Some of Phnom Penh’s most stylish, inviting spaces are its boutique hotels, combining tropical splendor with highly personalized service. Here are 7 of the most original 4-star boutique hotels in which to pamper yourself during your stay in Cambodia.
The capital of Cambodia is a city on the rise, an unlikely cosmopolitan brew of ancient Khmer tradition, fast-paced development and diverse expat populations gleefully caught between the two. Where to stay? The finest boutique hotels of Phnom Penh are calming oases amidst all that energy, even as they draw inspiration from those eclectic influences. In pure design terms, this often translates into elegant French touches meeting minimalist contours, with Cambodian craftsmanship using natural materials.
Hotels are generally considered ’boutique’ when offering more than 10 but fewer than 100 rooms. An operation of this size ensures more than a hint of the luxury and style you might expect from a Raffles or a Sofitel, but on a more personal scale, with particular attention to detail from staff. (The boutique hotel industry in Phnom Penh may also be the difference between an international chain versus a smaller group deeply invested in the terrain. All the boutique hotels we have chosen are committed to hiring and training local staff, as well as enforcing eco-responsible and strict no sex tourism policies vital to community welfare in Cambodia.) In Phnom Penh, the high standards of hospitality and facilities in premier accommodations often comes at very affordable rates, so you can relax and offer yourself a boutique experience without skimping on luxury.
‘Baitong’ is the word for ‘green’ in the khmer language, which feels appropriate when you breeze through the verdant foyer, the tangy scent of kaffir lime infusing the air. (A welcome massage awaits you at the in-house Bodia spa.) Sleekly designed yet almost overun with plant life, this sprawling complex around the trendy bar and club strip of BKK1 seems like a concrete jungle playground, regardless of which level you find yourself on: a romantic pool hidden behind a waterfall and a fitness center on the second floor; a dramatically suspended jacuzzi on the third, and a sun-exposed, family deck pool on the fourth. But who needs ’em, if you booked one of the rooms with its own private plunge pool? One unmissable space is the rooftop dining area and Lantern bar. The breakfast buffet is a lavish banquet catering to every possible Asian and Western taste: try some congee, a traditional Khmer curry cooked in front of your eyes, fragrant fruit salad with shrimp, pistachio-encrusted croissants… Just come back later for a cocktail at sunset.
A calm street near the Royal Palace and Riverside district reveals the even calmer haven of Plantation’s lotus pond courtyard. This urban resort is the ideal place to relax after a long flight, especially if it’s at a poolside cabana or in a cloud of steam in the house spa. French owner Alexis de Suremain restored an historic colonial villa and three New Khmer Architecture properties to bring his vision of Asian fusion elegance to life. Deluxe studios offer sweeping balcony views of the Phnom Penh skyline, while the penthouse suite boasts its own bar, BBQ and jacuzzi. In keeping with the French touch, Plantation has its own chic bistrot, La Pergola, but you can enjoy a varied breakfast buffet outdoors by the pool.
Pavilion is located in the heart of Phnom Penh, walking distance from the Royal Palace, National Museum and Wat Botum Pagoda. Even so, a quiet sense of luxury pervades this collection of period buildings, shaded by palms and guarded by a stone Buddha. If the Pavilion is an peaceful haven, it is perhaps because the hotel only accepts guests over 16 years old. Or maybe it has something to do with the two pools, open 24 hours a day: the Lush Pool, surrounded by veiled day beds, cocktails within arms’ reach, and the more secluded Sun Pool with plush self deck chairs and self-serve coffee and tea. This might not make an impression if you opted for a jacuzzi suite, a private cabin secreted away from the main building, with its own garden and outdoor plunge bath. Breakfast is served, unsurprisingly, by the pool: an unlimited à la carte selection from Kmher rice porridge to pancakes or quiche with all the sides imaginable. It may be hard to tear yourself away from the bliss of a massage or the convenience of the gym, but there are complimentary bicycles at your disposal to explore the city. Need to make a memorable entrance? Pavilion can arrange your airport pickup… in a classic Jaguar.
The cosiest of our boutique selections, Rambutan offers an upscale guest-house vibe with some exotic touches, like deep, stone bathtubs on the balcony (albeit shaded from view) and the playful contemporary Asian art lining the walls. Start the morning by the shaded salt-water pool and waterfall, with unlimited Khmer and Western breakfast options. Go for a dip or linger in one of the stylish nooks, perfectly designed for a book or laptop session. The Cambodian staff are friendly and particularly helpful; while management handles everything with a smile and a sense of humor. Located in a bustling section of BKK1, Rambutan proudly identifies itself as a gay-friendly establishment, for staff and guests alike. For travelers exploring Cambodia, Rambutan has a similarly paradisiaque branch in Siem Reap.
On a 1940s colonial estate close to Phnom Penh, Jungle Addition lives up to its name, with lush greenery enclosing the outdoor pool. You will see the green vegetation of this urban haven from the bay windows of the Jungle Panorama rooms, or from the private balconies of the Jungle Deluxe option. Ornate tilework and four poster beds add touches of elegance to the spacious rooms. Breakfast is included (Asian or continental), with French and Mediterranean-inspired cuisine served all day. The hotel is a kid-friendly environment and includes a play area for children.
The Balé by LifestyleRetreats
For those who yearn for utmost tranquility but who may not have the time to venture deep into the Cambodian countryside, this hotel on the outskirts of Phnom Penh offers a secluded haven. Picturesque riverside views of the Mekong are a stunning reflection of the immaculate gardens and vast interiors. The Balé showcases the best in contemporary Asian design: in these impossibly zen, light-filled spaces, nothing is out of place. And with only 18 suites, along with tailored service, the sense of space expands even more.
One of the freshest additions to Phnom Penh’s thriving hotel industry is KVL a new-build from the Vattanac Group, which opened its doors in 2022. Situated along the Sisowath Quay, KVL is 7 floors and 76 rooms revolving around an atrium skylight directly underneath a reflecting pool. In a city where there’s no shortage of rooftop infinity pools, the effect is strikingly contemporary. The light-filled rooms are minimalist without sacrificing comfort: smooth Italian design, Fette linens, ensuite bathrooms equipped with rain showers, and glass walls revealing stunning views of where the Tonle Sap and Mekong rivers meet. KVL’s focus on architecture and design make it an ideal environment for those traveling on business, but there’s plenty of leisure to be had, from the chic rooftop bar ‘Up’, overlooking Riverside and the Royal Palace, two in-house restaurants and the refined ground floor café, The Alchemist.