What are the five best things to see and do in Beirut?

Andrew Bossone

Beirut is a dynamic city with its mix of languages and cultures. You’ll find this ancient city has so many options when it comes to impressive sights and historical landmarks. Here are Forbes Travel Guide editor’s picks for the five best things to see and do in Beirut: 
 
1. Visit Souk el Barghout. This famous market draws hundreds of shoppers and visitors and you won’t want to miss it. Shop for colorful trinkets ranging from pottery to scarves, sit in a café and enjoy a cup of coffee or indulge in some first-rate people watching.
 
2. Tour the Roman temples at Baalbeck. Beirut is full of historic sites, but these Roman temples at Baalbeck on the Bekaa plain are considered to be among the wonders of the ancient world. These surprisingly well-preserved temples are said to be the largest and grandest ever built.
 
3. Stoll along the Corniche. This seaside promenade is famous for its gorgeous views of both nature and people. Snap a photo at Pigeon Rocks or add on some time to relax on the sand.
 
4. Explore Jeita Grotto. Be sure to set aside a day for your exploration of these magical grottoes that are among the most impressive sites in the natural world. Walk through the upper grotto to see fantastic rock formations that resemble curtains, columns and mushrooms. Hop into a boat to see the lower grotto full of stalactites overhead and stalagmites jutting form the water.
 
5. Head to the country. The mountains have attractive vistas, winter ski slopes and wonderful hiking. The Bekaa Valley has recently seen a number of wineries that draw on a tradition dating back to ancient Phoenicia and influenced by 20th century French colonialism.

  • On September 18, 2012
    Andrew Bossone answered the question: Andrew Bossone

    What’s the best way to get around in Beirut?

    Most visitors travel by one of the white taxis in Beirut, but there are a few things Forbes Travel Guide editors think you need to know first. Taxis in Lebanon don’t have meters. Instead, you’ll have to negotiate a price before getting in. Most places in the relatively compact city cost $15 to $20. If you don’t mind riding with others, then you can take a servis taxi. If you tell the driver “sir-veese,” it means you’ll pay 2,000 Lebanese lira ($1.30) for the shared ride.
     
    The cheapest way to get around is by bus, but takes longer than by car and it can be complicated if you don’t speak Arabic. Rent a car if you plan on traveling farther than an hour away from Beirut or if you’re staying overnight outside the city. If you want to take a day trip close to Beirut, get the number of a taxi company from the front desk and ask the rates each way. Gratuities are rarely given, so they’re not expected.
  • On September 18, 2012
    Andrew Bossone answered the question: Andrew Bossone

    What is the best thing to bring home from Beirut?

    If you fall in love with the delicious and often healthy Lebanese cuisine, buy a couple cookbooks and the special spices for Lebanese specialties. Forbes Travel Guide editors suggest you pick up some zaatar, which is Arabic for thyme, but refers to a powdered mix that also includes sumac, sesame seeds and salt. When you get home mix it with olive oil to make a paste that can be spread on warm bread. To jazz it up Lebanese-style, top it off with plain Greek-style yogurt, chopped tomatoes, sliced cucumbers and olives. If you have a sweet tooth you can also find packages of bite-size desserts with variations of baklava and other Balkan delights.
  • On September 18, 2012
    Andrew Bossone answered the question: Andrew Bossone

    What are the five best Beirut food experiences?

    No visit to Beirut is complete without trying Lebanese culinary specialties; the cuisine here is considered among the best in the Arab world and the Mediterranean. Beirut also has a large Armenian population, with some interesting twists on traditional Lebanese fare. Fresh fish is plentiful, meat is grilled to perfection and the variety of mezze (appetizers) is a delight for vegetarians and food lovers in general. Here are Forbes Travel Guide’s editors’ picks for the five best Beirut food experiences.
     
    1. Manouche. This bready delight is cooked in a superheated oven where it gets crisp and bubbly, then drizzled with olive oil and spices. Some people swear by Zaatar W. Zeit, others are fond of the manakeesh at Furn el Hamra.
     
    2. Soujouk. This meaty and spicy cured sausage that might show up at breakfast with eggs or stuffed into sandwich. Try it at Mano; its spicy and tangy taste is really addicting.
     
    3. Falafel. Made from ground chickpeas and or fava, seasoned and fried, falafel warm from the fryer is absolutely delicious. We especially like them tucked into a flatbread along with tomatoes and slathered with garlicky sauce. You’ll find two first-rate shops side-by-side called Falafel Sahyoun; they’re run by brothers.
     
    4. Foul. A filling and sustaining bean stew with pureed fava beans and whole chickpeas, foul is garnished with chopped tomatoes, onions and parsley. Forbes Travel Guide editors suggest you try it at Sousi restaurant.
     
    5. Ice Cream. If you’re thinking you’ve had ice cream before; trust us, you haven’t live until you’ve tasted Hanna Mitri’s Middle Eastern ice cream with sensuous flavors like cardamom, rose water and saffron.
  • On September 18, 2012
    Andrew Bossone answered the question: Andrew Bossone

    Where is the best nightlife in Beirut?

    Beirut was once famous exclusively for its nightclubs, but now it also has a thriving bar scene. Bars often have creative décor or a theme that gives a unique artistic vibe to going out. The three main neighborhoods for nightlife are Hamra, Gemmayzeh and Monot, while Byblos and Mar Mikhael are up-and-coming areas. New bars and lounges are opening frequently, so just look for crowded places or ask around for hot spots. For a good time set to Arabic music, try Mezyane or Barometre in Hamra. For clubbing go to super-exclusive White, Skybar or BO18, but don’t go too early. For the places to see and be seen, check out Dictateur in Mar Mikhael or Danny’s Alley in Hamra. Look at the schedule of musicians at the Democratic Republic of Music, aka DRM, or The Blue Note for a jazz show.
  • On September 18, 2012
    Andrew Bossone answered the question: Andrew Bossone

    What is the best way to see Beirut in one day?

    The best way to see Beirut in one day should begin with breakfast, a coffee to go, and a walk on the Corniche (the pedestrian seaside walkway) starting from Rauche (pronounced Row-shay) going east. Take a 45-minute taxi to visit the stunning Jeita Grotto. Return to Beirut and ask the driver to bring you to Furn el Hamra for falafel or mankouche, a Lebanese favorite of flatbread baked in a brick oven with your choice of toppings. Wander around Hamra for shopping before resting and showering at your hotel. Check out some galleries in Quarantina, and then have dinner and drinks in Gemmayzeh. If you still have energy after midnight to stay out, head for a club. Go to Barbar take-out for late night snacks and juice.
  • On September 18, 2012
    Andrew Bossone answered the question: Andrew Bossone

    Where is the best shopping in Beirut?

    World-renowned designers have opened up shops in Beirut for the last several years, and Lebanese designers have their own unique style that blends East and West. For high-end shopping, go to Beirut Souks in downtown or the ABC Mall in Ashrafieh. Local boutiques are sprinkled around Gemmayzeh or in Hamra, which also has large clothing stores. If you look around, you can find good deals all over on nice clothes and accessories for men and women.
  • On September 18, 2012
    Andrew Bossone answered the question: Andrew Bossone

    What are the five best things to do with kids in Beirut?

    Beirut is all about atmosphere and your kids will find it a fascinating and lively place, no matter where you go. Here, though, are five things to do that Forbes Travel Guide editors say will be especially fascinating for kids:
     
    1. Go ride a bike. Head to the long seaside promenade known as the Corniche and rent bicycles from Beirut by Bike. The whole family will enjoy pedaling past scenic points along the Mediterranean. They even offer lessons for beginners.
     
    2. Explore Jeita Grotto. A short ride from Beirut, the Jeita Grotto has stunning natural rock formations that resemble mushrooms, curtains and columns. Walk through the upper part, and then tour the lower portion in a small boat.
     
    3. Spend a day at Lunapark. This seaside amusement park just off the Corniche has a Ferris wheel, bumper cars and games of chance that are thrilling for kids of any age.
     
    4. Get crafty at Busy Box. This unique arts and crafts studio in Hamra is a place where both parents and kids can use their artistic talents to do everything from drawing to painting pictures to decorating ceramics. 
     
    5. Go hiking. Tour guides offer hikes at all levels around the picturesque mountains and valleys of Lebanon. Forbes Travel Guide editors recommend you book your hike in advance, as they are usually first come, first served.
  • On September 18, 2012
    Andrew Bossone answered the question: Andrew Bossone

    What are the five best things to see and do in Beirut?

    Beirut is a dynamic city with its mix of languages and cultures. You’ll find this ancient city has so many options when it comes to impressive sights and historical landmarks. Here are Forbes Travel Guide editor’s picks for the five best things to see and do in Beirut: 
     
    1. Visit Souk el Barghout. This famous market draws hundreds of shoppers and visitors and you won’t want to miss it. Shop for colorful trinkets ranging from pottery to scarves, sit in a café and enjoy a cup of coffee or indulge in some first-rate people watching.
     
    2. Tour the Roman temples at Baalbeck. Beirut is full of historic sites, but these Roman temples at Baalbeck on the Bekaa plain are considered to be among the wonders of the ancient world. These surprisingly well-preserved temples are said to be the largest and grandest ever built.
     
    3. Stoll along the Corniche. This seaside promenade is famous for its gorgeous views of both nature and people. Snap a photo at Pigeon Rocks or add on some time to relax on the sand.
     
    4. Explore Jeita Grotto. Be sure to set aside a day for your exploration of these magical grottoes that are among the most impressive sites in the natural world. Walk through the upper grotto to see fantastic rock formations that resemble curtains, columns and mushrooms. Hop into a boat to see the lower grotto full of stalactites overhead and stalagmites jutting form the water.
     
    5. Head to the country. The mountains have attractive vistas, winter ski slopes and wonderful hiking. The Bekaa Valley has recently seen a number of wineries that draw on a tradition dating back to ancient Phoenicia and influenced by 20th century French colonialism.
  • On July 23, 2012
    Forbes Travel Guide Inspector answered the question: Forbes Travel Guide Inspector

    What are the five best places to eat in Beirut?

    Food is one of the great passions of the populace in Beirut, and there are many inviting places to dine, especially since international chefs have taken to opening restaurants here. Most offer fresh, Mediterranean style cuisine, but it’s possible to find almost any type of cuisine. Forbes Travel Guide editors suggest you dine at these five spots in Beirut: 
     
    1. Le S.T.A.Y. A chic, cream-colored spot overlooking the Beirut Souk, S.T.A.Y. was created by Yannick Alléno, an internationally acclaimed chef from Paris. S.T.A.Y. offers original and uncomplicated French fare and delicious pastries sold by the centimeter. You’ll have to decide whether to dine at a communal table or in the suspended second-floor bar that’s shaped like a ship.
     
    2. Lux. Owner Johnny Farah is a noted accessories designer and restaurateur, so which explains the stylish décor. Many ingredients on the Mediterranean-inspired menu are sourced from Farah’s own organic farm in the mountains.
     
    3. Couqley. If you’re craving cuisine with a Gallic flair, then head to Couqley in Gemmayzeh area. It’s run by French chef Alexis Couquelet, who worked for star chefs like Alain Ducasse and Jean-Georges Vongerichten. You’ll find housemade charcuterie, classics like duck confit and steak frites.
     
    4. Momo at the Souks. You’ll find African-French fare and an energetic vibe at this international hot spot. The menu offers such delicacies as North African harira soup with lamb and chickpeas, tabouli and bistilla (or pastilla) the flaky phyllo pastry filled with tender pigeon scented with cinnamon. 
     
    5. The Gathering. This new concept in Gemmayzeh is actually three restaurants in one gathered around a courtyard with olive trees. Choose between Cantina which creates southern Italian dishes; the Butcher Grill, which offers meaty options like veal chops and organic filet mignon to roasted chicken and all manner of burgers; or a wine bar that serves Lebanese, Greek and Spanish tapas and international wines by the glass.
  • On July 23, 2012
    Forbes Travel Guide Inspector answered the question: Forbes Travel Guide Inspector

    What are the five best places to stay in Beirut?

    You’ll find there’s no shortage of luxury hotels that meet international standards for comfort and style in Beirut. Here are Forbes Travel Guide editors’ picks for the five best places to stay in Beirut:
     
    1. InterContinental Phoenicia Beirut. When it opened 50 years ago, this hotel set a standard for international luxury hotels in the region. The updated InterContinental Phoenicia, with its ocean views and sumptuous rooms, is still a landmark for luxury on the Mediterranean.
     
    2. Le Gray Beirut. This contemporary boutique hotel offers a level of style and opulence that are unique. Nearly all of the 87 rooms here are suites, and they’re decked out with everything from décor by Gordon Campbell Gray and Mary Fox Linton to state-of-the-art technology including complimentary Wi-Fi and high definition televisions.
     
    3. Le Royal Hotel Beirut. For a regal experience, leave your room with all its modern conveniences and head to the Royal SPA, a three-level space with ocean views, Turkish baths and many unique treatments. Le Jardin du Royal is the high-end restaurant on site and kids will love the rides at the hotel’s Watergate Aqua Park. Attractions including Jeita Grotto, Byblos and Casino du Liban are just a short distance away.

    4. Four Seasons Hotel Beirut. Built in 2009 on the sea, The Four Seasons Beirut is a thoroughly modern hotel that offers friendly service and an acclaimed spa. The rooftop terrace on the 26th floor is the place to take a swim, relax or just enjoy the panoramic views. 
     
    5. InterContinental Le Vendome Beirut. Set on the Corniche promenade, Le Vendome offers views of both the mountains and the oceans. Rooms are classic with modern conveniences and the hotel is boutique-sized, meaning guests get every attention.