Although seemingly small, Lebanon is one of the most diversified countries of the Arab world: geographically, ethnically, as well as culturally. Tourists tend to skim through it superficially, but it much more could be explored.
The Capital; as you may know Beirut during the 70ies and 80ies war was divided in 2 sides; west (Muslims) and east (Christians) separated by an imaginary Green Line; starting by Martyr Square in Down Town, the green line width was from the end of Sacré-Coeur Gemmayzé to Phoenicia Hotel, then going down to Mat-haf area (National Museum), crossing by Sodeco through Damascus street to reach the Pine Forest and go by its border to end in Ain-el-Remmaneh. Making Down Town, Saifi and Pine Forest area a "No Man’s Land", whoever tries to cross there definitely get sniped; the only crossing was through Museum area. Barakat building, between the Museum and Sodeco square, was left as a living example of the war’s green line. The photos below shows the status of this building till a very recent time, however, renovations were taking place in the past few year, trying to make good use of the building while leaving part of the facade untouched as a war memory! http://flickr.com/photos/antoniocaselli/428416808/ & http://www.wallpaper.com/w-bespoke/ubs-smart-art-triple-action .
Now this separation doesn't exist anymore in the religious perspective, you will find Muslims and Christians living everywhere, but like anywhere else, the lifestyle and outings of each area differ from one another. Down Town and Saifi Village were bought from their land owners and renovated by “Solidaire”; a construction company that belongs to Hariri and their buildings are sold as the most expensive business / residential area in Beirut.
Currency: 1 USD = ~1,500 Liras
West side of Beirut is famous with those districts:
- El-Hamra; It's mainly a residential and a commercial area and you may go for standard shopping in el-Hamra & Mar-Elias streets or you may enjoy the coffee shops and restaurants near by the AUB (Bliss Street), also known as Ras Beirut. Like most Beirut areas, nightlife in Hamra was booming during a certain time then faded out & moved to other areas.
However, El-Hamra still includes the largest percentage of Beirut Hotels amongst the rest of Beirut districts; which varies in 3, 4 and 5 stars, the most famous ones are Le Bristol, Crown Plaza & Gefinor Rotana.
- Verdun (pronounced as Verdann); considered to be part of el Hamra but more expensive as a residential area, it has the Holiday Inn Beirut Dunes http://www.holidayinn-dunes.com/Paged/mainframe.htm, the 730-732 mall, in addition to restaurants, cafés and theatres.
- Rawshé and Cornish area in general; where the famous picturesque Rawché Rock exists and most of Beirut sea side restaurants and cafés lies https://www.zomato.com/beirut/raouche-restaurants/cafes; If you are a "Starbucks" fan, el Rawché branch has a marvelous sea view, that was somehow replicated with the San Stefano branch in Alexandria, Egypt.
This is mainly the west side of Beirut, of course in addition to other residential / commercial areas that are less important for tourism, but worth seeing while car cruising with a local.
East side of Beirut is famous with those districts:
- Achrafieh; With the rise of the new millennium, its “Monot” street attracted a lot of tourists in addition to local when it was the nightlife hub of Beirut. “Pacifico” as a cool Mexican resto/bar style with a good menu of both drinks and food, has been one of the best places there. This is in addition to some stylish restaurants, very classy shopping boutiques and the ABC mall that has a good variety of shops, restaurants and cafés http://www.abc.com.lb/site/ashrafieh.
- Sodeco; which is next to Achrafieh and was very close to the green line area during the war, now it has few restaurants and pubs as well as some clothing shops.
- Gemmayzé; since 2005 it became the new hot spot for small pubs and bars next to Achrafieh, there u can go to a nice Lebanese restaurant called "Ahwet L'Ezaz", means the glass coffee shop, it's decorated in the style of café riche in kasr el nile street in Cairo, but much bigger in size. It also has several authentic places where you can work in a quite environment while grabbing a bite like "Em Nazih" café https://www.zomato.com/beirut/caf%C3%A9-em-nazih-gemmayze/menu.
- Mar Mikhael; since 2014 the area started to be the trendiest place for pubs and bars. Wether you are looking to have a nice chat with your friends at the bar around the corner in Armenia street http://www.timeout.com/beirut/bars-and-pubs/the-best-bars-in-mar-mikhael or you are looking for a more lively nightlife in a place like "Train Station" https://www.facebook.com/trainstationmarmikhael/, "Mandaloun" http://almandaloun.com/ and B-018 https://www.facebook.com/B018Beirut.
- Furn el Shubbak; good alternative for shopping, where shops are spread all the way down the street in a good variety of prices and styles.
- Bourj Hammoud and Arax st. (the Armenian area); Less expensive but not too cheap (nothing is cheap in Lebanon) http://www.hotelibanais.com/fr/article/bourj-hammoud-beirut/. One of the best things to buy from there is Pastirma; either "Mano" or "Bedo" both are specialized in that area, they also wrap it and vacuum it for travel, BUT you must get it right before you go to the airport or leave it in the fridge at a friend house until you go. NB. The shops in this area is closed on Sundays
This is mainly the east side of Beirut, of course in addition to other residential / commercial areas that can be seen while car cruising with a local.
- Solidaire; Famous for its architecture, that has been renovated to the same old style, centered by "Midan el Nejmah" (the star square), it has most of the ministries, the "ESCWA" UN building, Hariri cemetery and the most expensive designer shops. Normally, cars used to circulate in all streets during working hours, while in the evening the streets surrounding midan el nejmeh were closed for walking and all restaurants and cafés spread their tables in the street in a “café troitoire” style, however, due to a certain political status, some streets are now blocked for cars and allowed only for pedestrians, even during the day.
- Beirut Souks; Within a walking distance from the Nejmah Square lies the shopping complex that was opened to public in October 2009 including about 200 shops of the most famous brands http://www.beirutsouks.com.lb/.
- Uruguay Street; hosted the best bars of Beirut since 2013, however, like many areas in Beirut, nightlife has faded out a bit there but hopefully not for a long time http://desktop.beiruting.com/Pub/Uruguay_Street. However, some nearby nightlife spots are still upbeat like Iris http://irisbeirut.com/
- Hotels; Some of Beirut's best hotels are located in downtown, such as: Le Grey http://www.campbellgrayhotels.com/le-gray/home/, Le Patio http://www.le-patiohotel.com/ & Etoile Suites http://www.etoilesuites.com/.
Minet el Hosn & Marfa':
- Zaitunay Bay; where the high towers meets the sea. The bay itself has a marina for yachts and a promenade where you can simply have a walk or enjoy Beirut's best restaurants & coffee shops. Morning or night, it should never be missed during your visit to Beirut http://souar.com/details.php?image_id=41870, even New York Times wrote about it http://www.nytimes.com/2012/02/19/travel/in-beirut-the-zaitunay-bay-pro….
- Some of the most famous nearby hotels are: Phoenicia Hotel, one of the oldest hotels of Beirut currently run by the intercontinental chain http://www.phoeniciabeirut.com/, The Four Seasons http://www.fourseasons.com/beirut/ and Radisson Blu https://www.radissonblu.com/en/hotel-beirut.
- Beirut Central District; few minutes away by car you can find the "Seven Sisters" http://www.sobeirut.com/seven-sisters-beirut, the "Garten", O1ne and the "Music Hall Waterfront" http://www.themusichall.com/Subpage.aspx?pageid=171. This is in addition to the largest exhibition area of Beirut "BIEL", this place doesn't only host professional exhibitions but it does host as well the most important music concerts & festivals http://pjbdrummer.blogspot.com.eg/2015/02/phil-collins-mariah-carey-elt….
- Daoura, Zalka and Jal el-Dib; all along the coastal road heading north, you can find several outing spots such as: White http://www.whitebeirut.com/home, Playroom theatre and Zalqa area which has many restaurants and hotels overlooking the sea.
- Dbayeh; the place that is currently grabbing the nightlife outside Beirut with "The Village" after its opening in November 2015, http://desktop.beiruting.com/Restaurant/The_Village_Dbayeh. The place has a wide variety of bars & restaurants, not just operating at night but also during the day, this is in addition to hosting occasional events or activities in weekends as well. Very shortly another place in Dbayeh followed it the "Blueberry" square http://www.blueberry-square.com/.
- Hazmieh; originally designed as a residential area on the road heading to south, has joined the nightlife places outside Beirut with "The Backyard" https://www.facebook.com/thebackyardhazmieh/.
If you drink Alcohol, KEEP IN MIND:
- ALL BARS AND PUBS REQUIRE PREVIOUS RESERVATION.
- Average prices for alcoholic drinks in pubs and bars, would be within the following range: local beer ~8,500 liras = ~5.5$, whisky ~12,000 liras = ~8$ and a cocktail drink around ~16,000 liras = ~10.5$.
- Most bars have an extremely good variety of cocktail drinks and cocktail shots (a must try).
- For more about restaurants and bars in Lebanon reviews & detailed menus, you can always check https://www.zomato.com/beirut.
- No minimum charge in most places, but there is a "Non-Spoken Rule" in pubs and bars that says 2 drinks.. No matter what they are.. Will be enough to stay a good time there...
- Some famous clubbing places, like White, Buddha Bar & Mandaloun, have a minimum charge policy.
- To know more about what's going on in Lebanon you can check http://www.beirutnightlife.com/ & http://www.beiruting.com/.
In addition to google maps, if you prefer to have a leaflet map to carry around, Beirut Maps company company distributes a very good one in major hotels, usually for free, but not sure if they sell it in some shops or not, however, you can always check their website to know http://www.beirutmap.com.
Places to See in Beirut:
- The National Museum.
- Sursock Museum, for arts exhibitions, Sursock area in Ashrafieh (opens only according to galleries schedule).
- Children Museum, Minet el Hosn.
- Down Town and Saifi Village.
- Old Churches and Mosques in down town.
- Roman Bath, down town area.
- Archeological Site, down town area.
- Martyr Square, down town area.
- Khalil Gebran Garden (facing the UN Building)
- The Grand Serail (Lebanese government office).
- Lebanese Parliament, down town.
- Cornish al Manara.
- Manara Lighthouse.
- Pigeon Rock.
- Al Ramlet Al-Baida Beach.
- American University in Beirut and Bliss Street, el-Hamra.
- St. Joseph University (Jesuites), Monot area in Ashrafieh.
For Beirut Photos http://www.discoverlebanon.com/en/photos/cat-Beirut-2.htm
Jounié (on the coast); its famous mountain towns are Broumana, Bikfaya, Jeita and Harrissa (7arissa).
- Jounieh (10-15 Km from Beirut); is becoming more a part of Beirut, like when you say Cairo and Katameya or 6th October.. In which there is shopping malls, hotels, resorts and beaches in addition to residential areas. Jounieh port is worth seeing even while passing by the road especially if you are interested in photography. Recently, many pubs and bars opened in the old area of Jounieh, in addition to their yearly summer festival http://www.jouniehinternationalfestival.com/ In Jounieh you can find:
- Zouk Area and Kaslik; where restaurants and shops are located.
- Maamalteen super nightclubs area (cabarets style but with a Russian component), this area during summer is of course full of Arabs from Gulf area who are usually looking for more than nightclubbing.
- Broumana and Bikfaya; are mainly residential areas either on full time basis or as a summer house.
- Harissa; where the famous church that has the big statue of Virgin Mary standing on the mountain and you can ride a telefrique there.
- Jeita; the famous grotto http://www.lebguide.com/lebanon/touristic_sites/lebanon_touristic_sites_jeita.asp
Jbeil (on the coast its greek name is Byblos); its famous mountain towns are Faqra, Faraya, Baskinta and Afqa
- Jbeil; also known as "Byblos" and located around 20-25 km north from Beirut, it has an old city by the sea very well preserved as well as an ancient port. The old bay is all closed for pedestrians; where you can visit the old churches, the museum, the fortress or have a walk in the souq and grab a bite in any of the nice restaurants there. A yearly festival is held in summer, where a stage is built right on the shores. The Byblos festival hosted along the years some of the most famous singers and bands http://www.byblosfestival.org/. Jbeil is also famous for its sandy beaches, one of the most famous places there is "C Flow" http://www.cflowbeachresort.com/ & "Edde Sands" http://www.eddesands.com
- Afqa reserve; is a camping spot in the mountains (there are chalets as well if u don’t have tent), where you can do some sports activities like mountain climbing, caving, flying fox, etc. www.lareserve.com.lb
- Faraya; is famous with their winter ski spots during winter. In summer, you can spend a cool weekend at "Le Montagnou" http://www.montagnou.com/HOME.html or you can join Rikky's parties, the ultimate partying spot in the area https://www.facebook.com/rikkyzlebanon/?pnref=story.
- Faqra; is also famous with skiing in winter, but has some ruins of old byzantine and roman ancient temples. http://www.lebguide.com/lebanon/touristic_sites/lebanon_touristic_sites_faqra.asp. One of the best things you can do at Faqra is to visit a winery like "Massaya" http://www.massaya.com/english/home where you can not only taste wine or arak but in enjoy the food at their restaurant as well spending the day there.
- Baskinta; has a nice camping spot in the middle of the mountain cedar tree forest (they call the forest “7orsh”). People in that village are very friendly (as usual) and are used to see campers all summer in weekends (but you bring your own camping gear). http://www.baskintabaytouna.com/home.aspx
Batroun (on the coast); its famous mountain towns are Douma, Bcharri, Cedars, Ehden and Chekka (on the coast).
- Batroun; up north around 40-45 Km from Beirut, it also has an old city by the sea that is being taken care of and restored http://batroun.gov.lb/. The Phoenician old wall is being restored and well as the old port http://www.lebanoninapicture.com/pictures/a-beautiful-house-in-batroun-…, https://www.instagram.com/p/BFRnNr8ncCt/. During the last war in Lebanon in 2006; when people were stuck in their mountain chalets and not able to live in Beirut, partying was shifted to Batroun as an alternative to Beirut, and by consequence, Batroun pubs went up in the sky and new pubs were opening there, one of the well known is “Taiga”. Now, Batroun is witnessing a lot of development work and many hotels, restaurants and private beaches are running there http://www.orchid-lifestyle.com/batroun-resort and https://www.zomato.com/beirut/batroun-restaurants
- Douma; is a very small village deep in the mountain in Batroun area it’s known for its red brick roof old houses when I went there, I was invited for lunch in one of the village resident families, and there was a restoration project running by some private donors, now USAID is planing to help in that project.. Due to its far location and relatively small size, it’s not common for people to visit Douma unless they are participating in some art project related to the place or are invited in someone’s house. Douma’s name is derived from the Phoenician language, meaning “The quiet, peaceful and restful.” http://www.lgic.org/en/photos3_douma.php https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6iZccSdcxSo
- Bcharré; the birth place of Khalil Gebran, located close to the cedars forest. If you think of spending New Year in a snow town in the Lebanese mountains I would recommend “Chbat” hotel in Bcharré. For more check http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bsharri, and http://www.hotelchbat.net/
- Cedars; the cedar trees forest that is now famous for skiing, http://www.middleeast.com/thecedars.htm, http://www.skileb.com/ski-resort/Cedars/ and http://www.phoenician.org/cedars_of_lebanon.htm
- Ehden; the mountain summer resort for "Zgharta el Zawieh" town residents, it’s famous by its natural reserve "Horsh (7orsh) Ehden" http://www.horshehden.org/ and "Kornet al Sawdeh" (the black horn) the highest mountain tip in Lebanon.
- Chekka; an industrial city but it has the best view of the mountain by a sea bay, on the top of the mountain there is a famous church called "Virgin Mary of the Light" in a village called “Hamat”, you go to it from Batroun and you can pass by Chekka coast on your way to Ehden or further to Tripoli. For photos about chekka you can check: https://www.flickr.com/photos/jimhanna/7732403016 and http://www.theodora.com/wfb/photos/lebanon/lebanon_photos_59.html
Koura (mountain town).
Tripoli (a port city on the coast).
el Chouf : (the East-South mountain area) :
- Aley; The main street of Aley is full of restaurants and cafés that mainly have Arabic music and a singer on weekends; mostly outdoor in summer as Aley is high in altitude and has a nice weather, one of the nice pubs there is called “Silo” they serve both alcohol and shisha, with a background of English and French music. For a "Beirut at Night" view, you can go to "Ras El Gabal". As for extreme sports and activities you can go to Aley Equip Club; they o have camping, climbing, rappel, paintball, etc.
- Bhamdoun; very close to Aley, same style of restaurant and cafés and very crowded at night. Both Aley and Bhamdoun are favored by the Arabs as a summer vacation spot.
- Ain Zhalte, Maaser el Chouf and the Cedars of el Barouk; It has the largest natural reserve in Lebanon http://www.ain-zhalta.com, http://www.shoufcedar.org/, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Barouk, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Al_Shouf_Cedar_Nature_Reserve
- Deir el Quamar; about 5 km away from Beit el-Dine, the history of its well restored stone buildings goes many centuries back and was the resident of the governors of Lebanon during the 16th -18th century. www.deirelqamar.com, http://liban.viabloga.com/news/deir-el-kamar-13-photos
- Beit El Dine; one of the most important touristic areas in Lebanon, and now used for festivals. www.beiteddine.org, http://www.lebguide.com/lebanon/touristic_sites/lebanon_touristic_sites_beiteddine.asp, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Beiteddine www.maasser.info
el Bekaa: (the east side of Lebanon behind the mountains)
- Al Nahr el 3assi; a good place for camping and for river rafting sport www.assirafting.com
- Baalbek; known by its roman temple that hosts one of the most important festivals of Lebanon for more check http://www.middleeast.com/baalbeck.htm , http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Baalbek, http://www.atlastours.net/lebanon/baalbeck.html and the Baalbek festival website http://www.baalbeck.org.lb/ . Baalbeck is only 85 km from Beirut but due to the mountains the road takes about 1 and half hours in summer and about 4 hours in winter.
- Zahle (about 45-60 min drive from Beirut); Famous by producing the Wine and Arak as well as the restaurants and cafés along the Bardouni River side http://www.middleeast.com/zahle.htm and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zahle
- Anjar; one of the closest points to Syria, had a political importance during the phase of Syrian control over Lebanon, this is in addition to its touristic sites. http://www.lebguide.com/lebanon/touristic_sites/lebanon_touristic_sites_aanjar.asp, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anjar,_Lebanon
- Damour (on the coast); a town with a strong political history related to the Palestinian issue in Lebanon, Now it has some of the best beaches in Lebanon like “Iris Beach” http://irisbeach.com/ & "Oceana" https://www.facebook.com/La.Suite.Oceana.Beach.Resort/. For more info about its political history check http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Damour_massacre
- Jezzine (east of Saida in the mountain); nice mountain village with waterfalls and a lot of restaurants, check http://www.jizzine.com/ and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jezzine
- Saida / Sidon (on the coast and about 25 min drive from Beirut on the highway); In Sida you can visit the old market “Souk Al Franj” and the sea castle “al Qal3a” For more check http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sidon
- Sour / Tyre (on the coast and about 90 min drive from Beirut on the highway); In Sour you can visit the Roman ruins, spend the day on their lovely beach, eat fish at “Salinas” https://www.facebook.com/pages/Salinas-Tyre/322895914460597 and maybe spend the night at the “Rest House” hotel right by the sea side http://www.resthouse-tyr.com.lb/. For more about Tyre check http://www.atlastours.net/lebanon/tyre.html, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tyre,_Lebanon and http://ddc.aub.edu.lb/projects/archaeology/berytus-back/berytus39/seeden-tophet/
Famous Monasteries in Lebanon:
Mar Charbel: http://www.saintcharbelbaakafra.com/
Our Lady of Harissa http://www.ololb.com/
Saint Antoine of Qozahya http://www.qozhaya.com/
Saint Rafqa http://www.saintrefqa.com/
Kfifan Monastery (Saint Neamtallah El-Hardini & Stephan Neama) http://www.kfifan-monastery.com/
Mar Elias http://www.antiochpatriarchate.org/page.php?id=147§ion=page&lng=en
For more about Lebanon:
For a list of Lebanese Museums:
For hiking and extreme sports trips:
http://www.lebanonrafting.com/ https://www.facebook.com/ChirAlAssiRaftingClub/?fref=ts http://www.assirafting.com