Where to Drink in Siem Reap

Pokambor Avenue
The coffee may not be the best in Siem Reap and the food can be hit and miss. But there are few more relaxed places to hang out than the wooden tables and benches at the front of this sunny cafe opposite the riverside. Owned by two Melbourne sisters who do a lot of charitable work, it’s a good spot to meet expats and there’s a noticeboard promoting volunteer opportunities and other ways to give back.
1 Vithei Charles de Gaulle Khum, Krong Siem Reap 17251, Cambodia
Opened in 1932 in the historic Royal Khmer compound, this landmark hotel was the first luxury lodging in the area, catering to well-heeled adventurers intent on visiting the storied ruins of the temples at Angkor. Everyone from Charlie Chaplin and Charles de Gaulle to Jackie O and, more recently, Angelina Jolie have slept within its dramatic, art deco walls. Just a short walk or tuk-tuk ride to central Siem Reap, the hotel, now part of the Raffles collection, features 15 acres of manicured gardens with more than 20,540 species of tropical plants, making it a relaxing oasis after a day spent exploring the temples. Following a major restoration by David Grace Designs in 2019, the 119 rooms, suites, and villas—some set in the original main building, others overlooking the garden or pool—are now a vision of French windows, hardwood floors, and marble bathrooms with Italian tiling and oversized rain showers. Some have added perks like furnished terraces, high ceilings, or four-poster beds. Elsewhere in the hotel, features like the 1929 metal-and-timber elevator, art deco black-and-white tiles, and classic conservatory have been refurbished but maintained.

The large central swimming pool is ringed by loungers, while the tucked-away spa has a sauna, Jacuzzi, and six treatment rooms for excellent, regionally inspired therapies. Both in-house and outside guests frequent the six drinking and dining options, which include the legendary Elephant Bar, the elegant Restaurant Le Grand (serving both Western and Royal Khmer cuisine), and the completely renovated Apsara Terrace, which offers a dinner-cum-cultural dance show three or five nights a week, depending on the season. The on-site gallery and boutique showcase high-quality local goods.
Street 09, Krong Siem Reap, Cambodia
This local institution and late opener is a popular haunt of Siem Reap‘s expats and locals, from archaeologists to artists, poets to tour guides. Laundry Bar’s friendly staff, decent pool tables, and cheap drinks are all big appeals, but it’s the excellent music that continues to draw most local residents to this dimly-lit, bohemian haunt a block from Pub Street. Whether it’s a live band, such as the superb Cambodian Space Project, above, who channel the sounds of Khmer rock ‘n’ roll from the Sixties and Seventies, a visiting Euro-DJ, or the eclectic soundtrack that shifts from jazz and blues to eighties French pop, the music is always interesting and engaging and gets punters tapping their feet or at the very least talking. While the staff will be booting drinkers out in the wee hours of the morning during high season, the bar can often close early (before midnight) during low season, so if you don’t want to miss getting a taste of Laundry, get here by 10pm. A warning: the drinks are cheap but they’re pretty awful. If you want good cocktails, go to Miss Wong. Laundry is all about the cool sounds and casual vibe. Check the bar’s Facebook page to see what bands or DJs are on while you’re in town and plan around it.
Street 11
Travelers incorrectly believe that the street food sold at stalls around Pub Street in the Old Market quarter is authentic. It’s not—not the fruit shake sellers, nor the Nutella pancakes. There is one exception and that’s the ubiquitous sugar cane juice sellers that you see here as well as at local markets, backstreets, and the riverside every afternoon and evening. Follow your ears. Expect to hear the sound of the long pieces of cane being crunched through the crusher or the sounds of swarms of bees buzzing around. The juice will be served in a plastic cup or plastic bag with a straw. If you struggle with the drink in a plastic bag idea, as many foreigners do, then point to a cup. It’s nearly always served over ice and the ice is nearly always safe, thanks to the French who established ice factories across the country during French colonial rule. However, if you’ve not been in the country long or have a weak stomach, skip the ice, just in case. Sometimes Cambodians will add extra sugar to their drinks. Watch carefully and say no if you see the vendor reaching for some, as it’s sweet enough. It’s a terrific thirst-quencher if you’ve been out in the blazing sun all day – and a fantastic pick-me-up if you’re starting to feel that heat.
Old Market Bridge, Krong Siem Reap, Cambodia
The Passage is a lively pedestrian street in the heart of the Old Market District of Siem Reap lined with restaurants, pubs, hotels and galleries. I highly recommend the restaurant Chamkar for its Cambodian-French style vegetarian dishes that omnivores will love as well.
Salakamreuk Village, Salakamreuk Commune, 17954, 176 Sombai Rd, Siem Reap, Cambodia
Expats Lionel Maitrepierre and Joëlle Jean Louise drew inspiration from traditional Cambodian rice spirit, which is potent and medicinal-tasting and not always safe for foreigners to drink, and the fruit-infused rums from Joëlle’s home Mauritius, when they developed Sombai. The Siem Reap-based couple started producing their range of quality rice spirits, which they infused with Cambodian fruits, herbs, spices, and roots, in 2012. You’ll see Sombai’s distinctive hand-painted bottles all over Siem Reap, and many bars offer cocktails made with Sombai’s rice spirits, however, it’s much more fun to visit their tasting room and infusion workshop, where you can taste the full range of eight blended flavors (for free), before buying the beautiful bottles with Cambodian cotton kramas tied around their necks. The spirits can be sipped straight as aperitifs, combined with spirits to make cocktails or drizzled over ice-cream or cake to create a heady dessert.
More from AFAR
Sign up for our newsletter
Join more than a million of the world’s best travelers. Subscribe to the Daily Wander newsletter.
AFAR Journeys
Journeys: Africa + Middle East
Journeys: Africa + Middle East
Journeys: Africa + Middle East
Journeys: Africa + Middle East
National Parks