In a narrow, nameless, and crowded street in Damascus, you'll find Narcissus, a place you'll never forget. Narcissus Palace is a beautiful old 18th-century house that has been converted into a restaurant. It is a true center of social life and talk in Damascus. If one wants to know how Syrians spend their time (or what they eat and chat about), then all you have to do is come here, although, like many other places in Damascus, finding it may be a bit difficult. Just ask any of the friendly Syrians as they all know. With an atmosphere of musician playing lutes and bubbling fountains, you can try the best of Syrian food: mint salad, delicious hummus, stuffed eggplant, the famous drink "bolo," lentil soup, or spicy grilled chicken. Syrian food is healthy, delicious, and very affordable. You can eat your fill, drink two or three "bolos" (freshly-made lemonade with mint), and sip a Turkish coffee boiled with cardamom, and the price will not be more than 5-6 euros. It's a fascinating and charming place where huge Syrian families gather every evening to do what they love most: talk, eat, and laugh with the people they love. It's a must.
The Jabri is always packed with young Syrians drinking tea, coffee, and juices, and smoking hookahs. It is the usual place to start your night in Damascus (which can be long) and you can enjoy delicious food until well after midnight. The Syrians are, like the Latin people of Europe, night-owls, and really come alive after dark, spending time with friends and family. Life here is typically passed indoor, a fact reflected in the houses which seem tiny and dark with no windows looking outside, clothing (veils are removed as soon as one enters the house), and friendly, hospitable character. This is a magnificent place to eat and spend time enjoying the lively atmosphere. Their hummus and falafel (I recommend ordering the accompanying sauce) are especially good. I tried the best hookah of my life here...
Like most places in Damascus, this charming restaurant is located in a narrow, nameless alleyway adjacent to the south wall of the Omayyad Mosque. The whole bottom area is decorated like Ali Baba's cave and is very tourist-oriented: furniture encrusted with pearls, rich oriental carpets, dim lighting, etc. At night, there are Syrian music and acrobatics shows. Although the bottom floor can be interesting, I recommend climbing up to the top floor where there's a restaurant with a fantastic terrace. The views of the Umayyad Mosque are truly spectacular and it's a chance to dine in a quieter environment. Here, hearty meal with various juices (they don't serve alcohol) can go for around 10-12 euros. It is quite expensive for Damascus standards, but worth it because the food is delicious. I especially recommend the stuffed eggplant (the best I've ever had), Syrian pizzas, thyme salad, and delicious falafel with the omnipresent hummus. Aside from the stunning views, good prices, and delicious cuisine, this restaurant has great service and one of the city's best hookahs. Totally recommended.
The Ornina was a stop at midday for us to regain strength. It is very modern and has been renovated, but retains the essence of a typical damasciana house, its courtyard, fountain, stairs to the first floor where you can eat or just have a drink, or smmoke a shisha. The list is quite complete, and the staff all very kind. Definitely a place to rest in a city that makes you very comfortable. It is close to the mosque, and situated in the Christian Quarter.
The first dinner I had in Damascus was in this restaurant, the Al-Khawali, near the main street (you can see it from the corner). It's a good place you can enjoy a typical Syrian meal, good desserts, and good atmosphere for not much money. Sometimes there's a line, so it's good to book ahead or go late in the evening since Syrian eating hours are rather earlier. You also can't miss heading up to the roof, especially at night, where you can see the spectacle of the city lit up at night.
Damascus is full of bakeries and patisseries which you can't miss. There, you can try "kibbeh" (wheat cakes stuffed with meat), delicious "borek" (pastries filled with cheese or meat), or just simple sesame bread. If you have a sweet tooth, you can't leave the country without trying the "baklava" (puff pastry stuffed with pistachios, almonds, or pecans and accompanied with chocolate, strawberries, or honey). There are a thousand specialties and really cheap prices. It's also makes for a perfect gift. Do not miss the wonderful wooden candy boxes decorated with colorful wooden tiles. Want to send a message? Syrians send it with cupcakes (and a good black tea, of course)!