With a prime location by the Royal Palace and the waterfront, Wat Ounalom is a home for Buddhist monks in the city center. There’s no single shrine or Buddha image as the centerpiece of the temple complex but it’s free to enter and rarely crowded with tourists. That means it’s well worth a visit if you’re exploring Phnom Penh and interested in Cambodia’s long-running Buddhist traditions.
Things to know before you go
- Dress modestly: anyone with shorts, mini-skirts, and bare shoulders may be refused admission.
- As hats and footwear must be removed before entering shrines, wear shoes that are easy to slip on and off.
- Donations help support maintenance of the historic temple, and they’re cash only; boxes can be found within Wat Ounalom.
How to get there
Wat Ounalom is located on Samdech Sothearos Boulevard in Phnom Penh, near the Royal Palace. It’s walking distance from many centrally located sites and hotels, but if you’re coming from farther away there are ample transport options. The most environmentally friendly option is a cyclo, or bicycle rickshaw, which are most often used when traveling short distances. Alternatives include motorcycle-powered tuk tuks and enclosed taxis. Be sure to negotiate the price before departure.
When to get there
Open daily from 6am to 6pm, Wat Ounalom is rarely crowded. Around noon, however, some sections of the temple complex are closed as the monks eat lunch. Since Wat Ounalom has longer hours than adjacent attractions—including the Royal Palace and the National Museum of Cambodia—it’s a convenient first or last stop when exploring the historic center.
Buddhist Blessings at Wat Ounalom
If you’d like to experience a traditional Buddhist blessing at the temple complex, ask attendants upon arrival—this is a time when having a guide helps as many monks don’t speak English. You may have the chance to offer incense at a shrine, be blessed with fragrant water, and leave with a thin red string tied around your wrist. While the blessing is freely given, it’s customary to leave a donation with the temple if you receive one.
- Kandal Market (Phsar Kandal)
- Sisowath Quay
- National Museum of Cambodia
- Royal Palace
- Silver Pagoda (Wat Preah Keo)
- Cambodia-Vietnam Friendship Monument
- Phnom Penh Independence Monument
- Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum (S-21)
- Phnom Penh Central Market (Phsar Thmey)
- Phnom Penh Russian Market (Toul Tom Poung Market)
- Wat Phnom
- Choeung Ek Genocidal Center (Choeung Ek Killing Fields)
- Silk Island (Koh Dach)
- Phnom Tamao Wildlife Rescue Center (PTWRC)