6 Surprising Phnom Penh Markets That Will Shake up Your Senses

Have you thought of having your hair done at your local food market?

Or maybe, getting your nails painted?

Or better yet,  buying yourself a nice gold plated necklace at the market?

Well, in Cambodia the local markets offer all of the above.  Even more so than local markets we have visited in Thailand, Vietnam or the Philippines, Cambodian markets have unusual and unexpected stalls.

Visiting the local Phnom Penh market gives you the opportunity to immerse yourself into the flavors and the cultural nuances of Cambodia. And there is no better way than by wandering slowly through the market stalls.

We invite you to explore local Cambodian flavors and surprising finds at these top 6 Phnom Penh markets.

SiemReapMarket_CambodiaMarket_AuthenticFoodQuestHair salon at the local market
BoeungKengKangMarket5_PhnomMarketPenh_AuthenticFoodQuestCheck out the gold plated jewelry at BKK market.
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CentralMarket_PhnomMarketPenh_AuthenticFoodQuestUnique dome building at Central Market in Phnom Penh

Built by the French during the colonial period, it was designed to maximize ventilation in the hot and humid climate of Cambodia. When it opened in 1937, it was said to be the largest market in Asia.

Today, it is definitely the cleanest and most airy market you will find in Phnom Penh. It is also one of the best markets to ease you in the local food.

A large section of the market is dedicated to jewelry vendors, electronics, clothing as well as other accessories like watches, bags and more.

CentralMarket2_PhnomMarketPenh_AuthenticFoodQuestUnder the dome at the Central Market

Central Market also has a dining area where you can choose from plenty of food stalls. Each stall tends to specialize in one type of dish. From noodle soups, BBQ or desserts, you’ll be sure to find something to your liking.

CentralMarket6_PhnomMarketPenh_AuthenticFoodQuestEat a meal at the Central Market

Next to this section, find fresh fruits and vegetables as well as dried foods and insects.

CentralMarket7_PhnomMarketPenh_AuthenticFoodQuestFresh fruits and vegetables inside the market
CentralMarket3_PhnomMarketPenh_AuthenticFoodQuestVendor with spiders, crickets and worms...

We recommend Central Market as the best place to start your journey in Phnom Penh. You will visit one of the historical buildings of the city, and also taste the culture through the local specialties like kuy teav or bobor.

How to Get There

Tuk-tuk is the local means of transportation in the city. A ride from the Independent Monument should not cost your more than $4 and about 10 mins.

Central Market

Address: At the intersection of St 128 and St 63, Phnom Penh.

Hours: Everyday from 7 am to 6 pm.

#2: Russian Market (Phsar Tuol Tom Pong): A Cambodian Market For Souvenirs

The Russian Market (or Phsar Tuol Tom Pong) might be the most famous Phnom Penh market for souvenirs and clothing. While it’s a  great place for tourist to find gifts, it’s also a great market for street food and local food, especially at dusk.

RussianMarket_PhnomMarketPenh_AuthenticFoodQuestEntrance to Russian Market

Why is it called Russian Market? Apparently, in the 1980’s the market was popular with the local expat community which was made up of  Russians living in the area.

Russian Market is unlike Central Market. It is not well ventilated, the lighting is limited and the alleys narrow. This market will give you a feel for the typical atmosphere of a local Cambodian market.

InsideRussianMarket_PhnomMarketPenh_AuthenticFoodQuestLooking for some eggs? Pink to black, duck or chicken, you have it at Russian Market

When it comes to the food, things start getting interesting after the inside market closes at about 5 pm. On the outside, around the market, you will find all sorts of food vendors. On one side you can buy household products and on the other, fruits, vegetables and seafood.

RussianMarket3_PhnomMarketPenh_AuthenticFoodQuestCooking taking place outside the market

While on the other side of the market, you will find BBQ grilling chicken, Tonle Sap fish, squid and more.

CambodianBBQ_FoodinCambodia_AuthenticFoodQuestFish, chicken and more cooking on the grill

Get there before the market closes to have a look on the inside. At dusk, take the time to walk around the market, find interesting treats to taste, before you settling in to enjoy a seafood BBQ dinner!

How to Get There

A tuk-tuk ride from the Independent Monument should not cost your more than $5 and about 15 mins.

Address: At the intersection of St 128 and St 63, Phnom Penh.

Hours: Everyday from 7 am to 5 pm.

#3: Kandal Market (Phsar Kandal): A Phnom Penh Market Where Locals Go

Kandal Market is an authentic, local market in the center of Phnom Penh, just off the riverfront, not far from the Royal Palace.

The interior of the market is covered, while the outdoor area is a chaotic mess. Negotiations are happening in foreign tones and people move quickly through the small and narrow walkways.You’ll see very few tourists here if any.

KandalMarket2_PhnomMarketPenh_AuthenticFoodQuestOne of the alleys at Kandal Market

The market is filled with clothes and shoes, but the majority of it is dedicated to fresh meats, produce, and fruits. We stopped by as the market was closing, and saw vendors selling hot food and fruits.

KandalMarket3_PhnomMarketPenh_AuthenticFoodQuestFresh produce at the market

It was here where we tried for the first time, Lort Cha, a popular Cambodian street food. This delicious dish is stir-fried noodles, cooked with bean sprouts, Chinese broccoli, and chives, with beef and a fried egg.

It is also the place where we witness very unusual food. Cooking on the sidewalk opposite the market was a dog’s head in a pan…

At Kandal market, be prepared for the unexpected. The hygiene level is also questionable especially compared to Western standards.

Nonetheless, don’t let this stop you from immersing yourself in the local culture. Take in the sounds, unfamiliar sights and enjoy the local food specialties.

KandalMarket_PhnomMarketPenh_AuthenticFoodQuestTry a new sweet treat at Kandal Market

How to Get There

A tuk-tuk ride from the Independent Monument should not cost your more than $3-$4 and about 10 mins.

Address: Intersection of Preah Ang Eng – St.13 and Dekcho Damdin – St.154, Phnom Penh

Hours: Everyday from 7 am to 5 pm.

#4: Boeung Keng Kang (BKK) Market: An Organized Mess

This market really surprised us. While on the hunt for a food market,  we stumbled onto what locals call BKK market and found a lot more than food.  It was an organized mess of all different types of stalls. Jewelry, beauty products, clothing, shoes and more.

BoeungKengKangMarket_PhnomMarketPenh_AuthenticFoodQuestThe entrance to the market

Walking into the narrow aisles, were fruit and vegetable vendors carefully organized between stalls of clothes and fashion. We learned later on that the market is popular for vintage fashions at affordable prices.

BoeungKengKangMarket3_PhnomMarketPenh_AuthenticFoodQuestCosmetics and beauty products at the market

As we made our way through the stalls, at one end we came across a strange, circular fruit. We tried asking about the fruit, but unfortunately, could not communicate with the vendor. She did nonetheless let us try the fruit.

After peeling off the skin, you are left with a seed covered with white flesh. We found the taste not to be sweet, but rather on the dry and slightly acidic side. Quite an interesting experience seeing and tasting this unusual fruit.

UPDATE: Thanks to an Authentic Food Quest reader, the strange fruit has been identified as Monkey Pod” or “Madras Thorn”. It is available in South India and in Tamil, it is called seeni puliyangai.

BoeungKengKangMarket6_PhnomMarketPenh_AuthenticFoodQuestUnusual fruit we discovered and we still don’t know the name. (Identified by reader as Monkey Pod or "Madras Thorn" fruit)

Along the perimeter of the market, are women selling “waffles” and an assortment of other local treats. We didn’t try the waffles, though they did smell quite inviting.

BoeungKengKangMarket2_PhnomMarketPenh_AuthenticFoodQuestInviting waffles at the market

How to Get There

A tuk-tuk ride from the Independent Monument should not cost your more than $3 and about 10 mins.

Address: One block East from the intersection of St. 63 and – St.380, Phnom Penh

Hours: Everyday from 7 am to 5 pm.

#5: Orussey Market: the Largest Phnom Penh Market

Orussey Market is the biggest market and commercial center in Phnom Penh. You can find everything you could possibly imagine at this Phnom Penh market.

OrusseyMarket2_PhnomMarketPenh_AuthenticFoodQuestBustling entrance of Orussey Market (photo credit Sundgauvien38)

Located on the North side of the Olympic Stadium, it is mostly frequented by locals. Orussey market is housed in a large square building on three levels. You will also find shops and food vendors outside the market.

OrusseyMarket_PhnomMarketPenh_AuthenticFoodQuestPorters at Orussey Market (photo credit Sundgauvien38)

This is a great market to get the pulse of the city and have a feel for the local eating habits. You will not find many souvenirs or touristy items as the products are mostly household items geared toward locals.

In the food section, you will find everything you need to fill up your fridge. There is a wet market with meat, poultry, and seafood stalls as well as stalls selling fruits, vegetables and household products.

WetMarketOrusseyMarket_PhnomMarketPenh_AuthenticFoodQuest Aerial view of the seafood section in the wet market (photo credit nate q - nqc)

How to Get There

A tuk-tuk ride from the Independent Monument should not cost your more than $4 and about 10 mins.

Address: At the intersection of Oknha Tep Phan St. (182) and St 141, Phnom Penh

Hours: Everyday from 6 am to 5 pm.

#6: Kabko Market (Phsar Kabko): a Typical Local Cambodian Market

Thus far, we have presented five markets to visit in Phnom Penh. There are actually many more spread out throughout the city. You might discover the next market gem located in the neighborhood you are staying.

For us, we discovered Kabko market while staying at our Airbnb close by. We stopped by after a lunch at Phsar Kabko, a local Cambodian restaurant we recommend.  

KakboMarket_PhnomMarketPenh_AuthenticFoodQuestThe entrance of Kabko Market

Like most local Phnom Penh market, this one rather small was filled with fresh fruit, produce and an odd stall or two selling clothes or other accessories.

GarlicKandalMarket3_PhnomMarketPenh_AuthenticFoodQuestFresh garlic at the market
KabkoMarket_PhnomMarketPenh_AuthenticFoodQuestFake dollar bills mixed with fruits at the market

Get there late in the afternoon or early evening as food vendors and fruit sellers set up their stalls to cater to the evening crowd. This a great traditional market to browse and shop.

How to Get There

You could literally walk from the Independent Monument to the market located about four blocks away. If you take a tuk-tuk, it should not cost your more than $1-$2 and about 3-5 mins.

Address: Between Ke Nou St.9 and Samdach Sothearos Blvd (3), Phnom Penh

Hours: Everyday from 6 am to 5 pm.

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In Summary

Wandering through the Phnom Penh markets is a great way to get a feel for and taste of the local Cambodian culture. With fresh vegetables stacked high to unusual fruits on displays all of this intertwined with beauty salons and gold jewelry stalls. The markets in Phnom Penh are unlike others.

The large selection of fresh seafood, fish, and meat—some of which is still moving— can be overwhelming to some. But that’s what gives the local and authentic flavors of the place.

If your travels take you to Cambodia, be prepared and adjust your expectations. Go with the flow and see what delights you discover.  If by chance, you find the name of the strange fruit we discovered at Kandal market, please do let us know.

Do you visit the local markets on your travels? What’s the most surprising things you’ve seen from your most recent trip? Share your comments below.

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26 Comments on “6 Surprising Phnom Penh Markets That Will Shake up Your Senses”

    • True, the waffles looked delicious, however, what stopped us and made us pause, was not knowing how long they had been out. If we were hungry at that particular time and they were made fresh right in front of us, we would have definitively jumped on them!! Thanks for stopping by Carla.

      Reply
  1. markets are always the best place to get food, buy souvenirs, and meet locals! I lived in Bangkok for 7 years and when I go back to visit my favorite spots are always the markets. The ones you’ve visited look very similar to the ones in Thailand as well. It’s pretty awesome to see where cultures blend into each other because of proximity

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  2. All of these markets look amazing! I have been to some markets in Mexico & South America that could definitely be described as organized chaos! Sometimes I find markets a little overwhelming when they’re so big, but you just have to jump in and get involved!

    Reply
    • That’s right, Claire. At the local markets, it’s about just jumping in and going with the flow. What’s also nice is to see a variety of markets. From larger main markets to smaller neighborhood markets. It really gives a good sense of the local food culture. Did you have any favorite markets either in South America or Mexico?

      Reply
  3. We stayed right next door – literally – to the Central Market in 2012 Claire. I vividly recall the assault on our senses as we walked through LOL. Fun place. I loved it all save the stomach turning odor of sun-baked fish which seemed to permeate one side of the market. Cool recount here!

    Ryan

    Reply
    • Awesome Ryan, given that you stayed right next to Central Market, you can intimately appreciate the experience. That must have been “prahok” on the side of the market…indeed, quite a cultural experience 🙂 Thanks and great to hear from you 🙂

      Reply
  4. That fruit you could not identify is called “Monkey Pod” or “Madras Thorn”. It is available in South India as well. Here, in tamil we call it seeni puliyangai.

    Reply
  5. I was only in Phnom Penh for a short time and only made it to the Central Market. I was so surprised by the variety of vendors. The vast selection of jewellery was crazy! I would have loved to get to one of the local markets you mention, like Kandal or Kabko.

    Reply
    • The markets are so diverse in Phnom Pehn that it is definitively worth going beyond the Central Market. Yes, the jewelry selection is quite incredible. Keep this list handy for your next trip to the Kingdom of Cambodia. Thanks for stopping by!

      Reply
  6. I love and hate when your blog comes up in my mega share feed. Love the delectable photos and tasty stories, hate that they make me hungry!

    At any rate, as much as I dislike going to outdoor markets in the US, I love doing that abroad.

    Reply
    • Glad you like the article, Peter. Out of curiosity, why do you dislike the market in the U.S. We find the neighborhood and local markets in the U.S. quite charming. Very different though than the markets abroad! Thanks for stopping by.

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    • In Cambodia, you certainly need to haggle. There are 3 different levels of pricing – for locals, for expats, and for tourists. Knowing even a few words in Khmer comes in handy. The markets are absolutely an experience and a lot of fun to explore. Any thoughts what that fruit might be? Cheers.

      Reply
  7. I love that you can get your nails done, buy some jewelry, then get food all in the same place! We missed out on the market scene when we were in Phnom Penh, I would love to go back and check it out! As for that mysterious fruit, it sort of looks like Tamarind but it has that unusual circle shape (almost like something a baby would use when teething! haha). I am curious as to if anyone can correctly identify it!

    Reply
    • Thanks for taking a stab Megan at that fruit. Agree, it looks like Tamarind, but it’s not. At least we can agree it’s in the Tamarind family. Bummer to read you missed out on the local markets while you were in Phnom Pehn. A trip back, perhaps?? Appreciate your comments.

      Reply
  8. I am always up for a street market and after reading this and seeing your photos, I would defo want to check this out when I get to Phnom Penh one day. Great post. 🙂

    Reply
  9. I love the look of those strange fruit. Wandering markets is a great way to get a sense of a city although sometimes they can be crazeeeee!!!

    Reply

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