Described as the “European gateway to the Middle East”, Lebanon’s capital is a vibrant, fashionable metropolis that has endured and overcome civil war without losing its culture and its charm.
With a rich history and a wealth of religions and nationalities, this is a cosmopolitan city that is still rebuilding from its turbulent past. Though it isn’t out of the woods yet, it moves ever closer to reclaiming its previous reputation as a thriving tourist hub.
The National Museum of Beirut is considered a must-see site for all tourists. With a rich history that dates back more than 5000 years, Beirut’s ancient Phoenician past is cherished within the galleries of this impressive museum, as well as mummies, mosaics and other astounding artefacts. The people of Beirut went to great lengths to protect the museum and its relics during the civil war and it is considered a national treasure today.
The Corniche is a bustling promenade that locals and tourists like to walk, jog or explore on bike as it showcases much of Beirut’s natural beauty including coastal views and the city’s iconic landmark, Pigeon Rocks. Make your way through the crowds at sunset to get a snapshot of these impressive natural rock formations.
Eat and Drink
Traditional Lebanese cuisine is a fusion of Arabic, Mediterranean and Turkish influences. Ingredients such as olive oil, chickpeas, spices and herbs are commonly used in Lebanese cooking. The Lebanese have their own version of small entrees, a similar concept to Spanish tapas, called mezze, which usually involve a number of delectable hot and cold vegan dishes served to share with other guests.
A banquet of typical mezze might include the fried chickpea balls falafel with a fresh tabbouleh salad of parsley, tomato and mint and Lebanese pita bread. Also look for simple Lebanese pizzas and barbecued meats. Enjoy your Middle Eastern feast with the Beirut-brewed beer Almaza.
Where to Stay
The Downtown area in Beirut has plenty of accommodation options for a range of tastes and budgets. With its surrounds including historical sites, the marina and popular shopping areas, it is an ideal location for tourists to set their bags down. It is also roughly 15 minutes from the international airport.
Beirut is considered the fashion capital of the country and is fiercely proud of local designers who have received international acclaim, such as Elie Saab and Reem Acra. One of Beirut’s most popular shopping areas, located in the Downtown area, is Beirut Souks. Wander the labyrinth of more than 200 stores boasting international designer brands such as Christian Louboutin and Louis Vuitton in the bustling shopping area.
The trendy Hamra district is synonymous with shopping. Popular universities are located nearby so the area is often bustling with young people and tourists browsing boutiques along the tree-lined streets.
Beirut Like a Local
After the dust of the civil war began to settle in Beirut, an optimistic form of art began to appear in the city’s streets. Hopeful images and messages were written in graffiti form on walls and buildings across the city and many of these artworks remain, their vibrant colours and positive themes lifting spirits and helping to unite the city. Take yourself on a walking tour of the Hamra district to take in the many murals that adorn the area.