Ceramics is getting more and more popular and this competition proved us...
Have you ever trolled the city to find a place with decent Internet so you could actually get some work done? Or maybe it was peace and quiet you were after? Perhaps a smoke-free environment to channel that rare and precious oxygen all the way up to your brain cells? Ummmmm…don’t bother! Finding a place that meets all the above criteria is like asking to find a Leprechaun at the end of a Rainbow. Rainbows are rare in Lebanon. Not so much Leprechauns.
All joking aside, here is a list (in no particular order) of the most popular coffee shops to study and/or work from in Beirut. Be sure to read the fine print, it can make or break your paper deadline (trust us, we’ve been there).
A charming little coffee house, nestled away from the hustle and bustle of the Clemenceau district, Dar has everything you need to get creative. A lush outdoor garden with cute colorful chairs, a charming bookshop where you can rifle through handpicked titles and the best cup of Turkish coffee you can have (a Café Younes brew. See third entry). If this weren’t enough to get your artistic juices flowing, you may want to note that Dar’s Internet is pretty damn reliable – for Lebanese standards. Yes, we had goose bumps too, the first time we ran over an hour and the online connection was still up.
A coffee house by day, a bar by night and an exhibition and movie projection space, to name a few, this place is the ideal spot for the kinesthetic learner. Those among you who learn best by doing, moving and touching will find DePrague to be an inspired choice: the space allows more unrestricted movement than most other places in this list (hey, who are we to judge if pacing about a room helps you learn?) and the sheer amount of objects on display, including books, wall art, memorabilia and other knick knacks offer a wide spectrum of tactile experimentation opportunities. Words of caution: don’t count on reliable Internet and don’t plan on an overnight (lights are too dim and it gets very noisy after sundown). Those who are easily distracted and those who are on a diet should best abstain: the food is hearty and yummy and the distraction certain.
This one is for the coffee worshipper. If you care more about the kind of coffee you’re sipping than whatever project you’re working on while you’re sipping it, this place is for you. The brews offered here are out-of-this-world good, the staff friendly and the food tasty. While the Internet is occasionally spotty or slow, the availability of a communal table, private counters and ample sockets – in the main Hamra branch- make up for it. Two smaller branches are located on Abd el Aziz street in Hamra and in Sodeco Square, Sodeco. Note that if music disrupts your productivity, consider a different place: Fairouz makes regular appearances at Café Younes.
Urbanista (Hamra, Gemmaizeh, ABC Ashrafieh mall)
This is the hipster –mostly youngster- workplace. Located on Gemmaizeh street, with two other branches on Bliss street in Hamra and within the ABC shopping mall complex in Ashrafieh, Urbanista has successfully become the go-to casual spot to meet for coffee, work and study. While the décor is something to behold, and the communal tables offer a large enough space to spread your paperwork, it can get crowded –and noisy- during peak hours. Think Sundays and weekday afternoons. Beware, the service is mostly appalling and the food quality has dwindled significantly since the place first opened.
This is the perfect working environment for you ADHD types. Set in a quiet Mar Mikhael backstreet, Papercup offers a haven of tranquility to all those of you who are looking to work in utter silence and appeasing surroundings. Filled to the brim (literally, floor-to-ceiling) with books and magazines and decorated in a minimalistic modern style, Papercup is the closest thing to a public library a coffee shop can hope to be. Once you are in, be sure to grab one of only three small tables or a larger couch and order a piece of their heavenly daily cakes and teas. Expect to be productive: there seems to be an unwritten code of whispers at this place that guest and staff abide by religiously. Beware: No wifi I repeat no wifi. Consider yourself warned.
If you just want to stay home and work but you can’t seem to stay home and work, then head to L’appartement in Sioufi. As their tag line reads, it’s your home away from home. Sure, the old apartment-turned gallery/bistro/bar is nicer than any home we’ve ever lived in but no matter, we won’t hold that against them. Internet can be sketchy.
Grid’s main branch is generally known to be a meeting coffee/lunch spot for Downtown Beirut employees and shoppers. Read: it can get noisy. If you head a little further south, towards Grid’s other tucked away branch at the Souks’ Librairie Antoine, you will hit a sweet working spot. When you reach the second floor café, grab a comfy leather chair, get plugged in and work away. You won’t be interrupted, save for the occasional hankering for some of their delicious baked items and coffee.
If you’re too cool for school (nobody is…really), head to Balima. Set smack in the middle of Saifi village, this is a place to work and take people-watching breaks. If you’re really, really, bored with your anatomy paper, you can always take a shopping break in the dozen of wonderful and wonderfully overpriced boutiques around Balima. If not, stick to their wide selection of teas and keep your focus on the Sciatic nerve. Beware: the lighting may be too dim for those who like to study/work in bright surroundings.
Best place to work with a view. Head to the second floor and bask in the glory of nature while you work. Nothing like a healthy dose of green to relax and inspire. The Internet is reliable but needs to be “recharged” every hour, which can get annoying if you’re planning to stay for the long haul. Also, while Giselle is mostly a serene place to work (it’s spacious and slightly remote), if you are unlucky enough to stumble on the senior friend club regulars who happen to be passionate about politics, get out. Just get out.
This new coffee house is giving Giselle a run for its money. Located near Broumana high school, the place is the closest thing to Central Perk (the coffee shop in Friends) in the area. Head there to chill, drink and kind-of work (Hey, did the Friends cast ever do anything else there?)
Ok, so these last two were not technically in Beirut but they sure deserve an honorable mention.