Giulia and Michele are two Italian expats living in Dubai who decided to visit Beirut over a weekend, and below you will find their experience and perspective on one of the most beautiful cities of the Middle East. You can follow their Beirut and other adventures on Instagram (@TheItalians_SpaghettiAirways).
When we booked our weekend getaway to Beirut we didn’t know what to expect. For Dubai expats, Beirut is a party and beach destination, while for others it’s just a city synonymous with war and strife. We read a lot before going there, and we knew there was going to be much more than stereotypes.
Our 48 hours in Beirut was an extraordinarily satisfying trip in a city that — despite the cruel past — remains incredibly hedonistic and flourishes with artists, chefs, designers and architects. Boutique hotels are just next to dilapidated houses and stylish bars are right after a tool warehouse. Its beauty is not evident, and not at all classic. It’s for those who know how to scratch the surface of things.
And once you find it, you’ll love it.
These are just some of the experiences that will tell you why you can’t not fall in love with Beirut:
Walking through a unique urban scape: We spent most of our two days strolling around Armenia Street, between Mar Mikhael and Gemmayze. Distressed buildings mix and blend with incredibly beautiful villas and their lush and flowery private gardens. The mash up creates a harsh and striking contrast that captivates and lingers in your mind. That’s why here the atmosphere is so vibey and every corner can hide an insta-worthy story – just keep your eyes and mind open!
Tucking into the hipster café culture: This made us feeling we are in Europe again! The café scene of this city is worth the ticket itself. Coffee and food are not just in fashion; here we found a movement of young and metropolitan restaurateurs – and caffeine lovers – whose projects are non-mainstream, contemporary and downright cool. Here some names that we want to tip you off:
Papercup is a bookstore with a library-like feel, where bistro tables, majestically made coffee and a bookshelf packed with high end magazines comes together. Get your caffeine fix with the lovely made double espresso, while reading the latest issue of Cereal Mag (the sesame sweet served on the side will give you an extra dose of happiness).
Ginette serves artisanal healthy food in a modernly decorated open space where you can shop trendy home décors and stylish clothes. They do an avocado smash that you will hardly forget.
Urbanista is a cosmopolitan bistro with a funky New York industrial style and a menu that marries Lebanese staples with ingredients and recipes from around the world. Try one of their Urba Roll and Rock — they are incredibly delicious and very healthy at the same time.
Kalei Cofee Co. is a lovely garden café and roastery in a great hidden location deep in the middle of Mar Mikhael. Here you can enjoy freshly brewed coffee hailing from Latin America and Africa, while indulging in a very unique cozy escape.
Visiting a modern art museum “en plaine air”: Mar Mikael is home to a growing creative community and the street art movement is one of the most eye-striking and intriguing production from this artist collective. Graffiti is changing the face of the neighborhood and are giving additional momentum to the gentrification process of Armenia street. Artists armed with brushes and paintings are trying to create beauty, improve quality of life by injecting optimism and hope, and shed light on subjects no one talks about.
From decorated staircases to painted building facades, from hidden indie showroom to extemporary vernissage on the street, Beirut artistic epicenter is an open air modern art museum.
Indulging into lavish food: From tasty street food to contemporary cuisine, the food scene of Beirut has what it takes to satisfy even the most demanding palates. And nothing is more appropriate than the adjective “middle eastern” to describe its cuisine: fresh mediterrean ingredients are married with the zesty character of spices and cooking techniques from the east. This mirrors perfectly the Beirut’s vibrant melting pot of cultures.
We found a superb execution of Lebanese cuisine in Liza. This is a high-end restaurant set in a magnificent old villa with stunning interior design inspired by Arabic patterns and decors. But what surprises most is that food is not at all flashy. It’s down to earth, hearty and genuinely delicious. Traditional with a little modern twist.
All in all, in only 48 hours Beirut has beaten all the prejudices and exceeded by long distance our expectations. Our minds are still over-stimulated by the amount of colors, flavors, inspirations and perspectives that this city brings out. We cannot wait to go back!
Our suggested itinerary for a weekend getaway in Beirut from Dubai
The good news is that you don’t need days off to do all this:
- Land in Beirut on Thursday evening. Both flyfubai and Emirates have convenient late evening flights on Thursday and from Beirut airport it takes only 30 min taxi ride to reach Villa Clara, the hotel at which we stayed.
- Start your day with the delicious breakfast at Villa Clara prepared at perfection by chef Rudy (homemade yogurt and zaatar manoushe are the highlights).
- Walk down Armenia Street to soak up the hipster atmosphere of Mar Mikael. Click your next profile picture at one of the many graffiti decorated staircase. Stop at Papercup for a coffee and some books shopping
- Roam around the neighborhood again and stop for lunch at Urbanista.
- After lunch continue the cafe hopping tour with Sole Insight, sitting on the steps of a staircase where contemporary art pieces are displayed.
- For your afternoon pick me up, stop at Ginette.
- Liza is the perfect choice for your Friday dinner, elegant location and hearty Lebanese food. Looking for a perfect conclusion to this day? Have a Passion Martini on the rooftop of the Junkyard
- On your second day take a short excursion in the morning to Byblos, an old village by the sea just 45 min Uber ride away from Beirut. Spend the morning there visiting the old city center and the historical citadel.
- You will be back in Beirut on time for a late lunch at Kalei Cofee
- Go for some shopping around Mar Mikael, it’s the perfect place to find handcrafted décor for the house.
- A late afternoon aperitivo can’t get any better than on a rooftop, this time you can try Fabrik.
- Close your tour with a lavish dinner at Villa Clara, french inspired delicacies aren’t the best way to end up your 48 hours in Beirut before heading back to the airport.
More about the writers: Giulia and Michele, are Italian inside and out — in their way of enjoying life, searching the beauty of it and making the most. And of course being Italian, they have a big thing for food, pretty big to be honest ;). On top of eating they found the time to travel 48 countries and feed themselves with epic memories. This is how @TheItalians_SpaghettiAirways was born, to share their love for food and travel. Welcome onboard!