In the heart of downtown, the Beirut Souks rise like a phoenix where the city’s traditional open-air marketplace was destroyed in the Lebanese civil war. A shopping mega-structure, the Souks are where modern architecture meets cultural self-expression. Stroll along the interior streets and covered bazaars, linger in any number of plazas (reminiscent of Levantine heritage), and admire the dramatic vistas. With over 200 stores, the Souks — Beirut’s largest shopping area — deliver a sophisticated twist on a Middle East tradition. Here, four don't-miss stops:
1. AIZONE: This is the casual face of Beirut’s fantastically successful luxury clothing store Aishti. While Aishti carries Burberry, Roberto Cavalli and the like, women seeking a more laid-back look head to Aizone for Camper, True Religion and other international brands.
2. ELLE KHOUBBIEH: Beirut’s premier milliner began as a small-time hat maker. But his itty-bitty boutique proves great style comes in small packages: The funky fedoras, classic straw hats, and plush scarves and gloves pack a major dose of panache.
3. CAFE M: Café M claims it’s about “more than mozzarella” — the cheese to which its name alludes. But in cosmopolitan Beirut, it’s no surprise that someone was inspired to create an entire café concept around the irresistible Italian soft stuff. Snag a table on the terrace for dramatic views of Souk Ayyas and Majidiye Mosque.
4. PATCHI: The standout Lebanese confectioner — who once collaborated with Harrod’s to sell the most expensive box of chocolates ever — also excels in sweet design. This gleaming-white box of a boutique makes a breathtaking showcase for Patchi’s Gourmandine line of whimsical creations (think milk chocolate praline crafted to look like speckled quail eggs).