I’ve been planning to do this Beirut City Guide since our return, but it has been some cray busy weeks since we came back from Lebanon. My husband is working his a** off as he has to finish up all his work and prepare to pass on everything to a new colleague who is taking over his job from Christmas when we embark on our new adventure. On top of his busy work schedule, which leaves me with our son most of the time, we have a tight social calendar with a wedding, two baptisms, visit from Spain, weekend-away and my birthday coming up this month. A bit too much honestly. All these things are nice, but I really don’t like when all weekends are booked months in advance.
But we are soon leaving (for a Latin American adventure – read it here in case you missed it), so we also want to see friends and family before saying adios 🙂
Anyway, this post wasn’t meant to be about me complaining, but about Beirut! We came home from a great 10-day journey in Lebanon some weeks ago. Here is what I can recommend other coffee-loving travellers in Beirut:
I definitely recommend the Gemmayzeh or Mar Mikhael neighbourhoods. They are located side by side, but Gemmayzeh is closer to the city center and makes it easier to walk everywhere. And it is a bit more developed than Mar Mikhael, which is an upcoming art district.
Zanzoun: We stayed at guesthouse Zanzoun in Mar Mikhael which is very recommendable. It is an old original house that have been restored by a french-lebanese couple, who now live on the two upper floors and rent out the four guest rooms on the first floor.
Beit Tawlet: Another great option is Beit Tawlet in the same neighbourhood. It is decorated with an extreme attention to detail in a very 70’ies style. They have complimentary coffee, tea, water and biscuits all day in the common areas on each floor. I would pick this one myself if I was to visit again.
Villa Clara: A bit more expensive and with a bit more luxury is Villa Clara
AirBnb: In Gemmayzeh there are not that many hotels or guesthouses, but a bunch of nice apartments on AirBnb. This one looks amazing with a roof top terrace.
EAT & DRINK
Tawlet Souk el Tayeb for a traditional Lebanese meal in nice and bright surroundings. Visit here
T-Marbouta for an all-round very good menu in a nice breezy courtyard. Visit here
Home Sweet Home Café & Store for brunch, lunch, smoothie bowls and delicious cakes. They also have a little shop with stationary, books and home accessories. Visit here
Café Em Nazih is a self-service restaurant with local food at low prices. The place is big and there is a nice vibe with students, turists and locals around. Visit here
Kalei Coffee Co for coffee and cocktails in rustic surroundings. Visit here
Sip was our favourite coffee shop in Beirut. Great coffee (they master a flat white to perfection), perfect pale pink walls and a lovely courtyard with large loungers (where we relaxed three days in a row while our son slept in his stroller 🙂 ) Visit here
Papercup Bookstore for a combination of coffee, books and international magazines. I bought the Monocle Escapist magazine here. Visit here
And then there is Paul, the French bakery chain (I have a soft spot for this chain as I love their pastry and their quiches for a light lunch). They have various locations throughout the city.
Lobster Society for a different fast food experience. Lobster and crab in buns with garniture and fries on the side. Visit here
Riwaq Beirut for drinks and a quick bite. Their salads are delicious. Visit here
Liza for some fine dining (modern Lebanese food in the most gorgeous surroundings). Visit here
SEE & DO
The Sursock museum is a modern and contemporary art museum located in a stunning little palace (it looks like a palace at least). Visit here
See the Raouche Rocks and stroll on the Corniche among locals and tourists. The Raouche Rocks are two large rock in the sea with a little passage at the bottom.
Go shopping on the little street Pharoun in Mar Mikhael. Here you will find small design shops and boutiques. If you’re more into international shopping then head to Beirut Souqs in Downtown Beirut. Here you’ll both find the well-known high street brands ZARA, Massimo Dutti and H&M as well as high-end fashion brands like Gucci and Hermes.
Hang out with the locals in the many coffee shops and bars around the city. We felt that they were easy to talk to and very keen on sharing their best secrets to the city they call their home (okay, we travelled with our 1-year old son who literally just walked into people, so he was a good door opener for us 🙂 )
Take a guidet walking tour. We didn’t do it, but we should have. The city has a lot of history pre-and post war and what better way to learn about it than from a skilled guide?
Transportation is almost non-existing in terms of public transportation. Walk or take an Uber (works perfectly fine).
Currency is Lebanese pound, but you can also pay with USD everywhere (like everywhere) at a fixed rate. They will just give you back in the local currency. We only brought USD and it was perfect. In Beirut they accept credit cards all over.
Safety isn’t an issue at all. We felt perfectly safe and there is close to none street crimes in Beirut. Locals would leave their Mac Books and phones on the tables in the coffee shops when they went to the restroom, so that’s a good indicator of a low crime rate.
Language is Arabic and French, but most people in Beirut speak some English. We managed perfectly with English and my school French. It wasn’t until we left Beirut and went up to the mountains we were challenged on the language barriers.
Did I miss anything? Hit me if you have questions about an upcoming trip to Beirut and I’ll do my best to answer them!