Phnom Penh Central Market

Central Market

Markets in Cambodia are always a standout experience, but this one is up there with Angkor Wat when it comes to Cambodia’s landmarks, if only for the marvelous architecture.


Prior to 1935, the area was a lake that received runoff during the rainy season. The lake was drained and construction of the market begun. The building was designed by Jean Desbois and the project overseen by Louis Chauchon, the same architects that are responsible for Battambang’s Phsar Nath. In English referred to as Central Market, but in Khmer as Phsar Thmei – which means ‘New Market’ and that’s what it was in 1937 – this ochre-coloured art-deco inspired edifice was the largest indoor market in Asia upon completion.

It has always had an up-market quality for Cambodians; it’s the grandest and most special Phsar. The original structure consists of a 26 meter high dome at its center from which four identical aisles or wings radiate. The main entrance of the market lies to the east, facing the distant Tonlé Sap River. The many grills in the dome and the open plinth provide a constant stream of fresh air. It results in a surprisingly moderate temperature. Daylight is naturally filtered by the grills, casting an ever-changing pattern of shadows on the adjacent walls.

Inside the Market

Below the large cupola stands a slender column supporting four clocks. Nearest to the column stand shops selling luxury items: watches, gemstones and jewellery. This area is quiet and spacious; vendors leisurely await their customers. In the wings other non-perishable luxurious items are sold: electrical appliances, men’s and women’s apparel and shoes, fabrics, second-hand books, bouquets of flowers and handicrafts, including bespoke silk kramas.

Fresh produce has moved out of the original structure into new large halls, placed at the rear of the original market. The new structures house, in addition to fresh produce, other day-to-day items: shoes, groceries, toiletries, household utensils, clothing and the more ordinary electrical appliances.

During the early ‘40s the market was bombed heavily by Thai aircraft, causing heavy damage, and had to be temporarily closed. After the end of World War II the market was rebuilt in the modern style. From 2009 to 2011, it was renovated by the agency Arte Charpentier and funded by the French Development Agency.

Phsar Thmei South Entrance
Phsar Thmei South Entrance

The concourse outside the market is photographers galore, proffering ample photo-ops of the jovial food sellers, which quickly become as moorish as the produce, not least snaps of the succulent but otherworldly durian!

For a typical local lunch, there are a host of food stalls located on the western side, in front of Monivong Blvd. Favourites include delicious num pang sach (the Cambodian answer to Vietnamese banh mi), crunchy spring rolls, savory kuy teav (Cambodian noodle soup made with rice noodles and pork stock), and a variety of delectable fried desserts.

One of the best things about eating at markets in Cambodia is that you can order from any stall in the area and it will be delivered to where you are sitting. Just make sure – of course – to order something from the stall that you are sitting in.

Where to find what?

Guide to visiting

A few notes of caution: the Central Market attracts more discerning shoppers than other local markets, which is sometimes reflected in hiked prices and if it’s bone fide products you seek, especially electronics, this may not be the place.

(Fun fact: the much smaller market known as Psar Kandal translates to ‘Central Market’, and Psar Chas means ‘Old Market’.)

360° aerial tour

Opening Hours
6:00 am - 6:00 pm
6:00 am - 6:00 pm
6:00 am - 6:00 pm
6:00 am - 6:00 pm
6:00 am - 6:00 pm
6:00 am - 6:00 pm
6:00 am - 6:00 pm
Central Market
From the riverside, street 130 (Khemarak Phumin) leads to the market

Phnom Penh