Discover the Tranquil Royal Independence Gardens at Siem Reap, Cambodia

The Royal Independence Gardens are a beloved public park located just outside of Siem Reap, Cambodia. Situated between the iconic Angkor Wat temple complex and downtown Siem Reap, these lush gardens offer visitors a peaceful respite from the bustling city. 

Originally built in the 1950s to commemorate Cambodia's independence from France, the park has become a popular destination for both locals and tourists over the past few decades. Spanning nearly 10 acres, the Royal Independence Gardens contain meticulously landscaped lawns, gardens, and walking paths. A serene pond lies at the heart of the park, providing the perfect backdrop for picnics, relaxing strolls, and photography. 

Beyond their beauty, the Royal Independence Gardens hold great historical significance for Cambodians. They serve as a reminder of the country's hard-fought struggle for autonomy in the 20th century. For foreign visitors, the gardens provide an oasis of calm to enjoy amidst the excitement of exploring Angkor Wat and Siem Reap.

With their verdant plant life and peaceful aura, these gardens have become a must-see for any traveller looking to experience the full splendour of Cambodia.

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Royal Gardens Siem Reap
Discover the Tranquil Royal Independence Gardens at Siem Reap, Cambodia

Discover the Tranquil Royal Independence Gardens at Siem Reap, Cambodia

History of the Gardens

The Royal Independence Gardens were commissioned in 1962 by King Norodom Sihanouk to celebrate Cambodia's independence from France in 1953. At 35 hectares, they are one of the largest parks in Siem Reap. 

King Sihanouk envisioned the gardens as a place for relaxation and meditation. He named them to commemorate Cambodia's hard-won independence after nearly 100 years of French colonial rule. The gardens stand as a symbol of Cambodian identity and a reminder of the country's historic struggle for freedom.

The park was designed by renowned Cambodian architect Vann Molyvann in the New Khmer style, featuring minimalist pavilions and structures blended with expansive lawns and tranquil ponds. Molyvann was known for fusing modernist ideals with elements of traditional Khmer architecture. This style is on full display throughout the gardens.

After the Khmer Rouge regime in the 1970s, the gardens fell into disrepair. They have since been restored to their former glory. Today, locals and tourists alike enjoy strolling through this oasis of serenity in the bustling city of Siem Reap. The Royal Independence Gardens remain a testament to Cambodia's national heritage.

Royal Gardens Siem Reap
The park was designed by renowned Cambodian architect Vann Molyvann in the New Khmer style
Royal Garden Siem Reap
Stone statue of a lion at the Royal Independence Gardens, Siem Reap

Park Layout and Design

Royal Independence Gardens is laid out in a traditional Angkor style, with different garden spaces and courtyards centered around ponds and water features. As you explore the site, you'll notice distinctive elements that reflect classical Khmer and Angkorian architecture and design.

The gardens follow a rectangular layout, with the main entrance on the east side. Once inside, a tree-lined path leads you past ornate statues and fountains to the central courtyard and lily pond. This open gathering space is flanked by raised terraces and pavilions, providing shady respite. 

To the north and south of the central courtyard are symmetrical gardens in a geometric grid pattern. Smaller ponds, moats and footbridges segment the space into intimate sections filled with flowers, shrubs and sculptures. The northern garden has a serene rock garden, while the southern section contains medicinal and fruit trees.

The western edge of the site houses additional pavilions and galleries exhibiting traditional Cambodian arts, crafts and performances. The halls open onto another lily pond surrounded by frangipani trees. The perimeter is enveloped by a tree-filled moat that adds to the sense of serenity and isolation from the outside world.

Overall, the gardens incorporate many hallmarks of classical Cambodian landscapes, with orderly courtyards, axial walkways, ornamental waterscapes and abundant greenery. It provides a tranquil oasis right in the heart of Siem Reap.

Royal Gardens Siem Reap
Layout of the Royal Independence Gardens at Siem Reap
Royal Independence Gardens Siem Reap
A tree-lined path leads you past ornate statues and fountains to the central courtyard and lily pond.
Royal Independence Gardens Siem Reap
To the north and south of the central courtyard are symmetrical gardens in a geometric grid pattern.

Top Things to Do

Royal Independence Gardens is home to several must-see attractions for visitors. The iconic centrepiece is the Independence Monument, commemorating Cambodia's independence from France in 1953. This massive structure towers over the gardens and is visible from all around. Be sure to get up close to see the detailed bas-reliefs depicting scenes from Cambodian history and culture. 

Another highlight is the Royal Pavilion, an open-air pavilion used for royal receptions and events. With its traditional Khmer architecture of towering spires and intricate carvings, it makes a striking backdrop for photos. Insider tip: Visit in the evening when the pavilion is illuminated for a magical sight.

The gardens also contain several quaint lakes filled with lotus flowers. Visitors can rent paddleboats and row around the lakes for unique views of the gardens. For a special experience, visit at sunset when the lakes glow golden in the fading light.

Royal Gardens Siem Reap
Spend the day to explore the park or lay out a makeshift picnic blanket to enjoy reading a book.
Royal Gardens Siem Reap
You can delight in observing people at the park.

Plant Species

Royal Independence Gardens is home to a remarkably diverse array of plant life. Some of the most notable flora includes rare orchids, such as the Blue Vanda and Foxglove orchids, which bloom vibrantly during the wet season. Majestic Dipterocarp trees like the Sokrom, Neang Nuon, and Chheu Teal tower over 40 meters tall in parts of the gardens. The iconic sugar palm tree, Cambodia's national tree, can be seen bearing its large, spiky fruit.

Many exotic flowering plants add splashes of colour, including bougainvillea, frangipani, and lotus flowers. Lush mangroves line the edges of the gardens near the river. Bamboo thickets, banana trees, and coconut palms thrive in shadier areas.  

The diversity of plant life changes with the seasons. In the wet season from May to October, the gardens transform into a green oasis, with flowers and new growth everywhere. The dry season from November to April brings beautiful fall colours and flowering trees. Rare native plants are labelled for visitors to appreciate the diversity.

With thoughtful cultivation, the Royal Independence Gardens contain a wide array of ecosystems, protecting endangered native Cambodian flora for future generations. Wandering the gardens reveals new botanical wonders around every corner.


Royal Independence Gardens provides excellent birdwatching, especially in the early morning hours. Some birds to look for include:
  1. Oriental magpie-robins - These striking black and white birds are commonly seen singing from tree branches. 
  2. Pied fantails - Watch for these active birds fanning their long tail feathers.
  3. Red-breasted parakeets - Listen for the loud squawks of these vibrant green parakeets. 
  4. Oriental pied hornbills - Large hornbills with striking yellow beaks nest in the tall trees.
Bring binoculars and have your camera ready to spot wildlife amidst the beauty of the gardens. The diversity of species reflects the health of the ecosystem.

Best Times to Visit

Royal Independence Gardens is lovely year-round, but there are particular times that showcase the gardens at their peak. 

The gardens look their best in the early morning and late afternoon when the light is softer. Around 8-10am is an ideal time to see the gardens wake up, with birds singing and flowers opening. Late afternoon just before closing around 4-6pm is also recommended, as the lowering sun casts a golden glow over the landscape. Avoid midday when the harsh overhead light can diminish the beauty.

Royal Gardens Siem Reap
During our visit, we were fortunate to witness a wedding photoshoot.
Royal Gardens Siem Reap
The stunning couple dressed impeccably for their photoshoot

Nearby Attractions

Royal Independence Gardens is located right in the heart of Siem Reap, making it easy to extend your visit to the area. Here are some of the top nearby attractions and ways to make the most of your time:
  1. Angkor National Museum - This museum is dedicated to the history, culture, and artifacts of the ancient Khmer civilization and the majestic temple complexes of Angkor. It's just a 10 minute drive or tuk tuk ride from the gardens.
  2. Artisans Angkor - Watch master craftspeople at work carving wood and stone, moulding metal, lacquering bamboo and silk painting at this cultural centre. It's less than 2 km from the gardens.
  3. Phare, The Cambodian Circus - This famous circus combines many art forms like theatre, music, dance and modern circus arts. Catch an evening show during your stay. It's a 12 minute walk from the gardens.
  4. Angkor Night Market - Do some shopping at this large night bazaar selling handicrafts, souvenirs, clothing and more. Grab a bite at one of the food stalls too. It's only 550 m away.
  5. Siem Reap Old Market - Immerse yourself in local culture shopping at this traditional market selling fresh produce, snacks, household goods and textiles. It's a quick 6 minute drive away.
  6. Tonle Sap Lake - Take a boat trip on Southeast Asia's largest freshwater lake to see remarkable biodiversity and floating villages. It's about 10 km outside of town.
  7. Banteay Srei Temple - Admire remarkable carvings at this 10th century temple, about 32 km from Siem Reap. Combine it with a visit to Banteay Samre temple nearby.
With so much to see and do right nearby, it's easy to extend your visit beyond Royal Independence Gardens to take in more of the incredible sights, sounds and culture of Siem Reap.


The Royal Independence Gardens are easily accessible for visitors of all abilities. 

Entrance Fees

Entry to the gardens is free for all visitors. There are no admission fees. This makes the Royal Independence Gardens a budget-friendly attraction to enjoy in Siem Reap.

Opening Hours

The gardens are open daily from 5am until 7pm. This provides ample opportunity to experience the gardens during the cooler hours of the early morning and late afternoon. The gardens are open year-round except for Khmer New Year in mid-April when they close for three days.

How to Get to the Royal Independence Gardens

The gardens are located just over a mile south of Siem Reap city center. Public transportation and taxis provide easy access. 

The best way to reach the gardens via public transit is to take a tuk-tuk or motodop from your hotel or any major landmark in Siem Reap. Expect to pay $2-3 USD each way. 

Metered taxis are also readily available in Siem Reap. The fare from downtown to the gardens will be around $5 USD each way. This is a bit pricier than a tuk-tuk but more comfortable.

Visitor Etiquette

When visiting Royal Independence Gardens, be sure to follow proper etiquette to ensure an enjoyable experience for all. 

Dress Code

There is no formal dress code, but we recommend wearing comfortable shoes and light, breathable clothing due to the warm climate. Be sure to dress appropriately when entering temples and religious sites. 

Rules of Conduct

  1. Be respectful of the natural environment by staying on marked paths and not picking flowers or damaging plants. 
  2. Keep noise levels low so as not to disturb wildlife or other visitors.
  3. Do not litter - use the rubbish bins provided.
  4. Pets are not allowed, except service animals.
  5. Smoking is prohibited throughout the gardens.

Photography/Video Policies

  1. Photography and video are allowed for personal use only. 
  2. Tripods or professional photography equipment are not permitted without prior permission.
  3. Do not photograph monks or visitors without their consent.
  4. Be cautious when taking photos near temples and religious sites.

By following these simple rules, you can ensure your visit is safe, enjoyable, and respectful for all. The friendly staff is happy to answer any questions you may have.

Local Food Recommendations

Just outside the gardens are also many excellent local restaurants to try. For the best Khmer barbecue in town, check out Khmer BBQ Restaurant, where you can grill marinated meats and seafood at your table. 

Down the street is the popular Sugar Palm Restaurant, serving traditional Cambodian cuisine in a beautiful wooden house. Don't miss their famous Fish Amok, a creamy coconut curry with fish, flavoured with lemongrass and kaffir lime.

For a modern take on Cambodian flavours, try the tasty small plates at Mie Cafe. The Krolan Beef Tartare and Kampot Pepper Squid are standouts. They also have craft cocktails and imported beers.

Tips for an Enjoyable Visit

Royal Independence Gardens is best experienced at a leisurely pace. Take time to wander and explore. Here are some tips to make the most of your visit:
  1. Arrive early in the morning or late afternoon to avoid the biggest crowds. The gardens are especially magical at sunrise or sunset when the light is soft.
  2. For unique perspectives, walk the perimeter and look inwards towards the heart of the gardens. You'll spot beautiful scenes framed by lush greenery. 
  3. Rent an audio guide to learn about the history and design elements as you stroll. Guides are available in several languages.
  4. Pack a picnic and have lunch on the lawns. There are several semi-secluded spots perfect for a meal with a view.
  5. Seek out the small side paths that branch off the main walkways. These lead to hidden gems like ponds, fountains and flower-filled alcoves.
  6. Bring a zoom lens for photography. You can capture great close-ups of exotic flowers and tropical birds from a distance.
  7. Visit on a weekday if possible, as weekends attract more crowds. Wednesday and Thursday mornings are ideal times.
  8. Don't rush! Allow 2-3 hours minimum to explore the gardens without feeling hurried. There is a lot of natural beauty to soak in.

Taking your time and avoiding peak hours will ensure a leisurely visit surrounded by the tranquillity of Royal Independence Gardens. Wandering slowly lets you discover its many charms.

As the sun begins its graceful descent, casting a golden hue over the Royal Independence Gardens in Siem Reap, one can't help but feel steeped in the tranquillity of this historic sanctuary. Enveloped in the lush embrace of age-old trees and the soft, melodious calls of the resident birds, the gardens offer a serene reprieve from the exhilaration of temple-hopping. It's a place where the past and present of Cambodia converge, inviting the discerning traveller to pause, reflect, and appreciate the quiet majesty of nature interwoven with the cultural heartbeat of this storied land.

To amble through these gardens is to walk in the footsteps of kings, to breathe in the heritage of Siem Reap, and to carry away a piece of its timeless spirit. And so, as we bid adieu to the gentle oasis of the Royal Independence Gardens, we carry its serene whispers and the knowledge that here, history lingers lovingly in the air, ready to greet us upon our return.

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