The Royal Palace (Khmer: ព្រះបរមរាជាវាំងនៃរាជាណាចក្រកម្ពុជា , Preah Barum Reachea Veang Nei Preah Reacheanachak Kampuchea), in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, is a complex of buildings which serves as the royal residence of the king of Cambodia. Its full name in the Khmer language is Preah Barum Reachea Veang Chaktomuk. The Kings of Cambodia have occupied it since it was built in 1860's, with a period of absence when the country came into turmoil during and after the reign of the Khmer Rouge.

The palace was constructed after King Norodom relocated the royal capital from Oudong to Phnom Penh in the mid-19th century. It was gradually built atop an old citadel called Banteay Kev. It faces towards the East and is situated at the Western bank of the cross division of the Tonle Sap River and the Mekong River called Chaktomuk (an allusion to Brahma).


The establishment of the Royal Palace at Phnom Penh in 1866 is a comparatively recent event in the history of the Khmer and Cambodia. The seat of Khmer power in the region rested at or near Angkor north of the Great Tonle Sap Lake from 802 AD until the early 15th century. After the Khmer court moved from Angkor in the 15th century after destroyed by Siam, it first settled in Phnom Penh which back then named as Krong Chatomok Serei Mongkol (Khmer: ក្រុងចតុមុខសិរីមង្គល) in 1434 (or 1446) and stayed for some decades, but by 1494 had moved on to Basan, and later Longvek and then Oudong.The capital did not return to Phnom Penh until the 19th century and there is no record or remnants of any Royal Palace in Phnom Penh prior to the 19th century. In 1813, King Ang Chan (1796–1834) constructed Banteay Kev (the 'Crystal Citadel') on the site of the current Royal Palace and stayed there very briefly before moving to Oudong. Banteay Kev was burned in 1834 when the retreating Siamese army razed Phnom Penh. It was not until after the implementation of the French Protectorate in Cambodia in 1863 that the capital was moved from Oudong to Phnom Penh, and the current Royal Palace was founded and constructed.

At the time that King Norodom (1860–1904) signed the Treaty of Protection with France in 1863, the capital of Cambodia resided at Oudong, about 45 kilometers northeast of Phnom Penh. Earlier in 1863 a temporary wooden Palace was constructed a bit north of the current Palace site in Phnom Penh. The first Royal Palace to be built at the present location was designed by architect Neak Okhna Tepnimith Mak and constructed by the French Protectorate in 1866. That same year, King Norodom moved the Royal court from Oudong to the new Royal Palace in Phnom Penh and the city became the official capital of Cambodia the following year. Over the next decade several buildings and houses were added, many of which have since been demolished and replaced, including an early Chanchhaya Pavilion and Throne Hall (1870). The Royal court was installed permanently at the new Royal Palace in 1871 and the walls surrounding the grounds were raised in 1873. Many of the buildings of the Royal Palace, particularly of this period, were constructed using traditional Khmer architectural and artistic style but also incorporating significant European features and design as well. One of the most unique surviving structures from this period is the Napoleon Pavilion which was a gift from France in 1876.

King Sisowath (1904–1927) made several major contributions to the current Royal Palace, adding the Phochani Hall in 1907 (inaugurated in 1912), and from 1913-1919 demolishing several old buildings, and replacing and expanding the old Chanchhaya Pavilion and the Throne Hall with the current structures. These buildings employ traditional Khmer artistic style and Angkorian inspired design, particularly in the Throne Hall, though some European elements remain. The next major construction came in the 1930s under King Monivong with the addition of the Royal Chapel, Vihear Suor (1930), and the demolition and replacement of the old Royal residence with the Khemarin Palace (1931), which serves as the Royal residence to this day. The only other significant additions since have been the 1956 addition of the Villa Kantha Bopha to accommodate foreign guests and the 1953 construction of the Damnak Chan originally installed to house the High Council of the Throne.

Buildings of the Royal Palace

The complex is divided by walls into three main compounds, on the north side is the Silver Pagoda, to the south side is the Khemarin Palace and the central compound contains the Throne Hall. The buildings of the palace were built gradually overtime, and some were dismantled and rebuilt as late as the 1960s. But some old buildings dates back to the 14th century.

Architecture and Area

The Royal Palace of Cambodia is a good example of Khmer architecture featuring its layout of the defensive wall (kampaeng), throne hall (preah tineang), Temple of the Emerald Buddha (Wat Preah Keo Morakot), stupas (chedei), towering spires (prang prasat) and mural paintings. The Royal Palace of Phnom Penh covers an area of 174,870 square metres (402m x 435m).

Throne Hall

The 'Preah Thineang Dheva Vinnichay or "Throne Hall" (Khmer: ព្រះទីនាំងទេវា​វិនិច្ឆ័យ) means the "Sacred Seat of Judgement."

The Throne Hall is where the king's confidants, generals and royal officials once carried out their duties. It is still in use today as a place for religious and royal ceremonies (such as coronations and royal weddings) as well as a meeting place for guests of the King. The cross-shaped building is crowned with three spires. The central, 59 meter spire is topped with the white, four-faced head of Brahma. Inside the Throne Hall contains a royal throne and busts of Cambodians kings of the past.This Throne Hall is the second to be built on this site. The first was constructed of wood in 1869-1870 under King Norodom. That Throne Hall was demolished in 1915. The present building was constructed in 1917 and inaugurated by King Sisowath in 1919. The building is 30x60 meters and topped by a 59-meter spire. As with all buildings and structure at the Palace, the Throne Hall faces east and is best photographed in the morning. When visiting note the thrones (Reach Balaing in front and Preah Tineang Bossobok higher at the back) and the beautiful ceiling frescoes of the Reamker.

Moonlight Pavilion

The Preah Thineang Chan Chhaya or "Moonlight Pavilion", is an open-air pavilion that serves as stage for Khmer classical dance in the past and present. It is one of the most notable buildings of the palace as it easily seen from the outside as it was built alongside a section of the palace walls. The Chan Chhaya Pavilion has a balcony that was used as a platform for viewing parades marching along Sothearos Boulevard of Phnom Penh. The current Pavilion is the second incarnation of the Chanchhaya Pavilion, this one constructed in 1913-14 under King Sisowath to replace the earlier wooden pavilion built under King Norodom. The current pavilion is of a similar design as the earlier version. The Chanchhaya Pavilion dominates the facade of the Palace on Sothearos Blvd. The Pavilion serves as a venue for the Royal Dancers, as a tribune for the King to address the crowds and as a place to hold state and Royal banquets. Most recently, the Pavilion was used for a banquet and a tribune for the new King at the 2004 coronation of King Norodom Sihamoni.

Silver Pagoda

The Silver Pagoda is a compound located on the South side of the palace complex. It features a royal temple officially called Preah Vihear Preah Keo Morakot but is commonly referred to as Wat Preah Keo. Its main building houses many national treasures such as gold and jeweled Buddha statues. Most notable is a small 17th century baccarat crystal Buddha (the "Emerald Buddha" of Cambodia) and a near-life-size, Maitreya Buddha encrusted with 9,584 diamonds dressed in royal regalia commissioned by King Sisowath. During King Sihanouk's pre-Khmer Rouge reign, the Silver Pagoda was inlaid with more than 5,000 silver tiles and some of its outer facade was remodeled with Italian marble.

Khemarin Palace

The Khemarin Palace is the common English name for a building called Prasat Khemarin or in Khmer meaning the "Palace of the Khmer King." It is used a residence by the King of Cambodia. This compound is separated from other buildings by a small wall and is located to the right of the Throne Hall. The main building is topped with a single spired prang.

Other structures

Other structures include a French-style iron building that was a gift from Napoleon III, Hor Samran Phirun, Hor Samrith Phimean, Damnak Chan, Phochani Pavilion, Khemarin Palace, Serey Monkol Palace, Villa Kantha Bopha, and some less significant buildings in area closed to the public.


The palace has various gardens with tropical flowers and plants, such as Allamanda cathartica, Couroupita guianensis and Jatropha integerrima.

The Royal Palace today

The Royal Palace has had some major modifications to its buildings over time; nearly all of the King Norodom era buildings have been demolished completely. The King's living area (closed to public) has also undergone big changes. In 1960s the Silver Pagoda has undergone a tremendous face-lift with its tiles replaced and buildings given new paint.

The palace has always been a popular tourist attraction in Phnom Penh. Visitors are able to wander around the Silver Pagoda compound and the central compound containing the Throne Hall and Chan Chhaya Pavilion. The King's living area, which actually takes up half of the total palace ground area, including Khemarin Palace, Villa Kantha Bopha, Serey Monkol Palace, royal gardens & ponds, and a number of less significant buildings and pavilions, is closed to the public.

  • Jeldres, Julio A (1999). The Royal Palace of Phnom Penh and Cambodian royal life. Post Books. p. 132 pages. ISBN 978-9742020477. 


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