Wat Phnom: The Namesake of Phnom Penh, Cambodia
What you need to know about visiting Wat Phnom
Wat Phnom, a temple that stands on a hill overlooking the city, is one of the oldest and most important Buddhist temples in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. In fact, the tallest temple in the city is the Phnom Penh’s namesake, its history dating back to the early 14th century.
If you want to get a close look at spiritual life in Phnom Penh, there really is no better place than Wat Phnom.
The history of Wat Phnom dates back hundreds of years, and is steeped in myth and legend. According to the stories, an old woman named Penh discovered a bronze Buddha sculpture inside a tree atop the hill. The people recognized it as a sacred site, and built a stone shrine to honor it.
The name of the city comes from the Khmer word for “hill”, Phnom, and the woman’s name, Penh.
The temple has been added to and re-built many times since its founding. Today, it is the tallest religious structure in the entire city, and the tall white chedi towers over the surrounding area from atop its hill.
Visitors have to climb a set of stairs up the hill to reach the main temple building. Once inside, take some time to admire the incredible works of art painted on every wall and the ceiling. Wat Phnom was once one of the most important royal temples in Cambodia, and it is painted to be fittingly celestial.
The remains of several members of the royal family are interred in stupas on the grounds of Wat Phnom.
You can purchase sticks of incense or candles to light as an offering at the temple. There are also old women with cages of birds that you can pay to release for good karma. I advise against this practice, however. The birds are trained to return, making your good intentions just a waste of money.
If you visit during a holiday, you will be able to get a very intimate look at local Cambodian Buddhism, but be advised that it can get very crowded during religious holidays.
Wat Phnom Location, Opening Hours, and Ticket Price
Wat Phnom is located in the center of Phnom Penh just across from the US Embassy. The temple is located close to the National Museum and the Royal Palace. While it’s possible to walk, the traffic makes it much easier to hire a tuk-tuk for the short distance. >Open Google Maps Link. You shouldn’t have any trouble finding the temple, as it’s one of the major sites in the city, and is located in a very prominent location in the center of town.
Wat Phnom is open daily from 8:00 - 17:00. It can get crowded on holidays, especially on Buddhist holidays, New Year, Chinese New Year, and Khmer New Year.
A ticket to Wat Phnom costs $1 (or 4,000 khr).