Tripoli - the second largest in Lebanon – has immense history, culture and beauty just waiting to be discovered. Although it shares a similar history with Beirut, it has preserved its tradition and authenticity more carefully.

Tripoli was controlled by over eight empires and was eventually established by the Christian crusaders in the 12th century. Interestingly, it is called Tripoli (which, in Greek, means ‘triple city’) because during Phoenician times, it was part of a union that included Tyre, Saida and Arados. Additionally, it is the only part of Lebanon that has any islands remaining. The lively souks in Mina, the delicious pastries and famous farrouj with toum, the various cafés and the must-visit mosques make it a place worth visiting if you’re up for an adventurous weekend getaway.

Getting There

(Image via Bus Planet)

All hail the almighty Connexion bus, which goes all the way from Beirut to Tripoli for only 5,000 LL.

The bus takes off from the Charles Helou Station in Beirut and stops at Sahet el Nour in Tripoli. There is a bus that takes off every fifteen minutes. From Monday to Saturday, the earliest departs at 5:00 a.m. and the latest is at 7:00 p.m. However, on Sundays, the earliest is at 6:00 a.m. and the latest is at 5:00 p.m.

Where to Stay

1. Quality Inn Guest House

(Image via Daily Star)

Quality Inn is, perhaps, the only recommended hotel in Tripoli. For years, it has been consistent and reliable in terms of rooms, activities and food. Of course, it doesn't have a five star hotel, but for a semi-decent price, you do get pretty good service, cleanliness and a location, in the Rashid Karami area, that is both close to the El-Mina Street and Tripoli’s center.

Quality Inn Guest House
Rashid Karami International Fair
Tel.: +9616211255
Tel.: +9616211256

2. Palma Beach Resort

(Image via Beiruting)

If you’re planning on staying for longer than a weekend, this beach resort, located on the outskirts of Tripoli, is both a beautiful and luxurious place for families, friends and couples.

It has three different pools, an excellent seafood restaurant, a chill shisha café, a garden for children, a tennis court, various water sports, a salon (oh, the Lebanese) and a gym.

Palma Beach Resort
Seaside Road
Tel.: +9616414000

Food and Drinks

1. Abdul Rahman Hallab & Sons 1881

(Image via No Garlic No Onions Blog)

Every Lebanese – whether a Southerner, a Northerner or a Beiruti – will tell you that Abdel Raham al-Hallab is a connoisseur of authentic Lebanese cuisine. From the delicious lahm-b-ajin breakfast, to the mind-blowing k’nafe pastries, to the Sunday couscous meals, this restaurant has been one of Lebanon’s very best since the late nineteenth century. For tourists wishing to take back gifts, their mshakal desserts make a great choice.

Abdul Rahman Hallab & Sons
Riad el Solh St.
Tel.: +9616444445
Tel.: +9616435927

2. Balha Ice Cream

(Image via Mojo Trotters)

Ask anyone in El-Mina for this ice cream shop and prepare for exquisite traditional Lebanese ice-cream or milky gelato unrivaled anywhere else in the area (or country, dare I say).

Balha ice cream
El Mina
Mob.: +9613093379

3. Ka’ak from the streets

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Tripoli is famous for its ka’ak street-sellers, boasting of delicious melted Picon cheese, extra kamoun and Lebanese street bread, all for just 1,500 LL.

4. Wings from La Plaka

(Image via Ta3mini)

La Plaka is one of the many cafés scattered in the Dam wel Farez road. Although it is more famous for its argile, this café/restaurant has a diverse menu that comprises of cheap, and surprisingly delicious, meals. As an avid wings-lover, I strongly advise their buffalo wings. However, most of their meals come in great portions and this place, with both its rooftop area and garden terrace, is undeniably a great choice for families looking to grab a bite after a long day touring Tripoli.

Bonus: in front of La Plaka, there is a small tree that holds a glass box used for book-sharing. Drop a book and take one in return!

La Plaka
Damm w Farez
Mob.: +96170202007

5. Nescafe from El-Mina Port

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Not sure what it is that makes the Nescafe on the port taste so fantastic, but Abu Taha sure knows how to get his coffee on point.

6. Papaya

(Image via Nur Turkmani)

This cocktail shop brags of a diverse array of fresh fruits that are thrown into lip-smacking drinks and smothered with a drip of honey and whipped cream-and-nuts topping all for 5,000 LL. I think yes?

Dam Wel Farez

What To Do

1. Visit a Pub in Mina

(Image via Pickup the Fork)

Believe it or not, Tripoli has a semi-hidden pubbing culture that lurks in the streets of Mina (nothing compared to Beirut, Jounieh or Jbeil, to be fair). Although the inner parts of Tripoli don’t serve alcohol due to religious reasons, the areas of El-Mina sell alcohol at pubs. We recommend Timmy’s Pub for their open wings and beer deals.

Timmy’s pub
Farah Antoun street
Tel.: +9616204771

2. Relax at a café on Dam wel Farez (Our tip: Ahwen Ben Tafesh)

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In addition to La Plaka, there are different cafés to relax in after a long day in the bustling, lively Dam wel Farz Street. Sahseh, which is Tripoli’s “glamorous” spot, is where you should not be at – if only to avoid glaring eyes and shallow conversations. However, we strongly advise you to enjoy an evening in Ahwak Ben Tafesh, a Morrocan-inspired café with relaxing music, delicious desserts and light coffee, plus an array of various board and chess games to play with friends and friends-to-be.

Ahwak Coffee Shop
Dam wel Farez Area
Tel.: +9616412160

3. Visit the Rabbit Islands/Palm Islands Nature Reserve

(Image via Destination Lebanon)

And, of course, we’ve saved the best for last. In addition to being a UNESCO World Heritage site, the Rabbits Island has been chosen as a special Mediterranean Protected Area under the 1995 Barcelona Convention, and an Important Bird Area by Birdlife International. This island has various turtles, migratory birds and rare seals. Although it is rocky, it is worth swimming to in order to explore the wild life, walk past the broken down Crusaders church and sunbathe by the endless blue ocean.

What To See

1. El-Mina Port

(Image via Flickr)

El-Mina port is worth driving through if only to see the excited fishermen at work, and the small shops selling coffee, ka’ak, gum, and desserts along the way. Due to its location on the Mediterranean, many foreigners along the Levantine coastline tend to visit it by the ship. It is undoubtedly an interesting area to explore; however, unfortunately, it is excessively littered and male-dominated. It is advisable to dress conservatively in this area.

2. Taynal Mosque

(Image via Lebanoneguide)

Located at the Southern entrance of Tripoli, this ancient mosque is an icon of the architecturally beautiful Mameluk era. Taynal Mosque was built by Prince Seifeddine Taynal, in 1335, who wished to be buried there when he died. A number of domes, harems, stairs and a minaret are found in this tranquil mosque,

Additionally, the detailed architecture and the history of the mosque are explained by an Imam that sometimes gives tours. During the festival of Eid, the Muslims in Tripoli gather there for prayers.

3. Al Hammam Al Jadeed

(Image via Lebanoneguide)

Although it is no longer a public hammam (bath house), this 18th century building was donated to Tripoli by the then governor of Damascus, Pasha al-Azem. In addition to being the largest hammam, it is also one of the few remaining hammams in Tripoli and is located only eight minutes away from the Taynal Mosque. The beautiful glass-covered dome overlooks a marbled fountain that is still filled with water.

4. Citadelle of Raymond de Saint-Gilles

(Image via Flickr)

To emphasize on the historical, cultural and religious diversity in Tripoli, it is also a must to visit this grand Crusader fortress. It was named after the Crusader commander, Raymond de Saint-Gilles, who helped enlarge it during the second century. There is a warren of broken down corridors, mismatched towers, and majestic walls that are exciting to explore. The view from the top of one of the towers offers a beautiful view of the city, along with its rivers and seas. However, what I found particularly breathtaking about this beautiful fortress is the entrance, which, according to the guide, is signified by a Mamluk, an Ottoman and a Crusader gateway.

5. Khan Al Khayatin

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Most Tripolians are unaware of this old souk, a reminiscent treasure of ancient bazaars in the early fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. There are still traditional garments sold there, in a nostalgic manner of bargain and buy. It is worth visiting if only to mingle with the locals, and eat a ka’ak as you explore this gem of a souk.

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