Founded in the 11th century by the Khmer Empire, Battambang is well known for being the leading rice-producing province of the country. For nearly 100 years, it was a major commercial hub of Siam's Eastern Provinces, though it was always populated by Khmer with a mix of ethnic Vietnamese, Lao, Thai and Chinese. Still today Battambang is the main hub of the Northwest connecting the entire region with Phnom Penh and Thailand, and as such it’s a vital link to Cambodia.
The city is situated by the Sangkae River, a tranquil, small body of water that winds its way through Battambang Province providing its nice picturesque setting. As with much of Cambodia, the French Colonial architecture is an attractive bonus of the city. It is home to some of the best preserved French colonial architecture in the country.
Battambang was established as an important trading city with around 2,500 residents in the 18th century. They lived mostly along a single road parallel to the Sangkae River (Stung Sangkae). In 1795 Thailand, then Siam, annexed much of northwestern Cambodia including the provinces of Battambang and Siem Reap. The Siamese Abhaiwongse family ruled Battambang as the governor for six generations which lasted until 1907 when the province was ceded to the French to be part of their Indochina colony.
Following the colonization of the French in Battambang the colonial administration developed an urban layout which enlarged the size of the French colonial town. In the first time development, they constructed a grid pattern of well-defined streets, put in the urban structures and built three main streets parallel to the Sangker River, connected the both side with two bridges in 1917. Military purposes and prison infrastructures were erected inside the compound. 19 years later, a second urban development plan was created with a newly constructed railway linked from Battambang to Phnom Penh. The urban structure was extended to the west of the town, featuring some important urban axes orienting on the railway station. Many outstanding buildings like residential villas and significant public buildings were constructed during that period. According to the third urban development plan for Battambang, a large extension was planned for the north, east and south of the city. The urban layout was technically planned and required long-term thinking to create an urban axis corresponding to the existing urban layout from the former period. Battambang grew as a modern provincial capital, and became the most developed part of all provinces in Cambodia.
Several large infrastructures and public facilities were built under the modernization program of the Cambodian government under Prince Sihanouk. Several provincial departments, the court house and other public administrations were set up on both sides of the river. Textile and garment factories were built by French and Chinese investors, the Battambang Airport was constructed, and the railway line was developed to reach Poipet. Numerous schools and a university were built. A sports centre, museum and an exhibition hall were constructed to serve the cultural needs of the growing population.