Siem Reap, like Phnom Penh, boasts plenty of cool cafés and bars, whether it’s for a coffee and pastry to kickstart the day, a cold beer to quench the thirst, or a heady cocktail to sip after the sun goes down. There are so many options – these are just our favourites, below – that it’s easy to avoid going to the tourist nightlife ghetto that is Pub Street.
Aside from our picks below, in the Old Market area you could also try the light, airy colonial style Cafe Central and newer Sun Cafe, bohemian Laundry Bar and intimate Picasso on Alley West for glasses of vino and cold beers, alfresco bar-cum-casual restaurant Nest on Sivutha Boulevard for cocktails, and gay-friendly Linga Bar, complete with drag shows, on The Passage, if you’re up for a wild one. Below is our guide to Siem Reap’s best cafes and bars.
Siem Reap’s Best Cafes and Bars
Café de la Paix *
Boasting minimalist Scandi-style décor, this contemporary light-filled café at chic Hotel de la Paix is a favourite breakfast spot of Siem Reap’s expats. While the café serves up arguably the best coffee in town, along with European-style pastries, yoghurt and fruit, and hearty hot breakfasts, it also keeps fans happy at lunchtime too with filled bagels, pita wraps, sandwiches, pizza and the like. Everything is baked fresh on the premises by the local chef with the lovely smile in the photo gallery above. Sivutha Boulevard, Siem Reap
Art Deli *
This boho, shabby-chic style art café, in a 1920’s French-colonial building, slap-bang in the heart of Alley West (see this post) is ideally located for a quick pick-me-up if the shopping and heat are taking their toll. The café has pretty blue shutters, seating and coffee table out front, an art gallery of sorts inside, and upstairs a homely multimedia library and lounge space with WiFi. There’s a section called the ‘grocery’, where you can browse affordable art to buy (for as little as 99c!) while you sip your espresso. If you need to refuel, the focus is on healthy, organic food with an Italian influence. Alley West, Siem Reap
Known locally as ‘the FCC’ or ‘FCC Angkor’ (there’s also one in Phnom Penh), this splendid Art Deco building opposite the river was once the French Governor’s mansion. There’s a stylish little hotel out back and chic boutiques on the ground floor, but you’re here for a cold drink, so head upstairs and snag a table on the breezy veranda or in the airy colonial bar inside. The glasses of wine and beer are reasonably priced, especially during the early evening happy hour. They have a full menu, however, we only tried the snacks – fresh spring rolls, satay sticks, and salt and pepper calamari – which were all just fine. Pokambor Avenue, Siem Reap www.fcccambodia.com
Café of Forgotten Dreams *
From the FCC Angkor, it’s a pleasant stroll along the riverbank during the cooler months or a short tuk-tuk ride during the steamy season to 1961, an avant-garde art gallery, artists’ retreat and performance space in a 1960s villa that is home to the funky Café of Forgotten Dreams. You can get a coffee, cold beer, glass of wine or 60s-inspired cocktail here, and if you’re peckish, you can try some of the retro-Khmer dishes being served up that are based on traditional home-style Cambodian cuisine. Love the vibe of this place! River Road, Siem Reap
Arts Lounge *
While this hip Bill Bensley-designed lounge bar at the Hotel de la Paix seemed popular with visitors seeking some air-conditioned comfort in the middle of the day, the bar takes on a completely different – and very cool – atmosphere after dark, when the illuminated cocktail bar continually changes colours. There are plenty of low sofas around to get comfy in, and wonderful Cambodian art to browse on the walls, courtesy of the resident-curator Sasha Constable (yes, she’s an ancestor of the great John Constable!) Sivutha Boulevard, Siem Reap
This elegant low-key bar on the first floor of the traditional, Cambodian-style main building of the elegant La Residence d’Angkor is the spot for a post-dinner cocktail, whether you’re staying at the hotel or not. Furnished with low-slung bamboo sofas and overlooking the pool, the bar has open sides meaning there’s often a cool breeze. Call ahead to find out when happy hour is. River Road, Siem Reap www.residencedangkor.com
This exotic, dimly lit, red space, decorated with Chinese lanterns and umbrellas, could be a moody set from a Wong Kar Wai film with its nostalgic old Shanghai vibe. Easily the most atmospheric and most seductive bar in Siem Reap, it’s perfect for either a pre- or post-dinner drink, or on weekends, a bit of a party. Miss Wong also delivers the most deliciously potent cocktails in town. Our favourites? The refreshing Lemongrass Collins is ideal for sipping on sticky evenings or after a sweaty day exploring the ruins. The fragrant Apricot and Kaffir Lime Martini – made from liquors infused on the premises – has a delightful sweet and sour taste combination, while the Indochine Martini, made from ginger, vodka and cognac, is zingy and heady. I loved the China White best of all – comprised of jasmine tea syrup, lychees, gin, and cinzano, it’s fresh and exotic – Siem Reap in a glass! On a tiny alley called The Lane behind Pub Street; if you arrive from Pithnou Street, the bar is on your left. Call if you can’t find it: 092 428 332. Miss Wong on Facebook.
Little Pari *
Just down the lane from Miss Wong, this bright, light, minimalist bar, opened by a local Cambodian woman, seemed to be attracting the town’s hipsters. We didn’t have time to try it before we left unfortunately, however, we have it on good advice that with its cool jazz soundtrack it is worth checking out. Let us know what you think if you get here. One block along the alley from Miss Wong; ask Miss Wong’s bar staff to point you in the right direction.
Have you been to Siem Reap? What are your favourite drinking spots? Feel free to share your tips with our readers in the Comments below.
Update Jan 2014:
We moved back to Siem Reap in June 2013 and found lots has changed. Hotel de la Paix, which was closed for renovation when we arrived reopened in late 2013 as a Park Hyatt and with a new cafe and bar. Little Pari has closed and owner Pari has opened a lovely new bar around the corner in an atmospheric house called Asana. The owner of 1961, Loven Ramos has closed his artist’s retreat and Cafe of Forgotten Dreams for renovation, along with Art Deli. We’ll be updating this guide soon.