It’s our first day in Beirut. We stroll down the beach while well-trained youths play volleyball in waterfront beach clubs. Somewhere close a Ferrari’s engine roars to life. With a Pina Colada in hand and a dazzling blue sky above our heads, the eerie ruins in the distance almost seem to disappear. Almost. They’re a remnant of the civil war from 1975-1990, tearing country and people apart. The traces show all over the city, but that doesn’t seem to bother the tanned sun-
seekers on the lively beach.
Beirut get easily overseen, thanks to prejudice and the general feeling that the Middle East is not a safe place to go. On the upside that keeps boring mainstream tourists at bay and lures brave travellers into the country. Where they quickly realise Beirut isn’t the Middle East. It’s a fashion-conscious metropolis, open-minded and strongly tied to the Western world. Just imagine our endless joy when we discovered it’s one of the few Arab countries that lets you buy champagne! Consequently, their pumping nightlife is every bit as hedonistic as Berlin’s. The city’s hustle and bustle can be a little overwhelming at first, but once seduced, you’ll be craving for more. From warm-hearted hospitality to outstanding nightlife, Beirut is a city sure to enthrall your senses.
National Museum – Beirut’s main cultural institution. Features an impressive collection of bronze figurines, human-faced sarcophagi and byzantine mosaics.
Mohammad Al-Amin Mosque – An imposing structure and architectural landmark with towering 65m minarets. Designed in historical Ottoman-style, the mosque is the Sunnis’ place of worship.
Art Center – The Art Center explores what’s new in contemporary Middle Eastern art and is recognized as a leading voice in the Lebanese culture scene. On 1,500 square meters art lovers find exhibitions from local and international artists with a focus on photography and video.
Pigeons’ Rock – A stunning natural two-rock formation standing like gigantic sentinels to the city. It’s located right off the cliffs of busy Raouché district and fascinates locals and tourists alike.
Beirut Souks – Beirut’s major commercial district boasts over 200 shops, 25 restaurants, cafes, street markets, a children’s science museum and a 14 cinema complex. It’s every shopping-queen’s come true.
Archaeological Museum – The third oldest museum in the Middle East after Cairo and Constantinople is a haven for archaeology fans. Located on the American University of Beirut’s campus, they boast well-preserved artifacts. The entrance is free.
Zaitunay Bay – Built on 20.000 m2 prime ground, this urban beach extends along the waterfront of Beirut’s high-end streets. It’s essentially a concentrated version of all the lifestyle and luxury Beirut has to offer.
Sursock Museum – Known as thriving center of cultural life, Sursock was devastated by the civil war. A €10m makeover have once again turned the Italian-style mansion into a hotspot for art lovers, poets and playwrights.
American University – Initially set up for medical training by the US, the American University of Beirut now ranks among the top universities in Lebanon. It’s picturesque campus spans across 25 hectars, boasts a private beach, a bird sanctuary and a botanical garden.
Station Beirut – A hybrid cultural space dedicated to presenting bold, contemporary and progressive content. Launched in September 2013, the venue seeks to contribute to the regional creative scene by offering a platform for artists and curators in the visual, performing and digital arts.
Development and Architecture
For the past 5,000 years, Beirut’s center was the city’s pulsing heart. From colorful grocers to street vendors, small cafes and shouting fishmongers, it was bustling with life. Then came the civil war. After it left the city devastated, a half private, half public company called „Solidere“ was founded by billionaire and then-prime minister Rafik Hariri to restore the center.
Solidere is equipped with both compulsory and regulatory powers, allowing it to manage the city centre like a mini-barony. Vendors and grocers have been replaced by Gucci and Luis Vitton stores. With Solidere’s „restorations“ halfway done, the center now feels strangely deserted. Who’s to afford these luxury goods? Certainly not Beirut’s residents.
What the city’s developers are creating is a largely deserted area disconnected from the city’s soul. That’s not to say the architecture isn’t impressive. From 23-storey 3 Beirut and its 3 green-roofed towers to the cliff-like Beirut Terrace and the whopping 195m Sama Beirut, the architecture looks amazing. If you want to feel Beirut’s soul, go to Badaro or Mar Mikhaël.
Badaro’s picturesque streets are lined with grocers, small eateries, pubs and upscale eateries. The residents are a wild mix of impoverished Christian bourgeoisie, bohemian mid 30’s and urban professionals. Lovely. While the up-and-coming district is a bustling business hub at daytime, it turns into a pulsing hotspot at night. At its center is Badaro Street, where you’ll find cozy eateries and fancy bars including well-known chains like Dany’s, Lina’s and Bodo.
Hamra Street is one of the main economic hubs. Formerly known as Beirut’s Champs Elysées, it emits a cosmopolitan vibe and houses historical cafes and theaters. Hamra district is crowded with young people, because it’s also home to the famous American University of Beirut. Don’t mind the spontaneous street events, they happen regularly. Swing by at „78 Street“ (known as „the alleyway“) and enjoy Hamra’s main pubbing and clubbing hub.
Modeled after 20th century European cities, Downtown is the the district of posh hotels, stylish shops and upscale restaurants. On Nejmeh Square you’ll find the world famous Ottoman-style clock tower. Nearby Martyr’s Square has a history of public demonstrations and is home to the bullet-holed martyr’s statue. It’s rounded up by Solidere district – the French mandate city center turned high-end shopping area.
The all-new hotel district expands the prewar city center towards the Mediterranean sea. It’s a high density area with a mix of residential, office, hotel and leisure developments. While it’s not the raw Beirut experience, it’s slowly coming to life with new hotels such as Monroe Hotel, 4 Seasons and Beirut Tower.
Also known as Beirut’s Armenian soul, Bourj Hammond is a distinctive muncipality with an unique flair. It’s an intriguing mix of industrial, commercial and artisanal areas with narrow alleys and plenty of Armenian flags. Wait, Armenian flags? Fleeing a genocide, Armenian refugees were rescued by french boats and relocated to Beirut in 1915. They turned a swampy area into a lively neighborhood. While you’re there, grab a “lahme bajeen” – a very thin pizza with mince meat doused in lemon juice. Delicious.
Corniche Beirut is a seaside promenade in Central District. Lined with palm trees, the waterfront esplanade offers visitors a magnificent view of the Mediterranean and the summits of Mount Lebanon to the east. Corniche is also home to many of Beirut’s architectural landmarks, such as Platinum Tower, University Tower and the lighthouse.
Named after a French General, Rue Gouraud competes with trendy Badaro’s flair. It’s a mixed residential and commercial street in Gemmazey district. It’s lined with trendy bars, restaurants and historic buildings from the French era. Travel + Leisure magazine labelled it „SoHo by the sea“ due to its colorful and chic cafés amidst 1950 apartment buildings.
Long considered Beirut’s trendy district, Mar Mikhaël’s glory has faded a little with the re-emergence of Badaro. While Badaro and Rue Gouraud undeniably share the nightlife’s throne, Mar Mikhaël has stepped up to conquer artists & fashionista’s hearts. With many trendy boutiques, antique furniture stores and art galleries in the area, it’s the place-to-be for everything artsy and creative.
Restaurants & Cafés
Villa Badaro (Top pick)
As the name suggests, this restaurant-pub is located in a renovated vintage villa in Badaro. From luscious greenery to mouth-watering food, colorful decor and a chill atmosphere – everything at Villa Badaro spells love. The menu shows Japanese and American influences and boasts a selection of salads, tuna dishes, burgers and steaks. Drop by on Monday night to enjoy amazing cheese fondue and beef pierrade!
After earning critical praise for her Lebanese eatery in Paris, Liza Asseily opened a second dependance in the city that inspired her in the first place. Liza Beirut occupies a 500sqm space of a 19th-century palace in the stylish Achrafieh neighborhood. The venue is divided into the Building Room, Money Room and Banana room. The kitchen serves classic Lebanese cuisine. Our tip: Grilled halloumi with sweet tomato jam.
Here comes the best Italian food in Beirut, maybe Lebanon! Gavi is an upscale restaurant in the gardens of the Kampai building. If you hadn’t noticed it’s upscale, the 24k gold leaf on your risotto might remind you. The food is so disgustingly good that while you’re eating, you start missing the little Italian town you’re not even from. Tears were shed after the last gnocchi was devoured, but hey. You can always come back.
Gilt combines food, design and music to turn a normal dining experience into an immersive cultural evening. The menu fuses Mediterranean influences with Asian and Peruvian dishes. The interior: Subdued grey and white tones are mixed with blue, accompanied by wood elements and dimmed light. The decor is at the same time a bit funky and strangely pleasant.
Let’s be honest – Petit Cafe isn’t exactly a culinary highlight. But the view is nothing short of spectacular. Sitting atop a cliff, it allows perfect views over Pigeon’s rock and the surrounding azure-blue sea. We whole-heartedly recommend it for a shisha and a few drinks. Don’t expect too much from the food.
Manara palace cafe – Great selection of appetizers and nice view over the sea
Casablanca restaurant – Combination of Asian and Lebanese organic cooking
Boulevard Beirut – Combines the epicurean richness of home-cooked and traditional Lebanese cuisine
Al Mandaloun Sur Mer – Grilled sea bass, oysters and lobsters combined with an amazing view over the ocean.
Meat the Fish – Delivers a signature line of smoked fish, shellfish sea food and premium meat free of charge
Basterma Bedo – Specialist in Soujouk, Makanek, Basterma and Roast Beef
Mayrig Beirut – Armenian restaurant adapting popular classics of Armenian cuisine, while generously borrowing from Lebanese influences
Chez Claude – Amazing french restaurant with a choice selection of wines
Mounirs – In the heart of an old pine forrest Mounirs serves excellent Lebanese cuisine
Babel Restaurant – famous for serving progressive Lebanese mezza and platters
Sud Resto – Italian restaurant with rooftop and great cocktails
Cafe Em Nazih – Hearty Lebanese food well-loved by locals and tourists alike
Appetito Trattoria – Italian restaurant ideal for romantic dates
Seza Bistro – Armenian food in a cozy atmopshere
Beirut is a haven for hedonistic night owls. It shares the same liberal attitude towards partying and alcohol as Tel-Aviv to the South. LGTB will be surprised how open minded people are and what Beirut has to offer. A rarity in Arabic countries! Enjoy the freedom and the diversity of people but always take caution. The same goes for enthusiastic drink lovers, who want to enjoy a beer or two, or maybe twenty. No-one bats an eye! While most eyes are on nightlife havens like Berlin, New York, London and Miami anyway, Beirut is easily overlooked. But once you’re inside BO18, a bunker turned legendary club, or inside Uberhaus with its unique lighting rig, your jaw drops to the (dance)floor. This is GOLD! Coming form a Berliner, that counts for something. Learn more in this amazing video:
Cherry on the rooftop (top pick)
Rooftop bar Cherry attracts a young and stylish crowd. Its name stems from a catchy cherry painting hanging at the entrance. Relax on a cozy red couch and enjoy amazing views over Beirut, the Lebanese mountains and the blue Mediterranean sea. The highlights are the fruity and punchy cocktails suited for sharing with friends.
Iris is vintage, rustic and ranks among the best rooftop locations in Lebanon. The lounge bar has broken out from the mainstream’s blaring beats and mundane pub culture and created a unique rooftop experience. A minor setback is the amount of tables – when it gets crowded, it gets noisy and you crave more space.
Located in the backstreets of Gemmayzeh district, this cozy and dimly lit bar attracts young and old alike. Demo is an unpretentious affair and the perfect place for a casual night out. During weekdays it offers great cocktails and pleasant background music. On the weekends loud hip hop and dance music swells into a full-blown party mix. The place gets so wild that part of the party gets carried onto the street regularly.
Set in the vault of a 1930 Beirut house, Torino is a pretty puristic bar experience. The interior is sparse, the drinks are strong and the crowd is just right. It ranges from hip kids to medium-cool and regular, but always friendly. When night draws closer, bottles are popped and things quickly get out of hand. We approve.
One of the busiest spots in trendy Badaro, Kissproof attracts an energetic and international crowd. It’s the in-place for French students, so expect to hear more French than Lebanese or English. They also serve great pub food for your after-drink meat cravings, and it’s very affordable. Booze-fueled weekends are followed by lazy hangovers, so Kissproof decided to remain closed on Mondays.
Capitole – Restaurant & roof bar
The Roof by Four Seasons – Hotel rooftop bar with special blend cocktails
Anise – Cozy bar offering the best Bloody Mary in town
Internazionale – 1950s American chic with dark wood furnishing
Molo – At Molo, you share good food, great music and even better drinks
Troika – A mix of café, bar and restaurant with simple and pleasant design
Salon Beirut – Great venue for live bands and snug dates
Dany’s pub – A local’s favourite cafe-bar-lounge with local DJs 7 days a week
Bardo Bar (Gay friendly) – An open-minded crowd, chill atmosphere and lots of pretty waiters
AHM (top pick!)
AHM is a huge brand-new music temple on the waterfront. It was kept under a cloak of secrecy before the opening. It turned out to be a real blast. It boasts mast-like lightning structures on the main floor and a spacious rooftop. AHM drives crowds wild with soul music on Wednesdays, disco & house on Thursdays, pop & classics on Fridays and special club nights on Saturdays, featuring techno heroes like Victor Ruiz, M.A.N.D.Y. and Max Cooper.
A spectacular venue that’s literally underground. Located in a bomb-shelter lookalike, it’s been voted among the best clubs in the world several times. It was one on the first clubs that underlined Beiruts ambitions to become a worldwide nightlife destination. Its metal facade features an hydraulic apparatus that moves the retractable roof. What this means? The club’s roof just disappears into the walls and ravers gaze at the stars above when the beat drops.
After a fire burned it down in 2015, SKYBAR returns with a bang! It fits up to 2500 party-goers per night and focuses on techno, rave & house music. The rooftop club sits right behind the waterfront and offers spectacular views over the sea. The downside: Skybar is a club all about seeing and being seen. On some nights, people stare more than they party. Amateurs.
The Gärten by Überhaus
In a unique setting below a glass dome, The Gärten features international and local DJs hitting the decks every weekend. The sound system is absolutely massive, the lights and visuals are smashing. If you want to relax for a bit, you can grab a bean bag and enjoy the spectacle from a distance.
While Skybar is the place-to-be on hot, steamy days (and nights), O1NE is the banging indoor location for cold winter nights. Its walls are completely white, brought to life at night with a mind-blowing 360° video mapping. The changing visuals are an amazing way to create different atmospheres during the night. This place adjusts to its artists like a chameleon!
The Grand Factory – Stylish underground venue for concerts, multi-social gatherings, cultural events and happening of all sorts and flavors
Yukunkun – An alternative club and music venue located in Gemmayzeh focusing on eclectic groovy sounds from all genres
Seven Sisters – A green island in skyscraper-packed center where you can enjoy sunset drinks, listen to lounge music and live-bands and of course – party on the weekends
Sporting Club occupies a loving spot in many Beirutis’ hearts since the 1950s. To many it feels like a second home. It attracts a colorful crowd from bronze-tanned Lebanese beauties to old men playing chess and youngsters drinking beers on the beach. If you can’t be bothered to jump into salt water, there are two pools to cool you down. While you can enjoy hearty Lebanese snacks at the poolside restaurant, there’s 5-star seafood just up the alley.
Madame Bleut – An urban beach resort in the midst of Beirut’s hustle & bustle somewhere between simple & luxurious
Bain Militaire – Swimming club in the heart of Beirut with great food and reasonable prices
Riviera Hotel – Boasts a stylish main pool, a family pool area and a floating island
Mövenpick Hotel Beirut – Vast outdoor pools with access to a private beach
Le Gray (top pick)
Sleek, stylish and cosmopolitan. Located on Martyrs’ Square, Le Gray is capturing the image of the „new Beirut“ perfectly. Its exceptional design and service steal the show among Beirut’s upscale hotels. It’s just moments away from the city’s museums, shopping areas and thriving nightlife scene. 100% recommended.
Staybridge Suites Hotel
Just the rooftop and its pool are worth the visit! You can casually splash around the water while enjoying a view over Beirut’s infamous skyline. The suites aren’t lacking either. Well-equipped kitchens, a spacious salon and an inviting balcony made us feel at home in split seconds.
What Adlon Hotel is to Berlin, Phoenicia is to Beirut. It’s considered a true Beirut landmark and is located just a stone’s throw from sophisticated art, dining, shopping and entertainment spaces. It boasts a beautiful view over Zaitunay Bay and Beirut’s famous Corniche.
Lancaster Plaza – 5 star hotel featuring a night club, sun deck and an indoor pool
Hotel Albergo – Luxury boutique hotel with deluxe suits, private apartments and 2 gourmet restaurants
O Monot – A quiet, luxurious oasis amidst Beirut’s hustle and bustle
Le Patio – An exclusive Boutique Hotel superbly located within Beirut’s most upscale residential area.
The Key – A sleek and contemporary aparthotel in Beirut’s museum district
1. Byblos (top pick) – Arguably believed to be one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world
2. Cave adventure – Explore extraordinary stone forms of curtains, columns, draperies and mushrooms
3. Bonita Bay Beach – if you are looking for a cluster of cool Beach clubs and Beach bars side by side along the crystal blue sea you should head to Batroun. The best choice is Loco Beach Resort with its panoramic pool. Their neighbours are also great beach spots to visit for lunch or dinner – White Beach Lebanon, Pierre Friends and Oasis Beach Restaurant. The nearby Le Six Hotel is a good choice if you want to stay across the street to all beach bars!
4. Harissa – A Sanctuary of Virgin Mary, located on one of Beirut’s most beautiful hills
5. Chateau Ksara – Visit Beirut’s famous winery, followed by a tour of the historic two-kilometer Roman caves, where their rarest and finest vintages are stored https://libanonweine.de/libanon/ksara/
6. Baalbek – A beautiful town with historic sites dating back to 8.000 before Christ (travel warning, only with guide!)
7. Tyre – referred to as “Queen of the Seas”
Cool city walking tour
Alternative Tour Beirut
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