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 andalle a large collection of classic rock records. They’ve moved locations and 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.
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.
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.
Sharky’s has been open since 1993, billing itself as “Indochine’s longest-running rock n’ roll bar” and offers live music from local bands several times a week. Although the much-loved owner Mike has passed, Sharky’s lives on. 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.
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 trivia night, drink and draw, and spoken word night. The open mic night ever Wednesday is the most popular. There’s an art gallery upstairs and the place attracts a mixed crowd of expats and locals, young and old.
Wine and cocktail bars
French-owned wine and and cocktail bar Bouchon is an old favorite with Phnom Penh expats, who head there for after-work drinks. They’ve got a new location on Street 174, and it’s even nicer than the last one, with exposed brick and checked tile floors, and they’ve even brought the gorgeous wooden bar from the last place. 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, as well as heartier French fare. The martinis are the standout, though, with flavors ranging from cucumber to coffee.
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. There’s also a second location on Street 214 that serves the menu from the former Rahu.
Crush Wine Bar is one of the few places in Phnom Penh that’s serious about wine. The 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.
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.
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). The bars are popular although 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.
Whiskey lovers should head to Long After Dark where their collection of more than 50 whiskeys lends to the hipster-yet-serious-drinker vibe. Located in the Russian Market area of Phnom Penh, this cozy bar also serves a range of uniquely crafted cocktails, wines, and beer and cider on tap, plus a small but tasty menu of high-end pub fare. If you’re looking for an excuse to imbibe, every week a different “whiskey of the week” is featured on special.
Le Boutier is probably Phnom Penh’s first true hipster bar, with craft cocktails themed around Cambodia’s ‘Golden Age’ served up by the tattooed American owner. The retro-styled bar mingles Cambodian influence and ingredients with American brashness and craft cocktail culture, and the result are punchily named drinks including ‘Sinn Sisamouth in the Second City’ and ‘Once Bitten Twice Chhay’ (the latter named after the bar’s Cambodian partner). While it’s true these are some of the more expensive cocktails in town, it’s the perfect place to see and be seen, if that’s your thing.
Sundowners and afternoon sessions
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.
Located just across the street from FCC, Touk offers the same excellent river views, but with drinks that are significantly less expensive. From 4:30 until 7:30 p.m. cocktails and draft beers are half off. The place is quite large, making it good for groups, and is perfectly situated for visitors to enjoy a glass of sangria while watching the riverside sunset.
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.
Nestled on a quiet part of Street 21 near the Lost Room, 21 Bar is the perfect spot for an afternoon boozer. Set in the shaded garden of a Tonle Bassac villa, Bar 21 has inexpensive beers, an interesting cocktail list, and an eclectic mix of furniture. And if you’re a dog-lover, even better. They’re pet friendly and happy to let dogs wander around the garden.
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.
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.
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.
On Street 174 in the heart of Phnom Penh’s new gay district, Valentino’s bistro and nightclub is located in the former Saint Tropez, and is the city’s only proper gay disco. They’ve got a outside seating for those looking to eat a meal before clubbing — the restaurant serves Western and Asian fusion — and an outdoor bar where they often have live music. Inside it’s very much a nightclub and has a large capacity, but doesn’t get going until fairly late night on weekends. The club stays open until 4 a.m. and there’s a gay revue at midnight every day except Sunday.
Over on Street 278 in BKK1, Duplex and Club Love provides a one-stop shop for a night out. Duplex, the bar and restaurant outside offers the chance to get a base coat — try the beetroot risotto — before the club upstairs at 11 p.m. Club Love has taken Pontoon’s former spot as Phnom Penh’s favorite club for expats and backpackers to party until the wee hours. They have different themed nights with music that ranges from dance and electronica to house and hip hop, but the overarching theme is to get down and have a good time.
Doors, possibly 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.
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.
Queer and gay bars
Space Hair Salon and Bar is more than just the sum of its parts, it’s 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 their relaxed vibe, handsome waiters, themed parties, 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 tunes, Cambodian pop, and gay standards.
Blue Chilli is practically a Phnom Penh institution at this point, having opened in 2006, which is an eternity in Cambodia years. Popular with foreign expats, tourists and local talent, Blue Chili is a popular spot for the gay crowd to meet new friends and make merry. It’s also popular with the local money-boys who come from far and wide to hang out here. Blue Chilli is open every night of the week, but they’re best known for their excellent and outlandish weekend drag shows. Not to be missed, the shows are at 11 p.m. on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights. Get there early for the best views.
Taking over the spot that 2 Colors used to be located in, AV Bar 225 has taken it up a notch or two, and in addition to friendly staff, we’ve heard they have the best drag show in town. Shows are Friday, Saturday, and Sunday at 10:30 p.m. During happy hour cocktails are half off, mixed drinks are $2, and draft beers are just $0.75. Luckily, happy hour is nine hours long, from noon until 9 p.m., giving you enough time to get nicely lubricated for the show.
In a scene that is almost entirely dominated by bars that have drag shows several times a week, Vapor’s laid back, drag-free vibe is a refreshing change. The tastefully decorated restaurant and bar has indoor and outdoor seating, friendly staff, and a nice selection of drinks and cocktails. Perhaps best of all, they know how to make a martini.
The Pride of Phnom Penh, or POPP, is a cozy gay bar in the Riverside neighborhood with an almost entirely Cambodian clientele. They have drag shows three times a week, on Tuesdays, Fridays, Saturdays from 10 p.m. until midnight (sometimes later) that are adorably unpolished, featuring a large cast of enthusiastic performers lip-synching Western pop songs and even a few traditional Cambodian tunes, which garner rave reviews from the Khmer crowd.
In the club world, “Shameless” every Thursday nights at Pontoon promise a live drag show and wild entertainment, and attract a quirky mix of locals, sexpats, and backpackers who stay and dance all night to the tech house soundtrack. Run by indomitable expat Marcus Marvels, the night is always a guaranteed good time. Doors open at 9 p.m. but the place doesn’t kick off until much later. It’s worth staying late, though — there’s a gender-bending cabaret show and dance performance starts at 1 a.m.
Owned by the same people behind Valentino’s club across the street, Generations offers a more intimate experience. Although it’s relatively small, the place has been decked out with lights, a sound system, and a glowing bar, from which one can order a range of cocktails, wines, or beer. Happy hour from 5 until 9 p.m. and drag shows Thursday through Saturday at 9 p.m.
Toolbox, a stylish new gay bar owned by the same people behind the former Rainbow Bar, has a few things that set it apart. First, they have a pool table (and the staff are happy to play if you don’t have a partner). Second, when we visited, the crowd wasn’t just men and had queer folks of all stripes. Tuesdays through Saturday they have an all-male dance show at 10 p.m., and every day there’s a two-for-one cocktail hour from 6 to 9 p.m. The cocktails are a bit strange, but good value. If you’re looking to bar hop, Toolbox is next to Valentino’s and across the street from Generations.
Open daily, 2 p.m. til late
13 Street 278, BKK1, Phnom Penh
T: 012 881 181
Open daily, 5 p.m. to midnight
30 Street 308, Tonle Bassac, Phnom Penh
T: 010 729 655
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 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, 4 p.m. to 12 a.m.
82 Street 174, near 63, Phnom Penh
T: 077 881 103
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
Crush Wine Bar
Open daily, 12 p.m. to 12 a.m.
12 Street 294, Tonle Bassac, Phnom Penh
T: 023 998 519
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
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
Long After Dark
Open Tuesday to Sunday, 12 p.m. to midnight
86 Street 450, Toul Tom Pong, Phnom Penh
Open Monday through Saturday, 6 p.m. to 12 a.m.
32 Street 308, Tonle Bassac, Phnom Penh
T: 097 675 3004
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, 11 a.m. until midnight
Riverside at Street 178, Daun Penh, Phnom Penh
T: 012 248 694
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
Street 21, Tonle Bassac, Phnom Penh
Open daily, 4 p.m. to 4 a.m.
T: 098 341 991
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, 9 p.m. to 4 a.m.
80 Street 172 (at Street 51), Daun Penh, Phnom Penh
T: 016 779 966; 010 300 400
Valentino’s Bistro and Nightclub
Bistro open from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., restaurant until 4 a.m.
31 Street 174 (between 51 and Norodom), Daun Penh, Phnom Penh
T: 077 856 842
Open daily, 11 p.m. to 4 a.m.
3 Street 278, Wat Langka, BKK1, Phnom Penh
T: 010 268 278
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
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
Space Hair Salon and Bar
Open daily, 9 a.m. to 1 a.m.
66 Street 136, Daun Penh, Riverside
T: 089 963 066
Open daily from 7 p.m. until late (1 to 3 a.m. usually)
26Eo Street 178, Phnom Penh
T: 012 566 353
AV Bar 225
Open daily, 5 p.m. until 2 a.m.
225 Street 13, Daun Penh, Phnom Penh
T: 071 445 0044
Open daily, 7 a.m. to 10 p.m.
21 Street 262, near 51, Phnom Penh
T: 011 840 712
60 Street 15, near 144, Daun Penh, Phnom Penh
T: 010 535 745
Open daily, 5 p.m. until 2 .a.m.
24m Street 174 (between 51 and Norodom), Daun Penh, Phnom Penh
T: 090 303 336; 076 888 6 69
Open 6 p.m. until 2 a.m.
46E Street 174 (between 51 and Norodom), Daun Penh, Phnom Penh
T: 077 211 537
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