In the northeast of the city, set back just a few hundred metres from the riverfront, the imposing white chedi of Wat Phnom sits atop the hill that gave the city its name. This is one of the principal pleasure-spots for the inhabitants of Phnom Penh, drawing the crowds especially at weekends and on public holidays. Before climbing the hill (which is just 27m high), you can either buy your ticket from the payment booth or a roving guard will inevitably approach you for cash once you reach the top. The nicest way up the hill is by the naga staircase on the east side, passing bronze friezes (depicting scenes of battle) and dancing apsaras (reproductions of bas-reliefs at Angkor Wat) on the way.
The sanctuary on the summit has been rebuilt many times, most recently in 1926, and nothing remains of the original structures. The surrounding gardens were originally landscaped in the late nineteenth century by the French, who also installed a zoo (of which nothing remains) and the clock on the south side of the hill, restored for the Millennium, with a dial that glows in fluorescent colours at dusk.