Beirut Guide

The ‘Paris of the East’ is a buzzing city where extremes cohabit – a place where, according to locals, growing up and living in a war-zone means no incentive to live for tomorrow, or to save, but rather an urge to spend, to party and to live for today.

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Where to Stay in Beirut

Walking through central Beirut, it’s impossible to miss the city’s scars, whether it’s an arc of bullet holes in the ochre plaster, shattered windows or simply a gaping hole in a block where an entire building disappeared. Although it’s mostly been ‘fixed up’, some scars are preserved intentionally so what happened is never forgotten.

However, in recent years Beirut has undergone a complete renaissance. And nowhere is this more the case than its collection of high-end hotels, where the likes of the Four Seasons (1418 Professor Wafic Sinno Avenue, Minet El Hosn; +961 761000), Le Vendome (Ein El Mreisseh; +961 369280), The Royal (Leisure Hills Complex; +961 4555 555) and Le Gray (sister hotel to London’s One Aldwych) are amongst the finest in the region. Le Gray is the hottest hotel in town right now with sleek, contemporary interiors and a fab rooftop pool, restaurant and bar for great views to the Mediterranean and Mount Lebanon.

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To stay at a true Beirut institution, try the four-storey Albergo Hotel in Achrafieh. A beautiful mix of French, Lebanese, Italian and Ottoman styles, it was refurbished by interior design legend Jacques Garcia who revamped L’Hotel in Paris. Ideally located, it’s the only place to stay in Beirut with a small-scale luxury boutique feel.

Where to Eat in Beirut

La Posta (Trabaud Str; +961 209909) is a relative newcomer to the city’s dining scene specialising in top-class Italian food with a superb terrace and gardens within the Bustros Palace in Achrafieh; those looking for a gourmet Chinese experience should hit Le Yazhou, the brand new restaurant opening by the famous Pourcel brothers who have a triple Michelin-starred eatery back home in Montpellier. Another place to be seen is restaurateur Mourad Mazouz’s Momo's at Souk Beirut (Beirut Souks Jewellery, 7; +961 76700 407) a little sister to famous London restaurant, Momo’s, set above the jewellery souks in the centre of the city.

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Right now the craze in town is for sushi, so try Le Sushi Bar (Rue Abdel Wahab El Inglezi; +961 338555) near the Albergo Hotel or Le Yabani (Damascus Rd; +961 211113/4) another designer sushi address.

In busy Gemayze – where much of the best Beirut nightlife is concentrated – try Bar Louie (Rue Gouraud; +961 3 791 998). A crypt-like restaurant (where 80s favourites blare out so loud conversation is out of the question) it's best known for its seafood tapas, like huge grilled shrimps, fresh salmon ceviche and octopus. Finally, for fantastic, traditional Lebanese fare served in an atmospheric patio, Al Falamanki (Damascus Rd; +961 323456) is a local favourite that’s well worth a visit (even if there is a Dunkin' Donuts across the road…)

Where to Go Out in Beirut

Rue Monnot is a good starting point for a night out in Beirut. A tiny street in the old French Quarter, it’s a heat-heavy hive of activity and buzzing atmosphere, where locals and expats fill out bars like Pacifico, Lila Brown and Aqua. The ideal spot to people-watch al fresco.

For something a bit more upmarket, the Gauche Caviar in Gemayze (Rue Gouraud; +961 566375) is home to Beirut’s wealthy young things. Another Gemayze staple is the Central Bar (Mar Maroun Street; +961 575858). A tube-shaped bar which appears to be an oversized air duct dropped on top of a building with retractable windows, it’s worth coming for the views alone – stretching across the city over the mosque and to the twinkling harbour. The margaritas are pretty good, too.

For more beautiful people, louder music and later nights, try the Pier 7 (Sea Side Rd) in Dora, an open space nightclub wedged between the infamous party hotspots, Le White and the Sky Bar. Ultra-hip and glamorous, these lounges can put even New York or Paris to shame.

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Want to party all day? Not a problem. The latest Beirut nightlife trend is beach parties, or all-day fun in the sun. Beach bars and clubs like Edde Sands (in Byblos, just north of Beirut) and the Oceana Beach Resort (to the south of the city), are the place to hit the pools, armed with martinis at 11am.

What to Wear in Beirut

Beirut is not a city for shrinking violets, fashion-wise. To fit in, think flashy, showy and in-your-face. The girls on a night out in Beirut are done up to the nines: spray on jeans, tiny tops, plenty of jewellery and heels that are out of this world. As for makeup, the motto is very much ‘more is more’. Forget subtle chic, brands are a big plus and it’s all about what you have and how you show it off… (Let’s not forget, Beirut is a place where it’s been known for people to ‘rent’ a huge magnum of champagne to sit on their table for the night for a price, but not drink it. For a little extra, the DJ will even announce what you ordered…)

Where to Go for Pampering in Beirut

Lebanese ladies are very keen on a bit of pampering. While you could go to a local beauty salon, famous for their sugar waxing techniques (you’ll be familiar with them if you’ve seen the movie ‘Caramel’), the general consensus is that hotel spas are the best places to go for a treat.

At Le Gray, the all-white sanctuary has teamed up with Spanish skincare specialists Natura Bisse, combining aromatherapy, phyto-therapy and both Eastern and Western healing techniques. At the ‘Le Royal’ there’s everything from facials to body scrubs and wraps, hydrotherapy, massages as well as saunas and Turkish baths, not to mention a fabulous indoor pool and Jacuzzi with a view.

Another great place to be pampered? The Sodashi Spa at the Four Seasons, which has seven lovely treatment rooms – including a couple’s suite with its own private whirlpool, steamroom and shower, and a 26th-floor rooftop pool.

Where to Shop in Beirut

Solidere, the newly revamped ‘downtown Beirut’ is where it’s at. Called ‘Beirut Souks’ the contemporary maze of architecture is split into ‘south’ and ‘north’ souks covering 128,000 square metres of retail bliss. More like a modern-day open-air mall, all golden tones and sleek avenues, in addition to a vast array of shops - from Dior and Louis Vuitton to Mango and H&M - you’ll find restaurants and a food hall.

Prefer something a little smaller? The ABC Malls are also really popular with three locations in town, in Hamra, Bab Idris and Achrafieh. The central Achrafieh ABC offers all sorts – from Vanessa Bruno to BCBG, Chanel and Sandro, to kids’ brands Tartine et Chocolat, Bonpoint and Ralph Lauren Kids. In Gemayze? Pop into The Alleyway (near to nightspot Gauche Caviar) where you’ll find choice boutiques like The Union, an independent ‘urban’ store with cool graphic Ts and goodies from Paul Frank, Supremebeing, and Valerie Dumaine.

Don't Leave Beirut Without…

It’s difficult to say what one thing you should bring back from Beirut… But if you have a sweet tooth, there’s no doubt you should stop by Al Baba and pick up a few treats to bring home. First set up in 1950, the family business (which started in a kitchen in Saida) has become a firm favourite right the way across the Middle East, and their Baklava and semolina-based Maamoul pastries, are now sold in eight other shops in the region.

Liking our Beirut guide, but after somewhere just that little bit closer? Plan your next break with our Istanbul guide instead. Or see all of our travel guides.

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