This is a city that means so much more than the sum of its wobbly parts. It’s a Mediterranean destination driven by adrenaline and optimism – and it fulfils its status as capital with an urban panache that’s unmistakably Lebanese. The Monocle Travel Guide to Beirut delves into this metropolis to explore the vivacious thrum of life and unpick its many quirks. Dive into the pace of life (and the Med while you’re at it) and discover all that this Middle Eastern beacon has to offer.

Need to know

Get to grips with the basics

  1. Navigating the city: Landmarks are key to getting around here and there’s an informal hierarchical system used to navigate you first to the general area and then to the exact spot.
  2. Spelling bee: When translating Arabic names be aware that there are English and French approaches to spelling: Ashrafieh and Achrafieh, or Zokak el Blat and Zuqaq al Blat, for example.
  3. Getting around town: Flag down a servees – you’ll know it by its red number plate – and shout your destination (or the closest landmark) to the driver. Once approved, negotiate your price – basic journeys should cost no more than lbp3,000 per person.
  4. Money matters: Everywhere accepts both the Lebanese lira (also referred to as the Lebanese pound) and US dollars; when paying by card or withdrawing cash, you can choose which currency to use.
  5. Superior hospitality: People here share what they have without expecting anything in return. As such, don’t be alarmed when a shopkeeper offers you a cup of coffee.

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Hospitality at its finest

  1. Villa Clara, Mar Mikhael

    Works a charm

    Husband-and-wife owners Olivier Gougeon and Marie-Hélène Moawad run a relaxed guesthouse that, when it comes to the warmth of Lebanese hospitality, is hard to beat.

  2. Dar al Achrafieh, Furn el Hayek

    Personal touch

    Lovers of Lebanese nostalgia should head to the two-bedroom Dar al Achrafieh, which Jamil Azar runs on the third floor of a 1920s building.

  3. Le Gray, Downtown

    Boutique but luxurious

    This luxury hotel operates as a boutique offering and its 103 rooms overlook sights such as the Roman ruins and the Beirut Souks.


Local lingo

  1. Kifak (m)/kifik (f): How are you?
  2. Shou fi ma fi?: What’s up?
  3. Yeslamo: Thank you (literally “may your hands be protected”
  4. Tekram ainak (m)/ainik (f): You’re welcome
  5. Yalla: Come on/let’s go
  6. Khalas: Stop it/don’t worry about it

Food and drink

Smart bites and top stops

  1. Kalei Coffee Co, Mar Mikhael


    The first thing that will win your affection at Beirut’s original micro-roastery is the garden; the second is the smell of coffee freshly roasting on site. Co-owners Dalia Jaffal and Andre Fadel maintain a bean-to-cup business model that ensures optimum quality and traceability.

  2. Tawlet, Mar Mikhael

    Regional tour de force

    Tawlet (“table”) embodies the best of Lebanese food culture: real hospitality, a relaxed atmosphere and delicious food. The lunch-only menu changes daily according to the guest chef’s hometown, with Syrian, Armenian and Palestinian dishes appearing regularly.

  3. Em Sherif, Monot

    The full monty

    From the crowd to the live Arabic music, this is Lebanon at its flamboyant best, with an onslaught (33 dishes to be exact) of truly exceptional food for you to enjoy.

  4. Abou Hassan, Bourj Hammoud

    No-frills perfection

    Open day and night, this is the place to savour Arabic staples (using your fingers and hot, fresh bread): fatteh, chickpeas and fried bread in garlicky yoghurt and, of course, hummus and its chickpea-heavy relatives balila and msabaha.

  5. Salon Beyrouth, Clemenceau

    All that jazz

    Inspired by 1920s jazz bars, Salon Beyrouth is peppered with art deco touches. The bartenders specialise in whiskey cocktails but can make almost any tipple you like.


Shop talk

  1. Zawal, Mar Mikhael

    Artisan acquisitions

    The team at Zawal is also behind the series of Beyt guesthouses, restaurant Makan and shop Plan Bey. This wide-reaching network is reflected in the shop’s goods, which range from hand-stamped sheets by Zena Sabbagh to traditional mouth-blown recycled glass by Baal.

  2. Ideo Parfumeurs, Gemmayzeh

    Heaven scent

    In 2006, French-Algerian Ludmila Bitar quit her job at L’Oréal and moved to Beirut with her Lebanese husband Antoine. With her marketing know-how and training from Japanese perfume house Takasago, the duo founded Ideo Parfumeurs in 2013 – a bold step in a city known for favouring big international cosmetic brands.

  3. IF Boutique, Port District

    Legendary leather

    Leather designer and IF owner Johnny Farah started out helping a leather worker for pocket money while studying mechanical engineering in Denmark in the 1960s. Today he’s still designing handsome and practical bags and shoes.

  4. Maison Rabih Kayrouz, Port District

    High-fashion hero

    Rabih Kayrouz has played a key role in the development of Lebanon’s haute couture scene. Since founding his label in 1997 he has crafted season after season of minimal yet sculptural dresses.


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