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Packed with a melange of religions, fascinating history, awesome natural wonders and a vibrant restaurant and nightlife scene, Beirut is quickly starting to gain popularity among travellers who prefer adventure and luxury without the hordes of tourists.
Everyone I have talked to who has visited Beirut has quickly fallen in love with it. The largely progressive city is nothing like its middle eastern neighbours. Beirut is a unique place where you can find a nightclub next to a mosque, a bombed-out building next to a Chanel boutique, a place where Christianity and Islam sit together side by side and share a bowl of hummus.
Due to its past conflict, Lebanon is still feared by many as being unsafe, so a lot of travellers would not consider the country as a holiday destination. This means it has retained a strong sense of authenticity and creates a spectacular atmosphere for those who do choose to venture there.
I ended up going back to Lebanon twice (once was not enough) and had to share a few of my favourite features from this small but dynamic country. Discover your guide to this secret gem of a destination and get to Beirut before everyone else does!
WHERE TO STAY IN BEIRUT
On my first trip to Lebanon, I stayed at the opulent and historic Hotel Albergo. A hot spot for the wealthy Lebanese and by far one of the most beautiful hotels I have ever stayed in.
Spending a night or two here in their luxuriously decorated rooms will have you feeling like a Persian princess. Every detail of their hotel is meticulously thought out right down to the dried rose petals for you to throw in your bath while you soak.
Breakfast on their rooftop terrace is a must and I would highly recommend a sunset alfresco dinner in the same spot for a romantic evening under the stars while the call to prayer tings out over the city. The concierge will also be happy to help you with any further information you need about the city.
Other well reviewed luxury options in Beirut include:
On my second trip back to Lebanon I was doing some work for an NGO and needed somewhere a little more down to earth. There are not a lot of hostels in Beirut, which was why I was super lucky to grab a few nights at Beirut Hostel.
Famous among backpackers in Beirut, this is not a party hostel but has a welcoming and inclusive vibe, helped by its beautiful communal outdoor seating areas. A great safe space for solo travellers and groups alike, they also give the proceeds of the hostel to an NGO helping refugees in Lebanon.
There is no shortage of stunning, internationally owned, luxury chain hotels in the city, however, I prefer to go local whenever possible and I’m so glad that I did after finding these unique gems! Make sure you book in advance to secure your room in these popular places.
WHERE TO EAT IN BEIRUT
The late and great Anthony Bourdain was a huge fan of Beirut, so much so it even gained the title as one of his favourite “douche free destinations”, and it’s not hard to see why. Food is humble, with a homemade feeling, simple but utterly delicious. It’s no wonder that such a small country has such a large reputation for delicious food, and these restaurants will let you enjoy the best of the cuisine.
EM SHERIF RESTAURANT
Em Sherif Restaurant was undoubtedly the best meal I had while in Lebanon. The service is impeccable, the decor is opulent and the food was drool-worthy. We let the waiter choose a selection of food for us as we were having trouble deciding and we were not disappointed! A must-visit for a special night out!
Babel is located on the waterfront this is a great spot for those who love seafood and a bustling atmosphere. With both indoor and outdoor seating it’s the perfect place to soak in the vibe of Beirut while enjoying delicious mouth-watering food.
AL HAMRA STREET
Al Hamra Street is a great place for a more local, street food atmosphere check out El Hamra street. This lively street is packed with cool dive bars, English style pubs and of course delicious street food (falafel heaven). It’s also a great area to go out at night and meet the friendly locals.
WHAT TO DO IN BEIRUT
The Sursock Museum is not only houses but some beautiful exhibitions and artworks but is a stunning work of architecture itself. Even better is that it’s free!
My favourite part of the museum was a section detailing the trips of the early European explorers to come to the middle east including some beautiful photos of Lebanon in the late 1800s. After making your way through the museum it’s worth having a drink at their sunny outdoor café in the courtyard.
Jeita Grotto is one of the most memorable experiences I have had when it comes to natural world phenomena. Entering these caves is like entering a whole new underground world that looks like something out of a David Bowie, Labyrinth fairy tale.
Stalactites and stalagmites surround you to create the most otherworldly atmosphere that leaves most people speechless. You are not allowed to take photos inside and you will be asked to leave your camera at the entrance, so just be in the moment and enjoy the wonder!
Forget Rome or Greece. For the most jaw-dropping incredible ruins, the Baalbek Temples are where it’s at!
Baalbek is an ancient Phoenecian city 85 km from Beirut which dates back as early as 3rdcentury B.C. The UNESCO World Heritage site is home to the largest noble Roman and temples ever built which are among the best preserved in the world with breath-taking detail and 20 metre high columns still intact.
And what’s possibly even more incredible is that fact that you will highly likely have this place all to yourselves! You will need to hire a driver or join a tour to get out there and due to its proximity to the Syrian conflict, it may not always be possible to go. But if you can, do not miss it!
Helabi bookshop is a 70-year-old bookshop located near the Palestinian refugee compound has become an institution in Beirut. Packed with books from floor to ceiling you will want to stay in the cosy atmosphere and chat to its owner Abdallah forever. He’s normally happy to meet people all over will probably offer you a cup of coffee and a chat.
If you’re keen on trying some Lebanese wine then Chateau Ksara is a great stop on your way to the Temples of Baalbek. The Ksara winery offers guided tours of its huge underground roman caves followed by a tasting.
Ksara has been making wine consistently since 1857 and is the country’s oldest winery. I personally wasn’t a big fan of the wine itself, but the experience is the perfect little pick me up for your drive.
WALK AROUND THE CITY
Beirut has got to be one of the most interesting cities to just wander around in. The mix of modern building and post-war ruins mixed with street art and funky shops means you can keep exploring forever. In the summer bougainvillaea flourishes in the city, making for some very Instagram worthy moments!
HOW TO GET AROUND
Taxis are aplenty and easily found in Beirut. You can choose from a shared taxi called “service” where the cost is divided among the passengers or a private taxi. Let the driver know which you would like when getting in the taxi. A taxi around anywhere in the city should not cost you more than 10,000 LBP (~$7 USD).
On my first trip to Beirut, we hired a private driver for a few days. It was a great way to see the country in comfort with the added bonus of having an experienced and knowledgeable local who was also able to act as our guide. If you’re looking for a relaxed holiday, I would highly recommend this.
OUTSIDE OF BEIRUT: BYBLOS
If you want somewhere even more relaxed than Beirut, then Byblos is the perfect seaside escape. This small but historic UNESCO town houses a range of great bars and restaurants in the most photogenic surroundings. Make sure you grab lunch at Chez Pepe’s restaurant, an institution in Byblos famous for its mouth-watering fresh food and beautiful port views.
You may decide you want to stay in this ancient beautiful town for a couple of nights and I wouldn’t blame you. There are a few great little hotels including Chez Pepe’s which offers accommodation next door to its restaurant, so you don’t have to wander far for lunch. Other well reviewed hotels in Byblos include:
Lebanon was one of the most underrated countries I have ever been to, and if it’s not on your bucket list, it should be! If you’re into exploring places before they become too cool, I would be booking my ticket as soon as possible. The history, architecture, culture, and (more importantly) food in Beirut awaits you!
We hope that this article has helped inspire you to visit Beruit, Lebanon. If you have any questions about the destination or have your own travel tips to share please leave these in the comments below.
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Our Top Places To Stay in Beirut, Lebanon
- Hotel Albergo
- Four Seasons Hotel Beirut
- InterContinental Phoenicia Beirut
- Louis V Hotel Beirut
- Le Gray
- Find the best price on hotels in Beirut, Lebanon
- Sign up to AirBnB with this link and receive US $35 off your first booking
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