Discover what lies at the heart of Beirut by exploring its vibrant and colorful souks. Savor the tantalizing aromas of fresh local spices and perfumes as you delve into the city's high-street shops and traditional market stalls. And a visit to Beirut isn't complete without a trip to the famous retail districts either, which have been central to the city's culture for thousands of years. Despite their long history, Beirut's souks are a thoroughly modern shopping experience, tinged with the traditions of this dynamic city. Check out our guide below.
Old meets new
The new Beirut Souks shopping district was opened in 2009, continuing a tradition that's been at the heart of Beirut's culture for 5000 years. The contemporary design features stone tiles, clean lines and minimalist walkways, but the area is full of nods to the past. A salvaged Byzantine mosaic lies close to its original setting, and a section of the recently excavated medieval moat and city walls have been reverently preserved.
The Souks is built in the pattern of an ancient street network that dates back to Hellenistic times (323-30 BC); you really are stepping into the past as you indulge in a spot of shopping. There are hundreds of stores onsite, including popular high-street brands Zara and Gap, plus high-end designers like Stella McCartney and Balenciaga – just a 20-minute walk from our Radisson Blu Martinez Hotel, Beirut.
All that glitters
Jewelry crafting has been central to Lebanese culture throughout its history. Regional Gold Souks were social places, but when civil war tore through the country between 1975-1990, Beirut's souks were destroyed.
The modern Gold Souk, which was rebuilt along with the rest of the market in 2009, houses 55 boutiques in an opulent courtyard setting. You'll find global brands Tag Heuer and Chloé alongside talented local designers. Pick up the Mukhi Sisters' chunky green and turquoise rings and nature-inspired earrings, or a feminine, structured creation from Nada G's elegant collection.
For a chance to taste local produce and pick up some handmade crafts, make the weekly farmers market, the Souk el Tayeb, a priority. Head to Trablos Street on Saturdays from 9am-2pm to support local producers. It's the connection between seller and consumer that gives this market its energy and imbues the city center with community spirit. Questions and conversations are encouraged, so reap the benefits of the stall holders' experience.
Plump cherries, ripe plums and organic green vegetables will tempt you just as much as the brightly colored flowers and citrus-scented soaps. For a real taste of Beirut, book a table at Tawlet, the farmers kitchen, with different chefs each Saturday from 12-4pm.
Above and beyond
Away from the central Beirut Souks, traditional and 21st century shopping experiences continue to merge and collide. Mar Mikhael's quirky independent stores include Papercup, where the fresh coffee is as big a draw as the books, and Nayef Francis' eponymous store, where you'll find smart and sleek handmade furnishings.
The colorful residential area of Saifi Village is known for its art galleries; pop-up Gallery 169 celebrates the work of emerging local artists, and bustling Hamra Street offers a chaotic market experience in contrast to the neat and tidy Souks. If you’re visiting during the fall, don’t miss the Hamra Street Festival for live music, exhibitions and spectacular fireworks.