DISCLAIMER: Advertisement. All locations and restaurants are my personal recommendation and we paid ourselves.
this will be a longer one. So let’s just hop in. The first part will be a little overview of the city districts. The second, recommendations for Weekend-Trips and the third, my must-see restaurants (I won’t mention every single one, because you can find them all in my Instagram Highlight for Beirut! Only the top ones make it here, otherwise you’ll be overwhelmed).
So, let’s go.
One of the national landmarks of Beirut is the ‘Pigeon’s Rock’.
It is located in Raouché at the Corniche which is a seaside walk from which you have a very nice view on Beirut’s East side.
Not too far from there is Verdun, a district where you can visit of of the big ABC Malls (Abc Verdun). Beautiful architecture inside and out. The gap between rich and poor is huge and malls are a reminder, because next to stores like Subdued or Stradivarius you’ll find names like Massimo Dutti or Ted Baker.
Other reason why I mention these malls are a) the amazing amount of restaurants, not like these fast-food chains in Germany, but good restaurants and b) they have an open rooftop thing going on. So the top level is kind of outside, but also inside, depending where you are, with lots of greenery. Really beautiful!
(I’ll mention the ABC malls for restaurant tips later)
Since we are talking malls now anyways, here are other places where you can shop till you drop:
The Hamra, a long street with loads of stores e.g. American Eagle Outfitters & ALDO as well as restaurants is a go-to and quite busy in the afternoon and evening.
Beirut Souks is probably the fanciest half-interior-exterior mall there is in Beirut. From Bershka to Jimmy Choo, you’ll probably find what you like in one of the stores.
Right in front of the Souks is also where ‘the I love Beirut’ sign is located. So don’t forget to snap a pic.
Enough of shopping places, close to the Souks a little more in the North is Zaitunay Bay, where the Yacht Club and beach clubs are located. You get to have a beautiful view of the Mediterranean Sea. Wouldn’t go swimming in the sea though, as not only my dad, but also a friend of his got very sick aka. got the shits (sorry, not sorry for being this blunt) after going there.
If you are more interested in architecture, don’t fret, because every little district has a charm of its own.
One of my favourites, maybe also due to its artistic touch, is Saifi.
There are not only beautiful vibrantly coloured houses (which are like the perfect location for outfit/wedding shoots), but also stores with crazy interior decor and clothing items, as well as art galleries.
Place de l’Etoile is very close (part of Downtown Beirut). And don’t forget to take a look on and inside the Mohammad Al-Amin Mosque if you’re there. Women have to cover obviously out of respect to the religious beliefs. Black burkas are provided, you just have to take off your shoes!
Funny story, after the Mosque was finished, the Saint George Maronite Cathedral was built. And with the cross is perspectively standing on top of the Mosque (why can’t people just accept that we are all equal and can believe in whom or whatever we want? :D)
So, now, a little more east is Gemmayzeh, known for its nightlife. There is one bar next to another, it’s very lively in the evening and I swear I crossed at least 3 nightclubs/dancing bars (I wasn’t even looking for these, but since some of you might be into it, here you go 🙂 ).
This is also where the famous set of stairs are located and the ‘Cabriolet Film Festival’ was held which we attended shortly.
A little more east of Gemmayzeh is Sursock which is where the rich and wealthy reside (in Saifi, too).
But it’s lovely for a little stroll as you can see big villas and houses with beautifully decorated gardens.
The ‘Villa Sursock’ is also open to the public (at least the restaurant inside, for sure) as long as it’s not booked for a private event which it was, sadly, when we went there, so I couldn’t get a glimpse.
Don’t worry, instead or better additionally there’s the Sursock Museum to see. We also didn’t go inside, but the building itself is nice to look at!
Oh yes, forgot, perfect for outfit shoots 🙂
If you drive more south from Sursock, there’s the Sassine Square, one of the biggest town squares of Beirut. It’s already part of Ashrafieh. Close by is also the ABC Mall Ashrafieh I’ve mentioned in the beginning.
Ashrafieh is the district we have spent the most time in. Probably due to the fact that the Independance Street has the most restaurants I wanted to try 😀
I’ll conclude this little roundtrip with Badaro, a district with scenic cafés and bars. Be sure to visit it during evening hours.
As a matter of fact, this is the district that reminds people most of the times Beyrouth was called the ‘Little Paris’ (oh yes, defo had great French food there!)
Of course I’m not done. But these districts were easier to put into kind of a tour starting from the Corniche and ending at Badaro.
Here comes the rest of the city 🙂
East of Sursock is Mar Mikhael, again with a lot of restaurants and bars, but my favourite: ‘Kalei Coffee Co.’ is a bit secluded which I like, since it has a calm, chill atmosphere. Google Maps will help you find it, but there’s also as little sign at the road which you need to enter to go in the back 🙂
Maybe almost as often as we were in Ashrafieh, we were in Dbayeh, just because it’s closer to our home, a third-way into the city.
The famous ‘the Village’ is a little dining area with restaurants on the ground floor and bars on the top floor. It’s open-air, even if each individual restaurant has also indoor seating available.
Right around the corner to ‘the Village’ is the ABC Mall Dbayeh. I didn’t like it that much compared to the ones in Verdun and Ashrafieh. The one thing I loved though was the little truffles and ice-cream stand, called ‘nd’ (they even have sugar-free ice-cream and it is delicious)
WEEKEND DAYTRIP 1 (the South)
DAY 1: Al Shouf Cedar Nature Reserve & Deir al-Quamar
DAY 2: AUB
If you drive South (South-East) for approx. 2 hours from Beirut you will arrive at Al Shouf Cedar Nature Reserve where you can witness a real opposite to the city life in Beirut. It’s the largest nature reserve in Lebanon.
The air alone is super fresh, you’re able to have a beautiful view of the Cedars.
Some trees are estimated to be over 2000 years old. Can you imagine?
There are quite a few hiking trails available, starting from a 30 min up to a 1 1/2 hour trail. We chose the 2nd shortest, as you see everything important, like the tree with such a big crown stretching over a natural rock stack.
Halfway from/to the Reserve, you cross the village Deir al-Quamar (“Monastry of the Moon”).
You get to look at religious sites like Saydet El Talle (“Our Lady of the Hill”, a Maronite church or the Fakhreddine II Palace.
Five kilometres from Deir al-Quamar is Beiteddine with its beautiful Beiteddine Palace. It used to be the private home of Emir Bashir II. Most rooms are accessible for the public although sadly only keeping a lot of distance to the furniture.
It has a gorgeous garden, perfect for wedding shoots.
Here are some pictures of the trip:
The AUB is the American University of Beirut. Why should I visit a university you might ask?
Simply, because it’s the most beautiful uni I have ever seen. The campus is full of nature, it has great sporting facilities and its own two museums.
I don’t even want to know how much students have to pay for a year of studies, but the environment is definitely worth it!
Hello, sometimes there are cute cats brightening up your day 😀
Just look at what I captured and you know what I mean:
WEEKEND TRIP 2 (the North)
DAY 1: Baatara Pothole, Guita & Byblos
DAY 2: Natural Stone Bridge & Faqra Temple Kfardebian
For one day I would recommend going to see one of the two famous waterfalls in Lebanon. One is located in the Baatara Pothole in Tannourine, the other in Baakline. Due to the rest of the trip, we chose to go to the Baatara Pothole.
The waterfall drops 255 m into the pothole. The path to stand directly in front of the waterfall was too slippery, not secured and therefore too dangerous for us (we were carrying lots of photography gear).
Also due to the season (End of June), the waterfall was almost dried out, so keep this in mind when traveling there. I’d recommend the late autumn until spring season to embark on that trip.
From there back in the direction of Beirut you should make a pit stop at Guita – Bed & Bloom. The owners make their own apple juice (delicious), everything is homemade and the guest rooms are beautifully decorated. Plus the people are so nice and down to earth, very talkative and will make you feel right at home!
The last stop then is Byblos (about 42 kilometres north of Beirut), one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world. It’s also a UNESCO World Heritage site. Apparently it was built by Cronus as the first Phoenician city.
The historic quarter (old city), the port and the Crusader Castle are must sees. If you ask me, you already need a whole day to explore the castle alone.
The other day I’d recommend driving to the Natural Stone Bridge in Kfardebian. You can just take in a wonderful view of the mountains or do a hike around it if you fancy that.
Because it was quite hot, we only savoured nature’s beauty from right in front of the bridge.
Probably not as impressive as the ruins in Baalbek is the Faqra Temple, also known as the Temple of Adonis in Kfardebian.
I can’t compare, since we only managed to go to the Roman ruins in Faqra. Why?
Because unfortunately, family shootings were reported in that area. Even military men were shot and died, so it wasn’t safe for us to go. Read til the end for some words on overall safety of the Lebanon.
WEEKEND DAYTRIP 3
DAY 1: Jounieh & Harissa
DAY 2: Jeita Grotto
The municipality Harissa is located 27 km north of Beirut and easily accessible through driving to the city Jounieh and from thereon taking the Télépherique (gondola) up.
Harissa is best known for their pilgrimage site, the statue of Virgin Mary, named Our Lady of Lebanon (Notre Dame du Liban).
Not only the view from climbing up the statue is worth seeing, but also the little chapel in the base.
Note that if you are a woman, you need to cover up your legs at least right until over the knees. Scars are provided if you aren’t dressed accordingly (which I was never, hello, it was freaking hot. who needs clothes? :D) Always respect the religious beliefs though!
Now that you are already in the North, I’d say it’s a great idea to drive a little south and eat at ‘Fit Food Station‘ and then enjoy the sunset at the Seaside Road, before heading back to Beirut.
Concluding this series, as a last stop we have a trip to the Jeita Grotto.
It consists of two interconnected karstic limestone caves with a length of approx 9km.
The upper cave can be looked at by feet and houses the largest stalactite in the world. The lower cave can only be seen by boat through sailing the naturally occurring river.
Sadly, photography isn’t permitted, so this picture is from Wikipedia.
Ok, now babes. Off to my favourite food spots now 🙂
The first one is Breakfast Barn. Primarily, it’s a breakfast spot (ha, guessed by the name, right?), but they also serve lunch. They specialise in various breads with toppings like the unspectacular pb&blueberry to traditional Lebanese with Labneh and kumquats e.g. or vegan almond cheese with radish topping.
Also mentionable are the chia pots and the self mix&match yoghurt bowls.
For lunch they have sandwiches and salads and dessert options, too.
Every person omnivore or vegan can find a dish that will please them!
The only chain restaurant that made my list (and trust me, there are a looot of them in Beirut) is Casper & Gambini’s.
Honestly every savoury dish was, hands down, delicious. But I can’t say that about the breakfast (Ultimate Pancake) and smoothies (Sweet Greens). One time, I ordered the smoothie, it was totally off and inedible or drinkable, so to say and had to give it back. The pancakes lacked taste and were super bland, probably because the bananas they used weren’t quite ripe.
BUT, the dinner, seriously so good!
From breakfast menus (eggs, labneh, avo on toast etc.) over starters (truffle sliders, edamame, fresh crab & shrimp soft buns) to soups, salads, homemade pastas, meat & fish from the grill and mouthwatering desserts, you’ll find it all!
They have options for every diet, even indicate vegan and heart-healthy dishes on the menu. Also, they just launched the fit’n’healthy menu with lower calorie dishes. That’s a plus for everyone looking to keep their figure 🙂
The waiters are very attentive and you get a free bread basket with, if you ask me, the best Zaatar Crackers and Breadsticks!
My favorite locations are the restaurants in the ABC Mall Ashrafieh and Beirut Souks.
The third location is Cantina Sociale. They might not have the biggest menu, but I love this one for the atmosphere and food.
Cantina Sociale offers breakfast (Croissants, Lebanese Breakfast, Bircher Muesli, Avo Toast etc.), Wraps, Dips, Sandwiches, Bruschetta and Custom Salads. And omg, delicious banana bread, brownies and kombucha. Almost forgot to mention a big wine selection!
They have options for every diet again and I swear you won’t be disappointed. Also, I think they’re priced fairly!
Perfect for freelancers or work in general as they have free wi-fi!
The restaurant is located in Ashrafieh.
The fourth restaurant I’d like to recommend is Kalei Coffee Co. Honestly the most chill, secluded place at the end of a road in a quiet spot in the district Mar Mikhael.
They’re suppose to have the best coffee in Beirut which I sadly couldn’t try, because of my stomach issues (please, just heal, so I can drink coffee again 😀 ). Also kind of out there options like Espresso Lemonade and Cocktails with Coffee.
But also their sandwiches and desserts are amazing! I’ve had THE best fudge brownie in Beirut there!
The menu consists of breakfast like options (Pancakes, Smoothie Bowls, Eggs on Avo Toast etc.), savoury bowls, bites and bread/mankouche plates. And like I mentioned earlier, desserts. Definitely try their desserts!
Why I love this location so much is, because it’s super quiet there. People come with their laptops to work, chill in the hammock or on the rooftop. They have indoor and outdoor seating, ambient music. It’s just so cozy, you don’t want to leave. Oh, and it’s pet friendly!
And last, but definitely not least: The Rose Canteen. It just opened in the beginning of June, so it was only a month in business when I went there. Keeping this in mind, I was mind-blown by the quality of the food.
It is the 2nd wholly plantbased restaurant in Beirut. For now the location is very tiny, but every customer can be served with attention.
The menu is small, but every dish is made with love and detail. The food presentation is the most beautiful I’ve seen in Beirut and even though some dishes weren’t perfect in every way (such as the consistency of the nice cream), the taste was.
Also the manager reacted to my review on instagram and took my suggestions into consideration. That’s what I call great restaurant management. I hope the team will grow a loyal customer base and be able to expand into a bigger location.
Be sure to check the restaurant situated in a side street in Mar Mikhael.
That’ almost it now, but before we’re done:
I made this interactive map with all the spots in order to make it easier for you to find them.
Here you go:
And a little word on safety:
My father’s employer has a list of parts in Lebanon he’s not supposed to go to, because it’s too dangerous.
Some are marked as red (very critical) and some orange (not advisable, but sometimes necessary to make a transit through) and obviously green (safe).
We wanted to go to Baalbek one weekend, but blew it off, because there were family shootings. Every sane person would try to stay safe and avoid that region and I’d advise you, as a tourist, to do it too!
Other than that, my opinion is, even if the religious beliefs couldn’t be more different, the inhabitants respect one another. For me, the reason why Beirut could be portrayed as an unsafe travel destination is solely based on its location.
Turmoil is going on in the countries surrounding it and being right in the middle of a country with civil war or difficult political circumstances means being in the firing zone.
But that’s why there’s so much military as well. To keep the country safe, to be prepared if an attack would occur.
Other than the slight uncomfortable feeling (military carrying weapons openly) at the beginning, there’s nothing to fear about in Lebanon.
On the contrary, the people always go out of their own way to make your visit pleasant and show you the heart of their home country!
Now I’m done 😀
Will you write Beirut or Lebanon in general down on your bucket list?
What do you think of my new feature? (the map)
PS: This post is not sponsored by anyone. These are all my personal recommendations and I paid for everything myself. I’d just love to support these little businesses, because they deserve it!