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Neighbourhoods: explore Beirut's authentic cosmopolitanism around Hamra

Neighbourhoods: explore Beirut's authentic cosmopolitanism around Hamra

If one word could describe Beirut’s Hamra district, that would be “buzzing”. From my experience it’s pretty much impossible to find the streets of Hamra completely empty, even at the wee hours of the morning.

Former home to the Beiruti intelligentsia, Hamra remains one of Beirut’s few actual melting pots. It’s a cosmopolitan place where Lebanese, Syrian refugees, government workers, students, Christians, Muslims form an unusual community for Beirut standards.

Hamra waterfront

Neither as fancy as Achrafieh nor as party central as Mar Mikhael, Hamra gives a different taste of the city. Walking around its crowded streets one find a mix of cafes, restaurants, shops, as well as some residential parts.

The first time I explored Hamra I didn’t find it one of city’s most charming parts, yet Hamra always manages to surprise me. Occasionally you will stumble upon an old abandoned mansion or a renovated three-floor tall building that will give you an idea of how Beirut must have looked like 50 years ago before the war and before developers took over the city.

Jai's delicious Pad Thai

Do

  • Visit the American University of Beirut (AUB) campus. It reminds me a lot of U.S. West Coast campuses
  • Wander along the waterfront and indulge is some people watching. Hamra is one of the few areas of Beirut with walking access to the waterfront. On one side you have the view of the city with all its concrete and on the other the Mediterranean is unfolding before your eyes
  • Take a break at Sanayeh park. On the border of Hamra, this square park is one of the rare green spaces in Beirut and a good spot to read and relax
  • If you’re looking for a place to work, head to Antwork. This modern co-working space is like a haven in the middle of the city
  • Shop at Orient 499. One of the most beautifully curated shops where you can find a selection of gorgeous home decor, clothes, and jewelry. If you’re looking for a present to bring back from your trip this is the place to come to
  • If the weather gets too hot and you can’t make it to the beach, head to Pool d’Etat for a dip and a cocktail - it’s a little oasis in the middle of Hamra

Eat

  • Mezyan for meze - everything is good, and the added bonus is that you can come at any time of the day. Their hummus is slightly spicy and absolutely delicious

  • T-Marbouta - another good place for Lebanese food.Try the kibbeh and ask to sit outside, it’s much nicer

  • Good internet is a rare luxury in Beirut. So head to Urbanista Coffee. The trendy coffee house opposite AUB is the perfect place to check your emails while sipping a juice and eating a salad

  • Enjoy the sun at Dar Bistro’s urban garden. The environment gives a feeling of seclusion in the middle of the city. Don’t forget to check out their books inside; the selection is very good

  • Onno - for Armenian cuisine. Their burek, itch salad, and mante are absolutely mouth watering.

  • Smoking bun - for juicy burgers. The burgers make up for the lack of space

  • Jai - for Asian. The restaurant is tiny and very popular so make sure you book in advance. Portions are big and every single option tastes deliciously (I admit I have a thing for their spring rolls, green curry, and ginger donuts) 

Drink

  • Ferdinand - Good cocktails off of Hamra streets made by really knowledgable bartenders.
  • Bardo - Just off of Hamra this intimate and stylish gay bar is a great place for dancing and exploring a different side of Beirut 
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