Beirut may easily be one of the most multi-faceted cities on earth.
For some, the word is synonymous with strife – thanks in part to the 15-year civil war that wreaked havoc on what was in the ’60s considered the ‘Paris of the East’. Though scars from that war remain in the pockmarked surfaces of many buildings, the city has been quickly, and vigorously, rebuilt. And it’s a huge success.
The Beirut Central District, long the city centre, today takes on a new sheen, and almost looks touristy. The area doesn’t merely nod to recent history, but to a cultural narrative that spans millennia. The Cardo Maximus – remains of a Roman-era market – snuggles near the Grand Serail, a majestic Ottoman-era building that now houses government offices. Indeed, Beirut is a city with a very rich history indeed. Excavations of the city have even revealed Canaanite ruins dating back to 1900 BC. Despite the city’s extensive past, the future looks even more promising, if the crowds of tourists flocking to get a taste of Beirut’s famous night life are anything to go by.
Stop in at Taj Al-Moulouk on Rue Bliss for great Turkish coffee and an array of glistening pastries, to go. Take your booty to a bench in the American University of Beirut (AUB) and watch the students rush to class.
Stroll down the Corniche, the waterfront promenade that looks out over the Mediterranean Sea, and to the east lies Mount Lebanon. Pass by early morning joggers and marvel at two sentinels that form Pigeon Rock.
Head to the National Museum of Beirut on Rue de Damas and explore the city’s history through the excellent collection of archaeological artefacts. While there, watch Revival, a documentary on the civil war, shown hourly.
Go to trendy Achrafieh for an unusual lunch at Al Mayass on Trabaud Street, a fantastic Armenian/Lebanese restaurant that serves a thrilling kofta in cherry sauce. Try a glass of the Lebanese Château Kefraya.
Do a little mainstream shopping at the ABC Mall off Avenue Elias Sarkis, which stocks every brand name conceivable. Then head to the arts quarter known as Saifi Village, just off Place des Martyrs, for a more one-of-a-kind find.
Head downtown and stumble upon ancient ruins. Near the Parliament building, you’ll find the Roman baths, Cardo Maximus, and Grand Serail. All easily accessible and wound in the urban landscape around them.
Recharge your batteries with some nargileh (shisha) and coffee at Al-Kahwa on Rue Bliss, a popular hangout for students from the AUB, which is noted for its manicured gardens, and sand-coloured buildings.
Grab a late dinner at Bread, a restaurant on Rue Gouraud dedicated to local, sustainable, and organic fare. While the menu is mainly Mediterranean, the food is sourced from all over Lebanon.
Hit Beirut’s nightlife with a passion. Start in the Music Hall – a converted cinema showcasing eclectic live music, downtown in the Starco Building. For a spot of jazz, try the Jazz Lounge in the Bay View Hotel.
An architectural masterpiece and epic nightclub, B 018 on Charles Malek Avenue is an absolute must, though it doesn’t pick up until very late. The enormous roof periodically opens and closes throughout the night.
Beirut, Lebanon> Book Now
Distance: 1,818 km
Flight Time: 3 hours, 20 minutes
Frequency: 4 flights a day