How to spend 2 days in Siem Reap (once you’ve done the temples) 

two days in Siem Reap

If you’re visiting Siem Reap, you’re there for one thing: temples. Siem Reap owes its prosperity almost entirely to Angkor, and temple tourism has long transformed this former backwater into a buzzing hub. But there’s more to the city than hotels and backpacker bars.

In fact, Siem Reap actually might be the chicest town in Cambodia, and after a city-wide, post-pandemic glow-up, it’s officially having a moment. There are now more reasons than ever to stick around once you’ve done your Indiana Jones thing.

So, here’s how to spend two days in Siem Reap — beyond the temples.

Day one


You can’t understand modern Cambodia without knowing a little bit about its recent past, and the APOPO Visitor Centre is one of the best places to start.

During the 1970s, Cambodia suffered through one of the worst decades in any country’s history, losing millions of lives to civil war, starvation, American bombing and mass killings perpetrated by the Khmer Rouge. Through all that, it became one of the most heavily bombed and land mined countries in history.

APOPO is one of the organisations working to remove unexploded ordnance from the countryside, with the help of special “hero rats” trained to sniff out TNT. Our travel consultant, Jess, recently visited the centre and found it an unexpected highlight of her trip to Cambodia. It’s certainly a sobering story, but it’s also full of hope and human resilience — and it gives much-needed context to the many social enterprises revitalising Cambodia today.

The visitor centre takes around an hour to explore (including meeting some of the amazing rats), leaving you time before lunch to head to the Khmer Ceramics & Fine Arts Centre, a four-minute remork ride from APOPO.

During the Cambodian genocide, artists and intellectuals were specifically targeted, cruelly stripping the country of an entire generation of creatives. Places like this centre are doing their bit to revive the arts in Cambodia, and you can join a two-hour pottery class to learn how ceramics have been made in the region since the third century BC. The centre has a reproduction clay dragon kiln and produces ceramics using the same techniques developed during the Khmer Empire at Angkor.


Once you’ve finished your clay masterpiece, walk 15 minutes to the School House Café. Run by the charity New Hope Cambodia, this training restaurant raises funds to give a free education to some of the poorest children in Siem Reap. The food is excellent, too.


This afternoon, head back into the centre of Siem Reap, where you’ll continue your exploration of the arts with a visit to Artisans Angkor. Founded in 1992 with the mission of rebuilding the country after the war, it originally trained young people to work in the building sector. Later, it expanded to train people in traditional Khmer crafts, including stone and wood carving, silk painting, ikat weaving, lacquer work and silver plating.

Take a free tour of the school and check out their boutique shop but save a few pennies for the Made in Cambodia Market, less than 20 minutes’ walk away through the city centre. A contrast to the hectic Angkor night market, this chilled-out shopping experience focuses on selling high-quality crafts instead of the same old tourist tat you’ll find at every market in Southeast Asia.

Some of the beautiful products on sale here include jewellery made from recycled bullets, stylish homewares made from recycled plastic street rubbish, “alcoholic jams” in hand-painted bottles, and contemporary fashion made using traditional handwoven fabric. What’s more, nearly all of the brands represented are also social enterprises, providing a living to former street children, deaf Cambodians, women in rural communities, and other disadvantaged people.

Dinner: For something truly unique, we recommend Urban Forage’s progressive, self-guided degustation tour of the city’s finest restaurants. You’ll be whisked away to four destinations (including three top restaurants) where they’ve collaborated with the chefs to curate exclusive tasting platters just for you. Expect kitchen gardens, a traditional wooden house restaurant, and creative cocktails – plus the absolute best introduction to Cambodian cuisine you could ask for.


Easily one of the best experiences in Siem Reap, you’ll find Phare: The Cambodian Circus on pretty much every top-ten list for the city — and for good reason.

Another social enterprise (are you sensing a theme here?), Phare is part of a vocational training initiative founded in 1994 by nine former refugees of the Khmer Rouge regime. Having benefitted from art therapy classes after the trauma they’d been through, they started a school to share their skills with the young people of Battambang, teaching art, music, theatre and circus skills.

Phare now gives nightly, phenomenally popular acrobatic performances, each of which tells a story about Cambodian history and culture. It’s an incredible show, and always goes down a treat.

Day two


This morning, head to Wat Bo: voted the coolest neighbourhood in Asia and the third-coolest in the world by Time Out in 2022. Centred around Wat Bo Pagoda, this central neighbourhood is one of the oldest in Siem Reap and has undergone a bit of a makeover in the past few years. It’s now the place to go for trendy galleries, bakeries, boutique hotels and restaurants.

Grab a coffee at one of its very cool cafés (Paris Bakey and Footprint are just two), then perhaps check out Oko Gallery for more local art and bougie homewares. Mostly, it’s about wandering around, soaking up the atmosphere, and seeing what you find.

Lunch: Anywhere in Wat Bo! There’s no end of places to choose from.


This afternoon, see a different side of Siem Reap as you head out into the outskirts of the city, where life still runs at the pace of an ox-drawn cart. Today, Siem Reap is Cambodia’s second-biggest city, but until the death of Pol Pot in 1998 it was pretty much just a sleepy, rural town. Exploring the suburbs and villages this afternoon, you’ll get a window into what life was like here before tourism took off.

We recommend visiting Ta Brak village. Wander the market, mingle with the shoppers who come every morning to buy fresh ingredients, and take the chance to chat to the locals. Depending on the time of year, you may spot villagers planting rice, weaving thatch coverings for their roofs, or harvesting vegetables.

Once you’ve finished your tour of the Siem Reap countryside, be sure to make time for a traditional massage at one of the many spas and parlours back in town. It’s the perfect way to relax before an evening of excitement…

Evening / dinner:

This evening, get a crash-course in Cambodian cuisine with one of our favourite local experiences: a Vespa street food tour. A more authentic alternative to a night on Pub Street (though we’re not knocking that either), you’ll skip the tourist haunts and zip between more local favourites, sampling the finest street food the city has to offer. It’s a fantastic way to see some of the lesser-known districts of the city, with a local guide to let you in on all the hidden spots and give you recommendations for even more Siem Reap fun.

All of our Cambodia itineraries feature Siem Reap, and it makes a great addition to an adventure in Laos or Vietnam, too. Check out our Into the Heart of Cambodia itinerary for some ideas, or chat to one of our travel consultants to design your own tailor-made trip.

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