Damascus offers some great restaurants and cafes where you can try the delicious local cuisine. Some of the Damascene houses of the Old City have been refurbished and now function as posh restaurants specialising in local fare. You can start off with parcels of spinach, mezzes of fatayer and hummus, and move on to tender lamb. Modern Damascus has any number of snack bars and traditional eateries where you can grab a quick falafel. Many of these are open through the day and night. If you'd like a midnight snack, these are the places to visit, especially the stalls around Martyr's Square.
For lunch in Damascus, try the falafel snack bars. If you're ravenous enough for meatier portions, experiment with the mezzes and grilled meats.
There are some excellent dining experiences to be had in Damascus, and just reading our Damascus Restaurant Guide is bound to make you hungry. The restaurants in Damascus are the perfect place to relax, unwind and enjoy a great meal after a busy day touring or shopping. In Damascus you will find restaurants serving exceptional traditional food and it's sure to be one of the highlights of your visit. For more information on the food and cuisine of Syria, see our Syria Restaurant Guide.
The best place to really savour Syrian cuisine is a place called Midan in Damascus. Lying to the south of the Old City, it is easily accessible by foot - keep walking southwards from the western entrance of Souq al-Hamadiyya or even from Bab Saghir.
The most important street here, the Jazmatiya, is lined with stalls selling falafel and shawerma, restaurants and butcher shops. The Syrian pastry shops, also found along this street, lure the unwitting traveller with eight feet towers of sweets that have been stacked one on top of the other.
The shawerma at "Anas" reputedly ranks among the best. It's best to save your trip here for the night. Most shops stay open until 3 am and since the streets are always buzzing with activity, they tend to be quite safe.
A rather unusual delicacy that cannot be missed is the camel kebab. Tasty, fresh kebabs can be purchased from the camel butchers outside the Bab Saghir. Since most of them promote their wares by displaying a camel's head and neck outside their shops, your chances of missing them are rather slight.
Abu Rumaneh has a large number of upscale eateries specialising in international cuisine of many kinds. French and Mexican cuisines are favourites as are the steaks at the chi-chi boutiques.
Popular food choices
Starters like rich bean foul, kibbeh and hummus make excellent appetisers. Follow this up with a delicious combo of diced lamb with bulgar wheat and wash it all down with fiery aniseed arak. If you're opting for desserts, ask for the ones made with dried fruits and rosewater.
Fatteh, a classic Damascene dish made from chickpeas, soaked bread and yoghurt, is the perfect choice for a cold day. Not only is it delicious, but it is also extremely filling, especially when coupled with sheep's tongue or lamb. When eaten plain, it can be garnished with nuts and pickle to add that extra zing.
Shawerma, yet another popular dish, comes with a variety of stuffing, including beef and chicken. Station One, a restaurant in Abu Rumaneh next to the Noura Supermarket, is one of the more reputed places for shawerma.
In Damascus, people generally dress up for dinner. The usual dinner time is about 10 pm. However, it is common for the locals to linger around much longer and socialise. Very often, the bills do not include service charges, so make sure you include an additional 10% to the bill. It would also be polite to tip the person who is responsible for organising charcoal for the water pipe.
Old Damascus is dotted with coffee houses, quite an experience in itself. It is usual for people to hang around for hours over a cup of tea (shay) or coffee (ahwa). These beverages are usually accompanied with a water pipe (nargileh).
If you're visiting at about 7 pm, you will even find a traditional story teller (hakawati) regaling visitors with popular lore.
If you prefer European beverages rather than the traditional ones, head to the Abu Rommeneh Street, which has a huge number of fancy cafés. Inhouse Coffee, a popular Middle Eastern coffee chain, is modelled along the lines of Starbucks, especially in terms of its ambience and pricing.
Damascus also has a fair share of nightclubs and bars where you can hang around and party until the wee hours. Though they tend to get pretty crowded, they still guarantee great refreshments and alcoholic beverages.