Meet the coolest Siem Reap neighbourhood, Wat Bo Village on the east bank of Siem Reap River. Home to urban farm-to-table restaurants, convivial cafés and atmospheric bars, street food trucks and pop-up riverside bars, a spot of fab shopping, and a busy student quarter. Wat Bo Village is also the address of Miss Wong, Siem Reap’s best cocktail bar. Reason enough to make it your address on your next stay.
When I first published this guide to Wat Bo Village and declared Wat Bo ‘hip’ in my little Siem Reap piece in TIME magazine’s World’s Greatest Places 2021 and in A New Dawn for Angkor published in DestinAsian magazine in 2021, I had no idea Wat Bo Village would land at #3 on Time Out’s guide to the world’s coolest neighbourhoods published in late 2022 and so many visitors would be strolling our lively streets. Wat Bo Village is our address too.
So let’s get this straight so your expectations aren’t too high: it’s true that Wat Bo Village is a little pocket of cool in lovely Siem Reap and a fantastic base for your Siem Reap stay. But it’s a launching pad for something far cooler: Angkor Wat and Angkor Archaeological Park. Wat Bo Village is not the third coolest neighbourhood in the world, Wat Bo Village is not even the coolest neighbourhood in Asia.
But Wat Bo Village certainly has its charm and we love our little neighbourhood. Because it is little. It takes just 15 minutes to walk from one side of Wat Bo Village to the other if you walk slowly. You’d be hard-pressed to spend a whole day in Wat Bo Village, unless you spent half that day lying by the stunning swimming pool at Viroths or Treeline, reading a book at Footprints Cafe, or meditating with the monks at Wat Bo pagoda. Trust us. We live here.
Aside from living here, we’ve been writing about local travel and local neighbourhoods around the world, as well as local food, local people, and the whole idea of living like locals since January 2010 when we launched Grantourismo to advocate slow, local and experiential travel, and inspire you all to travel more slowly, more locally and more experientially. Siem Reap is the perfect place to do all of that. And Wat Bo Village is pretty cool.
Coolest Siem Reap Neighbourhood – Where to Stay, Shop, Eat and Drink in Wat Bo Village
Siem Reap is a city of villages and like the chic shopping quarter of Kandal Village before it, Wat Bo Village has quietly evolved into one of Siem Reap’s coolest neighbourhoods in recent years. Shaded by lofty trees, the leafy riverside, with its new walking paths and fairy-lights, is dotted with street food carts and pop-up bars. Tucked down narrow side streets are some of Siem Reap’s best restaurants, cocktail bars and cafés.
Wat Bo Road itself is peppered with noodle eateries, hot pot restaurants and smoky barbecue joints, and while the promising food truck scene is no longer, a handful of buzzy new local spots appealing primarily to Cambodians (signage only in Khmer) have opened in recent months.
It’s been a slow transformation, as it was back in early 2015 when I reported on ‘the birth of Cambodian cool’ at Kandal Village and Siem Reap’s East Bank Evolution for Cambodia’s national newspaper, the Phnom Penh Post. Until recently, Wat Bo neighbourhood was best known for the 18th century Buddhist monastery and pagoda, Wat Bo, its walls clad with wonderful 19th century murals.
By 2015, Kandal Village, centred on and around hip Hup Guan Street, had established itself as Siem Reap’s most stylish neighbourhood, boasting a dozen or so modish businesses, including Louise Loubatiere’s beautiful interiors shop, quirky concept store Trunkh, the excellent Little Red Fox Espresso café, and the lovely Sirivan boutique. In the years since, Kandal Village has been on every savvy travellers Siem Reap to-do list and remains Siem Reap’s hippest destination – on the west bank.
Over here on the east bank, Wat Bo Village was somewhere you passed through or headed to for a particular restaurant or café, such as Sugar Palm or Dialogue. Unlike Kandal Village, Wat Bo Village wasn’t a destination – until Siem Reap’s most atmospheric bar Miss Wong, hung up its red Chinese lanterns on Street 26 in 2020. Laundry Bar and Stewart on 26 followed, confirming Wat Bo Village’s status as Siem Reap’s coolest neighbourhood.
So here’s where to stay, eat, shop, and drink in Wat Bo Village, the coolest Siem Reap neighbourhood.
Published 18 October 2020; Updated 12 October 2022
Coolest Siem Reap Neighbourhood – Where to Stay, Shop, Eat and Drink in Wat Bo Village
Bordered by Siem Reap River to the west, National Highway 6 to the north, 7 Makara Street at the southern end, and Lok Taneuy Road to the east, Wat Bo Village was the accommodation district during the early days of Siem Reap’s development as a tourist destination in the 20th century.
The traditional wooden homes on the main thoroughfare of Wat Bo Road that served as Siem Reap’s first guesthouses have mostly been demolished in recent years, replaced by concrete hotels and apartment blocks, however, Wat Bo Village is still home to some architectural treasures, old and new, and new evoking old.
Viroth’s Villa dates to the 1960s while Viroth’s Hotel tips a hat to that period; cute Pages Rooms and Café is located in a renovated mid-century school; Banlle restaurant is set in a refashioned traditional wooden house; while Dialogue, Footprints and Miss Wong are located in remodelled shophouses. Khema is located in a new-ish building in the French-Colonial style, while contemporary Treeline is Siem Reap’s first proper design hotel.
Where to Stay in Wat Bo Village
If you can only stay in one hotel in the coolest Siem Reap neighbourhood, make it the coolest Wat Bo Village lodgings, the award-winning Viroth’s Hotel, voted the World’s Best Hotel several times. (If you’re a boutique hotel addict and have time, split your stay between all properties.) Owners Viroth Kol and Fabien Martial can be thanked for bringing travellers back to the ‘other’ side of the river when they opened Viroth’s on a quiet cul-de-sac off bustling Wat Bo Road in 2015.
Designed by Asma Architects, who established their headquarters across the road at Pages (which they remodelled into rooms, a café and design library), Viroth’s sleek vintage style was inspired by the clean lines and retro-cool interiors of the mid-century modernism of Cambodia’s Golden Age, when Phnom Penh was ‘the Pearl of the East’.
The work of iconic Cambodian architect Vann Molyvann was a key influence. There’s a breezy bar and lounge off the lobby overlooking a palm-lined 20-metre swimming pool, spacious suites decorated with idiosyncratic art and design objects, bathrooms with big terrazzo tubs, and balconies dripping with greenery.
Bonus: complimentary airport pick-up in vintage vehicles and staff who welcome guests back with icy-cold towels and tall glasses of chilled lemongrass tea. Street 24, Wat Bo Village.
Book Viroth’s Hotel online with our booking partner Booking.com
While Viroth’s Villa is often referred to as the ‘little sister’ to Viroth’s Hotel, the Villa is actually the casually-elegant ‘older aunty’ who has had a magnificent facelift. An original modernist building that originally opened as stylish 7-room lodgings back in 2007, Viroth’s Villa was closed in 2018 and given a marvellous makeover.
More low-key, a little less glam but still gorgeous, and even more retro than the Hotel, Viroth’s Villa is best suited to lovers of vintage style looking for a chilled stay. (The Hotel could get busy in pre-pandemic high seasons with one hundred percent occupancy, whereas even when the Villa is full it doesn’t feel it).
The light-filled rooms have more of a Mad Men vibe about them with their geometric-patterned velvet bedheads and voguish modernist furniture – book a Junior Suite with pool view – while the lobby, bar and restaurant feel even breezier.
As with the Hotel, the Villa menu features Cambodian and European favourites, from noodle soups and French croissants for breakfast to Asian-inspired cocktails and Champagne at the bar, which has a three-hour Happy ‘Hour’. Street 23, Wat Bo Village.
Book Viroth’s Villa online with our booking partner Booking.com
Located smack-bang on the riverside, Treeline was Siem Reap’s first contemporary design hotel with a sleek look and feel that feels all at once Cambodian and European, where the design hotel was born. It’s no surprise as the architect owner Hok Kang is also a founding partner in Brown Coffee and Bakery, Cambodia’s own home-grown Starbucks-style chain, only better – which explains why there’s a Brown café within the hotel.
Nature and art are the themes of Treeline, which features fifty pieces by local artists, including Sothea Thang, Sopheap Pich and Nov Cheanick. Crafted from palm leaves, seeds, pods, and stones, they hang in the public spaces and 48 rooms, which are decorated with handmade local furniture and ceramics by Siem Reap atelier Loyuyu. Bedside reading is a copy of The Hidden Life of Trees.
Most rooms have views of the stunning second-floor swimming pool from the window seat or balcony – along with the canopy of trees lining the river, best appreciated from a sun lounger or poolside Canopy Bar with a Cambodian-made Seekers Mekong Dry Gin with kaffir lime and delicious bar snacks.
Breakfast is memorable and room service very good. Rooms also have complimentary mini bars, a coffee machine, and plenty of snacks to nibble on from that window seat. Achasva Street (the riverside road), Wat Bo Village.
Book Treeline online with our booking partner Booking.com
Hidden behind whitewashed walls dripping with crimson bougainvillea on busy Wat Bo Road, Maison 557 is a chic little hideaway that’s been an anomaly in a city of larger boutique resorts, big luxury hotels and boisterous backpacker hostels.
Owners Joan Lejamble and Gauthier Andriantsitohaina and pug Austin have created a delightful 8-room bolthole with pretty rooms with four-poster beds, French-colonial touches such as grey shutters, and thoughtful extras like big floppy sun hats and woven bags to carry your book and suntan lotion to the poolside – and there are two swimming pools to choose from.
Maison 557 is dog-friendly (just bring your pup’s bedding), making it perfect for a Siem Reap staycation. 557 Wat Bo Road, Wat Bo Village.
Book Maison 557 online with our booking partner Booking.com
Where to Eat in Wat Bo Village
We’ve divided our Where to Eat in Wat Bo Village guide into Where to Breakfast, Where to Lunch, Where to Dine and Where to Graze on Street Food in Wat Bo Village.
Where to Breakfast in Wat Bo Village
Por Noodle Soup
For a quintessential Cambodian breakfast, head to Chep Por family’s noodle soup restaurant for a big bowl of piping-hot kuy teav with cha kway (Khmer for Chinese doughnuts or youtiao) and a Cambodian iced coffee, which is arguably one of Siem Reap’s best breakfasts.
Kuy teav is a clear flavourful soup that’s generally made with pork and beef bone broth, dried rice noodles (not the fresh rice noodles that you find in nom banh chok), and your choice of pork, chicken, cooked and rare beef, offal, and/or blood cake, to which you add condiments.
Old-timers typically add little else but chopped chillies, but you can squeeze in some fresh lime juice, add a dollop of chilli paste, or a squirt of fish sauce, soy sauce or chilli sauce. So good! While you’ll find kuy teav sold all over the city, this is where you’ll find the best kuy teav in Siem Reap as far as we’re concerned.
Not only is it the best, it’s also the oldest kuy teav joint. The late Chep Por opened the first noodle soup stall after the Khmer Rouge period, before moving to a modest eatery (now gone) across the road from the current smarter location at the Kings Road Angkor complex. It is still ran by old Chep Por’s lovely family. Open daily; early mornings are best, when locals fill the place. 7 Makara Road, Wat Bo Village.
Arguably one of Siem Reap’s best bakeries – as you’d expect with a French baker in the kitchen – Paris Bakery is a boulangerie, patisserie, café, and deli in one. There are traditional French baguettes that make you want to buy a dozen, don a beret, hop on a bicycle, and munch right into one on the way home.
We also love the country bread loaves, soft sweet brioche, buttery croissants, perfect macarons in tropical flavours such as lime, passionfruit and coconut, decadent cakes, homemade quiches, and imaginative desserts of the like you’d find in Michelin-starred restaurants in Paris.
Café specials include classics, such as a couscous royale, roast chicken, and a wonderful beef Bourguignon with a rich sauce and melt-in-your-mouth beef, and there’s a decent wine list.
There are occasional Saturday-night 4-course degustation dinners that might include anything from a starter of a savoury beetroot macaron, handmade shrimp ravioli, succulent beef ribeye, and a deconstructed cheesecake with tropical fruit for dessert, for US$25 per person. Check their Facebook page for upcoming dates. Wat Bo Road, corner of Street 26, Wat Bo Village.
Where to Lunch in Wat Bo Village
Banlle means ‘vegetable’ in Khmer and this relaxed farm-to-table restaurant in a renovated wooden house offers affordable European and Cambodian vegetarian and vegan food. While dining for breakfast or lunch in the minimalist light-filled dining room is a delight for the opportunity to enjoy garden views and tour the compact organic urban farm, the menu is focused on casual café-style food.
Choose from noodle soups and sandwiches to French-style quiches and salads, along with vegetarian takes on Cambodian classics, such as vegetable amok (the steamed curry usually made with fish) and a vegetarian kor ko, a hearty vegetable-driven soup that normally includes river fish and pork.
In the kitchen is the Cambodian owner, chef Pola Siv of Mie Café fame – a fine dining restaurant offering degustation menus of inventive modern Cambodian food – which is why I prefer dining in the evening when the chef also offers are more interesting set menu.
Call ahead to book and ask for the set menu and let the chef do his thing – when you do, ask if the lime pie is on. Banlle is open Wednesday to Monday for breakfast, lunch, and dinner from 5-9.15pm (last sitting). Street 26, Wat Bo Village.
You would not know that Siem Reap’s street food queen Tevy lost much of her family during the tragic Khmer Rouge genocide in the late 1970s as she is always smiling. Tevy’s modest Cambodian restaurant began life as a humble street food stall behind Wat Damnak, which was a popular street food destination for locals before authorities cleared the stalls.
Motivated by a loyal customer and friend Cecil (who perhaps secretly didn’t want to lose his favourite street food spot!), Tevy took her delicious Cambodian food from the street to this welcoming all-women ran restaurant on Street 26, but maintained street food prices.
It’s been a favourite with locals, expats and tourists ever since. Expect the usual Cambodian street food classics, such as lok lak (stir fried pepper beef with rice), grilled pork ribs, stir-fried squid, fried noodles, fried rice, and spring rolls, along with European dishes, such as steak and chips, lasagne, salads, and toasted sandwiches.
Tevy also does generous breakfasts – everything from smashed avocado on toast, all kinds of eggs, and even baked beans with toast – along with healthy juices. Prices start from as little as $1! Open 7am-9pm daily. Tevy’s Place, Street 26, Wat Bo Village.
Where to Dine in Wat Bo Village
The Sugar Palm
Cambodian-born chef Kethana Dunnett and her New Zealand-born restaurateur husband Bruce Dunnett reopened The Sugar Palm, pictured above, in a striking new space on Street 27 just over six years ago, after establishing it as one of the best Siem Reap restaurants for traditional home-style Cambodian cooking in its former Taphul Road location.
Over the years, Kethana has been the go-to experts for chefs of the likes of Gordon Ramsay and Luke Nguyen when they’ve been in Cambodia filming culinary travel series. Once you dine at the Sugar Palm, you’ll understand why. Kethana grew up in a well-to-do home in Phnom Penh in the Golden Age of the 1950s and 1960s before moving to New Zealand on a scholarship in the late Sixties, and her rich cuisine, based on the recipes of her mother and grandmother, reflects the food of urbane Cambodians at the time.
Sugar Palm’s takes on prahok k’tis, a more-ish minced pork and fermented fish dip, and amok trei, a sublime steamed fish curry with a mousse-like texture, are the richest and most delicious renditions of these beloved Cambodian favourites you’ll try in the country. This is food meant to be shared so also order the shrimp and pomelo salad, smoked eggplant with minced pork, and Cambodian chicken curry.
While Sugar Palm may not have a vegetable garden beside it, this is a farm-to-table restaurant in that much of the produce is grown on the farm at Kethana and Bruce’s Banteay Srei home. The Sugar Palm is currently open for dinner from Tuesday to Sunday. Street 27, Wat Bo Village.
If you need a change from Cambodian food, the next most obvious cuisine to sample in Siem Reap is French. The city has fine French bakeries, cafes, restaurants, and bars thanks to Siem Reap’s population of French-Cambodians, French expatriates and Cambodians who emigrated, studied or worked in France.
If you only try one French restaurant, make it Khéma Angkor, a sophisticated brasserie, deli, bakery, and wine shop on the riverside that’s a delight for lunch or dinner. The menu features French bistro standards and European classics and they’re all superb.
We love starting with the charcuterie plate with rustic house-made terrines, pâtés and cold cuts, and the fantastic beef carpaccio or salmon gravalax followed by the steak-frites café de Paris (for me). Terence will opt for a pan-fried entrecôte in a béarnaise sauce or Toulouse sausage with potato purée, or perhaps one of the European specialties, such as the beef Wellington or Milanese.
If you’re dining solo or only ordering a dish or two, order the steak-frites café de Paris, a perfectly-cooked sliced steak doused in a buttery Café de Paris sauce made with garlic, mustard, anchovies, and herbs, served over a flame. Heaven. Whatever you order, don’t miss dessert: the lemon tart is sublime but the classic profiteroles and cheesecake are also special.
They also have themed nights; expect anything from tapas to raclette. Open daily for lunch and dinner. Khéma Angkor, Riverside, Wat Bo Village.
(Update: Embassy has just moved to the Old French Quarter; We’ll be adding a guide to that neighbourhood very soon.)
While Sugar Palm gives you a taste of the past, Embassy offers a sample of the kind of imaginative contemporary Cambodian cuisine being created by a younger generation of chefs. Ran by an all-women team in the kitchen and front-of-house, Embassy was long-led by executive chefs Kimsan Pol and Kimsan Sok*, who staged at Michelin-starred restaurants in France, including that of Régis Marcon’s Le Clos des Cimes, which has held three stars since 2005.
At Embassy, the two women collaborated on monthly 7-course gastronomic menus (for an incredible US$36) which change according to the seasons and availability of produce. While French-influenced in terms of technique and plating, the chefs’ cuisine is distinctly Cambodian, each dish inspired by local specialties and seasonal ingredients.
Expect elegant plating, inventive takes on traditional favourites, a decent wine list, easily the best service of any fine dining restaurant in Siem Reap, and an overall delightful evening. Note, however, that the Kimsans are currently heading a Phnom Penh restaurant, however, much of their old team remain in the kitchen. Embassy is open for dinner only Wednesday to Sunday. Street 27, Kings Road Angkor, Wat Bo Village.
Where to Eat Street Food in Wat Bo Village
Aside from the many street food stalls, mobile food carts and casual street food eateries dotted around Wat Bo Village, there are a couple of stand-out spots, which we’ll be adding here very soon.
Where to Drink in Wat Bo Village
From book cafes, student coffee shops, cocktail bars, and dive bars, there’s no shortage of spots to sip in Wat Bo Village.
While Siem Reap lost a few of its fine cafés this year, including Wat Bo Village favourite, Artillery, fortunately social enterprise café Footprints reopened and its Cambodian team is still serving up fab food, coffee and literature in a lovely inviting book-lined space that inspires you to linger.
One of a couple of book cafés in town that are all the more appreciated since Monument Books closed at the start of the pandemic (the other is New Leaf across the river), you can happily spend an hour or two here sipping, nibbling and browsing, all the while knowing that money spent is going to a fund managed by the on-site staff that provides education scholarships to disadvantaged young Cambodians and supports the work of reputable local NGOs.
You can also be confident that the coffee is good. Footprints has produced a National Cambodian Barista competition finalist in manager Pheakdey Yon. Alongside the coffee, juices, smoothies, teas, and coffees, there are generous all day breakfasts, snacks and lunch favourites, from eggs Florentine and three eggs omelettes to cheese toasties and salads, including a fantastic Cambodian green mango and smoked fish salad. Footprints Cafe, Street 26, Wat Bo Village.
Retro-cool Dialogue is one of those rare café-bars that manage to straddle both coffee shop and cocktail-sipping spot, as well as (perhaps even rarer) equally appeal to Cambodians and expats (and pre-coronavirus, tourists).
That’s perhaps because the owners are Cambodian barista champion Seng Piseth – who is equally adept at making an espresso as he is a negroni – and Australian Jake Stalker, former manager of Footprints café, above, and Southeast Asian tour company, Grasshopper Adventures.
And like another of Siem Reap’s best cafés, Little Red Fox Espresso over in Kandal Village, Dialogue does great coffee, good bites, cool music, and is community-minded, which are the keys to success in a small city such as Siem Reap.
While you could kickstart your morning in the coolest Siem Reap neighbourhood with a coffee at Footprint, you could have a late afternoon caffeine hit cum pick-me-up here before a pre-dinner cocktail. And whether you’re strolling down the street to Sugar Palm or wandering over to Banlle or Embassy, you don’t have far to go, and – bonus – Miss Wong is on the way! Dialogue Cafe, Street 27, Wat Bo Village.
One of the most heartbreaking Siem Reap business closures at the beginning of the pandemic was that of the original Miss Wong bar, hidden down a narrow lane parallel to touristy Pub Street – which is why we all did a dance when owner Dean Williams and manager Rosso and their team of Cambodia’s finest bartenders hung up their lanterns on Street 26 and re-opened in Wat Bo Village.
While there have been a few changes – the scarlet walls have been replaced by teal blue (matching Miss Wong’s sister-bar in Battambang), there’s more outdoor seating on the front and back terraces, and on Sunday there’s a pianist and cocktail specials – some of the things we’ve long loved haven’t changed.
Expect Miss Wong’s famously heady cocktails (my rose and lemongrass martinis are still on the menu), craft beers, and dim sum, including Dean’s pillowy steamed bao with barbecue pork, along with the same warm welcoming service. All of which earned Miss Wong a spot on the inaugural World’s 50 Best Discovery list.
Now located in what was Kethana and Bruce Dunnet’s FLOW bar, adjacent to Footprints café and opposite Banlle, Miss Wong can be credited with making a destination out of Wat Bo Village and making it the coolest Siem Reap neighbourhood. Let’s toast to that. Miss Wong cocktail bar, Street 26, Wat Bo Village, 5pm-late.
Where to Shop in Wat Bo Village
It’s true hidden gems such as Oko Gallery, tucked down Street 24, diagonally opposite Viroth’s Hotel that make Wat Bo the coolest Siem Reap neighbourhood for me.
Opened by the owners of Viroth’s because guests kept asking where they procured some of the treasures that decorate the hotel’s rooms and public spaces, Oko boasts a carefully curated collection of exquisite handicrafts.
The baskets are some of the most beautifully made I’ve seen during my years in Cambodia. You can also expect locally made ceramics and pottery, handwoven textiles, interior décor and design objects, chic accessories, and striking art sourced in Cambodia and beyond. Oko Gallery, Street 24, Wat Bo Village.
Made in Cambodia Market (Update: Moved to the French Quarter)
The Made in Cambodia Market is a one-stop-shop for locally-made gifts, art, crafts, textiles, clothes, jewellery, and accessories. Many of the stalls are operated by locally-based NGOs and social enterprises that support disadvantage communities or ethical independent designers and artists, so you know your money is going to a good cause or you’re supporting a local artist, craftsperson or designer.
Great buys include handwoven shawls, throws and blankets made in a weaving village near Siem Reap, cool clutch purses, laptop covers and wallets made from recycled rice bags and cement bags; and jewellery and accessories made from soft-drink can ring pulls.
There’s often entertainment in the evenings and other fine shops to browse in the Kings Road Angkor complex where the market – and Embassy restaurant – are located. Allow at least an hour to browse and please don’t leave empty handed. Your support is greatly needed at this challenging time. The market is currently only open on Friday, Saturday and Sunday from 11am-7pm. Made in Cambodia Market, corner of Street 27 and Achasva Street (the riverside road), Wat Bo Village.
If you found our guide to Wat Bo Village useful, I have a favour to ask: Grantourismo is reader-funded. If you’ve enjoyed our content on the site, please consider supporting Grantourismo. You could make a small donation to our epic original Cambodian cuisine history and cookbook on Patreon or use our links next time you’re planning a trip to book accommodation, rent a car, buy travel insurance, or book a tour on Get Your Guide.
Another option is to buy something on Amazon, such as these James Beard award-winning cookbooks, cookbooks by Australian chefs, classic cookbooks for serious cooks, cookbooks for culinary travellers, travel books to inspire wanderlust, or gifts for Asian food lovers, picnic lovers and travellers who love photography. We may earn a small commission but you won’t pay extra.
Do let us know if you stay, eat or sip in the coolest Siem Reap neighbourhood. We’d love to know what you think of Wat Bo Village.
Disclaimer: this post contains hotel affiliate links that may earn us a small commission if you make a booking.