National Museum of Cambodia - review by Rusty Compass
Phnom Penh | see and do guide

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National Museum of Cambodia

| 02 Feb 2011


National Museum of Cambodia
Next to the Royal Palace just back from the river on St 13. Entrance is at St 178 St
+855 0(23) 211 753
08.00AM - 05.00PM

Our rating
02 Feb 2011

This is Cambodia's most important museum and the most extensive collection of Angkorian treasures on display outside the temple complex itself. It's also a distinctive piece of architecture - designed by a Westerner borrowing heavily from Khmer tradition.

Note: The information provided in this review was correct at time of publishing but may change. For final clarification please check with the relevant service

The National Museum of Cambodia was inaugurated in 1920 as the Musee Albert Sarraut after the then French Governor. The opening marked a flourishing of interest in Khmer arts and culture driven by the museum's designer and main advocate, George Groslier. Groslier, a Frenchman, created one of Phnom Penh's most memorable buildings with its deep red colouring and its strong Khmer decorative elements.

Photo: Mark BowyerNational Museum Phnom Penh

The highlights of the museum are to be found in its collection of Angkorian pieces. The temples of Angkor have been looted over many decades. What remains is still staggeringly impressive but smaller decorative objects that could easily be removed from the temple complex, for the most part have been. Fortunately some of these pieces have made it into this collection as well as that of the Angkor National Museum in Siem Reap. 

The National Museum's collection spans the pre-Angkorian period through to the twentieth century and is housed in large open air pavilions. It's a great space and the courtyard in the centre is a good meditative place to take a break, read a book and have a think about Cambodia.

Photo: Mark BowyerNational Museum Phnom Penh

Regrettably, and for reasons not fully understood (this is an open air museum), photography inside the galleries is not permitted.

Be sure to take a walk out the back of the museum to the Royal University of Fine Arts. Built at the same time as the museum, the university still trains students in the skills of sculpture and art as well as other disciplines and has the same rich red old world charm as the museum structure.

Travel tips:
Short walk from the riverfront and the Royal Palace.

Mark Bowyer
Mark Bowyer is the founder and publisher of Rusty Compass.
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