While Phnom Penh certainly has plenty of cultural sites of note, it’s not the greatest city in the world when it comes to attractions. But that disclaimer has to be followed by a well deserved compliment: Phnom Penh is internationally known as a party town where once the sun goes down, the city really starts to shine.
Despite the challenges of the seasonal tourism industry, new bars and eateries continue to sprout, and the hot competition keeps standards incredibly high. If you’re enjoying the central location of the Pacific Hotel, you need look no further than the Barb & Lotus for fine western cuisine and a great cocktail menu, but you’re bound to venture further, so we’ll give you a quick guided tour.
Charge up your wallet, find a tuk tuk, and let’s get ready for a big night out.
We’ll travel to the Russian Markets and slowly work our way back to the city centre. The Toul Tom Poung Markets are surrounded by great street food, but you don’t have to travel far to find a good variety of European cafes, bars and restaurants.
The popular choice for visitors with well-trained palettes is Long After Dark, which ironically is open just before the sun goes down. With a great atmosphere, fusion menu, craft beers and tasty cocktails, it’s a good place to start your evening.
Take a tuk tuk back to the market for a jug of passionfruit or lychee-infused cocktails, served in jugs at the rooftop bar, The Sundown Social Club, which is a great open space for enjoying one of Phnom Penh’s typical balmy evenings.
If you’re feeling warmed up and ready for a change of scenery, check out the cheap beer, bold graffiti and live entertainment of Showbox. This venue goes one better than having a happy hour. It has the audacity to offer completely free beer for half an hour each night. Yes, you read that correctly.
We’ve still got plenty of Phnom Penh to cover so let’s sharpen up our game by heading to the expat centre of the city (BKK1 aka Boeung Keng Kang 1) and have an espresso martini at Che Culo. While you’re there, try some tapas and taste some of the best liquor concoctions the city has to offer. Cross the road to Il Forno for delicious pasta and pizza, impeccable service and a fine selection of wines.
For a delicious liquid desert, walk just one block to the trendy (dare we say Hipster?) Bassac Lane. If you like a bit of artistry applied to décor and drinks, you’ll lose a couple of hours of your life (in a good way) within the crowded collection of tiny shops, bars and restaurants. Our picks of the area’s best are Elbow Room and The Library.
By this stage of the evening you’re bound to require a workout to burn a few calories. If your preference is live entertainment, take a tuk tuk to Oscars on Street 104. It’s a great little spot to sample Phnom Penh’s local and imported musical talent. In the few times we’ve been there, we’ve never known who was playing, but we’ve always been pleasantly surprised.
If dancing is more your style, there’s no need to venture far from Boeung Keng Kang. Club Love on 278 usually has some good DJs and a packed dance floor. Or you can venture a bit further to the Mecca of nightclubs – Pontoon on Street 172. It’s the supermarket of nightclubs and has the important distinction of choice. There are three separate areas so you can find your preferred style of electronic music. It’s usually where anyone with enough stamina to see daylight ends their evening (or morning).
That’s just one of the many assortments of bars and eateries that will help you get the most out of the Phnom Penh nightlife. We’d need to write another 100 articles to cover all the options. There are excellent bars and cheap eats if you’re on a tight budget, and another level of class if you have enough U.S. dollars in your wallet, but the hotspots described above will definitely guarantee you at least one great evening in Cambodia’s capital.