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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. (less...) (more...)
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Points of Interest in Beirut
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.
- 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.
Museums and galleries
- National Museum Of Beirut (Ras El Nabaa, South Ashrafieh). 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. Tu-Su 9AM-5PM, closed Mon and Holidays, Fee: 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, ☎ +(961) 1-500265, 484115, fax: +(961) 1-484115. 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.
- Emmagoss Gallery, Emmaniel Guiragossian Art School, New Jdeideh, Greater Beirut, ☎ 00961 1 900091, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org..
- Atelier Camille Allam Beirut (Gallery), Sursock street, Tabaris, Ashrafieh, Beirut, e-mail: email@example.com. 9 to 9. Gallery and studio of painter sculptor and musician Camille Allam
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.
Festivals & 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, ☎ 00961 1 293 212. 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 .
- Bacardi Night, Annual festival held during the summer with some of the hottest DJs and bands from around the world, organised by Mix FM .
Beirut has survived a rough history, falling under the occupation of one empire after another,. Originally named Bêrūt, "The Wells" by the Phoenicians, Beirut's history goes back more than 5000 years. Excavations in the downtown area have unearthed layers of Phoenician, Hellenistic, Roman, Arab and Ottoman civilizations.
Following World War II, Lebanon gained its independence from France and Beirut became its capital in 1943 - Bechara El-Khoury and Riad El-Solh, Lebanon's first president and prime minister respectively, are considered the founders of the modern Republic of Lebanon and national heroes. Beirut thrived as a major commercial and tourist center of the Middle East. It was a top destination among wealthy Arabs and European tourists, due to Beirut's unique geography, climate, diverse culture, and freedom. Beirut was seen as the "European gateway to the Middle East" and vice versa, and was often called the "Paris of the Middle East".
Beirut is and was home to over 10 recognized religious sects. Religious tension between the Christian and Muslim factions sparked a brutal civil war in 1975. The conflict lasted nearly a decade and a half, ravaging the city. The central area of the city, previously the focus of much of the commercial and cultural activities, became a no-man's land. Throughout the war, the city was divided between the Muslim west part and the Christian east, and tensions between different sects remains to this day.
Since the end of the war in 1989, the people of Lebanon have been rebuilding Beirut. The city has undertaken an aggressive rebuilding policy. The city is working hard to regain its status as a tourist, cultural and intellectual center in the Middle East which it has lost to Cairo as well as a center for commerce, fashion and media which is dominated by Dubai and other rich Gulf states. However Beirut with the rest of the Middle East has gained momentum.
Beirut enjoys Mediterranean climate. Come in April to June for warm, dry days and long, cool evenings (19–25°C). Temperatures in July and August rise to around 30°C and humidity can be somewhat overwhelming – make sure your hotel has air conditioning. The wettest months are December to February so bring a good coat, rain boots, and umbrella because the rain often comes in torrential downpours. Streets have poor drainage and can quickly turn into rivers, so waterproof boots are highly recommended for the rainy season. Lebanon's ski season runs from December till early April.
Despite the diverse climate that changes noticeably per season, the weather is very predictable; the weather forecast, on radio and TV stations are normally very accurate, so you normally shouldn't find yourself caught in a sudden downpour in the winter months.
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 Cornich 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), ☎ 00961 1 826335-6-7, fax: 00961 1 822474, e-mail: info@GolfClub.org.lb.
- 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!), ☎ 00961 1 985901. 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 as the 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 Macedonia freighter 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:
- Calypso Beirut Diving Club, Movenpick Hotel & Resort, General de Gaulle Avenue, Raouche, Beirut, ☎ +961-3-314557, fax: +961-1-785300, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
- NISD (National Institute for Scuba Diving). Solidere Beirut Marina, Downtown Beirut, P.O. Box : 113-6691, (+961-3-204422) (email: email@example.com fax: +961-1-739206).
- LD (Lebanon Divers), fax: 00961-1-329441. Mardelli Building 2nd Floor, Saide Street Ashrafieh - Beirut, (00961-1-322826/00961-3-602614) (email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Atlantis, e-mail: email@example.com. Bel Azur Hotel, Jounieh, Greater Beirut, .
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 the Sambousseks 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, the Mankoushé 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.
Nightlife: 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 and Laziza (non-alcoholic). There is also a microbrewery that started producing several styles of more flavorful beer in 2006, called "961 Beer". In 2010, a new beer was launched called "LB Beer", 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.
Clothes and fashion - Beirut is the fashion capital of Lebanon and the region, with many prominent Lebanese designers located here, including (Elie Saab , Basil Soda , Pierre Katra  and Robert AbiNader .)
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, 00961 1 212888. 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, ☎ 00961 1 385888. Tayouneh roundabout.
- ABC Beauté, Bab Idriss, downtown, 00961 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, 00961 1 344740. Women's specialty store. Open Mon-Sat 9:45-7:45, closed Sunday.
- City Mall, Dora highway roundabout, Greater Beirut, 00961 1 905555. Includes 100 stores, 15 cafes and restaurants, a Hypermarket, and 9 movie theaters.
- Dunes Center, ☎ +961 1 785310. 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.
This article is based on Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike 3.0 Licensed text from the article Beirut on Wikivoyage.