Things To Do In Beirut
Beirut – Lebanon’s capital city -- offers a marvelous array of glamour, style, Levantine cuisine restaurants, cultural and commercial centers, and prominent beach clubs. While the downtown area is loaded with elegant sophistication, it is the complete opposite when you enter the outskirts of the city. You will see hardship, slum areas, Syrian and Palestine UN refugee camps and a complete contrast to the chic and glam image of the capital. A city that has been devastated by many wars and still resurfaced like a phoenix from the ashes, Beirut -- despite living in the shadow of unrest and political instability -- continues to fight, rebuild, and promote itself as a top tourist destination in the Middle East Region.
When To Go:
The atmosphere of the city during the summer season ranges from very warm and humid during the day to cold temperature towards the evening. During the mid-year months (June – August), the temperature can get up to 105 degrees, however it generally just hovers around 85-95 degrees. It is an incredible time for enjoying a holiday swimming in the ocean and going to five star shoreline resorts. This is the ideal time to go to Beirut.
In the winter and spring months, the temperature is usually a bit cooler, yet there are a fair number of downpours and even an uncommon snowstorm. In the event that you are going to visit the city in the winter months, it is best to bring a coat and jeans. Likewise, on the off chance that you are going out for a full day, it is prudent to have a sweater since once the sun goes down the temperatures will drop drastically.
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The month of February is also a peak time for tourism in the city. Outside of the city you can enjoy skiing, and this activity usually draws in the big crowds. Indeed with the snow and colder temperatures, there are still a lot of sunny days, which is an exceptionally essential thing when you are exploring the different parts of the capital.
Here is the wide selection of things to do and numerous places to see when in Beirut City:
National Museum of Beirut
At the National Museum of Beirut, you can get a fairly complete picture of the number of cultures that have inhabited these lands. It presents all the different cultures that have occurred at various times. The building and the history of the installation presented at the beginning of the visit (by a video) is in itself interesting. The museum is very extensive and all the exhibits are neatly arranged on two floors. Each section is excellent. There are no guides, but everything is still understandable. Besides the historical value, every part of the museum looks exceptional. The statues, jewelry, and mosaics are all worth knowing. Explanations of the events during the last war in Lebanon are also added. The museum shop has a little of everything: maps, books about Lebanon, small art pieces and reproductions of statues.
Particularly interesting are the findings and exhibits about the Phoenicians. The Phoenicians were great traders and explorers. They were also famous for inventing glass blowing and a purple dye made from shellfish. Don’t forget to check out the sarcophagus that contains a jumble of styles and eras. There are two main reasons why you must visit this museum. First, the visit is not tiring and all that is exposed truly draws attention, including the amount of gold and objects dating back to the time before Christ. Second, because the museum is in the region that was occupied by the oldest civilization in the world, the Phoenicians.
American University of Beirut
Visiting the gardens of the American University of Beirut makes anyone just want to go back in time and spend at least one semester of college there. The huge garden is well maintained; there is a beautiful view of the sea, and an atmosphere of great fervor. Even the buildings of the AUB are beautiful with perfectly restored antique halls and modern interiors.
It is located on the Bliss Street, as one of its founders was an American Protestant missionary named Dr. Daniel Bliss. AUB was a former private university, independent and secular, founded in 1866. You can visit the small museum located within its premises to learn more about its history. The entire campus stands on a hill overlooking lush vegetation with panoramic ocean scenery from all angles, making it a favorite relaxation spot in the heart of Beirut.
Greek Orthodox Cathedral of Saint George
The Greek Orthodox Cathedral of Saint George in Beirut is back to its former glory after restoration of the wall frescoes that were heavily damaged during the recent war. It is built in Byzantine style but with Lebanese Mediterranean character. Its structure combines fresco types: Cyrillic pieces, with stone sand that is typical of Lebanon and certain Mediterranean countries such as Malta and Syria. It is a sacred site to see in downtown Beirut that stands right next to the square of the parliament.
The church is well worth a visit after shopping in the central souk in Beirut. You can spend a few moments of silence and reflection, and admire the architecture of the church and its frescoes. It is the oldest church in the city and shows the remains of the oldest phases that are still visible even though it was bombed. Saint George Cathedral was a victim of war, where religious paintings were shot at by the terrorists. To learn more about the horrible experience it went through, visit the reconstruction museum built in the underground levels (it has a very picturesque route). It also draws attention to its present location because it is surrounded by two mosques and a Christian Maronite Cathedral.
Mohammad Al-Amin Mosque
To enter the Mohammad Al-Amin Mosque, you need to wear modest clothing (long sleeves for men) or rent a tunic (for women) at the entrance of the mosque. It is the largest and most imposing mosque located in the Beirut downtown that stands right across from the Place des Martyrs and the Greek Orthodox Church of Saint George. Aside from the beauty of the blue dome with its four minarets, the mosque is really stunning from both inside and out. Picture taking is not allowed inside, but in the courtyard and the façade section it is totally permitted to do so.
The chandeliers in the prayer hall are beautiful and majestic. The mosque was built entirely of ochre stones, which appear golden in the evening. There is a square at the base and the "roundness" of the turquoise domes and the four minarets slenderness adds a mystical charm to this beautiful mosque. It is one of the most memorable points for anyone who visits the city.
This is a small bay and commonly referred to as a symbol of the new Beirut. The sights along the Zaitouna Bay are stunning, with a series of high-rise buildings overlooking the promenade that gives the impression of being in a big city. Enjoy a serving of oysters and champagne while admiring marvelous ocean views from the many restaurants and other venues that are fit for all tastes. Five-star and ultra-modern hotels that overlook the large busy marina of Beirut City surround the bay. In general, it is a great place to spend the day and then dine at any of the options it offers.
It's nice to walk or jog along The Corniche, especially on weekends at sunset. At this harbor, it is easy to mingle with the locals who are into fishing, smoking water pipes, playing sports, or just enjoying the ocean view and the Mediterranean Sea breeze. And although you can go any time of the day, it is much nicer to go earlier to the Pigeon Rocks and the Paseo de La Corniche.
It offers a wide mix of beach clubs / private resorts and other popular sites with fishermen, young people, etc. There are stands with cocktail drinks or iced soda, and cafes along the way with reasonable prices, plus you will be entertained by street performers and staged concert venues. The entertainment strip of the Corniche is definitely one of the best things to do on a visit to Beirut City.
Pigeon Rocks in Raouche
The Pigeon Rocks in Raouche can be discovered while walking around the long and beautiful seaside attraction of Corniche. Day or night, it is the most photographed attraction in Beirut. These arched rocks in the water were designed by the forces of nature and truly captivating.
The community across from it is nice and popular because of its clubs and cafes where you can smoke shisha while admiring the stunning view of the Pigeon Rocks of Beirut. If you want to get close and see them in full detail, you can rent a thirty-minute boat ride that goes around and in between the two famous arched rock formations.
The Beirut Souks were fully reconstructed after being totally destroyed during the war (1975-1976). Most locals agree that everything is more beautiful than before and they are not disappointed with the result; the architecture is successful and it resembles the city of Singapore because of the establishment of the modern malls, and the varieties of trades and craftsmen. It drew both the elegant rich and the bankers to shop, have coffee, or sip a Massoud lemonade or Jellab in Antabli (a common but delicious beverage in Beirut).
Amid the scent of flowers in Bab Edriss mingles the aromatic smell of the souks while the call to Islamic prayer rules the air accompanied by the pealing of bells from the nearby churches. This is a place of peaceful coexistence gathering three faiths: Muslims, Christians and Jews.
You can shop for organic food every Saturday morning at the Souk el Tayeb (not to be missed -- very good fresh products directly sold by small producers). You can also walk to the souks Martyrs Square through the Arc de Triomphe, before seeing the new waterfront Marina Bay (Corniche) where there are lots of docked yachts and nightlife attractions.
Gemmayzeh Street is an old neighborhood that becomes entirely cosmopolitan once the night sets in. The architecture is still mainly traditional, pink and beige with wrought iron balconies on the buildings, and some interesting old parts are hidden at the bottoms of the garden houses.
There are not many people in the afternoon, but it's more packed at night when bar-hopping reaches its peak as the evening wears on, and the air is filled with the smoke coming from an “Argileh” (Arabic water/smoke pipes or shisha) that everyone smokes outdoors. The action is primarily in the evening, and there is a succession of bars or eateries, each nicer than the other; in short, a great place to hang out at night!
Traffic is hellish around Beirut, and this area is no exception -- but it's worth a go. The streets are lively, embellished with numerous bars, restaurants, pubs, and a lot of shopping places. The Hamra Street is a busy part of the city that never sleeps. It is also a street that inspires a feeling of extra security; since it seems totally safe, people just come and go to explore the dazzling nightlife and entertainment from every corner of Hamra.
For the best melting pot of cultures and also for fun shopping sprees, this is the ideal place because it is well laid out and has a vast diversity of shops and business establishments to offer. For gastronomic adventures or the “Foodtrip” aficionados, you will find all of this too in Hamra with its different choices of restaurants and cuisines to try (Lebanese, Italian, French, American, Chinese, Korean, Japanese, and the common fast food shops).
Solidere is a reflection of the amazing will of the people, who also project the image of being hip, rich, and elegant. It is a former war-torn area that is successfully restructured with cobbled paths, pleasant walking areas, new buildings, and lined with signature-brand shops and luxury boutiques. The street looks trendy and caters to the elite class of shoppers in Beirut. It is a modern part of the city that overlooks the beautiful marina.
The central district of Solidere (also called the Downtown Center) is an area that has recently been restored after the civil war that almost completely destroyed the beautiful buildings in Lebanon. To have an idea, search for the old Solidere and look at the photographs of the neighborhood as it was before the restoration and how they managed to bring this part of Beirut to an incredible shine.
The style of the buildings has remained unchanged; the streets are highly pedestrianized and therefore enjoy a sense of calm that is rare to find in a busy city. The shops are mostly luxury brands and frequented by the rich and famous of Beirut. There is also a so-called "Suk" that serves as the main shopping center. Everything is very nice and clean, and you can enjoy shopping in a sheltered area. The bathrooms in particular seem to be like those from a hotel and not simply public toilets. A visit to this area can give you an idea of what was in Beirut before the war, be sure not to miss exploring this part of the city.
The Al Omari Mosque in Beirut is located in the city center, near the sea and the busy harbor. It was built in the fourteenth century. This mosque was created in honor of the Caliph Omar Ibn Al-Khattab and situated near the Martyrs 'Square' at the junction with Allenby Street and Waygand. Inside the mosque, you will see a huge carpeted prayer area in the midst of the massive chandeliers that are made of crystals. The frescoes on the walls are colored and in particular, the ceiling looks great. Near the mosque is a very busy road, you should watch out for cars and local drivers who drive fast and recklessly. In the immediate vicinity there is a very good coffee shop with fresh pastries and baked goods. Walking down the street from the mosque towards the Waygand you will also find quaint restaurants and bars with cheap food.
Recognized as the "Paris of the Middle East", Beirut is a flourishing city filled with shopping, entertainment, impressive structures (Ottoman and French influenced architecture), and ancient ruins. In spite of numerous wars and turmoil, the city strives hard to rebuild and emerge as one of the safe places to visit in the Middle East. Explore and learn everything about this city, its dazzling nightlife at the Hamra and Corniche territories. A city known for its exquisite cuisine, allow your palate to taste and experience not only a satisfying dish but a chance to interact and savor the Lebanese charm and hospitality. It is really amazing to meet a proud people who always have the desire to rebuild and forget so quickly the scars of war and the pain they suffered. In Beirut, life goes on, no matter what happens.