Cambodia’s Royal Palace complex was begun by King Norodom (1834-1904) in 1866, when the capital was moved to Phnom Penh.
Most buildings were completed before World War I, with involvement by French administrators and Thai designers and architects.
The complex is divided by walls into three main compounds, on the north side is the Silver Pagoda and to the south-west is the Khemarin Palace, where Cambodia’s King Sihamoni resides.
The Throne Hall
The Throne Hall is where the king’s confidants, generals and royal officials once carried out their duties. It is still in use today as a place for religious and royal ceremonies (such as coronations and royal weddings) as well as a meeting place for guests of the King. The cross-shaped building is crowned with three spires. The central, 59 meter spire is topped with the white, four-faced head of Brahma. Inside the Throne Hall contains three royal thrones (one is more of western style and the other two are traditional) and golden busts of Cambodians kings and queens starting from the reign of King Ang Doung onwards.
The Khmer name for the Throne Hall is Preah Thineang Dheva Vinnichay meaning the “Sacred Seat of Judgement”. The Throne Hall is where the king’s confidants, generals and royal officials once carried out their duties.
It is still in use today as a place for religious and royal ceremonies (such as coronations and royal weddings) as well as a meeting place for guests of the King.
The cross-shaped building is crowned with three spires. The central, 59 meter spire is topped with the white, four-faced head of Brahma.
Inside the Throne Hall are a royal throne and busts of Cambodians kings of the past. The throne represents the Khmer monarchy from the first century. A canopy with nine tiers (the parasol covering above the throne) symbolizes peacefulness and heaven for human beings and the ambitions of human beings.
The Silver Pagoda is a compound located on the north side of the Royal Palace. Its main building houses many national treasures such as gold and jeweled Buddha statues. Most notable is a small 17th century baccarat crystal Buddha (the “Emerald Buddha” of Cambodia) and a near-life-size, Maitreya Buddha encrusted with 9,584 diamonds dressed in royal regalia commissioned by King Sisowath.
During King Norodom Sihanouk’s pre-Khmer Rouge reign, the Silver Pagoda was inlaid with more than 5,000 silver tiles and some of its outer facade was remodeled with Italian marble.
The walls enclosing the pagoda are covered with frescoes depicting episodes from the Khmer version of the Ramayana.
Pavilion Of Napoleon III
This pavilion functions as an art gallery of oil paintings, photos of former Cambodian Kings, Royal wardrobe, a chart of the Royal Family tree and other valuable art objects.
Among the items on display are The Preah Moha Mokot Reach (The Great Crown of Victory), The Preah Khan Reach (The Sacred Sword), The Preah Lompeng Chey (The Victory Spear), The Kriss (The Dagger), The Preah Soporbatea (The Slippers) and The Veal Vichani (The Fan).
Chan Chhaya Pavilion
The Preah Thineang Chan Chhaya (“Moonlight Pavilion”), is an open-air pavilion that serves as stage for Khmer classical dance in the past and present. It is one of the most notable buildings of the palace as it was built alongside the eastern palace walls.
The Chan Chhaya Pavilion has a balcony that was used as a platform for viewing parades marching along Sothearos Boulevard of Phnom Penh.
Code of Conduct
All visitors must conform to dress standards in order to enter the Royal Palace grounds. You will need to make sure your shoulders and knees are covered – a top with sleeves or a T-shirt, with three-quarter length trousers or a long skirt is enough.
It’s also a good idea to wear shoes you can easily remove, as you must take your shoes off in order to go inside the Silver Pagoda.
You cannot take photos inside the Throne Hall or inside the Silver Pagoda. Everywhere else it’s fine to take pictures.