Enjoying an enviable spot to the east of the Mediterranean sea, Lebanon is a go-to for balmy climes year-round. Combined with an eclectic energy and thriving entertainment scene, its capital, Beirut, makes for the perfect city break. Wherever you choose to stay in the centre, follow in the footsteps of many discerning travellers to discover the area’s cultural hot spots, art collections and vibrant nightlife.
Where to eat
A plethora of fine dining and more casual eateries make up the foodie scene in Beirut. For a grab-and-go lunch, you’ll find arguably the best falafel in the country at Falafel M Sahyoun. Choose to enter through the red or blue neighbouring entrances – the shop is split into two, run by rivalling brothers – to discover simple but delicious falafel wraps. Be sure to also travel 10 minutes west for traditional sandwiches at Barbar, which comes highly recommended by previous diners, and is one of the top 20 eateries in the city on TripAdvisor.
Upping the stakes a little, Em Sherif boasts spectacular interiors, bountiful spreads and even a live band; sample traditional dishes, dips and small plates, sharing with friends and family. A little further afield, the eco-friendly Tawlet Ammiq offers fantastic panoramic views and a Farmer’s Kitchen spread for brunch, Monday to Saturday. This unique establishment welcomes a brand-new foodie guest to brunch once a month.
What to see
Staying in a city sitting along the Mediterranean coast means a visit to the beach is a must. The sea’s temperatures reach up to 27 degrees in August and September, so you can enjoy a leisurely swim, before propping yourself up on the pristine golden sands with a good book. Ramlet al-Baida, the city’s only public beach, is a tourist favourite, so get there early to bag a spot.
Elsewhere, if architecture and history are more your bag, opt to follow the Heritage Trails, of which there are four, to discover the Canaanite wall and gate, the ruins of the Roman Baths Garden, the blue-domed Mohammad Al-Amin Mosque, Beirut’s souks and much more. The character of Beirut is distinctive, and the trails allow you to discover the melting pot of old and new influences along the way. Its art scene thrives, too, so try to fit in a visit to the grand Sursock Museum.
Where to enjoy music
Beirut’s entertainment and nightlife scenes are a big draw; the trendy Gemmayzeh Street, housing a smattering of restaurants and bars in brightly-coloured and characterful buildings, was once quipped as “SoHo by the sea” by Travel + Leisure magazine. While away an afternoon or evening discovering the local and tourist favourites along this stretch, or hop in a taxi and head towards the Onomatopoeia Music Hub. A library-come-music café by day, the spot becomes livelier as the lights dim in the evening, welcoming Arabic, jazz and other styles from up-and-coming artists.
Another great find for music-lovers is the Music Hall, a grand theatre and club with live performers and a fabulous cocktail list. If you’re after a more refined vibe, head to the heady heights of Iris Beirut – a rooftop bar with stunning sea views and a drink list to match. Catch the sunset when the bar opens, and settle in for a night of drinks and conversation, set to a chill-out playlist.
First time in Beirut? Here are a few tips to keep in mind:
Although the centre of Beirut draws tourists in their droves, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) advise against visits to the southern suburbs of the capital, as well as some other areas of Lebanon. For more information, please visit the GOV.UK website here.
A single-entry or family visit visa is required for entry into Lebanon; please note that if your passport holds an Israeli stamp, you may be refused entry to the country. For more information on entry requirements, please visit the GOV.UK website here.