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.
Bassac Lane, which has expanded to Bassac Quarter, is an entire nightlife area crowed with tiny bars and restaurants, many of which are themed, and infinitely charming. I used to abhor Bassac Lane, but have done a complete 180 on the place. It’s much busier now, and the businesses seem like creative small businesses rather than cookie cutter corporate bars. It doesn’t have the unpleasant Siem Reap Pub Street vibe (although it appears to be heading in that direction), and happily, for now, it’s not just for 20-somethings.
Some Bassac quarter favorites: White Rabbit is an upscale chandelier-adorned vaguely Alice in Wonderland-themed bar, where the menu is delivered with a magnifying glass and features cocktails including “Advice From a Caterpillar.” Another beguiling bar is the Welsh Embassy, which serves mainly beer and can hold about six people at a time. Hilariously, the bar’s opening was graced by the British Ambassador to Cambodia, and they have the plaque to prove it. There are also great eats in the area, including Mama Wongs dim sum and long-running Phnom Penh classic, Piccola Italia. The places change regularly, so the favorites I’ve just mentioned may not exist by the time you read this, but it’s probably worth going anyway. Check our blog post for an extended review of Bassac Lane.
Opened in 2019 by an American and a Finn, Embargo is Phnom Penh’s pre-eminent craft beer bar. Located in a trendy back alley behind Wat Langka, Embargo serves eight types of locally produced craft beers, covering a range of ales, stouts, wheat beers, and lagers, from breweries such as Riel Brewing and Cerevisia Craft Brewery. Embargo is also the only place serving Himawari Microbrewery’s beer off-site. If you are having a hard time deciding, they’re happy to give recommendations or serve up a flight of four beers for $6. For more on where to drink craft beer in Phnom Penh and beyond, see Craft Beer in Cambodia.
Upmarket dive bar Red Bar on Street 308 often has live music and sells $1 beers and $10 jugs of frozen margaritas, making it a good choice for a cheap drink.
Also on Street 308: Brass Monkey. Cold drinks, cool surroundings, and a great location for people-watching are what this friendly bar with a local feel is all about. After a brief stint round the corner on Bassac Lane, the owners have taken over a prime spot that was previously home to Elbow Room and remodeled it in a way that’s more comfortable, welcoming, and….monkey-inspired. The drinks menu includes craft beers and cocktail jugs; there’s even a copper contraption distilling the bar’s own gin on the mezzanine. Check the Facebook site for regular BBQs and drinks promotions.
Hideout is a casual sports bar and restaurant on Phnom Penh’s riverside. If you want to watch sports on a giant screen while eating burgers, ribs, and buffalo wings (or eight other flavors), you’ll love it. It’s large enough that even if you aren’t a sports aficionado, you can still have a drink with friends or take in the sunset on their balcony bar.
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.
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 newish 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.
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.
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 Tuol Tom Pong/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.
After taking Siem Reap by storm, Wild Creative Bar has come to Phnom Penh, and found a home on Street 830 in BKK1. They’re known for their signature creative cocktails (think ingredients like lemongrass, chili, or hibiscus-infused gin, homemade pomegranate liquor, and fresh mango). They also have mocktails and a menu of fresh salads, spring rolls and other nibbles, so there’s something for everyone.
Sundowners and afternoon sessions
Gin lovers should head to Juniper Gin Bar, a rooftop bar on Street 130 by the riverside that offers up the perfect locale to enjoy a gin-based cocktail while soaking up the Phnom Penh sunset. Juniper Gin Bar has more than 20 types of specialty gins from around the world, as well as some less expensive old favorites. In addition to the classic gin and tonic, they’ve got an array of both traditional and creative cocktails on the menu, as well as wine and draft beer. Head there for sunset when they have $3 cocktails from 5 to 7 p.m. and when their rooftop view is best appreciated.
Seekers Spirits is Phnom Penh’s first artisan distillery, making premium gin distilled with local botanicals. It’s not a bar, per se, but it is nightlife. Seekers is opened Monday through Friday from 5 to 11 p.m., and Saturday until Sunday 12:30 p.m. until midnight. Once upon a time they stuck to tastings, but now they serve cocktails and food with themed music nights and live music. There a little bit out of town but it’s worth the trip.More about Seekers and Phnom Penh’s gin scene.
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 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. It’s the perfect 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.
Sundown Social Club in Tuol Tom Pong is from the same people behind Juniper Gin Bar and Long After Dark. With a full menu and drinks special that start at 5 p.m., it’s perfect positioned for sunset cocktails and dinner after. On most Saturdays the put on Sunset Sounds, with a live DJ. If you don’t want to trek to Russian Market, they also have a sister bar, Sundown Central, on the Lavanya Hotel rooftop at Street 136 and 49.
While gigs by major international artists are few and far between — Cambodian cities aren’t exactly on the average tour schedule — we do our best with what we have, and what we have is pretty damn good. Whatever kind of music you’re into, there’s a good chance you’ll find it in the capital. Box Office is an old hand at live entertainment, but the launch of its bijou Speakeasy Theatre opened new opportunities for live music (and live comedy and film screenings) in this relaxed local that offers good food and extensive craft beer selection.
Just around the corner, newcomer Craft is hosting live music several nights a week and revitalizing the street art-adorned alley that winds between Streets 240 and 244. For more about the Phnom Penh live music scene and many more places to see it, check out these blog posts by our resident live music expert, Susan.
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 is a Cambodian institution that’s 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 no less of a fun night out. Heart of Darkness has a truly mixed crowd of locals and expats and also 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 on Street 172 off of 51 attracts a mixed crowd of backpackers, expats, 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. Our favorite is Saturday with DJ Illest, a French-Cambodian DJ who places a (slightly) more hip-hop-oriented soundtrack. There’s also a lounge next door for those who just want to be in proximity to dancing. There is no entrance fee. Check their Facebook for weekly theme nights and specials.
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 before going upstairs for salsa, afrobeat, hip hop and Latin nights. 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.
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 strong cocktails. 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. A guaranteed fantastic night out.
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.
The Pride of Cambodia, or POC, is a cozy gay bar in the Riverside neighborhood with a mixed clientele that includes lots of Cambodians. The drinks are inexpensive and the staff are incredibly friendly and welcoming. They open from 3 p.m. to 2 a.m. have drag shows and a “sexy boy” dance troupe on Fridays and Saturdays from 10 p.m. until midnight (sometimes later). The shows 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.
Heart of Darkness – see the listing under Clubs, above.
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