful atmosphere and great relaxing music. It would have been an awesome spot to enjoy some cocktails in the evening, planning for the next day, if we wouldn’t have a restless toddler with us.
Do you have any other tips to spend time in Phnom Penh with kids?
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Disclosure: We received a complimentary package from Pacific Hotel and The Kabiki, in exchange for an honest review. As usual, all the opinions expressed here are our own.