Beirut is the capital city of Lebanon with a population of approximately 2.1 million people in its metropolitan area. The city is on a relatively small headland jutting into the east Mediterranean. It is by far the biggest city in Lebanon. Due to Lebanon's small size the capital has always held the status as the only true cosmopolitan city in the country, and ever since the independence, has been the commercial and financial hub of Lebanon. 20km to its North is Jounieh, a city very closely associated with Beirut.
Beirut has survived a rough history, falling under the occupation of one empire after another,. Originally named Bêrūt, "The Wells" by the Phoenicians, Beirut's history goes back more than 5000 years. Excavations in the downtown area have unearthed layers of Phoenician, Hellenistic, Roman, Arab and Ottoman civilizations.
Following World War II, Lebanon was granted its independence by France and Beirut became its capital. Beirut thrived as a major commercial and tourist center of the Middle East. It was a top destination among wealthy Arabs and European tourists, due to Beirut's unique geography, climate, diverse culture, and freedom. Beirut was seen as the "European gateway to the Middle East" and vice versa, and was often called the "Paris of the Middle East".
Beirut is and was home to over 10 recognized religious sects. Religious tension between the Christian and Muslim factions sparked a brutal civil war in 1975. The conflict lasted nearly a decade and a half, ravaging the city. The central area of the city, previously the focus of much of the commercial and cultural activities, became a no-man's land. Throughout the war, the city was divided between the Muslim west part and the Christian east, and tensions between different sects remains to this day.
Since the end of the war in 1989, the people of Lebanon have been rebuilding Beirut. The city has undertaken an aggressive rebuilding policy. The city is working hard to regain its status as a tourist, cultural and intellectual center in the Middle East which it has lost to Cairo as well as a center for commerce, fashion and media which is dominated by Dubai and other rich Gulf states. However Beirut with the rest of the Middle East has gained momentum.
Beirut enjoys Mediterranean climate. Come in April to June for warm, dry days and long, cool evenings (19–25°C). Temperatures in July and August rise to around 30°C and humidity can be somewhat overwhelming – make sure your hotel has air conditioning. The wettest months are December to February so bring a good coat and umbrella, the rain can sometimes be heavy. Lebanon's ski season runs from December till early April.
Despite the diverse climate that changes noticeably per season, the weather is very predictable; the weather forecast, on radio and TV stations are normally very accurate, so you normally shouldn't find yourself caught in a sudden downpour in the winter months.
Some areas of Beirut have a friendly atmosphere, and some Beirutis have a reputation for being very sociable and outgoing. The locals are used to the sight of foreigners and would be happy to show you around the city, if you ask them. However some areas are hostile against foreigners or even Beirutis from other neighborhoods.
However, the sight of foreigners being the operative term, it should be noted that your external appearance will determine some of the locals' reaction to you. Badly dressed visitors must bear in mind that they should not expect the same warm reception from one and all that their well dressed counterparts may take for granted.
Secterianism is still prevalent in Lebanon, as a result of the French colonial legacy of divide and rule, which leads some Christian Lebanese to readily identify culturally and ethnically with Europeans particularly the French, some denying Arab identity altogether, while many Muslim Lebanese identify culturally and ethnically with other Arabs and Muslims of the Middle East. Those historical factors have been further complicated by the influx of laborers and maids from Sri Lanka, Syria, Ethiopia, and other countries.
It is helpful to display some basic courtesies. A simple Bonjour when entering a cafe or shop can work wonders, and might even get you a special rate, or when hopping into a taxi, might just keep the driver from overcharging you. Say Merci when given or offered something, and if you'd rather not accept, then say La'a merci and smile; otherwise you might be taken as rude, even though you're not.
Most Beirutis love going out, and the nightlife in Beirut is arguably world-class. If (and when) you go out at night, dressing up well will most certainly get you some respect. The locals like to see that foreigners are doing what they can to fit in. Expect to be offered a drink or a cigarette. (alcohol is very cheap in shops and supermarkets, yet in night venues, prices can rise up to european standards (aka: 8,000L.L/Beer, 15,000L.L/Cocktail))
Smoking is very common in Beirut, a large portion of the people smoke both outdoors and indoors. Most restaurants have special smoking areas that are ventilated, so make sure you ask whether a particular restaurant or cafe is smoking or not, and ask for a non-smoking table if you don't want to sit around smokers.
Due to Lebanon's diverse religions and sects, many public holidays are celebrated, some of which more than once: New Year's Day, Armenian-Orthodox Christmas (6 Jan), Eid al-Adha – Feast of Sacrifice, celebrating the last day of Hajj, the Muslim pilgrimage to Mecca, Al Hijrah – Islamic New Year, Feast of St Maroun (9 Feb), Eid Milad Mnabi – Prophet's Anniversary, Good Friday and Easter Monday (Apr), Labour Day (1 May). Martyrs' Day (6 May), Liberation of the South (25 May), Assumption (15 Aug), Eid al-Fitr - Festival of the Breaking of the Fast, All Saints' Day (1 Nov), Independence Day (22 Nov), Christmas Day (25 Dec). Based on the lunar calendar, Islamic holidays move forward approximately 11 days every Western year.
Anything goes in Beirut. Shorts and T-shirts are perfect for the summer heat, for both men and women, while heavier clothing is necessary during the winter. Though Beirutis are liberal when it comes to dress, shorts are largely shunned by Lebanese men except young ones, for fashionable reasons. The Beirutis and Lebanese in general are distinguished form tourists dressed in shorts and t-shirts by dressing very fashionably and smartly even in the hot summer. You should cover up if visiting religious sites, such as mosques and churches. Going out at night is a smart affair, so dress fashionably to fit in.
Beirut Rafik Hariri International Airport (IATA : BEY), is the country's only international airport and the hub of Lebanon's national carrier, Middle East Airlines (MEA ). Most international airlines have daily flights between Beirut and the major European capitals. The airport is located 7km south of Beirut, and is roughly a 10 to 15 minute drive from the city center.
You may purchase a 15-day tourist visa at the airport for $17 or a 30-day tourist visa for $34. Citizens of certain countries (Most European countries and Turkey recently) do not require a visa to enter , and can go straight through the "Immigration" terminal. Check with your embassy or a Lebanese embassy for detailed inquiries.
At the moment, there is no public transportation to or from the airport. However, taxis are plentiful, and comfortable taxis that are authorized by the airport are parked next to the terminal in the arrivals level and have an airport logo on the side (official airport taxi fares ). As these taxis are regulated by the airport authorities, they are guaranteed to be honest in their rates. Regular taxis are also available and are located a little farther from the airport, but these are not guaranteed and are to be used at ones own risk. In the future, there are plans to offer regularly scheduled bus services from the airport to various parts of the city and even other parts of the country. Bus shelters are already constructed at the airport.
All major car rental companies have booking offices inside the airport.
There are four border crossing points between Lebanon and Syria:
Masnaa (on the Beirut-Damascus Highway)
Qaa (at the northern edge of the Békaa Valley)
Arida (north of Tripoli along the coast)
Aboudiyeh (northeast of Tripoli).
You can travel between Lebanon and Syria by private/rental car, bus, private taxi, or service taxi. Visa can be issued at the border. If traveling by land, contact your embassy in Beirut beforehand.
Buses from Damascus and regions south of Beirut drop passengers off at an intersection adjacent to the Cola bridge/overpass, which is located in the southern part of the city (Mazraa) a couple of km south of Hamra and southwest of downtown. From here, you can get a private taxi to Hamra or Center Ville for LL10000 or a shared "service" taxi for LL2000. Be clear with the taxi driver if you want service [ser-vee-s]. If the taxi driver asks you to pay 2 or 3 service, they are asking for you to pay for two or three spots in the cab, which is usually unnecessary. Just wait for the next cab. There are about a dozen government bus routes, but service taxis are typically easier and just as cheap.
There are two types of taxis in Beirut; the old (often) battered hail-taxis, and the prebooking taxis.
Hail-taxi - The most convenient form of transport in Beirut, as they are absolutely everywhere. Those taxis are predominantly Mercedes Benz cars (though recently, due to increasing petrol prices, taxi drivers are opting for more economic forms or transport) and can be pretty easily identified by their yellow illuminated taxi sign on the roof and red number plate. Fixed meters aren't provided so it is recommended to ask how much your trip will cost before hopping in. The fare will be charged per destination and not per distance traveled (which is an advantage since traffic is a big problem in the city). A typical journey from one side of Beirut to the other (roughly 3 km) may cost LL10.000 (€5.00). Many taxi drivers speak at least a few words of English and French. Knowing the name of your destination in the local language may solve any misunderstandings. note: keep in mind the names of the landmarks around the city, as they will come in handy when traveling by public transport (some drivers mightn't be that good at orienteering!).
Prebook taxi - These require that you call them and book a ride, they generally cost more but are much more luxurious and are normally air conditioned. All hotels should provide you with a taxi directory, if you wish to use this type of service. Taxi prices are considered cheap if compared to US and European taxis. Major taxi companies are: Geryes Taxi (00961-1-332747), Taxi Premiere (Tel 1260 or 00961-1-389222). Allo Taxi (Tel 1213 or 00961-1-366661),
The more common form of transport, especially with daily commuters, as they are cheaper than the taxis, but ironically, are in fact the same. Service [ser-vee-s] are shared-taxis, the same taxis as above but shared between four people. The biggest advantage with the Service system is that the price of the ride is fixed at 2,000 L.L (€1). They come with drawbacks of course, and apart from having to share a small car with three other complete strangers (great for meeting new people actually), Service drivers may choose not to take you if you are not going in the same direction as them. Hailing a service or taxi usually entails yelling your destination to the driver if he slows down, then chasing the name of your destination with either 'taxi' (for private taxi 10,000 L.L.) or 'service' (for service 2,000 L.L).
It is important that you specify what type of ride you want (when hailing a taxi or service), if you fail to do so, the driver will assume you asked for taxi, and will overcharge you at taxi-rate. However if the driver stops to ask for other fares or picks up another passenger only pay the Service rate of 2,000 L.L.
There are currently two public transport companies. The OCFTC that operates a fleet of blue and white city-buses, and the LCC with a fleet of red and white minibuses; Bus fares cost around 600 to 750L.L ($0.40 to 0.50). The service is very efficient and the buses come very often, to get onto a bus you must stand at the side of the road and signal with your hand as a bus approaches; the buses will stop anywhere.
Driving in Beirut is not to be recommended for much of the day, particularly in the city center. Traffic is heavy, and impossible during rush hour. There is so much to see and being stuck in a traffic jam is the last thing anyone would want to spend their time doing. Walking around the city is much more of an experience, and is in fact necessary in the very center since that part of the city is a pedestrian area.
It can be difficult to find parking other than in multi-story and off-street car parks. On-street parking, if you are lucky enough to find one, is allowed for a short time of two hours. Tickets must be purchased through the parking meters usually located at either end of a street. They can be paid by either cash or card. Overstaying your time may get you a ticket. Enforcement of the parking limit isn't done very efficiently, but obviously the last thing anyone would want to find is a ticket that will ruin their day and set them back financially.
Renting a car is recommended if you're planing to visit neighboring towns and cities such as Jounieh, or if you're planing to go out late at night when public transport isn't operating, or maybe simply to enjoy the Lebanese "see-and-be-seen" lifestyle. Car rental prices range from economical 40.000L.L/day (€20.00/day) to luxury and exotic standard prices. Those can change according to season, so make sure you contact the car rental company beforehand to check prices as well as pickup/drop-off locations.
Driving in Beirut is on the right-hand side of the road.
Only the central areas of Beirut have traffic lights operating, though plans have been made to cover all of the city.
Rent a car: below is a selected list of car hire companies.
As the city is quite compact, walking is the best way of getting around, and perfect for getting off the beaten track to find unexpected surprises. Streets are generally well signposted, but few Beiruti locals would know how to navigate according to their names, directions are usually given by building placement ("straight down the road until you reach building X, turn left there, then right..."), and many streets have local nicknames that wouldn't match the map. That said, if you find yourself lost in the streets, simply ask any passer-by for directions; no one will refuse to help! Otherwise you can stop at the nearest hotel or shop and ask. Hotel concierges and shop keepers will most definitely speak English.
Some roads in Beirut are in poor condition. Not so much in the center, but the farther you get from downtown the more road works you will most probably find. So take care!
You can always check out a Beiruti-run walking tour called Walk Beirut. They offer weekly tours around the city.
Beirut was once the self-proclaimed "Paris of the Middle East". It still has an outdoor cafe culture, and European architecture can be found everywhere. Many Beirutis (as well as other Lebanese) speak French and/or English, to varying degrees, along with Arabic.
Each district has its own sights and places to visit. The following listings are just some highlights of things that you really should see if you can during your visit to Beirut. The complete listings are found on each individual district page.
Pigeon Rocks (Rawcheh District) A monumental natural arch jutting up from the Mediterranean. Great place to sit at one of the roadside cafes and watch the sun set.
Solidére Clock Tower (Downtown District), originally built by the French in the early 20th century in the very center of the Downtown district, it suffered a lot of war damage during the war but recently has been restored.
Martyr's Statue Downtown Martyr's Square, east of Nejmeh Square towards Ashrafieh.
Jeita Grotto is a compound of crystallized caves in Lebanon located 20 km north of Beirut in the Valley of Nahr al-Kalb (Dog River). This grotto is made up of two limestone caves, upper galleries and a lower cave through which a 6230 m long river runs. Geologically, the caves provide a tunnel or escape route for the underground river. In this cave and galleries, the action of water in the limestone has created cathedral-like vaults full of various sizes, colors and shapes of stalactites and stalagmites, majestic curtains and fantastic rock formations. The total length of the cave is more than 9000 m and there is one among the biggest stalactites in the world hanging 8,20 m. The grotto accommodates a huge hall with a distance of 108 m from the ceiling till the water level.
Sursock Museum (Ashrafieh District), Rue. Sursock (street), Ashrafieh, Beirut. (Contemporary Modern art), the building itself is a perfect example of the typical 18th century Lebanese palace. Lebanese and International art is permanently displayed in the intricately preserved interior.
Beirut Art Center (Sin El-Fil District), Rue. 97 (street), Sin El-Fil, Beirut. (Contemporary Modern art), the first non-profit public space in Beirut, housing an exhibition space, screening and performance auditorium, bookstore, mediatheque, cafe and terrace. Designed by architect Raed Abi Lama. Tel: 01 397 018.
Matignon Gallery (Lebanese and International contemporary art), +(961) 1-500265, 484115, Mon-Fri 10AM-6PM, Sat 10AM-2PM, Sin El Fil, Greater Beirut
Sanayeh Park, Emmile Eddé Road, Hamra, Beirut
Horsh Beirut (Beirut Pine Forest), (adjacent to the Beirut Hippodrome south of Ashrafieh)
Khalil Gebran Park Downtown District (between Amir Amine St. and Toufik Khaled St.)
Debbas Square Saifi village Downtown (bewteen Charles Debbas St. and Dmascus St.)
Nejmeh Square Central Downtown
Herbal Garden Riad El Solh St. Downtown.
The Mediterranean diet is one of the healthiest in the world. Lebanese cuisine in particular enjoys a worldwide reputation for its richness and variety as well as, of course, its Mediterranean health factor. The Lebanese gastronomy is a rich mixture of various products and ingredients coming from the diverse Lebanese regions. Olive oil, herbs, spices, fresh fruits and vegetables are commonly used, as well as dairy products, cereals, fishes and various types of meat. A visit to Beirut is no real visit unless you try (at least once) the traditional Lebanese Mezze (Meza), an elaborate variety of thirty hot and cold dishes. A typical Mezze may consist of salads such as the Tabboule and Fattouch, together with the caviars: Hommos and Moutabal, and some patties such as the Sambousseks and finally the stuffed grape leaves, with of course the Lebanese flat pita bread which is essential to every Lebanese Mezze.
Mankoushé: a Lebanese pizza, or at least that's what it looks like, the Mankoushé is a baked pizza-shaped dough with either a mixture of local cheeses or thyme (or a mixture of both) on top, can be bought from all bakeries as well as special Forn Mankhoushé which specialize in this type of food, usually had for breakfast. cost between 1.000L.L and 3.000L.L .
Ka'ek: a different version of the classic bagel, only about a foot in diameter and hollow, normally filled with thyme but you can ask for cheese spread as well. The only place to buy these are from the local street vendors (no shops sell them) that ride bicycles or motorized scooters and honk a manual horn. Although not of Lebanese origins, they're quite popular and are always found near Rawcheh area, they're worth a try. cost about 1.000L.L .
Roastery Nuts: roasted nuts are certainly the local favorite appetizers particularly with the older people. Local brands such as Al Rifai and Al Andalous have dedicated roasteries where customers walk in and order fresh, they produce some of the best nuts in the region, and certainly the most varied. Pecans, Cashews, Macadamias, Hazelnuts, Almonds, Pistachios, Peanuts its all there. Ask for Krikri in thyme, spice, or cheese flavor.
Sweets: every religious or national event sees stalls set up on sidewalks outside churches and in public squares, where traditional Lebanese sweets are sold such as: Maamoul, Ktaef, Halawet el Jibn, Halawet el Riz,and Ashta. If you're lucky enough to come across those be sure to give them all a try, otherwise visit any påtisserie such as the famous Sea Sweet where the same sweets can be purchased (but of course lacking the same authenticity!).
One of the best new restaurants in downtown is Lebneniyet, near the Place de L'Etoile. It uses only locally produced, natural ingredients from local farmers and its recipes are perfected by an award-winning Chef who also has a TV show on a local channel. Its cooking techniques mean that normally heavy Lebanese food such as mechwe is light and cooked to perfection.
Beirut's different cultures brought different tastes for food, and restaurants of all different origins have opened all around the city, particularly in the Ashrafieh District. Restaurants have different price ranges, depending of course on the quality of the ingredients used; check the different districts for the listings.
If you're on a tight budget, or if you simply miss the food that you can get back at home, fast food is your best option. All major international fast food restaurants have opened chains in Beirut (KFC, McDonald's, Burger King, Hardee's, TGI Fridays, Domino's Pizza, Pizza Hut, Dunkin' Donuts, Subway etc...), but many local fast food restaurants have sprung up to compete with the major franchisers.
Nightlife: Alcohol in Beirut is a part of daily life. Each of Beirut's districts has its own fair amount of cafes, bars, and clubs. This said, two of the hotter nightspots, with the highest concentration of pubs and nightclubs are Gemmayze and Monot St both located within close range in the Ashrafieh district. New places open, old ones close, others change name at the drop of a hat and hip venues can suddenly become unfashionable. The best way to find out what's in and whats not is by checking the local press or simply going there and seeing for yourself! There is no curfew in Beirut so the parties actually do go on until the break of dawn.
SkyBar in Biel, just next to downtown, has been voted as one of the hottest bars in the world. It has an outdoor area overlooking the Sea.
BO18. Trendy club inside a bomb shelter located under a parking lot. The roof opens and you can see outside while dancing. Clubbers park in the lot and descend a staircase into the club.
White. Is a rooftop bar on top of the an-Nahar newspaper building, with an outdoor area overlooking the Sea, Downtown, and the mountains.
Increasingly, there are many bars opening in Kaslik, a suburb between Beirut and Jounieh.
Dress up: dressing up in Beirut is a task of its own, Beirutis love looking their best and this is particularly noticeable when going out. Beirutis definitely have a "party hard" attitude.
There are lots of hotels in Beirut's metropolitan area, ranging from cheap hostels to luxury suite hotels. Prices are relatively hight compared to similar hotels around the Mediterranean and Middle east, but if you look well enough, there's bound to be the perfect hotel inside whatever budget you set. Check the different districts to find places to sleep.
Clothes and fashion - Beirut is the fashion capital of Lebanon and the region, with some fashion designers that rival the best in the world (Elie Saab , Basil Soda , Pierre Katra and Robert AbiNader .)
There are several shopping districts around the city.
Downtown Beirut - The recently renovated city center that boasts fancy and designer stores.
Hamra Street - A less expensive shopping area, the perfect place to do bulk shopping since prices are relatively low.
Mar-Elias Street - A busy street towards the south of Beirut. Many of the shops are Lebanese brands which means this is the perfect place to find bargains as most brands are local and cheap.
Rue. Verdun - A shopping street with several high-end shopping malls and department stores.
Souks de Beirut is a new mall in downtown with international brands in an outdoor setting.
ABC Beauté, Bab Idriss, downtown, 00961 1 991888. Offering a wide range of international cosmetics and perfume brands, nail bar, professional hairdressers and stylists. Open Mon-Sat 10AM-7PM.
Miss ABC, Hamra street, facing Cinema strand, 00961 1 344740. Women's specialty store. Open Mon-Sat 9:45-7:45, closed Sunday.
City Mall, Dora highway roundabout, Greater Beirut, 00961 1 905555. Includes 100 stores, 15 cafes and restaurants, a Hypermarket, and 9 movie theaters.
Virgin Megastore - Currently four branches in Beirut: Beirut International Airport, Martyr's square Downtown (claims to be the biggest Virgin Megastore outside the UK), City Mall (Dora roundabout), ABC department store (Ashrafieh).
Music, Books, Event Tickets: Virgin Megastores Currently four branches in Beirut: Beirut International Airport, Martyr's square Downtown (claims to be the biggest Virgin Megastore outside the UK), City Mall (Dora roundabout), ABC department store (Ashrafieh).
Flea markets are surprisingly hard to find, occasional organized markets are held that are made to resemble flea markets.
Souk El Tayeb Held every Saturday in the Saifi village downtown between 9AM-2PM, feed your soul as well as your face in Beirut's first organic farmer's market. Promoting traditional methods of farming and preserving, it's a great place to pick up local honey, cheese and breads, plus artisans' crafts. It also runs regular cookery classes, to learn how to make that perfect tabouleh (bulgur salad).
Sunday Market Get up early and join the locals for a rummage at the Sunday Market which opens between 7AM and 1PM, next to Beirut River in the east. You might find antique jewellery, clothing and beads, or maybe just bric-a-brac, but there's an eclectic selection of goodies on show. Remember to bargain hard!
Burj Hammoud Beirut's Armenian quarter, perfect place to shop for cheap bric-a-brac, artisan's crafts, souvenirs, copper and brass ware and faus-brands. Don't forget to haggle. Burj Hammoud is located to the East of ashrafieh across the Beirut river.
Payment cards: Many shops, hotels, restaurants, bars etc accept international payment cards such as Visa, Mastercard, Maestro or American Express.
Automatic bank tellers: Withdrawal can be made from any automatic bank teller found in any region of the country. Withdrawals can be made in either Lebanese Lira or the US dollar.
Traveler's checks: Lebanese banks can exchange them very easily.
Beirut is very culturally diverse, and thus, multilingual. Arabic is the official and national language but French and English is widely spoken, and younger people are generally more likely to be fluent in English than older people, and than in French.
Shop signs are predominantly in English. Most restaurant menus, and event listings and such, are also in English alongside Arabic and sometimes in French. Road signs however are in Arabic and French.
Since 2009, Lebanon has become a safe place and the number of tourists is dramatically increasing (more than 2 millions in 2009). The US government has issued a warning to travelers visiting Lebanon but it was lifted in mid September 2009. The violence in Naher al-Bared has ceased. If you choose to visit Lebanon, visit the touristic cities like Jounieh, Byblos,Tyr and Tripoli . Beirut is safe, but avoid South Beirut if there is political discord with Israel. Baal-beck is safe, but also visit with caution for it is a Hezbollah stronghold. The mountain cities around Beirut and in the North are generally safe but always be on the lookout for political turmoil. Try to avoid any political demonstrations. The South has a high level of Hezbollah influence/control but is by no means off-limits. Be aware that the South has a high Shia Muslim population and dress and act conservatively.
It is strongly discouraged to visit Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon, unless you are with someone who lives in/ is familiar with the camps. Camps vary in size/appearance(the camps in Beirut are like slums, more rural camps can resemble more open villages)and hostility, however, and you should bear in mind that Palestinians, who have no civil or political rights in Lebanon and are barred from most professions, will generally feel no reason not to be as open and civil to you as a Lebanese person might be.
Photography of military personnel and installations is prohibited. You should also be careful in taking photographs in the Dahiye (the southern suburbs), if you don't want to get in contact with the Hezbollah...
Avoid talking about politics and religion, even if asked, for this might lead to trouble. Avoid any governmental or military convoys that may be passing by. The Lebanese people have adapted to all those situations.
The heart of Beirut, Downtown, should be the starting point of any visit, as it lies roughly in the center of the city; from there one can explore the surrounding areas and take in the views. The commercial area of Beirut is rather small, making all major points of interest within short walking distances.
Charles Helou Station lies approximately one kilometer east of Nejmeh Square, on Charles Helou Avenue, facing the Beirut Port. From there you can take the city buses or hop onto the larger coaches that link Beirut with the neighboring cities.
Downtown - Located in the heart of the city beside the Beirut port and Beirut marina; includes many cafés, restaurants, and places shop. Also home to many historical sites.
Ashrafieh - The center of Western themed nightlife/life in the city. Ashrafieh, is divided into smaller areas; Gemmayze and Monot Street are the most popular nightspots, while Sassine Square and Sodeco Square are mainly afternoon shopping areas. Gemmayze consists of mostly pubs, though it does also contain a fine selection of restaurants. Many people are starting to think of it as a separate entity from Ashrafieh. Monot Street features a mix of restaurants, nightclubs, and pubs.
Ain El Mraiseh - Seafront district with plenty of hotels and restaurants.
Hamra - A hive of activity, and a shopping-lover's paradise. Hamra became the center during the troubles in the 70's. The more popular places are Bliss st., Hamra st., Sourati st. and Jeanne d'Arc st., each havings its own share of cafés, hotels, and restaurants. Hamra st. in particular has been redeveloped in recent years, with larger chains of restaurants and cafes opening there, including Starbucks, Costa, Nandos, and Roadsters. There are also a few pubs still operating there.
Manara - The Westernmost district of Beirut. Ras Beirut literally translates to "the head of Beirut" due to its location on the tip of peninsula, home to the Manara Lighthouse and various beach clubs (though none feature any sandy beaches).
Rawcheh - The Pigeon Rocks, the focal point of this district, are located here.
Ramlet El Baida - A residential area just south of Rawcheh, here you'll find Beirut's only public beach. It is also the only beach featuring any sand.
Verdun - A trendy shopping area, Rue. Verdun (or Verdun st.) is the main area where you'll find most hotels and shops. The area also features cafes and restaurants. Many Gulf Arabs stay here during summer vacations.
Jnah - A predominantly residential area in southern Beirut, but also home to various beach clubs and hotels.
To stay up to date on Beirut's nightlife scene, visit any Virgin Megastores branch to ask about any upcoming events. Many live concerts are held throughout the year with international musicians and DJ's. Beirut has hosted some of the world’s biggest names in Dance music such as Armin Van Buuren, Tiesto, Above and Beyond, Bob Sinclar, Hernan Cattaneo, James Zabiela, Cosmic Gate, Paul Van Dyk, Ferry Corsten, Nick Warren, Anthony Pappa, Sasha, John Digweed, Danny Howells, Steve Lawler and others. Alternatively keep an ear out for the radio:
Beirut International Film Festival, . Held annually in October, the Beirut Film Festival exhibits films from all over the middle east, usually in either Arabic or French. The films vary enormously and some can be intensely political.
Beirut International Jazz Festival, . Held annually during the month of July over a period of four days, some of the greatest international jazz artists as well as musicians from around Lebanon play some quality music near the Beirut marina.
Things to do in Beirut are virtually unlimited. Check the different districts to find out what each has to offer. Meanwhile, here are a few highlights:
Bet on an Arabian thoroughbred every Sunday in the Beirut Hippodrome, officially called Hippodrome Du Parc De Beyrouth . The hippodrome is home to popular horse races, attracting a dedicated betting crowd (often old taxi drivers). Foreigners should join the fun in the afternoon for free entrance (ID or passport required). Open on Sundays only.
Soak up the sun in one of the beach clubs on the Beirut coast. Very few actually have sandy beaches, and most unfortunately have been converted into spas with swimming pools and paved terraces, but despite all that, they all have access to the sea. A few of them are completely private and members-only, but can be accessed by paying for a guest ticket if going in with a member. The Saint George Yacht club in Ain El Mreisseh and the Riviera Beach and Yacht Club at the Riviera Hotel are two such popular clubs, where access to the beach club for non-members is US$20 per day. You can chill in one of the pools or have a drink at the bars and cafes while listening to music in the afternoons. Long Beach Club is another good place. The entrance is just to the left of the Ferris wheel on the Cornish right before the hill. Bring a beach towel.
Take a ride on the Beirut Balloon (30 passenger helium filled balloon, offering breathtaking views from an altitude of 300m.), 00961 1 985901, 10AM-10PM, Allenby St., Downtown Beirut, Entrance is through Biel Convention Centre. Look for it in the sky!
Walk, jog, skate, cycle, stroll (or whatever you consider exercise) along Paris Avenue which links up to General De Gaulle Avenue (both locally known simply as the corniche) which stretch around the entire Central Beirut perimeter (approx. 5km). Start the walk, jog, skate etc... at the Beirut marina (Downtown Beirut District) about an hour or so before sunset and finish at the Pigeon Rocks in Rawcheh, in time to watch the sun go down while sipping on a drink at one of the outdoor cafés.
Scuba Dive:, With 300 sunny days a year, 36 shipwrecks, impressive walls, canyons, caves, Ray habitats and shark habitats, Beirut definitely has something to offer for a serious scuba diver. The French WWII submarine Le Souffleur, the British freighter Alice B which sank during the civil war in the 80's, The Macedonia freighter which sank in 1962 and the National Star freighter in 1991, the Mediterranean flagship of Admiral Sir George Tryon HMS Victoria which sank in 1893, The British Lesbian which sank during WWII, make just a few of Beirut's shipwreck collection. Historical cities dot ancient Phoenicia' s shore, providing us today with many interesting submerged historical sites, some littered with Phoenician and Roman marble stones, granite columns, pathways, old stone anchors, amphorae and bits of pottery. There are several Dive Centers around Beirut:
AUB - American University of Beirut - The American University of Beirut (AUB) was founded in 1866 as a private, independent, non-sectarian institution of higher learning, functioning under a charter from the State of New York. AUB has grown from 16 students in a rented house to a major university with over 6,900 students located on a 73-acre campus overlooking the Mediterranean Sea. The University is governed by an autonomous Board of Trustees comprised of international leaders in business, education, diplomacy, engineering, philanthropy, science, and medicine.
LAU - Lebanese American University - The Lebanese American University is an American institution chartered by the Board of Regents of the University of the State of New York and operating in Lebanon. Currently, LAU has two campuses: one located in Beirut, and a second in the Mount Lebanon city of Jbeil (Byblos). The university offers programs leading to Associate's, Bachelor's, and Master's degrees in the arts and sciences, and Doctorates in Pharmacy. LAU is the only institution outside of the United States with an ACPE-accredited pharmacy program. LAU is currently a candidate for accreditation by the Commission on Institution of Higher Education of the New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC).
USJ - Universitee Saint-Joseph - A private university founded in 1875. A member of the Association of Arab Universities, the International Association of Universities, the Association of French speaking universities (AUPELF) the International Federation of Catholic Universities, the European Federation of Catholic Universities, the Association of Jesuit Institutions of Higher Learning in Europe and Lebanon and the Euro-Med University (Téthys).
Lycee Abdel Kader - A private French Lycee in the traditional area of Karakol El Druze near Beirut downtown: it is particularly known for offering French and Lebanese baccalaureates and for its highly competent students and staff. It is ranked among the top 5 private schools in Lebanon with a 100% success rate in the French Bac.
Embassy of the Philippines, (9611) 212-001 to 3, (9611) 212-001 to 3, Building No. 29 Plot No. 511 Charles Malik Avenue (across Roadster Diner) Achrafieh, Beirut P.O. Box No. 136631
"Romanian Embassy" , Lebanon Route du Palais Présidentiel Baabda Phone:+961-5-924848 +961-5-924849
Radio in Beirut is quite popular, particularly with the younger people who listen to the English-spoken stations as all events and concerts are advertised through those. Arabic and French broadcasted stations are plentiful, and are worth a listen if you'd like to experience the traditional culture. Below are radio stations that are broadcasted in English:
Official Newsboxes can be found throughout the commercial areas in the city, mainly in Sassine Square ashrafieh, Verdun st. Verdun, Concorde st. Hamra. All Minimarkets/Supermarkets/Hypermarkets distribute newspapers and magazines as well.
There is a huge variety of Arabic newspapers of all sorts, as well as ethnic newspapers such as the Armenian Aztag Daily.
Once you leave Beirut, visit any of the other cities in Lebanon. The country is relatively small, so no single journey to any other city should take more than two hours. Depending on the season visiting, you can go skiing in one the six mountain resorts, or go to the beaches in Tyr or one of the beach resorts in Jounieh. Visit the national heritage sites around Lebanon; every city in the country has at least some form of ancient or historic site.
Buses that head to the North city of Tripoli or to Syria and Jordan operate from the Charles Helou bus station, which is also the station for long-distance taxis that link Beirut to neighboring cities as well as Syria and Jordan. Charles Helou is located next to Port of Beirut. It can be difficult to understand the main bus routes at first but you can always ask, bus drivers are like everybody else in Lebanon, friendly and may be able to communicate in English or French.
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