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Amazing Beirut, tips for a city trip to ‘Paris of the East’

by Flitter Fever
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If you like adventure and discover new regions, surprise yourself with Beirut, the capital of Lebanon. Get to know the bright side of the Middle East, the Beirut that Lebanese people get to enjoy every day. Not what is shown on the news? Of course, like any other country, Lebanon undeniably has its problems. When located in the Middle East, between Syria and Israel, there is even a bigger challenge.

Boulevard in Beirut with mountain on background
Charles de Gaulle Avenue in Beirut with mountain on background

I love it

Beirut is definitely my favourite city in the Middle East! There is not only great weather year round, but Lebanon also has a rich, interesting history and culture. Did you know for example that…

  • Beirut is also called ‘Paris of the Middle East’?
  • 1 in 10 persons is doctor in Lebanon?
  • schools teach in Arabic, French and/or English?
  • there is no desert in Lebanon?
  • you can both swim in the sea and ski on the mountains on some lucky spring days?
  • almost half of the country is Christian? (>40%)
  • people are very open in talking about their salary?
  • Lebanon’s flag includes a cedar tree?

Let’s have a look at what Beirut has to offer to adventurous travelers like you and me.

Delicious food

Maybe Lebanese food is not as famous as the Italian kitchen, it definitely has the taste and ingredients! Tabbouleh, hummus, baba ghanouj, kebbeh, sambusac, stuffed grape leaves… All finger licking delicious!! The Lebanese kitchen has a great variety, dishes usually include olive oil, herbs, spices, garlic and lemon. One thing is for sure: you will never leave a Lebanese restaurant or house without having a full stomach! By the time the main dish arrives I am usually already stuffed haha

Like tapas in Spain, Lebanon has mezze. You will rarely see drinks like Arak, the Lebanese national anise-flavored liqueur, or a glass of chilled Lebanese wine, unaccompanied with at least some small mezze dishes. For example raw or pickled vegetables, hummus, baba ghanouj and bread. Lebanese salads are amazing; for example tabbouleh and fattoush, usually served with a fresh dip such as hummus, baba ghanouj or moutabal and kebbeh. Main dishes can be anything from seafood to chicken or lamb kebab skewers. Desserts are often sweet, like baklava, or original Lebanese ice cream flavors such as dried apricot and pistachio.

Hummus is very popular in Lebanon
Hummus is very popular in Lebanon (photo credits Ojashri Basnyat)
Healthy salad in Lebanese restaurant in Beirut
Healthy salad in Lebanese restaurant in Beirut (photo credits Louis Hansel)

Live music

Live music and shisha’s are very popular in Lebanese restaurants. Like this performance of a Lebanese band in a restaurant in Beirut. A great restaurant I can recommend in Beirut is Abdel Wahab, which expanded it’s branches to other Middle Eastern countries over the years. Discover more great restaurants in Beirut on review sites such as TripAdvisor.

Lebanese live music in Beirut restaurant

Clubbing

Want to go dancing in a club on Tuesday night?! Sure, no problem in Beirut! Lebanese people are super friendly and crazy about clubbing, any night of the week! They know how to celebrate life. I am not sure how they combine this with their families, but somehow they do. Families are very important in Lebanon.

Gemmayzeh Street is a well-known area with lots of bars and clubs. One evening I went to Taiga in the Ashrafieh area and it was great fun! The evening started with a live music performance, after which a DJ took over for the rest of the evening. Dancing till dawn baby!

Man and woman in Beirut
With my friend Charbel from Beirut
Al Riyadi Club Beirut - basketball club at General de Gaulle Ave
Al Riyadi Club Beirut (basketball club!) at General de Gaulle Ave

Climate

Whenever I look on my weather app, there is always nice weather in Beirut! Enviable, really. With mild winters and not too hot summers the weather is always great. Averagely taken, August is  the warmest month and January the coldest and wettest, with temperatures ranging between 13°C (55°F) and 28°C (82°F).

From April till November it’s the time to go without having to bring a winter coat. The time I went up in the mountains with snow was in February, but in the city center I wore t-shirts… This is the place where you can go to the sunny beach and go skiing in one day!

Sea water splashing on the Beach Boulevard of Beirut
Beach Boulevard of Beirut (photo credits Abbass Zahreddine)
Beirut downtown seen from above
Beirut downtown bird view (photo credits Piotr Chrobot)

Activities

Beirut has many interesting sights for you to visit. National Museum of Beirut, Cathedral of Saint George, Mohammad Al-Amin Mosque, Mineral Museum… Go shopping at Beirut Souks, Hamra Street and ABC Mall, and stroll at Zaitunay Bay, The Corniche and Saifi Village. And yes, in the summer you can go to the beach and in the winter you can go to the mountains and enjoy the snow! Quite an original winter sports destination, right?! We ended up with a big snowball fight of about 30 adults LOL The mountains offer a wide range of possibilities for activities anyway, from hiking to horseback riding.

Tours

Taking a guided tour with a local can be very interesting as you will learn a lot more than just walking around on your own. And to go a little bit outside of Beirut city easily, there is lots to see! If you are traveling solo it can be nice to join a group too.

Popular destinations outside of Beirut include: Baalbek, Anjar, Ksara, Harissa, Jeita Grotto, Byblos, Qadisha Valley, Bcharre, Afqa, etc. Find more tours and activities on Viator, the sister site of Tripadvisor.

Woman standing in her T-shirt on top of snow in the mountains of Beirut Lebanon
Snow in the mountains of Beirut

Privileged is what I feel when thinking back about my visit to this wonderful country. Lebanese people are so friendly and loyal, like family really!

Where to stay in Beirut

O Monot Boutique Hotel Beirut is a great choice that I would highly recommend! Offering an outdoor pool, restaurant, 24/7 service and rooms with city view. Each room includes a TV, air conditioning, private bathroom, coffee machine and a balcony. The hotel is ideally located; 200 m from Monot Street (nightlife), 500 m from Place de l’Etoile – Nejmeh Square and 600 m from Gemayzeh Street (Rue Gouraud).

O Manot Boutique Hotel Beirut city view
O Manot Boutique Hotel Beirut rooftop (photo credits booking.com)
O Manot Boutique Hotel Beirut room with glassdoor showe seen from the bed
O Manot Boutique Hotel Beirut room (photo credits booking.com)

Safety

Besides checking the weather forecast and tourist attractions, please also pay attention to your Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ current travel advice with regards to safety for traveling to/in Lebanon. Not only for safety itself, but also for insurance purposes. The northern border with Syria might not be the best place to celebrate your holiday right now. Plus some parts of the outskirts of southern Beirut are currently marked red too (meaning do not travel there).

Personally I would not rent a car in Middle Eastern countries like Lebanon due to different traffic rules and situation. Take a taxi or tour instead. Also, you must understand that you cannot combine a trip to Beirut with an Israeli destination such as Tel Aviv or Jerusalem, unless you have a 2nd passport and make a stopover in another country in between, for example Amman (Jordan) or Dubai. Israel and Lebanon are not friends unfortunately.

Beirut wall graffiti lie
If you repeat a lie often enough… – graffiti (photo credits Brian Wertheim)
Men playing board game in Sessine Square, Beirut
Men playing board game at Sessine Square (photo credits Christelle Hayek)

How to get to Beirut

It is a great sight when you land on the airstrip of Beirut Hariri International airport (BEY) located right in between the mountains. The national airline of Lebanon, Middle East Airlines is OK to use. Big airlines such as Turkish Airlines and Emirates, Alitalia, Air France, Vueling, Lufthansa and British Airways all fly on Beirut. KLM’s budget airline Transavia started flying on Beirut from Amsterdam since the end of 2018.

Skyscanner is a good tool to check and to compare flight possibilities and prices.

Have you ever been to the Middle East? Would you like to visit Lebanon? Please feel free to share a comment or post a question below.

Woman sitting on a snowscooter in Beirut
Riding a snowscooter in Beirut

Interested to read more about countries in the Middle East? Please check out the Middle East Blog Archives.


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Last Updated on 02/19/2021 by Flitter Fever

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