Beirut often called the Pearl of the Middle East, is an old city going back 5000 years in history. It is a melting pot of cultures, influenced by Phoenician, Hellenistic, Roman, Byzantine, Arab, Crusader and Ottoman. Over the years Beirut transformed from a Millionaires playground, to a war torn hell hole and is the party capital of the Arab world today. The Beiteddine Art Festival every summer in the 200 year old Palace, is what the entire Arab World looks forward to. Simply put, Beirut is the fun city of the Arab World.
May-June and November-December are the best time to visit Beirut as the sky is clear and temperature is mild. Feb is the right time if you are looking to ski in Lebanon.
If you have a weekend in Beirut then the following is what I would suggest.
The most famous feature of the Nejmeh Square is a 1930s clock-tower with its four-faced Rolex clock. Another prominent landmark in Nejmeh Square is the St. Georges Greek Orthodox Cathedral. It is the oldest Greek Orthodox cathedral in Beirut.
The Corniche of Beirut is a seaside promenade lined with palm trees and besides the Mediterranean Sea. It is one of the loveliest parts of Beirut and is popular with walkers, joggers and bikers. The cornice also provides vantage view of the famous Pigeon Rocks.
The Pigeon Rocks which are a natural offshore rock arch jutting out of the Mediterranean Sea is probably the most beautiful natural feature of Beirut. You can take a boat ride around the Pigeon Rocks during the summer season.
Beirut Souks in the Central District area is the largest shopping area in Beirut with more than 200 shops. The architecture is a fusion of ancient souk heritage and modern elements. The design of Souks has recreated the ancient street networks from Phoenician times. Beirut Souks is open from 10am to 10pm.
Souk el Barghout is a popular flea market in Martyr’s Square for antiques, furniture, carpets jewelry, porcelain and paintings. It is a bargainer’s paradise!
If you are an organic food person, then A New Earth Organic Store in zahret el Ihsan Street will make you happy. Some of the things available here is Gluten free products, Fresh automatized tofu and Argan oil from Morocco.
For Wine enthusiasts, Enotica in downtown Beirut keeps all types of Lebanese wines like chateau musar, chateau ksara, kefraya etc.
Lebanese souvenirs can be bought from L'Artisan du Liban on Rue Montee Accawi Achrafiye. It was set up to promote the Lebanese heritage and handicrafts, and to help maintain traditional methods of work. Some of the items available here are satin slippers, wooden boxes, backgammon sets and ceramics.
The national museum of Beirut has archaeological artifacts tracing the history of Lebanon right since ancient times. Built in Egyptian Revival style, the National Museum of Beirut has more than a 100000 objects. The Bronze age section has the famous sarcophagus of King Ahiram, which holds the oldest text written in the Phoenician alphabet.
The iron age section has many interesting artifacts that reflect the style of Phoenician ceramics, jewelry and ivory work, statues, and sarcophagi. Another remarkable object in this museum is the marble statue of Greek Goddess Aphrodite in the Hellenistic section.
While there are several murals of interest, I found the Birth of Alexander a really remarkable work of art.
The national Museum of Beirut is the leading collector for ancient Phoenician objects across the world.
Beirut is a great place for foodies and especially so for the tremendously popular Lebanese cuisine. Abdel Wahab in Achrafieh area is one of the best restaurants for a mouthwatering menu of mezze! Abo Hassan in Raouché area is worth a visit for perfectly mixed homemade Arak.
I would also recommend Immeuble Fianeh on rue Mar Mitr in Achafieh for dessert. Old Hanna Mitri has been serving freshly made ice cream for the last 60 years! Popular flavors happen to be rose water, pistachio, almond, milk, lemon and seasonal fruit.
IF you are in the mood for some Armenian fare then head to Mayrig in Gemmayzeh area. They are best known for Soubeureg, Fishnah Kebab,Cheese maamoul and Armenian Wine.
For my travelogue on Byblos, the Mediterranean Holiday town and ancient Phoenician City, visit Byblos-holiday in Lebanon.
For my travelogue on Jeita Grotto, the crystallized cave and great natural wonder of Lebanon, visit Jeita Grotto-holiday in Lebanon.