BeirutCopyright: Piotr Chrobot/Unsplash.com
BeirutBeirut is the perfect destination for seasoned travellers: here, East and West intertwine in intricate ways, creating a city so magnetic that few are able to resist its powerful draw. Much has changed over the latter half of the twentieth century – Beirut rising to become glitterati central in the 60s but falling from grace during the bloody Civil War — but the city is alive and kicking, enticing travellers with superb gastronomy, the Middle East's most vibrant nightlife and close proximity to the ancient towns of Byblos and Baalbek.
The CityThe latter half of the 20th century was extremely tumultuous for Beirut, a city which became the battle ground for a bloody Civil War that claimed thousands of lives. The Green Line separating the Muslim West from Christian East is still clearly identifiable by the lush vegetation sprawling across this once no man's land, and sobering war memorials, such as the decrepit Holiday Inn hotel which only saw one year in operation preceding the start of the Civil War, serve testimony to the horrors experienced by locals a mere three decades ago. Visitors to Beirut will benefit greatly form taking a guided city tour designed to provide a deeper understanding of historic and political context. Today's Beirut is a much safer and more secure place with a distinctive buzz and joie de vivre, but do remain vigilant if you plan to set out exploring on your own, and make sure the city's volatile southern suburbs do not sneak their way onto your itinerary.
Do & See
Beirut makes for a fantastic base to explore the rest of the country once the city's captivating neighbourhoods are over and done with. The best way to explore the city is to set out on foot (the public transportation system will likely appear confusing to outsiders) or by bike, hitting major historic landmarks like the old town's Roman Baths, natural wonders like the Pigeon Rocks just off the Corniche, and the upcoming neighbourhoods of Mar Mikhael and Gemmayzeh along the way.
Eating out in Beirut is a foodie's holy grail: culinary influences mix and mingle in the Levantine cuisine, and so do international restaurants along the city streets. You are equally as free to tuck into a manakish (Levantine "pizza" of sorts) while taking puffs from the ubiquitous shisha as you are to put away a trendy poke bowl. Lebanese cuisine is the definition of comfort food, featuring delicious specialities like kibbeh (made with ground beef or lamb), everyone's favourite hummus, falafel, and kunafeh - for dessert. Here's a list with the top restaurants in Beirut, Lebanon:
Beirut's celebrated cafe culture means you'll be spoilt for choice when it comes to having a strong cup of Lebanese coffee or a casual meal. Many local cafes also serve shisha (or hookah), which is commonly enjoyed by locals any time of day or night. Here are some of the best cafes in Beirut:
Bars & Nightlife
Living up to its somewhat unexpected title of the Middle East's "Party Capital", Beirut never hesitates to throw a great one. Summer is prime party season when the city's breezy terraces fill up with revellers and poolsides get crowded with sunbeds. Action commonly goes on till dawn, persisting well after the first rays of sunlight. Dress to impress: many upper-scale establishments have a dress code and face control in place. Here are some of the best bars and nightclubs in Beirut:
Shopping is a blast in Beirut, although do not expect much in the way of an oriental marketplace: the Beirut Souks are a polished shopping complex with dining and entertainment, and luxury department stores like Aïshti see moneyed shoppers from Beirut and outside come through their doors. Local products worth buying include art and handicrafts produced by Lebanese artisans (fabrics, ceramics, metalwork and more).