Magic Hour; the blissful, precious, and all too brief moment that sees daylight surrendering to night in a swan song of brilliant colors that have inspired poetry, song, scripture, philosophy, religion, and all manner of romantic existentialism since the dawn of time.
While just North of the Lebanese Coast, on the docks of the beach resort Halat Sur Mer, it settles on a gem of a place called The Circle, where, just shy of 7 PM, its customers are treated to a panoramic view of an ocean at dusk and an irresistible feeling of cool and awe harmoniously meshed.
That is the unique charm of The Circle, appropriately named for its circular parameters situated at the tail of the port like a lighthouse or a beacon and supported by a pyramid-like foundation of rocks piling down into the ocean.
The restro-bar reached its heyday this summer, but in fact, it has been around for many years, known only by the summer residents of Halat Sur Mer as a small, albeit unfurnished resting place for boat owners and locals to enjoy a quick afternoon drink before the day’s final stretch.
Enter Wissam Saliba, the enigmatic singer and star, who, along with owner Mike and actor/comedian Charles Hbeiliny, saw the place for the magical jewel that it is and decided to reinvent.
The result? Not long after Wissam and Charles put the word and appeal out did the people begin to amass in consistently rising numbers, coming to seek out the promise of sunsets and music and chilled cocktails.
Since its successful reopening, The Circle has paid host to concerts, birthday bashes, stand-up comedy shows, pool parties, screenings and weekend events and gradually became a stomping ground for celebrities and public figures reclining on spacious comfortable couches, basking in the warm glow of the fading sun, taking in the salty breeze of the ocean, enjoying the finest grilled dishes and wetting their whistles on some of the best cocktails on the coast.
There is a familial sense to the people and the way they interact with each other; not only in cases when they actually know each other but also because of the subtle positive undertones the whole environment entails, an aura of fun camaraderie present in the waiters and bartenders that even strangers can’t resist feeling a bonding kinship amongst each other. So it is in truth when they say The Circle is a labour of love.
The only misfortune or downside one might think of is that, come winter, the place shuts its doors and hibernates amidst the raging waves and stormy winds only to be re-opened and illuminated in due time for the soft breeze and gentle sun to reign supreme once again.
Everything is better with music, and live music in particular sets the soundtrack for our lives as we drink, socialize and sway, or as we make our way through the thick of the crowd and perch ourselves closest to the stage, unmindful of the excess noise, to just sit and listen and reflect with whatever band or artist is on display. The demand for live shows has become so high that bars and venues across the country have integrated them into their business strategies, and as is the odd charm in our small country, a great number of artists with mad skills have surfaced to meet the people’s needs. Here are some of the best places where you can seek them out.
Not only is Radio Beirut the quintessential host to both local and international performers, but this dimly lit shack has also long been a mecca to which legions of aspiring songwriters and hipsters flock on their pilgrimage of music and social gathering. It is credited for encouraging and promoting musicians through their Tuesday Jam Sessions, which airs live on their podcast, and where artists can play any genre ranging from Hip-Hop to electronic so long as it is their own.
Many local artists got their start at the Hole in the Wall, and some of them have since become residents to subsequently create the Hole in the Wall family; a group of local talents that often jam together and play the most beloved cover songs to a devoted following of fans and friends. True to its name, the Hole draws its charm from its good beer and close quarters, making it the go-to-place for people to huddle together and get their live music fix.
Neighbour to Radio Beirut and often regarded as its main competitor on the strip, Lockstock has its Wednesdays and Sundays reserved for their pick of the litter (most frequently Nour Nimri and Joy Fayad) for a rollicking good time and a lively audience.
Located on Amchitt’s beach front, June has quickly risen up the ranks as one of the most known harbors of live performers. They maintain a diverse selection of artists that changes on a weekly basis and often host Sunset gigs that further complement its breezy and comfortable setting.
The veteran on the scene and grandfather to all live venues, the Quadrangle opens its azure walls to hard-hitting rock and metal bands, helping to keep the rock culture alive amidst the ever-prospering pop and techno era.
From medieval to communist themed bars, these idiosyncratic roadhouses will take you on a ride back to the good old days.
If you’re a snappy dresser, trend setter, dress maker, or anything like that, then Abou Ellie is not the pub you are looking for. It’s not the easiest pub to find, but if you’re looking to enjoy a Lebanese communist-themed bar then we’ve found the place for you. Abou Ellie is one of the old, classic bars of Hamra. Its red walls with the overwhelming number of photographs and signatures give a sense of belonging to its costumers, and a touch of nostalgia for bygone days from the Lebanese past. Filled with the music of Ziad El-Rahbani, Fairouz, Marcel Khalife, and many more, this place is sure to take you back to a more, shall we say, lively period in Lebanese history.
This bar might not exactly give you the royal treatment – if you’re expecting to feel as if you’re having a drink with the royal family or a Victorian vibe, you’ll have to look elsewhere – but one thing is certain here, and that’s the distinctive English feel about this Hamra bar. From the Union Flag on the wall and football games playing live on TV, to the soundtrack of David Bowie, Pink Floyd, The Beatles, and Queen playing in the background, the ambiance will likely have you packing your bags and booking a flight straight to London.
If you’re a fan of silent films and Charlie Chaplin is your guy, then we’ve got the perfect place for you. Chaplin Bar is a cocktail bar located in Mar Mikhael, and despite the fact that this bar’s theme is based on the Silent Film Era, you’re bound to feel as if you’ve been plunged straight into Charlie Chaplin’s “The Jazz Singer” with a variety of jazz, rock, and blues tempos. With its walls dressed up with vintage photographs, and the old fashioned style of the bar, you’ll be one step closer to our silent filmmaker; the one and only Mr Chaplin.
Although named after the notorious infamous cartel lord, the friendly Mexican-themed bar gives off nothing but warm vibes. With heart (and stomach) filling Mexican food, exotic cocktails, and shaking your hips to some fast latin tempo, Pablo Escobar transports you to its own little Latino village in the heart of Dbayeh.
For fans of the TV show, the name needs no introduction. Castle Black is a Game Of Thrones-themed bar based in the boulevard of Zahlé. The inside structure of the bar combines the Seven Kingdoms of Westeros into one place. In addition to serving character-inspired drinks and Game of Thrones boardgames, you can also enjoy the experience of watching the episodes with other fans during season time. By the end of the night, either you will be sitting on your own Iron Throne, or your watch will end.
Tucked away off a side street in Gemmayzeh, this little underground club pulls an alternative vibe with a local punk revival. Chic does not enter here, this is down, dirty, groovy and extremely fun. Think of old-school New York or London Soho clubs where you might rub elbows with up and coming Andy Warhol types with a slight Lebanese grunge.
Yukunkun has been putting together some very groovy and funky evenings for people to dance and forget themselves in a laid-back street art environment.
Lebanese nightlight first met White in 2006 becoming the ultimate chic playground for upscale party-goers. This rooftop hotspot, located on Dora’s sea road highway, offers delicious cocktails, luxurious VIP bottle service and live sets from deejays and performers from around the world.
Tucked between the larger International and Lock Stock, Vyvyan’s is a shining example of Mar Mikhael’s many snug little posh dive bars. Open early for strong espresso – best taken while leaning on one of its outdoor tables, Mediterranean-style – it’s a sweet spot from which to watch the busy Armenia Street go by. As evening draws in, the music gets louder and the bar starts funnelling off punters from the throng of revellers lining the pavements. It competes with its more established neighbours by serving strong cocktails at relatively low prices. The staff from those very neighbours have been known to drink here after hours – praise doesn’t come higher than that.
Volume Beirut is a nightclub located in Sodeco. It’s a great place for drinking, dancing, and having a good time and dancing all your troubles away deep into the night.
Vivid is not your regular bar lounge concept.
Signature cocktails are prepared by the best bartenders and top-notch mixologists in the country to match every taste, along with an international food cuisine with unique flavours to complement all of your senses.
Whether at the bar, in the lounge area or on the top floor, Vivid is the place where memories are made. So come and make your lifetime memories.
Trumpet is a vintage bar and restaurant with a retro-funky decor aimed at transporting guests back in time to the vibrant and decadent life of past decades.
In addition to its expertly crafted cocktails, funky music, authentic décor and skilled staff, Trumpet Cocktails, Food & Tunes boasts a delicious food menu which will surely tantalize your taste buds.