A controversial city that is nothing less than inspiring and stimulating to one’s senses. One of the oldest cities in the world (circa 5,000 years), Beirut has lived under many empires; overcame numerous battles; and underwent major reconstructions. Time after time, the city and its people have risen only to become stronger, more resilient and more flourishing with a hopeful and unconditional love to their country. A passionate Lebanese residing in the Gulf, this is Lama’s ideal 48 hours spent in her hometown – Beirut.
For me Beirut is my home and my identity; a city at once stalked by the past, wary of the future, but always determined to live in the moment.
- Where to stay: Albergo boutique hotel.
- ‘Must-try’ street food: mana2ish, falafel, shawarma, knefe.
- Words that best describes the city: diverse, cultural, friendly, modern, chaotic, brilliant, real.
- What to expect: nothing but the best.
9 am – Typical Lebanese “Man2oushe” for breakfast. Wherever you stay in the city, you will find a Lebanese bakery within walking distance where you can treat yourself to the typical and most authentic thyme flat bread (or man2ouche) for breakfast. I recommend adding some fresh vegetables and Lebanese yogurt-based cheese “labneh” to it.
10 am – Head to the revitalized downtown area at the centre of the action. Make sure to pass by Martyr’s Square in the heart of Downtown Beirut, see the martyr’s statues and visit both St. Georges Maronite cathedral as well as the Mohammed Al-Amin mosque: landmarks symbolizing both religion’s coexistence. Keep your head high while strutting the streets, as you will be pleasantly surprised by unexpected graffiti covering bullet-ridden shells of buildings ravaged during the civil wars. A pleasant synchronization between the ugly and the beautiful. Artist to watch closely: Yazin Halwani.
11 am – Continue to Beirut Souks, the major commercial district of the city, and enjoy a wide range of boutiques for shopping and entertainment. If you are lucky, you will stumble upon the farmer’s market or “Souk El Tayeb”. Held every Saturday at the souks, you can treat yourself to many organic foods prepared by different Lebanese farmers and small local businesses from all over the country. Do not miss getting jams, fruits, vegetables and Lebanese delicacies… all promoting Lebanese food traditions and heritage.
1 pm – Have lunch in the trendy “Beirut Central District” area – a busy neighborhood with up-and-coming restaurants. My go-to choice would be L’Avenue for international French cuisine or Kampai for tasty and exotic sushi.
3 pm – Grab coffee and go for a walk on the corniche (known as Raouché). Feel the authentic Beirut spirit with the sea on your right, the city on your left and corn-sellers as well as joggers crowding the pavements of the sidewalks. Make sure to pause halfway and gaze at our natural landmarks, “The Pigeon Rocks”.
5 pm – Cross the road and visit the oldest university in town, the American University of Beirut (AUB), which recently celebrated its 150th anniversary; the most beautiful and charming campus that still has a transformative impact and adds an institutional resilience to the region’s education scene. I can never deny that I have spent the best years of my life at AUB!
6 pm – Watch the sunset, unwind and grab a drink at Zaitunay Bay as you enjoy the stunning view of the moored yachts at Beirut’s marina on one side and the city building’s lights on the other.
9 pm – Get your glam on and be ready to experience Beirut’s most cosmopolitan nights. Head to the Mar Mikhaël neighborhood; a sleepless area full of street restaurants. My dinner suggestions would be Baron, Tavolina or L’Osteria. If your energy level is still up, you can head to O1NE – the city’s main nightclub located at the entrance to BIEL.
9 am – Wake up and have breakfast at Falamanki café in the Sodeco area. Sit in the garden and enjoy the perfect adaptation of traditional Lebanese culture and the revitalization of old Beirut into a modern-day restaurant.
11 am – Visit the Sursock museum in Ashrafieh. This modern and contemporary art museum in the heart of Beirut is over a century year old and has been recently expanded and renovated. A must-see stopover for art lovers who want to discover the Lebanese cultural scene and local artists’ works.
1 pm – Have Lunch in “Liza Beirut”, an upscale Middle Eastern restaurant that occupies the 2nd floor of a 19th century palace in the capital’s stylish Ashrafieh neighborhood. Other than the tasty cuisine, the interior design plays a big role in the venue; let your eyes wander at the exotic avant-garde decoration, the high ceilings and arches that evoke the old heritage of Lebanon.
3 pm – Stroll around the Ashrafieh neighborhood, notice all the beautiful hidden architectural gems and discover one-off concept stores where you can shop local designers such as: Depeche Mode, Sarah’s Bags, Vanina, Nada Debs and many more… don’t forget that Beirut is the region’s fashion hub with a truly unique shopping experience.
5 pm – Try the world’s best ice cream: Hanna Mittri on Mar Mitr street in Ashrafieh. I am not exaggerating, nor being patriotic, it is in fact the world’s best ice cream. While strutting the street you will stumble upon a white-painted, one-room shop in a battered old building, where a whole family has been dedicated to making ice cream for the past 60 years! Flavors to try: milk, amareddine, rosewater and chocolate.
7 pm – Have a sunset break at Iris, on the rooftop of Al Nahar building. Enjoy the relaxed post-work vibe in the middle of the city.
9 pm – Continue your evening in one of the best French restaurants in town, Centrale. It has been a long-time favorite due to its unique atmosphere, trendy crowd and edgy architecture designed by renowned Lebanese architect Bernard Khoury. After dinner, take the elevator pod up a level to extend your evening with an intimate view of old Beirut through the retractable roof.