Plenty of character
Circa 51 is a lovely, shady family-run hotel in an historical early 1960s-era building renovated with care and attention to detail, and plenty of character. With a swimming pool and eclectic decor, it makes for something a bit different in the Cambodian capital if your budget stretches to midrange.
Walking into Circa 51 you could almost believe you've just arrived at a friend's house, and you will be warmly welcomed by the resident labrador. The feel is immediately 1960s, with polished concrete tiles, claustra -- lace-like cement work -- and retro furniture in the lobby. This is classic original New Khmer Architecture, the kind that's rapidly disappearing across the city. The building was used as a government office, and it once belonged to Princess Bopha Devi, the sister of King Norodom Sihamoni. It maintains the residential feel today, with just 10 rooms (and nine room types).
The no-smoking rooms are decorated in a mix of antique, retro and more modern furniture that manages to coalesce rather than clash, with some Khmer textiles, natural materials and artworks adding colour; it doesn't quite have the finesse of The Sangkum or the breezy style of The 252, but it's an original building with a faithful renovation, and it does feel like a very comfortable retreat with character. Amenities are what you'd expect for this price point, and include hot water bathrooms, air-con, tea- and coffee-making facilities, robes, flat-screen TVs with DVD player, toiletries and water. We particularly liked the balcony room overlooking the pool, which offered plenty of space, and a somewhat dreamy air. The standards are smaller, and not quite as romantic.
You'll likely spend quite a bit of time by the cool and welcoming large saltwater pool with loungers, partly shaded by a banyan tree and traveller palms; kids will love the small pond at the entrance filled with turtles -- we thought they were statues until we saw one move. A very decent breakfast spread is included in room rates and served on a terrace overlooking the pool, while for other meals Western and Asian dishes are available, including from their sister restaurant Saffron, which focuses on South Asian cuisine.
While the location is away from the river, it's only about a 20-minute walk to get there, or a few minutes in a tuk tuk. What you lose in location you gain in peacefulness, as this is a mostly residential area with little hassle.
By Nicky Sullivan
Last updated on 16th February, 2016.