Viroths Hotel Siem Reap has been named best hotel in the world again this week by Trip Advisor users in the travel site’s annual Traveller’s Choice awards for 2018. Curious as to what makes these hip lodgings so special they win two years in a row? Here’s the lowdown on Siem Reap’s most stylish boutique hotel.
Viroths Hotel Siem Reap tops the list of world’s best hotels yet again. For a second year running, the gorgeous mid-century modernist lodgings on a quiet cul-de-sac in Siem Reap’s emerging Wat Bo neighbourhood has been named #1 of 25 of the world’s best hotels for 2018 according to travel site Trip Advisor’s users. Siem Reap’s Shinta Mani Shack is #11 while Baby Elephant Boutique Hotel is #9 on the World’s top 25 Best Bargain Hotels list and #2 on Asia’s top 25 Best Bargain Hotels list.
Just last year, Viroths Hotel was named #1 hotel for 2017 of 25 World’s Best Hotels that included India’s opulent lake hotels, Umaid Bhawan Palace Jodhpur at #3 and The Leela Palace Udaipur at #13, along with legendary lodgings like Belmond Palacio Nazarenas in Cusco.
As a Siem Reap based travel writer who tested out Viroth’s Hotel and wrote about it soon after its 2015 opening, who continually sends friends, clients and readers to stay, and who drops by regularly (we live three blocks away, so I can vouch there are always icy-cold scented towels and cooling lemongrass tea on arrival, even for visitors not staying) – I’m absolutely delighted for the Viroths Hotel outstanding staff (Siem Reap’s best), owners Viroth and Fabien Martial, and Siem Reap, Cambodia, as a travel destination.
Viroths Hotel is easily Siem Reap’s hippest hotel and the Siem Reap hotel I recommend most, alongside Sala Lodges, Maison Polanka, Raffles Hotel Grand d’Angkor, and Templation. Viroth’s Hotel is easily one of Cambodia’s most stylish lodgings, along with Phnom Penh’s Maison d’Ambre and The Plantation.
And as Cambodia’s boutique hotels are hands down some of Asia’s best hotels – Bangkok, Singapore, Bali, and Saigon simply can’t compete with cool Cambodia style – this makes Viroths Hotel Siem Reap one of Asia’s best hotels. But is Viroth’s Hotel the world’s best hotel?
What Makes Viroths Hotel Siem Reap the World’s Best Hotel
Chic and sleek and set in a whitewashed mid-century modernist building dripping with greenery, with a drop-dead gorgeous palm-fringed swimming pool, breezy poolside café-bar and a more sophisticated glassed-in restaurant, Viroths Hotel Siem Reap is one of the city’s most head-turning hotels.
With just 35 rooms and suites with balconies and terraces, Viroth’s Hotel is a small hotel. Yet its super-spacious light-filled rooms and suites at 30-50 square metres are some of the largest of any boutique hotel in Siem Reap. They also have some of the biggest bathrooms, with sexy black tile showers and baths, and more retro touches in the terrazzo and louvred glass windows.
Better resembling petite studio apartments, the rooms are some of the most comfortable and welcoming in the city, with cushions scattered on the vintage-style sofas, flowers in vases, fruit in bowls, art on walls, piles of books on coffee tables, and decorative objects on shelves of the kind you’d find in a cultured friend’s home.
Designed by ASMA, one of Siem Reap’s hottest architectural firms, whose headquarters is directly opposite, Viroths Hotel was decorated by owner Fabien Martial with an eclectic mix of antiques and collectibles, art and crafts, vintage pieces and retro replicas. Expect to see anything from endearingly-battered well-travelled suitcases to Danish designer Verner Panton‘s funky moulded plastic S-shaped Panton Chairs.
The look and feel of Viroth’s Hotel has been much copied since its opening. Yet no matter how many other hotels attempt to mimic ASMA’s nod to Cambodia’s mid-century modernist movement of the late 1950s and 1960s known as New Khmer Architecture, and the retro eclecticism of Viroths Hotel’s otherwise minimalist interiors, few succeed. Because it’s near impossible to match the attention to detail, taste and style of Fabien Martial.
Fabien is the son of Jean-Pierre Martial, who in 1992 founded Siem Reap’s first vocational training school, Chantiers Ecoles, and step-son of Nathalie Saphon-Ridel, a woman of exquisite taste herself, who, having travelled Cambodia in the early Nineties making an inventory of artisans that survived the Khmer Rouge, joined her husband in transforming the school into Artisans d’Angkor, and reviving Cambodia’s traditional arts and crafts. Nathalie started Cambodia’s first carefully curated concept stores, Khmer Attitude (in 2000) and Galerie Cambodge (in 2010) and the couple transformed the family home into beautiful Maison Polanka hotel. Fabien, who grew up between Siem Reap and Paris, was surrounded by creativity and beauty. Viroth’s Hotel couldn’t have been anything but original.
Tucked down a quiet cul-de-sac off busy Wat Bo Road on Siem Reap’s Right Bank, east of the Siem Reap river, Viroth’s Hotel really is a hidden gem. The leafy, largely residential neighbourhood is rapidly emerging as one of Siem Reap’s most interesting neighbourhoods, and remains considerably more laid-back than the hectic city centre on the Left Bank. This has made Viroth’s Hotel something of a secret (until last year) for most visitors to Cambodia’s Temple Town, the vast majority of whom wouldn’t cross to the other side of the river unless staying there.
And that has been a shame, as some of Siem Reap’s loveliest cafés, restaurants, bars, and bakeries, along with art galleries, artisan’s workshops, and the city’s best arts and craft bazaar, the Made in Cambodia market, are located on the Right Bank. More recently, the emerging neighbourhood has been a magnet for some of Siem Reap’s best restaurants, such as The Sugar Palm, escaping the increasingly high rents of the city centre.
If Viroth’s Trip Advisor award brings more travellers to this quieter side of the river, it will be a bonus not only for the gorgeous boutique hotel that is so deserving of its global attention, but for the neighbourhood centred around historic Wat Bo pagoda, and Siem Reap’s Right Bank, which stretches all the way from Wat Damnak to Wat Polanka, that feels the pain more of fewer visitors during Cambodia’s low tourist season.
Thanks (or no thanks) to UNESCO World Heritage listed Angkor Wat, Siem Reap has a reputation as a busy tourist destination, bombarded with visitors for most of the year. The reality couldn’t be more different, which is why we work so hard to encourage people to travel better by travelling off-season, going off the beaten track and going local.
Hopefully Viroths Hotel’s second award and the incredible attention it will continue to receive will not only entice more people to visit Cambodia and Siem Reap, but it will inspire travellers to look beyond the big brand hotels, to venture to ‘the other side’ and discover local neighbourhoods, and to travel off season – that’s probably the only time of year you’re going to be able to book a room at Viroth’s Hotel anyway now!
Also worth noting: Angkor Wat was named #1 of of the World’s 25 Top Landmarks for 2018 too (it was #1 last year as well). Plaza de Espana in Seville, Spain, was named #2, Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque Centre in Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates was #3, St Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican #4, and the Mezquita Cathedral in Cordoba, Spain #5. Interesting that four out of five landmarks are spiritual sights. It’s not too different from last year’s, however, it’s still a fascinating list that I think says a lot about travellers.
Book Viroth’s Hotel Siem Reap online with our booking partner Booking.com
Can’t get into Viroths Hotel Siem Reap? Try Viroth’s Villa, Viroth and Fabian’s first boutique hotel in Siem Reap, and Siem Reap’s other Trip Advisor award winners, Shinta Mani Shack and Baby Elephant Boutique Hotel. Also see our guide to Where to Stay in Siem Reap for more of our recommended Siem Reap boutique hotels, all tried and tested.
UPDATED: 22 June 2018