Raffles Hotel Le Royal

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Discover the Raffles Hotel Le Royal, which features some of the best French Colonial architecture in all of Cambodia.

Raffles Hotel Le Royal was constructed during an era marked by global industrialization following World War I and before World War II.

French architect Ernest Hébrard constructed the Hotel Le Royal in Phnom Penh during the 1920s. Hébrard situated the hotel within the fashionable European quarter of Phnom Penh, bordered by the historic waterways that runs throughout the city. As he constructed the hotel, Hébrard blended French-Colonial styles with local architectural influences. The original hotel featured sloping tiled roofs, punctuated by triangular dormer windows, airy uncluttered corridors, and shuttered windows. Hotel Le Royal finally opened in 1929 with a lavish ball, attended by His Majesty Sisowath Monivong, King of Cambodia.

During the mid-1950s, the Sangkum Reastr Nyum (People’s Socialist Community) implemented many successful government projects that grew the economy of Phnom Penh, drawing even larger numbers of international tourists to Cambodia. To facilitate the influx of new guests arriving to Phnom Penh from abroad, the Hotel Le Royal added additional rooms on the upper floors of the main building. Architect Henri Chatel designed the lodgings, adding on some 30 bungalows and 6 studio apartments in the late 1950s. Chatel also added an outdoor restaurant called Le Cyrène (The Water Nymph), a swimming pool, and a terrace, as well as transforming the hotel’s entire entrance hall. And by the mid-1960s, Hotel Le Royal also offered air-conditioned rooms complete with baths.

This boon in international tourism came to an abrupt end in 1975, when the Khmer Rouge came to power. As political instability rocked Phnom Penh, many of those still inside the ancient city recalled how the Hotel Le Royal managed to retain some of its earlier charm. Agence France-Presse journalist, Jon Swain, recalled: “My home was Studio Six, a two-bedroom duplex with ceiling fans on the ground floor of the Hôtel Le Royal… Only at the Hotel Le Phnom was there still something of the lazy charm of the pre-war days, but with a difference: most of the French community had deserted the city after the Khmer Rouge shelled it with artillery, hitting the Lycée Descartes.” Once the Khmer Rouge firmly established itself within the city, the hotel ceased operating, with the regime forcing everyone affiliated with the building to leave.

For the next several years, Hotel Le Royal functioned as a storage facility for food and other supplies. But with the fall of the Khmer Rouge, the hotel reopened as the Hotel Samakki in 1980. The hotel gained a new lease in 1996, when renovations began under the supervision of Raffles International Limited. Raffles demolished the surrounding bungalows, replacing them with three new, more substantial wings. The Raffles architectural team also altered the original floor plans for both the mail building and the studio apartments, only leaving the original layout for the guestrooms intact. Similarly, the architects restored the two symmetrical octagonal rotundas, located north and south of the lobby, to their original, understated splendor.

Following the construction of its three new courtyard wings, the hotel boasts a total of 175 guestrooms and suites. The new wings approximate the former bungalows, albeit on a much grander scale. Inside the original building, the black-and-white floor tiles were faithfully copied and re-laid in the same configurations. Raffles also completely restored a number of original claw-footed bathtubs, and incorporated them with modern fittings. Raffles architects also retained and restored bot the he glazed light-well over the central entrance foyer, as well as the popular grand wooden staircase. After its extensive renovation, Raffles Hotel Le Royal reopened on 24 November 1997. Approaching 90 years of history, it remains Phnom Penh’s most prestigious hotel.

  • About the Architecture +
    French architect Ernest Hébrard blended French-Colonial styles with local architectural influences. The original hotel featured sloping tiled roofs, punctuated by triangular dormer windows, airy uncluttered corridors, and shuttered windows. Architect Henri Chatel later added 30 bungalows and 6 studio apartments during the late 1950s, as well as an outdoor restaurant called Le Cyrène (The Water Nymph), a swimming pool, and a terrace. The hotel underwent another series of renovations some three decades later, in which developers restored much of the original features like the original wooden staircase, its two symmetrical octagonal rotundas, and the central entrance foyer.
  • Famous Historic Guests +
    Sisowath Monivong, King of Cambodia (1927 – 1941)

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