Walk (or bike) along the Corniche to witness the leisurely flow of life by the Mediterranean; if you head south towards the Raouche neighbourhood, you will eventually come to one of Beirut's most iconic natural sites: the Pigeon Rocks, limestone formations jutting out of the sea. Come at sundown for shisha with a view.
To discover an edgier, hip side to the city, walk down the thoroughfares of Armenia Street (Mar Mikhael) and Gouraud Street (Gemmayzeh), and soak in Beirut's undeniable cool. There are plenty of attractive brunch spots and swank art galleries around (check out the St Nicholas Stairs in the summer for some al fresco art).
The Sursock Museum of modern art occupies the villa once inhabited by its founder, Nicolas Ibrahim Sursock, who instructed successors to turn the building into an art museum. The will was well-executed: the Sursock Museum is now among Beirut's most attractive, with free entry and guided tours. Its namesake palace is closed to the public, but certainly worth a look.
Founded in the 1860s by an American missionary, the lush, sprawling campus of the prestigious American University of Beirut is a pleasure to stroll around. It offers something of a journey into the city's pre-war days. There is an excellent archaeological museum on-site, along with a number of art galleries, and a great many nonchalant feline residents (cats), who famously inhabit the premises.
One of the best archaeological museums in the Middle East, the National Museum of Beirut provides an excellent overview of the region's history. Highlights include the world's largest display of sarcophagi, a line-up of 31 with naturalistic-looking carved faces, a reconstructed Roman tomb, and a collection of bronze Phoenician figurines uncovered at Byblos. The museum is located on the once volatile Green Line.
The UNESCO World Heritage Site of Byblos is a treasured city, reportedly the first one to be inhabited by Phoenicians, going on to serve host to a sequence of mighty civilisations (from Egyptians to Ottomans) over the following millennia. It's an easy day-trip from Beirut to see early settlements dating back to the B.C., the 12th century Crusader Castle, and the ancient Phoenician port.
The splendid Roman Temple of Baalbek is among Lebanon's most important archaeological monuments, an ancient place of worship with barely any competition among similar structures in the ancient world. Plan your trip around the Baalbeck International Festival for live music and plays held in the town.
This longstanding Hamra classic hosts patrons in the inviting inner courtyard, treating them to a an authentic homey Levantine experience rather than a meal alone. Stop by for just a coffee and dessert, too - and do not walk past one of the city's best bookshops as you make an exit.
If Makan's rotating menu of international (most often Asian) specialities and an aesthetically pleasing interior of a historic Levantine villa (with an incredibly atmospheric courtyard) weren't enough, Makan also operates on a rather unusual concept of allowing guests to pay what they please (or "what they think is fair") for the meal. Same goes for Motto, Makan's sister establishment a few blocks down Armenia Street - the primary culinary focus here is on Indian flavours, with different regions featured every week.
Considered by gourmands and laymen alike to be one of the best restaurants in the city, Tawlet is a Beirut institution, known for the quality of the food and for its hip and elegant style. It only opens for lunch, offering a traditional sample buffet, made with the freshest organic ingredients.
Tucked away in plain sight, the Cafe Em Nazih is a budget eatery well-known to the student crowd and artsy types. Its location underneath a hostel ensures there is a continuous stream of internationals, too - all enjoy Em Nazih's offerings and the casual ambience to an equal degree.
When in Raouche, settle in for a feast at Al Falamanki, whose casual ambience and waterside location have earned the place repeat customers in abundance. Few experiences beat sharing a water pipe at sundown, and if you get peckish, there always are plenty of manakish varieties to choose from. Further location in Monot Street operates 24/7.
The iconic B 018 started out as a house party during the tumultuous 1980s, but having moved to its current location has grown to make lists of the world's hottest nightlife venues. The action goes on underground, but the retractable roof makes for a fantastic setting directly underneath the night sky. Celebrity musicians and DJs make frequent appearances; mind that no food or snacks are served and drinks are only offered by the bottle.
The legendary Sporting Club has persevered through some of the most tumultuous years in Lebanese history and come out on the other end unscathed - so much so, in fact, that it almost qualifies as a living museum of the Lebanese 1950s. No longer an exclusive hangout for the jet-setting crowd, The Sporting Club now welcomes all.
Damaged severely during the Civil War, the iconic Saint-George no longer functions as a hotel, but still stands as part of the Marina complex frequented by local elites and expats. Pop-up parties are held by the poolside during the summer; there is a bar and restaurant on site.
A premier concert venue and party location, The Grand Factory is known to electro music fans as Beirut's best night time hangout, one that hosts artists performing in varying genres. One comes here to dance the night away, and no setting could be better than The Grand Factory's rooftop with a view of the mountains and the sea.
The polished Beirut Souks are far from an Oriental understanding of a boisterous marketplace. Stores that line these tranquil streets include upscale international names like Louis Vuitton, D&G, Armani, and more - along with more affordable high street brands. The Souks are more than just a shopping complex, with entertainment options, street markets and attractive public spaces.
Skip the magnets: a nicely packaged jar of Lebanon's very own natural honey makes for a souvenir miles ahead of any trinket. There are a surprising many kinds of honey to choose from, along with other honey-based treats. The Mar Mikhayel location also contains a trendy cafe.
Started by a non-profit aiming to support local artists nearly four decades ago, L'Artisan du Liban now boasts two locations (a further one in Clemenceau St.) where artwork, woven rugs, embroidery, home decor items and jewellery all made exclusively by Lebanese craftsmen and women are on sale.
Keep up-to-date with travel safety advice when planning a trip to Beirut and all thorough your stay. While most visits are trouble-free, there is a risk of terrorism present at all times, especially so in crowded areas and around dates of political significance, such as elections. Governments of many countries advise against travel to some parts of Lebanon (particularly around the borders with Syria and Israel, and around refugee camps) and the southern suburbs of Beirut, where threat of terrorism is especially high.
Citizens of Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates do not require a visa to enter Lebanon and stay for up to 6 months in a year for the purpose of tourism, provided they have no Israeli marks or stamps in their passports and a nonrefundable onward ticket; same applies to citizens of Jordan for stays of up to 3 months a year. Visa on arrival is granted under the above conditions to nationals of the European Union, much of Europe, the USA, Mexico, Canada, China, Australia, and many other countries across Asia and South America. If you do require a visa, an application must be made in advance via a Lebanese embassy or consulate closest to you. Please visit the General Security web page for up-to-date information.
June through August are some of the hottest months, but these are also the months when Beirut's celebrated party scene is at its most active, revellers gathering by the poolsides, on rooftops and by the Med. Spring and autumn have milder temperatures and are better fit for slow-paced city exploration and hikes. December through March are the height of ski season, when winter sports enthusiasts flock to the surrounding slopes.
The Beirut–Rafic Hariri International Airport is Lebanon's primary international air hub, and the main point of entry for the majority of visitors. There is no official public transportation service connecting the airport to the city, so travellers will need to either pre-arrange a private transfer, get a cab or rental car on arrival, or use a ride sharing app such as Uber or Careem (the latter being the by far cheapest option). Another option is to try and catch one of the mini buses that transport airport workers to and from the city; no official schedule is available for those, but you may get lucky.
There are both private and shared taxis available for hire; all fares must be negotiated in advance. With shared taxis, which are cheaper, the driver might pick up a number of passengers along the route, and you can try and join one already en route by naming your destination to the driver. Ride sharing apps like Uber and Careem are another convenient way of getting around. Allotaxi www.allotaxi.com.lb Lebanon Taxi +961 1 353 153 White Taxi +961 1 513 593 www.whitetaxi.me