If you have two days, they can be well spent amidst the sea and the mountains in Beirut
An interesting mix of tradition, culture, art and food, Lebanon’s capital Beirut has many surprises up its sleeve. After all, this is the place where you can ski, chill on the beach and go out for a meal all within a two hour radius.
People of Beirut are fun loving. This is the place where you can explore a myriad range of activities from art, music, fashion, shopping, sightseeing and more.
Best things to see
Start at Martyr’s Square, which still has the bullet-pocked statue and odd battle-damaged building of the Civil War. The National Museum of Beirut is the place to come up close with Lebanon’s history and includes Achilles Sarcophagus with scenes from the Iliad and The Abduction of Europe mosaic. Also stop at the Sursock Museum that has recently reopened and houses both modern and contemporary art in a stunning former private residence.
A stop at Byblos, believed to be the oldest city on earth that has ancient Phoenician temples, an old mosque, the turrets of the Crusader Castle, Memoire du Temps Museum that sells exquisite marine fossils and old souks, will certainly take you back in time. The Music Hall run by Michel Elefteriades is an ode to the cabaret culture and showcases the best of Middle Eastern and world music. Hire a bike and head to the Corniche, which is where you can see a slice of the local life.
Best things to eat
The Souk el Tayeb is an open-air weekly farmer’s market that happens every Saturday at Beirut Souks and on Wednesdays at the Gefinor Centre. It is the best place to sample local fares. Do try the lamb cutlets, fattoush salad and regional dishes made with local produce that is not found in restaurants. Pierre and Friends has some delectable seafood grills in Lebanon and is a lovely beach restaurant where you can chill with a refreshing drink. Kalei Cofee Co. has a roastery and is an ideal place for a cup of freshly brewed coffee. Hamra is one of the best known late night destinations in town and has a vibrant night life. Cafe Em Nazih dishes up authentic home-style Lebanese food at pocket-friendly prices as well.
Best things to shop
Mar Mikhael has a mix of artisanal beauty products, upscale boutiques. While you are here, do not miss the beautiful street art, an ode to the city’s rich art side. Beirut Souks is the place for luxury lifestyle shopping with a mix of designer boutiques and is home to some of the best Lebanese designers. Souk al-Ahad is a marketplace run by locals and if you are here over the weekend head under the highway bridge near Corniche al-Nahr for local goods that come at bargain friendly prices.
Best place to stay
Staying in the Gemmayze area is a good idea as it is centrally located. WH Hotel, Studio 44, Le Gray, The Villa Clara and The Phoenicia Hotel are worthy choices.
Words: Maryam Sheikh