Siem Reap is located in northwestern Cambodia and is the gateway to the ruins of Angkor – a vast complex of intricate stone temples. Whilst the main reason tourists visit Siem Reap is for the temples, it’s worth setting aside some time to explore Siem Reap itself.
This small town is now booming with a huge array of hotels, bars, restaurants, spas and cafes popping up everywhere. It’s also a great place to sample an array of Khmer food, the traditional cuisine of Cambodia.
Some dishes I recommend you try when in Cambodia include Fish Amok (a fish curry served in a banana leaf), Red Tree Ants (fried until crispy and served with holy basil), Beef Lok Lak (a flavoursome stir fried dish) and any creepy crawlies you feel brave enough to eat – tarantulas seem to be popular here, as do BBQ water snakes and crispy bugs!
Sala Bai Restaurant School – 155 Phum Tapoul, Siem Reap
Delicious Cambodian and Western meals are served at this restaurant where underprivileged local youths learn skills that enable them to find gainful employment in the hospitality industry. Please note, they aren’t open at dinner time so make sure you book for lunch.
HAVEN Training Restaurant – Chocolate Rd, Siem Reap
This quaint garden restaurant is also a training restaurant for vulnerable young adults from orphanages, shelters and rural poor areas. The food and service is impressive and they are open for both lunch and dinner.
Il Forno – Pari’s Alley, 16 The-Lane, Siem Reap
I know, I know. Recommending an Italian restaurant in Cambodia?! But seriously, they make great pizzas and if you have a Western food craving (like I did) this places really hits the spot.
Genevieve’s Restaurant – Sok San Rd, Siem Reap
Genevieve’s offers a great mix of Khmer and Western style foods with friendly service. The Beef Lok Lak and the Khmer Curry are both delicious.
The Blue Pumpkin – #563, Mondul 1, Svay donkum, Siem Reap (plus other various locations)
This coffee shop and bakery is a great place to escape the heat and enjoy a cup of coffee with a newspaper and perhaps a scoop of ice cream or 3.
The Hive – 631 Psar Kandal Street, Siem Reap
This Australian owned and run cafe offers great coffee, breakfast, lunch, home-baked goods and fresh juice. It’s a little taste of home in the middle of Siem Reap!
Old Market – Psar Chaa Road, Siem Reap
Have a wander through the Old Market which features a wet market, food, souvenir shops and foot spas. Even if you’re not in the mood for shopping it’s a great place to watch the locals shop and go about their daily business.
Grab a cheap cocktail and party with your new friends at one of the many pubs along this appropriately named street, try a deep fried tarantula or skewered snake or haggle with the local street vendors for some souvenirs.
Sister Srey Cafe – 200 Pokambor Ave, Siem Reap
Delicious and healthy food with a great array of vegetarian options (which is rare in Cambodia). The chilled atmosphere of this cafe makes it the perfect way to relax, and the owners donate part of the profits to help local communities too.
Mie Cafe – 85 Phum Treng, Siem Reap
Mie Cafe serves modern fusion Khmer cuisine. Set in an old wooden house with outdoor patio and garden, the ambience of this restaurant is second to none and offers some of the best Cambodian food I ate during my travels. Whilst it’s a little pricier than other places in the area, it’s well worth it.
And please, make sure you see Angkor Wat at sunrise – it really is worth losing sleep over. Stay tuned for my Angkor Wat temple guide – when to go, what to see and how to make the most of it!
Have you been lucky enough to visit Siem Reap? If not, is it on your list now?