Battambang is the third-largest city in Cambodia and is well-known for its well-preserved colonial houses. Not as popular as Phnom Penh or Siem Reap, the provincial town is undoubtedly worth a stop on your trip to Cambodia.
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Welcome to Battambang: A Fascinating City in Provincial Cambodia
The Khmer Empire founded the city of Battambang in the 11th century as a hub for rice production.
Throughout the centuries, the city grew into one of the primary commercial centers in Northwestern Cambodia, connecting the region with Phnom Penh and Thailand.
In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the French colonial government enlarged the city and urbanized the streets in a grid system. Many buildings from that era form Battambang’s charming core today.
In terms of tourism, Battambang is generally a stopover for people traveling between Cambodia and Thailand. It doesn’t have the infrastructure of Siem Reap, but luckily, it also lacks the crowds.
As such, its tourism industry is small even though there are lots of places to visit in Battambang – both in the city and the province.
Fun fact: the name “Battambang” (one of the coolest names ever, if you ask me), means “lost stick” due to a legend about losing and finding a stick.
Much more than a transit stop, here are the best things to do in Battambang, Cambodia.
The Best Things to do in Battambang
Many places to visit in Battambang are in the center. There are also sites on the outskirts, easily accessible on a Battambang tour by bike or tuk-tuk.
Explore the Colonial Old Town
Battambang’s old town is one of the best-preserved historic neighborhoods in former Indochina.
The houses date from the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Start your visit in Street n°1 and make your way toward the Central Market. You can find lots of traditional architecture here as well as shops, restaurants, and cafés.
Shot at the Phsar Nath Market
Shopping at Phsar Nath (Central Market) is undoubtedly among the best things to do in Battambang. The market has everything from textiles to gold and bugs.
Completed in 1930, the market building adheres to the typical French art deco style and stands out in a provincial city like Battambang. You’ll notice similarities with the Central Market in Phnom Penh.
Stop at the Well of Shadows
You cannot visit Cambodia without learning about the gruesome acts of the Khmer Rouge. In Battambang, you can stop at the Well of Shadows, one of the memorial landmarks for the victims of the Cambodian Genocide.
In this spot, an estimated 10,000 people were killed between 1975 and 1979.
Go on a Village Tour
One of the best ways to experience the local culture is to go on a Battambang tour that includes local villages. Many tours will also take you to The Killing Cave (next point) and various temples. You can find tours on the spot or on any online booking sites.
Visit the Killing Cave
Much like the Well of Shadows, the Killing Cave is an important reminder of the horrors of Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge Regime.
Around 12km from the center, you’ll find Phnom Sampeou mountain with a temple and caves. One of those caves was used to dump the corpses of victims of the Khmer Rouge.
Apart from the Killing Cave, you can also see a fascinating spectacle from the foothills of the mountains. Every evening at around 5 pm, millions of bats fly out of a cave to embark on their nightly hunt.
Ride the Bamboo Train
The bamboo train is one of the most famous Battambang tourist attractions.
For decades, it was the primary mode of transport for goods produced in the surrounding villages. The villagers would load the products onto the carriage and then take them to the center of Battambang.
Today, it is mostly a tourist attraction. A new train is slowly replacing the bamboo carriage. As such, it might not exist for much longer.
Admire the Banan Temple
Banan is one of the best-preserved Khmer Empire temples in the region and one of the top places to visit in Battambang province.
Built in the 11th century by Khmer king Udayadityavarman II, Banan is like a mini Angkor Wat without crowds.
Where to Stay in Battambang
The best area to stay in Battambang is undoubtedly the center. Look for a place close to the Central Market, and you’ll be within walking distance of most Battambang attractions.
I stayed at the Cambana La Rivière Hotel and would recommend it. It’s one of the more luxurious places in the center and features excellent amenities.
Find more places to stay in Battambang here.
Things to do in Battambang: Know Before You Go
To complete our guide on the best things to do in Battambang, Cambodia, here are some FAQs.
How to Get to Battambang
From Siem Reap, there is a public bus leaving from the main bus station. The same applies to Phnom Penh. Booking online generally isn’t an option, so you’ll have to go to the station and buy the ticket there.
Alternatively, you can take the tourist shuttles. These cost a bit more (8-15 USD) but they are a lot more comfortable. The best way to find them is to ask your hotel.
How to Get Around Battambang
Grad doesn’t operate in Battambang. The center is easily walkable and tuk-tuks will take you further out. Be sure to negotiate the price as no journey within the center should cost more than one USD.
Is Battambang Safe to Visit?
Yes. Just use common sense and you won’t encounter any trouble here.
Is Battambang Worth Visiting?
My answer would be a resounding yes. Its temples aren’t as spectacular as Angkor Wat, and there aren’t as many famous places, but the authenticity is why I enjoyed my time here.
The Best Time to Visit Battambang
The dry season runs between November and February when temperatures are pleasant and it doesn’t rain much.