Hamra is one of the main streets and districts in Beirut, Lebanon.
When my husband and I travelled to Lebanon we decided to stay in Hamra as it would mean there were copious amounts of bars, restaurants and even a board game shop and café in walking distance!
Hamra – also known as the champs elysees from Beirut, is known for its many shops, bars and restaurants.
It might be seen as the tourist district – but it still feels quite local.
There are no ostentatious tourist shops and since Lebanon still mainly attracts North-African, Levantine and Arabi tourists and Western adventurers and backpackers, you will rarely find the obnoxious travellers that roam the likes of Khao San Road and Bui Vien Street.
Except for a great place to stay, Hamra also boasts really nice attractions (that aren’t all that touristy!).
I have made a comprehensive list of 5 great things to do in Hamra, Beirut
The American University of Beirut
One of the main attractions in Hamra is the American University of Beirut.
This great 19th century campus is the pride of the area.
With its hilly gardens and many – MANY cats, it is nice walking around the campus and taking in the magnificent sea views.
We walked into the American University and had to give our passport to the security guard.
It is quite normal that you can’t just walk into a university – especially in a country where there was recent (well, 2006 recent) fighting and still large areas are “no go”.
The campus is well kept and the students walking and sitting around are a mix of international and local students.
We walked down the paths to the Courniche and took some pictures on the way.
The American University of Beirut exists of an old gate house and 2 or three old halls and buildings that were built when the University was founded.
There’s also a small museum. It looks absolutely amazing and is filled with many archaeological finds from the Beirut area and Beqaa valley.
I would definitely recommend visiting the American Unversity of Beirut when walking through Hamra.
It will only take 20 minutes to half an hour to visit the campus, so you should have more than enough time to enjoy the sun on the Corniche or walk to the Raouche Rocks.
Are you, just like us, crazy about boardgames, roleplay and other geeky stuff? You might want to visit Multiverse Games in Hamra!
My husband and I love boardgames and it is our ultimate dream to start a boardgame shop in Asia.
When we travel around, we love visiting boardgame pubs and shops to try and take up some ideas.
Multiverse is by far one of the best board game shops I have ever visited.
Upstairs you will find a shop where you can discover and buy dungeons and dragons books, boardgames, Warhammer figurines, collectibles and other geek merchandise.
We decided to buy Detective: A modern Crime Boardgame (my favourite boardgame ever!) and found the lady behind the counter very helpful and nice.
Downstairs you can playtest games or play the games you bought upstairs.
You pay a set amount ($3 if I am not mistaken) per hour you play or you can stay the whole day for a one-off payment of $12.
The people playing games in Multiverse were very diverse.
Obviously, you had your run of the mill geek, but there also were some “cool kids” playing Cards Against Humanity.
Let me tell you as someone who visits geek shops and boardgame pubs every time she can: that’s quite rare!
The staff downstairs was very friendly and helpful.
We wanted to try a new boardgame and they helped us choose a boardgame we never even heard of! We had a lot of fun playing the game – even though it wasn’t even our style!
I would definitely go back when visiting Beirut.
The Raouche Rocks are one of the most famous sights in Beirut.
Although not precisely in Hamra, I have included them as it is very easy to visit the rocks while doing a little tour of Hamra.
Walking up to the rocks from Hamra takes about 15 minutes and is more than worth the walk and time.
Take your time to enjoy the magnificent view and maybe even grab a coffee or tea in one of the cafes and restaurants overlooking these rocks.
Legend has it that these rocks are the remains of a sea monster that was killed by the Greek hero Perseus to save Andromeda.
When you look at the rocks you can see why: they definitely look like some kind of headless serpent or sea monster roaring its body out of the sea.
Also interesting is that the shores around these rocks have yielded the area’s oldest signs of inhabitancy.
Archaeologists found flint and stone tools on the shores – these are now put on display in the American University ( the one I talked about earlier in this blog post).
Barbar serves the world’s BEST kebabs. No – I am not even kidding!
CNN calls this iconic take away place the best place to get kebabs… so we obviously had to try it out.
The restaurant opened in 1979 – in the middle of a civil war, and never closed.
In fact, this take away restaurant became so famous because it fed the large population of Beirut when bombs were going off and snipers and gunmen prowled the streets.
Now, the shop takes up almost a block. You can smell Barbar before you see it. The bouquet of roasting meat and great kebabs leads you right to the brightly coloured, open meat counters.
We did not order Barbar from the shop itself but rather ordered into our hotel via Talabat.
All the menus we saw were in Arabic and we were looking to sit down somewhere as we were tired and hungry.
We ordered the kebabs, Lebanese sausages and the shawarma – and we were NOT disappointed.
I think this is the point I fell in love with Lebanese sausages!
I can highly recommend ordering food through the app or at the shop itself. When in Beirut you NEED to order take out from Barbar. You owe it to yourself 😉
Corniche El Manara
Whether you walk around in Sharjah, Dubai or in Lebanon – you will always find a Corniche nearby. A Corniche is actually nothing more than a promenade by the water – often the sea.
My husband and I went down to Corniche El Manara and even though it were cloudy, the view was nothing more but breath-taking.
The palm trees contrast beautifully with the snow-covered mountain top in the distance, and you have a great view on the little mountain villages around Beirut.
I can imagine that Corniche el Manara looks amazing when the sun is out and I would love to go back to Beirut so I can enjoy this beautiful stretch of promenade in the summer sun.