Phnom Penh has a special place in my heart as it was the first city in Southeast Asia I visited, back in 2005. I remember paying $2USD for a motorbike taxi from the airport, which may have been a dollar more than I was supposed to pay (I’m sure some wiseass backpacker pointed that out to me). I remember live pigs strapped to the front of motorbikes and chickens hanging from the back, a family of five on one motorbike, and a bike carting a big sheet of glass. All this from the journey in from the airport. I loved it straight away.
What I don’t remember on that trip was having a cafe latte. My memory is hazy but I’m pretty sure I didn’t see a single espresso machine in my few days there. Sure, I was staying in cheapo guesthouses, but there were no cafe chains to be seen in this city that was still getting back up on its feet after years of turmoil.
I was back in Phnom Penh sorting out a visa for Vietnam so I had a few days to have a look around. Coming back eight years later it was fascinating to see how much this city has changed. Most of the roads are paved now, and there has been a cafe boom, of which I tried to visit as many as I could.
Interesting to note the amount of chain cafes here, but not from the usual suspects (there is no Starbucks here, yet). There are some familiar brands here, but my two favourite cafe chains here are local businesses that would do well anywhere in the world if they decide to expand.
This list is of suitable work cafes with free wifi. There are of course more cafes, but time time was limited on this trip. In the case of chain cafes I have listed the ones I visited and provided a link to the cafe website if you want to find more.
Foreign Correspondents Club
The FCC is an institution of Phnom Penh and a place you should visit – working or not – if only to sit by the open window and watch the world go by along the quay and river. The FCC opened in its current location in 1993 but it feels like it has been around for much longer.
Brown Coffee is a chain of cafes that can be found in several location around Phnom Penh. Brown was started be five Cambodian men who have spent time abroad and have since come home to start this venture.
There are currently five branches (at the time of posting) and I went to the one on the riverfront.
Location: #1 st. 98 corner Sisowath Quay, Phnom Penh
Further Reading: How a coffee chain conquered Cambodia: Brown’s success story
The Blue Pumpkin
The Blue Pumpkin is another local cafe chain success story. Starting out in Seam Reap, there are now several branches in Phnom Penh and Sihanoukville. The chain features dazzling white interiors and couches so big that you lounge on them like a futon. They also have great ice cream.
Location: #245 Sisowath Quay, Phnom Penh
Java Café & Gallery
The upstairs section of Java Cafe is everything I imagined a cafe in Southeast Asia would look like; an open balcony with greenery, tiled floors, and ceiling fans. And of course there is free wifi (which is standard in any SE Asia cafe). If being outside isn’t your thing, inside has the usual air-con comfort.
Location: 56 Sihanouk Blvd, Phnom Penh
Studio701 has two floors of cafe space with good working tables.
Location: #473A Monivong Blvd, corner of St. 242, Phnom Penh
Xotique Coffee and Bakery
Xotique Coffee and Bakery is a bit further out from the rest of the cafes but it seemed to be a well known place with expats as it was doing a steady business when I visited.
Location: #32, St. 456, Phnom Penh
Kiriya Cafe is a Japanese-owned cafe/bakery that is open until 2am.
Location: #174, St. 51, corner of St. 370, Phnom Penh
Pauls BreweHouse is a coffee, donuts and bakery cafe with two branches in Phnom Penh. The owner came from California where he owned Mr. Steve’s Donuts for 20 years.
Location: #253, St. 51, corner of St. 370, Phnom Penh
Spinelli are a San Francisco coffee chain that has branches in Singapore, China, and one branch here in Cambodia.
Location: #174, St. 63 Corner of St. 282, Phnom Penh
Gong Cha is a Taiwanese tea chain that serve bubble tea (as you would being from Taiwan) as well as regular coffee.
Location: #20, St. 51, corner of St. 282, Phnom Penh
True Coffee are a cafe chain from Thailand. They have branches everywhere in Bangkok but they charge for wifi so I never go. I thought I should at least pop in and have a look in Phnom Penh, and it turns out that wifi is free, so they make my list of cafes to work from.
Location: St. 51, corner of St. 310, Phnom Penh
Further Reading: Truly a regional success story
The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf
The California cafe giant is represented in Phnom Penh with two branches.
Location: St. 57, corner of St. 306, Phnom Penh
Australia’s biggest cafe chain is also represented with two cafes in Phnom Penh.
Location: St. 51, corner of St. 310, Phnom Penh
ebada pet cafe
OK, so you probably aren’t going to get any work done here but I couldn’t resist adding this cafe. ebada is a pet cafe where you can come and play with the resident dogs (and token cat).
Location: #35, St. 306, Phnom Penh