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Beirut

  • At the water's edge but also at the foot of the Lebanon Mountains, Beirut is one of those rare capitals where you can see snow at the same time as your feet are in the water. 
Nicknamed Little Paris, Beirut is in a total phase of reconstruction, for the 8th time in its history. 15 years of war could not destroy this city, which is exciting and lively both by day and by night. 
Separated in two for ...
    © Dia Karanouh / 123RF
  • The city's trendy seafront promenade.
    © Dia Karanouh / 123RF
Amy Adejokun
Amy Adejokun Expert destination Lebanon

At the water's edge but also at the foot of the Lebanon Mountains, Beirut is one of those rare capitals where you can see snow at the same time as your feet are in the water.
Nicknamed Little Paris, Beirut is in a total phase of reconstruction, for the 8th time in its history. 15 years of war could not destroy this city, which is exciting and lively both by day and by night.
Separated in two for a long time, with the Christians in the east, the Muslims in the west and Martyrs' Square being used as a demarcation line, Beirut is now a single and unique city in which people of all religions live together, anxious to recreate a lively and peaceful existence.
Although the city is very vast, its principal attractions are right in the centre. Gorgeous little churches mixed in with the mosques and hundreds of banks, justifying Lebanon's nickname as the "Switzerland of the Middle East", stand next to the ruins of the Roman thermal baths, while trendy nightclubs and bars share the night with typical cafés where patrons can smoke Shisha. The result is a rich blend creating a unique environment which can be experienced nowhere else.
A walk in Beirut is like visiting an open-air museum and some of the sites, such as the Hariri Remembrance Memorial, the remains of the Holiday Inn hotel, the façades of buildings full of bullet holes, and even the tanks, recall the city's agitated and painful past. However, the inhabitants of Beirut want to make a fresh start and look towards the future.
Very in vogue at the moment, Beirut is talked about for its wild nights, pretty girls and festive atmosphere.

Beirut: what to do?

To come to Beirut and not have fun would be a genuine shame. Spend an evening in a trendy nightclub to experience a night-time ambiance like no other.
Visit the National Museum and watch the film that plays every 20 minutes explaining the many attempts to preserve the artworks here during the war.
Go for a drink at sunset in front of the 'Pigeon's rock', an imposing rock formation creating a natural arch in the sea.
Go for a walk around the Souk El Tayeb, which takes place every Saturday close to Saifi Village. You can find organic products there but also some entertainment.
Go for a walk along the road that runs along the sea for more than a mile, lively both in the daytime and at night.

The old city was entirely renovated towards the end of the 90s, enhancing the old buildings of the time of the French Mandate. Running through it, Maarad Street is lined with a number of cafés, bars and shops.
Saïfi Village, the arts district of Beirut.
7 mosques, 7 churches and a synagogue, all open to the public except for the synagogue. Some of these places really should be visited with a guide.
The ruins of the Roman thermal baths in the city centre.
The 70-metre-high Ottoman-style Hariri mosque, which is all lit up once the night falls.
The Greek-Orthodox Cathedral of Saint George, in the very heart of the city centre, shelters the vestiges of an 8th century underground church.

  • The nightlife
  • The luxury hotels
  • The beauty of the monuments in the city centre
  • The kindness of the locals
  • The many sites currently under construction
  • The cost of living
  • No public transport

Beirut: what to visit?

Monuments

Reminders

Make sure you bring along casual wear but also some smart attire, as the Lebanese are not ones to go out in the evening in flip-flops.

To avoid

The Lebanese are not very talkative when it comes to the past. Therefore try to avoid bombarding them with questions, since this can be upsetting: don't forget that many of them lost close relatives and lived in fear for many years.
We advise you not to rent a car and instead use taxis, the roads have been rebuilt but the drivers are not very careful.
It is forbidden to take pictures of the presidential palace.

Beirut: what to eat?

Lebanese food is part of the local culture. The majority of meals are presented in the form of 'mezzes' (an assortment of hors d'oeuvres) laid out on the table. On the menu, hummus, aubergine caviar, tabbouleh with more parsley than semolina, meatballs, and many other richly flavoured dishes to be eaten with pitas, the Lebanese bread. However, Lebanese cuisine is not only composed of mezzes. One thing is for sure, you'll gain a few pounds when you're away, especially if you give the succulent syrup and honey-based desserts a try.

Beirut: what to buy?

The baklava, a Lebanese pastry, will surely make a few tourists with a sweet tooth happy, provided they are not on a diet.
Plenty of leather and stone handicrafts.
Although we shouldn't really say it, cigarettes here are very cheap (£8 for one sleeve of ten packs of twenty in 2011).

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