Exploring Phnom Penh’s Central Market: A Shopper’s Paradise

by Huy Huỳnh Ngọc

Welcome to Phnom Penh, Cambodia’s vibrant capital city. If you’re a shopaholic or a curious traveler looking to immerse yourself in the local culture, a visit to the Central Market is an absolute must. Also known as Psah Thom Thmey or the New Grand Market, this iconic Art Deco building is a shopaholic’s paradise, offering an extensive range of products and a glimpse into Cambodia’s rich history. In this comprehensive guide, Palm Vietnam Travel will take you on a virtual tour of the market, unravel its fascinating history, and provide insider tips for an unforgettable shopping experience.

1. Introduction to Central Market

Located in the heart of Phnom Penh, Central Market stands as a testament to Cambodia’s cultural and commercial heritage. This bustling market has been a hub of activity since its opening in 1937 and continues to attract both locals and tourists alike.

Stepping inside the market feels like entering a treasure trove, with its four wings branching out into vast hallways filled with countless stalls offering a wide range of goods.

The central market of Phnom Penh.
The central market of Phnom Penh.

2. The History Behind the Iconic Building

The construction of Central Market was an architectural marvel of its time. Designed by French architect Louis Chauchon, the market’s unique Art Deco building was a departure from traditional market structures.

Supervised by French architects Jean Desbois and Wladimir Kandaouroff, the construction took place from 1935 to 1937. The market’s initial purpose was to replace a lake that would often flood during the rainy season, causing inconvenience to the surrounding area.

The central market of Phnom Penh as seen from above.
The central market of Phnom Penh is seen from above.

3. Exploring the Vast Array of Products

Central Market lives up to its reputation as a shopper’s paradise. As you wander through its vibrant corridors, you’ll find an incredible variety of goods on offer. From gold and silver jewelry, antique coins, and traditional Khmer handicrafts to clothing, accessories, books, and electronics, there’s something for everyone.

The market is particularly famous for its exquisite gems and precious stones, so if you’re in the market for a unique piece of jewelry, Central Market is the place to be.

A shopping paradise in Cambodia.
A shopping paradise in Cambodia.

4. The Market’s Unique Architecture

The architecture of Central Market is a sight to behold. The iconic yellow dome, with its four wings stretching outward, is instantly recognizable and has become a symbol of Phnom Penh.

The Art Deco style of the building adds to its charm, blending seamlessly with the market’s bustling atmosphere. As you explore the market, take a moment to appreciate the intricate details and the historical significance of this architectural gem.

The iconic yellow dome
The iconic yellow dome

5. Renovation and Revitalization

In recent years, Central Market underwent a significant renovation to restore its former glory. From 2009 to 2011, the market underwent a US$4.2 million renovation project funded by the French Development Agency.

The aim was to preserve the market’s historical value while improving its facilities and infrastructure. Today, Central Market stands as a testament to the importance of preserving cultural heritage and providing a vibrant space for both locals and visitors.

6. The Best Time to Visit

Central Market is open from 7:00 AM to 5:00 PM, so be sure to plan your visit accordingly. To beat the crowds, it’s best to arrive early in the morning when the market is relatively quiet. This will give you ample time to explore the stalls at your own pace and find the best deals.

However, if you prefer a livelier atmosphere, visiting during the late morning or early afternoon is ideal, as the market buzzes with activity and vendors showcase their products.

The scenery of Phnom Penh's central market in the morning.
The scenery of Phnom Penh’s central market in the morning.

7. Insider Tips for Bargaining Like a Pro

Bargaining is an integral part of the shopping experience at Central Market. Here are a few tips to help you navigate the art of haggling like a pro:

  • Start with a friendly greeting and a smile. Building rapport with the vendor can go a long way.
  • Do your research and have a rough idea of the market price for the item you’re interested in. This will give you a starting point for negotiations.
  • Be prepared to walk away if the price isn’t right. Vendors are often willing to lower their prices if they think they might lose a sale.
  • Consider purchasing multiple items from the same vendor. This can give you leverage in negotiating a better deal.

Remember, bargaining should be a fun and interactive experience, so embrace the process and enjoy the thrill of finding a great deal.

The view of Phnom Penh's central market in the evening.
The view of Phnom Penh’s central market in the evening.

8. Nearby Attractions and Dining Options

Central Market is conveniently located near several popular tourist attractions. After a day of shopping, take the opportunity to explore the Royal Palace, Wat Phnom, or the National Museum, all within a short distance from the market.

If you’re feeling hungry, the surrounding area offers a plethora of dining options, ranging from traditional Khmer street food to international cuisines.

The Royal Palace of Cambodia.
The Royal Palace of Cambodia.
The National Museum of Cambodia in Phnom Penh.
The National Museum of Cambodia in Phnom Penh.

9. How to Get to Central Market

Getting to Central Market is relatively easy, thanks to its central location. If you’re staying in the city, you can easily reach the market by tuk-tuk, a popular mode of transportation in Phnom Penh.

Tuk-tuks are affordable and offer a unique way to experience the city’s vibrant streets. Alternatively, you can opt for a taxi or use a ride-hailing app for added convenience.

10. Conclusion

A trip to Phnom Penh is incomplete without a visit to Central Market. Immerse yourself in the vibrant atmosphere, explore the endless stalls, and embrace the thrill of the hunt for unique treasures. Whether you’re a seasoned shopper or just looking to experience the local culture, Central Market offers an unforgettable experience, combining history, architecture, and a shopper’s paradise all under one roof. So, grab your bags and get ready for an adventure at Central Market, where the past and present collide in a truly captivating way.


Huy Huỳnh Ngọc

Written by Huy Huỳnh Ngọc