Central Siem Reap is livelier than it has been in centuries thanks to the number of tourists who base themselves here while touring Angkor Wat. Practically every visitor here has come explicitly to see the temple complex, and hotels in Siem Reap respond by providing tours and knowledgeable guides for hire.
Central Siem Reap is organized around the Old Market, where a collection of French colonial buildings, shops and guesthouses are located. Wat Bo, one of the oldest temples in the city center, is also here. Siem Reap is quickly becoming a flourishing market town, and tourists can shop for gifts and souvenirs at Phsar Kandal, Phsar Leu and at the night market. More modern shopping venues are at the Museum Mall.
Some of the hotels in central Siem Reap specialize in helping concerned tourists connect with the local community. One of the most enjoyable ways to get involved is to eat lunch at Sala Bai Hotel School, an institute that trains young and at-risk Cambodians in culinary arts. It’s also possible to volunteer at Angkor Hospital for Children.
Attractions in central Siem Reap would get more attention if not for Angkor Wat. Local sites include Wat Damnak, a more modern temple complex that plays an active role in the community. The Royal Residence (near the post office) and adjoining Royal Independence Garden are a nice diversion on a day away from the temple complex.
The dense selection of accommodation in central Siem Reap allows for competitive pricing, and even up-market hotels offer excellent value for money. Most of the luxury accommodation is north of the city center, close to Phokeethra Country Club.