Phnom Penh has more than its fair share of bars and clubs. Way more than its fair share. You won’t be able to walk out the door without running into a watering hole or three, but here are some of our favorites.
Known for cheap drink, great tunes, and late nights, Zeppelin is a Phnom Penh institution, run by a grumpy Taiwanese man who boasts a formidable scowl and a large collection of classic rock records. The owner, Jun, isn’t always behind the decks, as he was in days of yore, but the place hasn’t lost its dive-bar ambience.
It bills itself as a “dive bar,” but Malaman bar and tattoo parlor is far too polished to truly qualify. With $0.75 draft beer and $2 cocktails, though, Malaman hits the right price point and the place is popular with bargain hunters, backpackers, and English teachers. The menu is filled with similarly inexpensive Japanese-Korean dishes, including an excellent fried chicken appetizer for just $2 and hearty meals for under $4.
Blue Dragon is a French-owned bar with an unbeatable location, looking out over Phnom Penh’s Royal Palace. This bistro serves wine and cocktails (and beer if you insist) and has a definite European sensibility. Choose the outdoor seating and enjoy views of the palace, and have a chat with the friendly owner, Geoff, and with some of the expats and accidental tourists who frequent the place.
Although Garage Bar is now owned by a Brit, it remains an American-style spot known for its excellent sous vide burgers and its great soundtrack — and willingness to let patrons make requests and even DJ. Just off the Riverside promenade, Garage Bar offers a welcome respite from the neighboring girly bars. It’s a great place to meet other expats and the occasional tourist who wanders in.
If you want to get within spitting distance of the trendy bars of Tonle Bassac without the commensurate prices, head to Red Bar on Street 308. This upmarket dive bar often has live music and sells $1 beers and $10 jugs of frozen margaritas, making it a good choice for a cheap drink. And if you can’t get a table at the always-packed Piccolo Pizzeria next door, Red Bar will allow you to bring your pizza in there as well as sell you some cold beers to wash it down with.
Rehabb Public House is a swanky bar and restaurant that’s been fully outfitted to a standard not seen in most of Phnom Penh’s watering holes. There’s even a proper pool table. The place is a popular hangout for expats who spend most of their time drinking beer, but Rehabb also serves great cocktails. It’s run by a Canadian-Thai couple who have brought in the Thai mother-in-law to cook, and you’ll find some of the best Thai food in town on their menu.
Penthouse on the corner of Street 278 and 51 offers breezy rooftop views over Wat Lanka and some of the cheapest happy hour drinks in BKK1, with $2 cocktails and $0.50 beers from 4 p.m. until 7 p.m. Popular with backpackers, expats, and locals, the bar also serves a selection of frozen drinks and Cambodian food.
With the untimely demise of both Slur and Equinox, Sharky’s is back to being Phnom Penh’s leading live music venue. Slick sports bar Slur had to close its doors despite its impressive array of flat-screen TVs and premium imported beers, and scratch-free pool table. Sharky Bar has none of these things, but it’s still very much in business. It’s quintessentially Phnom Penh, a massive run-down dive bar filled with bargirls and lonely old men, but it does have character, cheap beer, and a great Cali-Mexican menu. Open since 1993, it bills itself as “Indochine’s longest-running rock n’ roll bar” and offers live music from local bands several times a week.
Described as an “artsy dive bar,” Showbox is a favored hangout among Phnom Penh’s artists and musicians. Showbox’s days of live music are no longer, but it still host events such as open mic, trivia night, drink and draw, and spoken word night. There’s an art gallery upstairs and the place attracts a mixed crowd of expats and locals, young and old.
Wine and cocktail bars
Tucked away in an alley off Street 240, Bar Sito gives the impression of being the hidden lair of Phnom Penh’s cocktail cognoscenti. Self-styled as a speakeasy, the space is minimalist but swank, with underlit leather banquettes, exposed brick, and dark wooden accents. The make-out level lighting and inoffensive hotel-electro tunes invite hushed conversation, but the place picks up in late evening, when it becomes a favorite hipster hangout. The cocktails are surprisingly good and strong — the negroni and mint julep are excellent — and they have a terrific wine list, too.
Metro Hassakan is a chi-chi Riverside restaurant that serves Asian fusion tapas-style dishes and at night morphs into a trendy cocktail bar. Popular with fashionable locals and well-heeled foreigners, Metro is known for its cocktails, including an excellent lychee martini, but it also has a nice selection of wines by the bottle or glass and generous pours.
Zino Wine Bar is one of the few places in Phnom Penh that’s serious about wine. The Australian owner keep his bottles in an air-conditioned storage room and uses temperature-controlled coolers to help the precious bottles withstand the tropical climate. You’ll find more than a 100 different wines available by the bottle and at least 20 by the glass. Wine is served at the optimal temperature for its varietal, a far cry from the usual ice-cube-in-a-glass-of-red you’ll find elsewhere in Cambodia. Zino also serves a selection of Mediterranean-inspired dishes that will, of course, call for a few glasses of wine to wash it all down.
Just along from Bar Sito is the new Alley Bar, a French-owned establishment tucked away on Street 240½. The cosmopolitan Euro interior matches its patrons, who go to enjoy live music and DJs, art shows, and happy hours with 50%-off cocktails. Alley Bar also has Tiger on tap, a nice selection of wines, and a menu of tapas nibbles and Asian-European fusion fare.
Located in a beautifully restored colonial-era building, Tepui is the perfect place to start off a night out with a glamorous decoction. Upstairs is the restaurant; downstairs there’s a lounge with lots of room to observe or mingle with Phnom Penh’s beautiful people, or to enjoy Tepui’s regular photo and art exhibitions.
French-owned wine and and cocktail bar Bouchon is an old favorite with Phnom Penh expats, who head there for after-work drinks. Bouchon has an extensive array of French wines (check the list of Bordeauxs) available by the bottle or glass. The menu features a selection of light nibbles, including charcuterie, foie gras, and an excellent cheese plate. The martinis are the standout, though, with flavors ranging from cucumber to coffee. Saturday nights are “Martini Disco Night,” with a live DJ spinning the best of nu-disco and half-priced vodka martinis from 8 p.m. until 10 p.m.
A cross between a wine, cocktail, and coffee bar, French-owned Chez Flo is a small, stylish bistro with smooth concrete walls, quirky bare bulbs hanging over the bar, and staff that wear striped Breton shirts. There are only five cocktails on the menu, including a mojito (called the “Flojito”) and the Medina, the first cocktail we’ve seen in Cambodia made with egg whites. (We’re finally catching up with the rest of the world!) On the last Friday of the month Chez Flo has a special oyster night, with oysters on the half shell going for $7.50 for 6 or $13.50 for 12. If you’re after oysters get there early, as they often sell out.
Just next door to Chez Flo is The Watering Hole, which bills itself as Phnom Penh’s first milkshake bar. They’ve got all the classics, but what sets them apart is their menu of alcoholic milkshakes. Delicious or disgusting? It’s your call, but they’ve got flavors ranging from Nutella Irish cream to Kahlua Baileys Oreo. For those who are lactose intolerant, they also have more than a dozen cocktails.
If you’ve got friends in from out of town, or you’re from out of town yourself, it’s almost obligatory to head up to Le Moon Bar on top of the Amanjaya Hotel. The views are some of the most stunning in town, taking in the Royal Palace, the Buddhist temple Wat Ounalom, and the famous Tonle Sap river. There’s probably no better place in town to enjoy the stunning Phnom Penh sunset as it turns the skies over the river pink and purple.
Chez Rina is a small and stylish cocktail bar near the river and close to the main post office. In addition to excellent drinks and impeccable service, Chez Rina boasts great aesthetics. It used to be part of a colonial-era hotel, and although the hotel is gone, this small part remains, lovingly restored and with many of the original features, including the ceramic floor tiles.
Che Culo is a new Australian-owned bar and it shows. The owners aren’t your crusty old-time sort of Australian, but part of the new wave of tattooed Australians who source everything locally, go for a modern, quirky style and ironic names (Che culo! means “lucky bastard” in Italian), and make a mean cocktail. The Mediterranean-themed restaurant serves tapas-style dishes and every day from 5 p.m. until 7 p.m. the bar offers happy-hour specials on different cocktails, such as the Kampot pepper margarita and the coffee-flavored El Caffe Negroni.
Bassac Lane is a collection of tiny, trendy bars owned by two brothers who’ve created their very own Pub Street. (They’re the same guys behind Bar Sito). It’s hipster central here, and the bars are popular even though they can feel out of place in Phnom Penh and completely contrived. One gets the sense that they had a list of hipster-bar features and constructed the “vision” for each of their establishments by picking a few at random out of a hat. “Okay, this one is going to look like a library and serve daiquiris!” (The Library). “This one is going to have an insect theme and serve herb-infused gin!” (Cicada) “This one will be biker-themed and serve burgers!” (Hangar 44). What’s fun about the bars of Bassac Lane is that they are each so minuscule that if you go with a group you can take over the whole place.
Doors, more than a cocktail bar, teeters on the brink of being a club. The chic space is covered in graffiti-inspired murals and has a modern, industrial look that’s meant to appeal to Phnom Penh’s hipsters. The strategy seems to be working, and despite their initial reluctance to travel to the Wat Phnom location (it’s really not that far away), expats now flock to the place for the events held there on a near-daily basis, including live music, DJs, all-you-can-eat tapas, salsa, jazz nights, and more. In addition to a Spanish executive chef — the restaurant serves a dandy plate of tapas — they’ve also got a mixologist on staff serving up delicious, if expensive, cocktails.
Queer and Gay Bars
More than just the sum of its parts, Space Hair Salon and Bar is a unique combination of cool Cambodian hair salon and gay bar that attracts a mixed crowd of gays, straights, women, and adorable dogs (seriously). Owned by a Spanish-Cambodian couple, Space Bar is known for its relaxed vibe, handsome waiters, cheap beer, and strict policy of no money-boys. You can also get your hair done while enjoying a drink and the tunes, which are a mix of fun dance tracks, Cambodian pop, and gay standards.
Rainbow Bar is a friendly and relaxed gay bar on Street 136, not far from two other gay hotspots, Feel Good and Space Bar. Rainbow bills itself as a gay-but-straight-friendly bar, and the owners and staff are welcoming to everyone. Cocktails are very good and inexpensive and the draft beer is cold. “Dudes and Divas” drag shows are presented Tuesday through Saturday nights, and happy hour occurs from 6 p.m. until 8 p.m. every day.
Cambodian-owned 2 Colors is a small and friendly gay bar on Street 13. It has drag shows featuring outlandish costumes and big smiles three nights a week, on Thursday, Saturday, and Sunday, starting at 10:30 p.m. Don’t be surprised if you see some of the performers from Blue Chili, who find themselves performing all over town. 2 Colors has daily happy hour specials, right now it’s buy two, get one free for all mixed drinks and cocktails.
Blue Chili is practically historic by Phnom Penh standards, having been open since 2003, which is an eternity in Cambodia years. Favored by foreign expats, tourists, and local talent, Blue Chili is a popular spot where the gay crowd meets new friends and makes merry. The bar is also popular with the local money-boys, who come from far and wide to hang out here. Blue Chili is open every night of the week, but it’s best known for its excellent and outlandish weekend drag shows, which are not to be missed. The shows start at 11 p.m. on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights. Get there early for the best views.
In the club world, “Shameless” every Thursday night at Pontoon promises a live drag show and wild entertainment and attracts a mostly local crowd that stays and dances all night to the tech house soundtrack. Doors open at 9 p.m. but the place doesn’t kick off until much later. Cabaret show starts at 1 a.m. The other Phnom Penh club heavyweight, Heart of Darkness, is not officially a gay bar but in recent years has started to swing that way and most nights are unofficially gay nights.
If you’re looking for seediness, nightclubs, or both, look no further than Street 51. The two most popular clubs in town are there, Pontoon and Heart of Darkness. Pontoon attracts a mixed crowd of backpackers and sex workers and is a great night out if you want to go dancing. Music slides from Top 40 to EDM to electro house and finally down to dance remixes of terrible songs. Wednesday is “ladies night” with a slightly (only slightly) more hip-hop-oriented soundtrack, while Thursday is a gay-themed night called Shameless, including a cabaret show.
In addition to having possibly the best name for a club ever, Heart of Darkness has been pumping out the tunes since 1993. It’s been completely revamped since the old days and isn’t quite as seedy as it once was, but is still a fun night out. Heart of Darkness is more Khmer-oriented than Pontoon and also has a happening gay scene, but the club attracts and is open to all types. Music is loud Top 40 dance, but there are also places to sit down and enjoy a drink.
Over on Street 278 in BKK1, Duplex is a one-stop shop for a night out. With a bar and restaurant outside — try the beetroot risotto— and a lounge cum club inside, Duplex is the perfect place to go in the sort of high heels that rule out walking. D-Club is smaller than the club heavyweights in town (although it’s part of the Pontoon family) and for this reason isable to put on more interesting and eclectic DJs, including proper international dance DJs. Local DJ acts like Kimchi Collective and Phnom Penh Underground play there regularly, and Duplex also has special evenings such as 90s music nights. Thursdays are devoted to retro 70s disco mash-ups. Duplex and D-Club are like a smaller, higher-end version of Pontoon, with better music and a better crowd. In other words, don’t show up in flip-flops.
Meta House at the German-Cambodian Cultural Center is not quite a club, but it does put on some of the more interesting music nights in town. Every evening they screen a documentary and often have talks, but on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday there’s “Meta House After Dark” with themes ranging from German techno DJs to modern Thai and Lao music to industrial/experimental/noise/electronica and neo-disco nights. These events are truly eclectic and draw a mostly expat crowd. There’s a full bar inside and outdoor seating as well, plus a restaurant serving German-style pizzas.
Nova is where the 20-something children of the Khmer upper crust go to get away from the hoi polloi. (So if you decide to go, be aware of the no flip-flop, no tank top, no shorts dress code). The crowd is made up of Cambodian socialites, actresses, and models, plus one or two middle-aged Westerners trying to creep on the aforementioned lovelies, and there’s always a couple of lost-looking backpackers who intended to go to Pontoon. The menu has 50 types of cocktails and there’s a special VIP table for bottle service. Thursdays are ladies night, when drinks for women are half off and groups of four or more women get a free bottle of vodka or whiskey.
Open daily, 2 p.m. til late
13 Street 278, BKK1, Phnom Penh
T: 012 881 181
Open daily, 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.
128A Street 19. Daun Penh, Phnom Penh
T: 078 646 524
Open daily, 5:30 p.m. to 1 a.m.
391 E0 Street 184, Royal Palace, Phnom Penh
T: 095 724 420
Open daily, 7 a.m. to 1 a.m.
9 Street 110, Daun Penh, Phnom Penh
T: 092 271 349
Open daily, 5 p.m. to midnight
30 Street 308, Tonle Bassac, Phnom Penh
T: 010 729 655
Rehabb Public House
Open Monday through Saturday, 4 p.m. to 1 a.m.
20 Street 174, Daun Penh, Phnom Penh
T: 069 734 222, 069 569 099
Open daily, 3 p.m. to 11:30 p.m. (sometimes later)
Corner of Street 278 and 51 (entrance on 278), BKK1, Phnom Penh
T: 011 422 767; 023 726 500
Open daily, 5 p.m. to 1 a.m.
126 Street 130, Daun Penh, Phnom Penh
T: 023 211 825
Open daily, 11 a.m. to 1 a.m.
11 Street 330, Toul Sleng, Phnom Penh
T: 089 722 361
Open daily 5 p.m. to 12 a.m.
3E0 Street 240, Street 240½, Phnom Penh
T: 077 960 413
Open daily, 9 a.m. to 1 a.m.
241 Street 148 on the riverside,Daun Penh, Phnom Penh
T: 023 222 275
Zino Wine Bar
Open daily, 12 p.m. to 12 a.m.
12 Street 294, Tonle Bassac, Phnom Penh
T: 023 998 519
Open daily, 6 p.m to midnight
82 Street 244, Street 240½, Phnom Penh
T: 095 222 405
Open Monday through Saturday, 5 p.m. to 12 a.m.
45 Sisowath Quay (at Street 84), Phnom Penh
T: 023 991 514
Open daily, 4 p.m. to 12 a.m.
3 Street 294, Phnom Penh
T: 077 881 103
Open Monday through Saturday, 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. and 5 p.m. to 11 p.m.
37 Stretet 308, Tonle Bassac, Phnom Penh
T: 012 986 270
The Watering Hole
Open daily, 9 a.m. to 11 p.m.
39M Street 308, Tonle Bassac, Phnom Penh
T: 069 242 619; 097 720 4647
Le Moon Terrace Bar
Open daily, 5 p.m. to 1 a.m.
Amanjaya Pancam Hotel
1 Street 154 and Sisowath Quay, Phnom Penh
T: 023 214 747
Open daily, 6 p.m. to 12 a.m.
Street 98, Daun Penh, Phnom Penh
T: 017 259 955
Open Monday through Saturday, 11 a.m. to midnight
6B Street 302, BKK1, Phnom Penh
T: 070 389 583
Open Tuesday through Sunday, 5 p.m. to 11 p.m.
Off Street 308, BKK1, Phnom Penh
T: 077 960 413
The Library, facebook.com/TheLibraryDaiquiriBar
Hangar 44, facebook.com/pages/Hangar-44
Open daily, 12 p.m. to 12 a.m.
18 Street 84 (at Street 47), Wat Phnom, Daun Penh, Phnom Penh
T: 023 986 114
Space Hair Salon
Open daily, 9 a.m. to 1 a.m.
66 Street 136, Daun Penh, Riverside
T: 089 963 066
Open daily, 6 p.m. until late
134 Street 136, Daun Penh, Phnom Penh
T: 098 712 332
Open daily, 7 p.m. until late
225 Street 13, Daun Penh, Phnom Penh
T: 017 374 724
Open daily from 7 p.m. until late (1 to 3 a.m. usually)
26Eo Street 178, Phnom Penh
T: 012 566 353
Open daily, 9 p.m. to 4 a.m.
80 Street 172 (at Street 51), Daun Penh, Phnom Penh
T: 016 779 966; 010 300 400
Heart of Darkness
Open daily, 9 p.m. to 5 a.m.
38 Street 51, Daun Penh, Phnom Penh
T: 077 304 077; 077 837 777
Open daily, 4 p.m. to midnight
3 Street 278, Wat Langka, BKK1, Phnom Penh
T: 010 268 278
Open daily, hours vary by event. Meta House After Dark, Thursday through Saturday, 9 p.m. till late
#37 Sothearos Blvd, Phnom Penh
T: 010 312 333
Open daily, 9 p.m. to 4 a.m.
19 Street 214, Daun Penh, Phnom Penh
T: 097 716 5000
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