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Beirut is the capital city of Lebanon with a population of approximately 2.1 million people in its metropolitan area. The city is on a relatively small headland jutting into the east Mediterranean.
It is by far the biggest city in Lebanon. Due to Lebanon's small size the capital has always held the status as the only true cosmopolitan city in the country, and ever since the independence, has been the commercial and financial hub of Lebanon. 20 km to its North is Jounieh, a city very closely associated with Beirut.
Beirut is Lebanon's seat of government and plays a central role in the Lebanese economy, with many banks and corporations based in its Central District, Hamra Street, Rue Verdun and Ashrafieh.
Following the destructive Lebanese Civil War, Beirut's cultural landscape underwent major reconstruction.
In May 2015, Beirut was officially recognized as one of the New7Wonders Cities together with Vigan, Doha, Durban, Havana, Kuala Lumpur, and La Paz.
|POPULATION :||City: 361,366 / Metro: 2,063,363|
|FOUNDED :||15th century BC|
|TIME ZONE :||+2 (UTC) Summer: +3 (UTC)|
|LANGUAGE :||Arabic (official), French, English|
|RELIGION :||Muslim 59.7% (Shia, Sunni, Druze, Isma'ilite, Alawite or Nusayri), Christian 39% (Maronite Catholic, Greek Orthodox, Melkite Catholic, Armenian Orthodox, Syrian Catholic, Armenian Catholic, Syrian Orthodox, Roman Catholic, Chaldean, Assyrian, Copt, Protestant), other 1.3%; 17 religious sects recognized|
|AREA :||20 km2 (8 sq mi) / Metro: 200 km2 (80 sq mi)|
|COORDINATES :||33°53′13″N 35°30′47″E|
|SEX RATIO :||• Male: 50.80% |
• Female: 49.20%
|AREA CODE :||01|
|POSTAL CODE :|
|DIALING CODE :||+961 01|
|WEBSITE :||Official Website|
The largely pedestrianized Beirut Central District is the core of the Beirut tourism scene. The district is a cluster of stone-façade buildings lining arcaded streets and radial alleyways. The architecture of the area is a mix of French Architecture and Venetian Gothic architecture mixed with Arabesque and Ottoman Architecture. The district contains numerous old mosques and crusader churches, as well as uncovered remnants and ruins of the Roman era. The District contains tens of restaurants, cafes and pubs, as well as a wide range of shopping stores mainly in Beirut Souks. High-rise hotels and towers line the district's New Waterfront, marina and seaside promenade.
Another popular tourist destination in Beirut is the Corniche Beirut, a 4.8 km (3 mi) pedestrian promenade that encircles the capital's seafront from the Saint George Bay in the north all the way to Avenue de Paris and Avenue General de Gaulle south of the city. The corniche reaches its maximum height above sea level at Raouché, a high-rise residential neighborhood rising over a giant white limestone cliff and facing the recognizable off-shore Raouché Rocks.
Hamra Street is a long cobblestone street connecting the Beirut Central District with the coastal Raouche area. The street is a large concentration of shopping stores, boutiques, restaurants, banks, street vendors, sidewalk cafes, newspaper kiosks, and a booming nightlife spurred by students from the neighboring American University of Beirut. The AUB campus is another popular visitor destination, composed of a cluster of 19th century red-roofed buildings dispersed on a wooded hillside overlooking the Mediterranean.
Gemmayzeh is Beirut's artistic Bohemian quarter, full of narrow streets and historic buildings from the French era. It is located East of the Beirut Central District, bordering the Saifi Village. The neighborhood is well known for its trendy bars and pubs, cafes, restaurants and lounges; most are directly located on Rue Gouraud, the main thoroughfare that cuts through the middle of the district. In 2004, Travel + Leisure magazine called Gemmayzeh "SoHo by the Sea," due to its colorful and chic cafés amid 1950s apartment buildings and hole-in-the-wall shops.
The tourism industry in Beirut has been historically important to the local economy and remains to this day to be a major source of revenue for the city, and Lebanon in general.
Before the Lebanese Civil War, Beirut was widely regarded as "The Paris of the Middle East, often cited as a financial and business hub where visitors could experience the Levantine Mediterranean culture.
Beirut's diverse atmosphere and ancient history make it an important destination which is slowly rebuilding itself after continued turmoil. Although in recent times, certain countries such as the United States frequently place Lebanon and Beirut in particular, within their travel warnings list due to a large number of car bombings and orchestrated political violence.
According to the 2012 tourist statistics, 34% of the tourists in Beirut came from states within the Arab League, 33% came from European countries (mainly France, Germany, and Britain), and 16% from the Americas (about half of which are from the United States).
Beirut was settled more than 5,000 years ago. Its name derives from the Canaanite-Phoenician be'erot ("wells"), referring to the underground water table that is still tapped by the local inhabitants for general use. Excavations in the downtown area have unearthed layers of Phoenician, Hellenistic, Roman, Byzantine, Arab, Crusader and Ottoman remains.
The first historical reference to Beirut dates from the 14th century BC, when it is mentioned in the cuneiform tablets of the Amarna letters, three letters that Ammunira of Biruta(Beirut) sent to the pharaoh of Egypt.
Hellenistic and Roman period
In 140 B.C. the city was destroyed by Diodotus Tryphon in his contest with Antiochus VII Sidetes for the throne of the Macedonian Seleucid monarchy. Beirut was soon rebuilt on a more conventional Hellenistic plan and renamed Laodicea in Phoenicia (Greek: Λαοδίκεια ἡ ἐν Φοινίκῃ). The modern city overlies the ancient one, and little archaeology was carried out until after the end of the civil war in 1991. The post-war salvage excavations (1993-to date) have yielded new insights in the layout and history of Roman Berytus. Public architecture included several bath complexes, colonnaded streets, a circus and theater, residential areas were excavated in the Future Garden of Forgiveness, Martyrs' Square and the Beirut Souks.
Beirut was conquered by Pompey in 64 B.C. The city was assimilated into the Roman Empire, veteran soldiers were sent there, and large building projects were undertaken. Beirut was considered the most Roman city in the eastern provinces of the Roman Empire. In 14 B.C., during the reign of Herod the Great, Berytus became a colonia and was named Colonia Iulia Augusta Felix Berytus.
Beirut passed into Arab control in 635. Prince Arslan bin al-Mundhir founded the Principality of Sin-el-Fil in Beirut in 759 AD. From this principality developed the later Principality of Mount Lebanon, which was the basis for the establishment of Greater Lebanon, today's Lebanon.
As a trading centre of the eastern Mediterranean, Beirut was overshadowed by Acre during the Middle Ages. From 1110 to 1291 it was in the hands of the Crusaders' Kingdom of Jerusalem. John of Ibelin, the Old Lord of Beirut (1179–1236) rebuilt the city after the battles with Saladin and also built the Ibelin family palace in Beirut.
Under the Ottoman sultan Selim I (1512-1520), the Ottomans conquered Syria including present-day Lebanon. Beirut was controlled by local Druze emirs throughout the Ottoman period.
By the second half of the nineteenth century, Beirut was developing close commercial and political ties with European imperial powers, particularly France. European interests in Lebanese silk and other export products transformed the city into a major port and commercial centre.
Meanwhile, Ottoman power in the region continued to decline. Sectarian and religious conflicts, power vacuums, and changes in the political dynamics of the region culminated in the 1860 Lebanon conflict. Beirut became a destination for Maronite Christian refugees fleeing from the worst areas of the fighting on Mount Lebanon and in Damascus. This in turn altered the ethnic composition of Beirut itself, sowing the seeds of future ethnic and religious troubles there and in greater Lebanon. However, Beirut was able to prosper in the meantime. This was again a product of European intervention, and also a general realization amongst the city's residents that commerce, trade, and prosperity depended on domestic stability.
After the collapse of the Ottoman Empire following World War I, Beirut, along with the rest of Lebanon, was placed under the French Mandate.
Lebanon achieved independence in 1943, and Beirut became the capital city. The city remained a regional intellectual capital, becoming a major tourist destination and a banking haven, especially for the Persian Gulf oil boom.
This era of relative prosperity ended in 1975 when the Lebanese Civil War broke out throughout the country. During most of the war, Beirut was divided between the Muslim west part and the Christian east. The downtown area, previously the home of much of the city's commercial and cultural activity, became a no man's land known as the Green Line. Many inhabitants fled to other countries.
Another destructive chapter was the 1982 Lebanon War, during which most of West Beirut was under siege by Israeli troops. In 1983, French and US barracks were bombed, killing 241 American servicemen, 58 French servicemen, six civilians and the two suicide bombers.
Since the end of the war in 1990, the people of Lebanon have been rebuilding Beirut, and by the start of the 2006 Israel-Lebanon conflict the city had somewhat regained its status as a tourist, cultural and intellectual center in the Middle East and as a centre for commerce, fashion, and media. The reconstruction of downtown Beirut has been largely driven by Solidere, a development company established in 1994 by Prime Minister Rafic Hariri. The city has been host to the Asian Club Basketball Championship and the Asian Football Cup and has hosted the Miss Europe pageant eight times, 1960–1964, 1999, 2001–2002.
In the 12 November 2015 Beirut bombings, two suicide bombers detonated explosives outside a mosque and inside a bakery, killing 43 people and injuring 200. The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant immediately claimed responsibility for the attacks.
Beirut has a hot-summer Mediterranean climate, characterized by mild days and nights.
Autumn and spring are warm, winter is mild and rainy, and summer can be virtually rainless.
August is considered the only really hot muggy month, with a monthly average high temperature of 32 °C (90 °F), and January and February are the coldest months, with a monthly average low temperature of 11 °C (52 °F).
The prevailing wind during the afternoon and evening is from the west (onshore, blowing in from the Mediterranean); at night it reverses to offshore, blowing from the land out to sea.
Climate data for Beirut
|Record high °C (°F)||27.9|
|Average high °C (°F)||17.4|
|Daily mean °C (°F)||14.0|
|Average low °C (°F)||11.2|
|Record low °C (°F)||0.8|
|Source #1: Pogodaiklimat.ru|
|Source #2: Danish Meteorological Institute|
|18.5 °C||17.5 °C||17.5 °C||18.5 °C||21.3 °C||24.9 °C||27.5 °C||28.5 °C||28.1 °C||26.0 °C||22.6 °C||20.1 °C|
Beirut sits on a peninsula extending westward into the Mediterranean Sea about 94 km (58 mi) north of the Lebanon-Israel border.
It is flanked by the Lebanon Mountains and has taken on a triangular shape, largely influenced by its situation between and atop two hills: Al-Ashrafieh and Al-Musaytibah.
The Beirut Governorate occupies 18 square kilometres (6.9 sq mi), and the city's metropolitan area 67 square kilometres (26 sq mi).
The coast is rather diverse, with rocky beaches, sandy shores and cliffs situated beside one another.
Beirut's economy is service-oriented with the main growth sectors being banking and tourism.
In an area dominated by authoritarian or militarist regimes, the Lebanese capital was generally regarded as a haven of liberalism, though a precarious one.
With its seaport and airport—coupled with Lebanon’s free economic and foreign exchange system, solid gold-backed currency, banking-secrecy law, and favourable interest rates—Beirut became an established banking centre for Arab wealth, much of which was invested in construction, commercial enterprise, and industry (mostly the manufacture of textiles and shoes, food processing, and printing).
The economy of Beirut is diverse, including publishing, banking, trade and various industries. During that period, Beirut was the region's financial services center. At the onset of the oil boom starting in the 1960s, Lebanon-based banks were the main recipients of the region's petrodollars.
Ain El Mraiseh
Ramlet El Baida
Free Wifi is widely available in Beirut.
Prices in Beirut
MARKET / SUPERMARKET
|Milk||1 liter||$ 2.20|
|Tomatoes||1 kg||$ 1.20|
|Cheese||0.5 kg||$ 5.80|
|Apples||1 kg||$ 1.75|
|Oranges||1 kg||$ 1.65|
|Beer (domestic)||0.5 l||$ 1.05|
|Bottle of Wine||1 bottle||$ 12.00|
|Coca-Cola||2 liters||$ 1.42|
|Bread||1 piece||$ 0.55|
|Water||1.5 l||$ 0.70|
|Dinner (Low-range)||for 2||$ 38.00|
|Dinner (Mid-range)||for 2||$ 55.00|
|Dinner (High-range)||for 2||$ 82.00|
|Mac Meal or similar||1 meal||$ 8.00|
|Water||0.33 l||$ 0.50|
|Cappuccino||1 cup||$ 3.20|
|Beer (Imported)||0.33 l||$ 3.50|
|Beer (domestic)||0.5 l||$ 1.25|
|Coca-Cola||0.33 l||$ 0.65|
|Coctail drink||1 drink||$ 12.00|
|Cinema||2 tickets||$ 18.00|
|Gym||1 month||$ 75.00|
|Men’s Haircut||1 haircut||$ 12.00|
|Theatar||2 tickets||$ 70.00|
|Mobile (prepaid)||1 min.||$ 0.28|
|Pack of Marlboro||1 pack||$ 2.10|
|Antibiotics||1 pack||$ 13.00|
|Tampons||32 pieces||$ 5.10|
|Deodorant||50 ml.||$ 5.30|
|Shampoo||400 ml.||$ 4.40|
|Toilet paper||4 rolls||$ 2.00|
|Toothpaste||1 tube||$ 3.00|
CLOTHES / SHOES
|Jeans (Levis 501 or similar)||1||$ 88.00|
|Dress summer (Zara, H&M)||1||$ 55.00|
|Sport shoes (Nike, Adidas)||1||$ 105.00|
|Leather shoes||1||$ 130.00|
|Gasoline||1 liter||$ 0.95|
|Local Transport||1 ticket||$|
71 $ per day
Estimated cost per 1 day including:
- meals in cheap restaurant
- public transport
- cheap hotel
211 $ per day
Estimated cost per 1 day including:
- mid-range meals and drinks
Transportation - Get In
Beirut Rafik Hariri International Airport , is the country's only international airport and the hub of Lebanon's national carrier, Middle East Airlines (MEA). Most international airlines have daily flights between Beirut and the major European capitals. The airport is located 7 km south of Beirut, and is roughly a 10 to 15 minute drive from the city center.
Car parking is available at the airport for around 2.5 USD per hour. Please note that when the parking time is rounded to the upper hour (i.e. 1.1 hours ~= 2 hours).
At the moment, there is no public transportation to or from the airport. The following options are available for transportation.
They are plentiful and comfortable taxis that are authorized by the airport are parked next to the terminal in the arrivals level and have an airport logo on the side (official airport taxi fares ). Although these taxis claim to be regulated by the airport authorities, they are definitely not honest in their rates.
They are also available and are located a little farther from the airport, but these are not guaranteed and are to be used at your own risk. The approximate rate Airport - Hamra street is LL 25000. However, the so-called regulated taxis' drivers, will ask you anywhere between $30 to 50 for any downtown locations. So, start bargaining from $10 and stop at $15 as the upper limit, both ways to and from the Airport. Also bear in mind, Uber works in Lebanon, and as of February 2016 they had a $14 fixed rate to/from the airport. Considering this is only a 7 km long drive, and gas price is approx $1.5 / litre in Beirut, this price is definitely a rip off that taxi drivers would not miss. Taxi types are wildly changing, so pick the best and newest looking ones to guarantee aircon, and collision safety in Beirut traffic.
They depart from the 2nd (departure) level. These are white small buses (majority are Kia Besta) with red plates, which pickup airport service people and bring them to Beirut. The fare between the Airport and Martyr's square (Downtown) is LL 2000 (May 2011)
All major car rental companies have booking offices inside the airport. More information can be obtained through the airport's webpage on the issue.
Beirut is linked with all coastal cities through the coastal road. Entrances/exists off this road connect it to districts adjacent to the coast such as Maten and Kesrwen (and others). Beirut is linked to Zahle and Baalbeck (and the rest of Bekaa) through Dahr Al-Baydar road (linked to Emile Lahoud highway at the entrance of Beirut].
There are four border crossing points between Lebanon and Syria:
- Masnaa (on the Beirut-Damascus Highway)
- Qaa (at the northern edge of the Békaa Valley)
- Arida (north of Tripoli along the coast)
- Aboudiyeh (northeast of Tripoli).
You can travel between Lebanon and Syria by private/rental car, bus, private taxi, or service taxi.
Note: Please stay updated with safety conditions in Syria if coming from there. There are no reports so far that border points were closed; however, check the news to stay up-to-date.
Buses connecting Beirut with the south of Lebanon arrive at an intersection next to the Cola bridge. The bus stop is known as "Cola" among the locals. This place is in the southern part of Beirut - in area known as Mazraa. Buses connecting Beirut with the North of Lebanon as well as Aleppo in Syria leave from the Charles Helou Bus Station just north of the city center.
As of April 2014 most buses to and from Damascus in Syria has been relocated to the Charles Helou station. Be sure to check the security situation in Syria before leaving.
Taxis to Damascus, Syria are lined up at the Charles Helou bus station. The security situation between Beirut and Damascus has improved significantly in early 2014 (as of April 2014), but this does not mean that the trip can in any way be considered safe. If you must go, see war zone safety. Taxis in Beirut will drive you to anywhere along the coastal road, but may be reluctant to drive to Tripoli given the security situation there. It is also possible to rent a taxi for the whole day for about the same prices at renting your own car.
Transportation - Get Around
There are two types of taxis in Beirut; the old (often) battered hail-taxis, and the prebooking taxis.
- Hail-taxi - The most convenient form of transport in Beirut, as they are absolutely everywhere. Those taxis are predominantly Mercedes Benz cars (though recently, due to increasing petrol prices, taxi drivers are opting for more economic forms or transport) and can be quite easily identified by their yellow illuminated taxi sign on the roof and red number plate. Fixed meters aren't provided so it is recommended to ask how much your trip will cost before hopping in. The fare will be charged per destination and not per distance traveled (which is an advantage since traffic is a big problem in the city). A typical journey from one side of Beirut to the other (roughly 3 km) may cost LL10 000 (€5.00). Many taxi drivers speak at least a few words of English and French. Knowing the name of your destination in the local language may solve any misunderstanding.
Keep in mind the names of the landmarks around the city, as they will come in handy when traveling by public transport (some drivers aren't that good at orienting!).
- Prebook taxi - These require that you call them and book a ride, they generally cost more but are much more luxurious and are normally air conditioned. All hotels should provide you with a taxi directory, if you wish to use this type of service. Taxi prices are considered cheap if compared to US and European taxis. Major taxi companies are: Geryes Taxi (+961 1-332747), Taxi Premiere (Tel 1260 or +961 1-389222). Allo Taxi (Tel 1213 or +961 1-366661),
The more common form of transport, especially with daily commuters, as they are cheaper than the taxis, but ironically, are in fact the same. Service[ser-vee-s] are shared-taxis, the same taxis as above but shared between four or more people. The biggest advantage with the Service system is that the price of the ride is fixed at 2,000 L.L (€1). They come with drawbacks of course, and apart from having to share a small car with three other complete strangers (great for meeting new people actually), Service drivers may choose not to take you if you are not going in the same direction as them. Hailing a service or taxi usually entails yelling your destination to the driver if he slows down, then chasing the name of your destination with either 'taxi' (for private taxi 10,000 L.L. should you want one.)
It is important to remember that if you want a service, give the name of the general district you want and not a specific address. When you get close the driver will ask you where you want to get out. If you recognise the area you want to be in say just ask to stop. AFTER you have paid you and the driver asks you, can give a more specific address like "Crowne Plaza" (a landmark on Hamra St.)and the driver will drop you as near to it as he is going, often pointing out where you have to walk to get there. When you get in to a service pay the 2000L.L. for each person right away. If you fail to do so, the driver will assume you asked for taxi, and will overcharge you at taxi-rate when you want to get out. However if the driver stops to ask for other fares or picks up another passenger only pay the Service rate of 2,000 L.L.
Taxi drivers in Beirut are notorious for overcharging tourists much more so than neighboring Syria. Most will demand absurd fares and demanding 2-3 times the service rate is very common. If you're pressed for time paying 2 service may be a compromise (4000 LL), otherwise you may have to wait a bit to find an honest cab driver willing to take you for 2000 LL. Always get a price BEFORE leaving otherwise the driver will most definitely rip you off. Also, virtually no one tips cab drivers unless some extraordinary service has been rendered, like a very long wait time while you run an errand or something. Some drivers will ask you for a tip particularly near holidays. Payment is usually at the end of the journey.
Driving in Beirut is not to be recommended for much of the day, particularly in the city center. Traffic is heavy, and impossible during rush hour. There is so much to see and being stuck in a traffic jam is the last thing anyone would want to spend their time doing. Walking around the city is much more of an experience, and is in fact necessary in the very center since that part of the city is a pedestrian area.
It can be difficult to find parking other than in multi-story and off-street car parks. On-street parking, if you are lucky enough to find one, is allowed for a short time of two hours. Tickets must be purchased through the parking meters usually located at either end of a street. They can be paid by either cash or card. Overstaying your time may get you a ticket. Enforcement of the parking limit isn't done very efficiently, but obviously the last thing anyone would want to find is a ticket that will ruin their day and set them back financially.
Renting a car is recommended if you're planing to visit neighboring towns and cities such as Jounieh, or if you're planing to go out late at night when public transport isn't operating, or maybe simply to enjoy the Lebanese "see-and-be-seen" lifestyle. Car rental prices range from economical 40.000L.L/day (€20.00/day) to luxury and exotic standard prices. Those can change according to season, so make sure you contact the car rental company beforehand to check prices as well as pickup/drop-off locations.
If you are traveling to the country during high season make sure to book your car rental in advance since it is normal to find that all rental companies are completely booked.
Driving in Beirut is on the right-hand side of the road.
Road rules. What road rules? The flashiest most expensive cars rule the road.
It is common that drivers use one-way street in the wrong direction, and motorcycles are the most to breach one-way streets.
Only the central areas of Beirut have traffic lights operating, though plans have been made to cover all of the city.
There are currently two public transport companies. The OCFTC that operates a fleet of blue and white city-buses, and the LCC with a fleet of red and white minibuses; Bus fares cost either 500LL (OCFTC bus 24) or 1000LL ($0.33 to 0.67). The service is very efficient and the buses come very often, to get onto a bus you must stand at the side of the road and signal with your hand as a bus approaches; the buses will stop anywhere.
As the city is quite compact, walking is the best way of getting around, and perfect for getting off the beaten track to find unexpected surprises. Most people however will not walk throughout the city, rather they will walk within certain districts and take cars/taxis to get from one district to another. Streets are generally well signposted, but few Beiruti locals would know how to navigate according to their names, directions are usually given by building placement ("straight down the road until you reach building X, turn left there, then right..."), and many streets have local nicknames that wouldn't match the map. That said, if you find yourself lost in the streets, simply ask any passer-by for directions; no one will refuse to help! Otherwise you can stop at the nearest hotel or shop and ask. Hotel concierges and shop keepers will most definitely speak some limited English.
Some roads in Beirut are in poor condition. Not so much in the center, but the farther you get from downtown the more road works you will most probably find. So take care!
You can always check out a Beiruti-run walking tour called Walk Beirut. They offer weekly tours around the city.
- BEST RATED -
- BEST VALUE -
Clothes and fashion - Beirut is the fashion capital of Lebanon and the region, with many prominent Lebanese designers located here, including (Elie Saab [www], Basil Soda [www], Pierre Katra [www] and Robert AbiNader [www].)
There are several shopping districts around the city.
- Downtown Beirut - The recently renovated city center that boasts fancy and designer stores.
- Hamra Street - An area featuring much revitalization over the last few years, with many international and upscale brands returning to the district.
- Mar-Elias Street - A busy street towards the south of Beirut. Many of the shops are Lebanese brands which means this is the perfect place to find bargains as most brands are local and cheap.
- Rue. Verdun - A shopping street with several high-end shopping malls and department stores.
- ABC Mall, Achrafieh Alfred Naccache Street, Mar Mitr, . Many international brands are here along with great restaurants, cafes, and a movie theater all in a mixed indoor/outdoor setting.
- Souks de Beirut is a new mall in downtown with international brands in an outdoor setting.
- Beirut Mall, . Tayouneh roundabout.
- ABC Beauté, Bab Idriss, downtown, +961 1 991888. Offering a wide range of international cosmetics and perfume brands, nail bar, professional hairdressers and stylists. Open Mon-Sat 10AM-7PM.
- Miss ABC, Hamra street, facing Cinema strand, +961 1 344740. Women's specialty store. Open Mon-Sat 9:45-7:45, closed Sunday.
- City Mall, Dora highway roundabout, Greater Beirut, +961 1 905555. Includes 100 stores, 15 cafes and restaurants, a Hypermarket, and 9 movie theaters.
- Dunes Center, . Centre Dunes, Verdun Str. Displaying some of the latest shopping brands, as well as many cafes and a movie theater.
- Virgin Megastore - Currently four branches in Beirut: Beirut International Airport, Martyr's square Downtown (claims to be the biggest Virgin Megastore outside the UK), City Mall (Dora roundabout), ABC department store (Ashrafieh).
- Music, Books, Event Tickets: Virgin Megastores Currently four branches in Beirut: Beirut International Airport, Martyr's square Downtown (claims to be the biggest Virgin Megastore outside the UK), City Mall (Dora roundabout), ABC department store (Ashrafieh).
Flea markets are surprisingly hard to find, occasional organized markets are held that are made to resemble flea markets.
- Souk El Tayeb Held every Saturday near BIEL downtown between 9AM-2PM, feed your soul as well as your face in Beirut's first organic farmer's market. Promoting traditional methods of farming and preserving, it's a great place to pick up local honey, cheese and breads, plus artisans' crafts. It also runs regular cookery classes, to learn how to make that perfect tabouleh (bulgur salad).
- Sunday Market Get up early and join the locals for a rummage at the Sunday Market which opens between 7AM and 1PM, next to Beirut River in the east. You might find antique jewellery, clothing and beads, or maybe just bric-à-brac, but there's an eclectic selection of goodies on show. Remember to bargain hard!
- Burj Hammoud Beirut's Armenian quarter, perfect place to shop for cheap bric-à-brac, artisan's crafts, souvenirs, copper and brass ware and faus-brands. Don't forget to haggle. Burj Hammoud is located to the East of ashrafieh across the Beirut river.
- Cash: Lebanese Lira and US dollars are both accepted everywhere, except for tiny number of government offices. Both payment and change for transactions may be given as a combination of the two. The exchange rate is fixed at 1,500LL to 1 USD.
- Payment cards: Many shops, hotels, restaurants, bars etc. accept international payment cards such as Visa, MasterCard, Maestro or American Express.
- Automatic bank tellers: Withdrawal can be made from any automatic bank teller found in any region of the country. Withdrawals can be made in either Lebanese Lira or the US dollar.
- Traveler's checks: Lebanese banks can exchange them very easily.
Lebanese cuisine is a mix of Arab, Turkish, and Mediterranean influences, and enjoys a worldwide reputation for its richness and variety as well as its Mediterranean health factor. Olive oil, herbs, spices, fresh fruits and vegetables are commonly used, as well as dairy products, cereals, fishes and various types of meat. A visit to Beirut includes the traditional Lebanese Mezze (Meza), an elaborate variety of thirty hot and cold dishes. A typical Mezze may consist of salads such as the Tabboule and Fattouch, together with the caviars: Hommos and Moutabal, and some patties such as theSambousseks and finally, the stuffed grape leaves, with of course the Lebanese flat pita bread which is essential to every Lebanese Mezze.
- Mankoushé: a Lebanese pizza, or at least that's what it looks like, theMankoushé is a baked pizza-shaped dough with either a mixture of local cheeses or thyme (or a mixture of both) on top, can be bought from all bakeries as well as special Forn Mankhoushé which specialize in this type of food, usually had for breakfast. cost between 1.000L.L and 3.000L.L .
- Ka'ek: a different version of the classic bagel, only about a foot in diameter and hollow, normally filled with thyme but you can ask for cheese spread as well. The most common place to buy these are from the local street vendors that ride bicycles or motorized scooters and honk a manual horn, but you can also find it at major bakeries. Although not of Lebanese origins, they're quite popular and are always found near Rawcheh area, they're worth a try. cost about 1.000L.L .
- Roastery Nuts: roasted nuts are certainly the local favorite appetizers particularly with the older people. Local brands have dedicated roasteries where customers walk in and order fresh, they produce some of the best nuts in the region, and certainly the most varied. Pecans, Cashews, Macadamias, Hazelnuts, Almonds, Pistachios, Peanuts its all there. Ask for Krikri in thyme, spice, or cheese flavor.
- Sweets: every religious or national event sees stalls set up on sidewalks outside churches and in public squares, where traditional Lebanese sweets are sold such as: Maamoul, Ktaef, Halawet el Jibn, Halawet el Riz,and Ashta. If you're lucky enough to come across those be sure to give them all a try, otherwise visit any påtisserie where the same sweets can be purchased (but of course lacking the same authenticity!).
Beirut's different cultures brought different tastes for food, and restaurants of all different origins have opened all around the city. Restaurants have different price ranges, depending of course on the quality of the ingredients used; check the different districts for the listings.
If you're on a tight budget, or if you simply miss the food that you can get back at home, fast food is your best option. All major international fast food restaurants have opened chains in Beirut (KFC, McDonald's, Burger King, Hardee's, TGI Fridays, Domino's Pizza, Pizza Hut, Dunkin' Donuts, Subway etc...), but many local fast food restaurants have sprung up to compete with the major franchisers.
Sights & Landmarks
Beirut was once the self-proclaimed "Paris of the Middle East". It still has an outdoor cafe culture, and European architecture can be found everywhere. Many Beirutis (as well as other Lebanese) speak French and/or English, to varying degrees, along with Arabic.
Each district has its own sights and places to visit. The following listings are just some highlights of things that you really should see if you can during your visit to Beirut. The complete listings are found on each individual district page.
- Pigeon Rocks (Rawcheh District) A monumental natural arch jutting up from the Mediterranean. Great place to sit at one of the roadside cafes and watch the sun set.
- Place de l'Etoile (Nejmeh Square)(Downtown District), originally built by the French in the early 20th century in the very center of the Downtown district, it suffered a lot of war damage during the war but recently has been restored. It is currently under heavy security given that the Parliament sieges in the middle of it, and there are many army and police barrages to limit the access thereto.
- Martyr's Statue Downtown Martyr's Square, east of Nejmeh Square towards Ashrafieh.
- Jeita Grotto is a compound of crystallized caves in Lebanon located 20 km north of Beirut in the Valley of Nahr al-Kalb (Dog River). This grotto is made up of two limestone caves, upper galleries and a lower cave through which a 6230 m long river runs. Geologically, the caves provide a tunnel or escape route for the underground river. In this cave and galleries, the action of water in the limestone has created cathedral-like vaults full of various sizes, colors and shapes of stalactites and stalagmites, majestic curtains and fantastic rock formations. The total length of the cave is more than 9000 m and there is one among the biggest stalactites in the world hanging 8,20 m. The grotto accommodates a huge hall with a distance of 108 m from the ceiling till the water level.
Parks & Squares
- Sanayeh Park, Emmile Eddé Road, Hamra, Beirut
- Horsh Beirut (Beirut Pine Forest), (adjacent to the Beirut Hippodrome south of Ashrafieh)
- Khalil Gebran Park Downtown District (between Amir Amine St. and Toufik Khaled St.)
- Debbas Square Saifi village Downtown (between Charles Debbas St. and Dmascus St.)
- Nejmeh Square Central Downtown
- Herbal Garden Riad El Solh St. Downtown
- American University of Beirut campus By far the biggest and greenest park in Beirut. Non-students are only allowed to enter through the main gate on Bliss Street in Hamra. Visiters are required to show ID.
- Lebanese American University campus. While much smaller than AUB, the LAU campus in southern Hamra/Qoreitem is a cozy and quiet refuge from the busy streets of Beirut. ID is required to enter.
Museums & Galleries
- National Museum Of Beirut (Ras El Nabaa, South Ashrafieh). Tu-Su 9AM-5PM, closed Mon and Holidays. About 1,300 artifacts are exhibited, ranging in date from prehistoric times to the medieval Mamluk period mainly dealing with Lebanon's Archeology and History. This museum was on the front line of the Lebanese civil war, and it suffered near complete destruction; it was occupied by militiamen and sustained bullet holes. Although much was lost, many of its most valuable items were saved by its Director of Antiquities at the time, Emir Maurice Chehab and his wife. Smaller objects were hidden in the basement, and larger objects and the mural were encased in concrete. One of the key galleries was rededicated to him as the Maurice Chehab Hall. 5.000L.L (adult), 1.000L.L (students, under 18).
- Sursock Museum (Ashrafieh District), Rue. Sursock (street), Ashrafieh, Beirut. (Contemporary Modern art), the building itself is a perfect example of the typical 18th century Lebanese palace. Lebanese and International art is permanently displayed in the intricately preserved interior. At July 2010, the museum is closed due to building works next door.
- Beirut Art Center (Sin El-Fil District), Rue. 97 (street), Sin El-Fil, Beirut. (Contemporary Modern art), the first non-profit public space in Beirut, housing an exhibition space, screening and performance auditorium, bookstore, mediatheque, cafe and terrace. Designed by architect Raed Abi Lama. Tel: 01 397 018.
- Matignon Gallery (Lebanese and International contemporary art), Sin El Fil, Greater Beirut, , , fax: . Mon-Fri 10AM-6PM, Sat 10AM-2PM.
- AUB Museum (Hamra District). Archeology and History, the Middle East's oldest museum. Rue. Bliss (Rue. 33), Hamra,(01)340549. Mon-Fri 10:00-16:00, closed holidays.
- Musee Emmanuel Paul Guiragossian, Emmanuel Guiragossian Art School, New Jdeideh, Greater Beirut (near Eden Hotel), , e-mail:[email protected].
Things to do
There are many things to do in Beirut. Check the different districts to find out what each has to offer. Meanwhile, here are a few highlights:
- Bet on an Arabian thoroughbred every Sunday in the Beirut Hippodrome, officially called Hippodrome Du Parc De Beyrouth. The hippodrome is home to popular horse races, attracting a dedicated betting crowd (often old taxi drivers). Foreigners should join the fun in the afternoon for free entrance (ID or passport required). Open on Sundays only.
- Soak up the sun in one of the beach clubs on the Beirut coast. Very few actually have sandy beaches, and most unfortunately have been converted into spas with swimming pools and paved terraces, but despite all that, they all have access to the sea. A few of them are completely private and members-only, but can be accessed by paying for a guest ticket if going in with a member. The Saint George Yacht club in Ain El Mreisseh and the Riviera Beach and Yacht Club at the Riviera Hotel are two such popular clubs, where access to the beach club for non-members is US $20 per day. You can chill in one of the pools or have a drink at the bars and cafes while listening to music in the afternoons. Long Beach Club is another good place. The entrance is just to the left of the Ferris wheel on the Corniche right before the hill. Bring a beach towel.
- Test your golfing skills at The Golf Club of Lebanon (18 hole), Ouzai - Beer Hassan, P.O.Box 11-3099, Beirut (next to Henry chehab barrack), , fax:, e-mail:[email protected].
- Take a ride on the Beirut Balloon(30 passenger helium filled balloon, offering breathtaking views from an altitude of 300m.), Allenby St., Downtown Beirut (Entrance is through Biel Convention Centre. Look for it in the sky!), . 10AM-10PM.
- Walk, jog, skate, cycle, stroll (or whatever you consider exercise) along Paris Avenue which links up to General De Gaulle Avenue (both locally known simply asthe corniche) which stretch around the entire Central Beirut perimeter (approx. 5 km). Start the walk, jog, skate etc... at the Beirut marina (Downtown Beirut District) about an hour or so before sunset and finish at the Pigeon Rocks in Rawcheh, in time to watch the sun go down while sipping on a drink at one of the outdoor cafés.
- Scuba Dive:, With 300 sunny days a year, 36 shipwrecks, impressive walls, canyons, caves, Ray habitats and shark habitats, Beirut definitely has something to offer for a serious scuba diver. The French WWII submarine Le Souffleur, the British freighter Alice B which sank during the civil war in the 80's, The Macedoniafreighter which sank in 1962 and the National Star freighter in 1991, the Mediterranean flagship of Admiral Sir George Tryon HMS Victoria which sank in 1893, The British Lesbian which sank during WWII, make just a few of Beirut's shipwreck collection. Historical cities dot ancient Phoenicia' s shore, providing us today with many interesting submerged historical sites, some littered with Phoenician and Roman marble stones, granite columns, pathways, old stone anchors, amphorae and bits of pottery. There are several Dive Centers around Beirut:
Festivals and events
- Beirut International Film Festival. Held annually in October, the Beirut Film Festival exhibits films from all over the middle east, usually in either Arabic or French. The films vary enormously and some can be intensely political.
- Beirut International Jazz Festival. Held annually during the month of July over a period of four days, some of the greatest international jazz artists as well as musicians from around Lebanon play some quality music near the Beirut marina.
- Festival du cinéma francophone, . Held between the month of March and April over a period of two weeks, films are in French. Cinéma Métropolis - Masrah Al Madina, Beirut.
- One Big Sunday, Beach party with live DJs held every Sunday during the summer months in various resorts and beaches, organised by Mix FM [www].
Alcohol is readily available in Beirut. Many of Beirut's districts have their own fair amount of cafes, bars, and clubs, although many areas are "dry" or, while serving alocohol, do not have a vibrant nightlife. This said, two of the hotter nightspots, with the highest concentration of pubs and nightclubs, are Gemmayze (mostly pubs) and Monot St (mix of nightclubs and pubs), both located within close range in the Ashrafieh district. Hamra is also seeing a revival in its nightlife, with over a dozen new pubs and bars open there now. The best way to find out what's in and whats not is by checking the local press or simply going there and seeing for yourself. There is no curfew in Beirut, thought expect most pubs and bars to empty by 2AM, and most nightclubs to empty between 4AM and 4:40AM.
During the summer, Monot tends to be much less busy, as many open-air clubs outside of the area tend to dominate the nightlife in Beirut. Gemmayzeh remains popular year-round.
- SkyBar in Biel, just next to downtown, is an open-aor nightclub. It is arguably the hottest nightclub in Beirut, and has a view overlooking the Sea. It is closed during the winter months.
- BO18. A popular club inside a bomb shelter located under a parking lot. The roof opens and you can see the sky while dancing. Clubbers park in the lot and descend a staircase into the club.
- Iris. Is a rooftop bar on top of the an-Nahar newspaper building, with an outdoor area overlooking the Sea, Downtown, and the mountains.
Locally brewed beer include Almaza [www] and Laziza (non-alcoholic). There is also a microbrewery that started producing several styles of more flavorful beer in 2006, called "961 Beer"[www]. In 2010, a new beer was launched called "LB Beer"[www], which is brewed without the use of any corn or rice. it has gained a large following by the younger, independent minded crowd and is a regular staple at locally organized parties. All are worth a try when visiting.
Things to know
Beirut is very culturally diverse, and thus, multilingual. Lebanese Arabic is the native language but everyone speaks Standard Arabic, the official language, while English and French (especially the former) are also spoken by most people.
Shop signs are in both Standard Arabic, English and French. Most restaurant menus, event listings, and such are also in English alongside Standard Arabic and sometimes in French. Road signs, however, are in Standard Arabic and French.
Some areas of Beirut have a friendly atmosphere, and some Beirutis have a reputation for being very sociable and outgoing. The locals are used to the sight of foreigners and would be happy to show you around the city, if you ask them.
Sectarianism is still prevalent in Lebanon, as a result of the French colonial legacy of divide and rule, which leads some Christian Lebanese to identify culturally with Europeans, particularly the French, and some denying Arab identity altogether; preferring to identify themselves as Phoenician (referring to their ancestral roots in ancient Phoenicia.) Many Muslim Lebanese identify culturally and ethnically with other Arabs and Muslims of the Middle East.
It is helpful to display some basic courtesies. A simple Bonjour when entering a cafe or shop can work wonders, and might even get you a special rate, or when hopping into a taxi, might just keep the driver from overcharging you. Say Merci when given or offered something, and if you'd rather not accept, then say La'a merci and smile; otherwise you might be taken as rude, even though you're not.
Most Beirutis love going out. If (and when) you go out at night, depending on the venue, dressing up well will most certainly get you some respect. The locals like to see that foreigners are doing what they can to fit in. Expect to be offered a drink or a cigarette. Alcohol is very cheap in shops and supermarkets, yet in night venues, prices can rise up to European standards (aka: 8,000L.L/Beer, 15,000L.L/Cocktail))
Smoking is very common in Beirut, a large portion of the people smoke both outdoors and indoors. However, most restaurants and bars have now abided by the new law forbidding smoking indoors.
Due to Lebanon's diverse religions and sects, many public holidays are celebrated, some of which more than once: New Year's Day, Armenian-Orthodox Christmas (6 Jan), Eid al-Adha – Feast of Sacrifice, celebrating the last day of Hajj, the Muslim pilgrimage to Mecca, Al Hijrah – Islamic New Year, Feast of St Maroun (9 Feb), Eid Milad Mnabi – Prophet's Anniversary, Good Friday and Easter Monday (Apr), Labour Day (1 May), Liberation of the South (25 May), Assumption (15 Aug), Eid al-Fitr - Festival of the Breaking of the Fast, All Saints' Day (1 Nov), Independence Day (22 Nov), Christmas Day (25 Dec). Based on the lunar calendar, Islamic holidays move forward approximately 11 days every Western year.
Anything goes in Beirut. Shorts and T-shirts are perfect for the summer heat, for both men and women, while heavier clothing is necessary during the winter. You should cover up if visiting religious sites, such as mosques and churches. Some neighborhoods are more conservative than others, so bear that in mind when exploring the city. Going out at night is a smart affair, so dress fashionably to fit in, although this does not mean dressing up in a suit; you will find many men in sporty T-shirts, dark jeans, and smart running shoes at even the trendiest nightclubs.
Safety in Beirut
After 2009, Lebanon became a safer place and the number of tourists is dramatically increasing (more than 2 million in 2009), although the number has peaked since then. The US government's warning to travelers visiting Lebanon was lifted in mid-September 2009 but was later renewed, in part because of the risk of spillover from the Syrian civil war. The violence in Naher al-Bared has ceased. If you choose to visit Lebanon, visit the touristic cities like Jounieh, Byblos, Tyr and Tripoli. Beirut itself is relatively safe.
Photography of military personnel and installations is prohibited. You should also be careful in taking photographs in the Dahiyeh (the southern suburbs), if you don't want to get in contact with Hezbollah. The safest thing is to ask an official nearby for permission, although your request will very likely be turned down. Keep your camera in a purse just for safety. If a Hezbollah official approaches you, seeing your camera, he can't know if you've been taking pictures before that. Should you be taken in for questioning (because of taking pictures), remain calm. It might take a long time getting out of it, but it's highly unlikely that things should escalate or turn ugly. Bottom line: consider not bringing your camera at all. A trip to Dahiyeh is way too interesting and different to be spent getting questioned by the authorities.
Beirut sees no more criminal activity than any other major city, if not less. Be aware of pickpockets and scams involving overpricing. The last is mostly a problem concerning taxi drivers, so be sure always to agree on a price before setting off.