Beirut is a city of discovery; and there’s never been a better time to get under the skin of the capital. With the support of the Lebanese Ministry of Tourism, we highlight 20 of the top things to do.
Art & Culture
Beirut is known as the art hub of the Middle East, and for good reason. The city plays host to countless galleries and art spaces showcasing the works of local and regional talents. Some of the city’s galleries and art venues include Sursock Museum (+961 1 202001), Agial Art Gallery (+961 1 345213), Mark Hachem Gallery (+961 1 999313), Artual Gallery (+961 3 125344) and Sfeir-Semler Gallery (+961 1 566550).
Visit a Museum
Various civilizations have conquered Lebanon over the course of history, evidenced in the city’s museums. Besides the Beirut National Museum, which boasts a rich collection of ancient artifacts, there are many other museums waiting to be explored.
Watch a Play
Culture vultures will be pleased to hear that there are plenty of theaters in Beirut to enjoy various plays, from original performances to international shows. The Madina Theater (+961 1 753011) and Teatro Verdun (+961 1 800003) are highly regarded for organizing a wide selection of plays and musical concerts.
Buy Traditional Handicrafts
Basta, located next to Downtown, is known to most as Beirut’s antique district. It is filled with small-scale shops and markets full of interesting collectibles and hidden treasures. If you’re looking for souvenirs and upscale crafts made in Lebanon, head to Orient 499 (orient499.com), L’Artisan du Liban (lartisanduliban.com) or one of the other well-known artisan boutiques.
Sightseeing & Adventure
Go on a Walking Tour
The best way to better appreciate Beirut’s history is by taking a casual walk throughout its streets. There are many landmarks to see as you wander around, such as the Roman Baths and Martyrs’ Square in Downtown. For a local guide, contact the Lebanese Tourist Guide Syndicate (+961 1 387045).
Take the Sightseeing Bus
Believe it or not, the world-famous doubledecker City Sightseeing Bus is available in Beirut. The tour includes 15 stops at iconic landmarks, including the Saint Nicolas Stairs in Gemmayze and Pigeon Rocks in Raouche. Visit city-sightseeing.com for more details.
Wander Around Bourj Hammoud
Bourj Hammoud is a must for tourists and locals. Throughout recent history, Armenians have made a notable impression on Lebanese culture, and that can be seen in this district. Wander around the streets, try some local food specialties, like basterma at Mano (+961 1 250052) and lahm baajin at Ghazar Bakery (+961 1 242708), and do some shopping at the spice market and the famous jewelry souk.
Ouzai was — and, in some ways, still is — the underprivileged and neglected neighborhood of Beirut. That was until Ouzai-native Ayad Nasser took matters into his own hands and launched the Ouzville initiative, which involved repainting the run-down neighborhood that no-one dared to visit. Now, the area has been transformed into a sustainable environment. See for yourself by contacting Pia Abboud (+961 3 126977).
Stroll Through Hamra
Home to the American University of Beirut and the stunning murals of Yazan Halawani, Hamra buzzes with a life of its own. If you get the chance, visit the neighborhood at different times of day and witness how the crowd goes from warmhearted elders playing backgammon to laidback youngsters meeting for drinks. Stroll along the famous thoroughfares of Hamra Street and Bliss Street, and meander through the maze of interconnecting roads to feel the spirit of Hamra.
Get on a Bike
If you’re looking for a more immersive way to travel around the city and discover its landmarks, rent a bike from Beirut by Bike (+961 3 435524) at Beirut Waterfront, Cyclo Sport (+961 4 446792) or The Bike Kitchen (+961 3 126675) at ABC Mall in Achrafieh.
Visit the Hippodrome
Built during the Ottoman rule, the Beirut Hippodrome (also known as Beirut Horse Tracks) is one of the largest remaining green areas in the capital. To get the full experience, visit this place on Sunday to watch the horse racing.
Jog Along the Corniche
Do some exercise while admiring the beauty of the Mediterranean by going for a jog along the seafront promenade. Start your journey at Ain el Mreisseh and end at Raouche with a view overlooking Pigeon Rocks; just be aware you’ll have an uphill challenge before you complete the four-kilometer adventure!
Food & Drink
Soak Up the Coffee Culture
Coffee plays an important role in Lebanese culture; it not only brings people together, but it is also used as a means of telling fortunes. Open in Hamra since 1935, Café Younes (+961 1 750975) is one of Lebanon’s oldest coffee shops. Located in Gemmayze, Sip (+961 1 567569) is a fantastic place to unwind and enjoy a cup of specialty coffee. Lebanon also has its fair share of local micro-roasteries; some examples include Suz’ Coffee Bar (+961 1 981819) and Kalei Coffee Co. (+961 3 780342).
Enjoy Authentic Mezze
You haven’t visited Beirut — or anywhere in Lebanon, for that matter — until you’ve tried the local cuisine. Every region has its own specialties, and Beirut is no exception. Head to Em Sherif (+961 70 919119), Abdel Wahab (+961 1 200550),
Babel Bay (+961 1 370846), Leila Restaurant (+961 1 371517), Café Badaro (+961 3 602674) or Diwan Al Sultan (+961 1 565757) for a feast of epic proportions.
Sample Lebanese Street Food
Wherever you are in Beirut, you’re bound to stumble across a casual eatery serving Lebanese street food. Satisfy your taste buds and enjoy a mouthwatering falafel sandwich at Sandwich w Noss (1248), a manouche at Super Snack El Kbeer (+961 1 565656) and a juicy shawarma at Malak al Tawouk (1592).
Have Breakfast With a View
Given its location, Beirut boasts stunning views of the Mediterranean Sea. Breakfast at Hotel Albergo (+961 1 339797), Al Falamanki Raouche (+961 1 808011), Kempinski Summerland Hotel & Resort (+961 1 858000), Mövenpick Hotel Beirut (+961 1 869666), Le Gray Beirut (+961 1 971111) or Phoenicia Hotel Beirut (+961 1 369100) promises a great start to any day.
Join a Cooking Class
It’s no secret that the Lebanese love to cook. If you’re looking to pick up a new skill, or you’re just interested in learning more about Lebanese cuisine, join a cooking class like the ones offered at Tawlet (+961 1 448129), Maroun Chedid Cooking Academy (+961 1 323084) and Kitchenlab (+961 1 200391).
Listen to Live Music
With several Lebanese bands tasting international success over recent years, Beirut’s music scene should not be underestimated. Watch local talent perform in live music venues such as Blue Note Café (+961 1 743857), Onomatopoeia The Music Hub (+961 1 398986) and L’appartement (+961 3 760044).
Do Some Bar Hopping
There’s a reason why Beirut is reputedly one of the world’s best destinations for nightlife. A certain magic emanates from the city as soon as the sun sets, notably in Mar Mikhael, Gemmayze, Badaro and Hamra. Go on a bar-hopping adventure by visiting Electric Bing Sutt (+961 81 424577), Central Station (+961 71 736737), Ferdinand (+961 1 355955), Ales & Tales (+961 70 151328), Rabbit Hole (+961 70 334464), Pablo Escobar – Cóctel Y Cocina (+961 76 773477), La Mezcaleria (+961 70 001118), Pacifico (+961 1 204446) and Jackie O (+961 3 315324).
Hit the Clubs
Known for its love of late-night parties, Beirut’s nightclub scene is second to none. For a night to remember, head to B 018 (+961 3 800018), Discotek (+961 81 706030), The Grand Factory (+961 3 703371) or Music Hall (+961 1 361236).